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Terps, Hoyas, and Wizards

Category Archives: Court Vision

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By: Colenda

The Northwest division has seen a lot of activity this offseason, with the division’s bottom feeders making a multitude of moves in hopes of catching up with the cream-of-the-crop. Last year’s champs and NBA runner-up, Oklahoma City, returns their entire core and added a few interesting pieces through free agency and the draft. The deep but star-less Nuggets will also be trotting out a very similar roster as last year. But the Blazers, Wolves, and Jazz all saw some drastic changes to their rosters. In fact, the Blazers and Wolves engaged in one of the offseason’s more interesting story-lines as they bid for young, versatile Frenchman Nicolas Batum. There were rumors circling this particular negation that it may be personal between Wolves GM David Kahn and Blazers owner Paul Allen, as Allen had previously dealt the Wolves damaged goods in the form of Martell Webster a few years back. Allen ultimately decided to match the offer-sheet and keep Batum in Portland, but only after agreeing to pay a steep salary increase. There are plenty of intriguing story-lines in the division, and I expect it to play out as one of the more competitive in the league next season. Without further ado, a deeper look into the activity in the Northwest division.

Oklahoma City Thunder (1st Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Perry Jones III, Hasheem Thabeet, Hollis Thompson
Players Lost: Royal Ivey

The Dime: Fresh off a terrific season and a trip to the NBA finals, OKC was able to make a big splash in the draft. As uber-talented, but enigmatic Perry Jones III slid down the draft board, my fellow Dimer Mr. Bohlin and I were fervently sending messages back and forth hoping the Wiz would find a way to trade up into the bottom half of the draft for him. However, Sam Presti burst our bubble by selecting the Baylor forward. I think is a terrific fit for the Thunder as he is able to defend multiple positions and can get up and down the floor (the trend in the NBA is moving toward very versatile, very athletic wings) and he will be able to play a role but will not be expected to be a star, which we all expected from him at Baylor and why his short career was so disappointing. The GM also added UCONN bust Hasheem Thabeet (his track record is terrific, makes it tougher to doubt him on this pick-up) and former-Georgetown sharp-shooter Hollis Thompson. The rest of the crew is expected to be back next year, when Presti will be faced with much tougher situations when extensions for rising starts James Harden and Serge Ibaka will be due. If they are able to secure one, or both, of these players to remain alongside KD and Russell Westbrook than the Thunder will be poised to continue making deep runs in the playoffs for years to come. It will be interesting to see if the Thunder are tempted at the trade deadline this year to move either of these rising starts to ensure they can get assets in return, but I have my doubts they’d be willing to do this as they are primed for a title run next year.

Denver Nuggets (2nd Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, Anthony Randolph
Players Lost: Chris “Birdman” Anderson

The Dime: The Nuggets are one of the NBA’s most cohesive and well coached teams. Their performance on the floor always seems to exceed the expectations that their level of talent suggest is possible. Their team lacks an identifiable star or even a clear cut best player, but their free-wheeling, up-and-down style of play gives teams fits in the Denver altitude. It has been an interesting off-season in the Mile-High City. Fan-favorite Birdman has been told thanks, but no thanks, and received the amnesty ax. They signed former Wizard headache Javale McGee to a ridiculous 4 year $44 million contract. They drafted one of the few international players in this year’s draft, 3-point shooting Frenchman Evan Fournier (I’m never a huge supporter of drafting internationals). George Karl will again have his hands full figuring out how to balance the minutes of this talented and deep Nuggets roster. I will be interested to continue to watch the emergence of DC-native Ty Lawson (did you see how he fried the Lakers??!!) this year and see if he is able to make the next step in his development. A trendy pick for playoff success last year, I think that this is the year the balanced Nuggets will break through and make some noise come playoff time.

Utah Jazz (3rd Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Shan Foster, Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Marvin Williams
Players Lost: Devin Harris

The Dime: The Utah Jazz have an incredibly talented front-court. With Derrick Favors, Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter and Paul Millsap the Jazz can score in the paint, bang on the boards, and defend the rim with the best in the West. However, it’s their back-court that’s needed upgrading since Deron Williams forced himself out of town. This offseason the Jazz tried to address those needs, by adding two former Clippers, Mo Williams and Randy Foye, as well as selecting Shan Foster in the draft. Although these players are talented, I do not think the Jazz have the guard play necessary to really make a move up the standings. Although they can be a tough match-up for anyone because of their size, the Jazz are moving against the NBA-trend of getting smaller and more athletic, a culture move I believe will keep their tires spinning but not moving forward.

Portland Trailblazers (4th Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Sasha Pavlovic, Will Barton, Dan Gadzuric, Ronnie Price, Jared Jefferies
Players Lost: Marcus Camby, Raymond Felton, Jonny Flynn, Joel Pryzbilla, Hasheem Thabeet, Jamal Crawford, Elliot Williams

The Dime: The Blazers have had one of the league’s most dramatic facelifts since season end, adding 7 new players to their roster of 15 this offseason. The “star” of the bunch is first-round pick Damian Lillard out of Weber St. This kid is going to be a player without question, and if the summer league is any indication, we can expect him and LaMarcus Aldridge to be a dangerous pick-and-roll/pop tandem. The Blazers also added former- Illinois 7-footer Meyers Leonard, hoping they can buck the trend of their drafted big-men having health issues. Although highly skilled, I personally don’t see Leonard being an impact pro. I really liked their selection of Will Barton, a slashing scorer from Memphis who will be able to provide some energy and athleticism off their bench. Their biggest offseason headline has to be their bidding war with David Kahn and the Wolves for the young and talented Nicolas Batum. Signed to a $46 million offer-sheet in Minnesota, the Blazers decided to match the offer for the versatile French swingman. Don’t get me wrong, Batum is a terrific player and can be an important piece for a winning team, but he can never be THE piece for a winner. He will be expected to really up his production from last year and provide a complement to their All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. I will be watching closely to see if Batum is up to the challenge.

