Friday, November 02, 2007

I think I have a pretty serious ear infection.

I must be hallucinating or something, but I could swear that when Denver played on Wednesday night, I saw Kenyon Martin, and he was looking every bit as athletic as he ever has. He also looked pretty rusty, but if he can come in and continue to jump around, block shots (three in 17 minutes!), dunk, and cause general havoc, that will an important development in the west.

I was also very surprised to see that Blazers play well against the Spurs in their opener despite bad performances from Jarrett Jack and Brandon Roy, who I think are the two best players in their lineup. Yes, the Blazers lost, but Martell Webster and LaMarcus Aldridge looked freaky-deaky on offense against a top defensive team in the league.

Here's the thing, though, and the reason why I still think these guys can't carry the team: they had six rebounds. Combined. If your frontcourt does that against the Spurs, or any other decent team, you simply cannot win without a great deal of luck.

Some random notes:

-Paul Millsap looks like he is developing nicely in Utah after a strong rookie campaign.
-I have now returned to despising Derek Fisher. I hope the rest of the world is with me.
-I think Chris Bosh is going to have an off year. I don't know why, it's one of those nagging feeling kind of things.
-I like Ike (Diogu)
-Every televised game thus far has been atrocious unless you're willing to stay up until 1:30 a.m.
-Television camera angles continue to concentrate on meaningless things (reaction to a jumper) while missing important things (fast break!). TNT and ESPN seem to be determined to find a new and better camera angle, and this results in making many good plays look bad (last night's Kevin Durant 1st quarter double-pump- underhand-layup-in-traffic is a good example).
-Damon Stoudamire dropped 18 points two nights ago starting ahead of Conley (DNP) and Lowry.
-The Kings are playing an extremely unorthodox lineup that features Kevin Martin at forward in order to get John Salmons on the floor. The logic of this is debatable but Salmons did have 23.
-Jarvis Hayes will be this year's "Detroit gets an excellent bench player at a great value" player.
-Tracy McGrady's back is okay.
-Amare Stoudamire's knee is okay.
-Someone get Steve Francis some Excedrin.

And now for the continuing and continually tardy preview:

The Atlantic Division

The Atlantic is just awful.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics have been pretty extensively previewed this year, so I won't waste your time. Some things to think about with them:

-They actually have a very good bench. Eddie House, Tony Allen, James Posey, Leon Powe, Scot Pollard, and Big Baby provide a wealth of options. There's only one problem.
-There's no point guard! Who's supposed to run this team when Rondo sits? Gabe Pruitt? On a team with three scorers, you have to have a good point guard on the floor at all times, especially with Garnett and Ray Allen.
-I can't fathom how Brian Scalabrine makes out so well with his supposed "fan favorite" status. The real reason he gets big contracts and minutes? I have no idea, but I have a guess: "he's white."

I think the Celtics will win the finals. I had thought it would be the Bulls but I am under the influence of Randy Moss, who has taught me that once in a while, getting the best player(s) really does work.

New Jersey Nets

The Nets have the horses. They also have their share of problems.

The big news is Nenad Krstic coming back this year after showing signs of developing into an excellent offensive center last year. He's still not much of a defender, but he'll give you 16 points, which is not the case with many big men in the East.

The problem with this team is that they continue to have no identity. They're not very good at defense, they're not very good at offense, and any benefits they derive from Jason Kidd's excellent passing and decision-making is undone by Vince Carter's selfishness and fragility. A second round team at best, especially if they continue to start Jason Collins over Jamaal Magloire and Josh Boone, both of whom are superior. (On a side note, I think this team may be the least fun to watch in the NBA.)

New York Knicks

I really dread doing this preview, as I am, technically, a Knicks fan. Where to begin...

There is not a single good defensive player in the starting lineup. Stephon is the only player who does anything other than scoring (except perhaps Quentin Richardson, an excellent rebounder), and there's not enough shots to go around because every guy in the starting lineup needs to have the ball in his hands to score.

One thing the Knicks do have is plenty of quality reserve power forwards! David Lee and Renaldo Balkman hustle, play hard, and are very athletic and strong. They are the only players on the team that are reminiscent of the glory days of Knicks beat-em-up basketball.

Everything else is polished shit. Nate Robinson is streaky but exciting. Fred Jones is a good dunker who can't shoot. Randolph Morris and Jerome James are...Randolph Morris and Jerome James. Jamal Crawford has all the tools but none of the discipline and can't play defense. Zach Randolph is a random ingredient without a tough bone in his body. Eddy Curry is a soft-handed, better version of Todd MacCullogh.

There's no way this team does anything. I'm embarrassed to be a fan, I hate the coach, I hate the owners, and I hate anyone who perpetuates the travesty that is this team. There is simply no worse team in the NBA, though the Knicks will win 25-30 meaningless games by virtue of their status as Atlantic divisions losers. This team is a mockery of everything that is good and decent about sports. The only thing they haven't managed to do is cheat (that we know of). FUCK.

Philadelphia 76ers

Well, here's a team that's worse than the Knicks. There are essentially no changes to this roster other than the signing of Reggie Evans, a bully who will at least get this team some respect. Andre Iguodala should be an all-star this year, but he isn't saving this sinking ship. Sorry,'re the worst team in the East!

There is some hope, here, though. Nobody on the Sixers has any personality problems, there aren't many selfish players, and despite the lack of talent, Billy King has at least managed to get a group of guys that kinda sorta fits together. They're good for 29 games, in my book, just a tad better than the more-talented and less-sensible Knicks.

Toronto Raptors

They were the class of the division last year in what turned out to be the worst Atlantic ever (quite a feat!). The Raptors have a great team, featuring:
-A quick point guard (TJ Ford) who isn't selfish
-A strong defensive shooting guard who can drive and shoot (Anthony Parker)
-A small forward who can defend and shoot 3s (Jason Kapono)
-A top 5 power forward who is very versatile (Chris Bosh)
-A living, breathing center (Bragnani)

The team also has a solid, almost all-foreign bench (Calderon, Delfino, Joey Graham, Garbajosa, Nesterovic, Maceo Baston....) that excels at the same thing the starters do: shooting and playing defense. It's kind of a funny thing in the East...if you can shoot and play defense, you can win 50 games. Almost no teams trot out even 3 guys that can do both things well, and the Raptors have at least 8 deep, with a good point guard to run the team in transition or half-court offense. I really like this team.

The problem is in personnel. They're still one go-to guy away from being a real threat, and they'll continue to be a regular-season team until they can find someone to really change opponent's game plan. I don't think Chris Bosh is that guy and I'm not sure Andrea Bargnani can become him. Whatever the case, this is a team that has reached its apex, for now, which should meaning making the playoffs as a 3, 4, or 5 seed. I'll take....4 and 48 wins, about on par with the Wizards.

As always, e-mail me at

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Simply the West

It is really hard to believe how much better than the Eastern Conference the West has become. I don't understand how the balance of power could shift so violently, for so long. In a league with a salary cap and a myriad of administrative and gameplay rules designed to encourage parity, there has been a clear difference between the conferences for, by my count, a decade.

