Jordan Farmar posterizes KG [video]

This ought to get the Laker fans fired up about tonight’s Game 7

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The top 10 first round steals of the last 10 years

Everyone loves to focus on the lottery, but there are good players to be had in the late first round as well. A while back, I put together a list of the top second round picks of the modern era, so now I’m going to focus on those players that were drafted between pick #21 and pick #30 in the first round. (Note: If a player was drafted in the second round, even if they were taken with the #29 or #30 pick overall, they are ineligible to make the list. Sorry, Gilbert.) Since there are more star-quality players available in the 20’s, I’m limiting this list to the last ten drafts (i.e. 1999 through 2008).

It is sometimes tough to rank older players with newer players, but even if a younger player holds more trade value right now, I am going to take into account each player’s entire career. For the young guys, I have to project a little bit, so keep that in mind as you read and react. I feel great about the top eight guys, but there are a few players that missed the list that are pretty interchangeable with #9 and #10.

On with the list…

10. Aaron Brooks, Rockets
26th pick in 2007
I had to decide between Brooks and Nate Robinson here and went with Brooks given his fine performance in the playoffs this season (16.8 ppg, 3.4 apg, 42% from 3PT) and how Robinson’s numbers are a little inflated playing for Mike D’Antoni. Brooks is not a natural point guard, but his sharpshooting is a good fit given Houston’s inside-out attack. He’s small, but he’s quick and is able to score at the rim when given some daylight. The Rockets feel good enough about Brooks to trade Rafer Alston away midseason, so you have to like his upside.

9. Kendrick Perkins, Celtics
27th pick in 2003 (drafted by the Grizzlies)
In the world of “big” guys, I also considered Boris Diaw here, but it’s tough to pass on a 6’10” 24-year-old who averaged 8.5 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game on a team loaded with vets. Without Kevin Garnett in the playoffs, the C’s needed Perkins to step up his game and he responded with 11.9 points, 11.6 boards and 2.6 blocks per contest. He also did a pretty good job on Dwight Howard, who had his worst numbers of the playoffs against the Celtics.

8. David Lee, Knicks
30th pick in 2005
Isiah Thomas couldn’t make a good trade to save his life, but he could spot talent in the draft. Lee has turned out to be a steal with the last pick in the 2005 draft. He’s an athletic lefty whose best traits are his hustle and smarts. In just his fourth season, Lee averaged 16.0 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, which made him one of the most consistent double-double guys in the league. His stock is so high right now that the Knicks might be able to use him as trade bait in order to land Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire. Maybe they’d be better off sticking with Lee…

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What’s wrong with the Lakers?

Like most NBA fans (outside the greater Houston area), once the news broke that Yao Ming was going to miss the rest of the playoffs with a foot injury, I wrote off the Rockets. How could they possibly keep pace with one of the top two teams in the league without their best player?

Since the injury, the Rockets have taken two of three from the Lakers, and if Kobe and Co. were truly championship worthy, they would have gone on the road and won Game 4 or Game 6. Laker apologists will probably just say that their team will still win in Game 7 and they’ll go on to win the championship, but really, they shouldn’t be in this position in the first place. Anything can happen in a single game, and sometimes, no matter what you do, it’s just not your night. What if the Rockets collectively catch fire like they did in Game 4? What if Kobe has one of his 5-for-20 days? Or what if Pau Gasol goes down with an injury that knocks him out of the game?

By letting the Rockets get back into the series, the Lakers have no margin for error. That’s the whole point of a seven-game series — it’s designed so that poor luck and bad nights don’t send a true champion home early.

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Tuesday’s NBA action just “so-so”

There were three games last night and the best one was on NBA TV, so nobody saw it. The Cavs beat the Pistons (Cavs lead, 2-0), the Lakers beat the Jazz (Lakers lead, 2-0) and the Blazers nipped the Rockets (series tied, 1-1). Here are a few random observations about Tuesday’s action:

– It’s a bad idea by the NBA to schedule both 1/8 matchups on the same night. Moreover, TNT aired both games while the best action (Blazers/Rockets) was relegated to NBA TV. The Jazz made a game of it against the Lakers, but could never quite get over the hump. Deron Williams was outstanding (35 points, nine assists, four rebounds, four steals, two blocks), nailing six threes but turning the ball over seven times. Six Utah players scored in double figures, but when you allow the Lakers to shoot 60% from the field, you’re going to have a tough time winning. (Sorry, I just channeled Hubie Brown’s third-person shtick there for a minute.)

– Where in the world is Jordan Farmar? He played just four minutes last night, and has seen his playing time decline from 20.5 minutes per game in November to 16.1 minutes in April. Year to year, his PER has fallen off a cliff — 15.29 last season vs. 9.93 this season — and he’s being outplayed by Shannon Brown. Farmar is battling some tendinitis, but he’s looking less and less like a future starter and more and more like a career backup.