Minnesota Timberwolves (5th Place 2011-2012)
Players Added: Dante Cunningham, Andrei Kirilenko (Pictured above), Robbie Hummel, Chase Buddinger
Players Lost: Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Darko Milicic, Brad Miller, Anthony Randolph, Wayne Ellington, Anthony Tolliver

The Dime: The Wolves were one of the NBA’s most exiting teams last year with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, quickly becoming a must-see game. Exciting or not, they still finished in dead last in their division. Kevin Love has already come out and said he does not want to play for a bottom-feeder, which means the time is now for the Wolves to return to the winning ways they haven’t seen since KG was the “Big Ticket” in Minneapolis. This offseason was intriguing for the Wolves, and I really liked the moves the notorious David Kahn made (first time that sentence has EVER been muttered about Kahn’s decisions as GM). His pursuit of Batum, although they did not land him, made basketball sense (SF is their biggest need and Batum is an athletic small forward, who can defend, rebound, and shoot the three). They added Chase Buddigner to help provide some offensive fire-power and further stretch the floor, and brought back Andrei Kirilenko to the NBA after a year’s hiatus in Europe. Their recent trade for my former teammate Dante Cunningham provides some additional inside depth. With Rubio returning from last season’s knee injury, the Wolves believe they are poised to improve on their performance from last season and make a push for the playoffs in the next two seasons.

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By: Colenda

The Western Conference’s Southwest division has had a whirlwind of an offseason, starting with the draft. League-owned New Orleans won the lottery and with it brought one of the most highly rated big men since Pat Ewing to the Big Easy. The team was sold shortly thereafter to Tom Benson, owner of the Saints, bringing in a new age for the franchise. Darrell Morey and the Rockets made every move imaginable to collect the assets necessary to entice Orlando to lend them Dwight Howard for a year. That seems to have fallen apart as they will instead settle for a pair of backups, a big man (Asik) and point guard (yeah you Linsanity). Enjoy that Rockets fans. The normally steady and clean-cut Spurs have even been dragged into the headlines. Star Tony Parker nearly suffered a career changing injury at a New York nightclub, getting glass in his eyes as a fight erupted between Drake and Chris Brown. Luckily it looks like he will be ok, but it was certainly scary for a moment. The Mavs, positioning themselves for 2 years since their title for a run at hometown boy Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, struck out. Cuban cannot be happy with being stuck scrounging the amnesty waiver-wire. With so much activity out of the Southwest, and not all good news, it’s been an intriguing 2012 offseason thus far.

San Antonio Spurs (1st place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Marcus Denmon

Players Lost: None

The Dime: Outside of the Parker incident, it has been business as usual this offseason for the Spurs. They re-signed anchor Tim Duncan, ensuring the legend will retire in San Antonio, as well as locked up Danny Green, Boris Diaw, and Stephen Jackson for a 2013 return. The core of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili will remain together, hoping to make one last run at the title that appeared within grasp this year. I will be interested to see how the decline of Tim Duncan will be continued to be managed. Coach Pop did a marvelous job of conserving the veteran in the lockout shortened year, but it will be a different story over an 82 game schedule. It would be great to see the veterans make one last legitimate run, here is to hoping last year was not the last hurrah.

Memphis Grizzlies (2nd place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Tony Wroten, Jerryd Bayless

Players Lost: OJ Mayo,

The Dime: The Grizzlies were an under-the-radar favorite for many people last year. However, even with the return of Rudy Gay they were not able to get further over the hump, falling in the first round of last seasons playoffs. They have not made many moves this offseason, but did add a scoring-guard in the draft in Wroten. Gay’s name has been circulated in some trade talk thus far, but nothing appears eminent. I will be looking to see how the year starts off for the Griz. If they start slow, I think the Gay trade-talk will start up again in more earnest. It may be time for a change in Memphis to mix up a stagnant franchise, and I think Gay is the piece most likely to be moved.

Dallas Mavericks (3rd place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Elton Brand, OJ Mayo, Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Jae Crowder, Jared Cunningham

Players Lost: Jason Kidd, Jett Terry, Brendan Haywood

The Dime: This has been an offseason to forget for the Mavericks. After clearing the books over the last few years to welcome hometown hero Deron Williams back to Dallas to join forces with Dwight Howard, the Mavs struck out in a serious way. Not only were they unable to bring in an additional star to pair with Dirk, they saw some of their most valuable veterans walk for a chance to chase a title elsewhere. Mark Cuban and company are at a serious crossroads. With the roster as currently constructed, they are nowhere near title contention (Cuban’s stated yearly goal).  A move needs to be made to get them moving back in the right direction, and Cuban is always ready to pull the trigger on a deal. I would not be surprised to see some additional changes to the Mavs roster.

