a stern warning Headline Animator

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Stop Press: Exciting News!! Bloguin Launch!!

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

Exciting news!

Break out the streamers and balloons… A Stern Warning has moved to a bright and shiny new site. Gone are the tired images you see in front of you, replaced with a new and much more functional site.

You can check out the site now at http://www.asternwarning.com. So please don’t forget to change your bookmarks.

But wait… there’s even more exciting news! A Stern Warning is a founding member of a brand new network of sites, Bloguin.

The Bloguin network is proud to include some of the very best bloggers in the basketball blogosphere. Whilst this is only the beginning, the site already includes 3 Shades of Blue, TWolves Blog, Upside and Motor and of course the new A Stern Warning site.

On top of that, there are a number of sites that you will definitely be familiar with, who are a matter of days away from launching on the network. In short, this is very, very exciting.

I'm sternly warning you to get your hot little keyboard over to the new A Stern Warning. Meanwhile, this site will remain here as a relic of a past era!

NBA Opening Night : Tension and Drama

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

Blazers v Lakers on TNT

The NBA certainly knows how to entertain. What a night of drama and excitement it has been.

Firstly, I must point out that currently being based in the United Kingdom, it is rare to get to see NBA action live. Not only did we have the honour of watching a preseason game between the Miami Heat and the New Jersey Nets a couple of weeks ago in London, but tonight I was simultaneously able to watch the Cleveland Cavs v Boston Celtics game on free-to-air television, whilst also watching the Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers on the internet. Totally legally too.

TNT has a great new invention this season called OT Extra, which broadcasts select games live on the net, including multiple camera angles. They designate a camera to follow a player from each team, as voted by us, the loyal fans. The connection was a bit flaky for me tonight, however I'm sure that this was a factor of both distance across the Atlantic and the fact that every man and his blog was trying to watch the Oden-extravaganza. More on that later.

Celtics 90-85 Cavs (boxscore)

You could tell that it was opening night for a number of reasons. Firstly, everyone was jumping out of their skins with excitement and jitters. That was both beneficial and detrimental in some instances. LeBron was doing his best impression of a super-hero as always for the Cavs and he certainly did a good job of pushing the defending champions all the way on the night of their ring ceremony. His 22 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists were typical King James numbers. However at the end of the night he pulled up short, missing a shot with less than a minute to go which could have brought the Cavs within one point.

Anderson Varejao was performing his jack-in-a-box routine in the waning minutes, as he coralled rebounds that shouldn't have been his and had a dominant effect in the final quarter. He finished with 9 and 9, along with 3 steals.

Mo Williams did not seem to be completely integrated with his new teammates as yet, which is to be expected for a point guard taking charge of new sets. He committed four turnover and five fouls in the game and just did not seem in synch.

Paul Pierce dominated the score board with 27 points. His +/- on the game, of +12 was matched only by Leon Powe, who came off the bench and neutralised the performance of Varejao with a similarly enthusiastic performance, which fans became familiar with in last season's Finals.

It was a tight final couple of minutes, but the Cavs could not spoil the Garden party, as the Celtics enjoyed their championship memories for the last time before embarking on a quest for back-to-back trophies.

Bulls 108-95 Bucks (boxscore)

Greg Oden was not the only #1 pick stepping out for his debut performance tonight. That treat also belonged to Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, a Chicago native, who had flashes of brilliance during the victory with 11 points, 9 assists and 4 turnovers.

The big question with the Bulls has been how new coach Vinny Del Negro was going to split playing time, particularly in the crowded backcourt. Part of that problem was answered with a recent injury to Larry Hughes. However he started Rose (32 minutes) and athletic Thabo Sefolosha (11) at the guards and brought long-time running mates Kirk Hinrich (26) and Ben Gordon (26) off the bench.

Tyrus Thomas showed some of the promise expected of him with 15 and 10 for a solid double-double, whilst Luol Deng's 21 points led the team's scoring as the Bulls were ahead at every quarter break.

Michael Redd put up 30 points for the Bucks, who are integrating Richard Jefferson (15 points) into the lineup as well as Luke Ridnour at the point, following the departure of Mo Williams. Andrew Bogut played 25 minutes for 9 points and 7 rebounds, despite recent injury concerns.

