Sep 3, 2008

Double Standard, No?

Well, here we go again. Another NFL offseason has passed, and we have witnessed 7 more months with player arrests, shootings, and the now-standard prima donna behavior. We've had greed-motivated holdouts, domestic disputes, drug abuse, and Vegas fun gone awry. No, this offseason hasn't been much different than any other offseason in recent memory, and that's what makes it even more disturbing. Even worse is that the league still doesn't have much of a PR problem by most accounts.

Is it just me, or is there a serious double-standard in the way the public perceives the NFL versus the public perception of other professional sports? Maybe I'm imagining things, but I still feel as if the NBA is the league with the most perceived problems -- despite the undeniable fact that NFL players are making the most headlines for the wrong reasons. The NBA has been widely acclaimed the "thug" league ever since the brawl at the Palace, despite Stern's tireless efforts to clean out the cobwebs. Meanwhile, NFL players are filling court rooms and prison cells year-in and year-out and we barely bat an eye. In 2006 alone, at least 35 NFL players were arrested on various charges.

Shawn Merriman gets busted for roids, and we have already forgiven and forgotten. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are accused of taking roids (and rightfully so), and their careers will forever be tainted in the public eye. Ron Artest has been arrested, what, once? That's four times less than Chris Henry or Adam "Don't Call me PacMan" Jones, yet he is portrayed as just as big of a villain in most sports circles. NFL guys like Jones and Henry are getting second, third, fourth, even fifth chances to "change," and (many of us) are okay with it. Don't get me wrong -- it's us fans (myself included) who are waiting with open arms when these prodigal children come home. We're the ones who excuse the behavior and fill the stands chanting their names their first game back from suspension.

So why do we examine this league and its players under a different light than other sports? Is it because football is a violent sport, and we assume violence off the field is an inevitable by-product of productivity on it? Is it because we truly love the game of football more than any other sport and we're willing to turn a blind eye on its imperfections? Maybe it's a combination of both.

I know that I, for one, will be watching Week 1 intently and won't be dwelling on any of the questionable behavior we've become so accustomed to. I'll probably forget about PacMan's five arrests if he takes a punt to the house. Does this mean I don't care? Should I care?

Aug 28, 2008

College Football is Upon Us! Time for Homerism

Ahh, just minutes from kickoff of the 2008 College Football season. I can't remember a year I was more excited to watch me some pigskin. Of course, it probably has a lot to do with the fact my Oregon State Beavers are kicking off the national schedule with a trip to Palo Alto. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit nervous for the game, but I'm still optimistic they can pull one out on the road (despite the injuries). I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

I try to remain pretty objective in my posts, but my true colors can't help but bleed through when I'm talking about NCAA FB. I'm anxiously awaiting my first chance to watch Jacquizz Rogers carry the ball. If you haven't had a chance to check this guy out.... here's a video you may want to lay your eyes upon. Can you see why I'm pumped? 50 touchdowns as a junior, and 37 as a senior... in Texas nonetheless. This kid is going to be electrifying. If the Beavs even get serviceable help from the QB spot, the combination of Rogers, his older brother James, and a rejuvenated Sammie Stroughter will be too much for defenses to contain in the open field.

If you didn't click on those video links (especially the Jacquizz and Sammie vids), you are missing out.

Aug 23, 2008

USA vs. Spain - Live Game Blog

1st Quarter
  • Did Pau just flop on a jump ball?
  • Spain strikes early and looks determined to make it a closer game than the previous matchup.
  • Hmm, I'm shocked JC Navarro didn't last in the L. Most NBA teams love undersized shooting guard who can't play D. Just ask Chicago.
  • Navarro for three? Nope.
  • Who knew? Zack Efron plays point guard for Spain?
  • Efron just made Kidd look foolish. How slow is Jason Kidd?
  • Spain 21, USA 17. Coach K doesn't look happy.
  • Gasol just got hit for the first time, and missed a layup. Maybe the U.S. should be a little more physical with him?
  • This game is being played at Spain's pace. I don't like it.
  • The U.S. makes a mini-run and takes the lead. You know the U.S. is focused when they start hitting free throws.
  • Wade is EVERYWHERE. I haven't seen him play with this sort of tenacity since '06. Maybe I'll be a believer before this one's over.
  • Spain is face-guarding Wade on the three point line. Did they not get the memo about his outside shooting?
  • Most overused image of the Summer games: camera pans Lebron and Kobe chumming it up on the bench.
  • Marc Gasol is a stud. Part of me thinks he could have helped the Lakers more than Pau in the long run.
  • Tayshaun Prince sighting.
  • Where is Rudy Fernandez?
  • Did Wade just make a three?
End of 1st Quarter: USA 38, Spain 31

2nd Quarter
  • 2nd quarter begins, and we get a chance to see Rudy.
  • Kobe enters game, and abruptly drains a three.
  • Dwight Howard flagrantly fouls Pau Gasol. Gasol misses BOTH free throws. Coincidence? I think not.
  • Spain is getting a little testy -- they believe they can win this game.
  • Fernandez for three.... splash.
  • Efron beats Kidd to the basket again. Coach K?
  • Kidd gets subbed by Paul. Finally.
  • Wow, Paul delivers a perfect alley-oop from past halfcourt.
  • JC Navarro hits an impossible one-handed floater. Those are the types of plays that have "upset" written all over them.
  • Collins' sidekick just called the official a "Sting lookalike". I'm buying.
  • Lebron did his best Walter Payton impression on the fast break and gets an and one opportunity.
  • America is up 10, and the depth is taking its toll on the Spaniards. This could get ugly fast.
  • Fernandez is a good passer... I had no idea.
  • When Lebron and Wade start hitting threes, there is no way to stop this team.
  • Fernandez for three... splash.
  • Boozer still hasn't gotten in. Even Coach K knows how far he's fallen in the past 6 months.
  • Fernandez step back for three... splash.
  • Apparently the refs don't call moving screens, because Spain moves on every screen.
  • Reyes looks pretty good -- why didn't he make it in the L?
  • David Stern sighting. He must have been at the track & field events the past 4 days, because that tan is looking immaculate.
Halftime: U.S.A 69, Spain 61

Third Quarter
  • The wife just called it a night, but I'm gonna stay up for this one.
  • Spain comes out and hits a jumper to make it a 6-point game. The senior citizen quota minutes have already been met - K needs to sub Kidd.
  • The famous pump-pump-pump-lunge into defender move fails Lebron. Maybe these international refs get it.
  • Dwight Howard sighting. There is no reason Howard shouldn't get a double-double every game in this tourney.
  • Kobe gets what appears to be a three-point play, only to be called for traveling. No way that gets called in the NBA.
  • Pau makes an Olajuwon-esque jump hook. Time for the obligatory "Maul-a-Pau."
  • Replay just showed Howard cheap-shotting Pau in the face after he hit the jump hook. Maybe Dwight is a smarter player than I give him credit for.
  • Navarro with impossible one-handed floater #2.
  • Howard dunks Gasol and the ball in one motion.
  • Navarro hits impossible one-handed floater #3. Seriously?
  • David Beckham sighting. Bet the wife wishes she stayed up now.
  • With the U.S. up four, Kidd gets yanked in favor of CP3. Let's monitor the over/under with Kidd out of the game.
  • Kobe forces a three. Will the selfish tendencies resurface?
  • Kobe comes back with a tremendous assist -- so much for that theory.
  • Lebron Earl Campbell's his way to another and-one. Nevermind, I forgot he can't hit free throws.
  • Spain goes to the zone. I don't like America's current lineup against the zone.
  • Michael Redd sighting? Nope.
  • Wade is playing out of his skull.
  • I'm retracting my opinion that Paul is a top-3 player in the NBA. He's looking pretty pedestrian tonight.
  • Deron Williams with a gorgeous step back. I LOVE him in this tournament.
  • Navarro with impossible one-handed floater #4? Nope.

End of the 3rd Quarter: U.S.A 91, Spain 82.

4th Quarter
  • Deron Williams misses a sure layup. Put Kidd back in... kidding.
  • Fernandez to Gasol for the alley-oop. 5 point game.
  • Fernandez for three? Splash. This guy is going to be good in the L.
  • Coach K signals for a timeout.
  • The human momentum killer (Kobe) hits a desperation runner. I love it.
  • After a Fernandez miss, Williams hits a huge three to put the U.S. up by 7 again.
  • Howard dunks Gasol and the ball in one motion. Nine point game.
  • Fernandez for three? Nope. Fernandez for three? Yep. Is anyone guarding him?
  • Kobe with the retaliatory dagger three. Nine point game again.
  • Fernandez with the and-one throwdown. What can't this kid do on the offensive end?
  • Kobe circa 2005 fires a deep three early in the shot clock and comes up empty.
  • Dwight Howard goes to the line up by eight. I just put my hard hat on.
  • 1/2... I'll take it.
  • The U.S. can't keep the Gasol brothers off the offensive glass.
  • Pau stands in the lane for 5 seconds, Marc pushes an American to the floor, and Pau hits a jumper. Spain's within 5.
  • In the biggest play of the game, Kobe hits a three AND gets fouled. On the same play, Fernandez fouls out.
  • Who should NBC zoom in on after the biggest play of the game? David Beckham, of course.
  • Navarro with impossible one-handed floater #4. Maybe he's doing this on purpose.
  • Some guy named Jimenez hits a three to put Spain within 4.
  • Wade hits a three to put it back to 7.
  • After a Spain timeout, Kobe is jawing at JC Navarro. That's almost embarrassing.
  • Bryant with yet another game-saving shot. Is there any debate about the iciest veins in the world?
  • Zack Efron picks up a personal foul and a technical foul. Disney execs cringe after exhausting their PR budget last month on Miley Cyrus' provocative photos.
  • Kobe hits both free throws. Game over.
  • In one of the most awkward moments in sports history, Kobe pours a water bottle over Coach K's head and slaps him on the butt.
Game Final: U.S.A 118, Spain 107.

