Greetings everyone, apologies for the late start but had flight delay and traffic. Just got to my hotel in Chicago, where I'll be catching Bulls-Magic tonight on the final stop of my little tour of the central time zone.
What should my mindset be tomorrow night? Should I care more about my team winning or the fans in my arena?
I think the fans. If Cleveland wins that's great, but nobody is going to remember the result of the game for long. If fans do something horrifically stupid, however, people will talk about it for a long time.
are the Knicks really a playoff-caliber team as constructed, or just the product of a very easy schedule?
Yes to both. They'll get into the East's top 8 with 38 wins or so, and I'm guessing the East-heavy schedule will be easy enough for them to get there.
It seems the more Kobe shoots, the less the Lakers win. Your thoughts?
It was that way with Jordan too. But as I wrote in Per Diem today, it's a chicken-egg question: Are they needing him to shoot more because the other players aren't getting open, or is his shooting so much preventing other players from contributing? Methinks different nights can yield very different answers.
Are you getting some proper pizza while you're here?
Not sure. Taking an Atlantan outside in today's conditions is a very tough sell. (it's 27, windy, snowy, gray ... Chicago in winter, basically).
Do I do my baby powder toss tomorrow?
I think he should stand there with the powder and ask the crowd "What should I do?"
Who's to blame for these fourth quarter woes of the Blazers? They can't score or defend in the fourth. Is nate one of those good for rebuilding but can't take you to the next level coaches?
Not sure if you noticed, but the other three quarters haven't exactly been a bed of roses either. Their best player has gone from All-Star to liability, trading Bayless left them short a scorer in the wake of Roy's decline, and obviously Oden isn't coming back. Portland is facing some real hard decisions if they can't get Roy back to being Roy.
How far do you see our team going once i get into the mix with Rose, Noah and Thibs?
We may get an answer tonight, as Booz is a game-time decision. The Bulls have been even better than many expected -- they're projecting for 52 wins even without Boozer playing a game. Unfortunately, Vinny Del Negro is sabotaging Thibodeau's Coach of the Year chances.
Should I be worried about the Thunder? Their record (12-6) is solid but their point differential is, outside of the Knicks, the lowest of all teams with a winning record.
I've been writing this since the beginning of the season: Everyone got completely carried away with that team. They're good, they'll make the playoffs, and they'll probably go further than a year ago. But it's not realistic to expect a team full of 22-year-olds to emerge as a 60-win team; the road is bumpier than that.
What do you think of the Nick Collison signing bonus? This creates flexibility but that seems like alot of money for just a backup center.
Thought it was a fantastic way to use their cap space to lock up a core piece at a very low cap # for the following 3 yrs. Remember, Krstic is a free agent, so if Collison walked too they'd have no centers.
What are your thoughts on how the Jazz have played so far this year with so many new key pieces on the team? What do you think their ceiling is this year?
They've been way better than I expected, especially since they're getting nothing from Hayward and very little from Raja Bell. Jerry Sloan may finally get his COY. By the way, today's Playoff Odds project Utah-New Orleans in the 4-5 match-up in the West. Keeping fingers crossed....
Are the Pacers for real? Is there any real explanation for their improvements on defense? McRoberts and Psycho T can't be *that* much of an upgrade over Murphy...
There are a lot of reasons for Indy's improvement, but suffice it to say they look like a legit playoff team, and they're doing it even with some core players (Granger, Ford) performing at well below their historic #s. Speaking of Pacers, did anyone else check out that alleyoop dunk from McBobs in Sacramento last night?
Is Manu an MVP candidate?
Yes, but it's going to be really, really difficult for him to win while playing 33 minutes a game. Also, one has to be a little skeptical of his getting through all 82 in one piece. For those reasons, I still see him as something of a longshot.
What would my game mean for Dwight Howard?
That he'd never see the ball again? Can't say I'd be real excited to see Gilbert in Orlando.
I'll be at the game tomorrow night, behaving. But I can't promise one or two people from Cleveland with screws loose won't be behaving. Realistically, what do you expect tomorrow? Delays? They were talking on the radio that many of the media members were having a serious discussion about whether the game would reach a conclusion. Come on, Cleveland isn't that bad, is it?
Most likely, it will be fine. But there's an anger in that community that is pretty much unprecedented in NBA annals, which is why nobody is ruling anything out as far as what happens tomorrow night.
Are the grizz actively trying to lower Mayo's trade value?
No, I think this role is actually the best one for him but they couldn't do it sooner. He doesn't handle well enough to play the point, he's not a good defender, and they already have one high-scoring wing in Rudy Gay. So doesn't it make more sense to start Henry as a stopper and then use Mayo with a second unit that has no scorers?
Haven't you figured out by now that a Jazz-Hornets playoff matchup would be a bloodbath? Paul may be the better all-around PG, but Williams owns him head-to-head. Owns him.
That's exactly what makes it fascinating to me -- I want to see them go head-to-head seven times in a series and see if Williams can outplay him in that environment. Also, I want to see Raja Bell against Marco Belinelli to answer an ages-old question -- how do you sell a flop against an opponent who is also flopping?