Lakers 96-76 Blazers (boxscore)

As has been mentioned both on this site and on various others such as Blazers Edge and the Oregonian ad nauseum, these Blazers have been overhyped all offseason long. It's not that this team doesn't have a tonne of potential and it's not that they won't perform well this season and great in the long-term. The thing is, they are just not ready yet.

They are not ready for a Kobe Bryant-driven Lakers team that came so close to a title last season and have since re-loaded with Andrew Bynum (who was unavailable during the playoff run). They are not ready to blow teams away. They are not ready to harness the power and skill of Greg Oden just yet.

Oden has shown many things in the short time he has been on a basketball court. He has shown that he has amazing brute strength and an inordinate amount of skill to go along with that. He has also shown that he is yet to combine that all into one package and this gets him into foul trouble. This was the case early on in this match, as the TNT crew were forced to re-direct their Oden-Cam to Travis Outlaw -- the only Blazers starter who was providing any semblance of a game.

The big rookie did manage to block Bynum early on, in what was always a much-anticipated matchup. He also snared a few rebounds. However the cogs were not turning for the Blazers as they got significantly behind early against a smooth-running Lakers team. It was not until Rudy Fernandez came off the bench that the Portland coaching staff saw some scoring punch on the court. Both Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge failed to impress, shooting horribly from the field in what can only be described as opening night jitters.

The thing that has to be remembered is, this is a Portland team that is integrating four key rookies into an already young squad in an attempt to improve upon a .500 record from last season, playing against a seasoned Lakers squad that can argue itself to be the best team in the league. Anyone who was drinking from the media bandwagon Kool-Aid that said the Blazers were going to come out and surprise the LakeShow were kidding themselves. To suggest the Blazers may do it by the end of the season is another story, but now? No way.

As a Portland fan, this game was difficult to watch. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't see the potential of the team unfolding before our eyes, it's just that it is always hard to watch a game where your team is clearly not in a position to challenge for the victory.

It has almost become a cliché with this Blazers team that injuries are rife. Well, Oden even managed to injure his right foot in this game (according to Yahoo! Sports), limiting him to 12 minutes of action. The extent of the injury is not known at this stage. Let's not go any further into that for the time being.

Outlaw managed 18 points for the Blazers, followed by Fernandez with 16. Joel Przybilla proved his workmanlike self, with 11 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench.

For the home side, Pau Gasol scored 15 points (most of them early on), whilst Kobe went for 23 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 turnovers in what was a sloppy game. Trevor Ariza proved why he has been in consideration for a starting role, with 11 points in 24 minutes. The "other" big fella, Bynum, finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 3 blocks in 27 minutes.

The Lakers cruised through this game but surely have plenty of things to fine tune, as tonight's oppposition was clearly not on the top of their game. Portland will be looking to get the "Big Three" combination of Oden-Roy-Aldridge better acquainted as the season goes on and will be crossing their fingers that Oden does not have any lasting injury.

Get a stern warning by email in your inbox!!

NBA Blogger 2008/09 Season Previews - Southeast Division

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

The season previews, as organised by Jeff at Celtics Blog, keep on comin' at ya!

atl.gif cha.gif mia.gif orl_medium.gifwas.gif

Atlanta Hawks
Matt McHale: Basketbawful
Hoopinion: Peachtree Hoops

Charlotte Bobcats
BrettL: Queen City Hoops
Ziggy: BobcatsPlanet

Miami Heat
Darren Heitner: SportsAgentBlog.com
Gregory Broome: The Peninsula is Mightier

Orlando Magic
Ben: Third Quarter Collapse

Washington Wizards
Rashad: Hoops Addict
HoopsAvenue: HoopsAvenue
Mike Prada: Bullets Forever
Truth: Truth About It Dot Net

Also see links to all the previews at CelticsBlog.com

Get a stern warning by email in your inbox!!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Where does Boobie fit in Cleveland?

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

Boobie Gibson

Daniel Boobie Gibson has more certainty than ever in his career as a Cleveland Cavalier, and less certainty at the same time.

In July at the conclusion of the Cavs' season, Boobie signed a five year, $21m deal to tie him to the team as LeBron James' most promising sidekick. Clearly this was an investment in the young guard's future by the Cavs and an indication of their confidence in him.

Of course, the focus in Cleveland ever since King James came along has been on finding the suitable supporting cast for the star, to put the Cavs over the top, in much the same way as the Bulls did with MJ once upon a time. On that basis, the arrival of Mo Williams in Ohio later in the offseason was much welcomed by fans.

