Big Dividends on BIG acquisitions, Streakers streaking, Donnie Walsh in NYC and Rooks on the chessboard…..

Editor’s note:  The last post on the Tip In was on November 30, 2010, after a bout with the flu, a Wu Tang Clan Concert, and a drive up North, the Pick Man is back.

Big Acquisitions Making a Big Difference:
This past free agency/ trading period (Deadline is 20something of February) has lead to several perennially good teams and 1 laughing stock to make big moves on big guys resulting in big dividends placing them (and in 1 case keeping them) among the league’s elite. 

The Dallas Mavericks traded Erick Dampier, Eduardo Najera, cash, and Matt Carroll to the Charlotte Bobcats return for Centers(C) Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca. While Ajinca is an up and coming prospect, the BIG deal is the acquisition of Chandler by the Mavericks. 
Already having signed C Brendan Haywood to a big contract last season, the Mavs surprised many by getting Chandler. Chandler and the Mavericks though haven’t been surprised by their Cuban cigar smoking, 16-4, start, with W’s over the Nuggets, Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, Hornets, Hawks, and Celtics.  The combos of Dirk Nowitzki/Tyson Chandler and Haywood/Chandler leading the Mavs’ vastly improved zone defense to give their opponents fits , while creating substantial mismatches for opposing defenses.

Amare’ Stoudemire‘s signing a 5/yr $100 MIL deal with the New York Knicks is thus far proving to be the best free-agent acquisition of the summer and Amare’ didn’t even need his own special to make a decision. Stoudemire has been an absolute BEAST for the Knicks and is proving to be their BIGGEST acquisition since drafting a Jamaican Georgetown BIG #1 overall in the 1985 draft. Long forgotten are the big failures of Antonio McDyess, Jerome James, and more recently Eddie Curry, now that STAT is in town. This is the longest into the season since the Pick Man and countless Tri-Staters can remember that the Knicks are relevant heading into the winter holidays. STAT is averaging a dominant 24.9 points/game (ppg), 9 rebs/game(rpg), and 1.9 Blocks/game (bpg) through 20 tip-offs this season with a whopping 32.2 ppg over the course of the last 5, during which the Knicks have gone 4-1. 

Another newly acquired C that has been making a BIG time impact on his new team has been Utah Jazz big man Al Jefferson (whom the Jazz acquired for virtually peanut shells from the Minnesota Timberwolves. (The Wolves got Kosta Koufos, a protected Memphis Grizzlies 1st Round pick, and a future conditional pick, in return from the Jazz for the BIG for whom the Wolves traded Kevin Garnett 3 years ago.  

Before further breaking down the impact Al Jefferson has had on the Jazz, it’s worth asking, WTF?%! was WOLVES General manager David Kahn thinking when he let Jefferson go, and replaced him with DARKO???? Not to mention, WTF!*@? was he thinking when he drafted back to back PG’s with the 5th and 6th OVERALL LOTTO PICKS in the 2009 NBA Draft with NEITHER of the picks being PG’s Brandon Jennings nor Stephen Curry? Both Curry and Jennings have emerged as future PG super stars, while Jonny Flynn (Minnesota 6th Pick 2009) plays D-League in order to rehab, and NBA UNPROVEN  International PG Sensation RICKY RUBIO(Wolves 5th Pick 2009) prefers cafes con leche over PAUL BUNYAN’s BLUE OX…Why did Kevin McHale lose his job again???????

But back to Al Jefferson’s impact….Coming into the 2010-2011 season, the Jazz decided not to Re-Sign free-agent PF Carlos Boozer and used the league’s trade exception to acquire Jefferson and pair him in the front-court with PF Paul Millsap, the results of which have been very impressive. The Jazz have thus far posted 8? incredible down double digits comebacks and are a wicked Western Conference Contender with a record of 15-6. The last Jazz comeback victory was against the Lakers in Salt Lake, after the Lakers went up by as many as 19! Al Jefferson has been the anchor of the Jazz’s rise to the Upper Echelon of the NBA, working hard inside every night for solid numbers of 16.9ppg, 8.7rpg, and 1.6bpg. For as good as this Jazz team is now they’re going to be scary good when C Mehmet Okur returns.

