Obviously, this is a New Jersey Nets blog, however, the NAS crew absolutely love the NBA in general. So, every week, Mark, Devin, Evan, Justin, Danny, and myself will answer questions regarding the L.
1) The Washington Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas faked an injury recently to give Nick Young a start. Was this a noble gesture or just another way for Arenas to get shipped out of the nation’s capital?
Mark: There are two things wrong with this scenario. One, Gilbert Arenas faked an injury to his knee, which given his history of injuries, is not something he should be making light of. Two, he ADMITTED he lied about the injury. It boggled my mind that a player could just be so tone deaf. He’s obviously got the league’s eyes watching his every move this season. Why is it impossible for him to just cease the ridiculous behavior and play basketball? It’s players like Arenas who just ruin the image of the NBA for the casual fan. Who out there wants to root for this guy?
Devin: I don’t know what to make of Emo Gilbert. It’s a complete code switch: the former fun-loving blogger-athlete has basically become a shell of his former self. I appreciate his candidness with regards to faking the injury, but… come on, man. Even if you DO fake an injury, you don’t tell the media that’s what you did. Gilbert of all people should know how the media can run with a story. One thing he said was especially true: the team is definitely loaded at the guard spots, and if the Wizards can find a suitor for his massive contract, there’s no doubt they’ll take advantage.
Evan: If I were a Washington Wizards fan I would want to trade Gilbert Arenas for a rack of basketballs at this point. While he may have thought it was a noble gesture to fake an injury and allow Nick Young to get some PT, it was just another example of Arenas’ immaturity and constant need to be in the spotlight. His action completely undermined Coach Flip Saunders, who was well within his right to fine Arenas. Despite being one of the best players on the team, Gilbert Arenas is not the coach, and he should not be making decisions on whether or not Nick Young should be playing. His act with the media the next day was also laughable. After he got suspended for 50 games for carrying a gun into an NBA locker room, he really thought that this incident with the injury wasn’t going to be a big deal? If the Wizards and new owner Ted Leonsis want to be taken seriously, they need to get rid of Arenas; even if that means simply releasing him.
Justin: Maybe in Gilbert’s head this was a noble gesture, but in reality this was just another antic in a long line of antics that will lead to Gilbert’s departure from DC. He has to understand the professionalism that comes with his job, and though his intentions may have been okay, he needs to know there were better ways to get the same result (Nick Young starting).
Daniel: It was Arenas being Arenas. As much as I want USC athletes, Nick Young in this case, to get their chance in the professional ranks, doing something like this completely undermines your coach, your front office, and the team as a whole. Gilbert Arenas is lucky that Flip Saunders is playing him at all right now, let alone starting him, so he needs to be more appreciative of that opportunity instead of just sitting around and cashing in on the rest of his $111 million contract. Fortunately, karma has come back to bite Agent Zero; he left Thursday’s preseason game with a groin injury.
DV: Arenas is crazy like a fox. He obviously wants out of the Wizards organization because he’s not getting hugs from mommy and daddy (ownership and fans) anymore. It’s John Wall’s team and in Arenas’ world, it’s obviously not a good look, so how do you get your way? You do the equivalent of a Vlade Divac flop and hope you get the call in your favor.
2) Blake Griffin has been straight dominating during the preseason (yes, I know, it’s only the preseason) and is right up there with John Wall for Rookie of the Year honors. Who do you think takes the title in the end? Your answer doesn’t have to be either Griffin or Wall.
Mark: I honestly thought this was going to be a two-horse race, barring injury, between Wall and Griffin from the get-go. I guess you also have to throw DeMarcus Cousins into the conversation, especially since he’s going to get some PT with Dalembert going down in SacTown. However, I think Wall will pull it out in the end because he’ll have the added edge of being more “current” to the voters since he was drafted this year, and because as PG, he may find more ways to stuff a stat sheet.
Devin: Generally, I get the impression that rookie of the year voters like to vote only for “true” rookies, so despite how well Blake’s been playing I still give the edge to Wall. I think Wall is a better player anyway (and more exciting as well), so unless Griffin (or DeMarcus Cousins) statistically blows everyone out of the water I’d say the award is John Wall’s to lose.
Evan: Blake Griffin has been ultra-impressive during the preseason, averaging 15.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. But the Wizards’ John Wall has been equal to the task, racking up the same 15.8 points and 7.8 assists per contest. While Griffin will have a great season, I think John Wall will take the title of ROY in 2010-11. I’m not going to lie, I’m still very bitter that the Nets didn’t win the lottery and get Wall. This guy will be a star in the league for the next 15 years. His game is built for the NBA much more than college and he will quickly become one of the best point guards, if he isn’t already. Blake Griffin is going to average a near-double-double this season, but John Wall will be so spectacular that he will edge the University of Oklahoma-product for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Justin: While the odds on favorites are Wall and Griffin, a player who I think can also join that conversation is DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins through five preseason games is putting up averages of 16.4 points and 9.6 rebounds, certainly worthy of ROY consideration. Plus, you know he is going to get plenty of opportunity to produce on the Kings. I think after the first month of the season it will be a three-man race, but if I had to pick, I’d pick Wall.