Williams is a great scoring guard, though always presents the problem of being a bit of a tweener -- a shooting guard in a point guard's body. A description that somewhat the same as Boobie.

Gibson has spent this offseason building muscle and confidence to his game. He likes the Cavs' chances along with those of his own. "We have the guards. We have the shooters. We have the defenders. We have LeBron James. We have everything we need to get to where we want to be at the end of the season," Gibson said. "It's just a matter of us getting out there and putting in the effort."

However, the signing of Williams surely brings the question as to how this will affect Boobie's playing time and share of the ball. Clearly Gibson was not ready to take over a team and run the offence and is much better as a spot-up shooter and secondary scorer. But the arrival of Williams, combined with Delonte West, Alexsander Pavlovic and Wally Szczerbiak in the backcourt makes for a battle for minutes. Cavs coach Mike Brown potentially has some tough decisions on his hands as the season progresses.

What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Get a stern warning by email in your inbox!!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Battle of the Bloggers Fantasy NBA : Ready to explode!

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

Battle of the Bloggers Fantasy NBA

How is that finger of B-Diddy's?

That is the question that the ...a stern warning fantasy hoops team is riding on this season. A little while back I made mention that we were going to get a gang of like-minded bloggers together to battle out a fiercely contested Fantasy NBA crown this season. Little did I know that the entourage of budding Kevin Pritchards we would assemble would be such a prestigous gang of bloggers with serious fantasy hoops credentials.

Rather than list all of those fine bloggers immediately, let's have a look at how the Battle of the Bloggers is shaping up and inadvertantly we'll get around to discussing the prospects of all of the teams and their managers. I should mention that already trash talking has begun in this league, with many a season of fantasy sports under the belts of this group. There is no shortage of cockiness here.

Who has given up on Free Throw Percentage already?

That would have to be Ryan McNeill of Hoops Addict, who has managed to draft Dwight Howard (.590), Tyson Chandler (.593) and Tracy McGrady (.684). Really Ryan should just go out and get himself Shaq now to top it all off. If he stays with those guys, the season is over in that category. Then again, it's not always a bad strategy to admit defeat in one category if you know you can bolster others in the process. The other area that Ryan might need to boost a little is in the three point shooting department, where he does not have one player that managed to break the 100 mark for the season during 2007/08. That could all change of course if Dwyane Wade has added an outside stroke in the off-season and if T-Mac has a healthy year. We shall see...

Injuries... it's all part of the fun!

Scott of Waiting For Next Year will be waiting for January, as that is the date set for the return of Gilbert Arenas, who may well give the WFNY squad a boost in the home stretch to the playoffs. That is not to say that Scott will struggle in the interim. He has put together one of the most well-rounded squads in my opinion, with coverage across the board of categories. One concern for the team though: there are a few players who definitely will not be able to wait for next year, as their production continues to drop. Having Jason Kidd, Allen Iverson, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and to a lesser extent Kevin Garnett on the team may hurt from this perspective. On the other hand, he has one of my favourite fantasy (and real life) players in José Calderón, so I instantly like his squad.

The ...a stern warning squad is one that I'm already happy with, although I do have my reservations. Baron Davis is a constant injury risk and he already has a finger situation worth keeping an eye on. Jermaine O'Neal and Nene Hilario are both coming off injuries (with Nene's being particularly wince-inducing for all of the males in the room) and thus are slightly unknown quantities, however they form a large percentage of my big man ranks. There are plenty of shooters in the squad, so three pointers should not be of concern. Davis, Jason Richardson, Andre Iguodala, Michael Redd and Leandro Barbosa all hit at least 100 treys last year, so I felt comfortable in making the season's first trade in sending Jamal Crawford off in exchange for the rebounding and shot-blocking prowess of Canadian team exile Samuel Dalembert. He'll team up nicely with German defector Chris Kaman inside for my squad. Meanwhile, I'm very happy with having Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince on the wings -- in particular I expect this to be a big season for Prince with increases in several categories, especially threes and points.

