March Madness eat your heart out! One weekend down and there were several upsets, a few stinkers and a couple expected results. As much as I love the whole one and done March Madness thing, you don't get the physical play, the adjustments and strategy that a 7-game series offers. Here are a few thoughts with one game down in each series:
Boston vs. Chicago - Is there room on the Derrick Rose bandwagon? The Bulls were the one team I regret not seeing in person this year. Anyone with an eye for hoops can appreciate the full range this rookie brings to the Bulls but what I didn't notice until Saturday is Rose's quick and explosive LAST step. Most players have that quick first step to blow by defenders but Rose explodes right at the rim at his last step. Also, his extremely calm nature works well with the youthful Bulls. Game 1 against the defending champs and he has the heart rate of a librarian and it's contagious as the Bulls weren't phased at all. I still think Boston wins, but the Bulls should make Rose the GM, coach and owner and build around him for the next 12 years.
Cleveland vs. Detroit - Are we done yet? Are we done yet? Are we done yet? SWEEP!
San Antonio vs. Dallas - One quarter in, Duncan had springy legs and looked very 2007, I was on the brink of writing a "Mavs should have kept Maquis Daniels instead of Josh Howard" piece and Nowitzki was in foul trouble... basically it didn't look good for Dallas. I left home, went out thinking the Spurs would win easily and I caught the last few seconds at a bar as Dallas... PULLED AWAY FOR A W??? What the hell happened? Suddenly Dallas looks like a very legit Western Conference finalist and San Antonio looks old.
Portland vs. Houston - This really looks like a match-up problem for Portland more than anything else. Maybe their inexperience cost them a W as they didn't have that fifth gear or maybe they're just happy to be there. All I know is Yao played the best playoff game of his life and showed EVERYONE that the problem was always T-MAC.
Los Angeles vs. Utah - No Okur, no chance for Utah... it's just that simple. But the real story is the referees killing the entire second half of the game. It's no surprise that Joey Crawford was the lead ref in the worst called game of the weekend. Does the NBA pay him by the fouls? Does he really think the fans pay to see him ref? Is he out to single-handedly ruin professional hoops? There were SIXTEEN fouls in the 3rd quarter alone and a free-flowing game became a possession-by-possession freethrow festival. Terrible!
Orlando vs. Philadelphia - I've said this all year, Orlando doesn't have the go to guy necessary to make a deep run in the playoffs. C-Webb pretty much blew a gasket ripping on the Magic not riding Dwight Howard all game. But does Superman really want to be "that guy" with the Magic or is he content with monster numbers, monster dunks and showmanship? NBA Champions all have the definitive alpha dog and an understood chain of command. The Celtics heart lies with KG but crunchtime went Pierce first and Sugar Ray second. The early 00's Lakers had Shaq for 3 1/2 quarters with Kobe as the closer... what about Orlando?
Atlanta vs. Miami - The Hawks put together a Special Edition Double-DVD set of highlights on the Heat on Sunday. Instead of 2006 Kobe and the Lakers with their near upset of the #2 seeded Phoenix Suns, the Heat resembled the 2007 edition and the very one-sided 4-1 loss to Phoenix. But we'll see what kind of road playoff team Atlanta is in games 3 & 4.
Denver vs. New Orleans - Denver put together a sick 21-0 run late in the 3rd early in the 4th to put away what was a close and very physical game. Chauncey Billups went retro looking like a 2005 version going 8 of 9 from three on his way to 36 points. NOLA basically gave up at the end of the 3rd quarter so this blowout doesn't really mean the Nuggets will sweep. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if NOLA steals game 2. This really feels like a very bitter and very physical seven game series.
Just a few thoughts from the past weekend in the NBA...
Losses by the Celtics and Lakers just add to the 1996 Bulls mystique:
Brace yourself for this "brilliant" remark... winnin' 70 ain't easy. Seriously, can we finally stop with the 70-win predictions? Every single year by Christmas the media piles on some talented team that flies out of the gate, throwing out 70-win predictions as often as Nadia Sulaman squirts out a kid and every year that team du jour loses game number 13 by March. The NBA season is too long and players are simply not motivated enough (Lamar Odom I'm speaking to you!) to drive through a six month regular season to get to 70 wins. Back in 1996 I remember the media undercutting the Bulls achievements all season long: the league was watered down, the players are not as fundamentally sound, Jordan isn't facing a Bird or Magic. All may be true, but the Bulls were driven enough to avoid too many upset losses by clearly inferior teams (unlike the Celtics against the Clippers and as the Lakers in Sunday's loss to Phoenix).