Houston Rockets (4th place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Jeremy Lin, Royce White, Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb,

Players Lost: Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Samuel Dalembert

The Dime: The Rockets are traditionally one of the league’s most shrewdly run franchises in the league. Known for bringing a “Moneyball”-style statistical analysis for decision making to the NBA, they have spent wisely over the years and have more often than not been on the winning side of their trades. This offseason, in my opinion, was a rare miss for the Rockets.  After positioning themselves with a ton of cap room and valuable assets in draft picks hoping to land Dwight Howard, the Rockets are coming away without a proven star in the league, big contracts for unproven players and a slew of front court players. I liked their draft but did not love it, suspect of their selection of players who were fairly similar (Jones and White) and the sleepy-eyed Lamb. They extended huge offer sheets to a back-up center (Bull’s Omer Asik) and last year’s media darling, Jeremy Lin.  I am not sold on Lin as a legit star in the league, but he can certainly help them sell tickets. Houston had hoped to turn their franchise around with a success offseason, but I just don’t think the Rockets positioned themselves any better for long-term success with their moves. However, only time will tell if Morey got it right again after all.

New Orleans Hornets (5th place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Ryan Anderson, Darius Miller

Players Lost: Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor, DeJuan Summers, Jarrett Jack

The Dime: How things can change in one year. Last offseason, the Hornets and star Chris Paul went through a prolonged public divorce ending with Paul landing with the Clippers. Although the Hornets got a decent haul in return, namely young scoring guard Eric Gordon, they had an awful season with Gordon sidelined most of the year. Their overall lack of success was rewarded, however, as they landed the first pick in the draft and the world’s most talented Unibrow. Potential controversy aside, this singlehandedly changes their franchise’s fortunes around. Paired alongside a healthy Eric Gordan, last year’s breakout star Ryan Anderson, and fellow rookie Austin Rivers, Davis has the potential to turn this lottery team into a perennial playoff and title contender. I’m not saying they’re going to win next year’s title, but they now have the catalyst who can get them there. Let’s all sit back and enjoy watching the growth and rise of this young team around Anthony Davis.

By: Colenda

With NBA free agency in full swing since Wednesday the 11th, the NBA landscape is a whirlwind of activity from the draft, trades and free agent signings. With so much activity thus far, and the promise of much more before the start of training camps, the DCDime wants to keep you updated on all personnel moves during this busy NBA off-season in a series we are calling the 2012 NBA Free Agency Carousel.

We all know, or should if we haven’t been hiding under a rock lamenting LeBron’s first title, that some big fish have stayed put (D.Will in Brooklyn), some are on the move (Steve Nash to the Lakers) and one remains stuck in purgatory as his fate is decided (Dwight Howard). These players may take up all the headlines, but they are only the biggest puzzle pieces in NBA free agency not all of the pieces. There are players big and small on the move that will impact the standings next year. We will be taking a trip around the league breaking down all the activity by division.

We start our analysis with the runner-up Western Conference and move to the East from there. We will highlight the players that each team has added/lost thus far in the off-season, and we will drop the dime on each team by breaking down what it all means.

The Pacific division out West has been the center of NBA headlines over the last two off-seasons. Last year, two of its members (both L.A. franchises) were involved actively for the biggest off-season target, Chris Paul. Commissioner Stern vetoed him going to the Lakers but accepted the trade of Paul to the Clippers, and the drama and intrigue only began from there. This off-season has begun much the same way, with both franchises paying major roles in the activity thus far. Last season’s division bottom feeders, Phoenix, Golden State and Sacramento, have also been making moves, although not all of them are helping them catch up with the rivals in L.A. Without further ado, here’s a deeper look at the activity thus far in the Pacific.

L.A. Lakers (1st place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Steve Nash, Darius Johnson-Odom

Players Lost: Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes

The Dime: Mr. Stern did not want a star point guard to join Kobe and company last off-season, but there was little he could do to stand in the way of Free Agent Steve Nash deciding to put on the purple and gold. In pursuit of the elusive championship, Nash chose to join up with the rival Lakers who he had battled in the playoffs for nearly a decade. If Kobe can handle Nash setting the table for himself and their stable of bigs, this move can immediately make the Lakers a contender again after spending much of last season struggling to find their rhythm and compete against the league’s top teams.

However, the Lakers biggest problem last season, containing the athletic guards in the league, may have become an even bigger issue for 2012-2013. Obviously, they are hoping what Nash offers offensively will void out his deficiencies defensively. The Dime will be interested to see how this theme plays out throughout the season in 2012-2013.

L.A. Clippers (2nd place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom

Players Lost: Swaggy P. Young, Reggie Evans, Mo Williams

The Dime: The Clips have had an active off-season, re-signing veteran Mr. Big Shot, signing streaky 6th man Jamal Crawford, and bringing Mr. Kardashian back to Hollywood.

The biggest news, however, was re-signing star Blake Griffin to a 5-year max contract. The day he signed the contract, Blake went down in Team USA’s practice with a tear in his meniscus in his left knee. Although he is only expected to be out for eight weeks and should be ready for the start of camp, the Blakeshow now has as many knee surgeries as he has had seasons in the NBA (2). Not what you want for your franchise player.

In other news, Chris Paul has decided to play out the rest of his contract and will become a free agent again at the end of next season. That means the player they moved so many pieces to trade for last year may end up throwing lobs to Melo and Amare in New York after all. More bad news to Donald Sterling and Co. If nothing else, this has been an off-season more in line with what Clippers fans have come to expect over the years.

