Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Real Jimmy V

Today marks the anniversary of the death of Jim Valvano, a great coach, a great American, and a great person who inspired countless people in all walks of life, including the writer of this humble blog. I could go on and on, but I think it's better to honor the man in his own words...

Jimmy V

Thank you, Thank you very much. Thank you. That's the lowest I've ever seen Dick Vitale since the owner of the Detroit Pistons called him in and told him he should go into broadcasting.

I can't tell you what an honor it is, to even be mentioned in the same breath with Arthur Ashe. This is something I certainly will treasure forever. But, as it was said on the tape, and I also don't have one of those things going with the cue cards, so I'm going to speak longer than anybody else has spoken tonight. That's the way it goes. Time is very precious to me. I don't know how much I have left and I have some things that I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people too.

But, I can't help it. Now I'm fighting cancer, everybody knows that. People ask me all the time about how you go through your life and how's your day, and nothing is changed for me. As Dick said, I'm a very emotional and passionate man. I can't help it. That's being the son of Rocco and Angelina Valvano. It comes with the territory. We hug, we kiss, we love. When people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it's the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.

I rode on the plane up today with Mike Krzyzewski, my good friend and wonderful coach. People don't realize he's ten times a better person than he is a coach, and we know he's a great coach. He's meant a lot to me in these last five or six months with my battle. But when I look at Mike, I think, we competed against each other as players. I coached against him for fifteen years, and I always have to think about what's important in life to me are these three things. Where you started, where you are and where you're going to be. Those are the three things that I try to do every day. When I think about getting up and giving a speech, I can't help it. I have to remember the first speech I ever gave.

I was coaching at Rutgers University, that was my first job, oh that's wonderful (reaction to applause), and I was the freshman coach. That's when freshmen played on freshman teams, and I was so fired up about my first job. I see Lou Holtz here. Coach Holtz, who doesn't like the very first job you had? The very first time you stood in the locker room to give a pep talk. That's a special place, the locker room, for a coach to give a talk. So my idol as a coach was Vince Lombardi, and I read this book called "Commitment To Excellence" by Vince Lombardi. And in the book, Lombardi talked about the fist time he spoke before his Green Bay Packers team in the locker room, and they were perennial losers. I'm reading this and Lombardi said he was thinking should it be a long talk, or a short talk? But he wanted it to be emotional, so it would be brief. So here's what I did. Normally you get in the locker room, I don't know, twenty-five minutes, a half hour before the team takes the field, you do your little x and o's, and then you give the great Knute Rockne talk. We all do. Speech number eight-four. You pull them right out, you get ready. You get your squad ready. Well, this is the first one I ever gave and I read this thing. Lombardi, what he said was he didn't go in, he waited. His team wondering, where is he? Where is this great coach? He's not there. Ten minutes he's still not there. Three minutes before they could take the field Lombardi comes in, bangs the door open, and I think you all remember what great presence he had, great presence. He walked in and he walked back and forth, like this, just walked, staring at the players. He said, "All eyes on me." I'm reading this in this book. I'm getting this picture of Lombardi before his first game and he said "Gentlemen, we will be successful this year, if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers." They knocked the walls down and the rest was history. I said, that's beautiful. I'm going to do that. Your family, your religion and Rutgers basketball. That's it. I had it. Listen, I'm twenty-one years old. The kids I'm coaching are nineteen, and I'm going to be the greatest coach in the world, the next Lombardi. I'm practicing outside of the locker room and the managers tell me you got to go in. Not yet, not yet, family, religion, Rutgers Basketball. All eyes on me. I got it, I got it. Then finally he said, three minutes, I said fine. True story. I go to knock the doors open just like Lombardi. Boom! They don't open. I almost broke my arm. Now I was down, the players were looking. Help the coach out, help him out. Now I did like Lombardi, I walked back and forth, and I was going like that with my arm getting the feeling back in it. Finally I said, "Gentlemen, all eyes on me." These kids wanted to play, they're nineteen. "Let's go," I said. "Gentlemen, we'll be successful this year if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion and the Green Bay Packers," I told them. I did that. I remember that. I remember where I came from.

It's so important to know where you are. I know where I am right now. How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal. You have to be willing to work for it.

I talked about my family, my family's so important. People think I have courage. The courage in my family are my wife Pam, my three daughters, here, Nicole, Jamie, LeeAnn, my mom, who's right here too. That screen is flashing up there thirty seconds like I care about that screen right now, huh? I got tumors all over my body. I'm worried about some guy in the back going thirty seconds? You got a lot, hey va fa napoli, buddy. You got a lot.

I just got one last thing, I urge all of you, all of you, to enjoy your life, the precious moments you have. To spend each day with some laughter and some thought, to get you're emotions going. To be enthusiastic every day and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Nothing great could be accomplished without enthusiasm," to keep your dreams alive in spite of problems whatever you have. The ability to be able to work hard for your dreams to come true, to become a reality.

Now I look at where I am now and I know what I want to do. What I would like to be able to do is spend whatever time I have left and to give, and maybe, some hope to others. Arthur Ashe Foundation is a wonderful thing, and AIDS, the amount of money pouring in for AIDS is not enough, but is significant. But if I told you it's ten times the amount that goes in for cancer research. I also told you that five hundred thousand people will die this year of cancer. I also tell you that one in every four will be afflicted with this disease, and yet somehow, we seem to have put it in a little bit of the background. I want to bring it back on the front table. We need your help. I need your help. We need money for research. It may not save my life. It may save my children's lives. It may save someone you love. And ESPN has been so kind to support me in this endeavor and allow me to announce tonight, that with ESPN's support, which means what? Their money and their dollars and they're helping me-we are starting the Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research. And it's motto is "Don't give up, don't ever give up." That's what I'm going to try to do every minute that I have left. I will thank God for the day and the moment I have. If you see me, smile and give me a hug. That's important to me too. But try if you can to support, whether it's AIDS or the cancer foundation, so that someone else might survive, might prosper and might actually be cured of this dreaded disease. I can't thank ESPN enough for allowing this to happen. I'm going to work as hard as I can for cancer research and hopefully, maybe, we'll have some cures and some breakthroughs. I'd like to think, I'm going to fight my brains out to be back here again next year for the Arthur Ashe recipient. I want to give it next year!

