Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday Isiah, and...that's your cue.

Like many Knicks fans, I am happy that Isiah is no longer President but not happy that he is still involved with the team. As Jerry Seinfeld noted, when you remove a band-aid, you need to get it right off!.

I'm a little remiss to do two birthdays in two days, but let's remember, Isiah is one of the great players in NBA history and the most influential player in the last twenty, er, thirty years (jesus!) not named Jordan, Bird, or Magic.

Pretty impressive for a guy who never made the 20,000 point club, was 6-1, 180, and played during one of the roughest eras in basketball history.

Unfortunately, Isiah did have one weakness, which was exposed by an unlikely foe.

Dig that Jordan jumpsuit Will Smith is wearing in old Hornets colors....mmm!

As always, e-mail me at

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

One Dimensional Birthdays

On this day in 1976, one of the great crossover artists was born.

Seven years later on the same date, a great dunker would follow, no less than the Great White Hope. Probably the only white guy who has or will ever beat James White in a slam dunk contest.

Playoff Word Association

Hey, everybody, it's time for playoff word association!

Lakers: Good
Nuggets: Bad
George Karl: GM
Phil Jackson: Coach

Atlanta: "Scrappy"
Boston: "Scurvy"

Joe Johnson: Score
Josh Smith: Dunk
Al Horford: Smash
Ray Allen: What?

Jerry Sloan: Preeminent
Houston Rockets: Fucked

Tony Parker: Lucky
Steve Nash: Unlucky

Chris Paul: Maverick
Jason Kidd: Goose

Chris Bosh: Alone

Dwight Howard: Score
Dwight Howard: Dunk
Dwight Howard: Smash

LeBron: Brooklyn
Arenas: Mars

Maybe there's a reason I don't get paid for this and no one reads it...

As always, e-mail me at

Monday, April 28, 2008

Great Point Guard Feats

The annihilation of Jason Kidd by Chris Paul is painful to watch, slightly damaging to the legacy of a probable hall-of-fame point guard, and one of the more sudden and severe changing-of-the-guards in basketball's history. Ali-Holmes might be an appropriate analogue.

The great matchup got me thinking about Jason Kidd's legacy, which in turn got me thinking about point guards, so I figured why not do a piece on some interesting tidbits in the history of the position - Great Point Guard Feats. So that's what I did, and I'll get to it after some thoughts on the playoffs.

Playoff Thoughts (in brief)
-I was startled at Atlanta's performance in Game 3. They were ferocious, scrappy, (insert over-used synonym for "hustled"), and had a great home crowd (surprising for one of the least loyal fan bases in sports). They were also lucky, and the beneficiaries of the truly deplorable Violet Palmer. I don't think there's any way they will equal a great Game 3 performance until next year. It was fun to watch, though.
-I'm enjoying the Cavs-Wizards kind of reminds me of a modern Jordan vs. The Knicks drama. LeBron plays Jordan and the Wizards, built by mid-90's Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld, are kinda-sorta appropriate to play the old Knicks. They are certainly not afraid to play rough out there.
-I'm still holding out hope for the Raptors, though Chris Bosh's 39 point game should have been the opportunity for them to tie the series, and they didn't even come close. Not a good sign.
-I can't believe Philly won another game. I still don't think they'll win the series.
-The Nuggets are the worst defensive team in the league.
-Jerry Sloan is the best coach in the league.

Alright, on to the point guards. Here are some (three) great point guard feats.

1. The 1,000 assist season and the single-game record. There are two players other than John Stockton who have doled out 1,000 assists in a year (he did it seven times, including five 1,100 assist seasons out of the six in NBA history).

The first is Isiah Thomas, who managed 1,123 in his career 1984-85 season and never again got more than 914. I'm sure you might have guessed Zeke was one of the players - many argue he's the greatest "pure" point guard in NBA history. (I do not subscribe to this argument - I would go 1. Magic 2. Stockton 3. Thomas, but that's just me.)

The second you may not have guessed. It's not Magic, it's not Tiny, it's not Pearl, it's not Cousy, it's not even a former NBA all-star. Kevin (not Terry!) Porter had an outstanding year in 1978 for the Pistons in which he averaged 15.4 ppg and 13.4 apg - a total of 1,099 assists. Porter was 28 and the very next year would be relegated to the bench of the Washington Bullets. Two years after that, he would be out of the league.

Kevin Porter was one of the greatest passers in the NBA's history and he is largely forgotten today. Frankly, he wasn't an object of great affection in his own time and was largely thought to be an enemy of coaches. Porter also held the single game record of 29 assists before Scott Skiles broke it in 1990. His record is of note because unlike Skiles's it was legitimate. And as we're talking about Great Point Guard Feats, I'd like to discuss that for just a second.