Veteran savvy

Dennis Velasco of About.com's Pro Basketball site has been playing fantasy hoops since before you were conceived in the back of your parents' car. He has all of the tricks and knowledge and I have to quietly say that this scares me a little. On that basis, I second-guessed myself four times upon making the Crawford-Dalembert swap with him. The trade certainly benefits both teams in terms of needs, however there is plenty of change at play in the respective teams that those guys play for. Crawford has just inherited a coach in Mike D'Antoni who will up the tempo and has already stated that he expects the Knicks guard to thrive in, however his recent performances have been uninspiring. Meanwhile Dalembert has one Elton Brand coming in to eat up his paint in Philadelphia. Despite this, the big man has already said that he expects Brand's arrival to merely free him up and allow him to grab even more offensive rebounds. Oh, how I hope this is true. Dennis's Bout It Bout It squad has also snared my man Brandon Roy, who will no doubt continue to rise this season; as will Kevin Durant. Rashard Lewis and Amare Stoudemire are two of the studs of FNBA and Marcus Camby, when healthy is unrivalled in the big man categories.

Meanwhile, after following Nels' Give Me The Rock site for some time, I know that this guy certainly knows his rotisserie from his VGM and his head-to-head from his keeper leagues. If you're a fantasy geek, you'll realise that those comparisons don't even make sense, but I just wanted to throw them all into one sentence anyway. In short, I know that GiveMeTheRockettes will be a competitive side this season. Turnovers may well be an issue to look out for, but having LeBron James on board instantly makes you a dangerous team. There are some unknowns here though. When will Manu Ginobili return from injury and will he be ready to contribute immediately? What will Greg Oden bring to the table? Grant Hill: is he going to decline further? Corey Maggette in Warriors colours is a great thing for any fantasy owner though, and Joe Johnson always contributes well. This team will be a contender.

Best team name award

There are two great contenders here for best team name. The first is The Ollie McClellans, owned by good friend Ethan of NESW Sports. McClellan of course, was the inspirational manager in the all-time great basketball movie Hoosiers. Ethan has put together a fearsome backcourt of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant -- devastating either on the fantasy court or a real one. His team is stacked in the forwards department with Antawn Jamison, LaMarcus Aldridge (look out for him this season!), Pau Gasol, Rasheed Wallace and potential rookie of the year, Michael Beasley. Add Brad Miller and Ben Gordon into that mix and you have the makings of a great squad.

What are the odds of the other entrant into the best team name stakes having the name "Ollie" in it? Well, you guessed it, it does. Kev Ollie's Mustache is a fantastic name, coming at you from Zach of TalkHoops.net. The big weakness I see for this squad is in the assists department, but outside of that, a well-rounded team is taking shape. TJ Ford is the only point guard in the locker room. Perhaps Kevin Ollie himself will need to be given a call-up. There are some quality big men in Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Andrew Bogut, Al Harrington and Andrei Kirilenko, so rebounding will not be an issue. Paul Pierce and Danny Granger will take care of many of the other categories.

Small ball?

Erik over at Points In The Paint has his hands full with a few high profile fantasy leagues, so here is hoping that this means I'll snare a free agent from his grasps whilst he's not looking! Then again, all of that practice certainly helps. He has already had one spot of bad luck, with Deron Williams going down with injury, however that should only be a short setback. Erik has gone the small ball route, which may cause him to struggle in the big man cats like rebounds and blocks. Having Kevin Martin, Shawn Marion, Rudy Gay, Mike Miller, Mehmet Okur and Mo Williams on his team will make him dangerous nonetheless. OJ Mayo is the biggest question mark on the squad.

The opposite of small ball...

Zorgon of the OKC NBA blog, known as Blue Blitz, is packing heat in the big man department. What other way do you describe a squad that contains Yao Ming, Andrew Bynum, Andris Biedrins, Dirk Nowitzki and Emeka Okafor? "Zorgon and Erik, I see your future... it involves a trade..." Zorgon also boasts Chauncey Billups and little-big-men Richard Jefferson and Hedo Turkoglu. All I can say is, wow. We are going to struggle when it comes to matching Blue Blitz in rebounds and blocks. A solid squad.

Last but definitely not least

The Suicidal Penguins represent the Utah Jazz blog and they are definitely to be feared. Pick a category, it's covered. You want assists? Chris Paul and Andre Miller have got you. Blocks? Josh Smith and Kenyon Martin. Carlos Boozer, Al Horford and Kevin Love will mop up the boards. Ray Allen will nail the treys. Ron Artest and Ronnie Brewer will steal everything in sight.