The thing I will be watching for this season is how the team reacts to coach Vinny Del Negro. Del Negro is one of the league’s worst coaches, but is entrusted with one of its most talented rosters. It will interesting to see how this plays out, but I have a feeling it won’t end well for Vinny in L.A.

Phoenix Suns (3rd place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, Luis Scola, Kendall Marshall

Players Lost: Steve Nash, Grant Hill (not yet, but he’s a goner)

The Dime: The Suns have officially started the After-Nash Era rebuilding effort. The franchise more or less press reset over the last month. During the draft, the franchise showed it may be ready to move on when they selected DC native and fellow O’Connell-alum, Kendall Marshall. A pass-first point guard, Marshall was widely regarded as the top pure-point guard in this year’s class. After Nash decided to move on and sign with LA, the Suns moved to quickly ink Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and submitted the winning bid for Luis Scola on waivers.

Although the moves help the Suns compete some in the short team, it is not nearly enough for this team to avoid being lottery bound for the next few years. Nash was the maestro that made the mediocre pieces around him into a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts. Now with him gone, Phoenix fans will be severely missing him and his S.S.O.L (Seven Seconds or Less) Suns’ teams.

Golden State Warriors (4th place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli, Andrew Bogut (DNP after trade)

Players Lost: Dorell Wright, Brandon Rush

The Dime: Mark Jackson’s team added another potent outside scoring threat to the back court by choosing UNC’s Harrison Barnes. With Barnes teaming up with fellow youngsters Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, Golden State has one of the youngest and most offensively gifted backcourts in the league.

However, the game is played on both ends of the court. Golden State is hoping that the addition of center Andrew Bogut late last season in the Monta Ellis trade will pay great dividends this year. If the big Aussie can get healthy and stay that way, he has shown he can be an above average NBA defender and rebounder in the paint.

The other draftees, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli, were both seniors who will bring winning pedigrees to the Warriors. The consistent rebuild in Golden State continues, and I cannot see much from this off-season that makes me believe things will be turning around anytime soon in the bay.

Sacramento Kings (5th place in 2011-2012)

Players Added: Thomas Robinson

Players Lost: JJ Hickson, Terrence Williams, Donte Green

The Dime: After an off-season last year when most of the talk was focused on where the Kings would be playing in the future (and the Maloof brothers avoiding expenditures like the plague), it’s nice that this year the team could focus on improving its roster. Although they have not been an active player in free agency (who really wants to play in Sacramento?), they were able to use the draft to improve their team. They added the former KU bruiser, Thomas Robinson, early in the lottery this year. This pairs him with former 1st round selection Demarcus Cousins in the frontcourt that will be sure to physically impose its will on opponents and rebound with real ferocity.

However, the rest of the roster is such a mess that the Kings will continue to be a bottom-feeder. Without a true point guard on the team, the Kings will continue to rely on the poo-poo platter of Jimmer, Tyreke Evans, and Isaiah Thomas.

With that in mind, I think the big theme to watch for this year is what the Kings decide to do with Tyreke Evans. He is an explosive scorer and athlete, but has not shown great improvement since his rookie year. It may be time for the franchise to move in another direction and use Tyreke as a trade-chip to help improve the roster.

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By: Colenda

Edited by: Bohlin

As the NBA regular season winds down, it’s time for the Dime to take a nostalgic look back on the lockout-shortened year. This season has been filled with intriguing story lines, drama (Cough, Dwight Howard, cough), lingering injuries, but there’s one thing that stands out above the rest: the schedule. With owners looking to minimize the hit to their bottom lines from locking out the players, the league embarked on the most compact season in its history. Teams were forced to play 66 games in a total of 124 days, including at least one stretch for each team of games three straight nights for the first time since the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season. In one word, the schedule was stupid. It was more physically grueling than it needed to be and as a result the product suffered. Stars such as reigning-MVP D.Rose, Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, and the lovable Z.Bo (Zach Randolph, if you don’t know now you know) missed significant time due to injuries. With all that said, the year wasn’t a total failure; we got to see why the league hasn’t had more talent since the days of His Airness. We witnessed the emergence of young stars in Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio (Before a Kobe knee ended his season), an underdog making the world Linsane in the membrane, an unappreciated star taking their game to the “next-level” in Kevin Love, and continued excellence from all the usual suspects (CP3, Kobe, Lebron, KD, Steve Nash etc.). The league is currently in great hands; we have veteran stars continuing to play at a high level, and young stars scrapping to become household names. Here at the DC Dime we wanted to show some love to the year’s top performers, and express our disdain for those who fell short of expectations. Without further ado, here are your 2011-2012 DC Dime Award Winners:

1) Defensive Player of the Year- Over the last few seasons, this award has belonged to Dwight Howard. No one can affect the game on the defensive end like Superman. Unfortunately, this year Dwight was more worried about where he would be playing next season than he was in leaving it all on the floor for his current team. Not that he mailed it in, which he didn’t, but he never fully invested himself in the success of his team. For this, he is not eligible to defend his title for the fourth year in a row.