Skiles broke Porter's record in a 155-116 blowout over the Denver Nuggets, a game in which it was announced on the PA system that Skiles had a chance to break the record and in which he intentionally racked up assists despite being up by 40. Skiles had 13 points and 6 assists in the fourth quarter when future hall of fame coach Matt Guokas left him in and told him to go for the record. The game was the most lopsided victory in the history of the Magic (also the highest-scoring first half). At the time of the game, the Magic were 6-23 and the Nuggets were 6-22. They were the two worst teams in the league. Furthermore, the Nuggets were known as the worst defensive team in the league, and they relied primarily on a run-n-gun offense predicated on Chris Jackson's (Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf's) ability to score.

Porter's game was not auspicious (for reasons explained herein) but it was a real contest - he had 29 assists in a 126-112 victory over the Houston Rockets. The game was from a different era in the NBA - it was held at the Rutgers Athletic Center (in the bustling metropolis of Piscataway, N.J.) in front of 3,873 fans, and Porter's coach was none other than Richard Vitale. It was awesome, baby.

2. Geoff Huston's 27 assist game. Geoff Huston was one in a long line of great NYC point guards who specialized in the art of distribution. He great up in Brooklyn and is one of those New Yorkers who never really left - he played for the Knicks for a year and now works in the Bronx at St. Mary's Recreation Center, an organization that tries to help the less fortunate from The Bronx (and there are a few of them up there) get education and training to improve their lives.

Like many Brooklyn ballers, he was discovered by an out of town coach, and it wasn't long before he found himself playing at Texas Tech. Huston was drafted by his hometown Knicks but only played one season there, a solid rookie campaign in which he averaged 8.5 points and 6.2 assists per game.

For the rest of his career, Huston was neither great nor bad - he generally averaged between ten and fifteen points per game and between six and nine assists. His career numbers look awfully similar to Andre Miller, and like Miller, he was an effective midrange shooter who was good at driving to the hoop and terrible at shooting three pointers. (Huston was 16-63 in a ten-year career, Miller is 103-508.)

There was nothing physically special about Huston - he stood 6-2 and weighed 175 pounds. He was not a strong prospect (drafted six picks into the third round of the 1979 draft) and, except perhaps in the halls of Canarsie High School, was the beneficiary of very few honors and accolades.

Huston did, however, play one of the best games at his position in the history of basketball. In 1982, Huston had a decent year in which he started about half of the Cleveland Cavaliers games and averaged 10.3 points per game and 7.6 assists. For reasons I am unable to divine, on January 27, Huston was at his best in a close win over the Golden State Warriors. That night, the Cavs prevailed 110, 106, and Huston was credited with 27 assists - one of the greatest single-game performances by a point guard in NBA history. (Exactly one week later, Huston would hand out 20 assists against the Indiana Pacers.)

3. Twenty Points and Eight Assists. 20-8 does not sound that illusive. Oftentimes, the best point guard in the NBA (or at least the highest-scoring point guard) averages roughly 20-8.

However, over a career, it is much rarer. Oscar Robertson averaged 25.7 points per game and 9.5 assists, and pretty much blew the record out of the water, but after him, it's never been done. The next closest is...Stephon Marbury.

After his horrendous season last year, Stephon has lost the distinction of being in the exclusive 20-8 club. All the same, I think it's instructive that he is (I believe) the only man to have had an opportunity to join it after a long career.

I am a Stephon Marbury defender because I think he is the best offensive point guard of our [pre-Chris Paul, post-Isiah] generation. I defy someone to name a point guard with the ability to slash, distribute, jump, and shoot the way Stephon can. Even at an advanced point in his career, with a ton of games behind him, Marbury still retains the ability to get to the hole better than almost everyone in the league.

Obviously, Stephon is reviled by the majority of the Knicks fan base (rich white people from Long Island). He seems to be a lightning rod for fans in general, despite his relatively clean record and charitable donations. (To wit: He was named to The Sporting News list of "good guys in sports" three times, gave $1M to help the Katrina relief effort, invests in not-for-profit housing in bad parts of New York City, has seven barbers on hire on Coney Island giving free haircuts to kids, founded a shoe company on the premise that ghetto kids shouldn't be tempted to try to afford $100 Jordans when they can barely afford to eat, and gave a free pair of those shoes to every high school basketball player in New York City.) (I guess one can only get a good reputation with the NBA fanbase for rebuilding the inner city if they get AIDS from their extramarital affairs, almost give it to their wife and son, open some "charitable" Starbucks and movie theaters, make a ton of money, and have a failed, self-serving talk show.)

("But he won four rings!")

Stephon's style of play has often caused difficulty on the teams he plays on (much like Jason Kidd's lack of a jump shot) and his personality is clearly eccentric. However, his statistics speak for themselves, and anyone who thinks that numbers like those can somehow be a falsified memoriam of a player who is in fact a selfish, no talent hack need to take a math class.

