Author: Matt Moore

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game Three

The Inbounds: Indiana and defense of second


Welcome to the Inbounds, touching on one big idea, story, or discussion point of the day. 

It’s fine to think the Celtics were the second best team in the East in last year’s playoffs (factoring the Bulls post-Rose injury). I mean, they finished second, right? They pushed the eventual NBA champions to seven games, and were up 3-2 with a chance to close at home. They had to be the second best team in the East.

But they weren’t. Not really.

The most infuriating thing about the current NBA playoff structure, even more so than the fact they continue to hold the conferences as an intelligent means of dividing the field, is the lack of re-seeding every round. Surely in this modern, information superseries of tubes world we have going on, we can get around the travel issues inherent in re-seeding the field after every round. Because what happens can have drastic consequences. Like the Celtics making the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics landed the Hawks in their bracket, and no problem there. They established a mental advantage on the Hawks in Game 2 and the series was over from that point on.

But when Derrick Rose went down and the Sixers managed to Omer-Asik their way to an escape, the field should have been redistributed. The Sixers should have headed to face Miami, while the Pacers and Celtics battled it out. And a little hidden secret? The Pacers were a much better team, even in the playoffs, than Boston.

Celtics fan! Please! Hold your molotov cocktails and pitchforks. The Celtics’ run last season was incredible precisely because it was against such odds. They had so many things going against the, their chances were so unlikely, that it makes it all the more impressive they nearly ran the gamut.

But the Pacers were the better team. Had Boston and Indiana met in the second round as they should have, we could have settled this question. I don’t have any issue with thinking Boston was the better team. That seems pretty obvious. My source of disagreement comes from what we saw from both teams and the unpredictability of the playoffs. The Pacers were in a better position to knock off Miami than Boston was, despite them going down in six, not seven. It’s about the structural makeup of the team. Indiana’s size advantage was first and foremost. They had a legit center in Roy Hibbert, and they have no discernible weak spot in their starting lineup. They had depth and versatility, and the roster makeup to match up with different lineups.

They lost because LeBron James is the best player on the planet. As did Boston.

But regardless of what you think about last year’s playoffs, when we look to the future, the East behind Miami is even more uncertain. There’s Miami, certainly, and a gap, certainly (Jason Terry does not a gap close make, when considering another year on them old bones). But after that it gets nuts. Remember, New York very much looked like the second best team in the East to start last year. They suffered more injury issues than anyone outside of Chicago, and their defense was playoff-good. Who knows how good the Nets can be if everything falls into place for them? Chicago is a question mark, but that defense will hold them together.

But Boston in the prohibitive favorite to be second in the East. They added Jason Terry, get Jeff Green back, throw in Courtney Lee, retain Chris Wilcox. I’ve written about how good they can be next year.

But age can still take its toll. Age is like Jaws, it doesn’t give you warning, it just takes your legs. And though the supporting cast of the Celtics has gotten younger, what drove that team last year was the play of Kevin Garnett, with Paul Pierce in spurts. Rajon Rondo is the chef, without him, there’s no meal. But the younger players are the appetizers, the garnish, the desert. The meal is still KG and the Truth. And there’s no way of telling when those players will start playing their age. Maybe they never will. Maybe they’ll defy all odds. Garnett certainly takes offense to any assessment that he’s old. But you have to watch it, carefully.

Indiana continues to slip beneath the radar. You can throw out the Darren Collison trade as a reason they’ll fall to the side, but George Hill played well for most of the season, and they added more size in Ian Mahinmi. Again, in an East where Dwight Howard is the only other legitimate center in the playoff picture, the Pacers have the second best center and a quality legit center. They have an armada of versatile forwards. And they get another full season to play together.

Indiana could take a step backwards. Like Philadelphia, it’s possible they simply benefited from the shortened season’s hammering of teams like Boston and throwing the season into chaos. Boston can very well take that step forward. But when you look at Danny Granger’s comments, you recognize their awareness of how close they were. Indiana went at Miami with everything they had. They weren’t intimidated or just happy to be there. They truly believed they could win that series. And they almost pulled it off.

Boston hung with Miami because they’re specifically well-tailored to combat James and the Heat. Indiana hung because they’re really that good of a team.