Aug 20, 2008

Bela Karolyi = Legend

I've gotta admit, my interest in the Beijing games had been dwindling ever since Phelps won #8. Outside of a few track & field events and the first half of the basketball games, I had little motivation to tune in to NBC. That all changed last night when I watched a gymnastics event. No, I'm not referring to the comedic irony of an event called "women's" gymnastics being dominated by pre-teen girls. I'm referring to the passionate broadcasting of the "Romanian Rocket", Bela Karolyi. If you don't know who I'm talking about, here's a little photo montage for your viewing pleasure (excuse the lame spin-off of Nike's early-90's ad campaign):

Bela Knows Bravado

Bela Knows Body Building

Bela Knows Bringing 'Em Up Right

Bela Knows Basement Slumber Parties

Bela Knows Beating the Odds

Bela Knows Being the Predator, not the Prey

Bela Knows Building Camaraderie

Bela Knows Body

For anyone who hasn't had the pleasure of listening to fire he brings to each Olympic broadcast, do yourself a favor and go to youtube. You won't regret it.

Aug 15, 2008

What does Brandon Roy's Injury Mean?

Deja Vu? A key cog to the Blazers' resurgence requiring microfracture surgery on his knee. In both cases (Oden & Roy), team doctors found what was an otherwise unknown problem during a "routine checkup." Is this a coincidence, or are the Blazers working out a little too hard in the offseason and not giving their bodies enough rest after the wear-and-tear of the regular season?

One thing is for certain: Brandon Roy can now be officially given the "injury-prone" label. Just two seasons into his thus far illustrious career, he has been an ongoing health problem. I don't even bother picking him up in my fantasy league because I know there is a good chance I'll be sitting on him for 20+ games/year. Even Baron Davis gave me 82 games last season...

Many fans in the Portland area were depressed to hear the news. They immediately envisioned another lottery year, and are fearing "rebuilding" mode will be in effect for yet another season. I don't think we should jump to that conclusion just yet. The silver lining on this unfortunate event is that Bayless and Fernandez will be forced into more significant roles from the get-go. I think both of these guys are going to be electric: now there is no excuse for sitting them on the pine to start the season.

I may be optimistic, but I don't think this injury is going to hurt the Blazers too much in the long run. After all, Roy will be back long before the stretch run and this roster is loaded with young talent at the guard spots. Blazer Nation, help me weigh in on this set of circumstances...

Aug 14, 2008

Unconventional = Sexy

NBA fans love to make comparisons between players present and players past. (Fill in the blank) is the next Michael, the next Magic, the next Wilt. Dwight Howard is the next Shaq and Kevin Love is the next Kevin McHale. Do you remember when Adam Morrison was the next Larry Bird? Rather than give a player a chance to define his own style, we tell him who he should play like and criticize him when he falls short (just ask Harold "Baby Jordan" Miner).

I'm not quite sure how this occurs. Do these players choose their own destinies at a young age by idolizing their predecessors? Or is it us who force the players' destinies by looking at their height, shooting touch, demeanor, or skin color and telling them who they should emulate? Maybe it's a combination of both of these factors; in most cases, at least one of these factors appears to be at play. Whatever the case, the vast majority of stars are delegated a counterpart from a past era. The comparisons begin when the player successfully reproduces sporatic glimpses, or full-length motion pictures, of memorable greatness.

As soon as we link a young player's game to a legend of past, the marginalization begins. It's not: "Wow, this is the first player who is even a close comparison to Michael Jordan." It's more like: "He's good, but he ain't Jordan." Shawn Livingston never stood a chance of living up to the "next Magic" label, even if he hadn't gotten injured. J.J. Reddick couldn't even survive Steve Kerr comparisons. We draw these parallels, parallels that are so constrictive in nature. Rather than imagining what a player could be, we limit his potential to the reality that we know, the reality that played in a past era.

Herein lies the problem with our natural tendency of comparing current players to former players. We certainly won't concede - even in our inner thoughts - that this young gun could eventually be better than the O.G. we are comparing him to. If we did, we'd be minimizing the history of our beloved sport. Consequently, we are giving the player a ceiling. We may admit that he's great, but no matter what he does, he will be the lesser version of a legend prior. Sports fans don't like ceilings, and a comparison is effectively a ceiling.

Every so often, a player comes along who defies common logic and gives us a brand of basketball that is remarkably unique. Our comparison attempts are thwarted when we can't put a finger on who this new player reminds us of. When this occurs, our excitement exceeds that which surrounds the arrival of "the next Jordan" or "the next Malone/Barkley/Dantley." Why is this? It's quite simple, actually. We think we know what the comparables can bring, because we've seen their forefathers play. As our excitement for this outlier, this uncomparable, never-before-seen phenomenon grows, we dream about what his originality will mean to the team or to the league.

There are a few modern players that come to mind when I speak of the outliers, and our responses to their arrivals have been predictably irrational:

  • Josh Smith: Before Smith, we had never seen a versatile wing player capable of leading the NBA in blocked shots. This singular factor undoubtedly points to his athleticism, but we assign it so much more. Many people call Smith the "future" of the wing positions, despite his current status as the second-best player on a sub-.500 team. Rarely do scouts, GM's, or fans point to his attitude as a cause for concern. I find that particularly interesting given his on-going feud with his head coach, questioning of team management, and place amongst the league leaders in technical fouls. Rarely do they speak of his apparent apathy for long stretches of games, his streaky (at best) jump shot, or his careless turnovers. But boy, can this guy block shots. But his prowess in that one statistical category makes him far more intriguing than, say, Rudy Gay.

  • Dirk Nowitzki: While I won't disagree about his status amongst the game's elite, I think we may have the wrong idea about his value to the Mavericks. Especially early in his career, we had never seen a 7-footer who could stroke from 30 feet. For this, we tabbed him the forefather of a movement that would forever change the NBA. We saw (and see) so much more upside to a frail, 7-footer who can stroke it than a sturdy 6'9er who can bang with the big boys. Why is that? It's quite simple: we had never seen the size/touch combo possessed by Nowitzki but we had seen a plethora of average-sized bangers. For this reason, we ignore the fragility that cost him his matchup with David West, despite the fact West would never be mentioned in the same breath as Dirk. We rarely Dirk's futility as an individual defender or his inability to get offensive position below the high post. We even make excuses for his failure to knock out an 8th seeded team of midgets in the '07 Playoffs. As fans, all of these shortcomings are overlooked the moment he lofts a feathery three-ball.

  • Yao Ming: Yao's sheer mass, combined with his ascent from a non-Basketball country, made believers of us all. He would redefine dominance, we said, and lead the Rockets to multiple titles as soon as the Shaq regime came to a close. We scoffed at the notion that Yao would be a perpetual injury risk. We still rarely mention Yao's lack of mobility that has been Houston's achilles heel in the playoffs. Even a 20-game win streak without Yao hasn't convinced us that he is a defensive liability.

Let's be clear: I'm including myself in this group of fans who loves to see the new & shiny traits of an unconventional player on display. A sweeping cartoonish move by Ginobili is far prettier than a Hardaway-esque crossover by Deron Williams, and the Warriors are much more endearing than the Spurs. I really didn't intend for this post to become a Smith or Nowitzki or Yao bashing session. In fact, I love watching all of those guys play. I'm merely making an observation about our love for players who don't conform to the classical interpretations of how to play their positions. In drafting this post, I became aware of one thing: unconventional is sexy.

Aug 11, 2008

Ole! Ole! Ole!

In case you haven't seen it already, the above photo was taken of the Spanish Olympic Basketball Team as part of an advertising campaign that ran in the Spanish newspapers. This photo is grainy, but what we have here is the Spanish team making a slant-eyed gesture as they stand over a chinese dragon symbol. This was clearly in good fun, and clearly, the Spaniards are as diplomatic as Don Imus when it comes to race relations...

Was this the best Spain's marketing department could come up with, or do we have a bigger issue here? According to this article, this wasn't the first incident of kind. In recent years, Spanish sports and cultural/racial insensitivity have been synonymous with each other. In a time when the global media machine is working harder than ever, you'd think the Spaniards would strive to appear tolerant at least.

I realize players frequently say things that are misinterpreted. This advertisement, however, was a calculated statement. It wasn't the product of an untimely interview quote by a sore loser. It wasn't a statement by one "bad apple" from an otherwise tolerant group of athletes. It was a thought-out, organized, advertising campaign that was participated in by an entire basketball team.