After reviewing all of these teams, I am more confused than ever as to how this season will pan out. That is what makes it so exciting. I'm quietly confident that my team will represent ...a stern warning proudly. But as any fantasy fan knows, it only takes one injury to put a season on ice. I present to you the fantasy squad that I hope will take out the prestigous first annual Battle of the Bloggers:

Baron Davis (PG)

Jason Richardson (SG, SF)

Andre Iguodala (SG, SF)

Caron Butler (SF)

Jermaine O'Neal (PF, C)

Michael Redd (SG, SF)

Chris Kaman (C)

Leandro Barbosa (PG, SG)

Samuel Dalembert (C)

Tayshaun Prince (SF)

Nene Hilario (PF, C)

Good luck to all competing. Updates will continue as the season tips off.

Get a stern warning by email in your inbox!!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

NBA 2008/09 Blogger Previews - Northwest Division

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

The next instalment is here... the all important Northwest Division, starring your Portland Trail Blazers.

den.gif min.gif por.gif uth.gif

Denver Nuggets

Jeremy: Pickaxe and Roll

Nick Sclafani: The Nugg Doctor

Minnesota Timberwolves

Derek Hanson & Staff: TWolves Blog

Andrew Thell: Empty the Bench

wyn: Canis Hoopus

Oklahoma City

xphoenix87: BallerBlogger

Zorgon: Blue Blitz

Royce: The Thunderworld  

Portland Trail Blazers

Mookie: ...a stern warning

Benjamin Golliver: Blazers Edge

Coup and SJ: Rip City Project

Utah Jazz

UtesFan89: The Utah Jazz

Basketball John: SLC Dunk

Also see links to all the previews at CelticsBlog.com

Get a stern warning by email in your inbox!!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

NBA Blogger Previews : Portland Trail (no longer Jail) Blazers

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

Jeff at CelticsBlog has once again mobilized the network of NBA bloggers to produce previews of all 30 NBA teams this season. Here is the ...a stern warning take on the Blazers this season.

Team Name: Portland Trail Blazers

Record Last Year:
41-41 (.500)

Key Losses: James Jones (Miami Heat - free agent), Jarrett Jack (Indiana Pacers - trade), Josh McRoberts (Indiana Pacers – trade)

Key Additions: Rudy Fernandez (rookie), Greg Oden (rookie), Jerryd Bayless (rookie), Nicolas Batum (rookie), Ike Diogu (Indiana Pacers – trade)

1. What significant moves were made during the offseason?

This offseason was not about making moves, it was about capitalizing on moves already made. The biggest transactions for the Blazers that come into effect this year, actually happened in the Summer of 2007. That was the draft that netted Portland both Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez. The potential of Oden has been a topic of both excitement and curiosity for a long time now and the fact that the NBA had to wait another year to see him in action only adds to the anticipation. Not much can be said about the big man that hasn’t already been said. One thing is for sure, his size on both ends of the floor instantly changes the makeup of this team and adds an extra headache for opposing coaching staff in preparing to face this rising unit.

Fernandez wowed basketball fans worldwide at the Beijing Olympics and proved GM Kevin Pritchard’s instincts right, as he played like a seasoned veteran on the Spanish team that claimed the silver medal, falling only to Team USA. Fernandez’s dunk over Dwight Howard was a show-stopper that garnered instant highlight reel recognition and cemented his reputation as a player to watch in the NBA this coming season. Fernandez has an outside stroke which must be respected, an athletic yet wiry frame and a level of composure rarely seen in rookies. In short, Pritchard’s decision to buy the 24th pick of the 2007 draft from the Phoenix Suns was vindicated.

Pritchard has a reputation for identifying the players that he wants and then going out and doing whatever he has to do to get them. Portland fans have a massive level of respect for the man who has essentially turned the franchise around from the Jail Blazers into a team full of talent-laden, team-oriented, community-minded players (now you try to get that many hyphenated words into a sentence!). Thus fans applauded when the Blazers made a draft day trade (consummated later due to collective bargaining agreement restrictions) to acquire Arizona scoring guard Jerryd Bayless (11th pick in the draft), along with big man Ike Diogu from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for rotation point guard Jarrett Jack, bench-warmer Josh McRoberts and swingman Brandon Rush (13th pick). Many pundits had mock drafted Bayless much higher in the order of proceedings, however many surmise that his fall was a result of a attitudinal problems. Bayless’ attitude has been something of constant question since his arrival in Blazer black and red. He is somewhat of an enigma as he does not seem to be the type to joke with teammates and also seems extremely assertive for a rookie. Despite this, Blazers fans were thrilled with his Summer League play which saw an MVP performance, propelled by amazing penetration to the hoop and a procession of free throws. The big question on Bayless, which has not been positively answered yet, is can he play the point as a passer? Time will tell.

