Of games of skill and games of chance
Not a bad night, eh? No big Raptors news but the lottery was marginally entertaining with all the movement up and down and then a corker of a game to start what could be an excellent, long series.
The news for the locals was entirely blah but at least it leaves open room for rampant speculation before the June 25 draft and you know how much we love rampant speculation in these parts.
But that’s for tomorrow and the next few weeks. For now, there’s this and a reminder that we’ll be here just before the 8:30 start of Cleveland-Orlando tonight to check out Game 1 of the Eastern Final.
See you then.
About last night
The most significant thing for the Lakers in that narrow win must have been the reappearance of Derek Fisher, or at least the reappearance of Derek Fisher’s jump shot.
I don’t think he had lost it – more like it had gone on vacation – but for him to hit three of six three-pointers was a sign that whatever funk he was in against Houston may have be lifting.
And since the Lakers are getting nothing from Andrew Bynum and practically less than nothing from the bench, guys like Fisher and Trevor Ariza are going to have to provide some offence to backup Kobe Bryant.
Fisher may not continue to shoot as he did last night – you can be sure the Nuggets will pay closer attention as he drifts into that corner for a three than they did last night – but if he’s even a threat, it’s a boost.
Oh yeah …
That’s why the overwhelming majority of NBA people say Kobe Bryant is the best closer in the game today.
Eighteen of his 40 in the final quarter, six straight free throws to seal the deal in a nailbiter, defended Carmelo Anthony better in the fourth than any other Laker could on a night when Anthony was virtually unstoppable
You can argue LeBron vs. Kobe until the cows come home; I want Bryant when the game’s on the line. Always have. Expect I always will.
About the Nuggets
They get 39 from Carmelo, their bigs dominate, the bench runs amok and they still blow a five-point lead in the last few minutes? Yeah, that one’s got to hurt.
And while I can sort of understand why George Karl would have Anthony Carter in the game in crucial situation, there is no way I’d have him inbounding the ball when he did to set up the crucial Ariza steal.
I think in that situation, you want guys capable of handling the ball out on the court, not standing out of bounds trying to make a pass.
Big mistake at a critical moment; the kind that costs teams games.
Right. The lottery (did you think I forgot?)
Big deal, eh?
Go in No. 9, come out No. 9.
But a few random thoughts:
Get a grip
Love the e-mails overnight that suggest if Bryan doesn’t get this guy or that guy, he’s somehow failed at this year’s draft.
Memo to sillyheads: It’s not up to him. The worst part about being No. 9 is you react, rather than act. Doesn’t matter if you love Joe Blow if the team taking him No. 7 loves him, too. You’re screwed.
And, as the GM has said repeatedly, and as we’ll likely repeat repeatedly in the next month or so, there is right now not a whole lot of difference between No. 4 and No. 14 so you are going to see far fewer legitimate trade suggestions this year than there have been in the past.
Speaking of trades
Yes, Bryan is dead serious about acquiring a second pick later in the first round if there’s someone there that he likes. But something to consider:
Teams in the middle of the first-round, say Nos. 15-22, may indeed want to keep whatever guy they get because you’ve got five years of defined salary obligations. No worrying about what the next CBA might look like, no worry about worrying about having to fill that roster spot with some who’d cost you more than a kid on a low-end rookie scale deal (no small consideration as the economy stumbles forward).
Yes, he will try; I’m not entirely sure how successful he may ultimately be.
Okay, who’s he pick?
Well, right now, your guess is as good as anyone’s.
There’s a logical list of five or six forwards and shooting guards who’ll be attractive and possibly available – DeMar DeRozan, Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, Gerald Henderson, Earl Clark, James Johnson – but, for now, no one is leading the pack.
The Raptors haven’t as much as spoken privately to any of them – that process will begin in Chicago at the combine next week – and they haven’t conducted a workout for any of them.
So, to ask who they like is to ask an unanswerable question. As for me? I’m not sure yet what order I’d put that group in right now; let me see if I can’t get to a scout, a coach or a GM today and try to figure it out where things stand at the moment.
List time? Someone asked during the game last night for the worst and best Raptors draft picks of all time, an exercise we’ve done before here, I believe.
And while a Top Five of each might seem appropriate, the fact is they’ve only made 14 first-round picks ever and to list 10 of ‘em seems pretty silly.
So, how about three (and we're limiting this to the first round):
Rafael Araujo, No. 8, 2004
‘Nuf said, right? Forget Andre Iguodala at No. 9, if they were bound and determined to go big, they blew it on Andris Biedrins, who went No. 11. And he was on their list.
Michael Bradley, No. 17, 2001
Good kid, led NCAA in field goal percentage, couldn’t play a lick.
Kareem Rush, No. 20, 2002
Traded immediately for Lindsey Hunter and Chris Jefferies, one guy who really wasn’t interested in being here and another who had no right being in the NBA.
Morris Peterson, No. 21, 2000
They got seven seasons and 542 regular season games out of a guy who fans still love and want back. Not bad for that deep in the first round.
Antawn Jamison, No. 3, 1998
Used him as a bargaining chip to trade for the most exciting player in franchise history and the fellow who still has led the Raptors further than they’ve ever gone.
Jonathan Bender, No. 5, 1999
Another chip, got them Antonio Davis, another integral part of their rise to something just above mediocrity.
Winners and losers last night
Moving to the top three in a three-player draft is huge. How good does it look now that they rescinded the Tyson Chandler deal. If they get Hasheem Thabeet to go with Durant, Green and Westbrook, that team could challenge for the playoffs next year.
Takes over horrid Memphis team with contract that makes him the worst paid head coach in the NBA and then he sits on the stage at the lottery and leaves with the No. 2 selection? That’s pretty cool. And he can use Marc Gasol as a translator and buddy for Ricky Rubio.
The rest of the East
Bryan was pretty much over the moon that six of the top seven picks are moving or staying West and that none of the East teams that could have moved up did. He was right.
In a landslide.
Drop from 2-5, biggest drop possible; now the best players on the board might not be as good as the guys they’ve got.
Sits there smiling, as much because his restaurant in Sacramento is packed with Kings fans; sees Sacramento drop from No. 1 to No. 4 and knows patrons are fleeing restaurant like their hair’s on fire. Not a good night.
Just ‘cause they really, really got screwed.