Maybe this type of advertising isn't viewed as offensive in Spain. Maybe (though I highly doubt it) it isn't even viewed as offensive in China. Regardless of whether some cultures shrug this off as a lame attempt at humor, others (America included) are going to be appalled when they see this ad. The Spaniards have to understand they are speaking to a bigger audience than their home fans. What makes it even more disgusting is the fact that seven of the participating players either wore an NBA jersey last season or will wear one this season. You'd think they'd know better.

Aug 10, 2008

Profit-Sharing in the NBA?

In making my daily visit to FreeDarko, I came across this tasteful morsel (FreeDarko Post). The post in reference was aimed at analyzing Lebron's interest in playing overseas and the potential impact it could have on the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). It got me contemplating the NBA and its current compensation structure and how this structure could be revamped in the near future.

The fact NBA stars Lebron, Kobe, & DWade have shown interest (regardless of their sincerity) in playing overseas has to have NBA heads talking. In an era where "Show me the Money" is a prevaling theme and stars (e.g. Lebron) are as much aspiring businessmen as they are aspiring NBA legends, this talk should come as no surprise. Sure, the Olympics are here, making the obligatory "I'd play overseas" statement en vogue. I get that. But these stars aren't idiots, or they're at least getting advice from people who aren't idiots. There is a load of untapped money & fame overseas, and basketball is quickly gaining popularity in these markets.

The Motivations of Superstars have Changed over the Years

If Josh Childress can become "the highest-paid player in Euroleague history," making ~$7M/year, what kind of money would be thrown at Lebron or Kobe? Lebron half-jokingly threw out an asking price of $50M/yr, but is that number really as ridiculous as it sounds? I'm not so sure. I am sure that there are international teams that would be willing to outbid NBA franchises, with salary cap limitations in place and all. Who's to say Lebron the businessman wouldn't take an offer of, say, $40M plus some sort of ownership stakes to play in China? If not James, how about a Lamar Odom-type player? A player like Odom could never be the face of the NBA but he could be the face of Croatian basketball or its equivalent. If a Croatian team threw $15M, profit-sharing, and endless endorsement possibilities at Odom, would he take it? I don't know if Odom would, but I'm fairly certain some players would.

Is this where international basketball is headed? In recent years, the migration of international stars to the NBA has been the trend. As interest grows overseas, who's to say the trend won't be NBA stars migrating to international leagues? While the NBA still has the premier competition, competition is no longer the primary movitator for all professional athletes. I could particularly see veterans who had reached the pinnacle of NBA fame & fortune making the move overseas. It would only take the movement of a few players (e.g. Lebron and/or Kobe) for an exodus of sorts to gain momentum.

The Chinese Love Them Some Kobe

So, assuming more players follow Childress' lead and move overseas, how would the NBA respond? If it were only a few players and none were All-Star caliber talents, Stern probably wouldn't bat an eyelash. If it were a handful of players and one or more of those players were cogs in the NBA's marketing machine, Stern would be sweating bullets. As soon as Greece, Italy, China, and Germany start flashing the dough, Stern and his cronies will have to take a hard look at the NBA's current compensation structure. This will be an absolute must-do if the NBA wants to continue to monopolize the world's best basketball talent.

In observing the Stern regime, I'm fairly certain he won't stand pat if basketball's balance of power begins to shift away from the U.S. Stern, in spite of all of his annoying tendencies, is an innovator of sorts. To date, he has embraced the globalization movement wholeheartedly -- and while you could argue that MLB had an influx of foreign players long before the NBA did, basketball is now leaps and bounds ahead of its American sports counterparts in terms of international appeal growth rate. It should be noted, however, that this was a calculated embrace. The progressive approach Stern has taken with regards to globalization has been aimed at growing the NBA's appeal (and revenue) overseas. I don't think he will be so eager to embrace the globalization of basketball if international leagues begin reaping the benefits at the expense of his NBA.

Without totally destroying the salary cap system in place, profit-sharing could be a solution. Lebron and others have already shown interest in participating in team ownership, so why not?While in the past I had been an advocate of the CBA, I'm beginning to think it may be too restrictive. The argument that players are overpaid can certainly be made, but foreign leagues (without salary caps or profit-sharing restrictions) will be able to overpay them even more. Furthermore, NBA franchises generate enormous amounts of revenue from ticket & merchandise sales. While marketing has improved and team management & coaches should be compensated for assembling & developing talented, cohesive, winning rosters it's hard to argue that the players are not primarily responsible for these revenues. Take the Cavs as an example: aside from winning the lottery and making the biggest no-brainer #1 selection ever, they have done virtually nothing to improve the franchise. In fact, they have probably been one of the worst-run franchises in the NBA in the past few years. Lebron has quite literally carried that franchise on his back. Players like Lebron transcend the game and sell merchandise, tickets, and the game's overall popularity on their own.

In any other type of American business, the compensation for Lebron-types would be more closely related to the overall success of the businesses they were employed by. They would get commissions, bonuses, and/or huge allotments of stock options. All of these forms of compensation reward the employee (or player) when their contributions positively impact the business's bottom line. Rather than adding variable (and minimal) compensation to be paid if the team makes the playoffs or wins the championship, couldn't some fraction of player compensation be tied to ticket sales, jersey sales, and overall profitability? Maybe not for all players, but at least for the players with the "franchise" label?

I realize this could get tricky really fast. Employing a profit-sharing system in the NBA would inevitably expose the league to the problems experienced by the MLB. Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago would have bigger bargaining chips for the superstars due to the relative profit potential advantages in those markets. Small-market teams like the Trailblazers wouldn't be able to rely upon good management alone to build competitive rosters. The NBA has kept its structure intact to avoid these types of disparities. To be quite honest (even as a Laker fan), I'm not sure I'd be happy if profit-sharing brought these inequities with it.

So what, if anything, should be done if NBA players start bailing to play overseas? Would the assurance of the best players remaining in the league outweigh the consequences of profit-sharing? I'm torn. If this posting hasn't thoroughly confused you, I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Aug 8, 2008

The Los Angeles Heat

It's official, the Los Angeles Clippers are heads and shoulders above every other NBA team this offseason in terms of activity. Last night, I read a headline that Jason Williams (aka White Chocolate) will be joining fellow former Miami guard Ricky Davis with the Clips.
What do these moves mean for the Clippers? Quite a bit, in my opinion.

Williams, much maligned for his flashiness, has actually developed into a pretty reliable NBA guard. Despite this supposedly flashiness, White Chocolate has presumably matured over the years. In 28mpg last season, he only averaged 1.36 turnovers -- far below his career average of 2.27 in 31mpg. Choco will be a great backup to Baron Davis, and suddenly the Clippers went from having Dan Dickau & Brevin Knight to having Davis and Williams. HUGE upgrades.

Ricky D is a high risk, high reward type of player. Nobody has ever questioned his talent, but many have questioned his work ethic. Have you forgotten Ricky's infamous attempt at a triple double by purposely missing a shot on the other team's basket so he could grab his tenth rebound? Yikes. On the other hand, this is Baron Davis' team now. He did a marvelous job of helping to keep Stephen Jackson's head on straight in GS, so why can't he do the same for Davis? Jackson is a bigger hothead, in my opinion, and Ricky's game is actually pretty similar to Stephen's. In fact, I'd argue that Stephen Jackson is almost a poor man's version of Ricky Davis. I'm betting on good chemistry between the Davis' this season in LA.

The Clips have set themselves up with a pretty solid roster. It is lined with veterans (Davis, Williams, Camby, Kaman, other Davis), but also has a few young prospects that are very talented (Thornton, Gordon). In my experience, this type of mix has "playoff berth" written all over it. I'm predicting it now: Clippers get the 7th playoff seed in a loaded west.

Aug 7, 2008

The Artest Factor

I'm calling the Ron Artest trade the most intriguing move of the offseason. It will be very interesting to see how it turns out. It all depends on whether we see Good Ron or Bad Ron...

What to expect if Good Ron shows up

By "Good Ron", I am referring to the player who came to Sacramento midway through the 2005-06 season. The Ron who told Rick Adelman (coincidence?) that he would lead the Kings to the playoffs despite their longshot hopes at the time -- and delivered. The Ron who is just plain nasty and scares opposing offenses with his maniacal defense and physicality. The Ron who is comfortable playing in the shadows of superstars.

This is a side of Artest that we haven't seen much of, but he has been trying to make believers out of all of us ever since he was dealt. I was pleasantly surprised by his reaction to Yao Ming's public statements of concern regarding his character and the Detroit brawl. He's been referring to himself as a "Yao Ming Soldier" in interviews, and went out of his way to sort things out with the Chinese giant the day after Yao's remarks went public. He even hinted at the possibility of traveling to Beijing to support Yao in the Olympics this summer.

If Good Ron emerges and remains focused throughout the season the Rockets could be scary. In my book, they'd have a chance to dethrone the other Texas teams and compete for home court advantage in the West. At worst, he would help end McGrady's oh-for in playoff series. At best, he could help T-Mac shed his reputation as a perennial choker.

