The Good & Bad of Replay Sports

I sat down to what promised to be an important early season matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers in my “Best of my Lifetime” super league using the Statis Pro Basketball system. Chicago, despite having arguably the best player ever on their roster in Michael Jordan, had stumbled out of the gate to an 0-3 start. Meanwhile, the Pacers were 4-0, looking every bit like a title contender.

In a real NBA league, these are the games you would expect Jordan to rise to the occasion, the referees to look the other way on a few calls, and the popular Bulls to manage a much needed win.

Chicago 95, Indiana 144.

Clearly that wasn’t the case. What was the case in the Chicago’s ignominious performance was both how replays can never replicate the real thing but also why replays how such a strong appeal to some.

The game itself was almost never in doubt. Jordan, the one player you  would never suspect to be in foul trouble, was whistled for two quick fouls in the first quarter. He came back only to whistled again and ended the first half with just 12 minutes of playing time. It was the Pacers who were the beneficiaries of the ref’s whistle, shooting 29 free throws to the Bulls’ 10. Had this been an actual game, a game where a preeminent team like the Bulls, with their equally preeminent player in Jordan, would be expected to find a way to win what was a crucial game. Instead, the Bulls fell flat. Jordan finished with a respectable 23 points but got little help elsewhere. His long time court mate, Scottie Pippen, went 4-14 from the field, and Chicago’s bench was outscored 64-38.

Replays won’t always get you the result you’d expect. They don’t measure a player’s ability in the clutch, favoritism some teams get from the officials, or the affect of momentum.

But this isn’t a bad thing.

Replays are a what-if scenario. Not unlike war games, replay sports gives us a chance to see how things could have been different. What if the starting center hadn’t gotten injured? What if they used a different rotation? Worked the ball down low more often? The point of replays is never to completely copy a season or situation but to reinvent it.

Now, as for the replay, why are these Bulls so bad? They start Jordan, Pippen, an MVP season Derrick Rose, rebounding beast Dennis Rodman, and a more than capable Artis Gilmore at center. Well, in a super start league, the Bulls really lack any real depth. Only Jimmy Butler managed to make any contribution to the game. Without him, the bench was a woeful 10 for 32 from the field. Rodman, while a menace on the glass, is a offensive liability. When games average 125 points, Rodman reduces the Bulls offensive options greatly. Their current 0-4 record may be a little harsh. After all, the Bulls have lost to four teams that are a combined 15-4 early in the season. Three of their games have been on the road. There’s certainly hope, and Jordan, Pippen, and Rose should be talented enough to make Chicago competitive the rest of the way. Still, when Chicago has met a challenge, they have yet to deliver.

But what about those Pacers? 5-0 now, but they do come against teams that are currently 9-12. Still, the Pacers start three Hall of Fame players and bring another of the bench thanks to their ABA ties. With Mel Daniels and George McGinnis anchoring the paint, Reggie Miller has been free to be himself, overachieving to the tune of 29 points per game, including 32 in the win against Chicago. The Pacers can run deep and be assured of losing little offense while maintaining adequate defensive pressure.

As the season continues, it’s a guarantee that neither will continue their current trend. Indiana has yet to play any current division leader, and the Bulls haven’t player the league’s softer teams yet. Their early starts do come somewhat unexpected.

Refreshingly unexpected.

Favorites Struggle in First Power Rankings

Been awhile since some updates, but the first week of games are done. There’s been some surprises, and it will be interesting to see if week one was an anomaly or the start of a trend.

1. Philadelphia (4-0) Tendex: .695

The 76ers have the best starting lineup, and it shows with their 12 ppg win differential. Moses Malone’s ejection against Golden St. made things interesting, but Charles Barkley and Andrew Toney combined for 69 points to help the 76ers squeak out a two point victory. Otherwise, Philadelphia has yet to be challenged, though their opponents are only a combined 4-9.

2. Atlanta Hawks (3-0) Tendex: .656

Easy wins over Dallas and Buffalo didn’t turn heads, but a 16-point win at the Lakers certainly did. Sure, the Lakers lost Magic Johnson early in the game, but the Lakers are loaded with talent. The Hawks absolutely abused the Laker vaunted front court. The Hawks have long had good but not great teams. This combined unit looks deep and ready for title contention.

3. Spirits of St. Louis (3-1) Tendex: .672

The Spirits are certainly an early season surprise. Everyone knew the trifecta of Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, and Marvin Barnes would be a force, but the front court has gotten great support from its perimeter players who are averaging 43 percent from beyond the arc. After getting trounced by Kansas City, the Spirits responded with wins over powerhouses San Antonio and Boston.

4. San Diego Conquistadors (3-1) Tendex: .659

This team may not be full of the sexy stars of other teams. Other than Moses Malone, the likes of Chuck Williams and Willie Wise are not household names. Yet, six different Conquistadors average over 10 points early in the season, and only the 76ers have a more productive starting five. Sure, their opponents are a lowly 4-9 combined, but the Conquistadors have been playing solid team ball.