Daniel: I’m going to have to give it to Griffin (and not just because I also write for the Clippers). Wall’s great and all, but Griffin has an extra offseason’s worth of preparation under his belt compared to Wall, he has a better supporting cast to work with, and it’s simply easier to win the award as a big man than as a point guard. Griffin isn’t going to be bringing the ball up the court, so he won’t be turning the ball over that much, and he has provided points, rebounds, and blocks in droves so far this preseason. He has also worked on his free-throw stroke to the point that it’s feasible he could be over 80 percent from the stripe on the year. That said, even if Griffin deserves it, he won’t necessarily get it. Most Nets fans know all too well that Brook Lopez got shafted in the 2008-2009 ROY voting in favor of Derrick Rose, and it’s a very direct parallel to this year’s race.
DV: Even Gilbert Arenas won’t be able to fake an injury to his ego when John Wall wins the award. There are sky-high expectations for Wall, but he is more than capable to meet them. He doesn’t appear to be cracking under any of the pressure or being in a Joe DiMaggio/Mickey Mantle type of situation. Yeah, I know referencing another sport, but it’s appropriate – two great players, one on the decline and another on the come-up.
3) Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have missed time during the preseason due to injury or cramps. What if one of the Big Three were to miss the entire season and postseason; would the other two remaining be good enough to lead the Heat far into the playoffs?
Mark: Yes, I do think they’re probably a top three team in the East even if one of the Big 3 goes down. Now if one of the Big 3 goes down and some of their depth, a Mike Miller maybe, I think they’d be in trouble. I think as long as either James or Wade are healthy, Bosh alone creates a deadly pick and roll combination that’s going to steamroll any team not named Boston or Orlando.
Devin: It depends who they face & when. The team, even at full strength, is still going to have issues with Orlando & Boston in the playoffs, and even if they make it past them they’ll likely see the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Facing all three of those teams and winning all three series is going to be a challenge, even at full strength. Losing any one of those three puts them at an immediate disadvantage – the Magic have a more balanced lineup 1-5, the Celtics biggest strengths (tough interior defense, pure point guard) counteract the Heat’s biggest weaknesses (no tough interior presence, no real point guard), and the Lakers are the defending NBA Champions.
That being said, we ARE talking about two of the best five players in the NBA teaming up with another guy who’s probably top 10-15. They’re also best friends. Even if one of them goes down, you’ve still got a hell of a lineup. However, if I were Erik Spoelstra, once the team clinched a playoff spot I’d start resting the Big 3 a LOT more – especially Wade & Bosh.
Evan: The Miami Heat could certainly still make a deep run into the playoffs if one of the Big 3 were injured. But how far into the playoffs would depend on which of the three were hurt. In my opinion, Chris Bosh is the most valuable of the Big 3 to the Miami Heat. Their drop-off in big men after Bosh is enormous, and while Udonis Haslem, Juwan Howard and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are solid players, none of them are close to the caliber of Bosh. If he were to get hurt, the Heat would struggle in the playoffs against some of the better big men in the Eastern Conference. So D-Wade and Bosh or LeBron and Bosh could still equal a championship for the Heat, but I think the Heat’s chances take a big hit if Bosh is hurt and it becomes just a duo of Wade and James.
Justin: Two of the three Big 3 in Miami would certainly be enough to lead them to the postseason and further. You could make the argument that LeBron and Wade took rosters that had much less talent into the playoff last season. The team’s style would certainly change without one of them in the lineup, but I do believe it’d be enough to make it to the playoffs and possibly win a round.
Daniel: Many NBA fans are quick to suggest that if one of the three goes down, the Heat are doomed. What they must recall, though, is that the Heat made the playoffs (and had the fifth seed, no less) with just Dwyane Wade and a cavalcade of unspectacular companions. They might have even had a chance to get beyond the first round had they not been matched up with the Celtics who dogged their way to the fourth seed. The point is that if one of the three goes down, the Heat are still going to be better than they were last year. They wouldn’t win a championship, but they’d still make the second round of the playoffs, most likely. If I had to pick one of the three whose absence would be most detrimental, I’d say it’s Bosh. Miami didn’t have a frontcourt a la 1999 Spurs last season, but they did have Jermaine O’Neal, who wasn’t half bad. If Bosh goes down, this year’s frontcourt will be more than half bad. The Heat would get straight dominated anywhere near the post, and LeBron and Wade would have to make up for it on the offensive end.
DV: The Heat would definitely make the playoffs, but probably wouldn’t go deep since the other top teams in the East would have more balanced teams, particularly a healthy Celtics squad (Kendrick Perkins, I’m looking at you), the Orlando Magic, and up-and-coming Chicago Bulls who also need to be healthy (Carlos Boozer, it’s your turn).