Even if Yao went down via another injury, the Rockets would be a tough out in the playoffs due to their defense alone. Put Ron with all-defensive player Shane Battier and a 67-year-old Mutombo, and there would be no easy baskets. In the Finals, we saw just how much of an impact stingy defense can have.

What to Expect if Bad Ron Shows Up

By "Bad Ron", I am referring to the bipolar sideshow that has earmarked the majority of Artest's career. The Ron who flirted with retirement to pursue a hip-hop career. The Ron who leaped into the stands and duked it out with Piston fans. The Ron who has a tendency to be at the center of domestic disputes.

Ron has always said that he is "misunderstood." No argument here. The majority of basketball fans are at least somewhat sane -- of course we don't understand the psychological or behavioral oddities of a lunatic. I know for certain Yao Ming doesn't understand him.

This oft-seen side of Artest has me worried. How can I expect him to mesh with the Gentle Giant and the emotional, softspoken McGrady? I won't be surprised if this whole thing backfires in an ugly way. If Bad Ron shows up, at best they are a fringe playoff team in the West with some serious issues heading into the playoffs. At worst, Ron goes Ricky Davis and poisons any chemistry this team has built. Meaning: no playoffs & no players that want to stay around to witness the carnage.

My Prediction

I've always believed that winning is the best medicine for any individual player's problems. For this reason, I think Good Ron is going to show up. As a Laker fan, I advocated an Odom for Artest deal. The Rockets have a championship-caliber roster, and Artest knows it. Despite his numerous character flaws, he is a fierce competitor who relishes the opportunity to win. The Kings sucked, and Artest knew that, too. Despite his god-given ability, he is an immature man who relishes the opportunity to make headlines (a la Dennis Rodman).

I see Ron's situation in Houston similar to Dennis' situation in Chicago. They are (and were) at the peak of their pre-madonna status, but nobody ever questions (or questioned) the toughness they brought to the table. For the first time since playing under Chuck Daly, Rodman respected his coach. Artest has played for Adelman before, and has nothing but good things to say about him.

In closing, I think the Ron Artest deal is going to work out for the Rockets. Of course, all bets are off if they start off slowly. If so, we are in for a circus, and the West is still safe for the other contenders' taking.

Aug 6, 2008

The Never Ending Stories

In light of the Brett Favre soap opera, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect upon the 5 most overplayed, over-covered, overkilled stories that have hit sports media in the past year. Here goes...

5. Celtics vs. Lakers "Rivalry"
Did anyone else get tired of the media likening the 2008 Finals to the 80's matchups between Bird & Magic? I'll give it to ABC: the intro they played before each game was almost goosebump worthy. Aside from that, the NBA's marketing attempts were rather exhaustive.

Sorry folks, those weren't your Dad's (or Grand-dad's) Lakers or Celtics. As much as the NBA wanted its disgruntled fan base to get nostalgic, the reality is that most of these guys (aside from Kobe & Ray Allen) had no bad blood going into the series. They had barely spent any time playing with their teammates, let alone playing against their newly-constructed opponent. It had been over 20 years since the franchises had met in the Finals. I don't blame the NBA, but the whole rivalry campaign was overdone and discounted the days when the players had to wear headgear to walk away from the series in one piece.

4. Failures of the BCS System
Everyone knows (myself included) that the BCS System is flawed. Most fans want nothing more than a playoff system, but the reality is that the NCAA isn't willing to give up the dollars associated with the Bowl system in place. It's a fun topic to debate, but we might as well get used to things as they are. They won't be changing for awhile.

This year, there was a new "snub" every week it seemed. With all of the upsets, there was a different team sitting at number 3 on a near-weekly basis. #3's fans always have reasons they should be ahead of #2. #4 has reasons it should be ahead of #3. Everyone in the top 100 has reasons they should be ahead of Notre Dame. As long as the National Championship matchup is decided by popular vote, there will be gripes. It's not that I disagree with these gripes, I just get sick of listening to them on every sports show for a 3 month period.

3. Spygate
I, for one, was happy when Spygate hit the national scene. I had always harbored thoughts that Bill Bellichick was evil, this just proved it. I always believed the Pats' victory of the Rams was tainted, this just added credibility to my paranoia. It was fun watching Bellichick struggle for words and look like an idiot on national television. I have no problem admitting it.

Then the Patriots kept winning. And they kept winning by ridiculous margins. Before long, they were making the rest of the league look like a joke. It became evident by about Week 6 that the Patriots were just that much better than everyone else, whether they knew the other team's signals or not.

Nevertheless, ESPN had a weekly Spygate story and former assistant water boys were making vague, unsubstantiated claims about all of the Patriots' supposed cheating. Goodell destructed the tape evidence, and all the Patriot-haters were calling it a big conspiracy. They even went so far as to compare the Patriots' franchise to the mob, insisting that they must have bribed these "witnesses" to keep their mouths shut. There's nothing I hate worse than sports conspiracy theories, especially when they dominate my sports radio on the way to work every morning.

2. Roger Clemens' Steroid Use
Is he lying? He must be lying. But he sounds so sincere. That's how delusional sociopaths sound when they lie. Let's take this to federal court... forget all the violent criminals who are awaiting trial, we need all of America's brightest court minds on THIS case. America will not be a safe place until we know whether or not Roger Clemens lied about taking steroids. Oh, dear lord, his wife took them before her SI Swimsuit Issue shoot! Roger had to know. Roger slept with a teen country singer in 1987? This type of evidence clearly links him to steroid use!

Is the NBA regular season really that boring? Did we really need to waste four good months of sports coverage on this story? Did anyone really doubt Roger Clemens was using steroids? Did anyone really care? Boy, I sure didn't. This was without a doubt one of the most over-covered stories in the history of sports. Most baseball fans put a mental asterisk next to any record that was broken in the past ten years LONG ago, so why did I have to pain my ears with coverage on Clemens' drawn-out trial? It really goes to show how happy fans get when stars are humbled and humanized.

1. The Brett Favre Saga
Was there really any doubt about this pick? What Brett eats for lunch has the potential to be the headlining story on Sportscenter these days. Since the story is still currently in progress, I'll avoid adding to the over-coverage by leaving it at that.

Should the Sixers Re-Sign Iggy?

Rumor has it Andre Iguodala is asking for a 6-year, $75M deal. Is this too much? No way, says I. He's still young and has a great all-around game: 20pts, 5reb, 5ast, 2stl. If the Sixers don't agree to this offer, or something similar, another team will snatch him up.

Anyone who thinks this is too much money needs to examine recent history on free agent contracts. $12.5M per is his market value.

Naysayers may argue that he's not good enough to build your team around. I say he is, especially since the Sixers also have Elton Brand. Brand's signing will free Iguodala up even more going forward -- no longer does he need to be the primary, err, only scoring option. Now he can let the game come to him and put his all-around ability on display.

If the Sixers lock Iggy down, they will be good. Very good in the East. They now have a starting lineup of Miller & Iguodala in the backcourt, with a young and blossoming Thaddeus Young at SF, Brand at PF, and Dalembert at C. Only the Celtics and Pistons (and possibly the Magic) have better starting 5's in the East. The fact that they can bring microwaves Lou Williams and Willie Green, and hard-fouling rebound machine Reggie Evans off the bench could push them over the top in the JV conference. The fact they are much younger than the Celtics and Pistons makes their long-term prospects even juicier.

Philly, if you're listening: bone up and pay the man, you won't regret it.

Aug 4, 2008

Over-Coaching is Dead

I came across some interesting commentary by Jason Whitlock regarding Lute Olson and the whole Brandon Jennings situation (thanks BMac):

"Strictly from a basketball standpoint, a year in Europe will do Jennings good. No one who knows anything about basketball believes Lute Olson would teach Jennings a thing about the fundamentals of the game. I'm not taking a cheap shot at Lute to defend Jennings' decision. It's a well-known fact within basketball circles that Lute Olson is famous for rolling the ball on the court, kicking back, and enjoying the work of his recruiters. Lute Olson is not Bobby Knight."

I know Whitlock is a writer who thrives on getting people riled up ("any publicity is good publicity"), but he's a little off-point on this one.

First and foremost, it's a little odd to say that playing under the tutelage of Lute Olson wouldn't help a point guard's game. Say what you will about Lute, but his development of guards is almost unparalleled (see Bibby, Stoudamire, Arenas, Jefferson, Iguodala, Terry, etc.) -- if you measure "development" by NBA success. I sure do. Brandon Jennings (along with virtually every other blue-chip prospect) clearly hopes to excel in the NBA, so how can Whitlock say that playing for Lute would be bad for his "development?" Further, as much as frosh-to-NBA guards struggle to adjust, most international guards seem to struggle even more with the transition to the NBA (aside from Parker & Ginobili). So tell me again, why is Brandon Jennings better off playing in a second-tier international league than he would be playing at Arizona?

Whitlock's criticism of Lute's relatively hands-off approach to coaching is unfounded, as well. As I stated earlier, it is every college player's dream to excel in the NBA. Lute's players, more than almost any other coaches' players, excel in the NBA. So he's "not Bobby Knight." How many players has Bob Knight coached in the last decade that have turned out to be even mediocre pros? That's what I thought.