I know, I gotta go, I gotta go, and I got one last thing and I said it before, and I want to say it again. Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.

I thank you and God bless you all.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My predictions fucking suck sometimes

Thank goodness I'm not a gambling man. I got hosed last night. The Magic lost when I said they'd win, and the Rockets got destroyed when I said they'd destroy. I did peripherally mention that if the Lakers won, it would be the least important game 3 win ever, which I stand by. Otherwise, I don't really have much to say, other than maybe I should delete every column I ever wrote and never talk about basketball again.

Last night I was only able to see Pistons/Magic, and I was struck by one thing: Chris Webber looks atrocious. He looks like Ben Wallace on offense. There was a split second where I actually thought I had been imagining Wallace's departure. He is just (Bill Walton voice) terrible. But somehow the shots go in. I don't think he was tricking Philadelphia earlier this year by sucking, I just think that Detroit is the perfect team where players can flourish (witness Corliss Williamson, Lindsey Hunter, and Zeljko Rebraja's improbably mediocre performances in years past). [This it pretty random, but I just looked up highlights of Corliss Williamon's 1992 All-America performance and found what I think is extremely rare footage of Jason Kidd trying to dunk on a dude like he's imitating Tom Chambers. It's amazing. (Kidd is #32.)]

The game that made me eat my words in the most royal fashion last night was the Jazz/Rockets game. I should have known never to imply that Jerry Sloan was going down without a fight, and his team played inspired defense and held the 'Kets to 67 points (which Yao and McGrady have combined for on a couple of occasions this year).

I don't see Utah stopping Houston like that again, even though JVG does sometimes leave something to be desired on the offensive side of the court. Tracy McGrady played like crap, Yao played okay, but where on earth was the rest of the team? Rafer Alston had more rebounds (7) in 45 minutes than he had points (6) or assists (5). The only thing he did of note was turn the ball over five times. Chuck Hayes, a favorite of mine, spent 25 minutes on the floor, and went 0-2. 0-2! Luther Head, in 24 minutes, missed five shots (three of them three-pointers), didn't take a free throw, and finished with...0! As a matter of fact, the Houston bench played a total of 46:25 and score zero points. The Rockets had no bench points. None.

Compare that to the 33 bench points the Jazz had, and it's easy to see how this thing got out of hand. In the second half, where the Rockets scored as many points (25) as they had scored in the second quarter, Rafer Alston hit a three pointer, Shane Battier had a free throw, and every single other point was scored by Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady. That's almost incomprehensible. I give credit to the Jazz defense, but the Rockets play in Game 3 was so pathetic that they, too, deserve considerable blame for not getting any execution from their role players.

As if to taunt reader Matt Goldstein, who remarked that "Kobe could never put up 15 in the fourth quarter on the way to 38 in the Finals [with the flu]" (or something to that effect), last night Kobe put up 15 in the fourth quarter on the way to 45 in a surprising Lakers win. During the Lakers series it has become abundantly clear that Kobe Bryant is reading this blog, and that the outcome of the game rests on the various comments and jinxings contained therein. Last night we jinxed it. However, no jinx can change the fact that the Lakers are not as good as the Suns, and won't be able to stop them for seven games.

Shawn Marion, who apparently complains a lot because he doesn't get as much publicity as the other guys on the team (namely Nash and Stoudemire), was completely ineffective. He scored 10 points on 4-12 shooting, got four rebounds, and one assist. He made one of three free throws. One thing that's been unreported (as far as I've heard or read) this year is that Shawn Marion's scoring dropped 4.3 ppg this year and his rebounds dropped 2.0 per game. Those are pretty substantial drops for a guy who's playing a lot of minutes. As a matter of fact, Marion's scoring average was the lowest it has been since 2001, his sophomore year in the NBA (and even then, he averaged almost a rebound more per game). It even seems like he's no longer referred to as "The Matrix". I wonder if he's got some problem. [He's not the smartest guy in the universe...]

Tonight we have Raptors/Nets, Bulls/Heat, and Mavs/Warriors on the block.

I'll be stunned if the Heat don't take one tonight. They are a good team, and I think they should be able to defend the Bulls better than they have been (the Bulls are also due for a little cooldown). I am beginning to think I underestimated the Bulls, though; specifically Kirk Hinrich, who is the king bee. We'll see.

I have the Nets winning at the crappiest home arena in the country. I think it will be a close one, but Vince Carter is due to have a big game, and I think he will do so after a couple of moderate-to-heavy stinkers.

Finally, the Mavs will beat the Warriors barring a monstrous performance from Old Dirty Baron. Dirk has been too quiet, and the Warriors can't (and won't) be able to figure out an answer for Josh Howard, who may be the real MVP of the Mavericks come playoff time.

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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The saga continues...

No fuckin doubt about it, the NBA playoffs are great.

Last night, the Nuggets lost to the Spurs in a game that was slightly closer than the score indicated, the Warriors got sa-moked by the Mavericks, and the Wizards lost a close one to the LeCavs. All in all, nothing to call home about, in my view.

The Warriors probably weren't going to win two in Dallas, and their only chance was Old Dirty Bastard, I mean Big Baby Jesus, I mean Baron Davis, who got ejected at the end of the third quarter. The Wizards suck and Lebron does not. The Spurs don't generally lose two home playoff games in a row. Whoop dee fuckin do, right?

Well, I think there were some things of note last night:

-The Spurs continue to look shit-tay. The Nuggets got it to within three points late in the fourth despite shooting a terrible 38.6% for the game, and despite the Spurs' superlative 43.8%/42.9%/91.3% (great FT% for a team with Tim Duncan) shooting percentages. This can't bode well for the Spurs, for a number of reasons: They're probably not going to hold the Nuggets under 40% at home; They're probably not going to get a combined 31 points out of Finley and Ginobili again; They literally do not have a center; and, above all Brent Barry is not fucking playing. What the hell? Has Popovic lost his mind? He really wants to trot out Jacque Vaughn for twice as long as Brent Barry? It makes no sense, especially when your team only hits 6 three pointers, half of which are hit by Bruce "I suck at basketball but I am an asshole" Bowen. The only explanation for this can be the "ace-up-my-sleeve" strategy; if Popovic is doing this and then plays Barry, ripping the hearts out of the Nuggets in their own town like a deadly rocky mountain avalanche, I will acknowledge what a terrible human being I am. Otherwise, I think it's a mistake.

