Underdogs faring Well in First Round of 2014 NBA Playoffs

2014-nba-playoffs-underdogsHome court advantage is always nice in the NBA Playoffs. But it by no means guarantees a team of winning a series. Case in point, just look at the insanity that we’re witnessing in the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs right now:

Eastern Conference

#1 Seed Indiana Pacers – 2 Wins
#8 Seed Atlanta Hawks – 3 Wins

#4 Seed Chicago Bulls – 1 Win
#5 Seed Washington Wizards – 4 Wins, advances to conference semifinals

#3 Seed Toronto Raptors – 2 Wins
#6 Seed Brooklyn Nets – 2 Wins

#2 Seed Miami Heat – 4 Wins, advances to conference semifinals
#7 Seed Charlotte Bobcats – 0 Wins

Western Conference

#1 Seed San Antonio Spurs – 2 Wins
#8 Seed Dallas Mavericks – 2 Wins

#4 Seed Houston Rockets – 1 Win
#5 Seed Portland Trailblazers – 3 Wins

#3 Seed L.A. Clippers – 3 Wins
#6 Seed Golden State Warriors – 2 Wins

#2 Seed Oklahoma City Thunder – 2 Wins
#7 Seed Memphis Grizzlies – 3 Wins

2014-nba-playoffs-underdogs-1As you can see, the only favorite to finish off their series so far is the Miami Heat. The underdog Wizards are the lone other team that’s advanced to the conference semifinals.

As for the rest, the top seeds in both conferences are struggling to win, with Indiana actually on the ropes as they head to Atlanta for Game 6. Oklahoma City, the West’s number-two seed, is in a similar situation to Indiana as they face elimination in Memphis.

The number-three seeds are also locked in struggles. Toronto is tied up with Brooklyn while the Clippers lead Golden State by one game. As for the latter, L.A. has actually hung tough when you consider the terrible ordeal they’ve gone through regarding Donald Sterling’s racist comments.

Finally, we come to the Houston Rockets – everybody’s dark horse to win the NBA Championship at the start of the season. You have to feel for Houston because they’ve lost three games by a combined 12 points. And their inability to win three close contests has them now needing to win three straight games. Only eight teams have rallied from a 3-1 deficit, so the Rockets will have to join historic company if they want to advance to the semifinals.

All in all, the 2014 NBA Playoffs have already offered plenty of excitement and upsets. Both the Hawks and Grizzlies are on the verge of HUGE upsets, while a few other underdogs are also within striking distance. That said, there’s never been a better time to go with the underdogs when betting on the NBA Playoffs. So if you have a good feeling about one of the series that we’ve covered so far, then put down a little money on it.

Chandler Parsons hits 10 3’s in One Half, but Rockets still lose

chandler-parsons-houstonShooting at a 40.8% clip from the three-point line this season, Chandler Parsons is obviously outstanding from behind the arc. But what he did against the Memphis Grizzlies was just ridiculous.

Parsons hit 10 three-pointers in the second half of last night’s game. This easily breaks the previous record of 8 3’s in a half, which was held by five different players. His 10 3’s also breaks Houston’s franchise record for the most in a single game.

It’s a shame that Parsons didn’t get going before the second half. After all, he was just two off the single-game record of 12 three-pointers in a game, which is held by Kobe Bryant (2003) and Donyell Marshall (2005). Following his shooting outburst Parsons said, “I was pretty much unconscious. My body went numb. I’ve never felt that feeling on a basketball court before.”

chandler-parsons-houston-1Unfortunately, the Florida alum couldn’t fully celebrate his outstanding game. The Rockets lost to the Grizzlies by a score of 88-87. With less than three minutes left, Memphis went on a 6-1 run to take a 88-84 lead. Parsons made his 10th and final three after this, but missed another shot following his last made-shot.

The Grizzlies didn’t have anybody nailing a crazy amount of 3-pointers, but they did turn in a well-rounded team effort. Courtney Lee led the charge with 19 points, and he seems to be doing quite well with his new team. In 30 games with Boston, he averaged 7.4 PPG in 16 minutes per game. But with Memphis, he’s playing 30 MPG and averaging 15.4 PPG in eight contests so far.

Going back to Parsons, he’s having a career-year with the Rockets. He’s scoring 17.6 PPG and grabbing 5.7 RPG through 40 games. It’s doubtful that he’s done enough to be selected as an All-Star in the loaded Western Conference. But he’s been a huge part of a team that lays claim to a 29-16 record, which is good for the West’s fifth seed so far.