So he "enjoys the work of his recruiters." Clearly, the aforementioned U of A stars were all extremely talented coming into college. However, there have been countless top preps who have amounted to nothing in the NBA. Lute must be doing something to "develop" these kids. Furthermore, why do you think these McDonald's All-Americans choose to play for Lute in the first place? Because he lets them play and doesn't try to play puppeteer like Whitlock's beloved Mr. Knight.

All of this discussion brings me to my main point: over-coaching is dead. Just take a look at the coaches who are turning out the most successful pros -- besides Lute, Roy Williams, Billy Donovan, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, and the late Skip Prosser (to name a few). All of these guys employ wide-open, relatively hands-off systems. Go back a few years and you could say the same thing about Dean Smith (relative to the other coaches of his era). It's no coincidence that their players shine at the next level -- NBA teams play the same type of wide-open game. Even Phil Jackson, considered to be one of the more hands-on coaches in the league, often goes long stretches without calling timeouts just to let his players "play through it." It's also no coincidence that players of structure-crazy coaches like Knight & Ben Howland often turn out to be average pros (at best).

Let me take this argument one step further -- my above theory specifically applies to perimeter players. I still believe that big men in structured systems may have a better chance of succeeding in the NBA. This probably has a lot to do with the more structured environment that they play in (relative to guards) in the NBA. It also may have to do with the fact big men are far more likely than guards to have underdeveloped fundamentals heading into college. In other words, they are more likely to benefit from what I would call "over-coaching."

Take Duke for example, with Coach K. Duke gets some of the top prep guards AND big men every year. Coach K has an extremely structured system in place. In recent years, the best pros to come out of Duke have been Elton Brand & Carlos Boozer (both big men), while their highly-touted guards (Langdon, Jason Williams, Redick, etc.) haven't done much of anything in the NBA. On the other hand, Lute's "hands-off" system has produced great NBA perimeter players, while his big men (see Loren Woods, Channing Frye) generally don't live up to their hype in the NBA.

These conclusions make me even more convinced Kevin Love will flourish after playing in a structured system (while Arron Afflalo & Jordan Farmar will be mediocre at best). It also convinces me Derrick Rose will eventually be a star (and Joey Dorsey will be a nobody) after playing in a "hands-off" system. The only thing that scares me about this rationale is that I am practically conceding the Lopez Twins might be decent pros -- Stanford has a structured system in place...

Jul 24, 2008

Monta Ellis gets $67M

Is this a good move? I'm torn. It's not that I don't believe he's worth those kinds of dollars, it's just that I'm doubting the Warriors will utilize him properly.

I'm a huge Ellis fan, but I think the Warriors are making a mistake if they plan on building around him as a POINT GUARD. I'm hoping the W's are planning on developing newly-acquired Marcus Williams as their point man, because Ellis is not and will never be a lead guard in this league.

Ellis is a shoot-first, pass-second kind of player. I don't think he's selfish by any means -- he is merely best suited as a scorer. Playing alongside B-Diddy the last few seasons took the burden off him from a ballhandling and distributing perspective. He could finish on the fast break and slash from the wings. With Davis gone, he's probably going to spend the bulk of his minutes at the 1. Nellie is going to start him with Jackson & Maggette, and neither of those two are capable of playing the point guard.

Watch the turnovers pile up in this whirling dirvish offense next season...

Jul 10, 2008

If the NBA Started Fresh...

I got to thinking what it might look like if the NBA cleared all its rosters and had a 12-round draft to re-form the teams. I'm not going to make a 12-round mock draft -- despite what you may think, I really don't have that much time on my hands. I'll start by making my picks for spots #1 through 15 and will follow up with 16-30 in the coming days. My criteria for the top players on this list are as follows: 1) age (I want a player who isn't going to fade away in less than 5 years), 2) skill set (I want players who are versatile and can play multiple positions), 3) leadership (I want someone I can build my team around), 4) love for the game (without passion for the game, how can I expect him to improve?), and 5) marketability (the NBA is still a business, and some players are better at putting fans in the stands than others). Obviously, this list is up for criticism as it is a daunting task and I will inevitably make some questionable picks.

1. Lebron James
There isn't a young player in the game with a higher ceiling. He put up 30, 7, & 7 as a 23-year old kid last season. He can play multiple positions, and makes his teammates better. Plus, the NBA is determined to make him their poster boy for the next ten-plus seasons, so the marketing possibilities would be endless.

2. Chris Paul
Already the best point guard in the game, and still only 23 years old. Had averages of 24, 11, & 5 in his first playoffs and almost singlehandedly knocked out the defending champs.

3. Dwight Howard
Only 22 years old, and already the best true center in the game. An absolute beast who still has time to correct his obvious flaws (FT shooting, Turnovers). I gave him the nod over Kobe because he will be around much longer.

4. Kobe Bryant
The best player in the game and the most-feared player in the clutch. He's still only 29, so I'm giving him 6-7 quality years left. Like him or not, we all know he has the drive that will keep him at the top of his game for that long.

5. Deron Williams
Probably my first pick with any legitimate "shock" value. Say what you want, but he's already (at 24) the leader of a very good Utah team. Plays like a guy who's been in the league ten years. Unlike players who rely upon athleticism & quickness (although he has both), his style of play is one that will remain effective even as his legs start to wear down. Besides, he's a point guard -- and most NBA GM's are sold on point guard as the position to build your team around.

6. Amare Stoudemire
Although he's not great on the defensive end, he is a workhorse on offense. He's only 26, and has shown a great work ethic in coming back from that season-ending knee injury a few years ago. Virtually unguardable from the mid-post and will get your team plenty of easy baskets.

7. Kevin Durant
I said it a year ago, and I still believe it -- Durant should have been the first pick in last year's draft. I'm not overly concerned with his low shooting percentage as a rookie (that will improve as he learns NBA game) or his skin-and-bones frame (he only missed a few games in an 82 game season). He's already a prolific scorer, has a 7' wingspan, and made a few game-winners as a rook. He also seems to have a deep passion for the game, which makes me believe he will improve tremendously over the next few years. Oh yeah, he's 19!

8. Brandon Roy
Great all-around player going into his third year in the league. Has shown leadership at a young age and the ability to play multiple positions. Also possesses the "it" factor that results in icy cool play down the stretch of games.

9. Derrick Rose
My top 10 may be a little point guard-heavy, but as I said earlier -- that's what GM's crave. Rose went #1 this year, so who's to say he wouldn't be a top-10 pick under this draft's format? Given his age, ceiling, and unselfishness, I probably have him a little too low on this board.

10. Dwyane Wade
Despite his recent string of injuries, some GM would nab him this high. It was only two years ago that he led the Heat to the NBA Title (yes, it was Wade... not Shaq). He's still only 26 and can play the 1 or the 2. He's got a motor that won't quit and a knack for hitting the big shot.

11. Carmelo Anthony
He may be a crybaby, but there's no mistaking his love for the game. He'll continue to work at it and has the ability to drop 50 any given night. There are only a few scorers in the league more gifted than Melo, and he is improving in his rebounding, defense, and passing. If Wade goes #10, Melo goes #11.

12. Greg Oden
Oden went #1 last year, and even after the injury he would still go this high. Many heads in the league still believe he will be battling Dwight Howard for distinction of best big in the game within a few years. While I'm not going to go that far, he's a huge, athletic body -- the type of physical specimen that only comes around once every five years or so.

13. Chris Bosh
While I'm not Bosh's #1 fan, I can see why scouts would drool over this guy. He's a pretty cerebral, almost a throwback type of player who can step out and hit the 18-footer at 6'10". I take him ahead of Nowitzki and Duncan here because he's only 24 and those guys are in their thirties.

14. Josh Smith
Smith greatly improved his stock after a stellar playoff series against the NBA Champion Celtics. He makes easy plays look spectacular and spectacular plays look easy. Players who can play multiple positions flourish in today's wide open style of play, and there are few more capable of doing so than Josh Smith.

15. Al Jefferson
Yes, I took him ahead of KG. The only reason I did this is because KG is 32 and Big Al is 23. Is he in KG's league right now? Not even close. However, I'm betting my future on a player who will be around 12-15 years instead of a player who will be around 3-5 more years.

16-30: Coming in a few days

Jul 9, 2008

Baron Davis just took it in the...

After Davis opted out and signed with the Clippers, ESPN reported Brand had been asking Clippers management to pursue Davis leading up to the signing. A few days later, Brand opted out and appears to have signed with the 76ers.

I guess we'll never know how much communication occurred between Brand & Davis, but comments by Baron led me to believe that they had been talking extensively and that he expected Brand to stay in LA. That also leads me to believe one of they main reasons BD signed with LA is because he liked the prospect of playing alongside Brand (who can blame him?). Guess who was most bummed out by the news of Brand going to Philly? Mr. Davis himself, of course. If the rumors about Brand beckoning Davis to come to LA are true, it was a pretty sketchy maneuver on EB's part.

