Neal before the King? Fight for Finals MVP

Battle: LeBron tussling with Tim Duncan

Battle: LeBron tussling with Tim Duncan

Prior to the 2013 NBA Finals, many were predicting a second consecutive Championship for Miami with LeBron James again claiming MVP honours. However, the series has not gone accordingly so far with San Antonio opening up a 2-1 advantage with the next two games on their home floor and ‘King James’ is being outshone.

Ultimately, you would imagine that the Finals MVP award will go to a player on the Championship winning side (Jerry West 1969 being the only exception) and were Miami able to turn the series around, LeBron seems to be the only viable contender from the Heat given the little support he has received so far.

There are several contenders for the Spurs with the creator in Parker, the shooter in Green, the defensive stalwart in Leonard and the solid veteran in Duncan, who does everything for Gregg Popovich. He might not be making a lot of shots but his defensive presence is huge for San Antonio especially when Thiago Splitter is not on the floor. Continue reading

Is Amar’e’s injury a blessing in disguise for the Knicks?

Missing men: Amar'e Stoudemire with Carmelo Anthony

Missing men: Amar’e Stoudemire with Carmelo Anthony

The New York Knicks have announced that Amar’e Stoudemire is expected to miss between 6-8 weeks due to knee surgery but how much of a blow will this be?

Even before the announcement was made Tyson Chandler claimed there is more to the Knicks than Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire and the 2013 All-Star could be half-right with that statement in terms of form on the court.

The New York franchise made a storming start to their 2012-13 campaign with a 21-9 record through November and December before a slump in form in the new year which coincided with the return of Stoudemire.

‘STAT’ made his return on New Year’s Day and played in just 29 games before another knee problem surfaced. The 6x All-Star averaged his lowest points total (14.2) since his rookie season for Phoenix Suns without counting the 2005-06 campaign when Stoudemire featured in just three games after undergoing microfracture surgery.

That’s not to say that 30 year-old has not been playing well because the Knicks have been cautious with his return and Stoudemire has not started a game this season but still managed to post 20+ points in a game on six occasions. The days of an occasional 3-pointer seem to have gone with the adapted role and his physical presence inside has seen a shooting percentage of 57.7 from the field.

However, when it comes to the play-offs, it’s important to have efficient squad depth and this period without Amar’e could work as a benefit for the Knicks as they utilise their fringe players while JR Smith will see his role off the bench increase. The likes of Kenyon Martin, Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby will be expected to step up with an increase in their court-time.

One thing is for sure; head-coach Mike Woodson will want ‘Melo’ back playing as soon as possible because being second in the scoring charts around the likes of KD, LeBron and Kobe is no mean feat. Anthony has taken the game-high honours in 35 games so far this season which is an incredible achievement having played in a total of 50.

The Knicks do have other scoring options even without ‘Melo’ and ‘STAT’ with Smith showing his capability with a 36 point showing against OKC Thunder while Ray Felton top scored in the recent win against Utah. Chandler dominates the glass more often than not and their potency extends beyond the arc with Jason Kidd and Foot Locker 3-Point contestant Steve Novak dangers from long range.

The lead up to the play-offs will be an interesting period for New York as they jostle for position with the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern conference whilst looking to build some momentum ahead of the post-season. They are currently on course to emulate if not beat their 3rd place conference finish back in 2000 which was also the last time they progressed beyond the first round in the play-offs before falling to the Pacers in the Eastern final.

If ‘Melo’ hits the ground running on his return then the Knicks should be in a good position come the time of the play-offs with an adaptable roster all stepping up to the plate awaiting the return of Amar’e to boost their hopes for a first NBA Championship since 1973.

In the Spotlight: Tony Parker

TP9 is expected to miss the next four weeks.

TP9 is expected to miss the next four weeks.

The French international’s MVP charge has taken a hit after suffering an ankle injury.

Tony Parker is extremely important to San Antonio and it will be interesting to see how they cope with out the 5-time NBA All-Star over the next four weeks.