5. Indiana Pacers (3-0) Tendex: .598

Once upon a time, the Pacers were the toast of the ABA, dominating the league with 3 titles in a five year span. Two of those stars, Mel Daniels and George McGinnis, have helped the Pacers get off to a strong start. 35 pts and 19 rebs between them have helped them dominate opponent front courts, and area that has been a problem for the modern Pacers. This has freed up Reggie Miller and Paul George to run the offense.

6. San Antonio Spurs (2-1) Tendex: .642

Before being shocked by St. Louis, San Antonio had laid its claim to being a force in the west with wins over both the Lakers and Suns. The Spurs have a deep, talented lineup. Tim Duncan and David Robinson are as good a duo as anyone in the league. Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobli provide the best bench support in the league. Unlike most teams, the Spurs are loaded enough to withstand possible injuries and are likely to remain high in the power rankings throughout the season.

7. Houston Rockets (3-1) Tendex: .615

Other than an inexplicable collapse at New Orleans, the Rockets have been playing near perfect basketball. Houston knew its front court could handle anyone. Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, Ralph Sampson, and Charles Barkley give the Rockets unprecedented depth, something they needed when Olajuwon got into foul trouble in route to Houston’s win at Seattle. The question for the Rockets was whether their backcourt could keep up. Only Clyde Drexler averages double digits, but the Rockets are shooting 40% from three and near the top in assists. The backcourt is providing just enough to make the Rockets a top team.

8. Phoenix Suns (3-1) Tendex: .620

The top six scorers for the high-flying Suns are all shooting at least 54%. Offense was never going to be an issue with this team, but the defense has been better than expected. Only the 153 gash against San Antonio would be considered a poor effort. The Suns may struggle against the top West teams, but a fast start definitely gives the Suns hope.

9. Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) Tendex: .646

Two points is all that separates the Bucks from a 3-0 start. Still, there are some questions. The stout Buck defense has only shown up once. The offense has had stretches of ineffectiveness. Still, a team that has the scoring of Ray Allen, the defense of Paul Pressey, and the all-around games of Sidney Moncrief and Lew Alcindor are bound to be productive over time.

10. Denver Nuggets (2-1) Tendex: .653

The biggest problem facing the Nuggets is finding time for its two biggest scorers, Alex English and Calvin Natt. The two swingman share a position and have so far combined for an amazing 41 ppg. Denver is also one of the few teams to have not allowed over 130 points at least once.

11. New York Knicks (2-1) Tendex: .607

A close loss to the Bucks, and it could be argued the Knicks might spend the season coming up short against good teams. Since then, the Knicks beat the Bulls handily and edged Kentucky in overtime. Patrick Ewing has struggled to compete against opposing centers, but John Starks and Allan Houston have made up the slack with their outside shooting. The Knicks are a stunning 58% from three. Surely, the Knicks can’t keep that up and will need more production from their front court.

12. Detroit Pistons (2-1) Tendex: .507

On paper, the Pistons look horrible. Their Tendex rating is the second worst in the league. They are one of just a handful of teams shooting less than .500. Yet, this is exactly the style of basketball the Bad Boys want. The Piston defense has kept teams under 110 twice already, even holding Boston team to 108 that had just scored 150 the game before. Winning ugly is a good formula for Detroit as they won’t win many games that get above 130.

13. Boston Celtics (2-2) Tendex: .592

After a 2-0 start, the Celtics could be forgiven in losing to the rival Pistons by 2 in Detroit, but the 20 point loss at St. Louis was more worrying. It’s true that Larry Bird got in foul trouble in both contests, but Boston’s core simply hasn’t been as productive as expected in the two losses. This team is too talented to stay down, but the questions are out there now.

14. LA Lakers (2-2) Tendex: .587

Much like the Celtics, the Lakers started off 2-0 and seemed like the team they were expected to be. A narrow loss to the Spurs followed by a shellacking by the Hawks, both at the Forum, suddenly put cracks in the Laker championship dream. Worse still, Magic Johnson is hurt and will miss the next two games. The Lakers are deep, but Magic is the key to getting it all working together. Till he returns, the slack is going to have to be made up in the underachieving front court.

15. Kentucky Colonels (2-2) Tendex: .607

The early league MVP leader may be Artis Gilmore. 35 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks per game set him apart from the league. His tendex rating of 1.18 is tops among the league’s starters. Yet, only Kevin Love has provided any real help for Gilmore, which explains the up and down nature of the Colonels first four games.

16. Cleveland Cavaliers (2-2) Tendex: .630

Like Atlanta, Cleveland’s history is full of good but not great teams. Cleveland has certainly been good so far, only dropping games to the undefeated Pacers and talented Colonels, but Cleveland needs to find a way to beat an upper team if they want to be labeled anything more than a good team.

17. Miami Heat (2-2) Tendex: .628

Most teams had 40 years of basketball to draw from to create their team. The Heat didn’t have that luxury. Still, the Heat’s modern talent has held its own. LeBron James out dueled Michael Jordan in a big win over Chicago, but a 20 point loss to the 76ers exposed the Heat’s lack of an inside presence. This weakness will keep Miami from competing against the league’s top big men.