Of course, I try to be a realist. Elton Brand has always said he was better suited for the Eastern Conference's style of play (although I disagree -- but that argument's for another day). I'm not certain, but I'm guessing he has family on the East Coast given he grew up in New York. He's entering the home stretch of his career, and family/lifestyle tends to become a bigger factor for players at that stage of their careers. It's also not like Brand moved to a miserable team that was merely willing to pay him -- he went to a team with a solid, young nucleus that plays in a Conference that's easier to manuever in. I get it -- the NBA is a business and Elton Brand probably did what was best for Elton Brand.

Nonetheless, I'd feel a bit shafted if I were Baron Davis. Overnight, he went from moving to a potential contender (at least for the second round of the playoffs) to a team in the same position as the one he left behind. If the aforementioned rumored coaxing by Brand is in fact true, it would be like salt on the wounds. I suppose he'll be happy living in his hometown and being closer to the entertainment scene that he has grown to love. From a basketball standpoint, however, he's gotta be frustrated.

Will the Clippers continue in their quest for improvement by seeking the services of another solid free agent? As the pickings become "slimmer", it's hard to see them luring anyone in until the summer of 2009.

Jul 2, 2008

At the Hip: Behind the Glory of the Lopez Twins -- Week 1

There has been many a joke floating around the blogosphere regarding the potential of a Robin & Brook Lopez reality tv show. Joke no more, the voices have been heard. Oxygen Network recently announced it will be airing "At the Hip: Behind the Glory of the Lopez Twins" in one of its fall season slots, immediately preceding the second season of "Tori and Dean." Taping began during pre-draft workouts when Brook & Robin were living together in their parents' basement.

We got a glimpse of what the season will entail as Oxygen allowed us to sneak preview the pilot (week 1) episode. Here are the highlights:

The first five minutes portray the "real people" qualities that the twins possess. Robin & Brook are locked in a heated boxing match on their Nintendo WII, when Robin lands a combo that sends Brook's fighter to the mat. Brook throws his controller at Robin and accuses him of standing too close to the TV to gain an unfair advantage. Robin quickly diffuses the situation by reminding his brother that "bro, we're supposed to be BFF's." A bro-hug ensues, and Brook apologizes by telling him that he hopes they get drafted by the same team.

After a commercial break, the twins are filmed hiding in the bushes of their parents' side lawn. They are throwing water balloons at cars that drive past on the street and covering their mouths so their laughter cannot be heard. One driver screeches his car to a halt and catches the boys. Mrs. Lopez makes them take a 10 minute timeout and they reluctantly promise to clean the neighbor's car after lunch.

The twins make the most of their timeout by debating the best movie of all-time. Brook says "Cool Runnings" is his number one because he likes the "Jamaican dude's accent" and (he thinks) it was based on a true story, making it even better. Robin vehemently disagrees and says that "The Bride of Chucky" is by far the best movie of all-time. When Brook scoffs at his choice, Robin counters by saying: "you don't like BoC because you had to sleep with Mom & Dad for a week after we watched it." Brook fights back by saying "you're just jealous because I was born first." Robin yells at Brook, calling him a "prick" and Mrs. Lopez makes them spend the last 5 minutes of timeout in separate rooms.

After another commercial break, Mrs. Lopez calls the boys downstairs for Peanut Butter & Banana sandwiches, their favorite lunch. Brook asks his mom if he can have a pack of guzzlers with lunch, but Mrs. Lopez reminds him they had Frosted Flakes for breakfast -- they can only have one "sweet" per day because they are training for the NBA.

The phone rings, and Kevin McHale wants to talk to Brook. He tells him that the Timberwolves are very interested in him and want him to come work out. Brook asks if they have x-boxes in the locker room, and lights up when McHale says they do. "I bet I can beat Al Jefferson at Tony Hawk 3," boasts Brook. McHale is impressed with his confidence and schedules a workout for the following week.

The episode ends after Mrs. Lopez approaches the boys with the box of SI Swimsuit Editions that she found stashed under their bunk bed. Neither twin will fess up, and Mrs. Lopez won't believe them when they try to convince her the magazines belong to their older brother, Alex. The credits roll, and Coldplay (Robin's favorite band) plays in the background.

As expected, episode 1 didn't disappoint. Like any great reality TV show, Oxygen gives us conflict, resolution, more conflict, and a cliffhanger. It's a shame that they make the viewing public wait a whole week to see what happens next...

10 Reasons to Wear Your Letterman Jacket After High School

10. Free entrance to the homecoming football game
9. You can cut in line at any fast food restaurant without opposition
8. Adds credibility to any "when I was in high school" story
7. Guaranteed top-3 pick in any pickup game chosen by captains

6. It will have only cost you $5 per year if you wear it for forty years
5. The rising cost of movie tickets won't impact you -- you'll still qualify for the student rate
4. Your parents may forget that you should have moved out by now
3. Everyday photo ops will turn out as classy as your senior pictures
2. You'll never have to bring a printed resume to job interviews -- it's already on your back
1. Hitting on high school chicks won't look as creepy to unknowing bystanders

10 Reasons to Hate the San Antonio Spurs

10. Manu Ginobili's flopping

9. Fabricio Oberto's flopping

8. Robert Horry's flagrant fouls

7. Tim Duncan's wide-eyed, elbows cocked, basketball clenched whining after every call/no-call involving him in the post

6. The ten minutes devoted to praising how fundamentally sound Tim Duncan is in every Spurs vs. anyone broadcast

5. The five minutes devoted to reminding us how "underrated" and "overlooked" the Spurs' dynasty has been in every Spurs vs. anyone broadcast

4. Tim Duncan's oversized shirts in post-game press conferences

3. The always stretched-out neck of Tony Parker's jersey

2. Bruce Bowen

1. The Riverwalk being San Antonio's #1 tourist attraction

Honorable Mention: Jacque Vaughn's jump shot, the ugliest uniforms in pro sports, the Spurs fan who calls in to national radio shows, Tony Parker trying to rap

Jul 1, 2008

B-Dizzle to LA???!?

Not gonna lie, I'm a huge Baron Davis fan. He's definitely one of my 5 favorite players in the league right now. I've got mixed emotions about his pending departure from the Bay.

On one hand, I'm pretty sad to see him go. He personified that fun-n-gun style. He made basketball interesting in a great basketball city that had been dormant for about 10 years. To be quite honest, I don't know how Golden State is going to recover. Monta Ellis can't play the 1 full-time. Stephen Jackson might spontaneously combust on the court without Davis' (the only Warrior Jackson respected) calming presence telling him to chill out. Golden State just went from a team that could compete on any given night to a team that will be lucky to win 30 games.

On the other hand, I'm pumped to see what the new-look Clippers will be able to accomplish. If they re-sign Brand (which they probably will), we could see a starting lineup of Davis, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Brand, and Chris Kaman. That lineup could be pretty scary. It could be the right balance of veteran leadership and youth. If Dunleavy lets them loose, they could put up some big numbers next year.

Could we see an LA-LA playoff matchup next season?

Jun 29, 2008

Draft Grades -- Eastern Conference

Here are my unqualified draft grades for all the Eastern Conference teams...

Chicago: B-
Whenever you pick at #1, you inevitably end up picking who everyone else tells you to pick. It's just too big of a risk as a GM to take a shot in the dark with so many chips on the table. That said, Rose was clearly the best prospect in this draft. Hinrich was miserable last season and isn't strong enough to fit into the Bulls' "hard hat" system. Rose is strong, quick, and gets it. Their second-round pick of Sonny Weems is a bit curious... aren't they already LOADED at guard? He may not even make their active roster. I thought they should have used the pick to get a raw big man (anyone would be an upgrade to Aaron Gray as a backup) or better yet -- use it on a foreign player who could stay overseas and develop for a few years.

Miami: C
Beasley was clearly the second-best player in the draft -- so you can't really fault them for this pick. However, I think it could be problematic to have a self-proclaimed socialite living under the bright lights of Miami. They then proceeded to take another undersized power forward in the second round (Darnell Jackson), which makes less sense given the fact they already have Udonis Haslem. I can't believe they didn't use either pick to get a point guard or a center.

New York: B-
I like the Gallinari pick, as I think he will end up having a good NBA career. The Knicks have needs at virtually every position, but I would have preferred seeing them draft a point guard to ensure Marbury's tenure would be coming to a close.

Milwaukee: D
I had mixed feelings about the Jefferson trade. Yi showed some flashes in his first season in the U.S., and they used a high lottery pick on him just a year ago. Seems a little premature to be dumping him, regardless of the fact Jefferson has proven to be a 20ppg scorer in the league. If they are so high on Jefferson, why did they use both of their picks on small forwards?? I'm baffled.

Charlotte: C-
I'm starting to look like a pessimist here, but I don't get this pick, either. I'm not sold on Felton being unable to succeed as a starting NBA point guard. If they plan on sliding him to the 2, they would have the shortest backcourt in the league with Felton (6'1?) and Augustin (5'10). Curious. As much as I dislike Brook Lopez, he would have been a much more logical choice here. Okafor could have slid to the 4 and their starting lineup would have been decent by next season. I've lost all hope in Michael Jordan as a front office decision-maker.

