Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How do you stop Adrian Dantley? Get a gun.

Behold the Chuckster. He is one of the greatest athletes of our time, and happens to have a wonderful personality wrapped up in a stocky (some would say corpulent) frame that just lends itself to televised basketball (whether on the court or behind the desk).

Don't Ever Give Up: The Basketball Blog loves Charles Barkley. I just want to make that clear. Players like him make the NBA fun, and he'd be driving the bus if the all-NBA personality team hit the road. (J.R. Rider, in the background would be yelling "I got shotgun, fuckers!")

I firmly believe that if Sir Chuckles was here today, helping me write my blog, I could ask him, "Captain Charles, king of the stouts, lord of the boards, were you better than Adrian Dantley?"
Barkley would look at me, cock his head to the side a little and say, "Jimmy V, I'm better than just about everybody. Shit, I fought Shaq. But Adrian Dantley, well, that old shit gives me a run for my money."

Yes, I said it. Barkley and Dantley had very similar scoring careers. Dantley, despite being a low-post scorer, did not play power forward like Charles, so his rebounding totals are nowhere near as astounding (though he did average 9.6 once, which ain't bad). Still, observe:

Chuckster scoring: 23,757 points, 22.1 points per game, best year: 28.3 ppg, .541;
Dantley scoring: 23,177 points, 24.3 points per game, best year: 30.7 ppg (twice) .540.

That's pretty damn good on Dantley's part. Detractors scoring is the only thing Dantley ever did, but you know what? Who gives a damn? He averaged 30 points a game for three seasons straight (actually four, but he was injured). He was an absolutely lethal small forward who stood only 6-5 and could lead the league in scoring by playing in the post. That's incredible! Nobody can do that anymore (and I don't think anybody could before) except for one Charles Barkley. There's no one else. Period.

Adrian Dantley has been eligible to join the Basketball Hall of Fame six times. Each time, he was passed over. It's a shame, considering all that he's done for the sport of basketball.

Dantley is the best player ever to come out of notorious DeMatha High School, where he was coached by the legendary Morgan Wooten. (Wooten's DeMatha team ended Lew Alcindor's unbelievable 77-game high school winning streak.)

He went straight to Notre Dame and promptly became one of the best players in NCAA history. As a freshman, he singlehandedly stopped the freight train that was the 1973 UCLA Bruins, who at the time were on an 88 game winning streak. That team featured Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, and Dave Meyer, and was coached by John Wooden.

Figuring it would be hard to out-do himself after that win, Dantley decided to do something that's not very easy in a 40 minute game: average 30 points. He did that, averaging 30.4, and averaged 28.6 as a senior, grabbing 10.2 and 10.1 rebounds per game, respectively. Dantley was also the leading scorer on the US Olympic team that took home the gold medal in 1976 in Montreal.

As you can see, Adrian achieved quite a level of success in college. Unfortunately, his graduation meant that NBA GMs could get their hands on him, and he was soon a Buffalo Brave.

Adrian did win rookie of the year, but his Braves tenure would begin a long road of misfortune that would see many heartbreaking transactions and crappy teammates.

Despite winning ROY, Dantley was immediately traded to Indianapolis, where he would average 26.5 and 9.4. Indianapolis, seeing they had a good thing, immediately traded him to the Lakers. The Lakers team Dantley joined was highly skilled but unsuccessful; everyone stood and watched while Kareem shot skyhooks. Dantley, who is unselfish, was limited to 29.6 minutes a game, and scored under 20 ppg, which was incredible, because he would average 28 the next season.

The Lakers got rid of Dantley and he ended up on a Utah Jazz team that was miserable. The starting lineup was Dantley, Pete Maravich (only played 17 games), Terry Furlow, Ron Boone, and Allan Bristow. Moves to make the team better included trades for Darrell Griffith, Ben Boquette, Wayne Cooper, and Ricky Green, who all left something to be desired.

It took five years of Adrian carrying the team on his back and making the playoffs before he got help. By 1986, the team had Malone, Stockton, and Eaton, and looked like they were capable of doing something really special. (Dantley, by the way, was averaging 29.8 ppg to Malone's 14.9.) The Jazz decided to do what most teams with Adrian Dantley would do when he was propelling them to greatness. They were like, hey, let's trade him.

Dantley went to the Pistons, where he finally saw some good teammates. He led the team in scoring every year he was there, and was a participant in one of the most heart-breaking Finals in history in 1988 when the Pistons lost to the LA Lakers in seven games. His Detroit team was on the precipice of a championship and just when they were ready to win one...they traded Dantley. To Dallas. Arguably the worst franchise in the league at that time.

Dantley tried hard and scored a lot of points but couldn't help a woeful team. He ended his career on a sour note, having never won a chip despite being within one game (closer than Karl Malone ever got).

Here's what his peers had to say about him:

"I was a quiet guy from Louisiana, and A.D. showed me the ropes and reassured me, told me that I didn't have to change my personality to get along in the NBA. That's what I try to tell Grant Hill. Adrian was my idol. He was my guy on the team." Joe Dumars, HOF

"I remember how he would get himself prepared to play; I took a lot of that myself. And his knowledge of the game. He could tell me about every player I was going to play. That helped a young guy like me." -Karl Malone

"In a tough first year, Adrian was the shining light. He gives us great hope for the future." Frankl Layden, Jazz coach, 1980

"Even though people have said he's too slow, too fat, too small and too offensive minded, he is now the most effective point producer in the game. He shoots field goals at a .582 clip. George Gervin and Larry Bird [HOF] can score, sure, but they take 10 more shots a game." -Spectrum

"Adrian Dantley: the man who couldn't be stopped. Go ahead and name a time. One time. A 6-foot-5 forward, a sort of dinosaur of his age (these days 6-5 guards are called too short) and nobody could stop him. Least of all himself. More than any player in the history of the Jazz franchise, he brought professionalism to the arena. When they tipped it up, he was there to play." -Lee Benson

"How do you stop Adrian Dantley? Get a gun." Dallas coach Dick Motta, after a loss

"You couldn't ask for an easier guy to coach" -Jazz coach Tom Nissalke

"We love him. He's our piranha. He'll eat you alive. He would score in a raging storm at sea." -Frank Layden

"He's one of the most unselfish players I've ver seen" -teammate Darrell Griffith

"He was my favorite player to watch" -Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

"I've always said the only player who could score regularly from that position (close to the basket in an NBA traffic jam) were Kareem and myself. Now there are three. I can't figure out how a 6-foot-5 inches guy can score inside like that. Elgin Baylor didn't do that. Elgin had great hands. He'd score off the break, or drive. But he'd never do like Dantley, stay inside and grab balls, go up two or three times and score. That's incredible, especially with all those leapers around. Scoring under the basket, if someone's guarding you, that's gotta be the toughest shot in basketball." -Wilt Chamberlin

Despite all his accolades, accomplishments, and, above all, points scored, Adrian continues to languish outside the Hall. I don't know why. He is one of the best college and NBA players to ever shoot the ball, and he played with fundamentals, heart, and humility, values that all the old bastards running the league claim to extoll.

The thing is, Dantley was never a personality, never a guy like Barkley. Hell, he actually enjoyed playing in Salt Lake City. Despite everything the media complains about with Barkley-type players, they are the ones who get the headlines. Did Barkley win a championship? No. But I can turn on the TV right now and see his face. That's certainly a good thing; he makes basketball a lot more entertaining than Dick Enberg.

The Hall of Fame is about more than just upstaging Dick Enberg, though. It's about playing and asserting one's position as an all-time great.

Adrian Dantley was an all-time great, who was unfortunately moved each time he reached the cusp of achieving what he sought; the championship. I don't think he really cares, though, because he's too good to be sour. He knows what he did, and that's play hard, not complain, and show his stuff for 12 years in which fans were lucky enough to see him. We salute you, Adrian.

As always, e-mail me at

Monday, February 26, 2007

We all make mistakes...

...and Rolando Blackman keeps getting screwed by them. Someone recently asked Pat Riley what he believed to be the biggest mistake of his long career in basketball. (His answer was not "That I let someone take a goofy reverse-jersey stash-douche picture and print it a million times over.")

"...I should have played Blackman, without a doubt, in the Finals...At the time, Starks in games 3, 4 and 5 carried us in the second half, and in game 6 he had this incredible fourth quarter. I got caught up in the short rotation..."

As any fan of the New York Knickerbockers knows, game seven of the finals was where Starks went cold (ice cold). He shot 2-18 and forever cemented his place as the man put on exclamation point on "In 1994, the Knicks really blew that 3-2 lead!"