Those who hate Stephon in New York should remember that he's been playing for Isiah Thomas for four years and probably had to deal with the ridiculous situation in a more personal, direct way than Knicks fans can imagine. Stephon is not Mahatma Gandhi but the only way people can explain why they hate him is that "he's a cancer". I think the 20-8 speaks for itself when it comes to Marbury.

I would also note that it seems to me you could say precisely the same thing ("he's a cancer") about Kobe if it wasn't for him getting drafted onto a team with Mr. Alpha, Shaquille O'Neal, and now becoming the beneficiary of a trade he didn't have any part in orchestrating.

As always, e-mail me at

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bum! Da da duh duh da da duh duh doo doo doo doo

The NBA is losing its fan base, and the reason is broadcasting. They have been neglecting fans for the last five years and seem as if they will continue to do so in the future.

The reason I'm writing about this now (as opposed to in the last five years) is because of the way the playoffs are being broadcast. Every year everyone in the basketball world bitches about the NBA's bad ratings and how they get worse and worse no matter the quality of play. There have been many suggestions to "fix" the problem including widening the Court, changing the rules (done), and bombing the city of San Antonio (well, that one was mine).

The problem isn't the game - In 1978, the 44-38 Washington Bullets/47-35 Seattle Supersonics final (featuring Elvin Hayes, Bob Dandridge, Gus Williams, and Fred Brown!) drew a higher rating than four of the last five Finals. The problem, in fact, is that the NBA (and ABC) have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to broadcast basketball. No one there seems to get that broadcasting at a reasonable time, on network television, especially on weekends, gets good ratings. It also gets fans. It is so. fucking. simple.

The NBA's rationale for late night games is that they'll get the "prime time" audience on the West Coast. However, the NFL doesn't give two shits if people on the West Coast have to watch the game early, and it doesn't seem to be hurting their ratings. I bet some people actually like that games are early out there (I would). Because of playoff games starting so late, kids on the East Coast probably don't even know what the hell is going on in the NBA but are already nagging their parents to get them Tomlinsonian visors for Pop Warner or an Eli Manning Fathead.

I think part of the misunderstanding is the result of the retirement of Jordan - it obfuscated the real problem because everyone in the NBA has attributed the drop in popularity to a sudden lack of a superstar. This is reflective of the philosophy of finding someone to blame whenever there's a difficult problem, and it's gotten a lot of people and businesses in a lot of trouble. In the old days, it was the motivation behind the lynch mob.

The retirement of MJ is only a small part of the problem. The real deal is that when the NBA went from NBC to ABC, the quality of coverage took a huge step backwards. Regular season and playoff games on network TV are now a rarity (only on weekends after Christmas, if ever), the announcing and production quality is worse (although they seem to pour money into kitschy camera angles and mod-art sets), and on a weeknights, it is impossible to watch the playoffs if you don't have a good cable package. Sadly, the suits at the NBA don't seem to appreciate is that there are a lot of people who don't. It's called the middle class. I'm one of them.

When I want to watch the playoffs during the week, I have to go down to a bar, which is fine, but I usually skip the late game (I start work at 7:30 a.m.) and I usually have to miss a game because it's on NBAtv, which no one in the world gets except for people in major metropolitan areas with $80/month cable packages, David Stern, and his houseservants.

Can you imagine an NFL playoff game being on NFLtv? Do you remember the furor that was provoked when Green Bay played the Cowboys in the regular season on NFLtv? I simply do not understand how the NBA can be so thoughtless.

Since we're in the playoffs, that's what I'll focus on. The NBC playoffs worked like this: Playoff tripleheaders on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 12:00 p.m. Doubledheaders starting around 3:00 p.m. (I think) when there were not enough teams to create a tripleheader. Marv Albert or Bob Costas on the play-by-play. I'm not positive but I believe the entire playoffs were on NBC (as opposed to TNT, whose broadcasts now feel like network games when compared to ESPN and ABC's shoddy, talking-head coverage).

The reason the NBA decided to get rid of NBC was simple: money. In 2002, NBC offered a paltry four-year, $1.3 billion offer to keep programming. ESPN/ABC/TNT responded with a six year, $4.6 billion offer which was signed.

You really can't blame the NBA. $3.3 billion is a lot of freaking money. And you can't even blame ESPN/ABC, who had the cash and used it. However, the actions immediately following the deal that both parties made to change the way basketball was broadcast deserve extreme, extensive criticism.

NBC had been broadcasting 33 regular-season games and between 20 and 40 postseason games per year. According to David Stern, the number of reduced network telecasts (now about 11, I believe) was at the NBA's request. They believed they would get a higher audience for a single game if they avoided the tripleheaders that NBC showed during the on regular season weekends and instead shifted primary coverage to cable with a single "pillar" game on the weekend. The logic behind this seems to be that one game is more of an "event" than three, and events are what get regular people (as opposed to fans) to watch basketball games. The cable was still there for the die-hards.

