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: playersinpencil.blogspot.com

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 (http://highfivehoopschool.blogspot.com/2008/06/my-team-usa.html) 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!

Jun 4, 2008

My 2008 NBA Mock Draft Lottery

Here is my mock lottery for the 2008 NBA Draft. You will quickly find out that after picks 1 & 2 I am not creating a board where the "best" available player, regardless of position, is picked. My mock draft focuses on the most glaring weaknesses/needs of the teams that have the picks and does not take into consideration all of the draft-day trades that will inevitably take place. Enjoy.

1. Chicago Bulls - Derrick Rose (Memphis, PG): I know a lot of people think they can't afford to pass up Beasley here, but I disagree. Beasley is going to be a 3/4 combo player in the NBA, and that's the exact position played by Tyrus Thomas (whom the Bulls are still high on - remember he was a top-4 pick?). They also have Nocioni who plays the same 3/4 combo position. Further, Rose is going to be the next great PG in the league. With rumors already circulating that Hinrich is now on the trading block, Rose would be a perfect pick. I say they try to get a late-first round pick in exchange for Hinrich and use it on a big man or trade him for an already-proven big man, because they would be loaded on the perimeter with Deng (3), Gordon (2), and Rose (1).

2. Miami Heat - Michael Beasley (Kansas St, PF): This is a no-brainer. The Bulls' pick will dictate what Miami does, but there are only two options here and one will have already been taken.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves - OJ Mayo (USC, SG): This pick makes the most sense as the next-best available player is Bayless, who plays the same type of game as Foye. This will also give them a good reason to dump McCants, and we all know that needs to be done sooner rather than later.

4. Seattle Supersonics - Jerryd Bayless (Arizona, PG): I think he would be a perfect fit and it wouldn't be long before he took some scoring pressure off Durant. I also think he could come in right away and play some minutes at the two, which would enable Durant to slide to the three (his most natural position).

5. Memphis Grizzlies - DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M, C): He's as big as Brooke Lopez, and much more athletic. Mainly, I couldn't stand the mental image of a Darko/Lopez front line. Yuck.

6. New York Knicks - Brooke Lopez (Stanford, C): I was torn on this slot because I think Westbrook would fit perfectly with D'Antoni's style. However, he would be a major upgrade from Eddy Curry in terms of mobility. I'm sure they'd rather have Jordan with this pick, but he's already been taken in my mock draft.

7. Los Angeles Clippers - D.J. Augustin (Texas, PG): I know, I know, #7 is a stretch for Augustin. However, the one position the Clippers desperately need help at is PG. I'm sorry, but when Dan Dickau is getting the majority of PG minutes, you've got problems. I think the Clippers are aware of this, as evidenced by their late-season signing of Smush "brain-dead" Parker. Augustin is the closest thing to a pure PG (even though he's score-first) that's left in terms of lottery-worthy players since I don't think Westbrook will ever be able to carry that mantle (see Monta Ellis).

8. Milwaukee Bucks - Danilo Gallinari (Italy, SF): I have gone seven picks without a foreign player, and we all know there is no way we will ever see another NBA Draft without a foreign player going in the top 10 picks. The foreign factor always adds a bit of uncertainty, which really turns on GM's. That said, I saw some video of this guy, and he appears to have a solid all-around game and good size for a SF (6'9"). Plus, after re-signing Mo Williams last offseason and getting Yi in the draft, SF is the position where the Bucks need the most help.

9. Charlotte Bobcats - Kevin Love (UCLA, PF): I'm sure I'll get plenty of flack for this pick, but I can't help but think Love would thrive for a Larry Brown-coached team. Think of their future starting five: Felton, Richardson, Wallace, Love, and Okafor. With Brown on the bench, they would be a playoff-ready team in the East within two years at most.

10. New Jersey Nets - Eric Gordon (Indiana, SG): This pick would make sense to me as I foresee Jefferson or Carter being traded in the near future. They would have a talented, young backcourt with Devin Harris and Eric Gordon, along with some young bangers down low (Boone, Williams).

11. Indiana Pacers - Russell Westbrook (UCLA, PG/SG): If he falls this far, he would be a major steal at #11. Westbrook is a great on-ball defender & super athletic. I think he would complement Granger & Dunleavy nicely in that fast-paced offense, and we all know about the inury/behavioral problems of Tinsley. Although not a pure point guard, their offensive style does not demand as much in terms of ballhandling out of the lead guard position.

12. Sacramento Kings - Darrell Arthur (Kansas, PF): Kind of a boring pick, but it would make sense given their needs. They just drafted Hawes to be the long-term solution at Center, and the emergence of Beno Udrih created some stability at the PG spot.

13. Portland Trailblazers - Joe Alexander (West Virginia, SF): I would love it if this pick actually happened. The dude is straight athletic, and athleticism is something that is lacking on the Blazers' roster. Selfishly, I'd also be relieved of watching Outlaw log so many minutes and make so many "what was he thinking?" plays (I live in Portland).

14. Golden State Warriors - Ryan Anderson (Cal, SF): This pick would also raise some eyebrows, but if the Warriors can extend the contract of Biedrins, he (along with Brandan Wright) would ensure a talented, young, frontcourt. Their backcourt is already loaded, so a swingman is probably their biggest need at this point. I like Anderson because he has a good three-point shot (which is necessary on any Don Nelson team) and would provide size & depth to a lineup that normally played undersized and had a short rotation.

