Hoop Logic

Hoop Logic with God Forbid’s Doc Coyle: Has This Whole World Gone Crazy?

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We are only two weeks deep in the 2012-13 NBA season, and yet fast changes abound! The superstar Lakers pulled the plug on their flailing head coach, the defending almost-champion Oklahoma City Thunder moved a major piece, and the league’s most powerful teams are … the Knicks and the Grizz?! Okay fuck it why not!

Now let’s send this wildness over to God Forbid guitarist/superhunk Doc Coyle, our MetalSucks NBA hoops expert, for a dose of clarity on this already bananas action! He’ll know what to make of it! lol

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After five games, the high-powered, high-priced Los Angeles Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown and enlisted Mike D’Antoni, an offense-first coach who was ousted from the New York Knicks mid-season last year. Doc, u have the benefit of a Knicks fan’s insight: Is D’Antoni the right coach for Kobe and crew?

Doc Coyle, God Forbid: It’s difficult to say right now. In New York, Coach D’Antoni was set up to fail when the team he built was dismantled by the Knicks’ trade for Carmelo Anthony. So D’Antoni went from a squad of young run-and-gun guys to a mismatch of stars and a thin bench made thinner in the trade. Then last season, expectations skyrocketed for the NBA’s best frontline on paper, but the Knicks floundered with no point guards to ably run D’Antoni’s system. Then you saw how the Knicks flourished with phenom Jeremy Lin; finally they’d found the right PG. But I don’t think D’Antoni could’ve made the situation work, and given the missing pieces and the flurry of injuries, perhaps no coach could. Eventually his spirit was broken, and he lost his team mentally and emotionally in the locker room. He did the right thing by stepping down. New coach Mike Woodson fits this Knicks team better.

As for the Lakers, let me first say that I do not like Mike Brown as a coach. He failed to gameplan properly in those last couple post-seasons as head coach for Lebron’s Cleveland Caveliers. The Xs and Os seemed shoddy. But above all, he is not a coach who inspires players in the way that Doc Rivers, Doug Collins, or George Karl does. Those guys put their hearts into the game, while Brown seems fake and disingenuous. I was happy to see him go.

Which brings us to today. The Lakers’ issue in their awful first five games under Mike Brown was defense. Not offense. Everyone knows that Mike D’Antoni’s teams can put points on the board, but does Lakers personnel fit with his system? He’s never run a team that has two back-to-the-basket bigs like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. I can’t imagine the Lakers as a fast break team because of their age and lack of foot speed. I really wish they would have re-signed PG Ramon Sessions; Steve Blake is not an adequate back up to Steve Nash.

D’Antoni’s teams are notorious for bad defense. I wonder if Lakers brass figured that D12 can clean up everyone’s mistakes, but he is not at full strength after a back injury. I wonder if D’Antoni can get the defense under control; I am skeptical about that. So this hire is curious to me, especially when Phil Jackson was available. Jackson’s resume speaks for itself while D’Antoni has never even taken a team to the Finals. Big-time pressure will be on D’Antoni and the Laker’s front office to deliver immediately.

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Speaking of the Knicks, New York’s finest is 5-0 as of this writing. Are u blown away? What does this mean for injured PF Amar’e Stoudemire?

Doc: I am slightly blown away. As I am writing this, they just came off a massive comeback win against San Antonio on the road to put them at 6-0. A Knicks fan always waits for the other shoe to drop. I am taking it with a grain of a salt; after all it’s a six-game winning streak that gets more attention for arriving at the season’s start. They could go lose five in a row and put themselves back at the middle of the pack. But I think there are a few things that should sustain:

First, Carmelo Anthony is playing like an MVP. He leads the league in scoring, rebounds like a beast, and shows a focus on defense that we’ve never seen from him. Second, their three-headed point guard attack (Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, Pablo Prigioni) gives them the advantage of always having a floor general on the court who knows how to set up scorers. Third, defense has been unbelievable. Partially because of Mike Woodson’s leadership, and because of hard-working defensive experts like Tyson Chandler, Ronnie Brewer, and Rasheed Wallace. Fourth, confidence and chemistry: These Knicks believe they can compete with the best and actually like each other. That true team spirit can go a long way.