Tracy McGrady annoys MJD with Comments on Jacksonville Jaguars

tracy-mcgrady-jacksonville-jaguarsFrom Terrell Owens to Randy Moss, we’ve hear plenty of NFL players flirt with the idea of playing in the NBA. Tracy McGrady recently came up with a reverse scenario when he tweeted about joining the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Of course, McGrady’s tweet was more of a light-hearted jab at what many people perceive to be the NFL’s worst team this season. Here’s a look at the now-retired, seven-time NBA All-Star’s tweet:

Jacksonville @jaguars need to bring me on in for a tryout at QB or receiver!

This line might have inspired a little laughter around the sports world. But one guy who isn’t laughing is Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. The three-time Pro Bowler fired back with the following:

You’re more than welcome to sign a waiver and come out to a live practice. We’ll see how it works out for you, if it’s that easy.

maurice-jones-drewMJD did slightly tone it down after a reporter joked about how McGrady wouldn’t last 5 plays, to which he said, “Hey you never know, he might be tougher than people think.” But it’s pretty obvious that he’s not amused with the disparaging comment about his team.

Of course, you can’t really argue with the fact that Jacksonville is quickly becoming a joke around the league. This is especially the case when you look at their offense, which has posted the following stats:

– 5.5 PPG (32nd in NFL)
– 213 total YPG (32nd)
– 160 passing YPG (28th)
– 52.5 rushing YPG (30th)

As for Jones-Drew, he’s off to a terrible, injury-plagued start after gaining just 72 yards on 25 carries. Don’t expect things to get any better for him or Jacksonville as a whole since they feature Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne at quarterback. The latter is slightly better, but not exactly capable of leading this team to many victories. And as for Gabbert, he hasn’t done anything to live up to being the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

Most analysts and reporters expect the Jags to finish dead last in the NFL, which will set them up for the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. And it’s all but a given that they’ll take a quarterback with this pick in hopes of erasing their mistake of trading up to get Gabbert.

All in all, it looks like MJD is in for another rough year with his team of eight years. That said, firing back at people like McGrady is about the only thing he can look forward to.

Dwight Howard to Houston and Other Big NBA Offseason Moves

dwight-howard-hostonThe Houston Rockets are the big winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Many NBA analysts and writers tabbed Houston as the favorite to land the 7-time All-Star center all along. And Howard confirmed these rumors with the following tweet:

I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.

Many people wondered if Howard would stay at least one more season since the Lakers could’ve offered him $30 million next year. However, he decided that a four-year, $88 million deal with Houston was plenty of money.

He’ll now join a strong Rockets cast that features All-Star shooting guard James Harden (26.3PPG, 6.7RPG), small forward Chandler Parsons (18.2PPG, 6.5RPG), point guard Patrick Beverley (11.8PPG, 2.8APG) and center Omer Asik (12.3PPG, 11.2RPG). Asik isn’t expected to be in Houston much longer though since the Rockets are furiously trying to trade him with the arrival of Howard.

Five teams with cap room courted the thee-time Defensive Player of the Year, including the Lakers, Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. But after considering all of the offers, Howard chose to go with the team that he feels gives him the best opportunity to win.

dwight-howardThis was supposed to be what Los Angeles was last season. However, they struggled all year long, finally making the playoffs as a seventh seed. Leading scorer Kobe Bryant went down at the end of the regular season, which heavily contributed to San Antonio’s easy sweep of the Lakers. With an aging Bryant still rehabbing his ruptured Achilles tendon, Howard figured that Houston’s young nucleus of Harden, Parsons and Beverley gives him a better long-term chance to win.

Dwight Howard’s signing has created a slight domino effect where other big-name players have finally ended their team search. That said, let’s take a look at some of the recent NBA offseason moves and rumors.

Pistons land Next Best Thing in Josh Smith 

josh-smith-hawksWith several teams focused on Howard, Josh Smith was somewhat of an afterthought in the free agent market…except in the Detroit Piston’s eyes. Detroit management made it clear from the start that Smith was their man, and he rewarded them by signing a 4-year deal worth $56 million.

Last year was pretty dismal for the Pistons after they finished 29-53 and never made a serious playoff push. So having a multi-talented power forward like Smith on board will immediately pay dividends. He averaged 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Hawks last season. Detroit figures to have one of the league’s better front courts since they also feature 6’11” Greg Monroe (16.0PPG, 9.6RPG) and 6’10” Andre Drummond (7.9PPG, 7.6RPG, 1.6BPG).

Gasol staying put with Lakers

pau-gasol-steve-nashTo say that Pau Gasol struggled to find his place last year with Howard in the lineup was an understatement. The Spaniard suffered one of his worst season ever after averaging 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shooting 46.6% – all down from career averages of 18.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 51.8%.