Of course, we are entering 2007-2008, the tenth anniversary of Jordan's last championship. Many have argued that Jordan's individual excellence masked what was a declining East for years, and I think there's some truth to that. Certainly, 1997-98 was a rough year for the conference - the Atlantic division only had one team with more than 45 wins, and while the Central had four 50 win teams, two were paper tigers (the old Hawks teams that lost in the second round every year and a Hornets team that was an afterthought). In contrast, the West had 55 and 60 win teams in the Midwest Division (along with the only year of KG/Stephon excellence in Minnesota at 45-37) and two 61 win teams and a 56 win team in the Pacific. These teams included: the Payton/Kemp Supersonics; a Lakers team featuring Shaq, Kobe, Eddie Jones, and Nick Van Exel; a Suns team with Antonio McDyess (a rising star with a 40-inch vertical leap at the time), Cliff Robinson (also good), and Jason Kidd (and Steve Nash); the best Jazz team ever; and a Spurs team that had David Robinson and Tim Duncan both averaging 21 points a game. Wow.

The East still had some non-Bulls talent. On the Heat, 'Zo was playing a very high level that led to some top-5 finishes in MVP voting and was complimented Jamal Mashburn and Tim Hardaway in their respective primes. The Knicks were still a physical, beat-you-up team (with Ewing averaging 20 and 10). The Pacers played exceptional team basketball and came through in the clutch. These guys were probably not as good as the above-mentioned teams on the West, but they still had character and on any given night could give any good Western team a very hard time. Today, that is not the case.

This all brings me to the final entry of my Western preview, which, by my count, has seen me discuss only one team that I really think is terrible (the Grizzlies). That changes today. Let's get right to it:

The Northwest

Denver Nuggets

This is the most interesting team in the West. Unfortunately, "most interesting" doesn't often lead to "NBA championship".

The big problem here is that there is no point guard. Last year, Steve Blake provided some pretty decent play at the 1 despite negligible statistical contribution, but now it appears that the only point guards on the roster are Anthony Carter and Chucky Atkins. Of course, this could lead to the "let's use Allen Iverson as a point guard" line of thinking, which is always tantalizing, but using AI at point probably has small probability of success. I don't think using Allen Iverson as a point guard will work in the playoffs, but he certainly does provide options, because he is a good defender and passer. Perhaps they can use him as an early season stopgap and try to swing a midseason deal to land another Steve Blake-ish guy to run the show. They should have signed Brevin Knight.

Every other position for the 'Nugs is seriously good. JR Smith and AI are two exceptional shooting guards who compliment each other well. (They also have two of the best-named backups in the league, Yakhouba Diawara and Von Wafer.) Carmelo Anthony and Eduardo Najera are great SFs who also compliment each other perfectly. (Carmelo looked really, really good in summer league, by the way - even better than last year.) Nene Hilario and Kenyon Martin (if he can return at even 75%) provide athleticism and muscle at power forward. Marcus Camby is the best defensive center in the league, bar none.

I don't understand why this team doesn't get itself a good point guard, because they really have too much talent to put on the floor at once. There are bad teams in need of talent with good point guards (like the Grizzlies, who have three good PGs) that the Nuggets could easily trade with. I hope this happens and that George Karl can continue his coaching resurgence. (Remember, he is the same guy who screwed up a team with Sam Cassell, Ray Allen, and Glenn Robinson. Not many people realize this, but that core had more than 42 wins only once under Karl.)

There's a part of me that thinks this team is so ripe for chemistry issues that a very deep Western Conference will sink them. However, they have the third-best player in the league with a good frontcourt, and that in itself should get them to the playoffs with a 7 seed. If they can make it work, they could beat the Spurs in a playoff series. If they can't, they might not even win 40 games.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Here is a team with a lot of problems. Let's try to think about the good, first.

Randy Foye will be a solid point guard and he has good backups in Telfair and Jaric. (Okay, in Telfair.) Gerald Green (or Rashad McCants, for that matter) is a good, young, athletic guy with an excellent jumper that seems to have unlimited potential. Corey Brewer should be a pretty decent small forward, and if he's not good right away, Ryan Gomes should be able to fill in. Al Jefferson will be the stud of the team but is probably not good for more than 18 and 12 (a qualifier you don't hear every day) and Theo Ratliff, if he can stay healthy, actually looked decent in preseason and is a good defensive center.

This team isn't going to make the plyaoffs, but I don't think they're going to be the worst team in the league, either. They are filled with young players and Randy Wittman (a terrible coach, I think) will be able to give guys a lot of playing time and figure out who can flourish and in what situations. In some ways being a very bad team and losing Kevin Garnett may be a sort of cathartic experience for these guys - for years, they were a disappointment, and now the burden of expectation is lifted. They will surely pick up another good draft pick this year, and if Randy Foye or Corey Brewer turns out to be better-than-expected, they'll be better than more than a couple of teams in the East. Also, as a bonus, any team with this many young guys will provide some exciting highlights and be pretty fun to watch for both their successes and failures. [For the sake of the fans of the Timberwolves, I chose not to mention Antoine Walker. I doubt he'll see floor time.]

Portland Trail Blazers

Here's a team that gets lots of publicity for doing a good rebuilding job, but for my money, they're not that much better than Minnesota. They have an above-average young point guard in Jarrett Jack (backed up by the affable Steve Blake), they have a very good but not nearly dominant shooting guard in Brandon Roy, and then they have a bunch of guys that are completely inconsistent and screwed up. Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye, Joel Przybilla....these guys are supposed to get it done? I know Greg Oden's injury was a stroke of bad luck but even if he had been on this team, Jack/Roye/Oden doesn't sound that much better to me than Foye/Brewer/Jefferson.

This looks like the worst team other than the Grizzlies, and perhaps the 'Wolves. If LaMarcus Aldridge can get it together (and I think that will take another year), there's a chance of some sparks flying here, but they're still a team that is completely lacking in personnel. Also, they have Raef LaFrentz, who is unbelievably still on his contract and will earn $12,440,787.00 this year. That's 12 million, in case you think i mixed up the decimals. I once insulted Raef LaFrentz while sitting behind his wife at a Boston Celtics game and, though I felt bad at the time, I think that in retrospect it was well-deserved. Sorry, Raef, and sorry, Trailblazers. You suck.

Seattle Supersonics

I am not a big believer in big-time college scorers coming to the NBA and helping right away. There are notable examples of success but in the bigger picture it seems that even if they can score, it's hard for them to do it on teams with winning dynamics. (Glenn Robinson is a good example of this.)

It's for this reason that I don't think Kevin Durant will affect the Sonics in any meaningful way. He's kind of a mix of the two players he's replacing (Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis), except they score 50 points a game, and he'll score 25 a game at best.

The thing is, Seattle does have a decent team. Luke Ridnour is an effective point guard with an accurate jump shot. Either Damien Wilkins or Jeff Green should provide hustle, defense, and scoring acumen at small forward. Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison are both very good power forwards, and Robert Swift and Kurt Thomas are not that bad at playing center. (Okay, Robert Swift sucks, but if you've seen him recently, you can't help but think he might be sort of good. He looks even cooler than Cherokee Parks!)

There's some decent bench depth with Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Earl Watson, and the prerequisite BAC (Big African Center), Mouhamed Sene, is supposed to be a superb shotblocker.

The team could threaten for a playoff spot if it wasn't for the problems ownership is creating with its fans. I think there's a legitimate chance this team could find themselves without a homecourt advantage, just like the last-years-in-Charlotte Hornets. Can a bunch of young players with a suspect coach (my least favorite person in the NBA, PJ Carlesimo) and a depleted fan base get a playoff spot in the West?