This year, the award deserves to go to Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks. Even in the midst of his best ever offensive season (He’s shooting 68% from the field), Chandler continued to be dominant on the defensive end. Take a look at the Knicks roster. Outside rookie Iman Shumpert, not a single player on that team has any interest in defending. The Knicks are a middle of the pack defensive team this year thanks to the work of Mr. Chandler.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett, Lebron James

2) Coach of the Year- Did you know that the Coach of the Year award has never gone to the same coach in back-to-back years? Unfortunately for Tom Thibodeau, this year will not be the year that breaks that streak. Thibs has done an absolutely amazing job with the Bulls this year, currently leading the Eastern Conference despite the fact they played without MVP Derrick Rose for 26 games this season. However, he has been outdone this year by a veteran who definitely deserves to win this award for a second time: Gregg Popovich.

Popovich has shocked the system and guided the ageless Spurs to the West’s top record. He has dealt with the injuries of Manu Ginobili, introduced more youth than normally accustomed to with the emergence of Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, managed Timmy Duncan’s decline ( DNP-Old, remember that?), and changed styles of play to better suit Tony Parker’s skills. He’s got the Spurs looking like a legitimate contender for a title. The man’s a four time NBA champ, and its time he’s recognized by the media for his coaching excellence.

Honorable Mention: Thibodeau, Doc Rivers, Vinny Del Negro (Just Kidding)

3) The Donald Sterling Memorial Award- If it’s a reward in honor of Donald Sterling, you already know we won’t be lauding an executive for excellence. In fact, we will be rewarding the exact opposite. Mr. Sterling has been the golden standard for ineptitude in sports ownership/management for the last three decades. Due to his insistence on cutting corners and costs, and his ability to alienate a fan-base and be loathed far and wide, Donald Sterling is the epitome of bad. Why give a reward in Donald’s honor you ask? It’s simple. At the DC Dime, we’re not interested in patting these millionaire and billionaire businessmen on their collective backs for doing their jobs as decision makers well; we’d much rather ridicule and criticize the judgment of the ones who suck at their jobs. There were many deserving performances submitted by executives throughout the league for the inaugural Sterling Memorial Award. A runner-up who really stood out is none other than league commissioner David Stern. Serving as owner/decision maker of the New Orleans Hornets, Stern introduced sports fans to a never before seen conflict of interest in his handling of the Chris Paul situation. As he unloaded one of the best players in the league for a poo-poo platter of players/picks highlighted by a talented, but oft-injured Eric Gordon, Stern tarnished his legacy as one of the sport’s great commissioners. BUT, he did grace us with what became our favorite hashtag of the month of December when he nixed said deal for simply “Basketball Reasons”, and for that we thank him.

The only person more deserving of this award is the most fiercely competitive man in NBA history, that’s right Michael Jordan. MJ raised the stakes on David Stern’s candidacy by not only trotting out the worst team in NBA history, but also showing himself to be an extreme hypocrite throughout the lockout. One of the “hard-line” owners throughout this year’s lockout, MJ had once famously told our own Abe Pollin (RIP) “If you can’t make it work economically, you should sell the team”. Mike, take your own advice in the offseason and jump ship, it’s a lost cause in Charlotte. But, do take this inaugural Donald Sterling Memorial Award with you as you ride off into the sunset.

Honorable Mention: Ernie Grunfeld (Consolation prize is a two-year extension!!!!)

4) Sixth Man of the Year- This is the only award that deserves a unanimous vote. Going into the year, we knew this was James Harden’s award to lose and the Beard did not disappoint. Being more like a 6th starter than a 6th man in terms on minutes played (32 MPG); Harden was at many times the Thunder’s most dangerous offensive weapon. Possessing a throwback game, Harden is as comfortable distributing the ball off a pick-and-roll as he is knocking down an open jumper. He is the perfect complement to the skills/personalities of stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook all the while rounding out the league’s newest (and potentially most dangerous) “Big Three”.

5) Most Improved Player- This award is one our favorite to present. This award goes to a player who took the long off-season to improve many areas of his game and came into the season prepared for a breakout year. The countless hours in the gym go entirely unnoticed until the games start; and if you can’t translate the skills from the practice floor to the games, all your hard work means little. These players really seized their opportunities this year, expanded their roles and made a huge impact for their teams. These guys aren’t super stars, but true professionals and deserve some praise for their terrific years.

The Candidates

Greg Monroe- The sophomore really took his game to another level this year. Although much of his work went unnoticed as his Pistons struggled through the season, Monroe quietly emerged as one of the league’s top young big men due to his sophisticated skill set and efficiency.

Ersan Ilyasova- Ersan (Or Ghostface Ilya as my colleague Michael Bohlin calls him) came out of nowhere this year to help many a fantasy basketball team to their respective championships (including this Dimer). The young Turk put up some gaudy numbers throughout the year, including multiple 20-20 efforts.

Ryan Anderson- A sharp shooting big-man, Anderson provides Orlands with a perfect front court complement to Dwight Howard. Deadly from three-point range, this former first rounder out of California has found himself a nice home this year in Stan Van’s three point happy attack.

Kevin Seraphin- Our beloved Washington Wizards may have found a gem, ladies and gentlemen. Seraphin blossomed after the trade to ship JaVale out of town and showed that he may be the big man of the future in DC and not just some French guy with 6 fouls to use up. After an off-season to continue to improve and work with veteran Nene, we should all be excited about the future for this young big.

These players are all deserving of recognition for their improvement, but there can be only one winner. The award goes a big man who hails from the DMV, stayed at home to go to school, and was rewarded for his stellar play with his first All-Star appearance this year. That’s right; this year’s Most Improved Player award goes to…

Roy Hibbert- Hibbert, much like throughout his college career, continued to get better as the season went on and helped anchor the middle for an upstart Pacers team. Posting career highs in Rebounds, Points, and Blocks, all while leading Indiana to the postseason. For these reasons, Roy is our winner for most improved player.