In other draft day manoeuvring, the Blazers acquired the draft rights to Nicolas Batum, a French swingman with a tonne of length and potential. Batum is one of those players who instantly has phrases like “ridiculous upside potential” and “long” attached to any description of his game. The 6’8” Batum’s wingspan is reportedly greater than 7’0” and with his defensive instincts already in place, he has the potential to be that defensive stopper that every great team needs. Upon the drafting of Batum, most thought that he would be too raw to contribute immediately and spend a lot of time in the D-League. His performance in Summer League seemed to confirm that as he looked lost on the court and his shot was not falling. However he has been a positive revelation during preseason games, showing an outside shot that will go down with increased confidence and an innate ability to get to loose balls and shutdown players. So great has the turnaround been that coach Nate McMillan has installed Batum into the starting lineup of late and the biggest surprise of the early-going may be that Batum finds himself a starter on opening night. This is largely driven by injury to incumbent starter Martell Webster and the desire to keep Travis Outlaw with the bench group to provide punch as games progress.

2. What are the team's biggest strengths?

The Blazers’ biggest strength is their team unity. The team is filled with “good character guys” and they all seemingly get on like a house on fire. This ability to enjoy each other’s company is much-desired trait around the league when it comes to playing an 82 game season plus playoffs (and there will be playoffs). The cohesiveness of the team is also important when it comes to countering one of the team’s greatest weaknesses – a multitude of talented young players at every position (not a bad problem to have by any stretch of the imagination). As coach McMillan tries to shuffle minutes throughout the season, he will be relying upon the comradery of teammates to minimize minutes-envy amongst his troops. Team leader Brandon Roy, whilst young, has a maturity beyond his years and the respect of his teammates.

Yes, the Blazers’ depth across the chart is well heralded. This squad seems to me to be one of the most micro-examined teams in a very long time in the league, as fans analyse the potential minutes and characteristics of even the 15th man on the roster (and 16th for that matter). Realistically, the Blazers have two lineups that they can go with at any time, with a couple of players to slot in as spare parts when need be. The likely starters, Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge and Oden can be subbed for the second unit without losing a great deal in momentum – this is very important as the season goes on and fatigue hits. The famed second unit, which has been gelling well in practice, includes the Spanish backcourt of Sergio Rodriguez and Fernandez along with impact scorer Outlaw, Channing Frye and Joel Przybilla. When you remember that the injured Webster is to return to this lineup, promising rookie Bayless will be expecting minutes and Ike Diogu can work well in the paint, you realise that there is a huge arsenal of talent at the team’s disposal.

The Blazers have one of the strongest supporter bases in the league. The home sell-out streak from 1977-1995 of 744 consecutive games is well-documented, curtailed only by an era where the team became a laughing stock around the league. Despite the “Jail Blazer” period, the fans remained in support of the team and have come back in droves in recent years as the squad has taken a turn for the better, culminating in the massive level of support which can be seen currently.

3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses?

Injuries. And recovery from them. However I refuse to talk about that for fear of further jinxing.

As mentioned previously, one of the biggest weaknesses for this team lies in one of their biggest strengths. It is clear that at some point of the season one player or another will grumble for greater playing time. Fans have already speculated that Outlaw wants more shots and more minutes, as a result of one feature piece on him in the Oregonian. However, the unity of the team and the tight reigns held by McMillan will be the means through which Blazers management hope that this will be as small a problem as possible.

Inexperience is always a concern in a league dominated by grizzled veterans , capable of enduring the pitfalls of one of the longest seasons in professional sports. The Blazers are led by young players with old heads on their shoulders – but despite these old heads, there will no doubt be nights where opponents get the better of Portland’s finest purely through the wiles of veteran savvy. Relative veterans Blake and Przybilla will be relied upon to keep the locker room in sync.