Anyway, here is my formula to winning 70:
1 - You need a visionary coach. Someone like Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson who coaches with the entire season in mind and not game-to-game. Basically you want to avoid the 1999 Minnesota Vikings and 2006 New England Patriots syndrome of having a record-setting regular season but no title. After all, as Shaq said, it's all about the globes.
2 - You need SEVERAL driven players. This is why the Lakers aren't winning 70, because Kobe's competitive drive alone isn't enough to pull the Lakers through the entire season. Michael Jordan comes to mind as the only person capable, but it also helped that he had an almost equally driven teammate in Scottie Pippen. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom (fresh off turtle-ing against KG and Kendrick Perkins in the Finals) aren't these type of guys. In fact, right after winning NBA Player of the Week, Gasol was talking about being fatigued and resting during games... which was obvious in the past two Lakers losses. You never heard that from Jordan or Pippen.
3 - You need some luck. Injuries are a part of the game and KG and Andrew Bynum going down all but ended any chance at 70. Outside of Dennis Rodman's suspension for head-butting a referee, much of the Bulls key players were healthy the entire season.
4 - The team needs a sense of history. This excludes the 1986 Celtics, who quite possibly could have gone for 70 wins except that it wasn't considered an achievement back then. The NBA in the 1980's was all about getting 50-wins and preparing for the playoffs. The 1986 Celtics were, in my mind, were the only team in the past 35-years with the best shot at 70, but it didn't matter.
5 - Talent. OBVIOUSLY!!! You can't even smell 70 without at least 2 or 3 All-Stars on your team (legit ones that command defensive double-teams and not political All-Star selections like David West because the NBA is keen on promoting Chris Paul).
With all that in mind, people really need to truly understand and appreciate the 1996 Bulls achievement of 72-10 (and 69-13 the following season for that matter).
BTW - Let me add that I too underestimated the challenge of 70-wins. I took a look at this Lakers team and emailed anyone who would listen (which wasn't really anyone, but alas) that they are 70-win capable. As always, I am an idiot!
Back to the rest of MMPG:
Lamar Odom... buyer beware: Remember Lamar Odom plowing through Boston and Cleveland with dominant double-doubles? Remember Lamar Odom with 74 rebounds in 4 games? Well you also need to know 6, 5 and 4... those were his rebounds, assists and points before he fouled out in the Lakers loss to Phoenix on Sunday. Odom is a free agent this summer and will command interest from several teams. So fare thee be warned, this is his 10th season in the NBA, so one of my favorite phrases applies here: you are what you are. And with Odom, he's always been "that guy" with tremendous potential, yet VERY inconsistent.
Starbury to the Celtics: God I hate this deal! As a Lakers fan, this does not bode well. Instead of matching the Celtics and grabbing up a much-needed big until Bynum returns, the Lakers traded to dump salary. Meanwhile, the Celtics improved a non-existent bench by grabbing Steph and Mikki Moore. Neither guy is going to lock down LeBron and at first I was like "big deal, they still won't pass Cleveland." But the more I think about it, Steph and Mikki are more about getting the top seed in the east and avoiding BOTH Cleveland and Orlando in the post-season. I see them both injecting confidence and pushing the C's to the top record in the NBA.
Here's my question to Celtics fans: does having the league's biggest cancer on your team take anything away from the title or is it "just win baby?"
Utah... For Real: Racked by injuries all season and barely holding on to the 8th spot, the Jazz are finally healthy and have run off 8-straight wins (including two impressive W's against Boston and LA). The Jazz have the talent, the depth and the coaching to put a real scare come playoff time. Plus they have that extra emotional motivation with the recent passing of owner Larry Miller. This team has the potential to put together the same type of run as in 2007 when they lost to San Antonio in Western Conference Finals. They sit 1.5 games out of 4th place in the west with 23 games left. Only 9 of those 23 are home, so the Jazz need to fix their road woes to make a move... and I think they will.
Houston... NOT for Real: The Rockets are putting together a similar run as Utah but I really don't see them as a threat out West (despite Jeff Van Gundy's continued beliefs). First off, aren't we due for the annual Yao Ming injury? He's one game away from playing the most games since 2004-05. Unlike T-Mac, Yao actually gives a crap about his team and winning... it's just that his body can't keep up. Also, with T-Mac gone, who's going to shoulder the offensive load on the perimeter? Ron Artest's perimiter game is inconsistent and they depend on a rookie (a very talented rookie, but a rookie none the less) at the point guard spot. As always, I see Houston not getting past the first round in the playoffs.