6) Least Valuable Player- Annually, the league recognizes the player that had the greatest impact on his team during the given year with an MVP trophy, ensuring his place in NBA lore. But why not allow the least valuable player get his due place in NBA infamy? A few players need to be mentioned in the consideration for least valuable player. Chris Bosh came into the year “stronger” and “bigger”, boasting he would average double digit rebounds. Bosh is currently averaging fewer than 8 rebounds a game and posted a less than impressive amount of double digit efforts. He is the Heat’s highest paid player, but has done little to warrant the fat checks and the “Big Three” moniker.

As mentioned above, Dwight Howard spent much of this year going back and forth on whether he wanted to remain in Orlando. Ultimately, Dwight choose to stay but has since shut it down due to back surgery and is reportedly going to be asking to be shipped out of town in the offseason. His constant waffling and his alleged desire to see his head coach canned dominated the league’s headlines this year. Dwight did have his normally dominant year, but we were just too distracted by his antics to notice.

The players above certainly have had forgettable years. But they do not come close to the season had by the run-away winner of the LVP so let us congratulate….

Lamar Odom- Mr. Kardashian had his feelings hurt so badly that the Lakers wanted to trade him for Chris Paul (A better player) that he shut it down for the entire season. The reigning sixth-man of the year was never able to muster up enough pride to compete for the defending champion Mavs, leading to Mark Cuban sending him home for the remainder of the season. All the while, we were able to watch his life unfold on reality-TV as he became the newest member of the Kardashian clan. Lamar is going to find employment next year, he is too talented not to. But buyers beware, we saw this year just how big a head-case the LVP truly is.

7) First Team All-NBA- A traditional First Team All-NBA will include one player from each of the five positions. At the DC Dime, we don’t want to be forced to pigeon-hole players into strict positional categories; it’s much more important to us to reward the 5 players who had the best seasons, regardless of position. After much debate and consideration, here is our First Team All-NBA:

Chris Paul- The maestro in Lob City, Paul helped make the Clippers relevant for the first time ever, for that alone, he deserves the nod.

Kobe Bryant- After a visit to his favorite doctor in Germany, Kobe came back this year gunning for Kareem’s scoring mark. No matter the miles he racks up on his body, he continues to play at an elite level and put the ball in the basket.

Kevin Durant- KD holds a narrow lead for the scoring title, but he expanded his game in other areas this year. Durant helped lead the Thunder to one of the league’s best records and has emerged as one of the league’s truly elite superstars.

Lebron James- Despite extended absences from D.Wade and a bench that may be worse than last years; Lebron kept the Heat in the race for the East all year. The league’s most complete player, James is capable of dominating the game on both ends of the floor like so few can.

Kevin Love- Love made the jump this year into the elite. Playing alongside Ricky Rubio, he had the Wolves looking like a legitimate basketball team again and has made David Kahn seem like a respectable decision maker again after his years of ineptitude.

8) Most Valuable Player- The Most Valuable Player award this year is widely regarded as a two horse race, with Durant and Lebron as the two most likely candidates. Many players had terrific years, but these two stood out above the rest. However, just yesterday the always humble KD came out and gave his endorsement for his rival to receive the award. If there was any doubt in your mind before who should win the award, that simple statement should wipe it away. Even the fiercely competitive Durant is able to acknowledge the truth; that everyone’s favorite player to hate came back this year with a more complete offensive game (a scary thought), and has played this season at a historically high level. We have seen few players do what Lebron James has done this year statistically. His dominance on the offensive and defensive side of the ball (he’s a lock for First Team All-Defense) make him the most complete player in the game. He’s put up career high in rebounds, and increased his scoring efficiency with highs in field goal percentage, and three point percentage. He’s added a low post game after years of refusing to go down to the block. Regardless of what you think of him as a person, or businessman, you have to respect him as a player. James will be entering a special class of players by winning his third MVP trophy, but he needs to add some jewelry to his finger before truly being on that level. The MVP is just a regular season award after all, now it’s time to see how the MVP will fare when it really matters: in the playoffs.

Editor’s Note: Echoing Jason’s last statement should LeBron (Or LeBum as I like to call him) win his third regular season MVP trophy this year he will be the only three-time league MVP to have not won a Championship. Better get working on all those titles he predicted at whatever that gathering was in South Beach last summer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT-I8jQDQ7c).

9) Rookie of the Year: Last, but certainly not least we have to recognize the young guys. The future of the association is certainly bright as we had numerous rookies leave their mark on the NBA landscape. One young star shined brighter than the rest however, not surprisingly, I am refering to Kyrie Irving. The first pick in last summers draft proved to the doubters that despite playing in only a handful of college games at Duke he was more than ready to lead a team against the big boys. Averaging 18.8 ppg and 5.5 apg while shooting an impressive 47% from the field Irving ignited life into a stagnant Cleveland Cavaliers franchise that was thought to be left for dead after Lebron took his talents to South Beach. In my opinion, Irving is the run away winner of this award. While Ricky Rubio did have a nice season before it was unfortunately cut short by an ACL tear it would be hard for me to look at him as a rookie as he has been playing professionally in Spain for years now. Kyrie took a hapless Cavaliers franchise and made them somewhat competitive winning 20+ games this season after being the whipping boy of the NBA in 2010-2011.