-Great production from Tim Duncan: 22 points, 7 boards, 5 assists, 5 blocks, and perhaps most impressively, no turnovers (he averages a robust 2.5 a game).

-Denver played three players from its bench for 16:12, 13:45 and 11:49. The 11 minutes and 49 seconds went to J.R. Smith, who averaged 13.0 points this season and who is a 44%/39%/81% shooter. The only thing more strange than playing JR Smith for 11 minutes is that he played six minutes less in game one. The guy's a baller! Get him out there, coach!.

-Iverson and Carmelo both played poorly. I doubt San Antonio will be able to count on both of these guys having bad games in the same game for the rest of the series.

-I know I touched on this before, but Baron, what the fuck are you doing out there? If you get mad, dunk on that big German guy's head and yell some shit about Nazis or something, but for god sakes, don't get thrown out. Jesus!

-Last night, Jason Richardson and Stephen Jackson started at forward, and Al Harrington started at center. Dirk Nowitzki only scored 23 points. Had it not been for the excellent play of Devin Harris and Jason Terry (who got a lot of his points while Baron was still in, by the way), Dallas would have had a tough time pulling a win out. Where is Dirk at?

-Great night from Josh Howard. 22 points on only 13 shots along with 11 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks. I also love how Jerry Stackhouse can take 9 shots, miss two-thirds of them, and still finish with 17 points. He's the best guard in NBA history at getting to the free throw line. Yeah, I said it. (For the record, I'm not sure if statistics bear this out, but it doesn't matter, because it's the truth.) [UPDATE: The statistics do not bear this out. Maybe I'll supplement my thought with "other than Michael Jordan". (6.8 fta/g vs. 8.2 fta/g)] {I guess he might be worse than Kobe, too...shit...}

-I couldn't feel less emotional about the Wiz/Cavs series. I think Larry Hughes is playing better than anybody expected, which is nice to see, considering how awful he's played this year. Can someone explain to me why this team doesn't have a point guard, though? It seems like a recipe for disaster.

-The Wizards are for shit. Roger Mason outscored 3 starters. So did Brendan Haywood. So did Darius Songaila. I'm fairly disappointed with DeShawn Stevenson, who I think is quite good, but who is just not getting it done. He went 3-12 in game 1 and 3-12 in game 2. He's playing good defense but he's guarding Alexander freaking Pavlovic. It would not hurt if he could step it up, hit a couple of long shots, and drive to the hole and try to dunk on Ilgauskas's head (and then yell something about Lithuania's submission to Russia for good measure).

Tonight we'll get Pistons/Magic, Rockets/Jazz, and Suns/Lakers.

I have maintained all along that the Magic should be able to take one (especially considering they've now lost 6 in a row to the Pistons this season), and if there's ever a game they'll do it, it will be this one.

The Rockets are just too good, and this is going to be a hugely important game that the Jazz must win, so the NBA decided, "Hey, let's broadcast this on NBATV! It's not like Houston is the fourth-biggest city in the country or anything, we need the Detroit game!" Nice fucking job, NBA/ABC/ESPN/TNT. Houston will dominate despite Utah's best efforts. Jerry Sloan may deliver a tirade that causes Dee Brown and C.J. Miles to bawl openly.

Phoenix should dominate LA, which is just about the only team that will still have no chance even if they do manage to get the series to 2-1. I can only imagine how low team morale in L.A. is right now. There Lakers can expect some angry stares from His Royal Jackness on the sidelines.

The NBDL championship is tonight! (Teams and Rosters here) The Colorado 14ers will be taking on the Dakota Wizards. I know a grand total of one player who will be involved, Darius Rice, who apparently is a minor-league version of Darius Miles and is requisitioned to the bench.. (The 14ers used to have Julius Hodge, and I can guarantee if he was still on the team, this one would be a foregone conclusion. I love that guy.)

I'm picking Dakota, because I figure if Darius Rice, who I always thought was a pretty good player and an excellent athlete, is stuck on the bench, they must have something going. Oh, and because I realized they just have a player who played for Jerry Tarkanian, Renaldo Major. Anyone coached by the Shark will not lose (he's averaging 29.0 ppg in the playoffs).

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

NBA Playoff Report

Well, I have to be honest with you...I was a little embarrassed when, despite discussing the seedings in the East twice, I failed to notice the possibility of the interesting situation that sent the Bulls packing their bags for a trip to Assville. (Though it will make for a better series.)

I gotta get down to business. After an exciting weekend of New York Metropolitans baseball, I find myself slightly out of the basketball loop, so the best I can do is offer some scattered thoughts (most of which will be aimed at patting myself on the back). [Side Note: Isn't it weird how a professional athlete like Mehmet Okur {above} can have a double chin?]

-I am very surprised the Warriors beat the Mavericks. When I actually think about the players, it makes a little more sense, as I've never been that high on the Mavs' personnel (not that they're not good, I don't think they're 65-win good). Still, the Mavs play very well as a team on both ends, have one guy that is almost unstoppable, and have an extremely large advantage over the Warriors in the frontcourt. I don't think this will continue, but if Baron Davis keeps playing the way he's playing (and I'm all about the importance of point guard play), I give the warriors a one in three shot to win. (By the way, if Avery Johnson is such a great coach, why can't he teach Jason Terry or Devin Harris how the hell to at least slow Baron Davis?) [Props to Don Nelson for pulling Avery's pants down, by the way.]

-I maintain my prediction for Magic/Pistons: the Magic will take one at home. Dwight Howard is a big disappointment in this series; I hope that he's okay. The only really notable thing about this series other than Detroit's methodical offense is the enjoyment that I (and I imagine many) get from watching Grant Hill continue to outplay everyone on the Pistons. (Also, why isn't anybody questioning Flip Saunders? His team got better, the East got worse, and he's more than 10 wins worse this year than last. Isn't that a bad thing? It's just like a Minnesota situation; the guy takes a good thing and ruins it with adequate, montonous, disorganized coaching. Has any coach ever had the luck with teams that Flip Saunders has? I doubt it.)