Riley: "...If we had played the two of them, but especially Ro, we would have won the championship. (Emphasis added.) To this day, ever time I see [Doc], he's mad at me. He's like..." (Riley shakes his fist as if about to throw a punch.) "Rolando has never expressed what he feels about it to me, but he could still play. And that's the biggest mistake I ever made."

Today is Rolando Blackman's birthday, and I feel for him. He was an excellent scorer and an even better defender during his days as a basketball player, and now is a very good coach with the Mavericks. Despite all that, the litany of ways God has screwed over the best player ever born in Panama is quite unfair for a man as good as Rolando. Ro takes it like a man, though, refusing to feel sorry for himself or wax poetic about what could have been. He's got plenty to be proud of, and has had one hell of an interesting basketball career.

Rolando was born in Panama, but raised in the cradle of basketball, Brooklyn, New York. As anyone who follows the sport knows, any player from Brooklyn is harder than rock and tough as nails. Rolando was no exception, and he played his way out of Brooklyn and into a scholarship at Kansas State Univeristy.

Though Kansas State has fallen on hard times in my lifetime, in the early eighties when Rolando went there (and for the preceding 40 years) they were no joke. With the addition of Blackman, who would become their best player ever (Mitch Richmond notwithstanding), the Wildcats were a team to be taken seriously. Rolando's career at KSU came to a crescendo when the Wildcats met the legendary Orange Express team, the Oregon State Beavers.

Much like the current Wildcats (who are only becoming successful of late under shunned-but-effective Bob Huggins), Oregon State is two decades past its heyday, but in 1981, they were something to be seen. The Beavers were ranked between #1 and #2 for practically the entire season, as they ran up a 26-1 record under the coaching of an absolute legend (HOF), the too-often forgotten Ralph Miller.

From 1980 until 1983, the Beavers went 77-11 and lost only one game at home. They produced three All-Americans and in 1981, Miller was named coach of the year. The team was legit.

Unfortunately for them, they didn't have any player among them who could contain Rolando Blackman, and his skillful defense helped a relatively weak Kansas State team (they were an 8 seed) win on a buzzer beater. Who shot it? That would be the bad motherfucker from Brooklyn on the cover of Sports Illustrated right there.

Rolando led his team all the way to the Elite Eight, where he met North Carolina. The Tar Heels were led by the now-forgotten Al Wood, who was good enough to be drafted4th in 1981, five spots ahead of Rolando Blackman and ahead of players like Kelly Tripucka, Herb Williams, Tom Chambers, Danny Ainge and Larry Nance.

Al Wood might not have been so bad if he wasn't flanked by Sleepy Sam Perkins and James Worthy, two of the best players in NCAA history. That North Carolina team was just shy of unbeatable, and Ro couldn't overcome it. The 'Heels would go on to lose to one of the great teams of all time, Isiah Thomas's Indiana Hoosiers, but Rolando certainly drew a short straw.

Having to play an incredibly tough opponent wasn't the first crappy thing to happen in Rolando's college career. He had the misfortune of being selected for the 1980 Olympic Team, which, due to politics, boycotted the Olympics. Now, whether the boycott was justified can be argued this way and that, but I think it is fair to say that Ro got screwed out of a gold medal. (The United States winning the gold medal was the custom at that time.)

Rolando began his professional career on the god-awful Dallas Mavericks. Having gone 15-67 the year before, they were smart to make Blackman their first round pick. The Mavericks' record subsequently improved to 28-54 Rolando's rookie year (he averaged 13.3, 3 rpg, and 1.3 apg), 38-44 his second year (17.7, 3.9, 2.5), 43-49 his third (22.4, 4.6, 3.6), 44-38, 44-38, 55-27, 53-29, 38-44, and 47-35 by the time Rolando was 31. Over that span, he was consistently good for 20 a night, and though a primary catalyst for the Mavs' rise was Mark Aguirre, Blackman was always right in the mix.

Blackman epitomized the defensive master without it showing in his statistics. He never averaged more than one steal or block per game, but Michael Jordan named him among the toughest defenders he ever went against. Magic Johnson said "He was one of the best shooters of all time and the toughest players to guard." Rolando never blew people away with his stat line but he was a player, the kind of guy who's on every championship team.

That's the way it was when the Knicks traded for him for the 1992/1993 season. And he should have been their guy. Instead, he sat on the bench as one of the best teams ever squandered their only chance at the NBA championship.

"It still kills Ro," said Derek Harper before the Mavs faced Riley's heat in last year's finals. "Knowing Ro the way I know him, who's more competitive than Ro and who is more prepared for that kind of opportunity than Ro? Not many people."

Blackman is diplomatic about his snub. "I've seen Pat since then and we've talked, but nobody says anything about the day. We've never talked about it. My perspective is that we should have gotten me in there, or Hubert [Davis], just so John could sit out for a little bit. He needed to come out for a little bit to stop what was going on with him. But I don't want to be critical, because it's gone. It's past. We still had other problems -- called Olajuwon."

I appreciate that Rolando is so statesmanlike, because if I felt like I was trapped on the bench while some guy was chucking rim-wreckers and forcing me to watch my ring slip away, I'd be pissed. I don't think I could ever get that chip off of my shoulder. But Rolando can.

After he retired, Rolando loved basketball so much he traveled all the way to Europe to play. In his waning years, he powered his team to the championship, and when his time finally came, he hit 8-12 from behind the arc to win Finals MVP. Did it give him the prestige he could have had wearing the ring of all rings? No, but he finally got some closure.

Now Rolando is helping Dallas shore up their defense. He's the perfect man for the job, and, true to form, he's getting none of the credit. That is reserved for everybody's favorite little screamer, the 'lil general, Avery Johnson, whose career statistics are significantly worse than those of Sherman Douglas.

Avery is a good coach for sure, and I'm sure he's had considerable effect, but if history is any indicator, there's another guy willing to do the hard work, shut up, blend in to the background, and do what it takes to help his team win.

Happy birthday, Ro.

As always, e-mail me at

Friday, February 23, 2007

Just a little tidbit

Just a little tidbit of information here; I recently read this on The Links, the daily page put up by Lang Whitaker on (Which I highly recommend).

"Anyway, Wednesday night I was laid out on the couch, simultaneously recovering from Vegas, preparing for the trip I’m on now and engrossed in League Pass, when I recalled that the Rockets and Heat were playing on ESPN. Shaq/Riley/Wade? Sure. So I flipped over and watched the second quarter, and watched as Dwyane Wade carried the Heat. The Rockets ran up a lead, but every time the Rockets appeared ready to blow it open, Wade would drive and get an and-one, or he’d nail a three or make a play on defense. Wade was single-handedly keeping the Heat in that game. Pat Riley was subbing guys in and out without much effect, and the Heat were so ineffective on the interior that Dikembe Mutombo was dominant.

(I need to do a whole post on the Rockets soon, too. What a weird team that is. Rafer Alston is playing huge minutes, T-Mac is doing his thing, and then there’s Battier and about 10 complementary guys that shuffle in and out. And they just execute the heck out of you with their offense. They’ve quietly coasted to 15 games over .500, without Yao and T-Mac for large portions of the season. This is officially my darkhorse playoff team.)"

Holler at your boy.

Fuck Goliath

There are four teams in the NBA that are poised, poised I tell ya, to do big things in the future. Right now, they suck, just like young David did. But soon, if the right things happen, they will be equipped to take down the aging goliaths of the NBA. These teams are: The Philadelphia 76ers, the Milwaukee Bucks, The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, and the Charlotte Bobcats. Before everyone gets bent out of shape about how much each team sucks (and they do), keep in mind I'm talking about the future here, and these teams have all built themselves good foundations, sometimes unintentionally (in the case of the Sixers and Bucks) and sometimes by design (Bobcats, Hornets).

To fulfill their respective destinies as contenders, each team has to change in some fashion. As we all know, there are three ways teams can do this: Trade a player, sign/cut a player (fire a coach), or draft a player. I would like to look at what creates the potential for success in these teams and then, in the wake of the less-than-illustrious trade deadline, examine some potential deals that could have been made. I want to try to propose trades that were rationally possible which could have helped these teams quicken their ascension. I will ensure the viability of my moves with the help of the trade checker on RealGM (which ESPN took [with license, I hope] and now purports to be their own).