This being said, it was thought that L.A. might trade Gasol if Howard re-signed with them. Since this fell through, it’s a given that the Lakers will keep Gasol, and he’s likely to move back over from power forward to his natural center position.

Paul Millsap signs Two-Year Deal with Hawks

paul-millsapNow out of the running for Howard and all but guaranteed to lose Smith, Atlanta salvaged something by inking a two-year, $19 million deal with Paul Millsap. The former Utah Jazz power forward averaged 14 PPG and 7 RPG last season, and should make a nice compliment to center Al Horford and PG Jeff Teague.

Millsap’s Utah teammate, DeMarre Carroll, will also be coming to the Hawks after signing a two-year, $5 million deal. The fourth-year man out of Missouri averaged 6.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 16.8 MPG.

Dallas Mavericks grab Jose Calderon

There is no consolation prize to losing Dwight Howard this summer – especially for a desperate Mavericks team. But they’re hoping that the addition of PG Jose Calderon can boost their chances of returning to the playoffs next season.

Calderon, who played with both the Raptors and Pistons in 2013, signed a fairly big four-year, $29 million deal with Dallas. He averaged 11.3 PPG, 7.1 APG and shot 90.4% from the free-throw line last year.

San Antonio is eyeing Kenyon Martin

Despite being 35 years old, Kenyon Martin showed that he still has something left in the tank after averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the New York Knicks. Now that he’s a free agent, the Spurs are interested in adding him to their bench. He would back up Tim Duncan at power forward and spell Tiago Splitter at center.

Chris Copeland signs with the Pacers

Chris Copeland may not be much of a defender, but he can definitely provide some offense (8.7PPG) along with a nice three-point touch (42.1%). Taking this into account, Indiana picked up the second-year man out of Colorado through a two-year, $6.1 million deal. As a hybrid small forward/power forward, he’ll definitely give the Pacers a different look off the bench.

Houston Rockets want Dwight Howard, trying to trade Thomas Robinson

dwight-howardA few weeks ago, the Houston Rockets finished up a pretty solid season after making the playoffs and taking two games from the Western Conference’s number one seed, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Of course, there is definitely room for improvement following a first round playoff exit, and the Rockets are looking to spend big in the free agent market this summer. Their first choice appears to be Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard.

Apparently, Houston has been interested in Howard for quite some time and are trying to clear cap space for the seven-time NBA All-Star. Seeing as how he’ll command a maximum contract, the Rockets desperately want to have enough cap space by July’s free agency period. Their first step to making this happen involves attempting to unload top-five draft pick Thomas Robinson for anything they can get.

dwight-howardThe 6’10” power forward is expendable after a disappointing rookie season that was split between Sacramento and Houston. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote about this with the following:

The Houston Rockets are determined to trade forward Thomas Robinson – the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA draft – to create salary-cap space for the pursuit of the Los Angeles Lakers’ free-agent superstar Dwight Howard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Rockets have made clear to multiple rival teams that they plan to accept the best offer to move Robinson and eliminate his $3.52 million salary for the 2013-14 season.

Without the salary of Robinson and others, the Rockets will have the space to offer Howard a maximum deal starting at approximately $20.5 million a season.

thomas-robinsonIt’s no surprise that Robinson is trade bait in this situation. After being selected fifth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Kansas product has failed to live up to expectations. He played 51 games in his rookie season for Sacramento and averaged 4.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 0.4 BPG. Robinson was then traded to Houston, where he played the final 19 games of his rookie year and didn’t do much better after averaging 4.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 0.3 BPG.

Going back to Howard, the 6’11” rock-solid center would definitely give Houston the star power they need to enter the Western Conference’s upper echelon. The Rockets already feature shooting guard James Harden, who averaged 25.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.9 RPG and 1.82 SPG last season. They also have solid role players in Jeremy Lin (13.4 PPG, 6.1 APG), Chandler Parsons (15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG), Carlos Delfino (10.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG) and Omer Asik (10.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG).

Putting Dwight Howard in the middle of all this could make them a top 3-4 team next season. In 76 games for the Lakers, he averaged 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.4 BPG while shooting 57.8% from the field. And these numbers came despite playing alongside several other career All-Stars such as Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.

Of course, picking Howard up is no guarantee because the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors are also hot on his trail. Plus they still need to find a taker for Robinson, which may not yield a lot in return.

There’s also the matter of Los Angeles still being able to sign Howard. This is a definite possibility since the Lakers will have plenty of talent again next year. On the other hand, Howard may not want to relive last season’s disaster, where L.A. was most one of the most disappointing teams in NBA history.

The free agency period starts on July 1st, so it’ll be interesting to see where Howard is leaning after this point.