What would a list of BIG dividend paying off-season acquisitions be without arguably the biggest (career wise) of them all? Though considered “old” at 38 by NBA standards, Shaq Daddy Fu Schnikens is looking younger by the day. Shaquille O’Neal has lost noticeable weight and appears to have virtually the same smile with which he entered the league.

Unlike other free-agent big men who never have been nor will have been such as big man Brad Miller, who opted for $$$ over a chance to play for contender like Miami in signing with the Rockets, Shaquille O’ Neal took an enormous pay cut to play for a serious contender when he signed  for the league minimum with the Boston Celtics.

The results have been everything Bill Russell, Kevin Garnett, and the ghost of Red Auerbach could have ever hoped for, with results showing the Celtics stampeding through the league en-route to an Eastern Conference Best 16-4, which is also good for the 2nd Best Record in the NBA.  In just 22 minutes on the court per game, Shaq is thus far averaging 11.3ppg to go with 6.5 rpg.

What’s astounding is that Shaq is averaging 1/2 point per minute. To make things even better for the Celtics who now start 5 future Hall of Famers, Shaq recently stated that this current Celtics team is “the best team” he has ever been on. Hungry to tie Kobe’s mark of 5 rings, Shaquille O’Neal is working his hardest to stay healthy/conditioned and is on pace either to defeat the Lakers or anyone else for that matter come June 2011.

The key for the Celtics will be for the guys currently playing to stay healthy and the successful healthy returns of BIGS Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’ Neal along with G Delonte West. Unless they’re hospitalized with serious knee injuries and/or other ailments watch out for the Boston Celtics. 

Streakers, streaking, and not across the football field naked
Coming into today’s NBA action, there are a handful of teams riding win streaks of at least 4 games. The Dallas Mavericks currently have the longest win streak at 9 games, followed by the aforementioned Boston Celtics who are riding a 7 game win streak, the Denver Nuggets have also won 7 straight, that team in Miami is riding a respectable 4 game win streak, and lastly but perhaps most remarkable of all the New York Knicks also have a 4 game win streak. Perhaps even more impressive than the Knicks’ having won 4 straight is that they’ve (The Knicks) won 7 straight on the road and AN NBA LEAGUE LEADING!!!  9 road games!!!! 

Donnie Walsh in NYC looking like Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco:

NOBODY, and seriously absolutely nobody thought that the Knicks would ever lead the NBA in road victories this late into the season after posting an AIG loss size 11-30 road record last season. 

The acquisitions of Amare’ Stoudemire and Raymond Felton have thus far proven to be yet another masterful rebuilding/renovation job of a wreck by head Architect GM Donnie Walsh, who also shrewdly drafted rookie steal G Landry Fields with the 39th 2nd Round Pick, traded David Lee for C Touriaf, G Azubuike(Yet to play this season due to injury), and the potential stuffed Anthony Randolph, and then took a risk on the talented on the court numerous drug arrested problem riddled off the court PF/C Shawne Williams (who made Donnie and the Knicks faithful proud with his 4th quarter 14pt 4-4 from 3’s explosion off the Knicks bench in Toronto yesterday afternoon in the Knicks resounding 116-99 win over the Raptors.

All of these moves made by Walsh with D’Antoni’s input prior to and during the 2010-11 Knicks season have paid off. Knicks’ fans everywhere can now forgive Walsh’s drafting scrub Jordan Hill with 8th OVERALL LOTTO 2009  draft pick ahead of PG stud Brandon Jennings (10th overall) and PF stud Taj Gibson (26th overall.)

