John Krolik

Matt Barnes kind of hates the Clippers


From ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin:

Barnes said the Clippers should be feeling some positive vibes after adding Chris PaulChauncey BillupsCaron Butler and re-signing DeAndre Jordan this month, but thinks they may have gone overboard in showing that enthusiasm.

“They definitely have a much improved team here and are looking to make a push towards the playoffs,” Barnes said Thursday after the Clippers beat the Lakers in a pair of preseason games on Monday and Wednesday. “They have a lot of reason to be excited, but all the celebration after dunks and all that kind of stuff, I mean, I just kind of think it looks amazing and it makes ‘SportsCenter,’ but I mean, let’s just play basketball.”

Count Barnes as one person not exactly thrilled by the “Lob City” Clippers.

“They act like they won the dunk contest after every dunk,” Barnes said. “So, as players, people aren’t going to tolerate that.”

Barnes also discussed the flagrant-1 penalty he received for shoving Blake Griffin to the floor in the 3rd quarter of Wednesday’s game. Instead of apologizing, Barnes called Griffin a “flopper” and bemoaned the fact that, according to Barnes, “there’s no such thing as a hard foul anymore.”

For me, the main takeaway from this is that there’s finally a real rivalry between the two basketball teams that call the Staples Center their home. The Lakers have always been the undisputed kings of LA — now the Clippers are threatening that, and they’re doing it with a player the Lakers tried to trade for. Wednesday’s chippy game and Barnes’ comments seemed to mark the official beginning of a true rivalry in the City of Angels — personally, I can’t wait for more.

NBA Season Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder


2010-11 record: 55-27

Head Coach: Scott Brooks, who his players really like.

Significant Departures: Robert Vaden?

Significant Additions: Reggie Jackson, a personal sleeper favorite in the draft at PBT.

Best-Case Scenario: The slimmed-down Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka are one of the best defensive frontcourts in the league.  Russell Westbrook continues to be one of the league’s most most explosive and productive point guards while improving his shot selection and becoming a more efficient player. Kevin Durant is Kevin Durant, but with better handles. James Harden takes his game to another level, the Thunder play all four quarters in the playoffs, and the franchise wins the first championship in its history.

Yes, they are thinking title. They should be.

More likely Scenario: Some, but not all, of the above things happen, and the Thunder come close to a championship, but don’t quite make it past either the Lakers or the Mavericks (or maybe the Heat or the Bulls), but still have perhaps the brightest future in the NBA to look forward to.

Prediction: 48-55 wins

NBA Season Preview: Denver Nuggets


2010-11 record: 50-32

Head Coach: George Karl

Key Departures: Raymond Felton, Gary Forbes, and the three guys on an extended Chinese vacation — J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin

Key Additions: Rudy Fernandez, Andre Miller, Kenneth Faried. They also kept Nene, which seemed unlikely at points but makes this team much, much better.

Best-Case Scenario: The Nuggets somehow overcome the loss of Felton and the exodus of Smith, Chandler, and Martin to China, keep playing with the same offensive and defensive efficiency that they played with after the Carmelo trade last season, and make a deep playoff run in the shark tank that is the Western Conference.

More likely scenario: You can’t keep losing talent — your best talent — and still win. The Nuggets have a respectable season and sneak into the playoffs, but don’t come all that close to making it out of the first round.

Prediction: 40-45 wins

NBA Season Preview: Utah Jazz


2010-11 record: 39-43

Head Coach: Jerry Sloan… no, wait, Tyrone Corbin

Key Departures: Ronnie Price

Key Additions: Enes Kanter, Alec Burks

Best-Case Scenario: Enes Kanter and Al Jefferson combine like Voltron to be one of the best offensive frontcourts in the league. Devin Harris reminds everybody why they thought the Jason Kidd trade was so stupid when it happened. Andrei Kirilenko and his insane World of Warcraft tattoo returns to the Jazz (an iffy proposition) becomes the player he was when he was putting up 5-by-5s. The Jazz squeak into the playoffs.

More likely scenario: Harris and Kirilenko continue to be relatively underwhelming. Kanter and Jefferson have inefficient offensive seasons, Jefferson continues to be perhaps the worst defensive player in basketball, and Kanter struggles with the athleticism of NBA centers and power forwards as well. The team never really threatens a playoff run.

Prediction: 27-31 wins


NBA Season Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

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2010-11 record: 35-47, just missing the playoffs but not in a position to get a great draft pick

Head Coach: Scott Skiles

Key Departures: Corey Maggette, John Salmons

Key Additions: Stephen Jackson, Mike Dunleavy Jr., Beno Udrih

Best-Case Scenario: The Bucks continue to play suffocating defense while finding some semblance of an offensive identity.

The de facto swap of the ball-stopping Corey Maggette for the playmaking (but still a volume shooter) Stephen Jackson gets the Bucks to start moving the ball. Andrew Bogut is healthy all season and his elbow issues are behind him, so he starts scoring again. Brandon Jennings recovers from his sophomore slump, gets back to being a promising playmaker, and makes more than 40% of his shots.

The Bucks make it back into the playoffs, and their tough defense and possession of a player who, in his own words, “makes love to pressure,” the Bucks become the team nobody wants to play in the first round.

More likely scenario: The Bucks’ offense improves, but not significantly. Stephen Jackson and Brandon Jennings take far, far too many ill-advised jumpers. The Bucks scrape into the playoffs, but prove to be a relatively easy out in the first round.

Prediction: 28-33 wins