Frankly, no. Not even close. But I think they'll be better than they should.

Utah Jazz

Jerry Sloan. Defense. Teamwork. Mormons. These things have been a staple of ironically-named Jazz basketball for almost 20 years and I don't see them changing soon. The only major change will be the emergence of a shooting guard to fill Derek Fisher's role. The early starter is Ronnie Brewer, but Gordan Giricek and CJ Miles should also be in the mix. Brewer is one of those shooting guards who is athletic and a decent mid-ranger but who can't hit threes or shoot foul shots (kind of like DeShawn Stevenson, who got run out of town). Considering the Jazz lack much of a threat from the three point line, this seems dangerous, as it will allow opposing teams to drop down and double-team the horse of this team, Carlos Boozer.

Andrei Kirilenko might be able to fix that situation, but it's anyone's guess where his head is at. (Probably in Russia, frankly.) You would think a Russian would enjoy playing for an the NBA's most authoritarian regime. Time will tell how that works out, and it's impossible to predict.

I think the Jazz should get in with the fifth seed and get knocked out in boring fashion. They just don't have the weapons, and I think Deron Williams will have an off year this year now that people know he is talented.

As always, e-mail me at

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A little rusty...

Well, I got more than a couple of responses about my blog last night, and they had a common theme: it seems a five month layover and a complete ignorance of last year's finals has made me a bit...rusty. For that, I'm sorry, but as one of of the greatest drivers of our lifetimes (pictured above) can attest, being rusty isn't always such a bad thing. Either way, I'll try to tighten the screws a little (and maybe check my grammar a little more fastidiously). Thanks for tolerating me. (And if that little pun still isn't hitting home, the driver above is the great Rusty Wallace. Sweet sunglasses, Rusty!)

I discussed the Pacific conference yesterday and as I intend to move West to East, today it's The Southwest.

New Orleans Hornets

Turn on that sleeper alert. This is going to be a much-improved team this year, as long as they can keep all of their guns loaded. Point guard is the most important position in basketball (aside from Center in certain cases) and starting point guard Chris Paul will be the best point guard in the league when the Nash/Kidd generation loses its fastball. Which may be this year. (Deron Williams, for all of his merits, doesn't quite stack up to Paul. [If you ask me, at least.])

Shooting guard will be an issue for the Hornets, as it will be split between Mo Pete, Rasual Butler, and maybe Jannero Pargo. This is kind of pathetic considering the glut of good shooting guards in the NBA, but it is not a very big problem because New Orleans' Small Forward, Peja Stojakovic, is essentially the best shooting-guard-styled 3 man in the league and will demand the ball. Hopefully he can be more effective this year than he was last year. Considering his prowess as a shooter, that should be possible. I think the probability is high because the Hornets' frontcourt, comprised of David West and Tyson Chandler, is among the best in the league. They are not the most talented, but they represent a perfect combination of big men - one can create offense on the block and the other is the best garbage man in the league. Both guys can run the floor, have significant size and/or athletic advantages over most of their opponents, and Tyson Chandler is one of the only players in the league who might be able to give Tim Duncan a hard time if he can stay out of foul trouble. I think this will win them a lot of games, and it presents a stark contrast to the Knicks' philosophy of building frontcourt. That's always a good thing.

Julian Wright was New Orleans' pick in the draft this year, and I think it would be cool if he could find away to steal some time at 2-guard. He might be a little bit too big and rangy but with him and Peja on the floor, they could almost reverse positions on offense. (Defense: no comment.)

In a loaded West, it's hard to predict a team like this making the playoffs, but I'm going to do it anyway. The red flag for this team is defense, because every team has a shooting guard or a small forward that can penetrate or shoot against Peja and Mo Pete/Butler. The thing is, with Tyson Chandler giving weak side help, this may not be as much of a problem as it would be for most teams, so I'm letting it go.

Dallas Mavericks

I enjoyed watching the Mavs lose last year, like most people. Avery Johnson is just so hateable, and though I personally like Mark Cuban, I can see many people feeling differently.

Josh Howard hurt himself last night, and he's going to have an MRI today. I'm going to assume that he will be okay and back to normal at some point for the purposes of this discussion.

The Mavericks are essentially Spurs-B. They have great players, they're well-coached, and no one enjoys watching them play. Old favorite Eddie Jones will not help that, though I did a little research on new backup point guard Jose/JJ/Jose Juan Barrea (not sure which one is proper [I like JJ]), and found this video that seems to suggest that he is dope. He isn't playing much in preseason though, and since he probably can't play defense or yell loudly about the bible, I doubt Avery Johnson will do much to get him on the floor.

There really haven't been many other changes to this roster (for the first time in a while). The addition of Brandon Bass (from NO) gives them maybe the most powerful two-handed dunker in the league, but unfortunately Brandon Bass's skill set pretty much consists of the two-handed dunk and the blocked shot.

This year's team will be sent out on the premise that what happened last year (or the year before, and so on...) won't happen again. And as stupid as that sounds, you know what? I think it makes sense. Dallas is too good and too New York Yankee-like for my blood, which means it's inevitable they will win. I think this year is the year, if only because of the law of averages seems to dictate it. Devin Harris and Josh Howard are two of the best players in the league and that Nowitzki guy will probably put them over the top. Throw in a solid bench and a young, hungry squad and the only thing holding them down is Dampier. Guys like him didn't stop the Spurs from winning, and they won't stop the Mavs, either. I hate to say it, but for my money, the chip goes to Dallas this year.

(By the way, if you're interested in seeing new Mav Eddie Jones in his absolute prime, check this out. Give it time. Trust me. Let's just say dunking-wise, Kobe ain't got shit on Eddie, well maybe just a little bit.)

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets were my [very poorly thought-out] pick to win it all last year, and then they fired Jeff Van Gundy. Teams that do things like that are teams I tend to dislike, and as much as I'd like to write this team off, it's hard because they have great personnel. Steve Francis will have a resurgent year at point guard playing with Tracy McGrady (remember how well he did with Cuttino), Shane Battier is the best role-player in the league, and Yao Ming is probably, at this point, the best center in the league (shudders).

The new starting PF is going to be Luis Scola, which in my opinion is stupid considering the rebounding acuity of "Fuckin" Chuck Hayes. As near as I can tell, Scola is a soft, silly South American guy who is a Euroleague dunking machine. If I'm trying to find a good power forward, "Euroleague dunking machine" is not what I'd look for. (And, for the record and for any Milwaukee Bucks fans out there, I would also avoid any "Chinese dunking machine".) If Scola can shoot, maybe it will work, but I'm just perplexed why the Rockets would want to change their character from a strong defensive team to a half defense/half offense squad. Wherever they go, it won't be good, and improving offensive personnel is pointless because Francis, McGrady, and Yao will occupy the ball more often than not. (And that's a good thing.) Despite all that, I'm putting them at 7th in the West strictly by virtue of personnel. Stevie!

San Antonio Spurs

Roster changes: Picked up Ime Udoka.
Odds of winning: About 7 to 5.
Likeable players: 0 with the possible exception of Ime Udoka.

I hate watching this team. I've seen enough of Tim Duncan's excellent footwork to last me a lifetime. I know they Spurs are good, I know Tony Parker is quick (and I hear he's married to some Hollywood actress), I know Popovic is a good coach, blah, blah, blah. What else can you say? I'm just waiting for this era to end. Oh for the days of MJ.