New Jersey: A
I spoke above about how I disliked the Jefferson-Yi trade for Milwaukee. Not surprisingly, I liked the trade for NJ. It was evident that Carter and/or Jefferson would be dealt soon, and they got a promising young player in return. I think the New York area will be a much better spot for Yi from a marketing standpoint, as well. There is no question they can capitalize on that gigantic Chinese population given there are only 2 relevant Chinese players in the league. As for the draft, New Jersey got a good deal in Lopez at #10, and scored one of the most underrated prospects in the draft late in the first round (Anderson). I LOVED the CDR pick at #40. He is going to be a legitimate scorer in the NBA, and Carter is probably on his way out the door.

Indiana: C-
What is Larry Bird thinking? He has two positions filled by promising players (2 & 3) in Granger & Dunleavy. Apparently he isn't aware of this, as he traded his lottery pick for Rush, who will play 2/3 in the NBA. They will undoubtedly be loaded at the wings, but after trading O'Neal they are left with a front court of Troy Murphy & Jeff Foster. Sorry, but I don't see that being the recipe for anything better than a first round playoff exit.

Philadelphia: B+
Speights was a great pick. He is a tremendously gifted athletically and will fit in perfectly with the Sixers' raw, young, roster that loves to run the floor.

Toronto: C+
While I think Hibbert was undervalued in this draft, I don't see him fitting into their style of play. It is no secret that Colangelo likes to put together teams that run, run, run. Hibbert doesn't have the foot speed to play in that kind of system. I think he would have been a better fit for a grind it out type of team (say, Miami or San Antonio).

Washington: B
JaVale McGee was a solid pick at #18. He could have easily been a late lottery selection, so I'm happy if I'm Washington. I like his length and athleticism in the Wizards' system -- he just needs to put on a few pounds. It will only be a couple years before he is supplanting Haywood in the starting lineup.

Cleveland: C+
J.J. Hickson was a decent pickup at #19. I wish they would have dealt this pick for a decent veteran high-post scorer, but Hickson is already a better scoring option than Ben Wallace. He's got potential, time will tell if he will turn into a viable option in the NBA.

Orlando: B
Outside of the 4-spot, Orlando needed most help at the wings (as a third wing option after Lewis & Turkoglu). I think Courtney Lee has the potential to fill that void. Given Turkoglu's emergence last season, the Magic have the ability to ease Lee into the rotation. I like this pick.

Detroit: C+
With Sheed on the last legs of his career, Detroit clearly needs to find a big man. While I like Deron Washington's athleticism, they already have an athletic energy guy in Maxiell. I'm not one to question Dumars after proving to be a savvy decision-maker (see Rodney Stuckey last draft), so I won't be too critical of their 08 draft management, but I would have used my pick(s) differently. I probably would have used #29 on the potential upside of DeAndre Jordan (and not dealt him to Seattle as they did with their #29 pick, D.J. White).

Boston: B+
I liked the Giddens pick at #30 and liked the trade for Bill Walker even better. Even though they are stacked at the 2 & 3 with Pierce & Allen, Boston is aging quickly and will benefit greatly from these two young, athletic wings.

Atlanta: B
Atlanta didn't do anything on draft night, and it was the right move. The last thing they need is to get younger.

Jun 27, 2008

Draft Grades - Western Conference

Here's my take on how all the teams in the West fared on Thursday:

Minnesota: A-
McHale made no bones about his "love" for Love. There was some talk that he might take him with #3, but for the first time in his tenure as GM, McHale outsmarted someone. He managed to get Love and a perenially underrated Mike Miller. In the process, he also dumped an unhappy Marco Jaric. I think Miller will provide the perfect veteran leadership and an all-around game that any team would love to have. Love will spread the defense and give Jefferson room to operate under the basket. Picking Nikola Pekovic was smart, as well. Many scouts think he is a top-15 talent, and he probably dropped to the second round simply because he won't be coming to the U.S. for a few years. With a roster that is already loaded with young talent, it may be best in the long run that they don't have another young player on the roster next season, anyways.

Seattle: C-
I liked Bayless at #4 and thought he would have been a better fit in Seattle than Westbrook. Bayless is a much more proficient scorer and would have taken more pressure off Durant on the offensive end. Their other 5 picks were okay at best. I really expected more out of Seattle with all of the picks they had on their hands.

Memphis: B-
I thought they should have held onto Love. Instead, they dumped their second-best player (Miller) and added a fourth point guard and a shooting guard. Now Memphis could potentially be stacked at the guard spots in a few years (Conley, Mayo, Gay), but have virtually nothing underneath. I do think Mayo is going to be special, but I really thought Memphis would have targeted a big man to keep. Apparently they are happy with keeping Darko & Kwame in their rotation (if not starting). The best they can hope for in a few years with this roster is the modern day version of the 2004 New Jersey Nets (Carter, Kidd, Jefferson). Silver lining: they got Darrell Arthur, who could have easily been a lottery pick.

LA Clippers: B+
Gordon was a good pickup, although I think Bayless would have been a better pick for LA at this slot. He can play both guards, and with Maggette probably leaving, they will need help at both guard positions (they don't have a decent healthy point guard, either). Gordon won't be playing any point, but I do think he will help them tremendously in the scoring department. What bumped up their grade in my opinion was the steal of DeAndre Jordan in the second round. I still can't believe he fell so far, and with Brand and Kaman holding the fort down low, the Clippers have the ability to be patient in Jordan's development. Solid day overall.

Sacramento: D
Wow, Jason Thompson at #12? I don't think anyone saw that one coming. They do need help at the 4, but this was a major stretch in my opinion. I would have easily selected Arthur if they were looking for a 4. Patrick Ewing, Jr. probably will never amount to anything in the NBA, so the Kings best hope is that someone will fall in love with his name and make a foolish trade for him. The one silver lining for me was the pick of Singletary -- I like his game and the Kings needed help at that position. Problem is, he will probably never be a quality starter in the NBA.

Portland: A
I probably shouldn't be shocked that Pritchard stole a high-quality talent like Bayless, but I am. In the process, Portland also dumped one of its mediocre point guards in Jack and got a tough young player in Diogu. In my eyes, they got the 4th best player in the draft with the 13th pick. Oh yeah, PG is the position they needed the most help. Even better. About the only flaw I saw in the Blazers' decision-making was trading away Arthur, but the local paper up here had Pritchard singing the praises of Batum -- and I agree that he could become a solid NBA player. A point that has been somewhat overlooked is the 3 future second-round picks Portland traded for. These could be valuable assets to use as part of future multi-player deals. Best draft-day management of any team.

Golden State: D
I feel like I'm experiencing deja vu. Didn't the Warriors use lottery picks on speculative big men in each of the past 2 drafts? Now they draft Randolph, who in my opinion was the most overrated player in the entire draft. Why make that pick when they already have Biedrins and a young Brandan Wright down low? It baffles me and lets me know that Don Nelson has nothing to do with the decision-making on draft day. I would have thought they would have targeted a guard given Baron Davis' & Stephen Jackson's probable departures in the near future? So what did they do in the second round? Pick another power forward. I'm stunned.

Phoenix: C-
Brook Lopez doesn't even have the semblance of an offensive game, and he is a painful show to watch on the court. Obviously, Kerr is overcompensating for the Suns' lack of defense by trying to get a defense-only player here. I could be wrong, but it doesn't make much sense to me to shift the entire personality of a franchise that has been consistently winning 50+ games a season.

Utah: B
Kuofos was a great pick at #23. He gives them size & outside shooting ability from the Center position. He'll be able to spell an often out-of-shape Mehmet Okur in a few years. I don't know much about Tomic, but at #44 this was a very low-risk pick. Apparently the Jazz thought about taking him at #23, so the fact they were able to nab him this late was a well-calculated risk.

Houston: C
They should have kept Batum with this pick. They could have also nabbed DeAndre Jordan, who would have had time to grow playing behind Yao. Leunen was a decent pick at #54, but in my eyes is a Steve Novak clone -- whom Houston already has.

San Antonio: B
The video I saw of George Hill made him out to be a pretty solid, yet undersized combo guard. Watching the draft, they mentioned he had a 6'7 wingspan which could turn him into a good defender. I think he'll be a solid upgrade to Vaughn as Parker's backup by year 2. I really liked the pick of James Gist at #57. He was a productive player in one of CBB's best conferences (ACC) and is an athletic specimen. On an aging Spurs roster, he could be a valuable energy guy off the bench.

New Orleans: B
No players to show for this draft, which is fine given they have a young & talented roster with no gaping holes that need to be filled immediately.

Dallas: C
Dallas does need help at the guard positions, but I don't think Shon Foster is the answer. Since they didn't have a first-round pick, there wasn't much hope that a solid guard would still be available at #51, but I like Joe Crawford better.

LA Lakers: B
Joe Crawford was a pretty good pickup at #58, given the slim pickings at that stage of the draft. The Lakers could use him in a few years with Fisher near retirement and Kobe needing a sub (every once in a great while). Crawford is a hard-nosed player. As this was their only pick in the draft, that's all I've got.

Denver: C
They didn't have any picks and made no moves in this year's draft. While they are great on paper, the culture of that franchise is miserable. It could still happen, but I'd trade away one of their pre-madonna stars before the season starts to shake things up a bit. Time will tell.