I realize that it makes theoretical sense. Big basketball fans probably make up only a small percentage of the group that contributes to the NBA's ratings. However, what Stern's businessman's perspective misses is the fact that all fans were once just regular people. There's a reason they got sucked in and a reason they are loyal - it's the product, stupid. Without broadcast coverage, a whole group of potential basketball fans is left by the wayside even if the current fans do tune in to cable coverage.

Trying to transform the product with the masses in mind can work if you keep the essential stuff there - the games. But the problem is, Stern took those away to try to effect a psychological change in the average, more passive fan. The arrogance behind this move is astonishing, when you think about it.

(By the way...Doesn't that sound great, a weekend tripleheader? Man, what I wouldn't do to sit down on a Saturday or Sunday and watch basketball all afternoon. Hard to believe that's what we used to have.)

The results of the move towards fewer games are the real reason for the slump in ratings, and that slump has been predictably disastrous. It correlates perfectly with the 2002 switch to fewer network games. From 2002 through 2006, the average ratings on broadcast television have dropped a full point (from 3.0 to 2.0), and playoff games have dropped two points (from 5.5 to 3.3).

(Remeber: Nielsen ratings measure the percentage of American households, so that's not a drop of two million viewers, it's a drop of six million.)

The drop in Finals ratings is perhaps the most instructive. NBC's worst year was the last year of its contract, 2002, when the Lakers swept the Nets. In that Finals (an abominable contest and one of only four sweeps since 1976), NBC drew a 10.2 rating. The ratings for the next five years (of ABC's coverage) were 6.5, 11.5, 8.2, 8.5, and 6.2 last year (the lowest recorded Finals rating in NBA history).

To give that some perspective, since 1976, there have been only eight Finals in which there was a Nielsen rating of less than ten (the equivalent of 30 million households if measured today). Four of them were in the first five years of the ABC contract.

NBA or ABC advocates would argue that Michael Jordan's retirement also correlates with the sudden drop in ratings. However, those who would blame MJ must remember that he retired in 1994, so we can look at how that affected the ratings during NBC coverage. The first season after Michael Jordan's first retirement, the Finals drew a respectable 12.4 rating. The next year, despite a sweep, the rating was 13.9.

That means that twice as many people tuned in to watch Shaq's Magic get swept by the Houston Rockets in 1995 (two lesser cities, from a TV perspective) than watched last year's finals. Did the '95 Finals present more "star power" than LeBron vs. Tim Duncan did last year? Was the game played in a more watchable way? No basketball fan could make the argument. The fact of the Magic/Houston sweep doubling the ratings of last year's Finals is hard to believe, blows the MJ argument out of the water, and if you care about basketball, is truly infuriating.

There's a simple lesson here: You can't increase the popularity of a sport by getting rid of TV time. The suits that made the boneheaded decision to do so badly hurt professional basketball and the effects of the decision will be felt for years to come. Games at night, games on cable, and especially games on NBAtv leave out some of the most important audiences of sports - kids, poor, lower and middle class people, people in the country, and people who enjoy sitting down all day on Sunday to watch sports (every other male in America).

I hate to see the sport I love take a backseat to football and baseball because of the NBA (or ABC) position that showing less games can coerce better ratings. If you want better ratings in the long term, you need growth, and if you want to grow a sport, there's only one way - attract fans.

I hope we haven't already lost the next generation.

As always, e-mail me at

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Please do not make me root for this man any more.

Dear James Dolan:

Hi, there. Jimmy V. again. Still haven't heard from you about my idea to not turn the Knicks into the worst team of this generation. Your response probably got lost in the mail or something.

I'm writing today about a fellow named Mark Jackson. You may remember him. He played for the Knicks and was a Christ-quoting point guard. Not the quarterback one, the baby fat one.

I don't really care for Mark, I'll admit it. I was too young to root for him in his first go-around with the Knicks, and caught him right in the meat of his Pacers years. You know, the ones where he was the seventh leading scorer on the team that went to the finals, right behind Travis Best.

Anyway, I hear that Donnie Walsh is thinking about hiring Mark Jackson. I was wondering if you could write back and explain the logic of that move. It seems to me that there might be some negatives. I made you a list:

1. No coaching experience.
2. No assistant coaching experience.
3. No management experience.
4. Very, very bad color commentary.

a. "Little move there, and THA BANK IS OPEN!"
b. "Mehmet Okur has played [Tim] Duncan better than anyone I've ever seen anyone play him."
c. "You got someone on the ropes....take 'em to the dance floor. Tony Parker in traffic....BALLIN!"

Q: Who are your favorite sportscasters?

A: I watch guys like Joe Morgan. I'll watch Hubie Brown. I'll watch George Foreman or Roy Jones Jr.. I just think you have to do it. You have to make it interesting. You have to make it fun. [For those of you who are not aware, George Foreman and Roy Jones Jr., both hall of fame boxers, are comically bad commentators that sometimes appear on HBO PPV events because someone wants to have a boxer in the booth.]