Here are a few takes from the past weekend of hoops:
Does Steve Nash realize he's a defensive sieve?: How does it go... if you can't pick out the defensive liability in the room, then YOU are the defensive liability...or something like that. Rajon Rondo and later Paul Pierce took turns playing H-O-R-S-E (or is it G-E-I-C-O?) on Steve Nash all Sunday afternoon. Finger rolls, 5-foot runners, 10-foot jump shots... they literally took uncontested shots anywhere on the floor as soon as they noticed Nash was matched up on them. I really would love to see exactly how many points were scored specifically on Nash alone because I saw something like 65 maybe 70. Does it bother the two-time MVP winner that everyone he defends drops a career-high on him? He's a modest, intelligent and introspective guy, does he understand that he's the worst defensive player on his team? I actually like what he brings to Phoenix and hope he sticks around for a few more seasons, but the Suns need a young defensive-oriented two to help out on defense. Somewhere at the Glendale, AZ Applebee's is a solemn Terry Porter screaming, "EXACTLY!!!!"
Question for Pistons Fans: Do you like A.I.? This isn't a rip on Allen Iverson because quite frankly he's one of my favorite ballers of all time. But do Pistons fans blame A.I. for Detroit's sudden collapse? Since the Billups-Iverson trade, the Nuggets are clearly the 3rd best team out West whereas the Pistons long run as a title contender has come to a crashing halt. Are there very audible groans when A.I. puts up the occasional 4-16 night? Or is there a reverence for one of the best players in the past 25 years? Seriously, I'm curious how Detroit feels about watching A.I. on a nightly basis.
In my opinion, and this is why I do this site, A.I. is just a pawn in the NBA money game. Dumars traded for A.I. to clear up cap space next year and the Pistons are stuck with a terrible coach and a poorly assembled team. This summer makes or breaks Joe D's legacy as a GM. Does he clear even more salary for 2010 or does he make a move (via free agency or trade) that saves the franchise? To me, Pistons fans have to look at the recent track record: drafting Darko, hiring Flip Saunders, hiring Michael Curry, and trading Chauncey... any questions?
Kobe and the MJ fade-away: Boston Sports Guy pointed it out during one of his 1,312 anti-Kobe rants... Kobe Bryant is developing the same post-up fade-away that MJ lived off from 1996 to 1998. What better time to work on a low-post game than during Bynum's (hopefully not) annual knee injury. The Triangle Offense sets up nicely for it and MJ carried the Bulls to three titles with the virtually unstoppable move. You can see Kobe hasn't completely mastered it but there were a few nice spurts, especially during Friday's OT win against the Hornets. This is the one MJ signature move that Kobe NEEDS in his arsenal if he wishes to play until his late 30's. It conserves energy and is hard to defend, as Jordan showed during the 2 years in D.C. that never existed.
Larry H. Miller's passing: I never knew the guy, I never attended a Jazz game and I've never been to Salt Lake City, but I feel the NBA lost a HUGE personality when the Jazz's owner Larry Miller died. The league needs to honor a guy that has made a franchise located in Salt Lake City (one of the smallest TV markets in professional sports) one of the most successful in NBA history. I'm not a religious man, but you have to credit a guy for skipping out on a few of the NBA Finals games that *HIS* team was in. Simply reaching the Finals is a rare opportunity and Miller stuck to his religious beliefs and sat out all games on Sunday. Now THAT is dedication! I hope for the Jazz fans that the next-in-line (his son?) runs the franchise in the same manner. The NBA needs more owners like Larry Miller.
I love me some me: Is there anything cooler than seeing your name on the jumbotron? Once a year the Lakers honor their upper deck season ticket holders with a halftime snack (beer, wine, chips and salsa) and a meet and greet with the ticket reps in a private suite. It's a small but very cool gesture and they put your name in lights. Friday's game against New Orleans was my turn and as you can see (and to establish my NBA street cred) I've been a season ticket holder for 10 seasons (BTW - that's not me in the Gasol jersey).
Rip off Jack Nicholson + Die = Academy Award: Simple math eh? Heath Ledger blatantly rips off Jack Nicholson from The Shining (even down to the tongue thing!) and he's THE GREATEST ACTOR IN THE WORLD! I know this is a hoops blog but does a below average 8 hour long comic book movie really deserve any Academy Awards? Seriously, all this means is that we'll get yet another 321 more comic book movies this summer. YUCK! Heath Ledger was a good actor but TRUST ME, years from now people will react with the same "huh??" as they do now with Marisa Tomei's award from My Cousin Vinny. Oh and Mickey Rourke deserved the Best Actor Oscar!
Time to roll out an old favorite of mine: Monday Morning Point Guard, which is five thoughts from the past weekend.