-Kobe is really going to lose credibility if the Lakers get swept. I have a funny feeling they will. They only have an advantage at one position, and that advantage is held by a player who is screwing up his entire team. Kobe bears an uncanny similarity to the Wilt Chamberlain that is personified in John Taylor's The Rivalry; a complex soul ultimately undone by his own lack of self-confidence. The Lakers had the look of a decent team halfway through this season, and it seems like Kobe's search for his own legacy has changed the team for the worse. Kobe is now on the path to tarnishing his legacy even more by destabilizing a team that could have contended. If only Kevin Garnett had that luxury.

-Lebron is better than all the Wizards combined. That about sums that series up.

-I wrote about a month ago that at the end of the season everyone would realize the Nuggets have the best starting lineup in the NBA [and that they would take the Lakers' six seed]. They won eight of their last ten and just beat the Spurs in San Antonio. Every writer seems to be taking the "I didn't forget about the Spurs" angle, but the fact is that three of their four marquee players (Duncan, Manu, and Finley) have been declining and that their best (cheap shot) defender [Bruce Bowen] is now essentially irrelevant. They play great basketball as a team and I doubt they'll go quietly, but I do think they'll go. (The one x-factor here could be Brent Barry...I don't know why, but I feel like he could be the random guy on a well-coached team that makes a difference.)

-I am and have been very high on the Raptors, but them drawing the Nets could be devastating. The Raps will have to work really hard to overcome a huge disadvantage at PG (always a serious problem in the playoffs), and there are two guys on the Nets (Carter and Jefferson) who are more athletic than anybody on the Raptors. This whole series will come down to making shots for the Raps, because if they can do that, they're golden. The problem is, the Nets are capable of great perimeter defense, and if Bosh doesn't make them pay for not doubling him, the Nets will hold the Raps. The dinasaurs shot 41% in game 1. That won't cut it.

-If you've been reading this blog at all, you know I think the Rockets will win the finals. If you haven't been you know. They're the ultimate playoff team! Superstar, gigantic center, and a bunch of defenders...what could be better? There was a joking comment on ESPN today that said, in effect: "Mehmet Okur just doesn't have it all there. What, is Chuck Hayes to tough for him?" The answer is yes, Chuck Hayes is too tough for him. So are the rest of the Rockets. Shane Battier (though I may dislike him) is tough. Rafer Alston is tough. They're all tough, and they know their roles, and they're fine with what they're doing, because they play with for a great coach and they know they have a chance to win. I love this team.

-I think the Heat/Bulls series is the only one that will go seven games, and I think the Heat are going to win it. It's just hard to win a seven-game series against a team with Shaquille O'Neal on it. Even if they do win, it'll be a war that might drain them of the energy they need to win in the second round.

-God, I love the NBA playoffs.

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Two Wizards Suck.

This is basically what you're left with when you remove Gilbert Arenas from the Wizards. Straight up suckage.

I'll admit, I'm more than a little upset about the events that transpired last night when Avery Johnson sat my best fantasy player, Dirk Nowitzki, unannounced, while Antawn Jamison poured in 48 points in an (obviously) losing effort. Jamison is on the team competing with me for my fantasy basketball championship. In the points category, today I find myself down by about 75, which is about what I figure the spread of that one ridiculous coincidence was. Why is it that fantasy football leagues are set up to finish a week before the end of the season, while fantasy basketball leagues are left to create situations where Jamison is more valuable than Nowitzki? Why? I don't understand this. (While I'm at it, thanks a lot for sitting Duncan, Popovic. Not like he got enough of that last game!)

Perhaps, like my predictions of the Gators' March downfall, my playoff predication will be tainted by my distaste for certain players or coaches (Antawn Jamison, that is). However, there are two big differences between the Gators and the Wizards: 1) The Gators were the one of the best teams in the tournament, while the Wizards are the worst team in the playoffs; and 2) Alligators are sweet. Wizards are gay. (Though not as gay as that man on the right. God, please kill me.)

That aside, let's get down to objectivity. The Wiz were having a pretty solid (39-33) year until Arenas went down and the Wizards subsequently went, oh, 1-8. The loss of Arenas is devastating to this team because he sets up the offense and is the primary option. (The blow would have been softened if Caron Butler, who is in the midst of a M.I.P.-type year, hadn't gone down just a game before.)

However, all is not lost. The Wizards are a really high-scoring team, and they happen to have another guy who averages almost 20 points a game (the Knicks don't have any). They also have a couple of solid big men, and some decent bench players. The thing that is really worrisome is their lack of a point guard. All they have to backup Arenas is Antonio Daniels, and while I am a very big Antonio Daniels fan, and while he has a little bit of point guard in him (in the three games after Arenas went down, he averaged a smooth 13 assists per game), he is simply not going to get the job done in the playoffs. It also appears as though there is something wrong with his back; he's missed the past two games and in last night's loss was completely ineffective, going 0-10.

What this will mean for the Wizards is that they will possess a dramatic disadvantage against Chicago's excellent backcourt of Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon. The best possible scenario is that DeShawn Stevenson might be able to slow Ben Gordon down (and that's pushing it). If Gilbert Arenas was healthy, this would be one of the best backcourt wars in the playoffs. Without him, it's Gettysburg. Exacerbating Washington's disadvantage, DeShawn's excellent complimentary offensive game seems to take a big hit when he's looked on to score (the 46% shooter shot only 35% after Arenas went down).

The Bulls should be able to parlay their advantage at guard into open shots for Andres Nocioni and one-on-one post situations for Luol Deng. (I really think these guys fit into the Bulls' team well, by the way.) The Wizards would ordinarily have a concomitant advantage on the offensive end if Caron Butler was healthy, but he just got the cast taken off his hand yesterday and says he will be ready to play "if the Wizards reach the second round". (Funny coincidence...)

Butler's injury means the Bulls will be able to guard Jamison in the post with Wallace/Deng and on the perimeter (though probably less effectively) with Nocioni or even Hinrich; they won't have to worry about matchup problems because there's no one else who's threatening. Add to that the fact that Jamison is getting hot at precisely the wrong time (second to last game of the year, wooo!), and you have a serious advantage for Chicago.

At center Washington has a two-headed crap-monster. The Bulls have a one-headed bad motherfucker. Neither team is threatening offensively (though Ben Wallace has shown some ability to play offense in the playoffs), and everyone rebounds and plays defense well. The only real difference is that Ben Wallace is better at defense and rebounding than both of the Wizards' guys combined. Advantage: Bulls. See a trend developing here?