This all seems irrelevant, though, when you look at Miami and what they bring to the table next year. A full actualized LeBron James, a healthier Dwyane Wade, a resurgent Chris Bosh who understands how he fits, a core with more confidence, and Ray Allen. The gap is not narrow between Miami and the rest of the East. But the rest of the teams are just waiting for one of those seasons when something happens to move Miami off the top block. Then it would be a mad scramble. Most would have confidence in Boston. But to ignore what Indiana brings to the table is dangerous.

Had reseeding occurred last season, we might view Indiana as the kind of powerhouse we view Boston as. But as it stands, they seem ready to fill into a familiar slot, as a great team full of likable players who are lost in the shine of the championship team right above them.

No. 2, though? That’s a fight they’re prepared for.

The most interesting question between the two may be who has the most they can figure out to unlock potential. Indiana was in their first year together with David West and George Hill. Boston of course has the remaining Big 3 which know each other but have a number of new elements. You could say there’s a lot to unlock for this new Celtics team, but there’s still a ton of room for Indiana to unearth in its identity.

Under the context of a normal season with normal rest and normal practice, that may be the deciding factor in who winds up closest to the throne.

The Heat are looking at Andray Blatche, but it’s not serious

Andray Blatche

It is very much the “dating but not in a relationship” kind of deal. There have been reports that Andray Blatche was on the Heat’s radar. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the Heat are looking at him, but it’s far from a done deal, especially because of Blatche’s market value:

..just because, as ESPN reported, the Heat are doing their background work on Blatche, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are poised for a move. Yes, Andray has a place in South Florida and has been working out here, but for a player looking to rebuild his NBA career, there might be better places than a roster where his opportunities could be limited. While it might be worth the risk for the Heat, it might not be a move in Blatche’s best interests, particularly when considering how Eddy Curry, on a tryout deal of his own last season, essentially vanished.

via Miami Heat, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh commentary from Ira Winderman – South Florida

The Heat could only sign Blatche for the veteran minimum, and while Blatche has certainly found himself on the wrong side of most executives (or he would have been swooped by now, if not kept by the Wizards themselves for trade value), he’s young enough to draw interest. Zach Randolph has redeemed his career. Chris Andersen did for some time, J.R. Smith. The league is filled with guys with questionable on and off-court issues who got it together. There’s no reason to think Blatche would have to be desperate enough to take the league minimum, even if it might take him a few months to find a team with an injury issue desperate enough to pay him.

On the other hand, he’d be able to showcase his talents really effectively off the bench with the Heat, and be wide open a lot of the time due to the attention the Big 3 draws. That might put him in a position to raise his stock. But for right now, I wouldn’t go rushing out to buy that Blatche Heat jersey yet.

You’re not rushing to do that anyway, are you?

Kevin Garnett blocked from purchase of minority ownership in European soccer club

Boston Celtics v Miami Heat - Game Seven

LeBron James can, but Kevin Garnett can’t. And there are good reasons why not.

KG wanted to buy a share in AS Roma, but the Boston Globe reports that Garnett was blocked from that bid. LeBron James is a minority owner in a club as well. The reason why one was legal and one was not all has to do with who owns them, and their affiliation with the NBA.

Kevin Garnett has a strong rooting interest in soccer, Chelsea and AC Milan his preferred clubs. There are several US-based owners of major European clubs, and Garnett last year decided to join them by agreeing to chip in to AS Roma. About the same time, LeBron James joined Fenway Sports Group, which controls Liverpool FC.

When the teams met last month in an exhibition at Fenway Park (Roma beat Liverpool, 2-1) it was revealed Garnett had been excluded from financial involvement with Roma. The NBA blocked the move because AS Roma’s principal investor is Celtics part-owner James Pallotta.

“If you enter into a business agreement with the owner of a team that doesn’t involve playing service, there are potential problems,” a league source said. “Maybe not in this case. But there is a chance of, say, making a contract a lot larger.”

James is allowed to invest in Liverpool because Fenway Sports Group has no connection with the NBA.

via Reggie Jackson plans to make noise with Thunder – Sports – The Boston Globe.

So if Garnett wanted to buy a share in any other team, he’d be able to, provided their ownership weren’t involved with the NBA. You’d think you wouldn’t have that kind of overlap, with as many billionaires as there are in the world.

It’s an interesting little development, but in largest part because I want you to imagine Kevin Garnett in a soccer scarf, chanting with a group of hooligans. Maybe picture him with a flag. Saying “oi.” There. Just wanted to share that image with you.

Now that you think about it, considering the insanity expressed by soccer fans, you start to understand why KG likes it so much. He’s tame by their standards.

HT: HoopsHype