As we wind down from what has been an extremely entertaining NBA regular season and look to the playoffs we at The DC Dime, once again, would like to congratulate all of the players named, for good and bad reasons, in our Inaugural Awards article. Were we to actually have any of your addresses you would receive your award and I can assure you it would be glorious. Thanks again for reading and we look forward to unveiling the next phase of The DC Dime to you all shortly!

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By: Colenda

With the NBA trade deadline falling in March for the first time, hoop’s fans everywhere have been enjoying a month full of intrigue and chaos from the professionals (who ever cares about the NBA in March? Thanks NBA Lockout!) and of course Madness with the collegians. It’s been a month to remember, with enough story lines to keep even the most apathetic person interested. The NBA trade deadline has always been one of my favorite times of year because it allows fans of even the lousiest teams to experience a luxury normally only afforded to the followers of the elite: hope. Being a die-hard Wizards fan, hope is normally all we got this time a year. Hope that a move can be made that points us in the right direction, a sign of good things to come. Even the contenders are more hopeful at the deadline, waiting for the one last piece that pushes them over the top. At the end of the day, every fan out there is just looking for their team to get better. Everyone wants to root for a winner, but most don’t know what it takes for a team to get there. Even the professionals, more often than not, have no clue what it takes to be build a good team (I’m looking at you, Ernie). So what’s it take to be great? I thought you’d never ask.

To be a great team, you are going to need to start with two things: talent and good coaching. Without these, you are at an extreme competitive disadvantage. You don’t have to have the star power of the Heatles (although it sure makes things easier), and you don’t need the Zen Master on the bench, but you must be talented and well-coached to win. This seems pretty self explanatory right? Still, far too often fan bases wonder why they are stuck in basketball purgatory. If you’re trotting out inferior talent, expect an inferior product. However, talent is not everything. Talent increases expectations surely, but expectations don’t win games. To be a winning team, much more than talent and good coaching is needed, but this is where it must start.

Above all else, getting players to work as a cohesive unit is the key to becoming a winning team. No one would argue that the Heat weren’t the most talented team in the NBA last season, yet they fell short of their ultimate goals and experienced numerous rough patches throughout the year. Getting a team to mesh together, to find the elusive team “chemistry”, this is what dictates ultimate success. Chemistry makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Greater team chemistry is what allows for “David to slay Goliath”. Tell tale signs of great chemistry include willingness to make the extra pass, genuine happiness when a teammate makes a play, quick rotations defensively, and constant communication. Obviously, chemistry is not something that is achieved overnight. It is a process; something that is built during every film session, each wind sprint, and it cannot be faked.

An over-looked consideration when it comes to building team chemistry is the role of the head coach. One way a coach can really make a difference is through the establishment of clearly defined roles. Ever hear grumblings that players “don’t feel comfortable with the rotation”? This is a clear indication that the coach is not doing his part in building team chemistry. By defining roles, and demanding players accept their role, a coach sets a team up for success. When players know what’s expected of them, and can get consistency in their minutes, morale will be higher and performance better. Clearly defining roles also prevents as much player dissension as possible. If a guy is the team’s go-to-scorer, and is jacking up shot after shot, teammates will be expecting that type of play from their star if a coach is stressing in each and every team meeting the importance of that player looking to score. On the flip-side, when a team’s most important rebounder isn’t hitting the boards and is benched because of it, the player is going to know why, and won’t have much to complain about. This defined structure helps manage the egos by setting strict guidelines and expectations of play, and creating accountability if said guidelines are not met.

Once roles are clearly defined, the process to get everyone to “buy-in” is the next step to being a successful team. Getting everyone to accept their roles, and play for the team above themselves, is part of this buy-in process. Fostering an atmosphere of collective responsibility and accountability will go a long way toward ensuring everyone stays on the same page. When everyone is committed to the team, that team will play harder for one another. When a team’s willing to leave it on the floor for the people it rides into battle with, it will be able to achieve greater success than if there are any other personal goals in mind. This level of commitment can only be accomplished if there is a true trust amongst the players and coaching staff. Developing the trust is key, but if it does not extend all the way through the entire team it means little. As they say, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. It is essential that each and every player on the team is totally committed and have their goals aligned with the greater good.

Another essential element in developing team chemistry is the emergence of a true team leader. The team leader plays the important role of middle man between the coaching staff and the players. Players get sick of listening to their coach’s voice, and orders, but will be much more hesitant to turn a deaf ear to one of their peers. A leader must keep the pulse of the team, as he is the one responsible for keeping the team together. He is the member of the team that can ensure that everyone has bought into the team concept, and challenges a teammate if they step out of line, threatening to upset team chemistry. A leader is the one who steps up when the going gets tough, and makes the play necessary to win. Without a true leader, a team is missing one of the most essential elements for success.