Jun 3, 2008

Seeing Double

Without further ado, here are my top five player/celebrity look-alike tandems:

5. Fabricio Oberto & Kurt Cobain: Nirvana loyalists, no need to fear. Oberto has been practicing his vocals and the band plans on reuniting in the near future with Fabricio on the mic. Should be a seamless transition. In fact, Flea (Chili Peppers) was sitting courtside at this one and told me Oberto was actually singing the lyrics to "Come as You Are" when this photo was shot.

4. Donyell Marshall & Ludacris: Just take a minute to look at these photos. The resemblance is uncanny.

3. Kyle Korver & Ashton Kutcher: With Korver's move to Utah, there's a good chance he will eventually have been with as many women as Ashton has - but Korver's women will be all at the same time. Even Ashton can't top that.

2. Manu Ginobili & Borat: Which picture is more disturbing? Rumor has it Manu actually auditioned for Borat's role in "Borat comes to America." He didn't make the cut because his legs weren't hairy enough. With a little rogain, he could be ready in time for the biographical movie commemorating Borat's life that is scheduled to hit theaters in 2011.

1. Sam Cassell & ET: If the Celtics win the NBA Championship, Doc Rivers promised Sam that he would ride his bike into the galaxy with Cassell in basket to give him a proper retirement send-off.

What's in a Name?

Most star athletes have unforgettable nicknames, whether earned through their play (e.g. "The Big Hurt") or through self-promotion (e.g. "Ocho Cinco"). However, there are far too many athletes who's play has been deserving but are only known by their first (or last) names. Slam magazine has a feature each month, identifying such athletes and hosting a contest to come up with creative monikers for the identified un-nicknamed players. Here are a few I came up with for players without nicknames or whose nicknames don't do them justice:

"The Stork" -- Marshall Faulk
Sort of fitting that Marshall Faulk has had one of the highest-"scoring" careers of any athlete -- both on and off the field. Marshall once held the single-season touchdown record, but also managed to produce (at least) 6 children by 3 different women. Since these children came as a surprise and were delivered without a real father, I think "The Stork" is a fitting nickname.
Close second: "The Fertilizer"

"Little David" -- Barry Sanders
After searching the net, apparently Barry Sanders did have a nickname: "B." Neither do I recall this nickname, nor do I think it does justice to the greatest running back in NFL history. "Little David" (his middle name) suits him better -- making Goliath-sized defenders look stupid game-in and game-out.
Close second: "TNT"

"The Pill" -- Rafael Palmeiro
This nickname would have a double meaning -- referring to his days as a spokesperson for Viagra and for whatever else he put into his aging body in the late-nineties.
Close second: "Fingers" (just watch video of his court appearance)

"Stillframe" Steve -- Steve Nash
I was trying to mimic the "Pistol" Pete thing... I think Nash is similarily crafty with the ball, and it seems like he sees the court in slow-motion (or in stillframes) at times. Okay, kinda lame, but I think it's a travesty that the two-time MVP doesn't have a catchy nickname.
Close second: "The Puppeteer"

"Million Dollar Baby" -- Stephen Jackson
This is probably my favorite nickname that is not already owned by a professional athlete (that I know of). I most certainly would have given this title to Sheed, Iverson, Duncan, Kobe, or Rip if they didn't already have nicknames of their own...
Close second: "Three-to-Five Upstate"

Some other star athletes that need nicknames in the worst way: Derek Jeter, Tom Brady, LaDanian Tomlinson (since he stole the original LT's nickname)

Jun 2, 2008

Beijing Olympics Boycott Threats

Virtually every nation in the free world is up in arms about the 2008 Summer Olympics. From celebrities to key political figures, we are hearing cries to boycott the Olympics. These cries, broadcast through the world's loudest human boom boxes, aren't just mindless background noise (as they normally are) -- they are valid complaints and echo the sentiments of millions of others who don't carry big sticks.

The "threats" to boycott have undoubtedly sent chills down China's spine, considering China has shown a willingness to do just about anything to portray itself as a model country for the Summer Games (at least aesthetically). Rumor has it that China is even trying to develop a means of clearing its notoriously hazy skies so that CBS, BBC, and the other networks will capture a beautiful & scenic urban landscape this summer. Despite these efforts, however, China has made no moves to clean up its act. Despite all of the negative press from a globalized media, despite the outcries from its own citizens, and despite all of the hollow promises that were made when it sold itself to the Games Committee, China has stubbornly held its ground through its disregard for human rights.

This is not about cultural relativity (i.e. what's right for us is not necessarily what's right for them, and we don't have the right to tell them what we feel is right or wrong in the first place). It is just plain wrong -- how can it even be argued? I read a press release today that announced Chinese officials had stripped two Chinese defense lawyers of their licenses to practice law because they took on cases to defend human rights. I've also read stories about foreign press being warned that it will be monitored in all of its conversations while covering the Summer Games -- whether these conversations take place in public or in the "comfort" of their own hotel rooms.

If you are from a developed nation, just try to imagine these scenarios unfolding in your hometown.... that's what I thought. It's unthinkable. For all the moaning we do about the civil unjustices in our backyards, peeking over the fence should show us that we have it pretty good. So good, in fact, that it is not a matter of us having an agenda here, it is a matter of us having a social responsibility.

So here comes the real question: will any of our countries or athletes, either collectively or individually, actually boycott the 2008 Summer Games? Individual athletes may take a real stand against these unjustices, but I highly doubt any countries will boycott the Games entirely. There is just too much money, too much fame at stake. Sure, we'll shout at the Chinese Government and metaphorically slap their wrists. But chances are that our athletes be suited up in our national colors right next to all the other countries' performers come August.

What kind of message is this going to send? Will it say that we care about the issues, but not at the expense of our gold medals? I sure hope not.