– Speaking of Brown, he has played at least 14 minutes in each of the last six games, averaging 8.0 points, 2.2 assists and 2.3 rebounds over that span. Brown is really athletic, plays pretty good defense and has an improving offensive game. Interestingly, he was originally drafted by the Cavs, so if he continues to play well, it might come back to bite Danny Ferry in the bum. Mitch Kupchak acquired Brown as part of the Vladimir Radmanovic/Adam Morrison trade a few months ago.

– After dropping Game 1, Portland was in “must-win” mode and they got a much needed victory to tie the series. Brandon Roy came up big (42 points, 7 rebounds) and LaMarcus Aldridge posted a nice game (27 points, 12 boards) after scoring just seven points in Game 1.

– The Rockets will be without Dikembe Mutombo for the remainder of the playoffs (probably forever, actually) after he suffered a knee injury.

– Greg Oden had a nice follow up dunk, but he’s a fouling machine. He had six fouls in 12 minutes. Wowsers.

– The trade that sent Rafer Alston to the Magic hasn’t hurt the Rockets at all. They also acquired Kyle Lowry from the Grizzlies and he and Aaron Brooks are providing good play at the point. The two combined for 33 points, six assist and five boards on Tuesday night.

– The Pistons cut the Cavs’ lead to eight with about four minutes to play, but a Cleveland 9-2 run put the game away. I get confused when I look at the box score and see the Pistons’ best perimeter defender — Tayshaun Prince — only played 26 minutes and wasn’t in any foul trouble. Meanwhile, LeBron goes for 29/13/6 — do you think Prince should get a little more run?

– In other news, there are reports flying that Derrick Rose will win ROY and Jason Terry will win the Sixth Man award. No surprises there.

Six Pack of Observations: Lakers/Celtics

The Lakers went into Boston and snapped the Celtics’ 12-game winning streak, 110-109, in overtime. This is the second time this season that the Lakers ended one of Boston’s long winning streaks. The Celtics had won 19 straight before losing in L.A. on Christmas Day.

Anyway, here are six observations about the game.

1. My TiVo stopped recording with three minutes remaining in OT.
This is due in no small part to my forgetfulness in canceling my season pass for “My Name Is Earl,” which just isn’t very funny anymore. I recorded “Smallville” on the other tuner, so I was only able to extend the recording for the game by a half hour. This would have worked had TNT not spent the first 15 minutes of the broadcast jibber-jabbering about this and that. If you are saying that the game starts at 8:00 PM ET, tip-off should be no later than 8:05 PM. Grrr.

2. The “Garden” was rockin’.

Aside from a grumpy Bill Belichick sitting under one of the baskets with his arms crossed, refusing to applaud, the crowd was into the game from the get-go. NBA crowds are notorious for sitting on their hands, especially during the regular season, but last night’s crowd in Boston was pumped and ready to go. They were nowhere near the bar set by the Golden State fan base a few years ago, but it’s good to hear substantial chants of “DE-FENSE” early in the ball game.

3. The game was chippy.
Kobe and Rajon Rondo got into it. KG and Lamar Odom got into it. Kendrick Perkins got into it with just about everybody. I couldn’t tell what happened with Kobe and Rondo, but it looked like Rajon was a little pissed that Kobe came in at the end of a play and knocked his hand down, so he pushed him. That garnered the finger from Kobe that you see in the picture above. The KG/Odom bit started when the ref called an offensive foul on Garnett and Odom slapped him on the butt. KG took offense and the two talked sh*t for a few moments until teammates came and broke it up.

4. Garnett’s sixth foul changed the game.
It was a ticky-tack foul and the official should have known better. This is the NBA — when a superstar has five fouls, you better make sure that if you’re going to foul him out, he better damn well deserve it. There was barely any contact, Derek Fisher flopped and the ref fell for it. And it probably changed the outcome of the game.

5. Sasha Vujacic and Jordan Farmar are probably the two most annoying players in the NBA.
If I sat down and thought about it, I could probably come up with a few others, but there is no player more annoying than Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic. He has the greasy hair held back by some sort of girly hair net and he complains about every call. There was a great sequence in the first half when the Celtics made a run where Vujacic had back-to-back turnovers that led to five points for Boston. I love watching him get pissed off as he get benched. As for Farmar, as soon as he gets into the game he starts bitching to the refs. I wish some of these younger guys would just play ball.

6. Kobe was the difference in the end.
Say what you will about the Laker supporting cast. Lamar Odom was slightly less soft than usual and Pau Gasol did his crazy homeless look every time he made a good play, but it was Kobe’s three straight bombs over Paul Pierce late in the fourth quarter that really got the Lakers back into the game. He had an opening for the first shot, but Pierce was right in his face for the last two and Kobe still managed to knock them down.

This rivalry is very much alive. All due respect to the Cavs and the Spurs, but even though I generally root against the Lakers throughout the playoffs, I’d love to see another Boston/L.A. Finals this year.

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