18. Seattle Supersonics (1-3) Tendex: .619

Seattle has only won once yet has a +1.5 point differential. Why? The Sonics have played tough in what arguably may have been the hardest four games anyone played in the league. Losses to the Lakers, Rockets, and Conquistadors were for a combined nine points. Seattle has yet to settle on a starting rotation, but an easier schedule should help Seattle find a groove.

19. Kansas City Kings (1-1) Tendex: .565

Being the only team without at least three games under their belt, it’s hard to judge the Kings so far. They’ve played two tough teams, getting blown out by San Diego while also handing St. Louis its only loss. The Kings can certainly score, Birdsong, Cousins, and Rhys average a combined 60 points, and their big men can bang with anyone. Defense is the biggest concern moving forward.

20. Portland Trailblazers (1-2) Tendex: .620

Portland has been wildly inconsistent already. They were listless in a blowout loss to Phoenix. Showed mettle in coming back to St. Louis only to lose in overtime. Then they unleashed their frustrations in a 29 point thrashing of New Orleans. We need more games to see where Portland is actually heading.

21. Golden St. Warriors (1-3) Tendex: .608

close losses to the Lakers and 76ers and a 15 point win over previously undefeated San Diego show the Warriors can compete. Yet, they also gave up 149 in an ugly loss to Seattle. Klay Thompson’s injury puts more pressure on an offense that must score in bunches to win. Golden St. hopes to stay competitive till the 2015-16 cards provide a much needed boost.

22. Virginia Squires (2-2) Tendex: .571

If the season were only four games, the Squires would be in the playoffs. Sadly, the season has another 78 to go. Kyle Lowry has willed the Squires to two surprising wins over Kentucky and New Jersey, and he’s had some support in the likes of Chris Bosh and Vince Carter. For a team that looked on paper to be the worst in the league, a 2-2 start is encouraging.

23. Washington Bullets (1-2) Tendex: .584

Two losses and the Bullets looked doomed for a rather long season. But the Bullets pulled Gilbert Arenas off the bench and his resurgence led to a upset road win over the Heat. The Bullets are a difficult team to judge as the chemistry hasn’t appeared yet, but they are in one of the league’s weaker division which may help them stay competitive longer than they should.

24. New Jersey (0-3) Tendex: .716

Unlucky or just bad? It’s hard to tell. The Tendex rating suggests a team loaded with talent. Dr. J’s Nets version is certainly as good as anyone else in the league. Michael Ray Richardson could end up being the league’s best point guard. Billy Paultz and Buck Williams are an underrated front court tandem. All their losses are by single digits. So what’s the deal?  Giving up no less than 139 points in a game is certainly bad as is the fact the Nets have gotten little in the way of scoring from Richardson and Vince Carter.

25. Chicago Bulls (0-3) Tendex: .515

What? The Bulls 0-3 and 25th? Yep. People forget that outside the Michael Jordan years, the Bulls have many forgettable seasons. Still, why is a team that starts Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Derrick Rose playing so poorly? Well, It’s not on Jordan. He’s averaging a league best 39 ppg. Pippen and Rose might be averaging 37 between them, but they have a combined tendex of .470 and have scored much of their points late in garbage time. Still, the real reason the Bulls are bad is the supporting cast. Only Horace Grant has provided useful minutes beyond the top three.

26. New Orleans Jazz (1-2) Tendex: .565

Karl Malone has yet to finish a game, and the Jazz will go about as far as Malone can take them. John Stockton has certainly done what he can to keep others involved (10 apg) with Matt Harpring (16ppg) being the greatest beneficiary. But the Jazz aren’t scaring people with their center options and their bench has been horribly disappointing.

27. Memphis Tams (1-2) Tendex: .444

They beat New Orleans head to head but are ranked lower thanks to their performance since that opening day win. They’ve been beaten by a total of 57 since that win. They are shooting a woeful .420 from the field and are barely averaging 15 assists per game.

28. Buffalo Braves (0-3) Tendex: .563

The Braves have yet to put together a winning performance. Their offense was brilliant in scoring 164 against Atlanta only to see its defense surrender a league season high 172. Then, their defense held Milwaukee to 120, but the offense managed a pitiful 102. Without consistency, wins will be hard to come by, especially in a division that features Philadelphia, Boston, and New York.

29. Charlotte Hornets (0-3) Tendex: .549

Charlotte started the year off with fight, losing to Houston in overtime and by two to Cleveland. Then, things fell apart and Charlotte looked overmatched in a 32 point loss at Denver. The silver lining has been the play of Alonzo Mourning who’s averaging 24 points and 8 rebounds per game.

30. Dallas Mavericks (0-3) Tendex: .527

Someone had to be last. Rolando Blackmon and Mark Aguirre have certainly been fantastic, but Dallas front court has struggled to keep the Mavericks competitive. Roy Tarpley can’t stay out of foul trouble, and Dirk Nowitzki has struggled against other fours Dallas has faced. With the rest of the division off to a 10-4 start, the outlook is bleak for Dallas.

