Kyle Lowry Changes Culture in Toronto

When the Toronto Raptors came into the NBA in the 1990s, many people wondered how professional basketball would be treated north of the border. It might not seem like Toronto is that much different than other cities in that region, but there are a lot of factors that go into players wanting to actually live outside of the United States. They have found it difficult to hold onto talented players in the past, and that is what makes Kyle Lowry signing a long-term deal such a milestone.

Toronto has seen plenty of talent in the past couple of decades, but everyone seems to be ready to move on to greener pastures in the United States. Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh all bolted for other teams when they were finally able to. Lowry received a lot of attention from teams all over the NBA, but ultimately he decided to take the deal with Toronto and help them build up a nice core.

In the playoffs last year, Toronto showed just how much they like and support the Raptors. They are also getting help from recording artist Drake, who is hoping to rebrand the team a bit and make it a cooler destination. Now that free agents have seen that Kyle Lowry is fine with staying in Canada, other fantasy basketball all-stars in the United States might feel a little bit more confident.

As the only team in Canada currently in the NBA, many feel like Toronto is at a severe disadvantage. They have a lot of international players on their roster, and that is done by design so that they do not force players from the United States to make tricky decisions. With Lowry now on the team for the next several seasons, it might be time to start chasing down players who are wanting to win and not really caring where they play their home games during the season.

It Can Be Costly to be an NBA Fan

All NBA games are not created equally, or at least-you can’t get into all NBA games for an equal price. The folks at Team Marketing Report put together yearly reports on the cost of being a fan-aptly named the Fan Cost Index. It includes four average priced tickets, two cheap draft beers, four soft drinks, four hot dogs, one parking pass, two programs, and two least cost fan-hats. It’s meant to be a comprehensive report on what a fan might pay to go to a game and the disparity is amazing.

Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Amar’e Stoudemire are getting paid a lot of money. And to see them at Madison Square Garden, you’ll pay a fortune. Maybe it’s the legacy of basketball at MSG, maybe it’s Spike Lee’s presence, maybe it’s just J.R. Smith trying to untie someone’s shoes. In any case, the fans are still paying, so James Dolan will keep charging.

The other highest cost fan cities aren’t surprising- Miami, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Brooklyn- big cities, high cost of living, high-paid free agents. Looking at the map, these are the darkest (highest-cost areas). High costs will not stop people from betting at allpro that’s for sure! Why not? They need to make more money to spend it on basketball!

Across the country-there’s one other significant geographic trend. The Mid-Atlantic and Southeast together (less Florida) form the lowest cost area for being an NBA fan with all of the lowest priced teams forming a contiguous grouping. After that, the middle priced teams are scattered throughout the mid-West through to the Pacific Northwest. Chalk it up to the Southeast being football country or having lower median incomes, whatever the reason, it’s cheapest to be an NBA fan there.

One of the other most stark trends-the cost of being a fan is heavily concentrated near the bottom of the spectrum, with 23 of 30 teams falling into the three lowest price ranges (out of 9). New York sits in the highest and then has three full price ranges in between them and the next highest team.

Does this mean it’s an unbelievable bargain to be a Pacers’ fan this year? To see Paul George and Roy Hibbert dominate the court (which they’ve been struggling with lately)? While they still lead the East, they’re near the bottom of the list in Fan Cost. Perhaps. You’re not necessarily paying for success as a fan-though if a team is too terrible, the fan base will disappear. Maybe high fan cost is indicative of arena quality, dining options, availability of mass transit-all the things that cost a team money to provide but have no relation to actual game play.

Danny Granger Out for the Season

On Thursday, March 28th it was announced that star player Danny Granger will not return for the rest of this season, and will undergo surgery. Danny Granger has been fighting patellar tendinosis since last offseason. In late October, he went into surgery for the same reason and returned this February. He was only able to play five games before the knee pains occured again. In the season of 2011-12 Granger avearaged 19 points per game.