The 30 year-old is now in his 12th season with the Spurs but is showing no signs of declining after following up being awarded the January Player of the Month with a string of impressive performances in February . Parker averaged 26.1 points per game during the month to boost his season average to 21ppg, his best since the 2008-09 season where he finished with 22.0.

Parker doesn’t just score but he can pick a pass as well as well as anybody in the league such is the consummate ease of controlling the ball. This is evident statistically with 10+ assists in a game on FIFTEEN occasions this season to average 7.6 dimes a game (6th best in the league). The 6’2″ guard is also the all-time leader in assists for the Spurs with over 5, 000 to his name and Parker demonstrated his awareness to set up Kawhi Leonard’s game-winner against Cleveland last month.

Parker has not come close to his 55 point haul against Minnesota in 2008 but has passed 30+ points on TEN occasions so far this season. A 2012-13 best of 33 came against Indiana in November while arguably his best performance came a month later when he posted 27 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for a memorable triple-double on the road in Houston.

In his first season- back in 2001/02Parker made a bright start to his NBA career and ended the campaign averaging 9.2 ppg having been a regular starter. He became a consistent scorer and his average has stayed above 14 ever since. One blemish on the C.V of Parker was his 3-PT and free throw shooting which Coach Gregg Popovich highlighted. Improvements were made which makes Parker one of the greats as his number of attempts from long range reduced dramatically and his current FT % of 82.9 is a career-high.

San Antonio haven’t reached the NBA Finals since their last Championship victory in 2007 when Parker outshone LeBron James to claim the Finals MVP in a 4-0 cruise. The Frenchman has three NBA rings and will be desperate to add to that tally. The Spurs have the best record (46-14) in the NBA to date and will hope to maintain that in the absence of Parker over the next month before he returns from a Grade-2 left ankle sprain to lead their play-offs venture.

You can follow Tony Parker on Twitter: (@tonyparker)

In the Spotlight: Kyrie Irving

NBA Rookie to NBA All-Star in the space of a season.

At just 20 years of age, Kyrie Irving has been selected as an NBA All-Star in his second season as a pro.

Irving has now been touted as a possible starter following an injury to Rajon Rondo which will rule the Boston Celtics’ guard out for the season. Kobe Bryant was a year younger when he made his NBA All-Star debut in 1998 which shows how impressive Irving’s achievement is.

The Cavs’ guard is building his reputation as ‘Mr. Fourth Quarter’ as he continues to take the responsibility of key shots down the stretch. Most recently Irving scored 13 points of 35 in the last three minutes to inspire Cleveland to a 115-110 victory against Oklahoma.

On 10 occasions so far this season, Irving has posted 30+ points in a game including a career high night in New York when he dropped 41 on the Knicks. These notable statistics help place the young superstar in sixth position for the season’s leading scorers charts with 24ppg. Irving was forced out for three weeks with a finger injury prior to Christmas but has picked up where he left off in recent weeks.

In his first season in the NBA, Irving finished the season with a very respectable points average of 18.5 whilst providing 5.4 assists a game on average. He also earned the MVP honours in the Rising Stars Challenge in which he will compete in again in 2013. Irving‘s rookie season was marred with a broken hand which required during the summer of 2012

The #1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft was named NBA Rookie of the Year for 2012 to follow in the footsteps of reigning MVP Lebron James, who also claimed the award in 2004 when he was playing in Cleveland. Since Lebron’s high profile departure, Cleveland have yet to reach the play-offs and will do very well to stop it from being three years in a row. The Cavs had made it beyond the regular season for five straight seasons during James‘ time with the club under Mike Brown.

LBJ moved to Miami and became an NBA Champion within two years and there will be plenty of teams interested in the services of Irving should the opportunity present itself in the future. Surely it’s a case of when and not if with Irving displaying signs of being a potential MVP within five years.

You can follow Kyrie Irving on Twitter: ( @KyrieIrving )