There are many schemes and styles offensively, and depending upon who you ask man-to-man or zone defensive would be preferable, but these are just small details in determining team success. Obviously talent will play a large role in the type of success you can expect as a fan, but it’s not everything. Team chemistry is the essential element for a great team. Great chemistry will dictate great effort, and great effort produces great results. With our beloved Wizards having made a drastic move at the deadline, we as fans will be looking at the tangible evidence to decide if the trade was successful. Will Nene produce better statistically than Javale? Will his addition result in more wins? But rather it is the intangible elements we need to examine before passing judgment. I will be interested to see how the team comes together over these next few weeks, if there’s more of a willingness to make the extra pass and a genuine excitement to play Wizard’s basketball now that we’ve shipped some knuckle heads out West. If we see some improved team chemistry the rest of the way, regardless if Nene is able to stay healthy throughout the duration of that long contract, than we can say this year’s trade deadline passed with the Wizards experiencing something even more precious than hope for this time of year: success.

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** Court Vision is a semi-weekly segment the Dime will have, featuring former Villanova guard Jason Colenda’s take on various basketball-related topics

By: Colenda

In the midst of a back and forth game with Marquette, exchanging punches (and large runs), my Villanova Wildcats found themselves in a tight situation. Having blown a 16 point halftime lead, we were down one with a little over 30 seconds on the clock, in desperate need of one last stop. A five-second differential between the game and shot clock allowed us to defend the ensuing possession without fouling. Even with no time-outs, we would get one more possession. Jerel McNeal drove the lane on the right side seemingly uncontested, only to be met at the rim by Dante Cunningham. With the assistance of some swallowed whistles, we were able to secure the ball with 14 seconds to go. As Marquette desperately denied All-American Scottie Reynolds the basketball, teammate Reggie Redding took matters into his own hands to find a back-cutting Dwayne Anderson for a reverse layup as time expired. I stormed the court from my usual seat on the end of the bench and met the two playmakers with a thunderous hug. The Garden erupted around us. We had survived to play another day in the greatest conference tournament of them all: the Big East Championships.

As a walk-on at Villanova, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play in some big games, in some great venues. But as anyone will tell you, no basketball experience can compare to playing at Madison Square Garden. The site of the Big East Championships for 30 years, the Garden kicks its resident Knicks out for a week to pay host to some truly hard fought basketball from the collegians.

The game described above would have been the feature of most conference tournaments; two Top-25 teams battling it out to the buzzer. But in the 2009 Big East tournament, this game is hardly remembered. As our celebrations ended and we headed to the locker room, the next two teams took the Garden stage. After 6 overtimes, Syracuse prevailed 127-117 over UConn in what will go down as one of college basketball’s great games. Just another Thursday at the Big East Championships.

From the moment you enter the Garden as a player, you know you have arrived at basketball’s Mecca. Descending to the locker rooms in the storied freight elevator, you have an opportunity to catch your breath and take in the history all around you. As you shakily head to your final destination, little doubt remains that the room-sized elevator has been around for years and you’re reminded of the greatness that stood in that very elevator. Pictures adorn the walls telling the story of the Garden, and what a glorious story that is. At locker room level, the energy and nerves only build. Each game at the Garden adds to its rich history, making the pressure to perform never greater.

A moment during the 2009 tournament truly highlighted to me the type of intensity that exists in the Garden’s back corridors. It involved West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, who had taken exception to the way his team performed in the first half, and came in determined to let them know that. He delivered a thunderous halftime speech, little of which can be repeated in front of company. Up double-digits, this type of hilarious outburst from a rival coach would normally make the most serious guy on any team crack a grin. At the Garden, not even Huggy Bear’s best could break the focus of a team preparing to take the stage.

The world’s biggest stars come to Madison Square Garden to put on their best shows, be it rock stars or ball players.  For a week in March it serves as a platform for college’s best and brightest. During my two Big East Championships, more than 20 players who competed would go on to have professional careers in the NBA. But that’s only NBA talent; countless individuals are being paid to play the game outside of the U.S.

Convening at the conference banquet before the start of the tournament, you are blown away by the talent all in one room. From players to coaches, the Big East has the best. Multiple Hall of Famers, countless Coach of the Year award winners, First Team All-Americans. There is no other conference that can boast the top to bottom talent of the league, making the tournament that much more intriguing. Although asses are kissed and sponsors thanked, the banquet highlights all that makes the Big East special. There is a competitive respect and admiration in the room, but few friends. Everyone is there for the same reason: to write their own story in Garden lore and be crowned Big East champion.  Performing at the Garden is special, and it brings the best out of the best.

In this extraordinarily uncertain time for the Big East Conference, it’s important to take a moment and reflect on the great tradition that is the Big East Championships. No matter the size of the field or the venue (yes, the tournament has not always been played at the Garden), the tournament has always stood for excellence. It’s basketball being played at the highest level. But after this year, the tournament will not be looking the way we have grown accustomed to over all these years. West Virginia will never again compete, but we will always fondly remember being Pitsnoggled. With Syracuse following them shortly after, we will lament the departure of the school that brought us Gerry McNamara’s conference tournament glory. Personally, I won’t really miss Pitt, but I know many other Big East fan’s will.
Regardless of the changes and uncertainty, the show must always go on. Here’s to hoping the powers to be know what they’re doing, and were able to enjoy the Big East Championships at Madison Square Garden for many years to come.

As  basketball fans around the world tune into Championship Week and the start of March Madness, a special eye is always tuned to Madison Square Garden. The history of the building and the rich tradition of excellence of players and coaches combine to make the week of the Big East Championships special and unique. There is no tougher tournament to win, not even the NCAA tournament that highlights the month. As conference re-alignment threatens the landscape of college hoops, especially the Big East Conference, I hope that you have taken the opportunity this week to drink in the glory of the greatest tournament in college basketball. I know I have.

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