The Pacers have been doing well with the absence of Danny Granger this season. They are ranked 3rd in the Eastern Conference with a record of 46-27. They are not a team to over look in the playoffs and will be a tough opponent to beat.

How Kevin Garnett’s Injury Changes the Celtics Playoff Outlook

On Monday afternoon, Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge announced that Kevin Garnett is likely to miss the next two weeks with an ankle injury. While the Celtics seem sure that the injury won’t keep KG out of the lineup for the whole rest of the season, they do seem to be erring on the side of caution. Said coach Doc Rivers, “At the end of the day he may miss some games. We’re going to [err] on the right side; whatever they decide…at the end of the day, I want him right. I don’t want him half right.”
Though you might not know it from the lack of concern shown by Ainge and Rivers regarding the long-term effects of Garnett’s injury, the Celtics are facing a crucial part of their schedule in the upcoming weeks. As of Monday afternoon, the C’s sit 7th in the Eastern Conference with a 36-33 record. They are situated squarely between 6th and 8th in the standings, with only two games separating them from Chicago and Milwaukee, respectively.
While moving up to 6th might hold some sort of symbolic value – though I’m not really sure that this Boston squad takes symbolic value from anything – the most important thing for the Celtics is to avoid falling to 8th, which would mean a first round matchup with Miami. That would most definitely change their NBA betting odds going forward. Given their current four game losing streak and the temporary loss of Garnett, the fate of the Celtics season will be decided on the lineups Doc puts on the floor over the coming weeks, and how the team reacts to the absence of its heart and soul.
One thing that will hopefully work to Boston’s advantage down the stretch is the schedule. Both the Celtics and Bucks have thirteen games left to play in the regular season, though the C’s schedule looks much friendlier. Only six of the Celtics remaining games are against playoff teams and only two of those six (New York and Miami) are on the road, where they have struggled mightily this year – going 12-23 as opposed to 24-10 at the TD Garden. For the Bucks, the home stretch will be a little more daunting. Seven of their final thirteen games are against current playoff teams and four of those seven (New York, Miami, Atlanta, and Oklahoma City) are on the road.
Milwaukee’s recent struggles offer additional support to a Boston team in need of all the help it can get. Despite their early success after trading for shooting guard J.J. Redick in late February, the Bucks have lost six of their last eight. Some of those losses, however, may be attributed to the absence of forward Ersan Ilyasova, who is in the process of returning to full strength after missing four games due to back and hip injuries. His return could be extremely helpful to the struggling Bucks, as their points per possession differential with their opponents is 2.3 points better when Ilyasova is on the floor.
While Ilyasova’s return may dim the Celtics hopes to some extent, the fact remains that they control their own destiny when it comes to the 7th seed. Although Garnett is obviously crucial to the Celtics success, there is evidence that the Celtics will be able to remain competitive in his absence.
First, the starting lineup that Boston is likely to use sans Garnett has been extremely successful to this point. Despite playing far fewer minutes than the Celtics normal starting five since Rajon Rondo’s injury, the lineup of Avery Bradley, Courtney Lee, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass has been it’s most successfulin terms of points per 100 possessions differential. Though it is highly unlikely that they will be successful at that rate when given many more minutes, it is certainly possible for this group to at least keep Boston on track against a very mediocre schedule.
Second, the Celtics have been a much more efficient offensive team with Garnett off the floor. This should come as no surprise, as Garnett has posted a career low in offensive win shares and a true shooting percentage of 53.1% his lowest since the 2000-01 season, per Basketball-Reference. Although he has proven that he is an effective midrange shooter, Garnett’s affinity for long two-pointers, the least efficient shots in basketball, do not give the Celtics a very efficient or consistently effective offense. Assuming Green takes a majority of Garnett’s minutes, it is likely that his more advanced stat friendly shot chart, though not perfect, will help alleviate some of Boston’s offensive issues.
Because of the Celtics relatively light schedule the rest of the way, the Bucks recent struggles, and Boston’s effectiveness when playing with Green instead of Garnett, Celtics fans should be fairly optimistic about the team’s chances to retain the 7th seed in the East. The next step will be getting past either Indiana or New York, two teams against whom the Celtics have enjoyed a great deal of recent success.