Z-Bo to the Clippers: Very rarely do I ever get a chance to write anything about the "other team" in LA so let's start it off with the Zac Randloph trade and how it affects the LA Clippers. First off, on paper the Clippers are loaded up front. Randolph, Kaman and Camby is a three-man rotation that could hang with the likes of the Lakers, Spurs (when healthy), Utah (also when healthy), Orlando, etc. And they got him on the very cheap as NY is selling off and clearing cap for LeBron (more on that later). The downside is by shipping off Cuttino Mobley they're every thin in the backcourt and are forced to give Ricky Davis a ton of minutes (who along with Andre Miller ranks as one of those great-on-bad-teams-but-awful-on-good-ones type of players).
And now the one BIG problem with the deal... Mike Dunleavy. Already clashing with Baron Davis over coaching styles how will Dunlevy's very hands-on approach on offense blend with Z-Bo and his reputation as a malcontent? With Rickey Davis, Baron Davis and Zac Randolph will there be an in-house revolt? Are there any deals in the near future for Chris Kaman (relegated to the bench because both he and Randolph are low-post ball-stoppers that won't mesh on the floor)? Will Camby and Boom Dizzle find the motivation to play the rest of the season now that the Clippers are playoff contenders (at least on paper)? If anything the Clippers are trying to bring in a winner "across the hall" in Staples Center... so big ups for the effort.
Crawford to the Warriors: Al Harrington for Jamal Crawford... The Warriors go from small to smaller. With Crawford the get a true three man (1 plus 2, meaning he'll call the play from the point and jack it up from everywhere) and the Warriors become the most exciting non-playoff team in the NBA. And that's just it... They're not big enough to hang with the Lakers, Utah, San Antonio, Phoenix, New Orleans and Portland and they're not deep enough to compete with Denver. So they're stuck competing for the eight seed with the Clippers and Dallas. But they'll have fun and the always boisterous Bay Area fans will enjoy this season... the regular season.
Knicks Dumping Salary: So Donnie Walsh did exactly what he came to NY to do, clear cap space and erase the Isiah Thomas regime. Done and done... and worthy of a standing ovation. A potential eight seed playoff appearance was scrapped (and rightly so) for a better shot and at THE free agent class of 2010. Here's the only problem, outside of Shaq in 1996 and T-Mac in 2001 no superstar has left his current franchise in his prime as a free agent. Read that again.
Outside of Shaq in 1996 and T-Mac in 2001 no superstar has left his current franchise in his prime as a free agent.
The Lakers tried to clear cap space in 2005 hoping to land Yao, Stat, Wade, LeBron or Melo and all of them re-signed for better $$ with their original teams. And the Lakers had a decent nucleus to build around with Kobe Bryant. Basically they all passed at a major market franchise and a title contention for extra $$ to line their pockets. What's to guarantee that LeBron, Wade or Bosh will pass up cash to play in MSG?
I would LOVE to see the Knicks back on the front pages of the tabloids for good reasons, but they better have a back-up plan in case those three take a pass. The worst case scenario is the 2001 Orlando Magic, where they dumped salary hoping to get Tim Duncan and T-Mac only to settle for Grant Hill, his injuries and an annual first round exit.
Eddie Jordan and PJ Carlesimo FIRED: One is a terrible defensive coach and the other had the worst talent in the NBA (along with the worst owner). With Jordan is was the case of it's about damn time. Wow he took a team with Gilbert Arenas, Carron Butler and Antawn Jamison to the postseason in the Eastern Conference... BIG... EFFIN'... DEAL!!!! Roll the ball out and get 45 wins from three NBA All Stars, anyone can do that! What he couldn't do was coach defense and the endless first round exits in the playoffs showed that.
Carlesimo got stuck in the middle of an owner dumping talent to move a once-proud franchise from the 13th largest TV market to the 36th market all to steal get a sweet stadium deal from a bunch of gullible rednecks politicians in OK City. The Sonics go from a division title and a second round playoff appearance in 2005 to dumping a very talented team for scraps just to lose fans in the Pacific Northwest. So how do they reward PJ for being a good soldier and coaching this crappy line-up the past two seasons... YOU'RE FIRED!!!!
Enjoy the NBA Oklahoma City!!!!
We're down 30 with 12 minutes to go. We're still in it... Sonics on three!!!!! I mean Thunder!!!
316 Report - Lakers vs. Sacramento: Not much to say from Section 316 at this game to merit an individual post so here are a few bullets:
-I'm digging the new goggles on Vlad Rad, the NBA needs more goggles!!!
-Spencer Hawes looks like The Machinist
-Lakers fans are more "talented" this year. Seriously, my head was on a swivel as hotties are once again showing up to Lakers games.