I think the Wizards have one of the more underrated benches in the East, with a good shooter (Darius Songaila), a pretty talented athlete (Jarvis Hayes), a solid backup center (Thomas/Haywood) and an excellent combo guard (Daniels). The problem is, it ends there, and with the Wizards' injury problems, they'll need more depth.

The Bulls' bench is very solid, with a great backup point guard (Chris Duhon [try to name a championship team without a solid backup point guard]), PJ "I play as dirty as Bruce Bowen except I'm not as good at defense" Brown, Tyrus Thomas (who was really coming on at the end of the season), and Thabo Sefolosha, who I like even though he doesn't play much.

I think this is going to be a sweep, save for an act of god or some gruesome string of injuries on the Bulls' side. Even at full-speed, I'd take the Bulls over the Wizards for their strong defense and frontcourt, but that would at least be a fun series. What we're left with will be a pathetic mashing of a team that's a shell of its former self. Oh well.

As always, e-mail me at

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Day Two of the Playoff Preview

Hi there. I was thinking about previewing the Nets/Bulls matchup, but because there is some significant likelihood that it will not happen, it's probably better to wait a day or two. Something that I was thinking about that I don't think anyone has pointed out about this game is that the Bulls are almost given the choice of whom they want to play in the first round by virtue of their contest against the Nets on the 18th (tomorrow).

To wit: If the Wizards, who are currently in the six spot, lose one more game (and they are playing in such a way that there is very good chance they will), then the Wiz and Nets' respective records before tomorrow's Nets / Bulls will be 40-41 for the Wizards and 40-41 for the Nets. The Nets own a 4-0 record against the Wizards this year (with two contests decided in overtime, interestingly), and therefore hold the tie-breaker. That means that if the Nets win in Chicago, they gain control of the sixth seed.

Chicago is the two seed, and if there is a rational mind on the team, they would prefer to play the Arenas-less Wizards about 140 times as much as the Nets (who are currently seeded seventh and who will play the Bulls if they remain there). Therefore, the Nets gaining the sixth seed is actually to the Bulls' advantage, and by throwing a game against the Nets, the Bulls would be giving themselves a markedly weaker first round adversary in the Wizards, who they are sure to pants.

It's a great opportunity to rest players, give the bench guys some minutes, and it will still give the Bulls another game become the second team in the East to reach the magic 50-victory plateau. (Wait, there's only one team in the East with 50 wins? How many do they have? 51? Oh.) The only wrench in the ointment is the Cavaliers, who are a game behind Chicago, and who could turn the win-by-losing strategy on its head. I don't think they'll be able to do this because they are not very good, but they do contribute to a very interesting situation.

Obviously, because of this situation, I am also handicapped from previewing the potential Raptors/Wizards series or the potential Bulls/Nets, so I'll just go right ahead to the other first-round matchup in the East:

Miami Heat vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Dwayne Wade is going to be back. I'm glad that we got that over with, because it really adds something to this series. I'm a little worried about how he'll play because so much of his game is predicated on his fearlessness, but something tells me Dwayne Wade has faced down tougher shit than having his shoulder messed up. (Dude can give a way a Lincoln Navigator without blinking.)

In my eyes, if Wade (who has been receiving treatments including acupuncture and Slick Rick's Kangol) is back and in full health, this series should go decisively the Heat's way, because they have gross matchup advantages at almost every position.

Dwayne Wade matching up with Larry Hughes (certainly this year's Least Improved Player) should be exciting to watch, as Hughes's overrated defense will get Flashed repeatedly. It's true that Lebron and Gooden's help might be effective, but Cleveland's team defense just isn't that well-prepared, and they haven't executed particularly well all season. Miami's perimeter acumen and Wade's ability to distribute, both in the lane and to the wing, should further counteract the help defense.

Likewise, LeBron (literally, "The Bron") will destroy whomever guards him, Kapono or Posey (if he can play). Also, his distribution skills will pick apart whatever help defense Miami uses (if they elect to do this at all).

If the matchups ended there, this would be one hell of a series. The problem is, there are other players on the floor, and every matchup seems to go Miami's way.

Shaq and Ilguaskas, for instance, is laughable. Shaq might just get bored and start trying to bring down the hoop. The only hope Z has is to try to get the daddy in foul trouble, but it will be hard to do that, because he is very slow and deliberate on offense. Z'll have to be sinking everything to make Shaq risk fouling him on The Hook That Time Forgot. Even if he does succeed in doing this, I don't think he can handle Mourning, either.

Drew Gooden is essentially a weaker version of Udonis Haslem with less heart and a less consistent jump shot, as well as a patently ridiculous patch of hair on the back of his head that I can't stop seeing because TNT bought up every Cav game all season. He is a bit more athletic, but I don't think it's enough to make any difference unless he can somehow lure Haslem into a faceup game. Haslem would have to be an idiot to do that, though, because Gooden has no jump shot. Therefore, for Gooden to beat his man, he's going to have to get lucky and go on a hot streak. I have never seen Drew Gooden "get lucky and go on a hot streak".

Gary Payton and Jason Williams are both very good point guards with diverse talents. The Cavaliers point guards...don't exist. I think the legal term for what would happen in this case is "Default Judgment". (As for the counter-argument of Eric Snow...come on...)

Sasha Pavlovic, Anderson Varejao, and Donyell Marshall are all mediocre, while Eddie Jones, Alonzo Mourning, James Posey (if available), Antoine Walker, and Dorrell Wright probably constitute the best bench in the Eastern conference. As a matter of fact, if they got to play with Dwayne Wade, I think they'd have a decent chance against the Cavs on their own.

The bottom line? I think the Cavs, despite their possible 50-win status and despite the presence of The Bron, just won't get it done. They're not tough, they can't shoot, they don't seem to have a lot of heart, and their role players are not the type to come through in big situations (especially not Larry Hughes). If they win one game, that's an accomplishment. Yeah, I said it.

(Editors Note: Damon Jones was intentionally omitted from this column as it pertains to basketball. Thank you.)

As always, e-mail me at

Monday, April 16, 2007

Spring is Upon Us.