Top NBA Picks

We start out our weekly preview with Wednesday night’s busy slate of games. Elevent different matches will be taking place, but as always there are a certain few that will be worth paying extra attention to.

First of all, the New York Knicks’ home game with the Brooklyn nets will be a special contest. It’s the first time the Knicks will get to play this new version of the Nets in Madison Square Garden. While the NBA odds will surely be in their favor, they’ll have to execute very well to hold off Brooklyn.

The other game to watch on Wednesday is the Atlanta Hawks at home to Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Hawks are a solid 8-4 at home this season and have been playing some terrific defense, but the Thunder are a ridiculous 20-4 overall and have won six of eight road contests so far. They’re playing at a scarily high level right now on both ends of the court, so the Hawks are going to have to do something special to send OKC home with the loss.

The next day, there are two games to track. The Minnesota Timberwolves have Ricky Rubio back now and they’ll be playing host to the Thunder, who will be playing their second game in as many nights. That’s a tough spot for Oklahoma City, especially against a great home team in Minnesota, but if anyone can get the job done it’s them.

Following that matchup, we’ve got the Dallas Mavericks at home to the Miami Heat. Dallas has gone a solid 7-3 on their own floor this season, while the Heat are just 4-4 away from South Beach, so that game could end up being a lot closer than many people think.

To close out the week, weekend games like New York/Chicago and Boston/Milwaukee on Saturday and Miami/Utah, Houston/Memphis and Golden State/L.A. Lakers are the games you’re going to want to watch.

Winning – The Magic Elixir That Cures All

You can imagine King Arthur at the round table, after a long fought campaign on the battlefield, lifting his chalice proclaiming victory over the fallen and slain barbarians. The challenge to obtain “the ring” is no different than the battle waged between Frodo Baggins and Gollum; when one overcomes the obstacles placed before them for the riches prize of them all. In team sports, an individual doesn’t achieve their goal until their uniform is soaked in their sweat and champagne, and confetti is draped over their bare skin. Then one can look over the landscape and announce to all within shouting distance, “I did it! I’m a winner!”  Immortal.

So last week the NBA, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Lakers fan base and your long, lost cousin Raymond celebrated the fact that Kobe Bryant became the fifth (5th) player to surpass 30,000 career points. Bryant joined the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlin as the only players to accomplish this feat. Although this is a great achievement, which signifies his longevity, great health and desire to continue to play the game at a high level, I am not impressed. I relate it to a statement that ESPN’s First Take host Stephen A. Smith made in regards to Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, “He came to work every day.” My biggest issue with the mass media is that with every accomplishment, the comparisons between he and “His Airness” shrink and the allure of his alleged dominance of the sport continues to grow. Now mind you, I’m no fool. I can admit that Kobe is one of the greatest players of our generation. My favorite moment is when he silences the crowd with a dagger of a jump shot in the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal Game against Spain. But did he transcend the sport like Mike did? I think not. Take into account this, according to the website www.wagesofwins.com, an average player, if given the opportunity to take the same number of shots as Bryant during his seventeen (17) years in the league would rank 6th all-time in scoring with 29,847. This statistic includes average shooting guard’s field goal percentage and free throw percentage of 80.4. That would mean players like Larry Hughes, Flip Murray, Blue Edwards, Byron Russell, Monte Ellis and your favorite male bank teller (insert name here) would have a chance for a Hall of Fame career if given the opportunity to shoot as much as Kobe. Anyway, that’s beside the point; winning championships is the reason that Kobe and any other player of his caliber are held in high regard for their accomplishments. No one ever brings up his failures or missteps. See the lauded, self-proclaimed “Black Mamba”, isn’t quite the assassin that he’s made out to be on your 10 p.m. SportsCenter telecast. In an article written by Henry Abbott on January 28, 2011, titled “The Truth about Kobe Bryant in crunch time”, it was determined that trailing by one or two points, or tied, in the final 24 seconds of regular-season and playoff games since 1996-97, with a minimum of 30 shots, Bryant (at that time) shot 31.3% (36-115). The last time Kobe hit such a shot was last year in an 88-85 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. The facts point out that on such occasions, Carmelo Anthony is the “most clutch” player shooting 47.7% (at that time). However, because Anthony has yet to win a championship and has been bounced out of the playoffs in the first round nine out of his first ten seasons, Kobe’s deemed the “winner guy”. See when you win everybody forgets that you were once a disgruntled teammate, called selfish on frequent occasions for not sharing the ball, seen as a dirty player for flailing elbows at Spurs guard Manu Ginobili and Marko Jaric during the course of games for playing tight defense, or a host of other things. Ah, and let’s not forget that coming into tonight’s game against the New York Knicks, in games in which he scores 30 points or more, the Lakers are 1-10. That stat is telling because, when other teammate are involved and the scoring is evenly distributed, the Lakers win. An astonishing revelation! But because he’s Kobe Bryant, the Lakers failures aren’t in part his fault at some level. (refer to Tim Legler on ESPN on December 11th for details) When Kobe applied for employment in the NBA, his job title is “Shooting Guard”.  Therefore, having an overall game of distributing the ball for assists or crashing the defensive boards for rebounds isn’t a criteria.  When you win, those transgressions are forgotten and you’re instantly placed in an echelon of mythical heroes; gods that surpass the accomplishments of mere mortals.