-Hoops-wise, the Lakers seem to be going to Kobe in the post more when the offense bogs down. Maybe we're seeing Kobe transition to a late-90's Jordan with more post moves and less hang time.
Time to dust off another edition of MMPG. It's been awhile since the last time I did one of these, basically it's a brief look at the past weekend's action in the NBA.
The Celtics blowout in Game 7 was no surprise: Did anyone really think the Celtics would get knocked out of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks? Turns out, neither did the Hawks... jeezus! Talk about a major case of sphincter-itis! Actually this series totally reminded me of the Lakers-Sacto Kings in 2000. The Kings were young and hungry and rode the wave of their home court to push the league-best Lakers to a deciding Game 5. And just like Sunday, the Lakers rolled to a 113-86 win. Bring on LBJ, this will be fun!
Utah owned the glass and still loses to LA: The Jazz DOMINATED the offensive glass 25 to 8 which helped them shoot 22 more field goals than the Lakers. Mix in that Pau Gasol played like a rookie and I'm stunned the Jazz didn't win. If fact, except for a late rally, the Lakers held the Jazz in check all game. This series really comes down to the fact that the Jazz simply can't stop Kobe Bryant. And I don't want to hear anything about the refs "helping" Kobe! A lot of those fouls were because the Jazz were too late to rotate over to defend. It's weird... but a team that does such an exceptional job of containing CP3 simply can't stop Kobe.
One last thing, this might be a stretch but Derek Fisher played Deron Williams so well yesterday that I'm wondering if there's like a whole mentor-student thing there. There's no way in hell that D-Fish could hang with Williams, but he had many key steals and did a decent job of containing him. The 18, 9 and 9 were deceptive numbers, Williams wasn't much of a factor.
Rick Carlisle to the Mavs... really? Hey didn't Dallas just fire a defensive oriented coach that calls all the offensive plays? Can Mavericks fans really put up with the s-l-o-w, predictable and boring style of ball that Carlisle likes to play? And was Carlisle that much better of a coach than Avery Johnson? How many NBA Finals appearances? Exactly!
Spurs need to slow it down! Okay, I only watched portions of the Hornets-Spurs game from a distance in a bar (date night with the wife... believe me I tried!), so I won't pretend to be an expert on Game 1. But what I did see was the Spurs trying to match the NO in an up-tempo game... and they got crushed! The Spurs don't have the athletes to match Chandler, CP3 and West in an up-tempo game. Slow it up and slug it out or this will end real fast.
Pistons - Magic: Not too many thoughts here... But if anything, the Magic should try to use Hedo Turkoglu more. There were moments in the 3rd quarter where his offensive game reminded me of Scottie Pippen, but with a better outside shot. His length and ability to draw fouls while driving to the left of the cup need to be exploited more.
BTW - I used to give all the ex-2002 Sacramento Kings a bunch of crap over the years, but Turkoglu, Stojakovic, Bibby and even C-Webb (with quality in studio analysis) have done a good job to shake their choking reputations this postseason.
Time to break out another edition of MMPG. It's been awhile since the last time I did one of these, basically it's a brief look at the past weekend's action in the NBA.
1. Golden State should rock "The City" permanently: The Warriors broke out the Hardwood Classic jersey from the 1966-67 season on Sunday. These are the yellow ones with "The City" on the front and the player's number on a cable car on the back. Easily they're the best retro jerseys ever (unless you're counting the Nets Turnpike Cement ones). Much like the SD Chargers' powder blues, "The City" jerseys need to be a permanent fixture.
2. Kapono Resurgence: Jason Kapono is a decent basketball player... there I said it. Growing up in LA, I've seen my fair share of overrated UCLA basketball players (Ed O'Bannon, Toby Bailey, Tyus Edney and Don MacLean, to name a few). So it was very easy to put the one-dimensional Kapono in that category. What I didn't realize is that he's the perfect fit for the Miami Heat, a quality spot shooter. With Shaq and Wade drawing double and triple teams, Kapono finds the open spot on the floor and waits for the kick-out. So what's the difference between this year and last year? He actually hitting those wide open jumpers (he's shooting 51.3% vs. 44.6% from last year). Now he wasn't shooting particularly well in Sunday's win over Cleveland, but he did hit a nice three with a few minutes left that put the game away.
3. The worst graphic during a Laker telecast: I saw this during the Lakers-Warriors game on Sunday, "Smush Parker: Has not missed game in Laker career. 139 consecutive starts."
(Heavy Sigh) Okay first off, you're "The Official Laker Telecast" and you can't mix in an indefinite article or a pronoun? Not to go Truman Capote in Murder by Death, but "Has not missed *A* game in *HIS* Laker career." Save it for the fortune cookies!