Good morning. Isn't it great, the way the NBA playoffs rush to fill the void in sports following March Madness? Post-Madness (PMS?) is the worst part of the year for sports fans like myself; baseball opening is exciting for one day, but carries with it the burdens of the 162 game season and the freezing April night-game; the Masters is also solid, but to be honest, I'm not much of a golf guy; and I might watch hockey but I don't get OLN. There just isn't a whole lot of action.

It's like that until mid-April when basketball fans like myself realize, "jesus, after this agonizingly long season of watching my team self-destruct and caring only about meaningless fantasy basketball statistics, there's actually a good reason to give a damn about the NBA again!"

It's true. Teams are playing for all the marbles, and despite the unfortunate decision of the NBA to extend the first-round playoff series from five to seven games (trying to recover ratings they lost when they moved half of the playoffs to cable, perhaps), this is a great time of the year to be a basketball fan. (It would be accurate to say that I, a Knicks fan, feel like that Cubs fan in a tree in the commercials that aired during last year's baseball playoffs, where a suited shrink-type man reminds me that I'm not just a cubbies fan, I'm a baseball fan...)

It behooves me, of course, to do a little playoff preview edition of Don't Ever Give Up. Since the West could be up in the air for a couple days more, I'll start out with a review of the Eastern Conference matchups, which are just about set in stone. First, we have:

#1 Detroit Pistons v. #8 Orlando Magic: I really, really like this matchup. Detroit essentially ruined the Magic franchise for the last half-decade, and I'm sure that there are some hard feelings there. Also, I really like the way players match up.

Because of the Magic's dismal 38-42 record (as of now), I think a lot of fans and writers are just going to write them off. However, a close look at the actual matchups between players reveals that Detroit has some potential weak spots. To wit:

Chauncey Billups and Jameer Nelson are not at the same level, and Jameer's probably going to eat some leather on this one. However, he possesses talent for getting to the hole, and against Detroit he's been able to rack up about 15 points a game. Chauncey's defense is key for the Pistons, especially now that the Ben Wallace era is over, and even if Jameer gets outscored and outplayed, if he can get to the hole, he can have a positive impact.

Orlando runs an interesting no-shooting-guard-two-small-forward set, and I'm not sure who's going to guard who. I think it should play out like this: Grant Hill will play Richard Hamilton, and Hedo Turkoglu will guard Tayshaun Prince. This is a very tough matchup for Orlando because neither of their players is well-suited to defend their adversaries. However, it is also beneficial on offense because it will pull Prince, an excellent inside shot-blocker, to the perimeter, and because it will force Richard Hamilton to defend a playmaker rather than a catch-and shoot guy. Tayshaun Prince is really the only skilled interior defender left on the Pistons and it will be a boon to get him away from the hole. Likewise, Hamilton's defensive strength is his endurance when he follows his man; however, I have less confidence that he will be able to handle a man with as versatile a game as the Mr. Grant Hill. (He's also not as nice of a guy.)

Whether it's Webber or Rasheed who gets the call against Dwight Howard, they are going to have their hands full. He'll kill Webber in the post and he'll annoy Sheed by following him on the perimeter. Also, I don't think either Piston will be able to contain Howard on the offensive glass. I don't know why but I just get the feeling he's waiting to do something special...he's probably still pissed off about the slam-dunk contest, too.

The thing about the above paragraph is, even if I'm completely right, it means that whomever Dwight Howard doesn't guard will match up against...Tony Battie. I know Tony Battie from his days in Boston, and let me tell you something: He's not very good at basketball. But that's where this series gets interesting...

Orlando does have the option of playing Darko Milicic to complete its frontcourt. This would give it a sizeable athletic advantage over Detroit if Darko can play with restraint and skill. It would also give them a post player with range that would further weaken Detroit's ability to offset Dwight Howard.

Orlando lost all four of its games to Detroit this season, and it's easy to view that in a bad light. However, I don't think they're going to get swept in their series. (They also have a pretty good bench with Carlos Arroyo, Trevor Ariza, Keyon Dooling, and Keith Bogans.) Orlando has always had a good home-court and they have a fairly veteran, athletic lineup that plays very good team defense. The problem is, they're coached like garbage and can't seem to play good, coordinated offense, so I can't see them winning a seven-game series. I do, however, think they'll put in a good effort (especially Howard), take two games, and make the matchup a little more interesting than the ESPN pundits predict it will be. Besides, you never know who might get suspended for lying to a grand jury or who might pick up a game-changing technical for a time out they don't have...

As always, e-mail me at

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From The Desk of Don't Ever Give Up: The Basketball Blog

Dear Mr. McHale:

I am writing you to express my dismay with your performance as General Manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves. You have disappointed many players and fans who are or have been involved with your once-respectable basketball team. Central to your failure is your inability to furnish the Timberwolves with a competent point guard.

You were one of the great post players of your time, and of the NBA's rich history. I would imagine that the necessity of a skilled point guard would be quite apparent to you. After all, you played with with great passers throughout your career, from Tiny Archibald to Dennis Johnson to Larry Bird. Even if that necessity somehow escaped you as a player, surely the success you once experienced as a General Manager made you realize that Kevin Garnett, the best player in the NBA and a man with considerably more talent than you ever possessed, is far more effective when he plays with the Stephon Marburys, Terrell Brandons, Chauncey Billupses and Sam Cassells of the world. Sadly, it appears that you have learned nothing from your years.

I write motivated by both curiosity and consternation. Why would you surround someone of Garnett's caliber with Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Mike James, and Trenton Hassell? Why would you assemble a team on which Kevin Garnett helps others score (4.1 apg) almost as much as the leading assist man (Ricky Davis at 4.7)? How could you possibly construct a team on the premise that Ricky Davis, Ricky Davis, is your leading passer?

Two seasons ago you traded away Sam Cassell for Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers. Neither Marko Jaric nor Lionel Chalmers are viable point guards, and therefore your team needed one. In the two seasons subsequent to the Cassell trade, you have not made any effort to acquire a player who can run the offense and assist the best player in the NBA.

Tonight the Minnesota Timberwolves, with a record of 32-45, play the Dallas Mavericks, who own a record of 64-13. The Mavericks were once your teams' lesser peer. How things have changed.