I'm gonna go from strongest to shakiest as I break down these teams. Therefore, the first team to look at is the Hornets. The Hornets have the misfortune of an owner (George Shinn) who is a complete asshole and doesn't give a fuck about his team or its fans. (He's on the verge of moving the Hornets again, having ruined the fan base in one of basketball's most successful markets [North Carolina] and now seeing an opportunity to screw over the most-screwed-over city in America.) Despite Shinn's lack of conscience, integrity, and male reproductive organs, the Hornets field a good team.

Their key ingredients are Chris Paul and David West, both of whom are signed through at least 2010. David West is signed to a rarely-used negative-gain contract, in which he gets big money up front and then sees his pay cut year by year. (This doesn't seem to make sense because people usually like to have their pay raised with time, but considering the massive amounts of money at stake, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. West is helped quite a bit by the compound interest $10 million in the first year will support.) Chris Paul is signed to a fairly affordable contract that will pay him $3m, $3.5m, $4.5m and $6 million in the coming years.

The big money guys on the Hornets are Tyson Chandler and Predrag Stojakovic, and while I don't think they're worth as much as they're paid, they are both valuable contributors. Chandler is a rebound-and-defense machine who is young, and Stojakovic is an excellent shooter who can really score.

The starting lineup for the Hornets is:
PG: Chris Paul
SG: Desmond Mason (free agent this year)
SF: Predrag Stojakovic
PF: David West
C: Tyson Chandler

In my eyes, that lineup is one player away, and that player needs to be a shooting guard. The Hornets have an effective sixth man in Bobby Jackson, and a very good bench with Rasual Butler, Devin Brown, and Hilton Armstrong. I think they need a guy who doesn't need to take a lot of shots so that Predrag can see the ball a lot, and a guy who can play defense and rebound a little because, well, Predrag can't.

The trade they should have made? Hilton Armstrong, Marc Jackson, and a first round pick for Corey Maggette.

Here are some reasons this would have made sense:

1. The trade meets the provisions set forth in the collective bargaining agreement. (If a team is over the league's salary cap, the sum of the salaries of each group of players involved must be within 25% of each other.)

2. The Hornets are stuck in a tough spot because, due to injury and the conference they play in, they are a long-shot to make the playoffs, but also have a decent record. This means their pick will probably fall just outside the lottery, in a year where the draft is projected to have a strong top and and a marginal middle. The Hornets have plenty of young guys, and I don't think the right to take a chance in the draft is that valuable to them.

3. Corey Maggette and his coaches want him out. The Clippers already have a starting shooting guard who is capable (Cuttino Mobley) and whom they prefer to Maggette. Maggette doesn't like riding the bench, and his statistics are considerably worse when he is the sixth man (though they are among the best for sixth men).

4. This trade would allow the Hornets to forgo resigning Desmond Mason or allow them to requisition him to sixth man for (possibly) less money. I think Mason is a good player and a great athlete, but also not the kind of guy who starts on a championship team. I think Maggette (even though it's a bit of a stretch) could be that guy. Maggette is actually due to make less than Mason is making right now, and he is signed through 2010. People make him out to be a bad guy, but he's consistently shown himself to be a good shooter (career 45%), an okay defender, and a good rebounder, and he is probably the best player the NBA at getting to the free throw line, where he consistently shoots over 80%.

5. The trade would give the Hornets a good post player (West), a great point guard (Paul), a great slaher and mid-range guy (Maggette), a hustling, shot-blocking center (Chandler), and a three point gunner (Stojakovic). The team is well-built for running and the half-court offense, and could be skilled defensively if they were well-coached (I'm not sure they are).

6. It works out for the Clippers; They get a young big man (which they don't have), a pretty good first-rounder (which they could use, along with their own, to trade for a top pick), and a guy whose contract expires at the end of the year, which will save them cap room.

I really think that trade would have helped the Hornets immeasurably. Too bad it didn't happen; it would be nice to see Chris Paul in the Playoffs with some support...

The next most established team is probably Milwaukee, a team that is in a pretty interesting situation. Their players have been dropping like flies all year, and even though the team has strong personnel, their record is terrible (19-36).

Here is Milwaukee's lineup:

PG: Mo Williams (in your best Wayne Campell voice) excellent...
SG: Michael Redd excellent...
SF: Bobby Simmons
PF: Charlie Villanueva
C: Andrew Bogut

All in all, that's a good, young lineup (maybe the best backcourt in the NBA). Milwaukee has Redd locked up for the coming years for big dollars, as well as Simmons (which might not be such a good thing). They have Bogut on the cheap until 2011, and Villaneuva until 2010. The big issue for them in this coming off season will be re-signing Mo Williams. Another free agent-to be is Charlie Bell, who has proven himself to be a highly effective player.

Milwaukee has no chance to be good this year, and will probably get a high draft pick. Just the same, though, they have a chance to be really good next year, so I don't think it's smart for them to saddle themselves with a project player at a position they need production from.

Therefore, I think a trade that would have benefited Milwaukee would have been one that could get them a tough big man, because that's the one thing they lack. My solution? Bobby Simmons and Brian Skinner for Kenyon Martin.

This is an interesting prospect for both teams and admittedly hard to rationalize. I do, believe it or not, have a rationale. Here are the reasons this trade could make sense:

1. The money works out [see above].

2. Denver has a ton of athletic front court players. Kenyon Martin is saddled with a four-year, max deal, and I don't think Denver wants to have to worry about that, especially considering his fragility.

3. The only thing Denver really lacks is one of those guys who stands on the three point line and drills shots. Bobby Simmons could be that guy. He is a pretty good defender, and it seems like a lot of George Karl teams have had that guy. Maybe this is something he likes to have in his back pocket.

4. Brian Skinner (expires next year) would be a nice contract to take on for Denver, who is going to have salary cap nightmares now that they have the sixth highest paid player in the NBA, Allen Iverson (who, by the way, is making $2.5 million less than Allan Houston is this year).

If everybody felt comfortable with the rationality of the above points (a tough sell), and if Kenyon Martin got healthy (a big if), the Bucks would become a very interesting team next year (presumably including a high-profile rookie). They could trot out a lineup with Mo Williams at the point, Michael Redd at SG, Villanueva at SF, Martin at PF, and Bogut at center. This would give the Bucks a great point guard, a great shooter, a versatile small forward, a power forward who plays great defense and doesn't need the ball to create his shot, and an unselfish, fundamentally sound, versatile center who can shoot elbow jumpers and the like. It would be a good team. Charlie Bell and perhaps Ruben Patterson (if they re-sign him) can come off the bench, as well as little Earl Boykins, and there are a lot of interesting lineups available.

The next team, which is more under the radar than the above two, is the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are a funny team because they have been terribly managed. I mean, it is just embarrassing how boneheaded some of the moves they have made are. For instance: They are somehow on the hook for Chris Webber for $36.6 million over the next two years. (Yes, that is after the buy-out.) Samuel Dalembert is signed for over $50 million dollars through 2011. Jamal Mashburn will make $10 million this year. Aaron McKie makes $13 million in the next two years. Todd MacCulloch will make $6.8 million this year. What it all comes down to is that the Sixers have put themselves in a situation where out of their three highest-salaried players, only one actually plays for them. And he's their worst starter.

There are some good things that are happening thanks to the wonder of time (with no thanks to talent, which Sixers GM Billy Knight is devoid of). Jamal Mashburn's ten million comes off the books after this year, as does Todd MacCulloch's $6.5m, Joe Smith's $6.5m, and Greg Buckner's $3.5m.

The Sixers, since the Iverson deal, play a short lineup that looks like this:

PG: Andre Miller
SG: Andre Iguodala
SF: Rodney Carney/Kyle Korver
PF: Steven Hunter
C: Samuel Dalembert

The team has no depth, except for Korver/Carney, whomever isn't starting, and Willie Green. However, there are some good things about their starters. They have an athletic, defensive-minded center (who is terrible on offense). They have a skilled, traditional point guard. The two best players on the Sixers, Kyle Korver and Andre Iguodala, seem to have been developing pretty well since Iverson left. Korver is continuing to cement his reputation as one of the premier three-point shooters in the league, and Iguodala is showing a remarkably sudden proficiency with his passing game (he averaged 3.1 assists last year, and is averaging 5.7 this year, with 7.0 this month including a triple-double). I think Korver and Iguodala make a nice team, the guy who shoots and does nothing else, and the guy who does everything. Plus, Iguodala looks like a better scorer every day, shoots for a high percentage, and hits his free throws. He's also a good defender.

The problem with a team like Philly is that they have very little in the way of tradeable assets. The only player I think they can get rid of who has value is Rodney Carney, so they'd need to find a team in need of a young shooting guard.