5. No one in the entire city of New York is outwardly excited that Mark Jackson will be coach.
6. It seems like giving point guards with questionable coaching resumes jobs has not worked out well for the Knicks in the past.
7. No coaching experience.
8. Never a team leader.
9. No coaching experience.
10. We have no idea if he can coach.

Now, JamesD, this is just me, but don't most of the "benchmark" organizations in sports generally have the advantage of being able to hire coaches with experience, track records, or at the very least credentials more considerable than Mark's?

I realize I may be biased, so I decided I'd make a list of advantages we get with Mark Jackson:

1. He seems to have a good personality.
2. High moral character (as far as I know).
3. Number two all-time in assists.
4. Trip to the NBA Finals.
5. Played for Pat Riley (who traded him for Doc Rivers, Charles Smith, and Bo Kimble).
6. (Presumably) kept spirits up on 21-61 Denver Nuggets during his time there.
7. Involved with one of the great dunks of all-time.

8. Former Knick (hiring former players often results in coaches who perform well, because of the causal relationship between playing for a team and being able to coach them).
9. Announcers are known for expansive knowledge of play-calling, personnel management, and player development.
10. Mark probably got to learn from a lot of different coaches during his stints with the Knicks, Clippers, Pacers, Nuggets, Pacers again, Raptors, Knicks again, Jazz, and Rockets.

I admit, the above list is pretty impressive, but I'm not convinced. Is it really your intent to hire a guy just because he is from New York and has a post-basketball career in broadcasting? I mean, I've heard of coaches becoming announcers, but I don't believe it's ever gone the other way. Doesn't that mean anything?

I'm reminded of Kareem Abdul Jabbar (known for his intelligence) and his inability to find a head coaching job above the minor league level. He is probably the greatest player in NCAA history, he is the NBA's all-time leading scorer, he has beaten Larry King on Celebrity Jeopardy, but the only coaching gig he could get was for the Oklahoma Storm of the USBL. And after winning the championship with them, he was turned down for a job at the noted basketball power that is Columbia University.

I know Kareem is "mean", but he is from Harlem (his dad was in the NYPD), he's known for an all-time stat that seems more important than Jackson's, and he's smart. Why not consider someone like him, Jimmy D?

Unfortunately, I think I know the answer. Mark Jackson is a nice man, and obviously not incompetent when it comes to basketball. He gets along with the press and some consider him gregarious. Although Kareem has rings and MVPs and a solid resume (he has been an assistant with the Sonics and Clippers), he has always been unafraid to speak his mind and refused to compromise.

It seems to me that the choice of Mark Jackson is meant only to pacify the Knicks fan base, and this is an egregious error on the part of the Knicks. It's been too long for pacification, and most of the moves the Knicks have made to satisfy fans that they believe will not tolerate long-term building have resulted in a near-ten year drought.

Please, JamesD, consider a better coaching candidate. Consider someone who has coached at least at the high school level. Maybe even someone who has shown the ability to bring players together at the professional level!

I know that Donnie Walsh is behind this, and I know you gave him autonomy, but just this once, maybe for the first time, you can get involved in the day-to-day operations of the Knicks and help them make the right move. Obviously, they're already floundering without you.

Jimmy V

As always, e-mail me at

PS: It's another topic for another day, but it is a crime Kareem can't get a shot at coaching. Why are people so afraid of coaches who are notable for their principles, candor, and willingness to criticize? It seems to me that many some of the best coaches in the NBA (Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, Larry Brown) display these traits. There's a reason teams have PR departments and coaches' ability to resonate with the public shouldn't be part of their job requirements.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blah Blah Blah The East Sucks

I won't bore you with too much commentary about the sorry state of the Eastern Conference, especially in an "up" year where the East can brag about having one of the top three players in the NBA and its best team. However, I will take this opportunity to note that the Celtics have maybe two seasons at best to take advantage of their unique threesome (har, har), and apart from their success, the future looks no less grim for the East than it did last year, and there is still an eight-seed in the playoffs with 37 wins.

Though the East is certainly not a conference with a wealth of talent or many exciting matchups, it's not like it's Death Valley, either. With that in mind, here is the preview of what the East will have to offer.

Celtics v. Atlanta Hawks. I like the Hawks, I really do. Joe Johnson is the Michael Finley of our era. Josh Smith is one of the best defensive players in the NBA. Marvin Williams had a very solid sophomore season despite being stigmatized by his draft position (ahead of Chris Paul, which is brought up so much, "Drafted before Chris Paul" is becoming his middle name). Mike Bibby reminded people that he is, in fact, only 29 years old. Josh Childress is probably one of the best sixth men in the league. Al Horford is among this year's best rookies. Tyronn Lue is not good.