 

 

 

Day 5 Review

Day 5 Recap: Spurs, Rockets, Conquistadors Suffer First Losses of the Season

Oct 14, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Orlando Magic small forward Tobias Harris (12) brings the ball up court during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center. The Magic defeated the Mavericks 102-94. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Tobias Harris’ 30 helped The Spirit of St. Louis to an upset of the San Antonio Spurs, 152-145.

Phoenix Suns 151 at Dallas Mavericks 131

Rolando Blackmon’s 48 wasn’t enough to get Dallas their first win of the season as the Suns romped to a 20 point road victory. Nash dished out 11 assists, mostly to the great scoring duo of Walter Davis and Charles Barkley, who combined for 53 points.

San Diego Conquistadors 133 at Golden St. Warriors 148

The surprising Conquistadors suffered their first loss as they ran into a hot scoring Warriors team. Three Warriors, Stephen Curry, Purvis Short, and Chris Mullin, scored 20 or more points for Golden St. as they used a 48 point first quarter to take a lead they’d never relinquish. San Diego suffered a minor injury to their star Moses Malone who will miss the next contest.

Cleveland Cavaliers 120 at Indiana Pacers 144

The Pacers ran their record to 3-0 with an impressive win over a good Cavaliers team. Balance was the key for Indiana as six players score 14 or more points. It was Mel Daniels, though, that the Cavs had the most trouble with as his 21 points and 15 rebounds caused significant problems in the front court. LeBron James struggled to 19 points shooting just 5 for 12 for the game.

Buffalo Braves 102 at Milwaukee Bucks 120

Ray Allen came off the bench to score 26 as the Bucks built a 16 point halftime lead before cruising to the win over the struggling Braves. Alcindor and Lee dominated down low, combining for 51 points and 24 rebounds. Derek Smith was the Braves lone bright spot scoring 25 points.

Charlotte Horners 120 at Denver Nuggets 152

Denver continues to improve thanks to one of the league’s best benches. Outscoring the Hornets’ bench 67-45, the Nuggets built a 40-19 first quarter lead and never let Charlotte make a game of it.

Chicago Bulls 123 at Philadelphia 76ers 135

The Bulls were better but still chase their first win as the Philadelphia 76ers were simply better. Michael Jordan led all scorers with 45, but got little help from his teammates as Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Scottie Pippen combined for a horrible 11 for 24 shooting performance. The Sixers starting unit continued to look the best in the league, scoring 101 points.

San Antonio Spurs 145 at Spirit of St. Louis 152

St. Louis got help from the unlikeliest of heroes as Tobias Harris’ 30 helped the Spirit pull off the upset of the previously unbeaten and impressive Spurs. Harris, in for the injured Billy Cunningham provided the support needed as front court partners Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard were matched by San Antonio’s David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

Houston Rockets 116 at New Orleans Jazz 130

Houston squandered a 13 point lead by failing to score 25 points in either of the final two quarters. The Jazz, stymied with foul trouble to Karl Malone, leaned on John Stockton to led the way. His season high 14 assists pushed the Jazz offense to new heights while Adrian Dantley scored most of his 23 points in a 43 point Jazz third quarter, turning a 13 point deficit into a 6 point lead heading into the final quarter.

2014-15 Cards Released: Teams Receive UpGrades and New Players

Phil Graham has released his 2014-15 Statis Pro Basketball cards, and as you would expect, Golden St. is something to behold. Cleveland fans can also enjoy playing “what if” with a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

With the release of the cards, I will go through and upgrade or add players as needed for the replay. The first cut won’t happen for a several days, so there’s no limit yet. I also picked up the 1978-79 set to cover a gap I had of about 5 years in my replay.

Below are each time, their additions, and the impact on the team.

Atlanta Hawks

Upgrades: Kyle Korver, Jeff Teague, John Drew, Dan Roundfield

New Additions: DeMarre Carroll, Armond Hill

Grade: A-  The 2014-15 regular season was good to Atlanta. Players that’ll get minutes see significant upgrades. Korver hits 50% of the time on 6-three point attempts. Teague is all around better. The 1978-79 season also gives the Hawks a major upgrade at PF where Roundfield becomes more effective.

Boston Celtics

Upgrades:

New Additions: Chris Ford, Isaiah Thomas

Grade: D-  Not much here. Neither Ford nor Thomas are liable to make the final 15.

Buffalo Braves

Upgrades: J.J. Redick, DeAndre Jordan

New Additions: Matt Barnes

Grade: C-  Redick is a better shooter and not as big a liability on defense. Jordan improves an already imposing rebounding core. Barnes adds forward depth.

Charlotte Hornets

Upgrades: Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans

New Additions: Eric Gordon, Omer Asik

Grade: B  The upgrades to Davis, Holiday, and Evans may be small but these are all guys that get major minutes for the Hornets so it’s a good tradeoff. Gordon and Asik add offensive and rebounding power respectively.