The Utah Jazz are such a team. Here is my vision: Andrei Kirilenko, Rafael Araujo, CJ Miles, and Dee Brown for Rodney Carney, Willie Green, Kevin Ollie, and Joe Smith. Here's why this could work:

1. The money works.

2. Kirilenko's unpopularity and ineffectiveness is troubling. CJ Miles and Dee Brown are young, unorthodox players on a team coached by a man who hates young, unorthodox players. Araujo is a big contract that I'm sure the Jazz wouldn't mind getting rid of because he never plays and they have good big men.

3. Joe Smith would make a good backup to guys like Okur and Boozer. He is certainly an upgrade over Jarron Collins and is bigger than Paul Millsap. He's tough and unpretentious, and I think Jerry Sloan would covet that.

4. Rodney Carney could fit in very well as a shooting guard on the Jazz. He is very athletic but also efficient; he shoots 47% from the field and 37% from three-point range. Since Iverson left he has been getting minutes for the first time and this month he is averaging 8.6 ppg and shooting an impressive 56%. He is athletic and skilled and could probably learn to be a good defender from Jerry Sloan.

5. Kevin Ollie is already a good defensive player, which Derek Fisher, the current backup to Deron Williams, is not. I think Jerry Sloan would be interested in having a good defensive backup point guard.

6. Willie Green can also help out at shooting guard, and is more polished than Carney.

7. Kirilenko would be a great fit to play power forward on a running Sixers team. There's no reason Miller, Iguodala, Korver, Kirilenko and Dalembert couldn't run all over the court (Korver, of course, would be the trailer).

8. CJ Miles, Dee Brown, and Rafael Arauj would bolster the Sixers bench and actually get playing time, which each of them sorely need. Also, they each bring a playing style that the Sixers don't have; Dee Brown has pure speed; CJ Miles is an athletic finesse shooting guard, and Araujo is a fundamentals center.

By using the above lineup, the Sixers would be improved and could use this year to develop their young guys. Yes, they would take on a large salary by acquiring Kirilenko, but they will be shedding a ton of salary in the next two years, and it's worth it for a player of his caliber. When the Sixers finish the year, they'll probably be the third, fourth, or fifth worst team in the league, which puts them in a very good position to draft a really talented player and get him on the floor.

The Charlotte Bobcats are the final rising team. They have an incredibly low salary; their highest paid player is Gerald Wallace at $5.5 million (worth every dollar). They are on the hook for six years with Morrison, which I think is a bad move, but I'll give them a pass because they also managed to lock up Raymond Felton, Okafor, and May through 2009. (Felton and May go until 2010.)

Here is the Bobcats lineup:

PG: Raymond Felton
SG: Matt Carroll (free agent this year)
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Emeka Okafor
C: Primoz Brezec

Derek Anderson, Brevin Knight, and Adam Morrison fill out a pretty good bench.

The clear problem with this team, in my mind, is at center, and as I have opined before, I think improving the center position by trying to draft someone is a dumb idea unless they're a sure thing and you're guaranteed the number one pick. Charlotte does not have this luxury unless they get lucky, and I don't think they should assume that they will get it.

My proposal with this team would be to get a good center on their own by trading a guy who I think is at the peak of his value right now: Adam Morrison. Therefore, I think they should have moved Morrison, Eric Williams, and Othella Harrington to Memphis for Pau Gasol.

This would work for these reasons:

1. The money works.

2. Charlotte is in need of another big man, and having one who can score will make things much, much easier for Emeka Okafor.

3. Matt Carroll is as good, and arguably better than Adam Morrison. He is efficient, he's a great shooter, and he can score in bunches (sucks that the Knicks got rid of him).

4. The Grizzlies could use a gunner, and might be tricked into thinking Adam Morrison will be good because of the productive games he has had lately.

5. Adam Morrison would get to play more, which could be good for him.

6. Eric Williams and Othella both have expiring contracts that will help the Grizzlies rebuild.

Am I pushing it a little on this one? Probably. Maybe Charlotte would have to throw in a couple of second rounders or a 2009 first rounder. Some people seem to be gaga over Adam Morrison, though, and Pau Gasol has openly asked for a trade. I think Gasol would give Charlotte enough extra scoring to put them over the top, and they could use what will be a relatively high draft pick to get another scorer to accentuate Carrol.

I don't see Charlotte being a championship-level team even after this trade, but if they could retain this year's pick, they could pick up another scorer to accentuate Carroll and Wallace, and if that player turned out to be someone very good, then they could really be on to something.

That's all I've got. As always, e-mail me at

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Even more urgent update than the last

Dennis Johnson died today. I think 2006-2007 will go down as unquestionably the worst point in time in the history of the Celtics organization; first Red dies, then they lose 20 out of 21, and now DJ made his own deadline deal. He died playing the sport he loved, and while he was no favorite of mine, I'll be the first to admit that he was a good player on a great team, and many people forget that he was the leader of a Supersonics team that won a championship (he won Finals MVP).

I'm just a hair too young to remember Dennis Johnson, but I'm sure lots of places will be telling his story soon. I will try to find the best and make it available to whomever reads this.

Trade Update

I recently learned that Juan Dixon had been traded for Fred Jones. I think this is a good move for the Raptors and a bad move for the Blazers.

Fred Jones is a mediocre player who is undersized and not a great shooter. He is an excellent defender and can jump out of the gym, but I don't know why the Blazers need that when they already have Brandon Roy. I thought Juan Dixon fit in pretty well with them because he was one of the only backups and can score in quick spurts. It doesn't appear that Fred Jones can do that, and I don't think that a defensive-stopper undersized backup two guard is that good for them.

On the other hand, Juan Dixon seems like a good fit in Toronto. He and TJ ford can create a freakishly quick backcourt, and he can sub in for Anthony Parker at shooting guard. Yes, he is undersized, but the Raptors create a lot of open shots, and Juan can really hit. Plus, with all of their shooters, it never hurts to have another drive-and-dish guy.

Dwayne Wade ain't got nothin on Martin Riggs

Good morning. Today current events returns with issues about Dwayne Wade's shoulder, an early 2006-2007 rookie review, my pick for the league's ugliest player and my personal favorite: "Who's the worst scorer in the NBA?". Oh my.

As if it could get any better, it's time for another birthday quiz. Anyone who can correctly determine the identity of the following birthday boys wins the respect and admiration of Don't Ever Give Up: The Basketball Blog.

I helped deliver the mail.

Thank god my expectations weren't as high as my brother!

I scored more than 18,000 points.

I scored less than 18,000 points.

"Shut your mouth!"
"But I'm just talkin bout shaft..."
"Then we can dig it!"

I'm one of the greatest Hoosiers in history, and so is my twin brother.

Hey, Christofi! Yeah, you, you motherfucking pussy! C'mere!

I'm a modern-day John Wallace.

I'm one of the greatest Hoosiers in history, and so is my twin brother.

Answers tomorrow if anybody guesses.

Let's get started. Last night, Dwayne Wade went down doing something that Martin Riggs proved is not that bad; dislocating his shoulder. You can see the injury here. Perhaps by coincidence, the the injury happened against the team that I think is going to do big things, the Houston Rockets. Now, injuries are freak things and even the toughest players get them, but, that being said, I think this is a pretty good indication that the Rockets are playing a physical brand of ball. I mean, they made Dwayne Wade cry and sent him away on a wheelchair, even though they didn't take away legs. That's pretty rough. (I love the look on Gary Payton's face on the right. He's like, "Why are we both helping this guy walk if his shoulder's hurt? I'll just kind of hold it. Is that gay?")

Another interesting part of last night's game was that Rafer had his way with Mr. Payton and Jason Williams (a combined 7 points between them to Rafer's 20) and the team seems primed for Yao's return. It's rumored (as you can see on the Dwayne Wade injury page linked to above) that Mike James may come [back] to Houston in a trade, which would allow Houston to play a neat small lineup with James and Alston in the backcourt and McGrady, Battier, and Head in the frontcourt. It would nicely compliment a big lineup that will be available to the Rockets when Yao comes back, with Rafter, McGrady, Howard/Battier, Mutombo and Yao on the court together. There's something appealing about a point guard surrounded by four 6'8" and above guys, three of whom are possible hall of famers. I can almost guarantee that against a team like San Antonio you could isolate a skilled player against a pud like Fabricio Oberto or Francisco Elson (probably the two front-court players with the wussiest names in the NBA).