Unfortunately, that group is notable for the complete and utter absence of a big man. Atlanta, often criticized for drafting Marvin Williams above Chris Paul, made another boneheaded mistake when they drafted Shelden Williams fifth in 2007, ahead of Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, and Rudy Gay. The pick makes sense from the "draft what you need" perspective, but the fact that it was a necessity exposes the larger folly of the Hawks front office.

Atlanta has been "building" for years and the Shelden Williams pick was arguably their only attempt to shore up their frontcourt. The move was made far too late, and because of the Hawks' lack of planning, they were forced to make do with an undersized, underskilled waste of a lottery pick.

To wit: Atlanta's other moves have were the signing of Lorenzen Wright in 2006, the acquisition of Tom Gugliotta and Obinna Ekezie in 2005, the signing of Donnell Harvey and Lonny Baxter in 2004, and a mix of euro and african journeymen in between.

It's 2008, the Hawks have never been starved for cap room, and those transactions don't cut it. And that's why they're going to get absolutely blown away by a Boston team with presence and depth in the post. Even Kedrick Perkins will be significantly better than any player in the Atlanta frontcourt.

Any schmo can sing the laurels of Boston and I'll wait until a more interesting matchup to do it. I am astonished at how poorly Atlanta matches up with Boston and I believe that the biggest problem for the Hawks after their lack of size will be Mike Bibby's inability to play well against Rajon Rondo's defense. I am making that statement knowing full well Rondo stopped Bibby in game one, so it's not great crystal ball work, but still, it's a big deal. In the past, Bibby has performed extremely well in the playoffs and he's one of two players on the Hawks with playoff experience. The rest of the group are very young and without Bibby to lead them, calm down the offense, and take some of the scoring load off of guys who are not go-to (like Childress and Williams), the Hawks will be all screwed up.

A friend of a friend related a story to me about seeing a few of the Hawks (I think it was Marvin Williams, Salim Stoudamire, and another young player) in a restaurant in New York a few years ago. He was able to overhear their conversation and was surprised how much, in his words, "they sounded just like we did when we were in high school". They were talking about how Al Harrington had to get his shots for the contract, how they weren't going to get the playing time they want for this reason and that, and pretty standard young-stupid-player stuff.

The point is, they're from a bad rebuilding environment that has led to a much improved team that may lack character and certainly lacks toughness. This should be the only sweep of the first round.

Celtics in 4.

Did you know? The entire Celtics team averages 4.62 blocks per game. Josh Smith averages 2.8.

Cleveland Cavaliers v. Washington Wizards. This year's matchup of teams that get too much publicity for having a really good/really crazy player looks like it will be barely watchable, at best.

With the Cavs, you know what you're getting: A great performance from LeBron, who is truly amazing; A solid performance from Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who is overdue for one of those catchy euro name shortenings ("Zudo" or something); and mediocre performances from everyone else.

The Cavs are one of the worst-constructed teams in the league, built for the short-term despite having a player who will be the best in the NBA for at least the next 6-10 years. If the Knicks had somehow drafted LeBron (which they may have had an opportunity to do if they had attempted to rebuild when they started to go bad), this is basically what you'd have. You could even make the case that the Cavs are the worst-managed team in the league.

The Wizards, on the other hand, are one of the best-managed teams in the league, despite their lack of success. Ernie Grunfeld is an extremely smart and shrewd GM and took a team that was the victim of horrible mismanagement for years and filled it players via long-term free agency acquisitions (Gilbert Arenas, whatever you think of him, was signed away from the Warriors for a fairly reasonable 6 year, $63.7 M contract; DeShawn Stevensen was signed for the league minimum, Brenden Haywood is on a five year, $25M contract), smart trades (Kwame Brown and Laron Profit for Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins; Jerry Stackhouse, Christian Laettner, and the rights to Devin Harris for Antawn Jamison) and sensible draft picks (Harris would have been a good one, Nick Young).

In many ways, this matchup is a showcase for how good management can be overcome by good luck. Both teams are virtually the same - their record differs by a win and a loss, they both average slightly less points than they allow, they are both significantly better at home than on the road, and they can both be boring as hell to watch. Despite the similarities, it is clear that the Cavs have a decisive advantage.

The difference is LeBron. If he could beat Detroit last year all by himself, I'm sure he can do the same to the Wizards. No one on the Wizards has the kind of skills to compete with him over the course of a seven game series, though their defense and the stellar game of Caron Butler and Antawn should be enough for them to steal a couple of games.

Cavs in 6.

Did you know: Antonio Daniels was once one of the best-dunking point guards in the NBA.

Raptors v. Magic. The Toronto Raptors are a young team that is, counterintuitively, in regression. They won 50 games last year and went 41-41 this year. Conversely, the Orlando Magic are a team on the rise. They won about 40 games last year, and this year went 52-30.

The build of these teams is actually pretty similar. Each has a stud in the frontcourt surrounded by offensively minded, comfortable-on-the-perimeter players. Each has an offense run by a dual committee of point guards. The Magic and Raptors have, respectively, the third and fourth largest positive point differentials in the Eastern Conference.

