Midterm exam: Questions facing every NBA team
By Charley Rosen
As the NBA season rounds the halfway marker, every team in the league is beset with critical questions and issues that must be addressed, and hopefully resolved, in the next three months. In addition, I couldn't help offering some suggestions.
Here's a look at the particulars:
- Can the supremely talented Josh Smith play like an All-Star on a consistent basis?
- When will Acie Law be ready to run the offense?
- This is Marvin Williams' third season in The League. Do his wildly erratic performances thus far constitute the best that can be expected from him?
- Can Al Horford ever develop into the banger that the Hawks so desperately need?
- Is Rajon Rondo a reliable enough shooter and decision-maker to withstand the pressures of the money season?
- Given that Eddie House is best used as a shooter, which of the several point guards that are expected to be bought out would fit best in the Celtics' game plan?
- How much can Glen Davis be trusted to play important minutes?
- Since Scot Pollard continues to be plagued with injuries, should a serviceable (and healthy) back-up big be procured?
- What can the Bobcats do to minimize the inadequacies of their point guards — Jeff McInnis and Raymond Felton?
- Is Emeka Okafor ever going to develop a low-post game?
- How to improve the bigs' defensive rotations?
- Since none of the bench players can create their own scoring opportunities, is it at all possible for the Bobcats to run crisper offensive sets to create good looks for Matt Carroll?
- Is it time to back up the truck? Hell, yeah!!!
- What can be had in exchange for Ben Wallace? Even a draft choice would be acceptable.
- Why not go with a three-headed center? Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Aaron Gray. After all, how much worse can these guys be than an old, misanthropic, quarrelsome not-so-big Ben?
- Does Jim Boylan have the charisma to lead this team out of the wilderness?
- Why not make a full commitment to Zydrunas Ilguaskas and run more plays through him?
- Isn't it time to get the ball to LBJ while he's on the move rather than continue to ask that he create something out of nothing from a dead-stop?
- What's wrong with trading anybody except James, Z and Anderson Varejao for a quality point guard?
- Will LBJ continue to get the benefit of superstar calls during the playoffs?
- What about hiring a hypnotist to erase the memory of last season's Golden State fiasco?
- Can anybody convince Marcus Camby that playing defense encompasses much more than just blocking shots?
- How to bring in another big man to take Nene's spot?
- Is J.R. Smith ever going to be a trustworthy player?
- Given that this roster will never be more than a second-, or even third-tier ball club, what's the next step? Trades? Off-season signing of free agents? A new coach? Or is this team good enough to keep the fans and the management happy?
Golden State Warriors
- How can these guys be motivated to play all-out all of the time?
- Is it possible to demand consistency from Rasheed Wallace?
- Why not abandon the isos, screen/rolls, and two-man games, and revert to the perpetual motion offense installed by Larry Brown? There's no shame in utilizing a game plan that was so successful in the past. And, despite the numbers he's accumulating, Rip Hamilton is languishing in the Flipster's predictable sets.
- What can be done to get more out of the bench? What about going to an up-tempo, pressing mode with them?
- Are there shots enough in a 48-minute game to keep everybody happy?
- Do Nelly and Chris Mullin really think they can contend for a championship with an offense that resembles a three-ring circus?
- Have any of Nelly's teams played above-average defense since John Killilea was his assistant in Milwaukee?
- Why are the Warriors so resistant to obtaining a pass-first point guard?
- Why not ditch T-Mac and get a real point guard, as well as a well-rounded big man to man the power-forward slot until Luis Scola is ready to start? Or else exchange T-Mac for a backcourt scorer who won't throw out his back every time he stumbles over the time-line.
- While they're at it, it's also past time to either trade Stevie Francis (a doubtful possibility) or else buy him out.
- What about getting Yao the ball while he's in motion across the lane? This will cut down on the opponents' opportunities to double-team him and also greatly reduce his turnovers.
- Will Rick Adelman eventually take the hit for this dysfunctional squad?
Los Angeles Clippers
- Will Jermaine O'Neal recover in time to be traded?
- What about finishing the house-cleaning by sending Jamaal Tinsley out of town?
- Ditto for David Harrison.
- Stocking up on draft choices would be a nice change, and a way to rebuild this team.
Los Angeles Lakers
- Wouldn't it be noble to put Sam Cassell out of his misery and either buy him out or deal him to a contender?
- Will Elton Brand return to action this season? And if he does, can the Clips finish strongly enough to provide hope for the future?
- If Donald Sterling isn't THE Donald, he (along with D. Duck) is certainly A Donald.
- Could Sterling really be considering canning Elgin Baylor? Why now, after so many years of so many inept decisions?
- Even with the eventual return of Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza, the Lakers desperately need another creative scorer.
- Is Lamar Odom ever going to find his niche in the triangle offense?
- When is Kwame Brown going to realize that his job is rebounding and playing post-defense, and that whatever offense he provides is strictly a bonus?
- When is Kobe going to stop playing for steals and go back to the awesome straight-up defense he used to play?
- Why is Phil Jackson so overly fond of Vladimir Radmanovic?
- Maybe it's me, but I don't see many signs of the Phoenix-type run-and-gun offense that Marc Iavaroni planned to install. If he's still serious about doing this, then his roster has to be shaped accordingly.
- Why, then, has Memphis been so hesitant to deal Pau Gasol?