Memphis Grizzlies

Uh, are you serious? They have a logjam of point guards that I don't know what to make of (Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley Jr., Damon Stoudamire), the best white shooting guard in the league (Mike Miller) in front of a very good Tarance Kinsey, the chronically overrated Rudy Gay (backed up by the chronically overrated Casey Jacobsen), Pau Gasol being backed up by Stro Show/Hakim Warrick (same player), and Darko.

Unless Mike Conley can get in and start running things to a serious degre, this is BY FAR the worst team in the league. I mean, they just have no hope. Thank god they posthumously awarded Hubie Brown coach of the year for even making the playoffs with a team that involved some of these terrible players. (Yes, I know that was more than a couple of years ago. The point is still worth making.) You couldn't get that far with this year's team if you hired the pope to coach it. The best way to make this work would be to hire Jeff Van Gundy and try to slow everything down up and down the court and play 71-69 style basketball, but as that is not en vogue, I don't see it happening. David Stern would probably change the rules on them for it anyway.

See you tomorrow.

As always, e-mail me at

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm Back.

Let me tell you a little story about a boat.

A couple of years ago, I got an idea from a friend of mine who, with some ingenuity and a little hard work, built a raft that he and his friends could party and camp on. I heard about the idea in the Spring of my junior year in college, and I was understandably enthusiastic. True to form, I stole the idea and planned on building my own luxury liner, capable of supporting a campfire and possibly some sort of ballistic device (a potato cannon). It was an ambitious idea, for sure, but I thought it would pay off in the end.

Needless to say, I was strapped for cash at the time. I called up the lumber company and a company that made barrels (to hold the raft afloat) and priced the whole thing out. I was looking at a best-case scenario of at least $600, which I immediately realized could buy a lot (a boatload!) of beer. ($600 would buy four Keystone Lights every day...on leap year). I scouted locations to put my boat, which were surprisingly difficult to find (apparently in New Jersey, home of my alma mater, lakeside privacy is a little more important than in my home state of Vermont). The process was disquieting and frankly, useless. My enthusiasm waned. Eventually, I gave up.

Why am I telling you about my crappy raft idea that never got off the ground? Because I don't want this blog to become another failed raft. I'm going to built this blog and sail it and enjoy it and party on it and no one can stop me. Now let's get on with the show. Don't ever give up.

The season is here.

I'm excited. It's been quite an off-season in terms of player movement and league-wide issues. I'll spare you the summary, because everything has been covered pretty exhaustively by the major sports media. What I hope to do in this space is take care of the stuff everyone always forgets - the smaller player movements and stupid issues that make you think "oh yeah, I forgot insert athletic sixth man went to insert crappy team last year..." Even though the moves are kind of unimportant in the broad scope of off-season coverage, they often become important come playoff time.

To get everything and avoid being too long-winded, I'm going to go from East to West division by division, day by day, and try to get a little perspective on what will be new this year in the National Basketball Association.

Today: The Pacific.

Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors are kind of like a west-coast version of the Knicks. They have no true power forwards, their centers are big, stiff, white guys, and they have about 21 guards.

The difference is, the Warriors have one of the NBA's treasures, beer-swigging, small-ball- playing Don Nelson. Lineup inconsistency is not a problem for a man who once made Manute Bol his designated three-point threat.

This year, the Warriors come back with largely the same lineup. As a matter of fact, the only interesting players not seen on last year's squad look to be Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli (who is apparently referred to by some opponents as the drink). I think one of these people might make an impact and if I had to choose, I'd take Wright since SF/PF is probably a better position at which to gain playing time.

One interesting situation is how and where the hell everyone is going to play. Baron is clearly the PG and Biedrins is clearly the center, but everything in between is all screwed up. Despite having a million G/F, the only true shooting guard on this team is probably Belinelli. He sucks, so it's going to come down to PG/SG Monta Ellis and SG/SFs Kelenna Azubuike (underrated and having a great preseason), Matt Barnes (playoff hero), Stephen Jackson (toughest), and Michael Pietrus (best defender). All of those guys can make a good argument why they should start at shooting guard or small forward, but only two will. One of them will be Stephen Jackson, who was named captain in the least-important but most-covered move of the last two weeks. That leaves five good players fighting for time and I don't see how that will end well. But if anyone can make it work, it would be Old Nellie.

The fighting doesn't stop in the middle of the lineup, because it's hard to see who will start at PF. Will it be Al Harrington, who looks terrible? Austin Croshere, who is a tool? Brandan Wright? Kosta Perovic? (I've never heard of him, but he's listed as a 7-2, 240 pound forward....the kind of player Nelson would love to use if he could, I think.) Hard to say but it will be important in the Western Conference, which continues to be the home of many good power forwards despite the loss of KG and Zack Randolph.

Despite my respect for Don Nelson and the plethora of talented shooting guard/small forwards on this team, I don't see them making the playoffs. Baron Davis is still only 28 but I don't think his body will last the season, and he is the only guy who can carry them. Also, though no one will say it, he's probably the best point guard in the league (if only because he can play defense when healthy). It's a shame he's not on a better team.

Los Angeles Clippers

The LA Clippers made my favorite move of the season when they acquired an excellent point guard: Brevin Knight. This will work well for them as Sam Cassell is old and injury-prone and Shaun Livingston looks to be hurting (it was recently reported that he is now able to shoot around for 45 minutes at a time...not good).

Player wise, the Clippers may have the most balanced team in the Western conference. Sam and Brevin make a good point guard duo (and third stringer Guillermo Diaz is a scoring machine...a great player to watch back when Miami was in the BIG EAST). Cuttino Mobley and Quinton Ross are a good offensive/defensive combination shooting guard unit. Corey Maggette seems to be a bit of an asshole, but he gets to the line better than anyone since Jerry Stackhouse (oh wait, he still plays) and Al Thornton and/or Ruben Patterson will be good backups. Center is solid with Chris Kaman and Aaron Williams both providing good hustle and a high ugliness/talent ratio.

Obviously, power forward will be a big problem if Elton Brand can't come back soon, and that will be a bigger problem because any team that starts Tim Thomas (the JD Drew of basketball) sucks (not including the Phoenix Suns who could plug anyone from Jim Jackson to Marcus Banks in and get good production). Brand should be back by the end of the season, though, and I don't forsee him being a problem.

The Clippers underperformed so badly last year, I don't think anybody is anticipating much from them. In my opinion, this is a huge mistake considering the roster. With Houston losing Van Gundy, I think the Clippers are the fourth best team in the West behind SA, Dallas and Phoenix. They are as good as Utah and Denver and if they can play together with a little good coaching and a point guard with a pulse, they will be a force to be reckoned with. I'm slapping the second round tag on these boys, with the conference finals if they have a good matchup.

Lost Angeles Lakers (har, har)

Other than Kobe, this team is more awful than a turd covered in Velveeta. Derek Fisher starts at point guard. He sucks at everything but hitting open threes, which he won't get as much of because of the Lack of Shaq. Luke Walton is okay but not on a team where can never touch the ball and make plays with it. Lamar Odom, last year nonwithstanding, is not consistently good and also needs the ball to get people involved. Kwame...Bynum...nothing useful on this team whatsoever.