4. What are the goals for this team?

The Blazers do not have any illusions of grandeur in their goals for this season. The team knows that they are young and will need at least another year to bond as a unit that can even consider challenging for a title. Integrating four rookies into a squad is never an easy task, regardless of their talent levels. Last season was an unexpected surprise, as a team that was predicted to fall dismally with the loss of starting 20-10 player Zach Randolph and the season-ending injury to Oden, managed to pull to .500 with the second most exciting winning streak of the season (after that of the Houston Rockets). Thus this season the expectation is that the Blazers will do one better, move into the playoffs and whilst not looking to go all the way, will pick up the experience needed to take them where they want to go in future seasons.

Outside of winning and losing, the Blazers will be looking to see how Oden integrates with frontcourt running mate Aldridge and no doubt will be focussing on getting his offense to a level where he becomes a threat down low with more than dunks. The coaching staff will also be trying to determine where Fernandez fits in this squad – as a starter at shooting guard with Roy at small forward, or as a punch off the bench in the backcourt. Perhaps the biggest unanswered question in Blazerville is who will be the big-minute point guard by season end. Blake is clearly the tried and tested choice, who has reportedly improved his game with a strict offseason regime. Bayless’ Summer League showing turned a lot of heads but many question if he is a pure point guard and so far the answer is ‘no’. Rodriguez is my tip to surprise and garner a larger share of minutes. Already he has gotten the nod over Bayless in McMillan’s second unit and his relationship with Fernandez should do his game no limit of wonders. He has worked hard in the offseason to improve his game and by the end of 2008-09 we should know if he has a solid future with the Blazers or if he will be packing his bags.

5. Is Greg Oden the next superstar centre in this league or another Theo Ratliff?

This is a question that has been put into cryogenic freezing for a year now. When Oden was drafted in 2007, many pointed to Kevin Durant as a better option at number one. However with the current makeup of the team, it seems clear that a dominant and imposing big man is exactly what this team needs to complement the finesse of Roy and Aldridge (the other two components of Portland’s very own “Big Three”). 2007 Summer League play showed an Oden who was hamstrung by foul trouble, lack of conditioning and ultimately ended in season-ending heartbreak for Blazers fans.

Now that big Greg is back, many a fan and media hound is waiting to see the signs of the next David Robinson or Shaquille O’Neal and not merely an imposing big man who pulls down 10 boards a night and blocks a couple of shots. We’ve already seen Theo Ratliff in Blazer colours and he didn’t bring a championship our way. Whilst it seems clear that Oden will be no Ratliff – already his in-game dunks indicate that – what he will be is the biggest elephant in the closet for this team. His teammates can not stop boasting of his size and ability to dominate the key. Whether that translates to games is another question.

It is worth noting that the Blazers had the lowest number of fast break points per game last season. Fast breaks start with defense and the addition of Oden down low, with a fresh Przybilla backing him up means that many a Blazer break will be ignited from blocked shots and rebounds. When combined with the addition of Fernandez’s fast break artistry and his chemistry with Rodriguez, Portland fans are looking at a much more exciting team this season.

Predicted Record: 45-37 (first round playoff exit)

Get a stern warning by email in your inbox!!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Bynum and Farmar can read women's minds (and fight Chuck Norris)

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

What women want. Andrew Bynum knows it. Jordan Farmar knows it. Now you too can know the secret, for just 10 instalments of $39.95 + p&p.

Well, perhaps the last part isn't totally correct. However, both Bynum and Farmar said in a recent interview that they know what women are thinking and there are a lot of men out there who would too like to know the secret. Do they teach this in the NBA rookie program? Perhaps that was the study course that Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur were brushing up on?

NBA.com Lakers reporter, Mike Trudell, asked the Laker youngsters a series of "would you rather?" questions. I have to admit that I was thoroughly impressed with the answers that the two came up with for many of the questions. To the question, "would you rather be able to communicate with animals, or be able to read women's minds?" both went the animal route:

Bynum: Communicate with animals, actually. I think you already know what’s on a woman’s mind, so definitely the animals ...

Farmar: Animals. I can already read women’s minds.

They were both pretty assertive on that point.

Another question asked would they prefer to meet Chuck Norris in a cage fight or match Kimbo Slice in a street rumble. Both opted for Norris. Obviously neither of them have seen this site.

Interestingly, when given the choice of a Laker teammate to select for a 2-on-2 battle, big boy Bynum opted for his big man cohort Pau Gasol, rather than Kobe. Perhaps it was also because Bynum has asked Pau to take him to Spain to introduce him to some Hispanic ladies (another question in the interview alluded to this).