I think its time for ESPN to take down the "Heat Index". A 10-8 team doesn't deserve that.
Presumably you're OK with us ditching ESPNLA too?
Will Russell Westbrook make the West All Star Team this year?
On merit, he should. But Western Conference point guard is verrrrrrry interesting this year. You have Williams, Paul, Westbrook, Nash and Parker. All five belong. At least one, and probably two, won't make it.
If you're Rich Cho, when you think about blowing up the Blazers as presently constituted? Still too soon? Another year, maybe?
Still too soon. But the other dilemma is the blow-up vs. reload question. They have enough assets that they don't necessarily need to start over. I don't envy the situation in which he finds himself, that's for sure.
Best candidate for "bad eastern team that makes a surprising run at .500 and sneaks into the playoffs"? 1. Washington 2. Philly 3. Toronto 4. New Jersey 5. Charloette
Toronto. All my metrics say they're better than their record and could easily make the playoffs, although the one time I saw them in person (at Portland) it was one of the worst games I've ever seen. Plus, if they're close I think Colangelo will try to add players at the deadline.
Will Rubio come to MN next year now that we have a decent front court?
Only if there is a ferocious acceleration in global warming.
Is Wesley Matthews a future All-Star, and could the Blazers build a new team around him?
No and no. But he's proving to be worth the midlevel money, at least so far, which is notable given the shockingly high disaster rate of midlevel exception deals.
John, is Manu your November MVP?
Have to go with Dwight Howard actually. Manu second, CP third, Pau fourth.
Bulls' fans are definitely starting to buy into this team, with both Noah and Rose appearing to take the leap from good to excellent. What will you be focusing in on tonight at the United Center during the Orlando-Bulls' game?
Boozer, if he plays. Noah against Howard, certainly. I also want to see what the heck is going on with Rashard Lewis. He's been in a real funk so far.
Is Ray Felton an all-star this year? He is most likely the third best point guard in the East behind Rose and Rondo. I see the 5 East guards shaking out to Rose, Wade, Rondo, Joe Johnson, Felton. Thoughts?
Amazingly, the Felton-for-All-Star question is not a ridiculous one. He's probably going to spar with Devin Harris for the last guard spot in the East. Rondo, Rose and Wade are the only definites. After that it's wide open.
Your MVP candidates include the 2nd best player on the Lakers, but not Dirk. Interesting. His free throw shooting is off this year. Is that your nitpick with him, or have you not noticed the Mavs record and his direct contribution to that?
No, Dirk is a strong candidate. Usually at this point in the year you can come up with 10-12 guys who merit serious consideration; inevitably, the list whittles down as the year goes on.
jameer's the third best point guard in the east. he's still got pieces of felton on the bottom of his nike's
Jameer destroyed Felton in last year's first round, but Felton has played dramatically better in New York than he did in Charlotte.
Shouldn't we be talking about the possibility of the Spurs winning 70+ games?
Still seems remote to me. Playoff Odds say 62-20; for the most part, Spurs' hardest games are piled up late in the season.
there are two deserving all stars on the hawks and jj is most certainly not one of them.
This, however, will not stop the East coaches from reflexively voting for him. I think we all learned that a year ago when he got in and Josh Smith didn't.
Hollinger! Love your info. In your opinion, what is a realistic move can the Magic pull off in order to make themselves a legit title contender? Right now I can't say that they are.
They need another dynamic wing player, especially one who can create and pass. While they were right not to pay Turkoglu, that's the thing they lost with his departure; when they lose, it's almost always because they can't score. Orlando has a lot of assets to put into a deal, so keep an eye on them at the trade deadline.
Amare for MVP! Come on, he has to be up there.
I think you put a little too much eggnog in your coffee this morning.
Is there anything to blame for #2 pick ET's performance so far? Is Collins too tough, roster too unbalanced, Iggy too mean?
I think he just hasn't been good. Sometimes it's that simple. Sure Turner is better with the ball, but it's tough to put the ball in a guy's hands when he can't deliver buckets. The best move right now might be to let him learn by watching, but that's a tough sell with a No. 2 overall pick.
Does the Pistons have any trade pieces and who could they trade for?
I've felt for a while that the Pistons have had a huge gap between perception and reality, as far as the trade value of pieces like Prince and Hamilton are concerned. The other issue is that it appears they can't take on money until the team is sold, which pretty much kills any possibilities involving Prince.
How does Millsap not make the Allstar ballot?
Because we're obligated to pretend Tim Duncan is a forward.
Historically, how does Blake G compare to other great PF's. Malone, Webber, Duncan, etc...?
Lots of Blake Griffin questions. Want to get a good look at him in person Sunday night in Portland before I chime in, but obviously he's had a very impressive start to his career, and he'd be an All-Star candidate if his team's record wasn't so bad.
John - does Sacramento need a coaching change?