- While they're at it, there are a couple of other guys who need a ticket out of town. Stromile Swift. Damon Stoudamire (who is supposedly about to be bought out). Darko Milicic. And Casey Jacobson.
- Why does the team still use the nickname that was appropriate in Vancouver but not in Memphis? Instead of the Grizzlies, shouldn't they be called the Presleys? Or perhaps a singular noun, like Jazz or Magic, i.e., the Memphis Elvis.
- Another MRI for Shaq. Supposedly he lives on his endorsement deals and keeps his mitts off his contractual monies. So it can't be the money, right?
- A 14-game losing streak with no relief in sight. Hmmm. And if D-Wade is playing with an aching post-surgical shoulder, why not shut him down, let him completely heal, and not endanger his future?
- And why not unload the Big Load?
- Can't anybody in Cheesetown play defense?
- Why did the Bucks think they could succeed without an authentic point guard?
- From now to the end of the season, the Bucks should outfit Yi with a padded muscle suit. Maybe that could get the bad guys to bounce off of him instead of the other way around.
- How long before McHale trades Al Jefferson back to the Celtics for a box of green jock straps?
- Why not force-feed Gerald Green starter's minutes to accelerate his learning curve? Or is he already a lost cause?
- Is McHale keeping his job only because he has photos of Glen Taylor indulging in some kind of disreputable behavior?
New Jersey Nets
New Orleans Hornets
- Rod Thorn has to make a decision. Whether to accept another dead-end .500 season or make a blockbuster trade.
- As I suggested a year ago, Carter, Kidd and/or Jefferson should be turned into young bodies and/or primo draft picks.
- As they are currently constituted, the Nets are arguably the most boring and hard-to-watch team in the league.
New York Knicks
- Why not bring Peja off the bench so his up-and-down-play won't be so critical?
- Is David West the most underrated player in the league?
- If Chris Paul were just a little stronger, he could challenge guys like Nash, Parker, D. Williams and whomever as the league's premier point guard.
- How come Byron Scott was such an ego-maniacal, long-winded coach with the Nets, and is now a candidate for Coach of the Year?
- Will Jerome James be the Knicks' savior?
- If the Knicks have to deal either Eddy Curry or Zach Randolph, the former should be designated to go — if only because the latter (even though he's much more of a pain in the butt) will at least rebound and occasionally pass.
- The Knicks are a mathematical anomaly — their total is less than the sum of their parts.
- By hook or by crook (both methods being SOP at MSG), shouldn't the Knicks get a real point guard, play Crawford at the shooting-guard slot, and bring Nate Robinson off the bench?
- And why doesn't Dippy Dolan heed the vox populi and put Zeke out of his misery?
- Will Dwight Howard wear down?
- Who will step up at the point position to lead this team?
- Could J. J. Redick's defense be that bad?
- Keith Bogans is the Magic's not-so-secret weapon.
- Why do they insist on holding on to Andre Miller? Give the guy a break and send him to a contender.
- Then let Louis Williams learn on the run.
- Does Samuel Dalembert have the ugliest jumper in captivity?
- Willie Green will turn out to be a better all-around player than Andre Iguodala.
Portland Trail Blazers
- Will Steve Nash eventually wear down?
- Will Amare Stoudemire start playing defense, stop worrying about the number of shots he gets, and finally grow up?
- Where, oh where, will Phoenix get a legit backup point?
- What's wrong with Marcus Banks?
- Could even a super-sleuth like Dick Tracy find Channing Frye's lost jumper?
- Can they keep winning with only one extremely limited power big — Joel Przybilla — and with the leansome duo of Travis Outlaw and LaMarcus Aldridge mostly manning the frontcourt?
- Why is Martell Webster getting so much playing time?
- How far can hustle, smarts and excellent coaching take this team?
San Antonio Spurs
- Have Kevin Martin, Mike Bibby and Ron Artest returned early enough for the Kings to make a serious run at the playoffs?
- Will Bibby and Artest ever learn to work and play well together?
- Or are they better off with John Salmons here and Bibby elsewhere?
- In the long run, will Reggie Theus' imperial manner help or hurt this team?
- How long before Artest self-destructs — again?
- Are these guys really coasting (relatively speaking of course)? Or are they no longer able to come up with big plays in the clutch?
- The Spurs absolutely must get into their playoff mindset now.
- Is the clock moving too quickly (and the legs too slowly) for the Spurs to repeat?
- How soon before Ime Udoka is ready to become an important player?
- Will Kevin Durant be worn to a nub by the All-Star game?
- Can P.J. Carlesimo establish some kind of equanimity among his players? Or will they remain jealous of each other's playing time?
- In the race for the best chance of winning the Numero Uno draft pick, can the Sonics catch the Wolves?
- What happens when T.J. Ford returns to action? Does he start and send Calderon to the bench? Or vice versa?
- Have the remains of Andrea Bargnani's game ever been located?
- Will the constant battling against bigger, stronger players wear down Chris Bosh?
- Why does Sam Mitchell have to call so much attention to himself?
- Is Carlos Boozer already bone-tired?
- Shouldn't the team be called the Utah Salts?
- Is Jerry Sloan having any fun?
- Can Kyle Korver save the season?
- What are the chances of Ernie Grunfeld making one of the all-time gutsy moves and trading Agent Zero? That's right, trade the loudmouth, clutchless, selfish Gilbert Arenas for a gifted big man, a playmaker, a high draft pick, and more.
- Why not?
- I mean, really?