Coming Soon: Draft grades for all Eastern Conference teams

Jun 25, 2008

Just for Fun

I took an art class as a college elective and decided I would draw a bunch of nba players for my final project. I forgot how much I liked doing it until last night when out of boredom I decided to pick up the pencil. As a tribute to my hometown Blazers, this is what I came up with:

I'm certainly no pro and I won't be quitting my day job any time soon, but it's fun nonetheless. Rather than loading this website with more images than it can handle, I started another blog with some of my older drawings (from that art project). If you wanna check it out, here's the link:

Jun 24, 2008

Why not send the NBA's best team to the Olympics?

Quite frankly, I'm concerned for this summer's Team U.S.A. Based upon Colangelo & Co's selections, it is quite obvious that they completely abandoned building the best "chemistry" team and instead offered invitations to the best available players, regardless of position. This is going to put our country's team into a precarious position in the International competition. We have learned three things from our recent international basketball failures: 1) to win the international game, you need shooters, 2) to win the international game, you need need to have players who can defend multiple positions (pick & roll defense) and 3) the foreign teams have better chemistry and continuity. I just don't see the 2008 U.S. roster meeting these needs.

I read a good post ( that got me thinking. Most people who are skeptical about this summer's roster have ideas about how to construct the ideal roster for international competition. Most of these skeptics have ideas about which individual players would be the perfect "pieces" for our roster. "You need a shooter, a rangy defender, a strong rebounder, a power forward who can stretch the defense", etc. More often than not, these pieces are from multiple teams. I'd like to put a new spin on a possible solution to the U.S.'s shortcomings in international basketball: put the best NBA team in the Olympics.

I'll start my argument by saying that I realize there are a few obvious problems with my proposal. The first problem is that it would be very difficult to choose the "best" team to represent our country in the games. The second problem is that most NBA rosters are loaded with international talent that couldn't compete for the U.S. Lastly, this solution could create substantial discontent amongst NBA fans who would be unwilling to support a team they were used to rooting against (e.g. Kings fans would have a hard time supporting the Lakers). For sake of argument, however, let's pretend these issues didn't exist. Just bear with me as I make my case.

As I stated in the first paragraph, foreign rosters seem to have much better chemistry and continuity than the U.S. team does. What better way to ensure chemistry/continuity than to field a team that plays together all year long? The current roster has a plethora of "star" players who are not used to sharing the spotlight. NBA teams have all year, if not several years, to learn & understand their players' roles. The successful ones have very clearly defined roles, and execute these roles beautifully. Even if the perfect balance of players was put together (from multiple teams), these players would only have a few months (or less) to get accustomed to playing with each other. This isn't enough time to build great chemistry and for players to fully understand their places on the court.

While the international playing field is leveling out, it is still extremely obvious that the best overall talent exists in the U.S. How else do you explain the fact that far more than 50% of the players in the best league in the world (NBA) are American-born? I don't doubt other countries are catching up -- and fast -- but it will take years for another country to pass the U.S. in overall basketball talent. Basketball is still a relatively young sport in most foreign societies. I have to believe that the best teams in the best league could also be the best teams in an international competition.

Rather than labor to find the perfect mix, why not send a pre-assembled, battle-tested, proven NBA squad to the Olympics? Two teams come to mind: the Pistons and the Celtics. These teams have succeeded in the NBA & have predominantly American-born rosters. They have the "shooters," the "rebounders," the "versatile defenders" and the "hustle guys" that the U.S. has lacked in recent international competitions. They know how to play together & they know how to win.

I know many people believe that my proposal would negate our talent advantage. I disagree. I've gotta believe even role players for the Celtics or Pistons would be stars overseas. Isn't Carlos Arroyo (an NBA bench warmer) always considered one of the more valuable players in international competitions? Need I say more?

Do I believe this will ever be employed by the U.S.? No way. It would be far too difficult to pick which team would represent the league without awarding the pass on an objective basis, say, to the most recent NBA Champion. The problem with that system would be when a team like the Spurs wins and half of its players cannot compete for the U.S. This year (and 2004, coincidently), I believe my system would have worked beautifully. I truly believe the U.S. Celtics would win gold this year and the 2004 U.S. Pistons would have won Gold, as well. Our current squad, however, may have its hands full in Beijing...


Jun 21, 2008

Derrick Rose is a Freak

Even though I listed Rose as my #1 in my mock draft post, I never realized how athletic he was... this video is pretty ridiculous:

Jun 19, 2008

KG's Ring = Validation?

I lost track of how many commentators, bloggers, & sportswriters have heralded KG's ring as the final & irrefutable truth that Kevin Garnett is one of the all-time greats. I'm confused by such logic for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, Kevin Garnett did not need to win a ring to be considered one of the all-time greats. His career stats speak for themselves: 20.4 pts, 11.2 rebs, 4.4 asts, 1.4 stls, & 1.6 blks. For his CAREER. His circumstances also speak for themselves: the best teammates he ever had (until this season) were an aging Sprewell & an aging Cassell. Often times, circumstances far outweigh individual talent. To win a championship, you must be in the right place at the right time. This year, Garnett finally was surrounded by other superstars and a ring was the payoff.

Since KG finally got a ring, does it mean this was the best seasons he has ever played? No way. Sure, he "changed Boston's culture." Blah, blah, blah. No, he came into a situation where he had two other great players and competitors in Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to play alongside him. I do not mean to undermine KG's leadership, but let's make no mistake about it -- this was a team effort. In fact, KG had a VERY mediocre Finals series (except for Game 6). He went into Game 6 with a 16 ppg average on 40% shooting (as a post player!). Both of these numbers are well below his career & career playoff averages. He was probably the main reason they lost Game 5, missing 3 of 4 FT's down the stretch & a couple of uncontested layups. In a bit of irony, one of KG's worst series turned out to be the series he turned his "loser" label into "winner."

I am sick of the number of championship rings being viewed as the #1 indicator of individual greatness. There are certainly some players who rise above the competition in the Finals, but it's usually their circumstances (i.e. the talent they are surrounded by) that got them into the Finals in the first place. Paul Pierce, for example, has been the same clutch player his whole career. He just hadn't been on a good enough team to make the finals until this year. Low and behold, he dominated the Finals and the world is finally recognizing his greatness. If Ainge hadn't swapped for Garnett & Allen last offseason, the greater basketball world would think of Pierce as just another good player who played on poor teams.

It's laughable that players of the caliber of Charles Barkley and Karl Malone will never be viewed as "clutch" and might even be considered "losers." Or look at football with Barry Sanders, or baseball with Ty Cobb. It isn't that these players weren't clutch or "winners," they just happened to play their best ball when there were dynasties dominating their respective leagues (Bulls for Malone; Celtics, Lakers, Pistons, Bulls for Barkley; Cowboys, Niners, Packers for Sanders; Yankees for Cobb).

To me, it's even more laughable that someone like Bill Russell is "unquestionably" the best Center of all-time in some peoples' minds. "You can't question his greatness -- look at all those rings!" Guess what, folks: there were between EIGHT and 14 teams in the entire league when he won all of those championships. Today, there are 30 teams, the overall skill level is much better, and it is an international competition with a much larger competition pool. I don't question that Russell was the best (or one of the best) of his time, but he also played on a team that was much better than the rest of a small league in a not-quite-popular sport at the time.

In closing, I'm very happy for Kevin Garnett. He should have been considered one of the all-time greats whether or not he won a championship, though. It's a shame that it took one for people to finally put him in that category.

Jun 5, 2008

Game 1

As I suspected, Kobe let his "feud" with Ray Allen get the best of him in Game One. He turned the first quarter into a grudge match and strayed from what had brought the Lakers success all playoffs. I can't recall a game those two have squared off in where Kobe hasn't lost focus of the team concept for stretches of the game. I also thought Odom had several mental lapses during the game. We've seen this multiple times during the playoffs, where he appears to lose his focus/concentration which ultimately leads to stupid fouls and 7-8 minute stretches where you forget he's on the floor. While his stat sheet may not have been that bad, he made several key mistakes that swung momentum.

Boston didn't play their best game, either. They were fortunate enough to hit some timely baskets and get some fortuitous rolls (see Paul Pierce's banked three to make a four-point play). Mainly, they just appeared to have more energy and were getting on the floor for loose balls. Boston wanted it more, and it paid off in the end.

This being said, I'm sticking with the Lakers to pull off a Game 2 upset on the road. Odom hasn't had back-to-back mediocre games in awhile, so I see him coming back focused. Kobe's shot selection should improve after watching game tape and doing whatever Voodoo exercises Phil has him doing these days. Call me a homer if you want, but I've got LA in game two -- feel free to make me eat my crow if I'm wrong.

One final thought: How bad could Pierce's knee actually be if he was playing full-speed, high-intensity basketball just minutes after "injuring" it? If I didn't know any better, I would have thought he was breathing his last breathes while lying on the floor moaning for 2-plus minutes. Part of me thinks it was a big scheme (that paid off) to re-energize the crowd upon his heroic return. Either that, or they just gave him some ridiculously potent meds.

This could be a Finals for the ages!