Chicago Bulls

Upgrades: Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol

New Additions: Reggie Theus

Grade: B  Gasol and Butler are great additions to the rotation. This team has struggled early, but these two will surely help.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Upgrades: Austin Carr, Tristan Thompson

New Additions: Kevin Love, Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith

Grade: B  Love is an instant boost to the offense and the subtle upgrade in Thompson will pay some dividends. Smith’s three point shooting got him on the team while Carr, here mostly for his meaning to the franchise, received enough of an upgrade to warrant at least a look for the rotation.

Dallas Mavericks

Upgrades:

New Additions: Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons

Grade: C+  Chandler helps one of the league’s weakest front courts. Parsons is yet another underpowered small forward in the rotation. At least he can shoot.

Denver Nuggets

Upgrades: Bobby Wilkerson

New Additons: Tom Boswell, George McGinnis

Grade: C-   McGinnis is a nice addition, but Wilkerson and Boswell are low level rotation guys. Today’s Nuggets were not worth a consideration.

Detroit Pistons

Upgrades:

New Additions: M.L. Carr, Leon Douglas, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Jennings

Grade: C  Carr and Douglas are nice addition but go into a crowded rotation. Jackson and Jennings are help but the backcourt quality is still subpar.

Golden St. Warriors

Upgrades: Phil Smith, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson

New Additions: John Lucas, Sonny Parker, Clifford Ray, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green

Grade: A  Curry and Thompson get the shooting upgrades you’d expect, but Curry is better in every statistical category. Thompson received a major shooting upgrade. Even the 1978-79 Warriors added some significant depth. Lots of help coming for the currently struggling Warriors.

Houston Rockets

Upgrades: Moses Malone

New Additions: Trevor Ariza

Grade: A-  Despite the fact that James Harden’s great season didn’t equate to a better card, the Rockets get a fine grade off the power of Moses Malone’s upgrade alone. He suddenly becomes a scorer, as 1978-79 was the beginning of some very powerful Malone years. One of the league’s scariest front courts just got scarier.

Indiana Pacers

Upgrades: George Hill

New Additions: Johnny Davis, James Edwards, Alex English, Ricky Sobers, C.J. Watson

Grade: B  The Pacers got help where they needed it the most. Hill’s solid, albeit shortened, season gave him a significant upgrade. Sobers and Davis give the Pacers must needed guard depth.

Kansas City Kings

Upgrades:

New Additions: Bill Robinzine, Darren Collison, Rudy Gay

Grade: D+    Not a lot to get excited about here, but some nice rotational guys.

Kentucky Colonels

Upgrades:

New Additions: Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins

Grade: D  Wiggins’ can’t shoot but plays decent defense and rebound. Martin can shoot threes but can’t play defense. Oh well…

LA Lakers

Upgrades: Norm Nixon

New Additions: Adrian Dantley

Grade: D+  If it weren’t for Magic, Norm Nixon would be a great starter. As it is, the additions will see minimal but valuable minutes. The current Lakers were too horrible to include anything.

Memphis Tams

Upgrades: Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph

New Additions: Jeff Green

Grade: B-  Allen is a nice upgrade due to his top defensive stats. Gasol and Randolph both improve slightly offensively, Gasol is still a rebounding nightmare. Green adds a solid offensive punch.

Miami Heat

Upgrades:

New Additions: Luol Deng, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside

Grade: C+ Nothing too significant, but all three are liable to get some rotation time and provide some support.

Milwaukee Bucks

Upgrade: Giannis Antetokounmpo

New Additions: Ernie Grunfeld, George Johnson, Michael Carter-Williams, Jabari Parker

Grade: C+  The Greek Freak is a huge matchup problem at guard. He can rebound, defend, and although he can’t shoot a ton, he does it well when he can. The other three add depth to the Bucks weakest area, the back court. Johnson is a defensive pro.

New Jersey Nets

Upgrades: Brook Lopez

New Additions: John Williamson, George Johnson, Bernard King

Grade: C  King is a nice backup to Erving, Johnson is a rebounding and defensive force. The others are marginal additions.

New Orleans Jazz

Upgrades: Gordon Hayward

New Additions: James McElroy, Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors, Spencer Haywood, Trey Burke

Grade: B+  The Jazz definitely needed help for Karl Malone. Hayward goes from 12th man to instant rotation fixture with his all around upgrade. The additions may not be starter material, but many are sure to help improve the Jazz’s current play.

New York Knicks

Upgrades: Toby Knight

New Additions: Marvin Webster

Grade: F   Webster is an okay front line guy and the only thing about Knight’s upgrade is that Carmelo Anthony may never see time on the floor now.

Philadelphia 76ers

Upgrades: Darryl Dawkins, Caldwell Jones

New Additions: Eric Money, Tony Wroten

Grade: B-  This grade comes from the nice upgrades of Chocolate Thunder and Jones. The 76ers are great, but really only go 6 deep. This upgrades gives them needed front court depth. Wroten and Money can at least provide some minutes in the back court.

Phoenix Suns

Upgrades: Alvan Adams, Truck Robinson, Eric Bledsoe

New Additions: Markieff Morris

Grade: C+ Adams and Robinson are nice upgrades to a weak front court. Bledsoe is solid but part of a crowded point guard group.