In taking the Knicks’ GM position in 2008, Walsh was pretty much 100% certain to do a much better job than New York disaster and disgrace Isiah Thomas, who while lavishly paying free agent busts Howard Eisely, Jerome James, Malik Rose, Maurice Taylor, Eddie Curry, Alan Houston(serious knee injury), and Jared Jeffries, also managed to cost the New York Knicks an additional $10 MIL by sexually harassing a female Knicks’ employee who went on to win a lawsuit that named both Isiah Thomas and New York pro-ball loser Stephon Marbury in its claim.

Marbury was paid a hefty buyout of his $22 MIL without ever playing a game for the 2008-09 Knicks,  as a result of Isiah’s New York idiocy and was essentially paid to stay away from the team.  Marbury, after a brief horrendous stint with the Boston Celtics, has been seen licking strawberry vaseline off of his bare torso on his webstream channel as well as having a decent season in China last year too, only to most likely once again have worn out his welcome there as well , as recent reports have been circulating his having been released. To think that the Wolves once traded Ray Allen to the Milwaukee Bucks for Marbury…(At least KG and Ray Ray met up in Boston.)

On top of all this, Isiah had a GOD AWFUL 54-108 record as coach and may be the cause of future NBA sanctions against the Knicks for improper contact with NCAA players. The only certain thing that could be said about Isiah Thomas, is that unlike his back-court mate of Joe Dumars, ISIAH NEVER WOULD HAVE DRAFTED DARKO OVER MELO’, BOSH, or DWade nor would he nor will he ever lead a team to an NBA title as a GM. Joe Dumars may NEVER do that again either and he can only hope to have a Ground Hog Day do-over of the 2003 NBA draft while watching his franchise crumble as a result of his Zeke-like IDIOCY. 

Given all that’s happened in Knicks’ land and the current shape of things, New Yorkers haven’t been this excited since a former governor dished out 5g’s for a hooker. Don’t be surprised if Isiah was the GM on that deal too.

Shine on Knicks and keep Knicks’ fans away from their anti-depressants which prior to this season most likely came with Season ticket packages.

 Rooks on the Chess Board
Thus far into the 2010-11 NBA Season, there have been several unheralded rookies that have made a dominant impact on their new teams, as well some highly touted rookies that have thus far been Pepsi Clear Cola size busts. 

The unheralded rookies making a definite impact on their teams’ future success : Today and Tomorrow
***in no ranked order

Knicks Rookie SG Landry Fields Since winning the starting Knicks SG job during the pre-season/pre-season camps (after being drafted 39th in the 2nd Round) has shot an impressive 53.7% from the field, while having averages of a shade under 11ppg, 7rpg, and almost (.95 close) 1 stl/game in just under 31 minutes per contest. Landry also averages close to 2 assists per game.

Nuggets Rookie F Gary Forbes:  Despite having been one of the greatest New York high school ballers in NYC history and a former McDonald’s All American (ranked #20 in AMERICA by ESPN U as an incoming Freshman in 2003), Gary Forbes’ pro basketball career took some time to take flight. This was most likely due to Forbes’ bad luck of having chosen to attend Virginia over both Georgia Tech and Mississippi State. After Forbes’ sophomore season at Virginia in 2005, he decided to transfer to UMASS because of coach’s Pete Gillen’s resignation. Forbes was forced to sit out the 2005-2006 NCAA season upon his transfer to UMASS and thus lost out on a year of playing time, additionally when Forbes was able to play during the 2007-08 NCAA season at UMASS, he had to share playing time with 2 established UMASS players, thus further limiting his visibility to pro scouts during his junior season. However during his senior season at UMASS Forbes was named A-10 player of the year with an average of 20.3ppg.

