Random Rumblings 3-11-13

I haven't emptied out the notebook in a while, so let's get after it.

So the Lakers are in the playoffs

I've thought all along they'd find a way in and sure enough by early March the Lakers are technically in the playoffs. They have a real shot at finishing not only with the 8th seed but in the 7 or even 6 spot. The Lakers are behind Houston (1 game for 7th) and Golden State (2 games for 6th) as it stands now and the Warriors haven't been playing well. However finishing 8th might wind up being a better option for LA as their #1 goal should be avoiding Oklahoma City for as long as possible. If they get San Antonio (who right now has the #1 seed) or the Clippers (3rd seed) then the Lakers could definitely win a series and then who knows.

So how did we get here from "TRADE EVERYONE NOW!" where I was a month ago. A few things changed and maybe we did jump the gun after all. First and foremost Dwight Howard is playing much better and more importantly acting like a grownup since the all-star break. Everyone's talking about his back getting healthier. No one's talking about him totally cutting sugar from his diet and his conditioning "suddenly" improving. Yes the back is getting better finally and the difference is real but if an NBA has to cut sugar out of his diet, especially when conditioning is an issue, then something has been going wrong.

Just as importantly Dwight has embraced Kobe Bryant's leadership style also known as gotten over himself. It's easy to buy into a guy who's playing as well and as hard as Bryant and maybe if Howard matches Kobe's effort (or is at least close) down the stretch, Bryant can conserve a little bit for May and June. Kobe told Michael Wilbon in an interview over the weekend he didn't imagine being so "doggon tired" at this point in the year because he's had to put in so much effort this season. Kobe's conditioning has never been a question but the reality is this is season 17 with the playoffs in nearly all of them and deep runs in many. For a guy who's game is predicated on a lot of jumpers and some newly re-found explosiveness, having his legs is kind of important.

While I've maintained all year that the Lakers would find their way in, I've also said I would've traded Dwight because I don't see this working moving forward. I'm not willing to totally come off of that yet, but if Howard's attitude change is permanent then I'm in. Sign Dwight to the extension and move on with him as the centerpiece for the future. Missing in all of this of course is Pau Gasol who's absence has given the Lakers an identity. They're no longer battling the old two bigs signature they had with Gasol and Andrew Bynum. This is a pick-and-roll team with Bryant, Howard and Steve Nash. If they can make a few moves to get some shooters and a little more athleticism this summer, a title run next year isn't out of the question if Bryant stays at this level. At the center of any deal will be Gasol. More unthinkable to early February me is Mike D'Antoni might be around to see it all. We'll see what happens.

Syracu-ewwwwwse

That pun works better if you say it out loud. Kinda. I apologize. That was bad even for me. Not as bad as the Orange over the last month though. Totally disgusting. I wrote about SU's struggles in depth for Orange Fizz but I wanted to highlight the astounding difference in offensive quality between Syracuse and Georgetown Saturday.

If you want to die playing a drinking game (by halftime), chug your beverage of choice every time a Syracuse player stands and dribbles in place behind the 3 point line. Play the same game with Georgetown and a Mormon could participate while keeping his or her religion which strictly prohibits alcohol.

For the Hoyas there is constant ball movement and man movement. While their Princeton offense against man-to-man is painfully slow and drives everyone nuts, their zone offense is simply beautiful. It is instructional tape good. You know why Markel Starks and Otto Porter were always open? Because Syracuse was busy moving around playing defense and couldn't track them as they moved within their system. Meanwhile Syracuse would pound the ball into the floor, maybe make one pass and take a bad perimeter shot time and again. The difference is staggering. More on The Fizz.

WR's on the move

The NFC West is the best division in football and today it's best two teams got better. The Seahawks made a dynamite move in adding Percy Harvin. Their pistol offense is hard enough to defend thanks to uber accurate yet mobile quarterback Russell Wilson. Now you add a guy in Harvin who you have to first locate then try and defend on every play on top of Wilson and a superb power running game from Marshawn Lynch and that team is a total offensive juggernaut.

You know what would have helped the 49ers in the Super Bowl? A big possession receiver who's excellent in the red zone. Kinda like the guy who killed them in the Ravens' Anquan Boldin. So today the 49ers traded for Anquan Boldin. The trade gives Colin Kaepernick a tremendos stable of solid targets with Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. All of them fit the physical identity of the team.

What's laughable to me about the Boldin trade is that a guy who could've been the Super Bowl MVP was traded for a 6th round pick. It's not uncommon for 6th round guys to turn out well in the NFL but the chances of getting someone as good as Anquan Boldin the 6th round aren't awesome. Draft picks sound great but the minute you use them on a player, they lose value. Unless of course it's an early prospect who still has lots of upside until he actually plays and people realize they're not that good. It's worse often in the NBA but the NFL is guilty of it too.

Oh yeah...that dunk

What Deandre Jordan did to Brandon Knight last night was inhumane.




How Knight handled it was spectacular.



Knight's a really smart guy who probably could've graduated Kentucky in 2 years because he had so many credits when he got to school. He went to a prep school and was the valedictorian. Instead he stayed at UK for a single season and was a top 10 pick. He couldn't have handled this any better. Except not getting underneath Jordan in the first place. As ESPN's Michael Smith said:


Other random thoughts

  • Tiger Woods is the best golfer on the planet again. He's won 5 of his last 19 tournaments. I'd be shocked if he doesn't win a major this year. Whether he's "back" or not depends on whether or not you're an idiot. I mean whether or not you care about that stuff. Which you shouldn't because it's impossible to define and changes depending on what you think of Woods. He's better than everyone else. Fact. No further "meaning" needed.
  • Victor Oladipo said if the media doesn't vote Cody Zeller Player of the Year, something's wrong with them. Well Victor, that's not the first time someone's told me that because I had a vote, I'd vote for you. In big spot after big spot on both ends of the floor, Oladipo was sensational. Tom Creen recruited him hoping to find a poor man's Dwyane Wade and that's what he got. A freak athlete who plays much bigger than his size by rebounding and blocking shots. He's not Dwyane Wade. He won't be nearly the pro although I think he'll be a solid NBA player, but a poor man's college Wade? Win for Tommy. 
  • Do yourself a favor and watch the Big East Women's Championship tomorrow night when Notre Dame and UConn square off for the 3rd time this year. It's likely the last time they'll do so in this setting as it looks like the Irish are ACC bound next year. I was at the first meeting and watched the second just last week and came away from both games feeling like the better team, UConn, lost. A huge reason why is Notre Dame had the best player in Skylar Diggins who bailed her team out with spectacular play. The first time they had a great look at the end from the best shooter in the country and missed. The second time they should've won at the end of regulation and each of the first two overtimes and Notre Dame got bailed out by the refs and then pulled miracles before dominating the 3rd OT as the absences of Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley finally caught up to the Huskies. Simply put, if you like good basketball watch. Yes it's women's basketball but it's good basketball.