 

Football

But this is not an article bashing Kobe Bryant. This manuscript merely points out how winning changes the perception of both the media and public. Take Dan Marino for instance. It can be argued that Marino is the best pure passer in NFL history. A bona fide Hall of Famer who only lacks a Super Bowl championship on his resume. However, when discussed at your local eatery, barbershop or picnic, Marino doesn’t stack up to the likes of Joe Montana, John Elway, or Troy Aikman. The reason, he did not win “The Big One.” Until Elway won in his last two (2) seasons with the Broncos, he was clearly behind Marino as a quarterback. However, with the help of a running game lead by Terrell Davis and a stout defense, Elway achieved the once unreachable and surpassed Number 13. The two (2) players hadn’t changed at all; it was the winning that catapulted Elway ahead the once all-time passing leader in every statistical category before Brett Favre broke his records.

Basketball

This is by far the sport with the biggest contradiction. When asked if Robert Horry is a Hall of Fame player, most people would suggest “Yes! That’s Big Shot Bob! He’s won seven (7) rings!  He has to go to the Fame!” That would mean you’re voting someone into the Hall of Fame based on the fact that he made a number of last second shots and not based on his overall talent; dismissing the fact that he’s played 1,107 games, starting only 509. Additionally, people forget that he once threw a towel in then Phoenix Suns’ coach Danny Ainge’s face during a verbal confrontation in a game. Here are Horry’s career numbers: FG% – .425; RPG 4.8; APG 2.1; PPG 7.0. And that’s Hall of Fame worthy? Childe Please! (Chad Johnson voice) Based on that argument, that would mean that he’s comparable to Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, whom have never won rings but had stellar careers.

Coaches and Teams

So last year, prior to the Miami Heat winning the championship, Eric Spoelstra was designated as the worst possible coach to lead a group of all-star players to the ultimate team prize. Forget that prior to Lebron James’ and Chris Bosh’s arrival, he coached a team with Dwayne Wade, Jermaine O’Neal, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers to consecutive winning seasons and playoff appearances. Since winning the championship, you have not heard one basketball commentator call for Spoelstra’s removal or replacement by Pat Riley. Since 1982 (30 years), here is list of the teams that have won the championship: Detroit Pistons; Chicago Bulls; Houston Rockets; San Antonio Spurs; Boston Celtics; Miami Heat; Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. That’s a total of eight teams in 30 years. Since 2004, there have been only three (3) teams from the AFC to appear in the Super Bowl: New England Patriots; Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers. You what know that means…? Winning is hard, but there are teams and people that have equal talent or less opportunity and do not receive the accolades given to others in the same position. You can only succeed when given the chance to do so; and when you do get that chance, seize that opportunity.