Anyway, five Lakers and counting (Mo Evans had a nasty spill in the first half) have missed games with various injuries. Yet somehow Smush has remained healthy all year. How freaking lucky are Laker Fans! Not to wish any injuries on a player, but... well you know where I'm going with this. (BTW - Smush missed two freethrows literally seconds after the graphic was shown. Twisted ankle anyone?)
4. Sonics Insider talks about New Orleans recovery from Katrina: One of my favorite newpaper blogs is the Sonics Insider by Frank Hughes. Most of the beat writers have blogs that act more or less like deleted scenes from their newspaper articles. Many of them are wordy, useless and very team friendly. Well, the Sonics Insider offers not only insight into the Sonics, but also the rest of the league. Last Friday, there were two posts that describe Hughes' recent trip to New Orleans. Unfortunately, in some areas it seems as though not much has improved in the past 18 months. Please check out his posts: New Orleans and New Orleans continued ...
5. Props to Dime Magazine: We're mentioned in the February edition of Dime Magazine as the "Blog Pick." I have to admit it's really cool seeing your work in print. Both Brett and I have been doing this for roughly 14 months and it's these things that really help keep you going when you're up at 2:00 AM with incredible writer's block. Thanks Dime Magazine!
Back from Thanksgiving and the longest week of the year coming up. Seriously, does anyone really want to work this week? I'm all for extending the weekend through Monday. Until then, pass the time with some MMPG.
U. Haslem: -5 (Team leader) S. O'Neal: -7 J. Williams: -11 J. Kapono: -22 (playing 13.1 minutes per game, very efficient!) D. Wade: -49 (Lebron is +35) A. Mourning: -62 (he's also -34 in primal screams) A. Walker: -83 (I knew all those bricks would help!) G. Payton: -106
Either way, it looks like "Clipper Nation" is having trouble with their foreign policy. They are 0-5 on the road, losing by an average margin of 11.4 points. Does "Clipper Nation" travel by bus?
3. Headband Gate: I thought this was a joke, but Ben Wallace is causing a stir in Chicago by violating team rules and wearing a headband in Saturday's win over New York. Wallace was benched at the beginning of the third quarter for breaking a long-standing team rule on the ban of headbands.
Why ban headbands and who really cares? Of all the infractions one can have (rape, gunplay, "friends" transporting pot), I think the Bulls should look the other way when a player is wearing a 1-inch wide piece of cloth on his head. Evidently the incident was a culmination of a long list of frustrations for Big Ben. (Wallace's frustration finally rears its head by K.C. Johnson)
4. Hangover in Toronto: I TIVO'ed the Indiana-Toronto game on Sunday just to get my early weekend fix of The Association. First off, what the hell was I doing recording a battle of two below-average teams in the East? And secondly, just how many strip clubs did Steven Jackson shoot up the night before? The Raptor’s European contingency was killing the Pacers, losing by 46-19 at one point in the 2nd quarter.
Obviously, the Raps aren't 27 points better than the Pacers on a normal night; this has more to do with the early start time in Toronto. Starting a game at 1:00 PM means that players have to get in the arena by 11:00 AM at the latest. And just imagine if the teams is on west coast time... 8:00 AM is when the player get back from the Spearmint Rhino.
The following games feature west coast teams playing on Sunday at 1:00 PM in Toronto (possible upsets here):
vs. Portland on December 10
vs. Golden State on December 17
vs. LA Clippers on February 4
vs. Seattle on March 11
5. Kobe vs. Vinsanity: Much like last year at Staples, the match-up never materialized in the Laker win over New Jersey on Sunday. Kobe tried to engage Vince by guarding him all over the floor, but Carter didn't bite and had a very quiet night. Unlike last year, where Kobe's antics drew Carter into a shoving match, both players were far from their dominant selves. Kobe's injured knee limits his offensive excellence to little spurts, like the 4th quarter against the Clippers. Whereas The Vinsanity was purely in November mode.
The photo below best describes just how closely Kobe was guarding Carter, notice how annoyed he looks.
It's Monday, fire up the coffee and fire up another edition of MMPG:
1. Worst Coach in the NBA: Saturday night the battle was on, Doc versus Isiah, New York versus Boston, bad versus horrible. Just when I was about to give the "Worst Coach in the NBA" award to Doc Rivers as the C's blew a 20-point lead to the Knicks, Isiah Thomas rips the trophy right from my hands. Isiah put Starbury on Paul Pierce in the first few minutes of the 4th. The worst defensive player on the Knicks guarding one of the best scorers in the NBA... in crunchtime? Pierce scorched Starbury until a switch was made. Isiah made one single substitution the entire 4th quarter. Obviously, the Knicks collapsed after climbing back from a 20-point deficit, they had nothing left in the tank. But the clincher was with 2 plus minutes left, down 6 with the ball, a two-possession game, Isiah Thomas drew two technical fouls and got ejected. The C's hit both freethrows and... ballgame!
