GREG GAMBLE’S 2008 HARDWOOD PICKS: 30-21 ATS…59%
NBA 20-12 - NCAA 7-8 - Teasers 4-1 - Church League 69-0
GREG GAMBLE’S 2008 PIGSKIN PICKS: 63-44 ATS...59%
NFL 23-19 - NCAA 20-15 - Teasers 20-10 - Lovely Ladies 69-0
PHOENIX SUNS (+1.5) @ DENVER NUGGETS
Just like the token black guy in every comedy about losing your virginity in the suburbs and the token bikini-clad Asian at Insideplays.com are fan favorites, the token little white shooters of a NBA dynasty usually live in infamy for years and years. Amazingly, the Bulls Championship Era produced two cracker snipers that parlayed staying out of His Airness’s way and knocking down wide-open Js into General Managerial gigs. In Chicago, everybody wanted and expected to see Johnny Pax rebuild the post-Jordan mess, but after years of botched drafts and a log-jammed roster of short dudes (most former lil guards fall in luv with other lil guards), the memories of Paxson’s sweet playoff jumpers are being replaced by images of Larry Hughes & Ben Gordon fighting for shots & letting their man cut backdoor.
Unlike the grace period initially lauded to Pax, Stevie Kerr took over a contending team in Valley of the Sun and was immediately responsible for getting Nash’s rapidly closing window to the Finals. And in arguable the most dramatic transition of an already dominate team in league history, Mr. Kerr displayed his massive cahones and completely changed the dynamics of the Suns. While the initial criticism of the Shaq/Matrix swap was tolerable, after the playoff exit and the fan-adored D’Antoni’s reluctance to move forward with this new plan, Kerr was on an island by his lonesome when it came to believing the Suns where better suited for a championship run.
While the Matrix is proving he was more a product of D’Antoni’s system, the rebirth of the Diesel after a slow start is the main reason Kerr’s gamble suddenly looks ingenious. But not satisfied and acknowledging another scorer on the wing could open things up even more for Nash, Amare, & Shaq, the Suns stole a legit 20-point scorer with solid defensive abilities for the unusable & expensive Boris Diaw and defensive specialist Raja Bell. While the jury on J-Rich has been mixed over the years, for the most part, the former Spartan has been stuck on some lousy teams and never had the luxury of simply playing to his strengths. Now, with a team full of superstars and a rejuvenated spirit, he’s become one of the most efficient shooting guards in the Association (18 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 47-3pt%), not to mention, is a much better defender than he’s given credit for.
Throw-in a change in defensive philosophy from head Coach Terry Porter that has finally started to mesh with his players once he loosened the reigns offensively, and suddenly, Phoenix is a realistic player to win the NBA Championship…in my drunk, humble opinion. With Shaq looking better than he has in three years (last 7 games: 23 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 bpg, 70 ft%), the scariest aspect for the opponent is they no longer can put all their frontcourt effort on stopping the Black Jesus Amare Stoudemire (22 ppg, 9 rpg, 55 fg%)…easily the most dangerous PF in the game. While Nash doesn’t have the same numbers he had when D’Antoni was around, not to mention he’s been banged-up, the addition of more scorers has enabled Stevie (15 ppg, 9 apg, 49 fg%, 44-3pt%) to conserve some energy & pick-n-choose his spots. And in reality, letting him take more jumpers instead of driving thru the lane might actually improve their overall productivity.
While the Richardson acquisition was similar to a 5-hour energy shot laced with tequila for their offense, many folks have overlooked how valuable & efficient the Grant Hill (51 fg%) Matt Barnes (39-3pt%) combo has been at small forward. With their unselfish play, the Brazilian Sixth-man Bandit too talented not to break out of his slump soon, and the underrated glass-work & energy from PF Louis Amundson off the bench (last 6 games: 20 mpg – 7 rpg), Coach Porter’s stars have the perfect compliment of role-players to keep teams honest. Overall, unless this veteran team is on a back-to-back or nicked-up, I don’t see my handsome self investing against them all year…and I have a real serious sports prediction and investment habit!
As for the Nuggets, I know I sound like a broken record, but eventually the reality of playing without Carmelo will send Karl’s Krazy Krew into a tailspin. While Chauncey is a perfect leader to keep everybody believing they can step-up their game, physically, I expect the 33 year-old’s enormous responsibilities to start to wear at his overall game. While they pulled-out a 99-97 victory over the Mavericks on Tuesday at home, Dallas was without Josh Howard and just doesn’t have much of anything down-low to exploit the Nuggets.
Tonight, I expect Nene to be in foul-trouble by the start of the second quarter because of the Diesel, while Amare should have a field day against the undersized Kenyon “I might have been able to guard the Black Jesus five years ago” Martin. And as a result, the highlight of the evening will be the extraordinary amount of minutes available for the entertaining Chris “Birdman” Anderson.
With the Western Conference absolutely loaded at the top and the Suns currently three victories behind the Nuggets, I’m guessing Stevie Nash & Co. will treat tonight like a must win. Especially if they can jump out early, look for PHX to put their foot on the gas & attempt to demoralize Denver at home. But if you’re scared J.R. Smith might get hot from long range at home (aka Young-Rich. Now that’s a creative nickname. I wonder how his Homeboys came-up with that gem.), be my guest to pass on this lock, but considering Mr. Young-Rich is dealing w/ some legal troubles and doesn’t look too focused of late (last 2 games: 4-27 FGs, 0-6 3pters)…I’m actually using that kid as another incentive to up my play! SUNS WIN BY DOUBLE-DIGITS
As for my pick of the top Bikini in the world...TOUCH ME HERE!