Can Kobe take them to the playoffs? Honestly, who cares? People keep asking this question, but it's clear they're not going to the finals, so who gives a fuck? Even Kobe knows that, and that's why he wants out. This space would be better-used to campaign for an LA-based football team than to even talk about this mess.

Phoenix Suns

My second favorite acquisition this off-season happened when the Suns picked up DJ Strawberry. I can only pray he sees the floor, as his lineage dictates athletic perfection.

The Suns also added a guy named Grant Hill, and like the Randy Moss trade to the Pats this year, it almost seems too logical to work. The Randy Moss example makes me tend to think that the chances of lightning striking twice are not good, but who knows - everyone wants Grant to do well and he'll be in an offense that is very well-suited to his strengths (doing everything well and being a good team player).

Phoenix has pretty good talent at shooting guard with Raja Bell and everyone knows Marion and Stoudemire are excellent frontcourt players. Diaw and Barbosa will continue to be good subs, but beyond them, there are few good players on this bench...Marcus Banks, Sean Marks, Alando Tucker....Eric Piatowski....for a team that likes to run, these guys certainly aren't going to be going ten deep. As a matter of fact, due to salary constraints (I presume) they only carry 12 players.

The Suns have been almost like the Red Sox to the Spurs' Yankees in the playoffs these past three years. They fight hard, everyone roots for them, but they seem to have terrible luck, get no calls, or get outplayed at precisely the wrong time. For the past three years Steve Nash has been taking beating after beating (both physical and emotional) and he has kept coming back with a competitive drive and his usual good skills and personality. Will he keep it up? If he can, maybe this will be the year...

Sacramento Kings

This is definitely the strangest team in the West. They have a very good offensive backcourt that can't play a lick of defense in Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin. They have the best defensive player in the league at small forward. They have an older muslim power forward that holds the ball for a long time and can be quite streaky. They have a center that has been on more Olympic teams than I care to think about.

The bench is crap. Orien Greene, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia, Kenny Thomas, Mikki Moore....they're all at about the same skill level - they all have given either college or pro fans glimmers of hope with good nights in their careers, but deep down, we know they are crappy. I do like the new guys on the team (Quincy Douby and Mustafa Shakur), but they probably won't get any burn unless the Sacramento charter plane crashes.

This team will certainly have nights where they're fun to watch, but in my mind, it's just too much mismatched talent with a coach (Reggie Theus) who doesn't have the tools to make it all work. If Kevin Martin becomes a truly elite scorer this year, there's a chance they could sneak into the playoffs if they develop some semblance of chemistry, but as always, in the West, you have to have your shit together and these guys most certainly did not last year.

That's the pacific conference. Look forward to continued discussion on a semi-daily basis.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

The (Western Conference) Finals

I think the Jazz and the Spurs are two of the more aptly-named teams in sports. The Jazz, like the music that emanates from nowhere near Utah, can be up-tempo, slow, complex, simple, whatever. They are classy and the leader is the game's best practitioner.

The Spurs, if you ask me, are best stuck in a horse's ass. But that's just me.

Of course I hope the Jazz beat the Spurs because of my bitterness towards the fellows from the Alamo. However, I also think that the Jazz are a good team with many interesting and disparate athletes, and they happen to be coached by the coach who coaches coaches, Mister Jerry Sloan.

Though, unlike Don Chaney, Sloan has not won an NBA Coach of the Year award, Jerry Sloan is one of the all-time greats. Whether measured by his motivational skills, his strategic planning, or his sheer tenacity, Sloan is a man with few peers. As a basketball player, he was the slowest man on the court (he used to lose wind-sprints against the Bulls' backup center), but he was lithe, lanky, and ceaseless. By some inconceivable coincidence, as a coach he possesses a mind that allows him to translate everything that made him a skilled player into a skilled conductor.

Sloan has been blessed with great players and cursed by bad timing, and through it all he has consistently fielded teams that played with more talent than the sum of their parts. In a wide-open year, I think he may be poised to strike and finally ascend the pinnacle of coaching greatness.

On the other end of the court, Sloan meets his match in the Greg Popovic, who resembles Splinter both physically and in his ability to turn ordinarily shitty players into valuable parts of a very good team (Both Splinter and Poppa successfully built around boring leaders [Leonardo/Duncan] with a nice mix of asshole/talented ones [Raphael/Bowen]).

Game one was interesting. The Jazz had an excellent performance from the heretofore streaky Deron Williams, but got nothing out of anyone else. The Spurs got a great game from everyone, including the best game in recent memory from human coat hanger Fabricio Oberto.

If there was one huge, glaring problem for the Jazz, it was the shooting guard position, where they gave up a combined 37 points and 10 assists to Finley and Ginobili. I think if the Jazz lose, this is where they'll lose it, which makes me only the 312th person to say that.

Still, there were hopeful signs for the Jazz. They should be able to sustain a considerable rebounding advantage throughout the series, because for the first time, they are a much, much more physically imposing team (Amare nonwithstanding). They held a 49-33 advantage in game one, and if the Spurs hadn't shot a robust 54% (which they won't every game), the Jazz would have had it well in hand. And that was on the road. (Of course, Deron Williams doesn't get 34, 9, 6, and 1 every game, but hey, Mehmet Okur doesn't usually go 3-15 either).

I think the Spurs are due for some bad luck and some bad calls, and though Poppa is a master coach, he has had the benefit of one Mr. Duncan for a very long time. Carlos Boozer isn't going to neutralize Tim Duncan, but I think that he will effectively neutralize the advantages a team with Tim Duncan has - he can match the hardnosed, fundamental play pretty well.

It has been more years than I can remember since the Western conference has produced a truly nasty team. They have had good ones for sure, but these Jazz are the kind of team that harkens back to the old Knick teams of yore, and even the Bad Boys, I dare say. Popovic was used to being the toughest guy in town, but there ain't no way he's prepared for Jerry Sloan with a good team. Jazzy Jerry in 6.

It's hard to believe how long it's been since the Eastern Conference Finals were solvent. I remember when it used to be such an event, and how for the whole conference finals week, every game every other day seemed like it was an incredible matchup.

Detroit's probably going to win, and I don't like it, but it'll probably be in five. The Cavs just don't have the pieces (they don't have a shooter! they don't have a point guard! they don't have a bench!) and the Pistons do, and then some.

The only good thing I can say about the East is that I am interested by the prospect of a Pistons/Jazz Finals. As for Pistons/Spurs, well, that is pretty much Braves/Yankees for me.

As always, e-mail me at

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Nellie

It is a bittersweet birthday for Don Nelson, who, last night (which was actually his birthday), got eliminated by the official Don't Give Up second-chance team. He did one hell of a job this year, though, and despite the bittersweet occasion, I am sure Nellie, who knows that there is more to life than basketball, had a little fun. We salute you.


It all started when PJ Brown, who like Bruce Bowen was a tough, skilled defender that didn't mind supplementing his defense with a trip and a crotch grab from time to time, threw Charlie Ward, point guard for the Knicks, to the ground. The game was almost over, but that didn't matter.

(Believe it or not...) There was a time when New York Knickerbockers actually stood up for each other, and on top of their team spirit, just happened to be some guys you didn't want to fuck with. Neither was PJ Brown. Needless to say, a fight for the ages ensued. Pat Riley, a great coach who is also a magnanimous asshole, blamed Charlie Ward for fighting for position on a rebound. "Realistically, the game is over with. Why would Charlie Ward try to do that? Why make that kind of play at that time. You let the game go...they didn't let it go."