I'm kind of surprised Wade took the injury so badly. I don't really know what to make of it and a part of me worries that it will affect his confidence (i.e., his ability to drive to the hoop on the edge of recklessness) in the future. I know this is a stupid argument in principle but remember, there was a time when Vince Carter drove to the hoop with that same reckless abandon (almost as if he was getting paid for it). Watch this video and tell me you don't see eery similarities to the way Wade plays. [For the record, I realize that Dwayne Wade is very different from Vince Carter {he is twice the passer Vince is/was}. I do think that Vince Carter, age 23, could have achieved the same level of success as Wade had he been on the Heat last year. Yeah, I said it.]

I wonder if this will make Pat Riley quit for another two months...

Anyway, since I did manage to catch the rookie game this weekend, I wanted to weigh in with a quick mid-season rookie review. I don't know why [fantasy basketball?], but I always lose track of rookies around this time of year, so if you are like me, this should be a nice little refresher.

Brandon Roy, despite his injury problems, is clearly the man. He is a skilled scorer and works efficiently. He is shooting 45%, 33% from long-range, and getting to the line almost five times a game, making 83% of his free throws. He averages 15.8 points a game, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists, along with 1.2 steals. Two nights ago, he dropped 27 points and 7 assists on the Jazz, and led his team to a three-point victory. The only thing I don't like about Roy is the team he plays on, which is all screwed up and needs a lot of things to happen before they can be effective.

Adam Morrison, who bears an uncanny resemblance to yours truly, is the other high-scoring rookie (13.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 38% fg). He reminds me of a much worse version of Glenn Robinson; all he's good for is scoring, and he's not a great athlete. The thing is, he's a mediocre scorer and a worse athlete than Robinson. I'll have to see some really crazy stuff to make me believe Morrison is worth a thing. Plus, he went to some joke school out in Washington that produces nothing but NBA busts [with one extremely notable exception]. Oh, and he can't defend. I will give Adam Morrison credit for one thing; when he plays well and scores points, his team seems to win more often than they otherwise do. But he's not that good, and he doesn't play well that often. This, in my mind, is a bad sign.

Andrea Bargnani, the number one pick, has been playing a lot more lately and scoring a lot more. He is starting to look like a more efficient, less chuckster version of Adam Morrison. The jury is out on him for me because he's about as athletic as a slug, but he's in a position where he can come along slowly, and has the kind of body that gives him the potential to be a real threat in the post. If that happens, he could be legit.

Rudy Gay is looking like he has pretty good potential as well. He's only playing about 20 minutes a game, so his averages (9.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 spg, .9 bpg) are not that impressive. What is impressive is how he has been playing lately; he has been getting more minutes than usual and in his last six games, Gay has scored 12, 19, 14, 18, 31, and 19. He has only shot under 50% once in that string, is rebounding at about five per game, and playing good defense (at least statistically). I like Rudy Gay because he is a finesse player who was able to succeed in a really tough conference when he was in college [The Big Fucking East]. I think that bodes well for his future in the NBA, and since his team is terrible, he should have a good chance to get out there and see what he can do. I think for some guys, this can be bad for their games (like Bargnani) but for a true athlete like Gay, I think it's just a chance to polish his moves, without a ton of pressure to carry the team. He could be a good one.

My favorite rookie is [i believe] the only heterosexual Englishman ever to play in the NBA, Kelenna Azubuike. He is the first guy to get called up from the D-League, and he is representing himself extremely well. He is a hired gun, and he is excellent at what he does. He's averaging just under ten points a game on a team filled with shooters, and he's stuck playing sporadic minutes. Jason Richardson came back last night, so I think that in the long term, Azabuike will have to catch on somewhere else; I don't see him getting minutes over Richardson, Jackson, and Ellis. (His stats: 10.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 46% fg, 52% 3pt [!])

Randy Foye looks like a keeper in Minnesota, but he also still looks like he's a year away. The faster they get Mike James out of there, the faster he will get better, and he's in a great situation because Kevin Garnett takes a lot of the load off of him, in terms of scoring and handling the offense in general. It's like the situation John Stockton had with Karl Malone; a lot of the time, he can just get the ball into the post and not worry about having to drive and dish or set up plays until he wants to. The more discretion a point guard has in decision-making, the faster they learn and the better they play, in my opinion. It certainly worked for Stephon.

Jorge Garbajosa scores some points because he starts, so I guess I should mention him. The thing is, he's inefficient, ugly, and I don't like him. Therefore he will not be a good player. He could also use one of those fancy shortened Euro nicknames so people stop having to say Garbajosa. Gaba or something.

Marcus Williams is not shooting the ball well as a rookie, but did he ever? He still looks like a legit point guard, and there have been many effective point guards who are not great shooters. He's riding the bench and I think this might give him more time to catch up on his fundamentals. Being benched early on and learning to shoot has helped some point guards (Baron Davis) and hurt others (Sebastian Telfair). I'm not sure how this will play out.

LaMarcus Aldridge might be good, I guess, but I'm not sure if he has a place on the Blazers unless someone gets moved. I'm just not emotional about this guy. Can he be any better than Chris Wilcox and the like? I don't think so.

There are always those guys out there who don't get a lot of burn or have some glaring fundamental problems that will nevertheless become keepers. Jermaine O'Neal was like this for a couple years on Portland, as was Tracy McGrady on Toronto, and a lot of less-prestigious guys like Kurt Thomas, Anthony Mason, Ben Wallace, John Starks, Jeff Hornacek etc. have followed this route. Some guys that I think will be keepers but aren't ready yet are: Paul Millsap, Craig Smith, and Alexander Johnson, all three of whom hustle their asses off. Alexander Johnson is a monster of an athlete, and looks like he might be the strongest man in the NBA some day. Each one is shooting over 52%. Here is a little video of Johnson that showcases his athletic ability. He's like a bigger, stronger version of Maurice Evans.

Rajon Rondo is the last rookie that I think will be legit. He is playing some minutes and has been doing everything but scoring, coming close to triple-doubles almost routinely. I don't know if I'd call him the next Jason Kidd, but he is quite a rebounder for his size, proficient at distribution, able to run, and able to score (sometimes). He should get some playing time as the Celtics continue to suck, and I think he might emerge as their point guard of the future. If that happens, it will further cement Danny Ainge as the best-drafting, worst-transactions GM of all time (because he drafted Rondo and traded for Telfair in the same year). Speaking of that, why does this guy still have a job? He took a good team and made them consistently worse each year. I like Boston, but I have to say, if Danny Ainge was named Darius Ainge, I think he'd be pretty far down the I-90 by now.

NBA Worsts

A new feature here at Don't Give Up: The Basketball Blog, we're beginning the way 24 does, with a double-primetime showing. That's right, in just one day, you, my faithful readers, can be privy to my picks for the NBA's worst scorer and the NBA's ugliest player.

So, who is the worst player scoere in the NBA? By the numbers, it's Trenton Hassell, but for my money, I think Fabricio Oberto is just a worthless scorer. If he played the whole game, every game, he'd average a turd-peeling 12 points per game.

He actually started the year with promise, once even scoring 22 in a game. He shot an impressive 65% and seemed to be getting a lot of gimmes when Duncan was double-teamed. At some point, coaches were like, "We know Fabricio sucks, but apparently he doesn't suck so much that he can't hit open layups. Let's defend him." After that, Oberto's shooting tumbled to 47%, and he started letting loose some stinky, stink lines. For instance, from November 27 through December 27, he played 280 minutes in 15 games. That is just under 20 minutes per game. In those 280 minutes, he scored 59 points. 59 points! That's 59 points in about six games worth of action. He is a terrible scorer and a terrible player. Send him back to Europe.

To showcase the league's ugliest player, I will line him up next to his namesake. First:

Zha Zha Gabor

Now compare that with:

Zaza Pachulia

Yikes! That's all, folks. As always, e-mail me at

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The anatomy of a loser

Hello. I haven't posted an article in the last two days. On Monday, it was legitimate; I was off for President's day and was maxing and relaxing. On Tuesday, it was somewhat more legitimate and somewhat less legitimate at the same time; I wrote a straight-up bad article that was not ready for prime time. This past weekend, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and Stephon Marbury celebrated their birthdays (February 17th, 20th, and 20th, respectively), and I wanted to do a tribute to all of them, but I ran into some problems:

1. What can I really say about Michael Jordan that hasn't already been said ten ways? All I can do is blubber about how great he is (which I did).

2. Charles Barkley is funnier than I am so my best shot at writing something enjoyable about him is just quoting him (which I did). I think Barkley: Quotables deserves its own standalone on another day.