Portland Trailblazers

Upgrades: Tom Owens, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews

New Additions: Lionel Hollins

Grade: B  Owens will demand time on the floor with his shooting and defense but Alridge will keep his starting spot with solid scoring/rebounding. Matthews becomes a great backup to Drexler and Lillard is much more effective. Hollins adds point guard depth.

San Antonio Spurs

Upgrades: Kawhi Leonard

New Additions:

Grade: C  The Spurs basically had the best versions of all their greats, but the Leonard upgrade is nice. Much more stamina means he’s not just a quarter or half player now. Better rebounding, defense, and steal rates mean he’s an all around force on what may be the league’s best team.

San Diego Conquistadors

Upgrades: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

New Additions: Cody Zeller

Grade: F  Hard to get much help from a 33-49 team. Kidd-Gilchrist might see some minutes, but Zeller is only here because of his (and my) alma mater. He’s not liable to see anytime.

Seattle Supersonics

Upgrades: Russell Westbrook

New Additions: Tom LaGarde, Enes Kanter

Grade: C  You’d think the 78-79 champions would add more than a backup center, but all the stars from that team had better individual seasons elsewhere. However, Westbrook’s monster season to try to carry the Thunder to the playoffs results in a monster card. It’s a huge upgrade. Kanter also is a surprisingly effective center rotational guy.

Spirits of St. Louis

Upgrades: Victor Oladipo

New Additions: Tobias Harris

Grade C-  Unlike Zeller, Oladipo is not here just because of his alma mater. Instead, he has a pretty good overall card for an off-guard. Harris is a solid scorer, though a defensive liability.

Virginia Squires

Upgrades: Jonas Valaciunas

New Additions:

Grade: D-  At least their lone upgrade was in a position of need.

Washington Bullets

Upgrades: Mitch Kupchak, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat

New Additions: Bob Danridge, Paul Pierce

Grade: A-  Much like Seattle, the Bullets gained more from the current squad than the one that lost the 78-79 Finals. The back court gets a much needed upgrade, and the front court depth is bolstered. A nice boost to to the struggling Bullets.

Day 4: Spurs Trump Lakers; Trailblazers Stop Slump, Conquistadors Shock

Game of the Day:

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San Antonio Spurs 123 at LA Lakers 121

Kawhi Leonard stole the ball from Kobe Bryant to set up Swen Nater’s buzzer beater as the Spurs left Los Angeles with a big win. Magic Johnson did all he could to lead Los Angeles with his remarkable 30 point, 7 assist, and 5 rebound performance, but it was the Spurs bench, led by Artis Gilmore’s 20 points, that led the way. The Spurs subs outscored the Lakers subs 72-39. The heralded Laker front court was stymied all night by the Spurs. Both Jabbar and O’Neal both fouled out trying to contain Gilmore and David Robinson and failed to score 20 points between them.

MVP: Artis Gilmore: 20 points, 3 rebound, 1 block

Buffalo Braves 164 at Atlanta Hawks 172 (OT)

The Braves and Hawks combined for the highest scoring game by far, an exciting overtime game that ended with the Hawks climbing to 2-0. The Braves, despite the 0-2 start, have reason to be optimistic as Blake Griffin rebounded from a horrible game 1 to score 35 points. The Hawks stole the win thanks to 10 points from Eddie Johnson in the extra period.

MVP: Eddie Johnson: 33 points (10 in OT), 3 rebound, 5 assists

Milwaukee Bucks 132 at Boston Celtics 134

The Celtics had to fight a little harder for their second win as the surprising Bucks held a seven point lead going into the fourth. But the Celtics’ Big Three from the 80s lead the comeback, combining for 62 points. The Celtics 23 for 25 free throw shooting sealed the win.

MVP: Larry Bird: 28 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks, 1 steal

Miami Heat 147 at New Jersey Nets 143

Julius Ervin’s 41 wasn’t enough to give the Nets their first win. Instead, it was the visiting Heat, rebounding from a disastrous game against the 76ers, scoring a crucial road win. Miami never trailed in the second half and the closest the Nets could get was the final score.

MVP: LeBron James: 38 points, 3 rebound, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal

Cleveland Cavaliers 147 at Charlotte Hornets 145

Charlotte has been the bearer of bad luck so far. Two losses by a combined five points have put Charlotte in an early hole. This time it was a comeback that came up just short, despite a remarkable 42 point effort by Alonzo Mourning. His great performance was overshadowed by LeBron James who recorded the first triple double of the season. Mike Mitchell continued to excel off the bench for the Cavs as well, scoring over 20 in his second great game.

MVP: Lebron James: 31 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 steal

Spirits of St. Louis 108 at Kansas City Kings 125

The Kings starting backcourt scored 51 while the Spirits’ starting front court combined for an atrocious 11 for 32. Those two factors lead to the Kings to a comfortable first win. The Spirits, who has looked so good in their shocker at Portland, looked lost in the wave of scoring from the Kings impressive guard rotation.