It is unfathomable that you are still gainfully employed. You are (and always have been) a liar and a cheater, and even with your unfair advantages, you cannot construct a winning team. You have sabotaged the career of a once-in-a-generation player, the likes of whom the NBA may never see again. You have embarrassed a city almost as much as you've embarrassed yourself.

In one month and eight days Kevin Garnett will turn 31. He may only have a couple of seasons left before he is no longer the player he will be remembered as. I ask that you please resign your position as General Manager and allow someone with greater talent, shrewdness, and integrity to assume you position.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours truly,
Don't Ever Give Up: The Basketball Blog

A little general news

There's nothing like the feeling you get when you're arranging your fantasy lineups and see a little injury sign next to Dirk Nowitzki. Now, it being the finals, you're probably very scared to see that you have to lose a game from a guy who is arguably the MVP. What, you wonder, is his injury? He just scored 28 points last night, didn't he?

"The Mavericks have wrapped up the top seed in the postseason, so Nowitzki and Jerry Stackhouse won't join the team on its road trip to Minnesota. 'I told them if I see them on the plane, I'll fine them,' Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. Nowitzki will play again Friday night at home against Utah."

Technical foul, little general...technical foul...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Does Kobe get better with age?

Hello there. The other day I was lying in my bed, looking at the collages that cover most of the walls of my room. No, this author is not much of an artist, but when I was in high school, I passed a great deal of time that should have been spent completing homework by stapling pictures of all my favorite sports stars to the walls of my room.

I enjoy looking at my walls these days because they display a wealth of basketball/sports history. Almost all the pictures are from a very short time period, so there's a great frozen-moment effect; I can see pictures of Peter Warrick on Florida State, Randy Moss standing with Randall Cunningham, and Ken Griffey, Jr., in all his glory.

When I lay in my bed, looking at my wall, I noticed a picture of Kobe Bryant standing next to Shareef Abdur Rahim. I remembered that the picture was taken from SLAM magazine, when both men were rookies. I thought about it for a second. Shareef Abdur Rahim was a rookie the same year that Kobe Bryant was. Wow.

It's an amazing testament to Kobe's greatness. Granted, he's two years younger than Shareef, but let's look at the notable players from that '96 draft:

(Number denotes pick #)

1. Allen Iverson (Getting old before our eyes, albeit long after I thought he would.)
2. Marcus Camby (Got old after leaving Knicks.)
3. Shareef (Got old when he went to the Blazers.)
4. Stephon Marbury (Got old last year.)
5. Ray Allen (In a career year, severely injured. TBD.)
6. Antoine Walker (Got old after Dallas.)
8. Kerry Kittles (Got old after his 32nd operation.)
10. Erick Dampier (Got old after he was drafted.)
13. Kobe Bryant (not old)
14. Predrag Stojakovic (Got old the season before last.)
15. Steve Nash (Got old when he started to bald.)
17. Jermaine O'Neal (Got old after Detroit fight/injuries.)
20. Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Born old.)
26. Jerome Williams (Got old inexplicably. Almost as if in time machine.)
30. Othella Harrington (Got old after being traded from Grizzlies [the "Rahim"].
33. Moochie Norris (Got old after traded from Rockets.)
37. Jeff McInnis (Got old after traded to Nets.)
54. Shandon Anderson (Got old after traded to Knicks.)

(By the way, what an unbelievable draft.)

I don't know how to explain it, but I'm pretty sure I'm not alone when I say that it feels like Kobe's about a 6-7 year veteran. He's only six years younger than Shaq, though. He's older than Larry Hughes and Al Harrington, both of whom have witnessed their physical skills decline precipitously. Kobe's right at the age where most stars, even of the highest caliber, enter their decline, and he's playing as well as he ever has. It's amazing.

For some reason, this got me thinking about how great Kobe is for the first time. I've never been terribly impressed by the guy (and I only say that in historic terms; it's clear he's in the top two of players in today's league), but his incorrigibility resonated with me a lot. So, just for the heck of it, I checked the statistics of my main man, Michael Jordan.

That's when I realized that Jordan was six years older than Kobe when he averaged 28.7 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists on the 62-20 Bulls Championship team that captivated the nation. He was easily the best athlete and scorer in the league, even at age 34.

I recently read an article on ESPN about how Kobe's recent string of high-scoring outings proves that he's a better player than Jordan. Of course, that is nonsense. Witnessing the amazing skill and athleticism Jordan retained as he aged just confirms for me what an incredible player he was, and how much further Kobe has to go to achieve Jordan's greatness. Kobe is a specimen for the ages, no doubt, but he's still not worthy of being considered the equal of Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Rick Barry, Magic Johnson or Oscar Robertson in the pantheon of great guards.

That's all I've got. E-mail me, as always, at

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Don't Ever Give Up: The Basketball Blog Book Review: The Rivalry

I just finished reading John Taylor's The Rivalry. I thought it was a notable book that was worthy of a little review, and anyone who writes likes to pat themselves on the back and show they know enough to review another, right?

Taylor is more a historian than a writer (at least, that's what it seems like). He more than makes up for his terse and sometimes clumsy writing style with a wealth of primary information about basketball's earliest age. (He catalogues interesting details like John Havlicek's experience with Philadelphia fans. To paraphrase: "Havlicek heard a loud thud against the backboard and realized that a fan had thrown a raw potato at him.")

The best part of the book is that it doesn't just dwell on Russell and Chamberlain. There's only so much interesting stuff one can write about two guys who didn't do many notable things other than throwing the round ball, and Taylor intersperses the stories of some of the ancillary players and coaches that would affect the rivalry [Jerry West, Nate Thurmond, Elgin Baylor, Havlicek, Cousy, Aurbach, and so forth].

My favorite aside was a detailed look at Elgin Baylor's return from a ghastly knee injury (his kneecap cracked, he played through it, and three games later, it literally broke in half). Baylor is remembered as a hall-of-famer and a player of the highest caliber, but Taylor's angle made me think that Baylor is also eligible for Tupac style "what he coulda done" territory. (Before his knee injury, Baylor was the only man in the league who challenged Chamberlain's scoring records. He was still a great player afterwards, but never the same.)

I also appreciated Taylor's restraint in his description of famous events like the Havlicek steal and Wilt's 100 point game. He accomplishes this restraint by avoiding the demonization or worship historical events attract. (For example, that Wilt's 100 point game came in a blowout, or that Havlicek started running before the pass was thrown, etc.) Taylor instead concentrates on the little events surrounding the big event, which is good, because while everyone knows what's coming with historical moments in basketball history, the events leading up to these moments are seldom described in detail.