3. I can't write about Stephon Marbury without going into hyper-defensive "he's good, okay!?" mode (which I did). That is another standalone article that will be written when I can afford to piss people off, and considering I am getting about two to four comments a day, I don't think I'm there yet. I am, however, sorely tempted after reading Bill Simmons' latest offering, where he notes that the all-star game should always have a good point guard (i.e. Steve Nash or Jason Kidd) and mentions possibilities like Marcus Williams, Steve Blake, Deron Williams, Andre Miller, TJ Ford and JOSE CALDERON. Each of those guys would doubtlessly sob uncontrollably if they found out that someone had written that they were better pure point guards than Mr. Stephon Marbury. I feel this thing starting again, but I've got to be focused...

Today, I was just farting around, reading the NBA standings when I noticed something: Boston just lost its 19th out of 20, and for the first time this year, they are worse than the Memphis Grizzlies. Think about that. Boston lost 18 games in a row (having been fairly bad to begin with) and were still not as bad as the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are this bad after twelve years of high draft picks, a salary cap designed to help bad teams, and a couple of short playoff runs. I found myself asking: How can a team like this be so bad?

In my opinion, the Grizzlies have two peers in their pathetic company: The Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers. Yes, the Clippers recently surged, and the Raptors may be in the midst of a resurgence, but these teams have something in common: every time they show signs of getting out of the basement, they throw it all away, start over, and lose fans.

Let me take all of you back to 1995-96, when all three teams had high hopes. Both the Grizzlies and the Raptors were just entering the league, and the Clippers were fielding a playoff team for the first time in a few years. (This, for the record, was also the first year I collected basketball cards seriously, so a lot of stuff about it is seared into my head, like Ed O'Bannon and Joe Smith being two rookie cards that you did not want to pull.) Let's follow along and see if we can discover...

The Anatomy of a Loser

I don't really think it's fair to analyze a team's picks in the expansion draft, because they are forced to choose a bunch of players other teams don't want. For purposes of keeping this focused and [relatively] short, I'm going to ignore the crappy moves that the Clippers had made up until 1995. That said, in 1995, each team's roster looked like this:

PG: Greg Anthony
SG: Blue Edwards
SF: Chris King
PF: Ashraf Amaya
C: Bryant Reeves

Bench: Byron Scott, Gerald Wilkins, Eric Murdock;

Notes: Greg Anthony led this team in scoring and assists. Bryant Reeves was second in scoring and first in rebounding. Byron Scott was an effective sixth man (10.2 ppg). Other than that, there's really not that much you can say about this team. Actually, I guess you could say "What a bad team!" Record: 15-67.


PG: Damon Stoudamire
SG: Alvin Robertson
SF: Tracy Murray
PF: Ed Pinckney
C: Oliver Miller

Bench: Doug Christie, Zan Tabak, Carlos Rogers. (and...Jimmy King!)

Notes: Playing Greg Anthony's role for the Raptors, Damon Stoudamire led his team in scoring and assists. Tracy Murray played the role of gunner, averaging 16.2 points per game, with Pig Miller averaging similar statistics to Bryant Reeves. It is interesting how both of these teams had skilled point guards and fat-fuck centers. Again, terrible personnel. Record: 21-61.

LA Clippers:

PG: Pooh Richardson
SG: Malik Sealy/Brent Barry
SF: Rodney Rogers
PF: Loy Vaught
C: Bison Dele (aka Brian Williams) [RIP]

Bench: Lamond Murray, Terry Dehere, Stanley Roberts, Eric Piatowski.

Notes: This team made the playoffs with a 36-46 record next season. I don't know what the basketball gods were thinking. Loy Vaught was the leader of the team (and was actually pretty good before injuries ruined his career). Bison Dele was also pretty solid, and their frontcourt was accompanied by a respectable point guard in Richardson, good shooters in Barry, Dehere, and Rogers, and a decent bench. This was a team in need of a star.

The bottom line: everyone was pretty bad. Each team would crawl out of its suckage and ascend to mediocrity, only to fall back down. Using advanced statistics and calculus and mathematical methods such as triginometry, I made up these charts to show precisely how each team climed the mountain, and descended back down.

The Grizzlies, as you can see from the chart, had the slowest, most consistent path to respectability. They sucked for so long they had to flee their country.

The first reason for this is that they used their first pick (#6) on a crappy player: Bryant "Big Country" Reeves. I agree that getting a solid frontcourt should be paramount for a crappy team, but it is a mistake too often made that high picks are deferentially used on big men. (The NFL in recent years seems to do this with lineman. I don't know why it happens there, either. It seems like in both basketball and football many of the best big men come from later rounds.)

[Just a word on NBA policy here: Why didn't they give the Raptors and the Grizzlies better picks? The first five picks were Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, and Kevin Garnett. Wouldn't these guys have been ideal for an expansion team?]

Some players that the Grizzlies passed over for Big Country include Damon Stoudamire, Kurt Thomas, Corliss Williamson, Theo Ratliff, Michael Finley, Donyell Marshall, and Eric Snow.

Honestly, though, there was a time when Big Country Reeves seemed like he might make something of himself (he once scored 40!), so I'll give them a pass on that. The next major move was their pick in the next year's draft, Shareef Abdur-Rahim. That year, the Grizzlies' management had also gotten a second first round pick, which it used on Roy Rogers.

Again, it is kind of hard to complain about a great player like Shareef, and it made sense to really fortify the frontcourt, but they did pass over Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Jermaine O'Neal. Would any of those guys have made a big difference? Yeah. The Grizzlies had a skilled big man in Rahim, but they still lacked a good scorer; all they had was a solid frontcourt.

To remedy this they...did nothing until next year, when things started getting freaky. First, they used the fourth pick in the 1997 draft on Antonio Daniels. This is a garbage pick, even in a weak draft. They could have had: Tracy McGrady, Derek Anderson, Brevin Knight, or Stephen Jackson.

Perhaps figuring that Antonio Daniels would be the man to change their team, they signed Bryant Reeves to a 6-year, $65 Million extension. This was a really dumb move. He had been averaging like 16 a game on a very, very bad team, and was just not worth this kind of money. They then traded a first round pick to the Detroit Pistons for Otis Thorpe. That pick eventually became pick number two in the 2003 draft, which could have been used on, oh, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh...

Despite the addition of Otis Thorpe (who they soon traded), the Grizzlies continued to suck, did nothing about it, and got themselves the number two pick in the draft the next year. They drafted Mike Bibby, a great player. Was he really second pick material, though, when they could have had Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, or Paul Pierce? I don't think so.

The pattern developing here is clear: the Grizzlies refused to get a true scorer. They had a point guard, a center, and a power forward, and all of those guys got their points, but there was no one to create pressure from the wings. This team was like the bizarro-Knicks.

Then the team did something that was stupid in many respects. They drafted Steve Francis, a point guard, with the second pick in the draft, and he refused to come. They managed to get a bunch of second-rate players (Michael Dickerson, Othella Harrington) and a draft pick in exchange, but there was just a lot of stupidity there. If they had drafted a Shawn Marion, Richard Hamilton, Lamar Odom, or even Wally Szczerbiak, I think it would have made much more sense. Why draft a point guard when one of the only two good players on your team is a point guard?

Still the team continued to suck and still they refused to make moves. They moves they did make were bad; they signed Stephen Jackson but didn't play him and then cut him; They fired an assistant coach named Lawrence Frank.

Because of their lack of movement, the Grizzlies were left to the draft for the third or fourth time, where they again had the second pick (you can see why their ascendancy took so long). They picked up Stromile Swift, a huge bust, and passed on Mike Miller, Desmond Mason, and Quentin Richardson, all guys who could have been the scorer they needed. Did they need a power forward? Not really.

The next move the Grizzlies made moved their star, Mike Bibby, to the Kings for Jason Williams. Why anyone would trade a very good player for a good player with a history of problems is a mystery to me. Anyway, Mike Bibby came within a cat's paw of leading the Kings to the Finals. I'm not sure anyone even remembers Jason Williams being on the Grizz.
At this point, the Grizz had sucked so badly that they had the second and the sixth pick. They drafted Shane Battier (never mind that they could have had Joe Johnson, Richard Jefferson, or Zach Randolph). Then, the Grizzlies made a genuine smart move, trading Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jamaal Tinsley for Lorenzen Wright, Brevin Knight, and Pau Gasol. They had finally built a foundation.

Still, there were problems. Someone somehow convinced them to sign Michael Dickerson to a 6-year, $43.3 million dollar contract. The team drafted Drew Gooden when it could have had Amare Stoudemire, Nene, or Chris Wilcox.