Looking at the player matchups, it seems like the Magic have the advantage because they have the more dominant big man (Howard) and more supplemental scoring ability. Both Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu average over 18 points per game, and the second and third scorers on the Raptors average 12.5 and 12.1 points per game, respectively.

The Magic even beat the Raptors handily in the first game, where Bosh was convincingly outworked in the post and Ford/Calderon were obliterated by Jameer Nelson and Keyon Dooling.

For all of their outward disadvantages, the Raptors have on thing the Magic don't: balance. The Magic are largely reliant on Howard's post dominance and the skill of their shooters. If Howard isn't doing much in the post, neither of the shooters will be able to take over.

It would be great if the Raptors had more frontcourt depth and could afford to use fouls and bang Dwight Howard around, but the backup centers are Kris Humphries and Primoz Brezec, so that strategy is out. However, Dwight Howard is not good with the ball or smooth in the post. He's not a great passer either.

I believe this will make Howard vulnerable to the double-team. The Raptors have many guards and forwards who are adequate defenders and if they can stay on their heels and ensure that the Magic shooters don't get too wide open, Howard can be neutralized.

On the other end of the court, I don't think the Magic can stop the Raptors offense. Chris Bosh has the ability to draw Dwight Howard out or work him in the post, Anthony Parker cannot be covered by anyone, and T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon should be able to take better advantage of the point guard matchup than they did in Game 1. (They have nowhere to go but up after that.)

I'll admit, I don't think Toronto will win the series easily, and a part of me thinks that if they go down 2-0, they will get swept. Nevertheless, I like the Raptors and respect them and think they're the kind of team that might win in a seven game series. (Can I be honest? This pick sounded a lot better to me yesterday before the Raptors lost game one and I started thinking about it to write my preview. But I am committed, god damnit.)

Raptors in 7.

Did you know: Stan Van Gundy got his start at Castleton State College (VT), where yours truly went to basketball camp.

Pistons v. Sixers.

I am not really excited about this series and I'm no longer excited at the Pistons. They are past their prime but remain one of the best teams in the East, and the Sixers will simply not be able to handle them. This reminds me of the 2001 Finals, where the Sixers won the first game (and Allen Iverson stepped on Tyronn Lue....ah) and then proceeded to get hammered for the next four.

As Matt pointed out in the comments yesterday, the Sixers have beaten some notable teams in the last month. However, most of those wins came against teams whose playoff spots were (relatively) locked up, while the Sixers were fighting to get in, so I don't give them as much credit as I would in the middle of the season. But it's not like it's not worth mentioning when you beat quality teams to get into the playoffs, either.

The problem for the Sixers is simple - it's going to be very hard for them to score against the Detroit defense. They won't get a lot of offensive rebounds, they won't be able to run their offense smoothly, and they're going to need bodies they don't have who are able to handle Detroit's style.

Detroit is the last of the traditional Eastern Conference playoff teams (which is funny considering what an afterthought Detroit was during the gritty-East prime). The foundation built there by Rick Carlisle and perfected by Larry Brown is a blueprint for a good defensive team, and one could make the argument that the Pistons are on the cusp of being an all-time defensive team worthy of comparison to the original bad boys, the 90's Knicks and Heat, and other historically defensive teams.

When a team runs into a defensive team of Detroit's caliber, all of the enthusiasm and motivation in the world won't make up for the lack of a big man (don't even start with the suggestion that Samuel Dalembert is worthy of this distinction) or Philly's inability to put players on the floor who can consistently hit a long jumper.

Although Detroit will probably win the series, the "next season" looks to Philadelphia like an opportunity to make a leap forward, while Detroit will continue their regression if they don't make some player moves. This series may be a great building block for a young team, and it reminds me of 2001, when Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady's Raptors lost to the Knicks in a very tough first round matchup (Sprewell dominated Carter and McGrady carried the Raptors). Despite losing to the more experienced, tougher, and quite frankly dirtier Knicks team, the Raptors were able to come back next year, destroy the Knicks in the first round, and come within a few shorthairs of a finals bid. (You may remember Vince Carter's herculean effort against the Sixers that year and a couple of gunfights between Carter and Iverson. That was a good time in basketball, and it's sad to think that those two guys would never reach the same heights.)

Detroit in 5.

Did you know: The total number of games in which Reggie Evans had more rebounds than he did in game one

As always, write me at

PS: Isn't it nice to have the playoffs without the Nets? I like the Nets, but I was just so tired of watching those Nets, I don't know if I can express it. Some teams are just no fun. It's kind of fitting that the no fun team came from Jersey.

PPS: That picture of Thaddeus Young made me think a little bit about how crazy Georgia Tech would have been if somehow Young could have played with Isma'il Muhammad. Oh well...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS?