Actually, Sacramento needs a full-on dynamiting of the entire org chart. It's amazing how far they've fallen. Just a complete mess right now.
were their anything in the numbers for the Heat's first five games that could have predicted this drop off?
You mean besides the win-loss record of their opponents? So far Atlanta is exactly what we thought they were -- a mid-40s win team that puts no fear whatsoever into the conference's elite teams.
do you have hostility toward the spurs? is it cause theyre successful and win games? or that their front office doesnt want or need media attention like other franchises?
We were dangerously close to getting though an entire chat without a "Why do you hate Team X?" question. Surprisingly, it wasn't a fan of the Lakers, Mavs or Jazz who provided it. Major upset there. Just to review, I detest all 30 teams equally, and work hard to deny all of them the credit they deserve.
Your (3:06) question:Jeremiah asked about the Heat, not Hawks. Love to see you have that same response for Miami
My bad. I do think Miami will get better, but it's basically a real simple issue: They need LeBron James to play like LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade to play like Dwyane Wade. Everything else is about what we expected, but those two have performed at a dramatically lower level than anticipated.
Here's a doozy. Who starts at Center for the West in the All-Star Game? So far I'd say Tyson Chandler looks the best. Thoughts?
Both Duncan and Pau Gasol are on the ballot at forward, which is going to make a bit of a mockery of the selection process when somebody like Chandler or Nene or Al Jefferson starts at center while Steve Nash and Tony Parker aren't even on the team.
Can Baron Davis function as a backup PG...
Given his conditioning, I think he's better off as either a blocking tight end or a nose tackle. In all seriousness, I think he's stubborn enough that it'd be a very difficult adjustment for him. Which could provide considerable drama over the next year or two if Bledsoe keeps developing.
John, if you answer a Raptors question, you'll please an entire nation. Can't go wrong with that, huh? Is Andrea Bargnani better than we thought? And every stat out there shows that Amir Johnson has a huge impact on games. Is it a mirage?
No, Bargnani has been pretty average in my estimation. As for Johnson, he's played extremely well in limited minutes, but his biggest limitation is still there -- he's averaging better than a foul every six minutes, so he's only averaging 20.1 minutes per game due to the foul trouble. Unfortunately, it appears that's going to hamstring him his entire career.
Hey John, did you expect Tyson Chandler to come out and play the way he has so far. There's not many centers in the league playing better than him and he's not even on the All-Star ballot!
I had no expectation of this whatsoever, especially the part about being money from the free-throw line. Give him credit for putting in the work to turn a weakness into a strength.
Where is Dallas going to find minutes for Roddy Buckets without messing up their great chemistry? Butler or Terry don't seem like they'd deal well, and Kidd is irreplacable . . .
I think they should move Butler into a much lesser role, but I've though this for a while and they keep ignoring me. And I suspect Barea is an obvious candidate to lose minutes as well, even if a Terry-Roddy backcourt lacks a true distributor.
Do you think Russ Westbrook should try to get KD involved more early in the offense like a CP3 or Rondo would, or do you think its better for the Thunder for him to be in attack mode all the time?
It's not like they're ignoring Durant. Since Thabo and Krstic hardly shoot, there's plenty of shots to go around for both of them at the start of games. Also, at this point you have to let Westbrook do his thing and live with the results, because that constant attack mentality is how he's been so successful.
Any Celtics questions you could answer? They do have one of the best records in the NBA. How seamlessly has Shaq fit in with the team?
Seamless doesn't even begin to describe it. He's shooting 67.5% and leads the team in PER! He's made a huge difference offensively, and he's not hurting the D -- Boston is still #1 in Defensive Efficiency. If he'd done this in Cleveland last year ... oh, let's not go there.
Do you think that Carlos Boozer is relieved that there is a player that the fans in Cleveland hate more than him.
Not as relieved as Art Modell.
Did Chad seriously just suggest that CP3 would get KD involved early? Doesn't CP3 dribble for 20 seconds and then look to pass or shoot?
Actually CP pretty pointedly tries to involve other players in first quarters at his own expense. My problem in OKC on Monday was that he did the same thing in the 4th ... that's when he needs to take over.
Hey! I'm listed as a forward too!
Thanks to the others who pointed this out, and those who mentioned that a healthy Yao Ming is almost certainly going to be the Western Conference starting center.
If kobe surpasses michael in rings will he be the greatest player ever.
Only if you currently think Robert Horry was better than Kobe. Rings are part of the narrative, obviously, but there's a lot more to it than that .... especially when Jordan basically only stopped at six out of sheer boredom.
Time for McMillan to go? He has completely lost this team and pounding the ball into the floor for 20 seconds before taking an ill-advised fadeaway is not a good strategy for winning. Needs a major shakeup.
It's amazing how much stupider he became when all his players got hurt. I agree that McMillan needs to make some adjustments in his approach to allow for Brandon Roy's new realities, but Portland's primary issue right now is the roster, not the coach.
Folks, that's all the time I have, but be sure to check out my missive tonight from the Windy City. Thanks again for all the great questions. I'll be back to my regular Thursday chat next week.