Melo’s back

Carmelo Anthony returned to the NBA this week, after about a year of not playing. Melo, despite his talent has not had the success he wanted in the NBA.

He did not manage repeated, deep play-off runs with the New York Knicks. Something which, for many, was just another reason to be annoyed at the trade that brought Melo to the Knicks. A trade that Melo himself forced.

Looking back, it is easy to imagine that if the Knicks had managed to win a championship while Melo was there, that trade would be considered in a very different light. However, Melo was only one party in that trade, and only one player on a team. So it has always stuck me as harsh to lay all the blame, if blame is to be laid, at Melo’s feet.

Since leaving the Knicks, Melo has had one disappointing season at Oklahoma City Thunder (where the trio of Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Melo spectacularly failed to set the league alight) and then an odd couple of weeks with the Houston Rockets (where he was clearly not performing as expected). Since then he has not played professional basketball, until this week.

I never understood the move to Houston given his history with the Houston coach so I wasn’t surprised that the Houston/Melo experiment didn’t work. I was surprised that he then spent so long without a contract. I am not privy to all the ‘insider’ rumours of the NBA but I can only assume that there were some rumours about Melo being difficult/demanding which combined with the underwhelming stat lines (from OKC and Houston) to make him an unattractive prospect. Even the Team USA Basketball World Cup team didn’t want Melo (though given their performance at this year’s World Cup they may be regretting that).

So why have Portland taken the chance on him? Well it is a non-guaranteed contract so this can be a short term experiment if they want. Plus he is a NBA vet, with experience of international games, who can still ball. In his two games so far with Portland he has averaged 26 mins, 14 points and 5.5 rebounds. This is a small sample size, but it’s not far off his career rebound average (6.5) and while it is a way off his career average points (24) it’s not bad for someone who has had such a career break.

Will this stint in Portland help to redeem Melo? Will he finally get the ring he craves? Realistically I don’t think that Portland are going to win a ring this year but if Melo can stay with Portland until the end of the season, and they can have a deep play-off run Melo might be on the road to redemption.

 

The 19/20 season Knicks

Spoiler Warning. If you aren’t up to date with the Knicks this season, stop reading.

No seriously stop reading.

Still here? Okay.

The Knicks front office held a press conference following Sunday night’s game. I haven’t been able to see the whole thing but I’ve caught the highlights. They seem to have stopped themselves from suggesting that personnel changes need to be made but already the press are speculating that this could happen during the season.

I still don’t understand why they called the press conference. No-one who was paying attention should have been expecting an amazingly good start to the season for the Knicks. During the off season we didn’t pick up any of the big name free agents but we did bring in several new players. Players that need time to build chemistry and get used to playing together. Making more changes now (to players or coaches) will just introduce more new elements rather than allowing the current elements time to get it together.

Sunday’s game was not a good result. But not the worst result in the NBA this season (for example, the Hornets Celtics game earlier in the weekend had the same score). The Knicks don’t have a great win/loss this season. But they aren’t alone at the bottom of the table. The Golden State Warriors are right beside them with the same win/loss.

So again, why the press conference? Holding a press conference tells me that Steve Mills and Scott Perry are taking this seriously but did they seriously expect anything different? This feels like a way to respond to people who have unrealistic expectations. Perhaps they (Mills and Perry) also have unrealistic expectations.

Do I wish the Knicks were playing better? Yes.

Do I think constantly moaning about it and expecting greatness of them at all times is helpful? No.

Instead of holding these kind of press conferences the Knicks should look at how they deal with the unrealistic expectations and show faith in the team. They should look at building a team culture that results in players wanting to come to New York and help build something positive.

BBL on YouTube

For the 2019/20 season the British Basketball League (BBL) are broadcasting games live on YouTube. For the last few seasons they were using LiveBasketball so I was interested to see if the service improved with YouTube.

I decided that I would watch a London Lions game on YouTube as I am a Lions fan. Unfortunately my first attempt at this did not work as there were technical issues which prevented live streaming on the day I had planned to watch.