MVP: Colin Rhys: 33 points, 3 rebound, 7 assists, 1 block, 2 steals

Dallas Mavericks 117 at Houston Rockets 133

The Rockets raced out to a 12 point lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back, cruising to a 16 point victory over the winless Mavericks. The Mavs continued to get good performances from Rolando Blackman and Mark Aguirre. The two combined for 60 points. But Roy Tarpley and Dirk Nowitski were more than doubled up by Hakeem Olajuwon. The Dream outscored the two Mavs 32-13.

MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon: 32 points, 10 rebouds, 1 assist, 1 block

Detroit Pistons 120 at Phoenix Sun 129

The Suns’ offense continued to impress, even against a strong Pistons’ defense. The Suns scored 41 in the first quarter in route to an 18 point lead. Detroit could get no closer than seven points the rest of the way.

MVP: Walter Davis: 30 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists

Memphis Tams 104 at Kentucky Colonels 126

The Colonels played more like the division favorites in their second go around. It helped they finally got solid production from Kevin Love. Love scored 21 before fouling out, finally giving help to Artis Gilmore would didn’t have to carry the load himself. The Colonels also got valuable bench minutes from Kevin Garnett (18) and Chuck Person (15).

MVP: Artis Gilmore: 26 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks

Denver Nuggets 132 at Virginia Squires 114

Denver got an important if unspectacular win over the up-and-down Squires. Not a single Nugget scored 20 points though Spencer Haywood and Fats Lever provided valuable minutes. Kyle Lowry continued to be one of the surprises of the season, leading all scorers with 20. Lowry leads the league with 14 made three point shots.

MVP: Fats Lever 12 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals

New Orleans Jazz 123 at Portland Trailblazers 152

After two straight losses, the Trailblazers took their frustrations out on the hapless Jazz, scoring 81 first half points in route to a lopsided win. Eight different Portland players scored in double figures. For the Jazz, their second loss was much like the first. Karl Malone scored a ton of points, 26, but got little help from his supporting cast.

MVP: Clyde Drexler: 20 points, 5 rebound, 6 assists, 1 steal

Seattle Supersonics 135 at San Diego Conquistadors 138

The Supersonics are suddenly 1-2 after being shocked by the Conquistadors. The Conquistadors, nearly completely made up of ABA Players, scored the last six points of the game. Shawn Kemp’s three at the buzzer missed and San Diego escaped with a win and a surprising 2-0 start.

MVP: Chuck Williams: 23 points, 2 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals

Philadelphia 76ers 130 at Washington Bullets 125

The Sixers used a 40 points fourth quarter to overcome a small deficit to gain a major road win over an East rival. The Bullets lost despite the heroics of Jeff Ruland. Ruland scored 34, 10 in the final quarter, but he was trumped by Andrew Toney’s 35, 12 of which came in the final period. The Sixers strength continues to be their top six. 113 of their 130 come from just six players.

MVP: Andrew Toney: 35 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal

Bulls Drop Second Game; Supersonics Romp in Day 3 Action

Game of the Day:

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New York Knicks 127 at Chicago Bulls 103

Michael Jordan scored 31, but his team failed to provide the needed help to prevent the Bulls from falling to 0-2. The Knicks’ bench outscored the Bulls 57-28 to help shock Chicago at home. The 103 points scored by the Bulls marks the lowest total by any team so far this season.

MVP: Michael Ray Richardson: 13 pts, 9 asts, 6 rebs, 2 steals.

Golden St. Warriors 135 at Seattle Supersonics 149

The Warriors outscored the Supersonics over three quarters, but it was Seattle’s 40 point outburst in the third that helped them to a solid home victory. The leaders in their loss to the Lakers struggled so new players stepped up. Xavier McDaniel, who scored just 2 in the opening game, had 22 this time while Durant bounced back from a disappointing game to lead all scorers with 32. But it was Jack Sikma really leading the way in the paint to make up for Shawn Kemp’s foul trouble.

MVP: Jack Skima: 19 pts, 16 rebs, 2 asts

Wilkins’ 56, Mutombo’s Block, and Smith’s Heroics Highlight Day 2 Action

Game of the Day

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Atlanta Hawks 130 at Dallas Mavericks 129

Dominique Wilkins may have had the highlights with the early season high of 56 points, but it was his teammate Dikembe Mutombo that sealed the win with a last second block of a Rolando Blackman drive.

Atlanta had held the lead for much of the game thanks to Wilkins, but when he fouled out midway through the fourth quarter the Mavericks slowly chipped away at the 13 point deficit, but Blackmon’s shot was blocked by Mutombo and time ran out before the ball hit the ground.

MVP: Dominique Wilkins: 56 points, 5 rebs, 3 assists, 1 steal

New Jersey Nets 131 at Cleveland Cavaliers 139

Four Cavaliers scored 20 or more points to help lead Cleveland to a fairly comfortable win over the visiting New Jersey Nets. Trailing by 16 at halftime, the Nets failed to get any closer than 6 in the second half.