The title is yours, Isiah... at least until you play the C's again.
2. European Vacation: The Toronto Raptors have five European players and one American-born one who starred in the Euro-league in Anthony Parker. That's a lot of soft bigs with outside shooting touches, scrappy/flopping guards and ZERO clutch play. So what's the direction there, are they trying to market themselves as Euro-friendly? Should we expect cigarette night or crazy chick day or deodorant free zones in Air Canada Centre?
Or does the scouting staff just look for reasons to write off trips to Europe? Paris with the kids, write-off; Venice with the wife, write-off; Monte Carlo with the mistress, write-off.
3. Cavs - Wiz: Watching Agent Zero bomb the Cavs for 45 in the phonebooth arena was fun. The guy was nailing jumpers from all over the place and laughing at how hot he was. The Cavs even started doubling him at halfcourt with Anderson Varejao (and all 15 different pronunciations of his name... can't we just call him A-Vaj?) just to get the ball out of Gilbert's hands. The side bonus was a long-running "conversation" between Gilbert and Damon Jones. I NEEDED to hear that talk, can't we just have a cable NBA channel that skews to an older crowd? Something where there's no censorship and we get to hear Garnett drop 10 motherfucker bombs. Then we can mike up Damon Jones and really hear what he's saying to Gilbert. How could this hurt the ratings?
4. Coincidence? Future unemployed guard, Smush Parker throws down a nasty dunk the same game that Jordan Farmar goes down with an injury. Anyone who's seen the Lakers this year knows that Farmar is weeks away from taking Parker's spot in the rotation. Suddenly he has a "play of the week" dunk over Big Ben that woke up the Staples Center faithful. A Kwame Brown dunk over and on Andres Nocioni later in the game overshadowed what Smush did, but it was very impressive. With Farmar not breathing down his neck, will Smush's confidence return? Not likely... Smush, you still suck!
5. Quality Foreigners: I've been known to crack on Euro players from time to time, but the Chicago Bulls have done a good job at drafting foreign-born players. We all know how good Nocioni is, but I really like how Swiss-born Thabo Sefolosha played against the Lakers. His defense was frustrating Kobe, drawing the artist formerly known as Ocho into some gamesmanship to try to embarrass the rookie. In the 4th quarter, Kobe was constantly dribbling between his legs and showboating a little. Thabo didn't bite and held Kobe in check.
On offense, Thabo let the game come to him and found his spots on the court. Yes, I know two really bad clichés, but for a rookie going against Kobe, he wasn't going to get drawn into any one-on-one matchup. Instead he stuck to the team plan... which was the typically horrible chuck and duck offense, but at least he respects his coach.
MMPG time, and not soon enough as both my fantasy football team and my knock-out pool entries are officially dead and buried (Did I mention that I hate the Detroit Lions?):
1. What the hell is Kevin McHale thinking? Individually, some of the Timberwolves' acquisitions in the past 12 months didn't look all that bad. They had to trade off Szczerbiak and getting the athletic Ricky Davis was an even swap. Taking a chance on Eddie Griffin, with the size, quickness, upside and cell phone use... why not. Signing Mike James looked like a coup, this thing's just crazy enough it might work.
Then I saw them in person last Tuesday, and crazy is the right word. Just how the hell is acquiring three frickin' psychos going to keep The Big Ticket happy? Rickey Davis, Eddie Griffin and Vin Baker have all ruined several franchises on their own, now with the combined power of all three... well let's just say that Garnett's already purchased a home in Malibu and according to Sam Smith, "has an escape clause in his contract after next season. My guess is he uses it, even with $23 million left for one season, and joins Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom on the Lakers."
2. Nice Offense? Throughout the 4th quarter in Saturday night's win over Indiana, the Chicago Bulls offense consisted of firing off bad shot after bad shot and crashing the boards for the rebound and put-back. The effort and sheer hustle late in the game was impressive and it worked, but this will be a problem as the season rolls on.
Merely getting Ben Wallace doesn't really solve the Bulls' low-post problem. Sheed is the key low post threat for the Pistons, drawing double teams and kicking out for open jumpers. Until they get a player that draws the multiple defenders, the Bulls will be a second round loss every year.