Your Workplace

Now take whatever job you perform for a living and apply it to this argument. How many times have you perhaps been passed up for a promotion or chance for advancement by someone who was perhaps your equal or less qualified? You pullout your resume and you have just as many certificates, commendations, and recommendations as your counterpart. However, because you took time off to tend to your ill child or for maternity leave, or because you had a disagreement with your supervisor, does that make you any less qualified for the job than before? Of course not! You were just never provided an opportunity to showcase your talent. When it comes to being designated a winner, it’s all a matter of perception. During the past five (5) years, it was evident that Lebron James was clearly the best basketball player in the world; at least in the United States. However, because he did not win until last season, the likes of Skip Bayless, Rick Bucher and even Ervin “Magic” Johnson, criticized him for his failures. People look at Magic as the ultimate winner, top five (5) player, all-time Laker great, etc. However, people forget that although Magic won five (5) championships, he lost four (4) series in that scenario in convincing fashion. That part of his career is never discussed; he’s absolved; like it never existed. To further my point, just look at the panel of any sports telecast. The former sports stars have either won or participated in a championship type game. Not to say that others aren’t qualified or have a gift to articulate their feeling in a public forum, it says that “we” want to hear, see and speak to winners, whether they are worthy or not. I say all that to say this, the next time you have an argument about who’s the best player in whatever sport, refer to this article, use your sports’ intellect and before you utter a word say, “You know what? You dead right!” and leave the conversation alone. Because even armed with facts and statistics, if the person you argue for hasn’t won a championship, it’s a mute point. (b)

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Weekly NBA Picks: Version 2

It’s once again time to look at the upcoming week to see which NBA matchups you’re going to want to keep a close eye on.

We start our preview with Tuesday night’s games, and there’s a couple dandies on the schedule. The Brooklyn Nets will play host to the New York Knicks in another battle of New York teams.

The Nets are in a bad place right now, having lost four straight games, so they’re really going to have to bring it against a Knicks team that’s 15-5 and tops in the Atlantic Division. Carmelo Anthony is back and healthy too.

The other game we’re tracking is the Chicago Bulls’ home encounter with the L.A. Clippers. The Bulls are doing their very best to hang on and survive without Derrick Rose (and now Rip Hamilton too) and are doing well in that respect. They’re currently 11-8 on the season, thanks in large part to a solid 5-3 record on the road.

For Tuesday night’s game though, the Bulls will have their hands full with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and an extremely deep Clippers team. The NBA odds are going to be tight for this game, and rightly so.

There’s a full slate of games on Wednesday, but only a few really stand out. Philadelphia/Chicago, Boston/Dallas and Utah/San Antonio should be tough, competitive games, but we’re really liking the look of the Miami Heat home game against the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors have been one of the pleasant surprises of the season, having marched out to a 14-7 record. They’ve gone 8-4 on the road, meaning they could very well give LeBron James and company a run for their money.

Thursday is our last stop, and we’ve got one heck of a game on tap. The Knicks will host the L.A. Lakers, with the matchup being televised on TNT. Melo vs. Kobe Bryant. This one’s going to be good.

Weekly NBA Picks: Version 1

We start on Tuesday, with two highly intriguing matchups on the schedule.

First off is the Brooklyn Nets at home versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are favored in the NBA odds despite being on the road, and it’s hard to argue that if you’ve seen them play this season.

Kevin Durant and company really are playing at an extremely high level, so this will be a huge test for Deron Williams and the Nets. They’ve gone 7-1 at home so far this season – can they make it 8-1 with a statement win over the Thunder?

Thirty minutes after that one tips off, the matchup between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers will begin. James Harden has been a star for the Rockets and has them at 8-8 overall and 6-3 at home, meaning the Lakers have to step up their game on both ends of the court if they want to get back to .500.