All in all, I thought the book was a pretty smooth and quick read about a truly interesting period in basketball history, when players worked in the offseason, smoked cigarettes before games, and wet the floor with their blood. The Rivalry earns a Don't Ever Give Up: The Basketball blog thumbs up.

As always, e-mail me at

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Just shoot me now

Nice 8 points on 1-3 shooting, Noah. There's a real lottery pick. I admit to being blinded by my hate for you (Horford, Richard, and Brewer are excellent) but I don't care, because I know that once you start playing in a real league, you're gonna go down like the little francophone bitch you are.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Well, this is embarassing....

Love can be fueled by hate. Hate can be fueled by love. Tonight is a case of the former. Go Ohio State.

-Jimmy V

Meet me at the crossroads...

Hello there. I enjoy reading Bill Simmons's articles for their wit and perspective, and especially for The Sports Guy's concentration on basketball. I think he's often on-point, and when he's not, he's at least funny about it, and he has a pleasant humility and candor that is often glaringly absent from the rest of ESPN's (or any other network/news source's) writers.

It came as a surprise to me that I found myself offended by the most recent installment of The Sport's Guy's Basketball Blog. I wasn't offended for what Simmons thought would be the most obvious reason (the racial undertones of the fundamentals/athlete argument he makes). Rather, I thought Simmons expressed a fallacious viewpoint that is common among basketball pundits; that there exists a "divide between traditional fans and the budding generation that was weaned on Slam Magazine and me-first 'superstars' like Stephon Marbury and Vince Carter (neither of whom has played on a 50-win NBA team, by the way)."

This argument, in my eyes, is patent nonsense, and it has been made by every generation of old man or woman who doesn't like seeing those damn kids/rookies/niggers playing a sport in a way that they don't think is sensible. Every time there has been league-wide change in the NBA, pundits have objected similarly. When they invented the shot-clock, there were objections, when they widened the lane, there were objections, when they let blacks play, there were objections, when they put in the three-point line, there were goes on and on. Now it's too much dunking and strutting here, we need to contract the league there, there's not enough scoring anywhere, and blah, blah, blah.

Sometimes, people are right to take exception to change; for instance, moving the three-point line in a decade ago was a stupid rule change. However, most changes are brought about because of their necessity...Red Auerbach drafted the first black man because he wanted someone who could play, not to make a social statement. People started dunking more often because it brought the crowd into the game a hell of a lot more than anything else, and owners started getting dunkers on to their teams to fill the seats. Guys strut because it humiliates their opponents and gives them a psychological edge (Larry Bird, the patron saint of fundamentals, is notorious for this). There's almost always a reason this stuff happens.

Sometimes it backfires. Basketball players are mobbed with recruiters when they're in high school, are huge stars in college, and get paid millions in the NBA; they are constant centers of attention. Sometimes they act out their difficulties in the arena, sometimes out of it. Sometimes they shoot too much because they have too much pride, and sometimes they monopolize the attention on themselves by expressing their own personalities on the court rather than acting as part of a team. The thing is, that happens on every team in every sport at every level, and it always has. The way things are expressed just changes with the culture.

Basketball has had cocaine scandals, showboaters, fistfighters, and complete assholes, for sure, but the only ones who last in the league last because they have something redeeming. Skill is not enough (just ask J.R. Rider). The Vince Carters and Stephon Marburys of the league are excellent players, and on the right teams have both been on the verge of winning, even if neither has won fifty games.

Simmons was motivated to write by watching OJ Mayo's final dunk in high school, in which he showboats, gets a technical, and doesn't give a damn. The crowd goes nuts and eats it up. This, Simmons claims, is one of many signs that "basketball is headed for a crossroads of sorts, personified by the fact that Kobe Bryant's recent streak of 50-point games received far more national attention than the incredible Suns-Mavs game two weeks ago."

This is no crossroads. Nothing's new about the sport of basketball. Teams that are fun to watch are only sometimes the ones that win but they are always the ones that sell the tickets. Likewise, watching someone score 50 points in a game for four games in a row is more fun than watching a game that is essentially meaningless but extremely competitive, and that's why Kobe received more attention. What he did was historic. Mavs-Suns-in-the-middle-of-March was not; there's a few really tight games in the NBA every month.

To wit: Just a few years ago, the Kings played fun-to-watch, fundamental ball, made a boatload of cash, and got spanked because they didn't have the personnel to cope with Shaq (or the money to pay off the refs). Last year the Mavs did the same thing. The NBA isn't always about how you play the game. Sometimes it's about the player who, despite being an egomaniacal asshole, is unstoppable on the block, or unguardable on the wing.

It's not even about team spirit; Kobe and Shaq hated each other and constantly warred. They won because no one could stop either one of them. Of course, sometimes, the superior team wins (the last Detroit Pistons championship team being a good example) but sometimes, players like OJ Mayo, who strut, dunk, showboat, and hog the ball, are keys to winning teams.

When that happens, everybody who's on the verge of getting old like Simmons mourn the passing of an era, and demonize the new players who are embarrassing the sport. They say things like "Just look at what happened to LeBron's all-around game when he reached the pros -- blessed with an inate passing gene that gave him the choice between becoming the next Magic or the next MJ, he said 'Screw it, I'm going for my points' and went the MJ route. I will always be disappointed about that choice." It's a load of garbage. Who the hell is LeBron going to pass to? Worthy? Kareem? And since when does someone who never played point guard and never averaged 10 assists a game, even in high school, become the next Magic?

Kids these days who enjoy reading Slam Magazine and watching highlights of people dunking on each other and showboating are no different than NASCAR fans who watch for crashes or hockey fans who watch for fights. They might like the dunks, but most also have teams they care about that they don't want to see lose. That's why so many Knicks fans abandoned Marbury last year.

Winning will always take precedence over the culture of coolness in sports, even though sometimes they will be one and the same (MJ). The only crossroads basketball is at is one where it's unclear if its media empire (ESPN et al) is distorting the sport so much that the casual fan now cares less about the players and more about what people have to say about them.

(Yeah, I know I'm one of those I'm a hypocrite, what do you want from me?