|Bilbo rocks a PBR mesh in 2006|
|Cam rocks a vintage US Olympics mesh in 2005|
Cam: the Laker defeat by the hands of the mighty Memphis Grizzlies at Staples by 19 points on Sunday 1/2/11 got me thinking: we have enough time under our belts and behind our backs and in our quivers to probably pick some sleeper teams. I’m going to enjoy these last days of the Celtics and Lakers but this is THE Nextians and we are always looking to the future (screw the past, yo). But let’s first define “sleeper”. This is a team that is either having or showing some signs of success that didn’t have success recently. This can be manifested by said team making the playoffs this year or being a team that in the Summer of 2011 (crossing my fingers that there is no lockout) will be picked as a playoff team by “experts” because of their play and improvement this season. The Thunder of last year are the best example of a sleeper that only about half the NBA nerds saw coming. This year I’d like to start with the Grizzlies. They were close to the playoffs last year and have a shot this year. They’re 15-19 right now and are 3 games out of the 8th spot. The Grizz have some great pieces and even someone from Iran (Hamed Haddadi who’s 7-2). What are your thoughts on their roster? Gimme some of your Bilbo wisdom and then we can move onto other squads while simultaneously getting all crazy with it.
Bilbo: Los Grizzlies are definitely a team on the rise. The beat down in LA was definitely a confidence boost for the group and will be a nice topic of conversation at the Gasol Family Picnic this summer in Pamplona. They are a good mix of young players (Conley, Arthur and Gasol) with a couple solid vets (Randolph, Allen) and one Gay Superstar. I could see them beating out Houston and Portland for the #8 seed this year. Of course, that would be dependant on to things. First is OJ Mayo. He’s gotta go while he still has some value. His minutes and pts are waaay down this year and he doesn’t seem to like coming off the bench. So much so that he got into a fistfight with his competition over a card game. Stay classy OJ. The second is you can never count out their GM Chris Wallace. He could pull of a ridiculous trade before the deadline that would ruin all the progress they’ve made the last couple of years. But overall, I like their chances.
Cam: I think the Gasol brothers are from Barcelona (pronounced with a lisp) but it is still hilarious imagining the two of them speaking Cantalunian Spanish to one another about their head to head matchups over the season. I think the reason why Lionel Hollins (Grizz Coach) plays OJ with the 2nd team is because their bench lacks scoring punch. So they need some pop from the bench. But it does really suck owning Mayo this year on one’s fantasy team with his reduced use. I do question Lionel actually starting Tony Allen instead of OJ once Xavier Henry went down with injury. That guy misses wide open layups and was a joke to hardcore Celtics fans. Even though their team numbers are right in the middle of the Association for Offensive and Defensive rank, I do like the Gay/Randolph/Gasol core. Conley is improving this year but he probably has too much Greg Oden stink on him (they both went to Ohio State) to be a leader of a playoff team. Darrell Arthur is a defensive stopper and its fun to watch him shut down other Shooting Guard stars. If only “We’ve Got” Thabeet and Haddadi could be a crazy 7 foot force off the bench the Grizz might win their first playoff game in franchise history. So does anyone else get you excited………as a sleeper team? Chicago and their MVP candidate and awesome moves in the offseason? Does Blake Griffin mask the stench of Donald Sterling from the franchise and motivate Eric Gordon, King Aminu, DeAndre Jordan, Chris Kaman and even Baron Davis to new heights? Or do you have a huge Knickerbocker boner and want to talk about how their team will look at the end of this season with a possible trade? Shoot, Billy. You’re wide open from the top of the key.
Bilbo: The Gasols have a summer home in Pamplona to enjoy the running of the bulls. Didn’t you know that? I’d pick the Clips as a sleeper for next season. Eric Gordon is a beast and can lead this talented team. DeAndre Jordan can be what Marcus Camby should have been if he wasn’t injured all the time. This kid is raw but is leaking potential out of his butt. They need to get Bledsoe playing the point more and slowly phase out Baron Davis, who as we know all too well, isn’t exactly a team player. I’ve been impressed with how seamlessly Blake Griffin has adjusted to playing in the Association. He really looks like a man among boys out there. But he needs to expand his game. Flashy dunks alone won’t win. Learning to pass out of double teams, refining his post moves and taking advantage of mismatches will elevate his game. Of course we can never discount the aura of losing the Clippers have enjoyed for the past 30 years. But assuming Sterling doesn’t f things up, I could see them making the playoffs next year.
Cam: Blake Griffin seems like a super hero to me. Someone with skillz so incredible that he alone can erase the Stank of Sterling from the Clippers. It could only take someone other worldly to change the direction of a franchise and there are signs that Griffin is the man to do this. A potential perennial All-Star, an amazing scoring and rebounding force, someone who can make those Los Angeles “fans” more excited to see a Clippers game than a Lakers game. He’s a player who has the ability and personality to freak our minds and change our preconceptions of not only the Clipper franchise but of the NBA. It could be true that his year off sitting in a suit obeying Czar Stern’s dress code was good for him. He got a chance to drink everything in regarding the NBA and the Clippers organization. He had time to formulate a plan and unleashed it with full force from the get-go in October 2010. At the start of the season, Blake was no “rookie”. He busted out of the gate with amazing dunks, enough for the NBA to put together a “Top 10 Blake Griffin Dunks in November” video. People smile when they see him in video clip form. Sportsdouche is scared that his wreckless abandon will get him hurt. Fans watch entire Clippers games just to suddenly be amazed at something he’ll inevitably do to the poor rim or Tim Mozgov’s head (when they play the Knicks). Blake is motivating lazy ass Baron Davis to try because the highlight reel assists are easier to rack up than ever. DeAndre Jordan is playing to his Cambian potential and looks like a legitimate quasi-star in the making. Jordan says it’s because he’s getting more run, but when he’s 50 years old and looks back at his career he’ll realize it was the Tao of Blake that pushed him to new heights. Gordon is putting up numbers with a maturity that he could only attain by using his Team USA learnings and enjoying the crap out of playing with Blake. Bledsoe the rookie is probably 1000 times more motivated from having Blake Griffin on his team than he is learning from Vinny Del Negro. Despite VDN and Sterling, the Blake Griffin Clippers are figuring it out. Despite two good veteran Clipper players in Baron Davis and Chris Kaman having loser blood coursing through their veins, this team is improving. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. Are you getting excited yet?
Bilbo: I’m so excited I won’t be able to stand up at work for a while. Wouldn’t it be incredible if in five years the Kobe’s knee has given out and he is retired while Pau is playing for Minnesota with Ricky Rubio, Odom is a full time Reality Star and the Lakers are a perennial lottery team? Meanwhile the “other” LA team is rolling out top three finishes in the West each year on the shoulders of Gordon, Griffin and Jordan. I’d love to see how Laker fans would deal with a losing team. Oops, my work boner’s back. I better settle down.
Cam: Road trip to Staples next month. You down?