It’s weird seeing L.A., especially now that they’ve got Dwight Howard, not even above .500, and the Lakers have also just won one of their five road games this season. It’ll help once they get Steve Nash back, but we’re starting to get worried for these guys.

A busy Wednesday sees some more great showdowns. Atlanta’s home date with Denver should be a competitive matchup, while San Antonio/Milwaukee should also be a good game. The late game on ESPN between the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks is probably the game of the night though, with the Clippers aiming to improve on their 7-3 home record.

Finally, there’s one game everyone’s talking about on Thursday and it’s Miami’s battle royale with the New York Knicks. LeBron James vs. Carmelo Anthony. This one’s going to be good, so make sure you tune in.

The Latest NBA Player Updates and Rumors!

Damian Lillard: Is Damian Lillard the early favorite for Rookie of the Year in the NBA? Most would say so. With Anthony Davis missing time due to injuries, Lillard is slowly taking over. Some ESPN experts expect Davis to return and take back the ROY title, but as of right now Lillard is the favorite. He is without a doubt one of the major steals of the draft averaging an outstanding 19.1 PPG, 6.1 assists, and 3.2 rebounds.

Anderson Varejo: Is Andersion Varejo the best center in the NBA? The season is still young, but he is making his case at least to many fantasy basketball owners. Varejo has nine games so far with 15 or more rebounds which is beyond what most can say.  He is also averaging 14.5 points per game, 14.9 rebounds and shooting 52.5 percent from the floor.

Derrick Williams: Are the Minnesota Timberwolves already considering letting go the former No. 2 pick of the 2011 draft? Some believe they are very much open to a trade and Oklahoma City would be interested. Rumors are a deal revolving around Eric Maynor makes the most sense for both sides.  The problem is OKC is unwilling to trade much else would could kill all trade talks.

Pau Gasol: Will Pau Gasol’s name ever be out of the trade rumors? It doesn’t appear anytime soon.  With new head coach Mike D’Antoni only a few days into his new position, Gasol trade rumors are already rising. D’Antoni was quick to deny the rumors saying there is no reason Gasol can’t fit into his new Lakers system. Would an addition of Gasol help another team’s chances of winning it all? It would certainly adjust the odds of daily NBA picks.

Austin Rivers: One of the biggest rookie names is easily guard Austin Rivers. The overall no. 10 pick has struggled so far in the early part of his rookie season.  Are the Hornets worried? Not really. It will most likely take a good amount of time for Rivers to adjust to his new role in the NBA. The Hornets are playing him at both the point guard position and shooting guard so that only adds to the amount he has to learn each game. In time, there is little doubt Rivers won’t make a big impact in this league.

Top NBA Picks for the Week

Thanksgiving has now come and gone, and we have a good sample set now of most of the teams in the NBA. Here are some of the games to watch on the NBA betting odds where you very well could find some great value.

Tuesday: Suns @ Cavaliers – This is just the fifth home game of the year for the Cavs, and it comes in a really nice spot against a Phoenix team that has gone just 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS on the road. The 4-10 ATS mark for Phoenix is one of the worst in the NBA, and the team has gone just 2-7 ATS in this series dating back to 2009.

Wednesday: Nets @ Celtics – This should be a brutal fight in the Atlantic Division, and it might be a lower scoring game when push comes to shove. Brooklyn has played eight of its 13 games ‘under’ the ‘total’ this year, including a 96-89 win over the Knicks in overtime on Monday night. The Nets have held three straight teams to 89 points or fewer, and have had three straight games holding teams to 85 or fewer through the first 48 minutes of action.

Thursday: Spurs @ Heat – The Spurs have only been beaten once this year on the road, and they are going to be playing against a Miami team that has won all six of its games at home. The problem that San Antonio has in this one is that this is the second game in as many days. It’ll take on Orlando on Wednesday, and the second half of the Sunshine State swing, especially for West Coast teams, has notoriously been a pain of a game to play. This could be a big outing for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and company against another NBA Finals contender.

All Basketball, All The Time!