Given the respect that the A-10 lacks as a powerhouse basketball conference (none since the days of Marcus Camby, Eddie Jones, and Aaron Mckie) and a non remarkable Orlando 2008 Pre-draft camp performance, Forbes was not drafted in the 2008 NBA draft. He was however invited to play in the NBA’s summer league for the Washington Wizards but only averaged 3.8ppg in 5 games and did not receive a roster spot for the 2008 season. Forbes did not crumble and continued to believe in himself. He played for an Italian team that dissolved and was then taken with the #4 overall pick in the D-League, where he showed his skill by averaging 17.4 ppg and 5.3 rpg. Forbes then went on to play for some insignificant international teams with stops in the Philippines, Italy, Venezuela, and finally Israel. It’s worth mentioning however that while in the Israeli Super Basketball League, Forbes lead the league in scoring with 20.3ppg. 

Determined not to see his dreams crushed, Forbes decided to give making an NBA roster another shot and was invited to play for the Houston Rockets in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer league. The Rockets didn’t invite Forbes to training camp but the Denver Nuggets did. True to himself and the talents he belays, Gary Forbes was a awarded a roster spot on the Denver Nuggets, with whom his NBA journey began this season. 

Forbes exploded for a career high 19 points and 9rebs against the Knicks in Denver’s  120-118 win on 11/16/10 but has since seen limited action since then due to the resurgence of J.R. Smith’s game. In spite of only seeing 12.6 minutes of court time per game, Forbes is averaging 6.3 ppg, which puts him at an average of 1/2pt per minute of time on the court. Given how resilient this rookie is and has been throughout his basketball career at every level, it’s only a matter of time before Gary Forbes explodes again.

*Forbes is also diabetic, which makes his story all the more remarkable. Go Gary!!

Another unheralded rookie also named Gary, is Spurs rookie PG Gary NealAfter becoming a star his junior season of high school while growing up in Aberdeen, Maryland, by averaging a triple double in leading his Aberdeen high school team to a 22-4 season that ended with a Maryland state title, Neal transferred to Calvert Hall College High School for his senior season with the hopes of having the same success as a PG/combo guard as notable Calvert alum Juan Dixon did.  Neal was also a teammate of former University of Miami PG Jack McClinton while at Calvert. While McClinton began his college career at Sienna from where he transferred to the U, Gary Neal decided on La Salle University and began his career there during the 2002-2003 NCAA season. 

In his freshman year Neal showed off his talent right away with a 2002-2003 La Salle Explorer team high 18.3 ppg average, which lead  him be recognized as the A-10 Rookie of the Year or the honor bestowed upon the best freshman. Coincidentally with his 18.3ppg  which was good enough for 5th among A-10 scoring leaders for the 2002-03 season, Neal ranked 1 spot behind current Orlando Magic PG Jameer Nelson, 2 spots below current New Orleans Hornets PF David West and 2 spots ahead of Boston Celtics SG Delonte West.

However despite his standout season during his 2002-2003 freshman year there, Neal’s career at La Salle was marred prior to the start of his 2004-05 Junior season due to his dismissal from the team following a rape allegation made against him by a visiting University of New Haven woman’s basketball player, which not only left Gary with no place to continue his basketball career but also and perhaps more importantly facing a widely publicized trial with the grim prospect of losing his freedom. Ultimately, as Neal had told authorities all along, a jury of 12 found the allegations to be not only unsubstantiated but also entirely false due to the alleged victim’s having made up/falsified the allegation to save herself from her the ridicule of her University of New Haven Woman’s Basketball teammates. 

Although Neal won the all important battle for his freedom in the face of a false accuser, he demonstrated a poor lack of judgment as most young maturing college students across the country do, however only a small amount of these error prone students lose scholarships. Awaiting his eventual acquittal, Gary filed the proper paper work to transfer to Towson University. Gary’s stellar play continued at Towson with stellar averages of 26.1ppg his first year and 25.3ppg his final season at Towson despite having missed the 2004-05 season due to the false rape allegation at La Salle.