The first, and most obvious, difference is that the YouTube service is free whereas fans had to pay for the previous service. Now I happily pay for NBA League Pass every year so I am not against paying for a service to watch BBL games. However, the subscription BBL service never really felt worth it as you could only watch games live, there were frequent technical issues and often the commentators didn’t even know the players names.

With a free service I won’t find technical issues or low quality commentary as annoying.

Today was my first BBL YouTube game and I was pleasantly surprised. The stream was constant all game, the commentary was good and the on screen graphics were a big improvement on the previous service. Throughout the game I could see the score, after each basket they showed the name of the player who scored and their stats, I could monitor the foul count each quarter and at half time I was shown game stats.

I really appreciated that as it’s exactly the kind of data I expect to see in the venue and the fact that it was provided on a free stream of the game made it even better.

Overall I think the move to YouTube was a good idea and I hope the BBL can keep this up.

All Star Sunday 2019

Ah All Star Sunday, the centrepiece in the NBA All Star showcase. The best players in the NBA this season as voted by fans, players and coaches.

In an attempt to introduce more competitiveness the NBA have moved from the East v West format to an old school captains pick their teams format. For the NBA this is a great move. It generates more media attention, they can televise the draft night and they can sell jump shirts in two different colours (as the jump shirts go on sale before the teams are finalised). The teams compete for charity to incentivise them.

However, we still end up with comically large score, defence feels like a token gesture and the players like to show off no-look passes and trick shots. Yes it is entertaining but it’s not exactly a basketball game.

This year featured some Steph Curry dunks (and some Steph Curry 3s), an Alley Oop between D Wade and LBJ, and Dirk Nowitzki with a smile that showed how much he was loving being there. Watching Steph on a different team from his GSW teammates KD and Klay Thomson was not just entertaining but potentially a taster of what will come next season given their impending free agencies.

I’ve been attending All Star for 5 years now, and the new format hasn’t really changes much. If you want to see some top NBA players have fun and show off the NBA All Star is a great game. If you want to see a really competitive game of basketball this is not the game for you.

All Star Saturday 2019

I think the All Star Saturday format may be broken.

I like the three point contest. I like the dunk contest. I like the skills contest. I dislike the frequent ‘entertainment breaks’ to accommodate the TV ads.

I have also found that the dunks are getting a little stale. There is limited creativity shown these days. This year I have heard comments that the dunks in the All Star game were better than dunks in the contest. I think I heard that last year too. Last year some of the dunks in the Rising Stars game were definitely better.

Part of the problem is that players known to be great at 3-points or dunks don’t want to risk making a mess of the contest and feel embarrassed on national TV. I understand that but even when guys do have a poor performance Any mocking is short lived. Much like the other elements of the All Star weekend perhaps the incentives to enter and do well in the three Saturday night contests need to be better to attract the most entertaining players for each option.

You don’t necessarily want to see the same players at each event over the weekend but I think that there are enough good players in the league to make sure that would not happen.

Rising Stars 2019

The Rising Stars game is an opportunity to see the best first and second year NBA players (or third year if we all agree to ignore the year that Ben Simmons didn’t play).

A few years ago, in a nod to the number of non-American players in the league, the NBA moved from an East v West format to a USA v World format. The players are selected by the coaches; there is no fan involvement in selection and they don’t sell replica rising stars jerseys. In a lot of ways this game is the poor cousin of the Sunday night All Star game.

This year, it was a member of team World who was tipped to be MVP – Luka Doncic. However, this is still an All Star game where players want to show off and it seems that no-one values defence so Luka had a less than inspiring night while other players seemed determined to keep the ball to make the shots (though not attempt any threes).

This game was fairly entertaining but as always in the last few minutes the players started mucking about going for dunks. Sure dunks are entertaining but I wanted to see a game. If the players could be incentivised to treat this as a game that matters I think the quality of the performances would increase and the fans would get more into the game.