Two nights ago, Robert Horry, who used to be my favorite player, shoulder-checked Steve Nash at the end of the game, which was already out of reach.

Greg Popovic, who is a good coach, showed his shithole colors by noting (erroneously) that "It was just an end-of-game foul and Steve fell down. I didn't think it was such a big deal." As you can see from the video, it appears almost as if Steve tripped and got in Horry's way, causing Big Game Bob to inadvertently hit him on the way down. Hard to believe what you can get suspended for these days, right, Greg?

The players who were suspended in the Knicks brawl were Patrick Ewing, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, John Starks, and Charlie Ward. Because nine players must suit up for a playoff game, the NBA decreed that the Knicks, who were up 3-2 at the time, would lose Ewing, Houston and Ward for Game 6 and LJ and Starks for game seven. Miami won both games. (PJ Brown was suspended for two games.)

In the current melee, Amare Stoudamire and Raja Bell have been suspended for the next game, and Robert Horry is suspended for two games.

Needless to say, having your best players suspended is crippling for any team. It certainly contributed to the Knicks blowing their 3-2 lead and losing to Miami in what was perhaps the Knicks's best year and best chance to beat the Bulls.

It remains to be seen how the shorthandedness will effect the Suns - they still have their MVP, and will be able to go small better than most teams (the Knicks were forced to play Scott Brooks). The Spurs don't have a lot of frontcourt depth, so they can't really go big and kill the Suns, and the Suns can probably get a good game out of a proven playoff performer and tough man for the ages, Kurt Thomas.

We'll see tonight, and if the Suns lose, it will be a sore disappointment for any fan. Whenever something like this happens, there's someone to blame. Amare and Raja should have known the rules and sat their asses down on the bench. If they were tempted to get up, Suns coaches should have physically restrained them, screamed in their faces, whatever.

That said, I do not like the automatic suspension rule, and I wish it had been done away with after the Knicks series. Leaving a bench is instinctual, and if you're not out there throwing punches, you may actually be helping the situation. But the bottom line is that it doesn't make sense - suspension should only be for physically endangering somebody, and leaving the bench isn't doing that.

I would propose that there be a far greater penalty for leaving a bench and getting into a fight, and that there be a monetary penalty for leaving the bench at all. That way, it would be discouraged, and the players that actually contributed to mayhem would get their just desserts. However, NBA series wouldn't swing based on the League Office unless people were actually endangering one another.

The way things shake out, though, all we have is a damn shame where a dirty player has helped his team with a dirty play, the coach has shown his approval, and the fans don't get what they're paying for. It may be fair, but it isn't right.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oh how things have changed

Baron Davis could have put last night's game away by hitting one foul shot, though he did outplay Deron Williams. AK-47 looked like he is back in business. The Jazz won, and I think that it will continue that way for the rest of the series.

I am happy that the Jazz won, because I said that I thought they would.

That said, despite the fact that he had just flown back from emotional surgery to save his 10-month old daughter's life, I just can't feel that good, because I just don't like Derek Fisher, and it frustrates me when he gets himself in the playoff limelight.

I know, I'm an asshole. A prick. But I honestly felt more emotional about writing about Rony Seikaly for his birthday than I do about the Jazz/Warriors. I don't know why.

There's only one thing I care less about, and that's the Detroit-Chicago game tonight. I will probably check it out and report tomorrow, and I really hope Chicago makes a game of it.

If you care more than me, e-mail me at

If Nice Guys Finish Last, Then This Must Be The Nicest Guy In The World


Don't Ever Give Up supports winners and sinners generally, but on this tenth day of May, I'd like to give a little literary respect to a fellow who, despite having a successful college and professional career in basketball, tends to...well...lose. Not just in basketball. Rony Seikaly loses in life.

Despite a negative image of Rony Seikaly that exists to this day (in terms of talent, at least), he was a pretty solid ballplayer. He took his Syracuse team to the national championship game. He was the Miami Heat's inaugural pick. He won the NBA's Most Improved Player award. He once hauled down 34 rebounds in a game. He also once a running hook shot from about eight feet out of bounds, behind the backboard, arcing it over the shot-clock and in. The man had could play, and he was also a humble guy, quoted in the The Black Game saying "If 80% of the league is black, that means that black players are better than white players...the black players are superior. No doubt." You don't hear too many white centers say things like that.

Unfortunately, in terms of winning, Seikaly found himself in just about the worst situation possible, all the time, for his entire life.

It all started when he was born. Where, you ask? Perhaps in Lithuania or Yugoslavia? No. Rony Seikaly was born in Beirut, which was the home of one of the world's nastiest civil wars. It started when young Rony was ten [and continued for 13 years]. (Interesting fact: Steve Kerr and Keanu Reeves were also born in Beirut.) Fortunately, Seikaly, who would have made one big target, moved with his parents to Greece, where he went to an American high school.

Seikaly seemed like he was on the right track when he went to Syracuse and played center for noted monster mack Jim Boeheim. Playing for the Orangemen, Seikaly made an immediate impact. He had only learned to play basketball in high school, but he was a polished inside scorer and a strong rebounder. He shot 56% over his career and in his senior year was a second-team All-American who averaged 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds a game, along with more than 2 blocks.

Seikaly was never a perfect player. His foul shooting was...inadequate. He had a knack for fouling out of games (perhaps due to his Beiruti battle-heritage). In his Freshman year fouled out of a full third of the games he played.

(From the webpage:) "It was in the NCAA tournament his junior year that Seikaly put his game together. Fueled by some caustic remarks by announcer Brent Musberger, Seikaly exploded for 33 points against Florida and the Gators' highly-touted Duane Schintzius." If that's not the best sentence I've ever quoted, it's close.

Everything seemed in hand for the National Championship, as Syracuse, which also had Derrick Coleman and Sherman Douglas (who was ill in college to the tune of 18.2 ppg, 8.2 apg, 2.5 rpg his senior year), played Indiana University, who had professional bums Steve Alford and Keith Smart. The Orangemen were heavily favored, and Seikaly was probably thinking that he was on the way to a long, wonderful career. Unfortunately, despite taking a one-point lead with about 20 seconds left, Seikaly and the Orangemen lost on one of the most famous shots in the history of the NCAA tournament, college's version of "The Shot". (As you can see in the video, poor Rony (#4) plays solid defense on the play, but there's just nothing he can do.)

At the time, Rony was not used to losing, and he probably just figured that with Douglas and Coleman coming back next year, he would have a good shot. Things were going as planned until Sherm the Worm went down with illness right in time for the NCAA tournament. Even teams with the two best big men in the country can't win without a point guard (ask Shaq and Stanley Roberts), so Rony was once again shit out of luck.

When Seikaly was drafted by the Heat with the eighth pick in the draft, he still had a lot of his career ahead of him. Things looked like they could work out. Then his team went 15-67.

Then they went 18-64.

Then they went 24-58.



Seikaly (who averaged around 17 and 10 consistently) made the playoffs for the first time when the Heat, whose nucleus of Sherman Douglas, Seikaly, and Rice had been together for years, finally went 42-40. They lost in the first round, and Seikaly was traded. His first year: 26-56 with the Golden State Warriors.