I think Amar’e will fit in nicely when he returns from knee surgery. But for that to work, he has to be eased back in — perhaps coming off the bench for 15-20 minutes. Their second team could use his scoring through lulls when Melo is on the bench. The point guards will get him involved and make the game easy for him. In fact I am really excited for his return, but still he has to buy into Knicks defensive schemes. That’s the key. The offense will come no problem. With a healthy Amar’e and Iman Shumpert, the Knicks could be contenders for real. That will address two concerns: Having a true number-two scoring option and a lockdown wing defender to handle the D-Wades and Kobes of the world.

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The other most buzzed-about team in this young NBA season is the Memphis Grizzlies. Doc, how do explain their ability to continue last season’s good groove? An underdog’s vigor? Veteran wiles? Lack of OJ Mayo? lol

Doc: People who follow the NBA know that Memphis is on the verge of being a true contender. Their starting five is one of the best in the NBA. Man to man, they probably have the true best front court in basketball. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph really do it all. They are skilled scorers, rebounders, defenders, and passers. And I hope this is the year underrated Rudy Gay finally makes an All-Star team. Mike Conley and Tony Allen are pure athletes and tops steals guys every year.

I was concerned about how they would replace OJ Mayo’s scoring punch, but I watched their win against OKC, and their bench looks great. I was unfamiliar with most of them, but it was impressive to see them single-handedly win a big game for Memphis. Wayne Ellington, Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, and Maurice Speights look like a legit second unit. I will watch them more this season to learn more about these guys.

Oh and consider this about Memphis: Two years ago when they reached the Western Conference Finals, they did so without Gay, and last year’s playoff run came despite a hobbled Zach Randolph. So, this is the first time their starting unit has been healthy, and it is all coming together for them. This is definitely a team to watch because they can match the Thunder’s speed and the Lakers’ size.

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We need to talk about James Harden’s trade to the Houston Rockets and a stratospheric debut performance for his new team. What does your crystal ball foretell for Harden, the Rockets, and his old team, the Oklahoma City Thunder?

Doc: James Harden looks like a superstar in his first two weeks with his new team. We all knew he was good, but perhaps we underestimated his true talent. He automatically makes the Rockets a bubble team to make the playoffs, and here’s why: Jeremy Lin was not ready to be the go-to-guy, and the addition of Harden relieves some pressure. Houston is in a great position in that they are very young and have tons of cap space to sign more free agents. Kudos to the resilience of their front office in finally landing a star after striking out with both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. I predict that they will sign another big time free agent in the next year or two and become an top-tier team in the West. See, one thing we are starting to see already is a scouting report on how to stop the Rockets, Harden in particular; they don’t have a lot of guys that can create for themselves besides The Beard and Linsanity. They aren’t deep, but this team is young and full of potential. I look forward to watching them develop.

On the other hand, the Thunder’s prospects are not as bright as they were a year ago. Their end of the Harden move, Kevin Martin, will more than make up for Harden’s 16 ppg, but not his ball-handling, passing, and perimeter defense. Don’t get me wrong, the Thunder are still NBA cream of the crop, but they’d had a dynasty brewing with that young core. I would have preferred the Thunder go after another guy in the Harden mould who does everything: Tyreke Evans. Though the yield is fantastic for the Thunder in the long run: lottery pick Jeremy Lamb and three future draft picks. So, great deal for the future but just passable for the present. The other good news is that back-up point guard Eric Maynor is back from last year’s season-ending injury and will provide some playmaking in the second unit. This is still a major dent in the Thunder’s armor. Their grasp on the Western Conference title is vulnerable, and with the Lakers, Grizzlies, Clippers, and Nuggets all improving, this conference is up for grabs.

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