Friday , Apr , 20 , 2007 Oly Sandor

NBA Wrap-up For April 20

Breaking down the day’s top NBA stories … Lakers versus Suns, Kobe versus Raja, the rematch. We’ve got your preview. … What’s up with the announcement that Garnett’s ‘staying’ in Minnesota. Is the Big Ticket being set-up by Wolves’ management? Weigh in … BREAKING NEWS: Oden officially declares. Get our analysis on whether he’s the next great center?…

Top 3 Stories

1) Lakers and Suns….let’s get ready to rumble
2) What’s the real deal with KG in Minnesota
3) Breaking News: Oden’s in for the draft

1) Kobe Bryant may need ‘a hug’ after the rematch against Phoenix

What happened: On Thursday, the defeated the to clinch the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs. And with the win the Lakers will face the in the first round of the post-season.

Yes, this means Kobe versus , the rematch.

Last year, the Bryant versus Bell plotline took center stage in a classic playoff series. Bryant was called a quitter by the TNT crew, while Bell established himself as a legitimate NBA player.

Phoenix came back from a 3-1 series deficit to win in seven games.

Reaction of ESPN reporter Mark Stein
on the Lakers playing the Suns:
 “Yet in spite of all of the above, just knowing Kobe will be lining up against Raja Bell makes this a must-see series for as long as it lasts. The personalities involved, as with the next series we’ll cover, are going to keep us hooked even if the Suns and Lakers aren’t going seven again.” (ESPN)

Reaction of CNN reporter Marty Burns
on Bryant matching up against Bell:
“The 6-5 guard is a terrific defender but also highly emotional. The Suns desperately need him on the court to contain Bryant, which means he can’t lose his head like he did a year ago. Offensively, Bell (right) must knock down enough open shots to keep Bryant honest defensively so he can’t cheat on Steve Nash.” (CNNSI)

My Take: The Lakers and Suns will be a great series. The Lakers are the NBA’s glamor team, while the Suns are the counter-culture team that fans love.

Of course, there’s the Bryant versus Bell match-up. These two have always hated each other-even before last year’s playoffs. But neither player can afford to get caught up in their individual match-up. Their teams need them on the floor, contributing to the overall game plan.

I see the Suns winning in six games. It won’t be as close last year, but it will still be worth watching.

2) McHale says he doesn’t want to trade Kevin Garnett

What Happened:
Kevin McHale and Randy Wittman will return as GM and coach of the . And McHale doesn’t anticipate trading , the team’s all-world, superstar forward.

This year, the Wolves posted a disappointing 30-52 record and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

Many thought McHale would be fired by ownership and the Wolves would overhaul their franchise by dealing Garnett.

But instead of rebuilding the entire team, ownership decided to stick with the status quo. They’ll try and change the players around Garnett.

Reaction of Minnesota GM Kevin McHale
on the decision to keep Garnett:
“It was a bad season, there’s no other way you can say it. It was a bad year and I did a bad job. That’s the way it is… We’re not planning on trading Kevin.”  (ESPN)

Reaction of Minnesota GM Kevin McHale on last season’s struggles:
"We have to try to put together a product on the floor that’s a lot more competitive and a lot more pleasing to watch. I mean there were times out there where I thought we were very hard to watch. You’d be watching the game and I’d be like, ‘Ugh. That’s bad."  (CNNSI)

Reaction of Minnesota Coach Randy Wittman
on the need for changes:
“We’ve got a lot of soul-searching from an individual standpoint. We should be disappointed. I’m disappointed. I think everybody in that locker room should feel disappointed."  (CNNSI)

My Take: On the surface, this looks like Glenn Taylor, the Wolves’ owner, bringing back his GM and coach. Simple enough, no need for analysis.

However, something else is going on. I really believe Taylor has already made the decision to move Garnett. But Taylor doesn’t want to take the blame or heat. So he brings back McHale to handle the Garnett situation. Now his GM, who’s already on thin ice with the fans, is on the hook.

But McHale isn’t dumb. He knows what’s going on and what’s at stake. Today’s comments were an attempt to force Garnett into requesting a trade. The Wolves essentially put the ball in KG’s court. If he wants a trade, he must publicly request it.

The cards have just been dealt in Minnesota. And all sides have their poker faces on.

3) Breaking News: Reports surface that Oden will officially declare for the draft

What Happened: Today, the speculation should finally end. ESPN has reported that a formal statement will be released, announcing Greg Oden’s intention to declare for the NBA draft.

The center is expected to be the first overall selection in the draft held on June 28th. Oden led his Ohio State Buckeyes to the NCAA finals, losing a close game to the Florida Gators.

Oden played in 32 of 39 games for the Buckeyes, posting season averages of 16 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Reaction of Hoopsvibe analyst Lance Walton on Oden’s potential:
“Greg Oden the 7’0, 260 pound center, is an amazing talent that many say has Hall of Famer Bill Russell potential. He has also been compared to David Robinson as a best case scenario, and Emeka Okafor as a worse case scenario.”  (Hoopsvibe)

 Reaction of ESPN reporter Chad Ford on Oden’s potential:
“Oden, with his quickness, length and athleticism, will be a nightmare matchup on both ends of the floor for at least 27 other teams in the NBA. The bottom line? Look at NBA history. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal have shown that dominant centers deliver championships.” (ESPN)

My Take: Everyone had an idea Oden would leave college and declare for the NBA draft. Now we know he’s in. Here’s the question: How good can Oden be?

On defense, he’s ready to dominate because of his physical gifts. I see Oden immediately stepping in and anchoring an NBA team’s defense by blocking shots and dominating the glass.

On offense, he looks a bit raw. But this can be blamed on Ohio State’s coaching staff. Too often, the Buckeyes relied on their perimeter players instead of providing Oden with regular touches, so he could establish an inside-outside game. I do think Oden has the potential to be a big-time scorer.

Come back tomorrow morning for another edition of the NBA Wrap-up, featuring Oly Sandor’s cutting-edge analysis. Got a comment or question? Use the comment box or email Oly at [email protected]