Go ahead and read it, it's a quality read. I have to admit that the reason I opened the article in the first place was one of shock. I read the headline: "Would You Rather: Andrew Bynum/Jordan Farmar" as a serious question to the reader. I mean, who in their right mind would select Jordan Farmar over Andrew Bynum (apart from an angry Kobe Bryant in a parking lot a year ago talking to some kids with a video camera)?

Get a stern warning by email in your inbox!!

Friday, 17 October 2008

The only people that need to worry about Rillie are opponents

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

A few people have been surprised by John Rillie's relatively slow start to the young NBL season and have questioned what is behind his slow down in form. I'm here to say, after watching JR play in the NBL since 1995, a return of his deadly scoring stroke could be just around the corner.

Rillie is the type of player that opposing teams base their defensive strategies around -- his ability to light up is simply that good. And that jump shot has not gone anywhere. Unless the Townsville shooting guard has had his arms transplanted in the off-season, people will have to remember that it was only in last season's quarter finals that he was lighting up the Gold Coast Blaze for 24 points on 6 treys.

Many people will point to the fact that through the first four games of 2008/09 JR is averaging 5.5ppg on 23% shooting, both well below his averages. However this is the life of a shooter. You will have a few nights where the shot is not falling, then before you know it, you're on a massive streak again. Last season up until Round 4, Rillie had four forgettable games of 4, 5, 9 and 11 points. However by mid-season he was in regular form, hitting 20+ with a slew of three-pointers more often than not during that period.

Today on his blog, JR addressed the issue, saying that he too would like to know when his form will be back. "No one is on their game 100% of the time, no matter what your job is. Like any other job for any other employee, I will face lean times. The mark of a professional is how they deal with these times and their ability to push through to the other side."

Worth noting is the unrivalled work ethic of the man:

"I believe in my day to day preparation. I believe that there would be very few, if any, other players in Australia that put in the extra time shooting that I do. And I am talking about both during the season and the off-season. I believe that like anything that someone practices over and over and over, shooting for me is like second nature.

As per a normal day I head out to our practice facility in the morning for training. After our team session has finished, I do my individual shooting practice. On any given day I will make anywhere from 100 to 250 extra baskets. This is something I have done for the duration of my career.

I do not deviate from my routine because it has served me well for so long and I believe that extra time is going to get the job done. If I start to second guess myself and deviate from the tried and tested, it is easy to become confused on what is working and what is not."

Tonight against the Wildcats, the Crocs reaped some of the benefits of JR starting to find form. They may have lost to a Perth Wildcats side newly reloaded with top-class combo-guard Luke Kendall, however Rillie did knock down three treys on his way to 11 points and did the other things which make him such a good player with 6 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals (FIBA boxscore).

"Townsville captain John Rillie threatened bring the Crocs back from the dead, launching a mini revival with eight third-quarter points, however the Wildcats held strong to lead 83-66 at the final break."

However a near triple double from Perth import Darnell Hinson (10p 11r 9a) and 17 points from forward Ben Knight were too much for the Crocs, in what was reportedly a very physical game.

Next up on the Crocs' schedule is a Round 6 encounter at home with the Sydney Spirit. Look to Rillie to fully turn the corner against his old "West Sydney Razorbacks" who have already built a bit of rivalry with him through the media this season.

And if anyone needs a reminder of a John Rillie explosion, watch this video.

NBA Blogger 2008/09 Season Previews - Central Division

A Stern Warning has a brand new site!! Click the logo or go to http://www.asternwarning.com

chi.gif cle.gif det.gif ind.gif mil.gif

Chicago Bulls

Nels: Give Me The Rock

Matt: Blog-a-Bull

Cleveland Cavaliers

Rock: Waiting For Next Year

FTS: Fear The Sword

David Friedman: 20 Second Timeout

Amar Panchmatia: Cavalier Attitude

Detroit Pistons

Brian Spencer: Empty the Bench

Natalie Sitto: Need4Sheed.com

Matt Watson: Detroit Bad Boys

Indiana Pacers

Tom: Indy Cornrows

Milwaukee Bucks

Jeramey Jannene: The Bratwurst

Frank Madden: BrewHoop

Get a stern warning by email in your inbox!!