The next year, the Warriors went 36-46. Suddenly, though, there was hope. Seikaly was tabbed as the man to replace Shaq alongside Penny. The team went 45-37, and things were finally looking up!....then they lost in the first the Heat...Seikaly's old team.

Then: 41-41 (no playoffs).

And Then: 16-34 (strike shortened).

And Then....Rony retired. His career record? A sphincter-shattering 337-533. What is most devastating, though, is the consistency with which Seikaly lost.

A torturous career, no doubt. But it gets worse. If you search for Rony Seikaly's image to, say, write a column about him, you get a bunch of photos like the one on the right. Why, you ask? Is it because the internet is so depraved that even a nonentity like Rony Seikaly gets connected to pornography?

No, sir. That is Elsa Benitez, who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, and she is Mrs. Rony Seikaly. (Rony once wrote an article about how people try to steal her.) Or, rather, she was Mrs. Rony Seikaly. Now you're starting to dig this guy's bad luck in a big way, I suspect. (Anther interesting fact: Benitez had tickets for TWA flight 800, which crashed on my birthday. She was sitting in the airport, and went nuts, calling Seikaly and telling him that the plane was going to crash. He told her she had nothing to worry about. She refused to board. She would have been toast.)

The final blow came not on the court or in the bedroom but at the beach. Rony tried his luck this past April as a professional volleyball player and entered the AVP Cuervo Gold Crown Miami Open. He actually faired pretty well, but in the end, lost 21-9 and 21-18 to Craig Demott and Dameon Holmquist, who as we all know are beach volleyball powers to be reckoned with. Seikaly said after the game "I'm in shape, but this is different. The sand makes a difference." I would note that his former wife seems oblivious to the sand. Perhaps this was behind their falling out.

So Rony loses a lot. He did once refuse to play for the Jazz (who didn't in the early 90's?), but he also challenged Magic Johnson to a game of one-on-one after his HIV diagnosis to show that it's fine for an HIV-infected player to play basketball. He also works to fight cystic fibrosis. Could this be the basis for my theory that he is the nicest guy in the world, and is therefore doomed to finish last in ways that are more heroic and devastating (losing a championship, and a swimsuit model) than the average nice guy? Perhaps. But perhaps not.

Rony had his number retired by Syracuse this past year. He had an article written about him by a Heat fan recounting his first days of Heat fanship rooting for Seikaly (and learning the "Bullshit" chant from Seikaly screaming it). Perhaps after hitting rock bottom (beach volleyball), Rony will get some of the respect that has eluded him for so long.

Or perhaps not.


As always, e-mail me at

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

My Predictions Are Shitty, Volume II

Dear Reader(s):

My predictions have been pretty shitty. I'm really sorry. I suck.


Jimmy V

Glad I got that over with. I am still pretty upset that Houston didn't make it past Game 7, which I was surprised they even had to play in the first place, considering their 2-0 lead. I am even more upset that Van Gundy is (or may be) leaving the team, which will surely ruin them. (As a Knicks fan, I am obligated to wonder, no matter how impossible it is, if Van Gundy will return to the blue and orange. Please god let this happen.)

I have to admit that Utah made everyone on Houston take its medicine, and made Yao look fairly European. Skip did not skip and Chuck chucked repeatedly, and the whole thing was a wash. What's a Van Gundy fan to do? (Move on to better things, apparently.)

Pursuant to Jimmy V's rules of predictions, this means I now officially name the Utah Jazz as the 2007 NBA Champions. A hard position to argue, I admit, but not untenable, thanks to the most dedicated and knowledgeable coach in the game. That's a story for another day, though.

I want to get to discussing the Spurs/Suns series. Every single person in the world thinks the Spurs, especially with their home court advantage, are a mortal lock. I do not understand this, for the following reasons:

(-I have been bitter towards the Spurs for, oh, about nine years now.)

-Game 1 was a tie game, and both of the Spurs' stars played exceptionally, along with Finley. They still barely won because Steve Nash wasn't allowed in by the Magic Johnson rule. The chances of this happening again are very slim, and I have to be honest, I think if Nash stayed in that game (and the referees didn't assume that every time Tim Duncan touches the floor, he has been fouled), the Suns would have won it.

-Steve Nash is not a pansy. He has to be furious. The refs kept him out of a game and his teammates proceeded to run patently shitty offensive sets (maybe D'Antoni deserves some blame here). I think he's the best guy on the floor, and he's surrounded by talented players. If they can just hustle, they can win going away.

-Let's just stop this charade and start Raja Bell or Lee Barbosa. (I am ordinarily against the shortening of names, but to me Leandro just doesn't sound like the stone-cold killer Barbosa is. I like Lee.) He is clearly unguardable because of his quickness, and he is reminding me more and more of one of my favorite players in the history of sport, Mr. Latrell Sprewell.

The above was written yesterday. I just logged on to my computer to find that the Suns had beaten the Spurs by 20. Yes and yes.

Last night, Tony Parker woke the fuck up, and scored 13, bringing his average back down to, well, his average. Steve Nash had 20 and 16. The Suns absolutely owned the fourth-quarter, traditionally the Spurs' best period. I don't think the Spurs can win this series. They're just not good enough.

The crazy thing, to me, is that Shawn Marion, who I have suggested is not quite right, had only five points. And they won by 20! Lee Barbosa also played a below-average game.

One factor in this series that I think will be important is free-throw shooting. The Suns will probably get an easy ten points every game because they are very good at shooting free throws, while the Spurs are very bad.

Suns in six, homey.

Back to playoff bullet points:

-The Cavs beat the Nets last night behind a Herculean effort from The Bron. Everyone on both teams played pretty well, but the difference was at center, where Ilgauskas attacked Jason Collins like Collins was a lesser Balkan country. (Yes, I know Zydrunas is from a completely different part of the world. I'm an ugly American, okay?)

-It's interesting to think that with Nenad Krstic, the Nets might be a Finals team. Has their ever been a team with a weaker history of post players? Derrick Coleman is the only one that comes to mind (and while Kenyon Martin was a great forward, he was not a post guy in my book). Kind of embarrassing for the front office.

-The Nets shot 52% and held the Cavs to 45%. The Nets shot 57% from behind the arc to the Cavs' 26%. The Nets only made four fewer free throws than the Cavs. However, the Nets gave up 19 offensive rebounds to the Cavs (to the Nets' three), which allowed them to get off twenty more shots. That's the story, right there. (Mikki Moore and Jason Collins, the Nets' two seven-foot players, played a combined 69 minutes. If they had each had four rebounds, that would be pretty depressing, but they had four combined.)

-I can't believe how badly the Pistons are pantsing the Bulls. They look more dangerous by the day. Ben Wallace is doing nothing to stop Chris Webber and it appears to me that he may be do for a little over rated chant. I may be echoing The Sports Guy here, but letting Tyson Chandler go was very, very dumb. (In contrast to Mr. Simmons, I don't think a trade for Gasol would have changed much in this series.)

-That said, Tyrus Thomas looks like a keeper. Imagine if he was opposite Chandler and not Wallace! The frontcourt would be an absolute nightmare for opposing coaches, especially with the excellent post-play of Luol "Deng that guy's good".

-What the hell is PJ Brown doing starting? Phonix starting Kurt Thomas against the Spurs makes some sense to me, but PJ Brown against the Pistons? Great idea, Skiles. Did he think he could bait the Pistons into starting Corliss Williamson and then realize that he hadn't been on the Pistons for five years?