3. How to defend the Lakers. Very simple, just double off of Smush Parker. The past 3 Laker opponents have been leaving Smush Parker W-I-D-E O-P-E-N on the offensive end, basically ignoring him altogether. How has he responded? I haven't seen such an extreme case of Sphincteritis since Tim Duncan shot freethrows in the playoffs. Smush is 10-29 from the field with both hands firmly around his neck in the last three games.
Jordan Farmar is just weeks away from starting for the Lakers.
4. Greatest Moment in NBA History??? During the commercial break in the Spurs-Knicks game on Saturday, MSG was playing a "Greatest Moment in NBA History" clip from the 1999 NBA Finals. The play showed Avery Johnson hitting a ridiculously wide open 13-foot baseline jumper to clinch the Spurs 1999 NBA Title*.
Just how bad is a championship when the "highlight" was a journeyman guard hitting an uncontested 13-foot jump shot? That's like saying the World Series highlights were poor fielding pitchers or something.
5. No Doubt About It, Part 2: Yesterday I posted a few links to youtube to back up my argument that Bruce Bowen is a dirty player. The whole start of this discussion was a heated exchage between Isiah Thomas, Bowen and Greg Pockavich after Thomas took offense to Bowen trying to undercut Nate Robinson Jamal Crawford on a jump shot. Greg Pockovich took offense to Thomas yelling at his player, and both benches got technical fouls. Well I found the specific clip from Saturday's game.
The video shows Bowen trying to take out Jamal Crawford on the jumper and Isiah Thomas reacting to the play. Again, note how Bowen extends his right foot underneath Crawford, increasing the odds for an ankle injury, pure bush-league.
Finally the season is under way, and not soon enough as my fantasy football team is getting killed and my Chicago Bears got mauled by Miami of all teams. So without further ado, time for some MMPG:
1. Shaq Injured: The winner of the "Shaq's first fake injury pool" was... bruised left knee. So time to cash in, I believe the odds were 3:1. Other "fake injury odds" were:
Tendonitis - even
Ankle Sprain - 2:1
Phlebitis - 10:1
The Clap - 250:1
Vaginal Irritation (or Josh Howard Syndrome) - 1000:1
Seriously, we all know that Shaq will miss about 30-35 games this year, I'm just shocked he started so soon. But then again didn't he get his "ankle sprain" last year in the second game? So I guess he's right on schedule. My question is, how does his teammates, who are going to battle for the entire 82-game season, respect the guy?
2. What's wrong here: Interesting little factoid given during the "balanced" Miami Heat broadcast. The longest active tenure with one team (top five):
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota: 12-years
Allen Iverson, Philadelphia: 11-years
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles: 11-years
Tim Duncan, San Antonio: 10-years
Adonal Foyle, Golden State: 10-years
Three of the five have won MVP's and Kobe's the other one, so how the hell is Adonal Foyle in this group? Obviously it's because of his gaudy career numbers of 4.6 ppg. and 5.2 rpg. The funny thing is that Foyle's contract is guaranteed through 2008/09. And you wonder why Golden State hasn't made the playoffs since 1993-94.
3. Sign that Amare Stoudemire is not 100%: As Brett wrote in the in the courtside report, "Amare Stoudamire is not even close to the monster he was before..."
Here's a good example: During the first half, Amare got the ball at the freethrow line with only Chris Kaman between himself and the hoop. Instead of blowing by the Clipper center for a ridiculous dunk, Amare looked at Kaman and passed the ball out. Let me say that again... he passed off a one-on-one with Chris Kaman. This is a guy who once jumped over Elton Brand for a dunk in 2005 and now he's passing on Chris Kaman. Not a good sign.
4. Reason 2,345 why I hate Miami: Antoine Walker is the worst front runner in the NBA. So while the Heat are getting blown out by the 76ers on Sunday, Antoine Walker gets hot in garbage time. Hitting three consecutive uncontested W-I-D-E O-P-E-N three's to cut the 76ers lead to 10 with 2 plus minutes left, Antoine Walker turns, looks right at A.I. and twice yells, "You can't stop me!"
So out of the timeout Philly puts defensive maven, Kyle Korver (???) on him for the next possession. How does Walker respond? Firing a brick from three that glances off the front of the rim with Korver in his grill. Miami eventually loses 107-98.
5. Why is Doc Rivers still coaching? There are very few guarantees in life: death, taxes, getting some on anniversary night... You should always win the home opener dedicated to the life and death of your franchise icon!
On a very emotional night where the Celtics honored the memories of Red Auerbach, the C's lost to NOOCH 91-87. Simply embarrassing and Rivers should have been given his walking papers as he left the floor. Now they sit 0-3, how much longer do Celtic fans have to put up with this?