MVP: Mike Mitchell: 27 points, 4 rebs, 2 assists, 1 block

Washington Bullets 108 at Detroit Pistons 115

The Bullets became only the second team not to score 110 points as Detroit’s defense smothered the Bullets, holding them to just 24 in the final period as Pistons put up 36. That erased a 5 point 3rd quarter deficit to help give the Pistons their opening win.

MVP Andre Drummond: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block

LA Lakers 139 at Golden St. Warriors 136

The Lakers overcame a 20 point third quarter deficit to shock the Warriors in their home opening. Trailing 112-93 with 12 to go, the Lakers reeled off 48 fourth quarter points to escape with a victory and become the first team to win two games.

MVP: Magic Johnson, 20 points, 6 assists, 1 reb, 1 steal

Charlotte Hornets 133 at Houston Rockets 137 (OT)

Kenny Smith’s three pointer at the buzzer forced overtime where the Rockets scored the first six points to hold off the Hornets for a harder than expected opening victory. The Rockets had been dominating the game with the help up their duo of Akeem Olajuwon and Moses Malone who combined for 38 points and 27 rebounds, but the Hornets got great bench performances from Anthony Davis and Tom Washington that put them in a position to win until Smith’s incredible shot.

MVP: Kenny Smith: 24 points, 4 assists

Virginia Squires 125 at Kentucky Colonels 114

Artis Gilmore’s 40 points wasn’t enough to propel the Colonels to the win as the Squires picked up the season’s first big upset in a shocking road win. The key was Kyle Lowry, who went 6 for 6 from three point range en route to a team leading 26 points. Without Gilmore, the Colonels barely shot 40%.

MVP: Kyle Lowry: 26 points, 4 assists, 3 rebs, 1 steal

Milwaukee Bucks 134, New York Knicks 132

Lew Alcindor won his match-up with Patrick Ewing, and the Bucks came away with a hard earned road victory. Allan Houston came off the bench to give the Knicks a chance. His 34 points were crucial in the Knicks closing a 17 point first half gap in the second half. In the end, it was the Bucks’ 18 offensive rebounds that helped the Bucks survive.

MVP: Lew Alcindor: 25 points, 11 rebs, 1 assist, 2 blocks

Indiana Pacers 122 at Denver 116

Indiana became the second team to get to 2 wins as they won a game against Denver Nuggets in which the final score was not a reflection of how the Pacers dominated the game. It didn’t look that way early in the 2nd. Leading by 6, the Pacers lost their stalwart center, Mel Daniels to a minor injury. Without him, the Pacers lost the rebounding edge but made up for it with impressive free throw shooting and excellent three point shooting (6 for 11).

MVP: George McGinnis: 26 points, 7 rebs, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block

Miami Heat 124 at Philadelphia 76ers 144.

The Heat never looked like the team that beat the Bulls the day before. Down only 2 at the half, the Heat struggled to stop Andrew Toney and Dr. J from imposing their will on the offensive end. The duo combined for 49 points, most in the second half. LeBron James stuggled to earn his 21 points while front court mates Chris Bosh and Kevin Willis combined for a pathetic 3 for 11 from the field.

MVP: Andrew Toney: 25 pts, 3 assists, 1 reb

Kansas City Kings 112 at San Diego Conquistadors 128

It’s hard to tell if the Conquistadors were that good, or the Kings were that bad. The Kings only had 2 players score over 15 points while the Conquistadors had 8 players score in double digits. The depth was apparent as any lineup the Conquistadors put together resulted in a domination of the paint. San Diego out rebounded Kansas City 61-30.

MVP: Willie Wise: 20 pts, 11 rebs, 1 steal

Phoenix Suns 150 at San Antonio Spurs 153

San Antonio answered the challenge of facing the Suns’ impressive offense by running with them. The results was a wildly entertaining 153-150 win. The Spurs win came with the help of their super subs, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobli, who combined for 52 bench points. Both hit late threes that helped seal the win.

MVP: Kawhi Leonard: 30 points, 5 rebs, 2 assists, 1 steal

Spirits of St. Louis 150 at Portland Trailblazers 146

Portland’s early woes continue as they drop their second game to a surprising St. Louis team. Bill Walton had trouble against St. Louis’ duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Walton eventually fouled out trying to keep up with them and the Spirits completely dominated the interior. Only the duos poor free throw shooting (13 for 22) kept the Trailblazers in it.

MVP: Dwight Howard: 31 pts, 10 rebs, 3 blocks

Boston Celtics 150 at Buffalo Braves 128

It was simply too much talent for Buffalo as the Celtics breezed to an easy victory. Paul Pierce from outside and Larry Bird from inside tormented the Braves for 55 points. Boston had a 15 point lead at the end of the first and never looked back.

MVP: Paul Pierce: 30 pts, 3 rebs, 1 assist

Memphis Tams 134 at New Orleans Jazz 129

Karl Malone managed to score 31 despite foul trouble, and John Stockton added 14 points and 9 assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Jazz limped to a disappointing home loss. The heroes were the less heralded back court of James Jones and Mike Conley. Together they scored 50 while Red Robbins alone nearly out rebounded the Jazz entire front court.

MVP: Red Robbins: 19 pts, 18 rebs, 1 assist, 1 block