-Deron Williams played unbelievably last night. I don't know if that was because Baron's a little slowed by his hammy or because Deron has been having a great year, but it's pretty significant considering the importance of Golden State winning the point guard war.

-The Warriors will have a lot of trouble covering Boozer in the post, and even Harpring will have a size and skill advantage.

-For the first time in the playoffs, everyone on the Warriors (even Al Harrington!) played well, and they still lost. Boozer and Giricek went a combined 8-25, and the Jazz still won.

-Kind of cool that Dee Brown had two huge forth-quarter shots. He qualifies as the Floyd Mayweather Jr. of basketball, who I don't really care for but god damn is that guy quick. Jerry Sloan might be wise to use him to throw the Warriors off if he wants to up the tempo

-Despite all of the above, the Warriors did seem to have this game in hand, and only blew it because they were playing against the coach who coaches coaches. I think they still have a chance. Jazz

-One last thought: I was bitching about Greg Popovic not putting Brent Barry in against the Nuggets. This was a stupid complaint, and I should have recognized the Michael Finley is the guy you want in the playoffs, not Brent Barry.

As always, e-mail me at

Friday, May 04, 2007

Warriors - Mavs: America at War

On this day, we awake to a world in which Don Nelson and Baron Davis's Warriors have soundly defeated Avery Johnson and Dirk Nowitzki's Mavericks (after last night's game, it seems almost ludicrous to use Dirk as a possessive) .

Perhaps coincidentally, it was on this day in 1945 that the world awoke to find that a once-heavily-favored North German Army surrendered to British General Bernard "Beret" Montgomery. Perhaps the parallel is just a coincidence. But, perhaps it isn't...

The Nazis (and the Mavericks) were regular-season contenders unlike any the league had ever seen. Their flawless execution and team-first attitude, along with their heavy spending, gave them a significant advantage in the early stages of battle.

The Nazi's biggest asset was the strength and incisiveness of its technologically-advanced armored divisions (in the Mavs' case, Dirk "Witzkrieg" Nowitzki ). The rest of Europe, known for spending lots of money on the military equivalent of Howard Eisley and Shandon Anderson, was simply unprepared for the sudden, violent thrusts that the German army could make with the support of its mechanized cavalry; there was nothing that could stop them. (Likewise, no one could stop a seven-foot shooter with a post game.)

It seemed as though Hitler (Mark Cuban) had built himself a winner for the ages, increasing his country's potential far beyond his that of early 20th century Germany. The pre-Wiemar German army hadn't been half-bad, having lost in the finals in World War I (Mavs/Heat). Comparatively, though, Hitler's (Mark Cuban's) meteoric rise to power saw unprecedented growth of the German military machine. The only thing in Germany that rivaled the military rise was the prodigious distension of Hitler's (Cuban's) ego, which helped energize his team initially, but had crippling effects over time. Hitler (Cuban) had a vital, fatal flaw: he believed that his own meteoric rise made him, and anything he controlled, invincible, and that his decisions were infallible. That was not to the case.

The reason was simple: The Nazis (Mavs) were simply not a playoff team. They worried so much about offense that they assumed their defense, which was more than adequate but far from perfect, would not be seriously tested.

A big problem was that Hitler (Cuban) assumed America (Don Nelson) was out of the game in the wake of World War I (Nelson's final years with the Mavs). America was indeed in an isolationist period (Nelson had "retired"), and interested itself in military exercises that could hardly be described as world-moving (like coaching the Warriors).

The thing that Hitler didn't realize was that America had three advantages: Personnel, Resources, and above all, Will. America's isolationism had been exacerbated by a great depression (the Warriors suffered serious injury problems) but it was still a military giant ready to awake. When it did, spurned by the magnanimous words of both Winston Churchill (Don Nelson) Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Baron Davis), and countless others...[as they say in historical circles]...shit was fucking on.

Game 1 took place in and around the coast of France. Allied (Nelson) bombers and paratroopers did noteworthy damage, and before the Nazis knew it, they found that the Allies had taken Game 1 right out from under them...afterwards, there were many exclamations to the effect of "we'd better get our act together for Game 2". The problem was, the Nazis (Mavs) didn't really feel threatened...they just figured the early loss was a fluke and that when the real fighting began, superior Nazi might would crush the Allies. If they had taken the loss more seriously, who knows what would have happened...

The Germans fought hard in the second game (D-Day) and were somewhat successful, scoring many enemy casualties. However, this only stroked their military ego, reinforcing their mistaken belief that there was no way they could lose. The Nazis were unprepared for the steely determination and calculated recklessness that Allied commanders like Eisenhower, Montgomery, and Bradley (Don Nelson, Stephen Silas, and Keith Smart) had instilled in each and every one of their men, even those de la France (Mickael Pietrus).

In Game 3 (D-day + 1), The Allies, having feinted attack from the British coast, already had the Germans confused with their scintillating small ball (Mavs didn't expect Davis to kill them). With the Nazi big men out of sync, the Allied attack on the coast that had started with an effort to establish a tenuous beachhead expanded into a full-blown invasion. The Blitzkrieg (Dirk) was not a tool the Nazis could use for defense. They were befuddled. (Dirk sneered.)

Game 4 (Summer of '44) saw the United States press its advantage, and there was nothing the Germans could do to stop it. They had grown complacent, and even though their future was on the line, nobody could find away to overcome the discord among the officers or the low morale among the troops. The German coach, Heinrich Himmler (Little General) complained about even his best men, some of whom were considered regular-season MVPs. The owner (Hitler, I mean Cuban) was furious, but there was nothing he could do. The team that had been executing all year had run into a problem: they had never been tested or put on the defensive, and though they had propagandized and paraded about their steely wills and pugilistic yearnings (the Mavs went as far as growing beards and eschewing standard haircuts), they weren't ready for what they got: a good, old-fashioned fight.

Finally, in Game 5 (Winter '44), after being pushed back to Luxembourg (Dallas), the Nazis were in position to counterattack and thereby use the Blitzkrieg. It almost worked, but the Americans were pioneers of the "bend but don't break" defense. One man, Anthony McAuliffe (Matt Barnes), dug his heels in despite facing a military front that was capable of traversing almost half of France (Dallas had six players in double figures in Game 5). McAuliffe's tenacity exemplified the fighting spirit of the Allies; he would not be battered or besieged by any blitzkrieg, and McAuliffe inspired civilians and soldiers alike with the exceptional bravery that augmented his offbeat personality.

In Game 6 (Spring '45), the blitzkrieg (Dirk) having petered out, and angry Hitler (Cuban) went from strategic visionary to broken, befuddled and borderline insane. His own team hated him, his coaches berated and embarrassed their players, and there was even an assassination attempt. When the final whistle blew, the normally charismatic Hitler (Cuban) was nowhere to be found. He had committed suicide in his own barracks.

My point here is that the Warriors, much like the Allies, are the kind of team any red-blooded American ought to root for. They are an example of what journalists, pundits, and the almost everyone interested in politics or morality spends their lifetimes looking for: the Good Guys. It's hard to find the genuine article, but when it's clear who's who, Good guys have an intrinsic advantage over opponents that are driven by money, greed, ego, and a quest for historical recognition. There's more to the game than that, my sunzo. Much more.

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