Nuggets and Knicks heading in opposite directions; Shaq re-injured; Rodman makes the Hall of Fame
By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
Denver, New York Head in Opposite Directions since Big Trade
J.R. Smith and other holdovers after the Carmelo Anthony trade, with the help of the newly aquired players, are averaging a league high 107.3 points per game. Photo by Jeff Lewis
It’s probably too early to assess the Carmelo Anthony deal after a little more than 20 games have been played by the Nuggets and the Knicks, but so far, at least based on the early returns, Denver’s made out fine.
The new-look Nuggets were on full display Sunday during their nationally televised win at Staples Center against the Lakers. After beating the Lakers 95-90, the Nuggets stretched their win streak to six games and improved to 15-4 since trading Anthony.
Assumptions made about the Nuggets falling off the map were greatly exaggerated. Honestly, I thought this team’s chances of making the Western Conference playoffs post-Melo were thinner than the Rocky Mountain air.
But, man, was I wrong.
During the win against the Lakers, a couple Nuggets acquisitions in the ‘Melo deal played huge roles.
Danilo Gallinari scored a team-high 22 points with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Raymond Felton came off the bench and contributed 16 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists.
Gallinari and Felton along with Wilson Chandler have helped give the Nuggets an up-tempo offense, whereas the team tended to get bogged down because guys stood around watching ‘Melo dominate the ball.
The Nuggets average an NBA best 107.3 points per game due in-part to better ball movement and more balanced scoring.
A winner of eight of their last 10 games, Denver is 47-29 and firmly entrenched in the west’s No. 5 playoff seed. If the season ended today, they would face No. 4 seed Oklahoma City.
Both teams will give fans a preview of what’s to come in the first round when they face off twice this week. Tuesday’s game is at Denver and Friday’s is at Oklahoma City.
Denver would be the underdog in a series against Oklahoma City, but if Kenyon Martin, who had 18 points against the Lakers, can give them solid performances upfront to go along with Nene and Chris Andersen, the Nuggets are a legitimate threat to pull the upset.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Knicks are 10-12 since the ‘Melo deal was made, and sit at .500 (38-38). ‘Melo’s need to play with the ball has had the same negative effect on the Knicks it had on Denver at times.
Shaq Returns from Injury then gets re-injured
The Boston Celtics have a major problem in the middle of their lineup. Shaquille O’Neal lasted five minutes before re-injuring himself, and the Celtics do not have any quality big men after trading away Kendrick Perkins. Photo by Michael Dwyer (AP)
Since trading away starting center Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics have encountered one problem after another at the five-position.
Matters weren’t helped Sunday night when Shaquille O’Neal returned to the lineup after being injured since February 1 with an Achilles tendon sprain, only to hobble off the floor against the Pistons in the second quarter with another injury.
Coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t know how long Shaq would be out, but it doesn’t bode well for a supposed favorite in the Eastern Conference, especially when you consider the playoffs are less than a couple weeks away.
Jermaine O’ Neal returned to the lineup a few games back, but has been ineffective while seeing his first action since January due to arthroscopic knee surgery. Nenad Kristic got banged up during last Thursday’s game at San Antonio and hasn’t played since.
The slumping Celtics not only trail the Bulls by three games for the east’s No. 1 seed, but they also fell behind Miami by ½ game for the second spot.
The conference’s third seed will likely get Boston a date with the young and athletic 76ers, who feature several players that can get out into the open-court and create havoc.
Philadelphia’s frenetic pace is probably what Boston’s tired legs don’t need at this point.
Shaq’s recovery is crucial if Boston wants to reach their third NBA Finals in four years. However, his 39-year-old body isn’t likely to hold up over the playoff long haul.
Rivers seems to be conceding that both O’ Neal’s won’t be healthy, but that one will do, provided help from another player.
“We have to have one of the O’ Neal’s,” Rivers said after the Pistons game. “And then Kristic has to be healthy. If we have that, we have size.”
Shaq has played in only 37 games this season. Heck, that’s iron man status considering Jermaine has played in 20.
If neither is healthy and Kristic is still slowed down by injury, say hello to Glen “Big Baby” Davis at center.
In the words of Lakers long-time broadcaster Stu Nance: “That won’t get it done.”
Rodman makes the Basketball Hall of Fame
But is it warranted? That’s the question I asked after I heard the announcement.
Now, there’s no doubt, Dennis Rodman after Wilt Chamberlain, was probably the most dominant rebounder ever to play in the NBA pound-for-pound.
But Chamberlain also scored 100 points in a game and averaged 30 points per game for his career and even led the league in assist once.
Rodman averaged 13.1 rebounds per game for his career and won two Defensive Player of the Year awards. But aside from that, Rodman didn’t contribute much on the floor.
That’s not o take anything away from “The Worm” and his legacy because Detroit’s Bad Boys and the Chicago Bulls wouldn’t have won multiple titles without Rodman’s contributions.
The five-time champion brought intangibles to the floor that isn’t measured on stat sheets. His relentless hustle and ability to mentally psyche out opponents at times made Rodman a special player.
But overall, Rodman was a specialist. I think he was exceptional at what he did and merited Hall of Fame entree, however, I won’t argue with those who say he shouldn’t have been granted admission.
Other specialists such as Robert Horry, known for last-second shots; Dell Curry, three-point sharpshooter; and Michael Cooper, lockdown defender, will likely never be admitted to the Hall of Fame.
But Rodman fits my criteria as a Hall of Famer because he changed the game. Standing barely at six-foot-eight, Rodman revolutionized the game forever. Before him, it was unheard of for a guy his size to lead the league in rebounds.
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