He was on the draft bubble in 2007 and ultimately wasn’t drafted by any NBA team, this lead him to play over seas in Turkey where he lead the league in scoring and then on to the noteworthy Spanish league, where he played for Barcelona and Uni-Caja Malaga respectively over the course of the past 2 years. 

The San Antonio Spurs  know a talented PG when they see one and boy did they steal another one here. When not being falsely accused, Gary Neal has shown time and time again that he can score. His career high thus far has been 16 points, while playing about 15 minutes a game, he’s averaging 6.6ppg (.4pts/min) but shooting a smoking 42%from beyond the arc. Look for great things from this undrafted rookie through out his entire 3 year deal in San Antonio and be even happier that a false accusation didn’t ruin his career. 

The Busts thus far have been……
#2 Overall Pick Evan Turner who is shooting a horrendous .090% from threes (1-11) and pretty much throwing up bricks from every where else with his 41% fg on his way to putting up 7.5ppg in 26 minutes, which has lead to his being benched in favor of former Kentucky Guard Jody Meeks. 

Turner’s performance is somewhat surprising given that he was the NCAA player of the Year last year, but factor in that Doug Collins is his coach, and that the 76ers are overloaded at his position of G/SF, coupled with several horrid shooting performances in which Turner went 2-7, 4-13, 4-11, and 2-8 (to name a few) and it’s really no surprise that this rookie has a steep learning curve ahead of him.

Many analysts picked Turner to be a bust and thus far he is proving them true but while he has fantastic talent and a huge upside, Evan Turner’s biggest problem aside from missing jumpers is that he was drafted by this current 76ers team with no offensive identity, a revolving glass door coach who’s never really had any noteworthy success whatsoever, and a bunch of  guys who are just looking to score on their own in Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, and Louis Williams. 

Cole Aldrich 11th overall pick:
Aldrich was given some run early in the season but was just so awful that he was shipped to the D-League, for what looks like an extended period of time given the production the Thunder have been getting from Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Nenad Kristic. In 9 minutes of game time, Aldridge has averaged 1 measly point per game. In one of his appearances he managed to get 4 fouls in only 9 minutes. 

He’s not going to get better. Since Wilt the Stilt went to KU, there’s been many a weak highly overrated Center that has come out of there.  Aldrich and fellow KU buddy Sherron Collins were both incredibly over-hyped and over-blabbed about basketball players while at Kansas whose weaknesses and overall lack of NBA game were hidden given how well Xavier Henry and the Morris twins performed for that team all year. It’s sad to say but Nick Collison and Scott Pollard have been the best big men to come out of Kansas since the days of Wilt the Stilt and Danny Manning. The absolute worst part of this pick and bust for the Thunder is that they gave up two solid rookies in Quincy Pondexter and Craig Brackins for this absolute blob.

Gordon Hayward 9th overall lotto Pick: After leading Butler to an improbable hometown Final Four and eventual thrilling national championship loss against Duke in which he just missed a game winning half court heave, Gordon Hayward made the decision to leave college early. The Jazz in turned decided to draft him with the 9th overall pick. Looking at it now, it’s hard to tell who made the worse decision but time will tell as Hayward’s very coachable.

In 3 games in October the Jazz, perhaps hoping to galvanize their mostly white audience by bringing in a Hornacek/Stockton type allotted an average of 20 minutes of game time to Hayward. How did he respond? By shooting a combined dismal 9-22 en route to averaging a non-lotto worthy 6.3 points per game.  For the month of November, Hayward’s minutes were cut to an average of 6.2 minutes per game, to which he responded by going 5-15 for the whole month and averaged a non existent 0.8 points a game. It’s a good thing that Jerry Sloan is the kid’s coach because there’s not a better coach a player like Hayward could learn from, but if this continues Hayward’s just the next Adam Morrison and who knows where he is these days………

Later on there will be a break down of tonight’s games but til then hope you enjoy the break down of what the Pick Man has picked up on……….