The best move the Grizzlies made was hiring old Hubie Brown to coach. He realized that since there wasn't a damn scorer on this team, they ought to all run and use deep lineups, and that's what they did. It worked, because if you're running, who needs a slasher on the wing, right? It was perfect for a team with fundamentals guys (Gooden and Battier) to do the dirty work, a big guy (Gasol) to go to in the post, and a running point guard (Williams).

So why did it all fall apart? Well, they continued what had been a poor record of giving money to the wrong people. They signed James Posey to a 4-year, 22 million dollar contract, Mike Miller to a 6-year extension, Brian Cardinal (!) to a six year, $38 million dollar contract, and Shane Battier to a six year extension. It was like they got so excited to be in the playoffs they were determined to make it last. The final move was signing Pau Gasol for six years. (Why all the six year deals? Three years later, it looks really stupid.)

Problems began when Hubie Brown, who is very, very old, retired. They got rid of Jason Williams and brought in an aging Damon Stoudamire, who subsequently went down for the year. They traded their other blood and guts guy, Shane Battier, for a Gay guy. They left themselves with no point guard, a team that could only succeed under Hubie Brown, and a number of monster contracts that they will pay for for years to come. Now they're the worst team in the league again, and, as my graph shows, all their hard work to overcome bad moves is for naught.

A lot of people think that because of the Clippers' terrible history, they're on the path to sinking to shit again because they are a disappointment this year. There is a lot of ridiculous stuff going on, I will agree, but they still have good coaching and excellent personnel and I don't think they're headed back to the basement (yet). [It is alarming that Corey Maggette has asked to be traded, that the coaches have agreed that he needs to be traded, and that Donald Sterling refuses to trade him because he is "his favorite player". Still, owners have done crazy stuff like this and succeeded nonetheless. {George Steinbrenner once traded a player because he "didn't like the way he left the top button of his uniform undone".}]

The Clippers, in 1995, were getting themselves in to some trouble. They traded the rights to Antonio McDyess for Rodney Rogers (a nice gut-check), and that is after picking him over that Kevin Garnett guy. They did pick up Brent Barry, a decent player.

Their next year's pick was Lorenzen Wright, not a good pick. The team already had a solid frontcourt and needed a scorer. They could have gotten Kobe, Predrag Stojakovic, or Steve Nash. Again, they fell pray to the "we need a big man" syndrome, and did the same thing as the Grizzlies, overlooking their need for a slasher.

Like the Grizzlies, the Clippers spent all year sucking and not doing anything. The next year, they drafted Maurice Taylor, which wasn't terribly objectionable, except that he was not a scorer and the team now needed a point guard and someone who could slash. Malik Sealy was their best option and while I like Malik a lot, he was only good for 14 a night, which does not qualify him as a scorer.

It wouldn't matter, though, because the notoriously cheap Clippers let go of Sealy, leaving them without anyone to do their scoring. Their only semblance of a competant scorer, Brent Barry, was soon traded to the heat for Charles Smith, Ike Austin, and the pick that would become Brian Skinner (what a terrible move).

Of course, the next year, the Clippers would draft the worst first pick ever, Michael Olowokandi, a mountain of crap of a man. Antawn Jamison, Mike Bibby, Vince Carter, Jason Williams, Larry Hughes, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Bonzi Wells, Al Harrington....anyone would have been better than Michael Olowokandi. Who knows what they were thinking. Actually, they were probably thinking "we need to get a great big man since we have a high pick". This doesn't work!

For some reason the Clippers signed Okie-Doke to a 4-year, $15 million dollar contract. Then they sat back made no moves, and watched their team suck. The whole Olowokandi thing was so bad that it might have been the catalyst that jolted the Clippers, forcing them to actually start to make some good moves.

First, they drafted Lamar Odom with the fourth pick in the draft, which was a smart move. They still needed a scorer, and actually got something resembling that by trading for Derek Anderson. Lamar Odom's rookie year was one of hope, but they still needed help.

Jeff McInnis, who was decent at the time was signed to help out at the point guard, and Corey Maggette was picked up for a pick that turned out to be Marcus Williams as well as a couple of others. Now the Clippers had a true, young scorer, a good, versatile forward, and a decent point man. All they lacked was a big guy.

That's where things almost fell apart. The Clippers picked up two players that were almost exactly the same as the guys they already had by drafting Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles. This led to another year of crappiness, which might not have been such a bad thing because it meant they would get the second pick in the draft, Tyson Chandler, who they were able to trade for a great big man, exactly what they needed, in Elton Brand.

This was the move that made them decent. They kept doing smart things, too. They got rid of Darius Miles and brought in Andre Miller, giving themselves a true point guard. They drafted Chris Wilcox. They drafted a decent center, Chris Kaman, in preparation for the loss of Olowokandi, and got a good coach (Mike Dunleavy). Do you see what's happening here? They started making moves rather than relying on the draft, got a good coach, and made sure they had scorers.

The crazy thing is, they kept making good moves. They gained depth by signing Eddie House, Quinton Ross, and Bobby Simmons. They drafted a young point guard out of high school and signed an old one to run the team in the present (Livingston and Cassell). They didn't shove a ton of big contracts in peoples' faces, keep a solid core of players, and keep adding stuff.

They problem is they added too much. They have too much talent to get the ball around, but I think they're just in a period of transition. Once they get Maggette out of there and Cassell gets old, Shaun Livingston will be getting better and Elton Brand will still be a rock. This team will not suck for long, even though they certainly did a good job sucking for a number of years. They followed a very similar pattern to the Grizzlies: they didn't get scorers, and they refused to make moves. They also drafted big men needlesly.

The Raptors are a truly tragic team. They could be a power in the Eastern Conference right now, and they let it slip away. Let's do the the play-by-play:

The Raptors have always done a good job drafting players. Damon Stoudamire was a good pick, and it's always good to have a solid point guard to build the team on. Marcus Camby was also a good pick, giving the Raptors good players at the positions that are hardest to fill.

What the Raptors lacked was....scorers. Damon Stoudamire can still light it up, but he is not the kind of guy you want leading your team in scoring. The Raptors, to be fair, made a decent effort to get one by drafting John Wallace, but he didn't have the talent to make it unless he was hogging the ball. They trotted Doug Christie out there, and he did his job serviceably, but like the Clippers' Malik Sealy, he's just not a scorer.

The Raptors were smart, though, and they drafted Tracy McGrady, looking to the future. Then, they waited, and did nothing, and continued to suck. It was another year before, in a very strange move, they got rid of Damon Stoudamire. I don't know why they did this, and Damon went on to immediate success with the Blazers while the Raptors saddled themselves with Kenny Anderson, Alvin Williams, Gary Trent, and picks that became nobodies. They immediately moved Anderson for Chauncey Billups, which makes this deal seem kind of sensible.

The Raptors then moved Marcus Camby out for Charles Oakley, presuming that their Stoudamire/Camby experiment had to go, I suppose. This was a terrible move, though not as bad as when they traded Chauncey Billups for two first rounders (that would become Jonathan Bender and Morris Peterson).

Fortunately, all these crappy moves put them in the basement, where they did what they were good at, drafting. They got a young Vince Carter and despite lacking a big man or depth, they had a ticket-selling, high-flying, high-scoring motherfucker.

That was it. McGrady and Carter. They started getting better right around the same time, and they should have turned the Raptors into Canada's finest. The Raptors even picked up Antonio Davis to fill out a tough front court, as well as Danny Fortson, and the Junkyard Dog. This team would have been really good. They were in the playoffs and came close to beating the Sixers team that went to the finals. What happened?

Well, they hired Lenny Wilkins, who was not a good coach. They signed both Carter and McGrady to monster extensions. The problem was, they did McGrady as part of a sign and trade, for which they received...Fran Vasquez. Why? Why would anyone let a once-in-a-lifetime player go? I don't understand this.

With Vince Carter as their only scorer, the Raptors went from a great team with tough big guys and two superheros to a team with one scorer and old big guys. Vince was getting hit every night, getting hurt all the time, and the team, as well as Vince Carter, looked bad. His popularity waned, and the Raptors traded him for essentially no one (one of the worst trades of all time).

Now the Raptors are building again, and like they have in the past, are doing so with good draft choices. They may have a genuine scorer in Chris Bosh, but they need another one, and even though they are getting good, are still not at the point they were when they decided to ruin their own team.

What's the moral of all this? If your team sucks, the first thing you should do is find someone to score points. Screw big men, screw point guards, screw everything else. Without a scorer, it's going to be very hard.

The next thing that should be avoided is drafting big men unless they're sure things. With the exception of Pau Gasol, poor big-man drafting absolutely killed these teams.