Part of the issue is that you are not really supporting a team. You are supporting a player (maybe two depending on your NBA team) so you want to see that player do well, make the cool shots and generally increase the hype around him. That does not make for good team play.

With each year that goes by the price of the tickets increases making it increasingly difficult for people to afford which was apparent by the attendance on Friday night.

The Rising Stars game is a good idea but the format needs to force some real competitiveness to keep the fans interested.

Knicks Trades

Approaching the trade deadline it was clear that the Knicks wanted to do something about the number of centres on the team and it seemed they were listening to offers for O’Quinn and Hernangomez.

Then it was announced that Baker needed season ending surgery and then KP got injured (and will also need season ending surgery)and no one was quite sure what to expect. Who would fill KPs role (and minutes) for the rest of the season? How would the Knicks keep themselves relevant?

The answer to the later question seems to be that they decided not to.

They traded Hernangomez to the Hornets for a player they immediately waived and two second future draft picks (they kind of picks that land you a project player, you know like Hernangomez).

Then they traded Dougie McDermitt for Emanuel Mudiay (who is having a less than impressive season) and some more draft picks.

The deal the Knicks really needed was one that took Noah off their hands but his massive contract made that impossible without losing some key pieces (another Phil Jackson legacy).

And so now we have a Knicks team minus 5 of the players they started the season with (assuming Noah stays exiled) which will impact on team morale and little to show for it.

The playoffs are no longer a consideration and it’s another year where there is no sign that front office have a plan.

Knicks – Hernangomez

The Spaniard is in his second season for the Knicks and seems to be getting reduced playing time. I am not aware of any injury worries so this is clearly a coaching decision.

Hernangomez didn’t have a great EuroBasket experience, which was surprising following his first NBA season in which he played in the Rookie game at All Star weekend and made the All Rookie Team.

I don’t know what was behind his EuroBasket performance (it could have been the difference in coaching, worry about the Knicks given the off season drama or any other reason) or even if that is behind his limited minutes so far this season.

What I do know is that he looks less confident when he does get minutes. He is more hesitant and then over compensates by playing too hard and racking up too many fouls for his playing time.

Hernangomez is a Knicks player with great potential, which can be seen when he plays with confidence. Sometimes sitting a player makes him hungry and he plays much better when he gets on the court, this has definitely worked with Kyle O’Quinn, but sometimes it knocks their confidence and you get a nervous player who can’t make the most of his opportunity.

While this is something that Hernangomez needs to work on but the coaching staff need to be careful to build his confidence and skill so that they don’t waste his potential.

Knicks – Ntilikina

The Knicks’ new Belgian rookie is showing early signs of great promise. He is still getting fairly limited minutes, not surprising as this is his first season, but he is using those minutes to demonstrate heart, hustle and skill.

The main thing he needs now is experience and the only way to get that is more minutes. As the season goes on he will gain experience and he will have some brilliant moments and make some mistakes but that is how we learn.

There is a risk of the crowd, the media and the coaching staff being hard of him for those mistakes but he will learn from them and the coaching staff need to be careful not to cut his playing time unless he is repeatedly making the same mistakes.

OKC

There is a lot of discussion about OKC’s Big Three.

The big three are used to playing iso-ball. They are used to being the go-to player on the team. They are used to being the main guy on the team.
When you put three guys like that on one team you cannot expect them to change overnight.

I have heard people say that they need to want to change. I don’t necessarily believe that they don’t want to change.
These guys are used to how they play and have been playing that way for years. Until now their coaches have been telling them that they are playing the way the coaches want them to.
Expecting them to forgot those habits, forget the way they are used to playing, within one or two games is not realistic. They need time to get used to playing with each other, used to the new style of play.

I admit that they aren’t demonstrating any hint of change but changing habits takes time and doing it under the spotlight of the media does not make it easier.

The coaching team at OKC need to work with the players and find small ways to start changing those habits, building that team spirit. When that starts to happen they way OKC play will start to change.