Finally, don't sign your players long term unless it's to max deals. There are always going to be guys like Bryant Reeves available, and six year contracts are far too risky and committal for a team that already sucks. Spend the money on sure things, like Tracy McGrady.

My favorite team, the Knicks, used to abide by these rules very well until about 1999. In a merry bit of coincidence, they were cast from the upper echelon of NBA teams by the Raptors when the canadian dinasaurs were reaching their Carter-McGrady-fueled peak.

Just another cruel example of the anatomy of a loser.

As always, e-mail me at

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Holy Hand

I like Brazil a lot. I've never been there (I'd love to go) but from an outsider's perspective, I can deduce a number of positive things:

1. Brazilians are the best soccer players in the world;
2. Brazilians are [maybe] the best race car drivers in the world;
3. Brazilian people are hot, hot, hot;
4. Brazilian athletes are the beneficiaries of some really, really great nicknames;
5. Brazil is home to the greatest player never to play in the NBA.

Number one is tough; this isn't a soccer blog (my career ended in first grade with an unfortunate, unfair, and unfounded hand ball call). Two is as well (I currently drive a Toyota Corolla with 136,000 on the clock); Three might be kind of interesting, but I will forgo that pleasure.

Numbers four and five are two things I can tackle, though. The reason? The Holy Hand.

The player who earned this nickname was none other than Mr. Oscar Schmidt, and he was a phenomenon unlike any other the world has ever seen. He was 6'8", couldn't really jump, and didn't play a lot of defense, but he was an unstoppable, incomparable scoring machine. He is a legend in his home country, as well as in Europe, and it is a shame that we never got to see him play in America. He shot with reckless abandon as the offense flowed through him, dominating the way few basketball players do. Like Pistol Pete in college, he was the focal point, everyone knew it, and instead of wearing him down, it pushed his game to transcendent levels. In his basketball career, he scored an incredible 49,703 points, more than anyone else, anywhere, ever. (His career spanned 25 years. Estimating 82 games a year [which is not completely accurate], that works out to 24.3 points per game. Think about how hard it is to do that for five or even ten years, and realize that he did it for twenty-five. It's just incredible to enumerate the extent of his dominance.)

Oscar was born on this day in 1958 in Natal, Brazil, home of the world's most wonderful beaches, beef, and cashews. The country would never be the same.

Oscar grew up in a country where basketball was considered a women's sport. Because of this, many youths shunned basketball, but Oscar persevered. Now, basketball is Brazil's third most- popular sport (behind soccer and volleyball [they are the best volley ballers in the world]).

He was very large for a guard, but he possessed a proportionality and balance that few men his size have. His otherworldly jump shot was mechanical yet natural, and he was too big and too lithe for people to stop his running jumpers, his drives, or any other part of his game. He was born to score.

He immediately became a star in Brazil, pushing their Olympic team into contention singlehandedly. (He is one of only two people to play in five Olympics.) His international career culminated in a upset in the 1987 Pan-American games when he brought Brazil back from a 68-54 halftime deficit to beat the best players American colleges had to offer 120-115.

Team USA was coached by Denny Crum, a hall-of-famer. Crum's players included David Robinson (a hall-of-famer), Keith Smart (a Final Four MVP at Indiana), Danny Manning (A Naismith Award winner), Pervis Ellison (also a Final Four MVP at Louisville), Willie Anderson (18 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.9 spg his first year in the NBA), and the great Rex Chapman, one of the more underrated shooting guards of the early nineties [and king of the buzzer-beater].

It is hard to believe anybody could beat this team. That it happened at the Pan American games [as opposed to the Olympics] is even more unreal. The US team was dominant; they had beaten Panama 91-63, Argentina 85-58, Mexico 105-73, Venezuela 109-74, and Puerto Rico 80-75. Yes, Puerto Rico kept it close, but it's clear that the US was mopping the floor with Pan American players, as was the tradition at that time.

The final game was at Indiana's Market Square Arena, site of Elvis Presley's final performance and the ring in which The Hulk picked up Andre the Giant and slammed him to the ground, changing the lives of countless young boys. This game was just as exciting, and perhaps more important.

All 16,408 seats were spoken for, and the United States looked like it would prove it deserved its reputation as the king of the Pan Am games (historical record: 65-2). After the first half, the Yanks were up 68-54. David Robinson was sitting in his locker at halftime, reading a bible, when he remarked "I think it's safe to say that countries such as Brazil produce inadequate, and even embarrassing basketball players. They could only hope to achieve our level of economic, social, political and athletic dominance." Pervis Ellison replied "Yeah, thems some shits."

In the Brazilian locker room, Oscar Schmidt was probably smiling. He had just finished a rough first half, scoring only eleven points, and he probably looked at his hands and knew that he could do better. He knew he was the sole owner of something David Robinson and his bible could never compete with. He had the Holy Hand.

The second half started and the United States went into "we're kicking your ass" mode, but they didn't realize that Oscar Schmidt was about to raise his game. He started gunning, and all of a sudden no one could cover him, and he couldn't miss. He scored point after point, and when he was double teamed, passed to the other veteran on his team, Marcel Souza. Between the two of them, they scored 55 of Brazil's 66 second half points, 35 compliments of the Holy Hand.

"This is worse than the time I realized that submarines are only six and a half feet tall," said David Robinson.
"After this embarrassment, I will probably end up having a pro career that culminates with me being the bust in one of the worst trades in NBA history," said Danny Manning.
"I'm gonna go smoke some shit," said Pervis Ellison.

Some video of the game is available here. I go through a lot of crappy YouTube videos, and I have to say, this one was really done with care. It starts with the United States dominating the first half, and they look great. Behind-the-back passes, massive swats, three pointers, putback dunks, it's all there. The coach for Brazil, a bald and unpleasant-looking man, slaps his head in agony, wondering how things can be so bad. The flamboyant Oscar throws his head in his towel.

At about the :58 mark, the first half ends (thankfully for the Brazilians). Then the fun begins. The Brazilian defense and passing is well developed, and their big shooting guard is completely unafraid to put it up with guards in his face or with big men on both sides of him. He is locked-in, always ready to shoot, and as the Brazilian flag wavers start to scream, he even dunks on one of the Yanks.

The US begins to go in to panic mode and can't hit anything, and fall right into the trap the Holy Hand has set. He has roped the dope. He brings Brazil within two with eleven minutes left, and the Americans already know they fucked with the wrong Brazilian bad boy.

Thankfully, the Americans have pride, and keep the game close. They can't keep up with Oscar, though, as the one-man scoring machine dominates and refuses to stop until the final horn blows.

It was the biggest basketball victory ever for Brazil, and the pride shows in the celebration as the nets are cut down. It's hard not to smile as all the teammates sing the national anthem without a hint of gloating, experiencing a genuine pride that not many people can ever get out of the game. They beat Goliath, because, not unlike David, they had the Holy Hand.

Some may say that he couldn't handle NBA-level competition, but I would counter with this, a video of him, at 40, at the European three point shooting contest. It is truly incredible. I don't know if there is a player in the NBA that could do this.

Why didn't he go to the NBA? Well, in 1984, he was drafted in the sixth round by the Nets. (He was the second European player ever drafted after Georgi Glouchkov had a rough season with the Suns, gaining a ton of weight by "overindulging in American fast food." Glouchkov spoke no English and had a translator who was hard of hearing. It did not go well.)

Glouchkov had played in Europe with Oscar, and told him the NBA stunk. More than that, though, Oscar had an uncanny saavy about the league and strong humility about his play. "I know my limitations, my defects...I could never play 10 minutes a game. NBA is great if you are a star. But if not, you get moved around. My friend Georgi Glouchkov played a year in Phoenix. He tells me bad stories about NBA. The guards did not like him, they don't pass him the ball. I would not like that. I could not stand that."

So it was that Oscar stayed in South American and European leagues, earning top-dollar and giving a country with almost no basketball history a new sport to focus its talents on. Today, the NBA has Brazilians Rafael Araujo, Leandro Barbosa, Nene, Anderson Varejao, and soon Tiago Splitter. I am sure that if you asked anyone of them why they picked up a basketball, they would tell you it was thanks to on man, Oscar Schmidt, The Holy Hand.

As always, e-mail me at

PS: Dallas, playing well and in the midst of a 9-game winning streak barely, by the slimmest of margins, beat my pick for the chip, Houston last night. Jason Terry had yet another terrible game against Rafer, though he did hit a big shot. I don't think they can beat this team with Yao, I just don't.