The 2008 first round of the playoffs is the most compelling group of series I have ever seen in my life. With the possible exception of Cavs/Wizards, I want to watch every game of every series. I feel like a kid again. And I only have to wait one day!


Lakers v. Nuggets: This is probably the strangest matchup in the playoffs. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that the term "enigmatic" would refer to the team playing against the Lakers, rather than the Lakers themselves?

LA has been covered pretty exhaustively and I'm not going to waste too much time with them. They have talent at every position except for point guard, and even there, Derek Fisher is a steady hand with a lot of playoff experience. The Lakers deserve to be heavy favorites.

However, in my view, LA has two potential problems: defense and setting up the offense. If the Nuggets are on their game, there's no reason they don't have the firepower to score with the Lakers, and I question whether the Lakers can stop them if they have to. The biggest difference between the teams is that the Nuggets have a much tougher cast of characters than the Lakers, from Iverson to Camby to J.R. Smith to Eduardo Najera. With the possible exception of Iverson, the entire lineup is defensively sound, comfortable banging, and surely down for whatever. Can one say that about a Lakers team with a babyfaced center who averages 7.5 rebounds a game, a Euro power forward, and a point guard who will be completely unable to stop Allen Iverson? My thought is no.

The Nuggets pose more matchup problems for the Lakers than any other team in the West (except for perhaps the Jazz). Their depth will allow them to foul, their top two scorers are All-NBA, and they have a glut of big men. The Nuggets have been blown out in spectacular fashion in two of the three regular season matches (and they lost the other one despite 51 points from Iverson) but I don't think that trend is going to hold because when I say the Nugs present matchup problems, I'm talking about the playoffs, not the eighth game of the season in which Sasha Vujacic takes over in the fourth quarter.

Despite a favorable matchup, I don't think the Nuggets have what it will take to prevail. Even though they have great offensive weapons, the reason they're an eight seed and the Lakers are a one seed is consistency. The Nuggets completely lack it, whereas between Kobe, Pau, Odom, Fisher, and Bynum, you know what you're going to get almost every night (a lot). Most importantly, the Nuggets don't show defensive consistency, which is troubling because they have great athletes who should be able to defend against any team in the NBA.

Lakers in Five. (My opinion - the Nuggets should fire George Karl and hire Jeff Van Gundy in the offseason. To quote JVG: "I love to teach offensive players to play defense, and hate to teach defensive players to play offense".)

Did you know?: Carmelo Anthony's rebounding numbers compare favorably with Andrew Bynum's, even on the offensive glass.

Jazz v. Rockets. This is a great matchup of good old boy coaches and will surely be a war. Adelman is every bit as talented at organizing an offensive unit as Jerry Sloan is at doing the same with defense, and both men have been putting on a coaching tour de force this year. It's sad that Jerry Sloan never gets consideration for coach of the year, because the consistency of the Jazz through a rise, fall, and rise again decade has been incredible. They have always been more than the sum of their parts, even when Ben Handlogten was a part of their rotation.

I was driving the Rockets bandwagon last year because I thought they had the perfect mix of role players and stars - a giant center, an unstoppable wingman, a great shooter who is a good defender (Luther Head), a good shooter who is a great defender (Battier) and an underrated point guard (the legendary Rafer Alston). I assumed Jeff Van Gundy was the right man to make a playoff team out of the mix.

Clearly, I was wrong, and I was surprised this year when the Rockets gave VG the boot and hired Rick Adelman. However, along with the addition of Luis Scola, the offseason changes have made the Rockets a more versatile offensive team that hasn't lost much on the defensive end.

This matchup of classic Western contenders brings me back to the time an aging Eddie Johnson, after being picked up for the last six weeks of the regular season by Houston, scored 31 points against Utah in game 3 of the Western Conference Finals and hit a game-winning three pointer in game 4. Houston fans will recall, unfortunately, that Johnson's heroics led to this in a memorable end to arguably the greatest conference finals ever:

Boy, what a game.

Anyway, I just think the Jazz are too good to lose to a Houston team with only one major scoring option. They play great defense and I think Sloan's team defense will beat Adelman's offense in a battle of equals. And these are not equals. Houston will have to deal with questions like:

-Who can defend Carlos Boozer? Anyone?
-What if Kirilenko slows down McGrady? This is not out of the question.
-How is Alston going to get help defending Deron Williams (he'll need it, as he gives up size, age, and athletic ability) when there are two lights-out shooters on either wing and two dangerous scorers in the post? Who doubles in that situation, and how do you do it against the best passer on the team and one of the best in the NBA?
-Is Okur/Scola the most boring matchup of the playoffs?

Houston plays well with a lot of heart, but that's not enough for me.

Utah in 4.

Did you know: Utah is one of the two teams in the league Tracy McGrady averaged 30 points against.

Spurs v. Suns

This has been one of the only exciting playoff series in the past few years, with the Spurs prevailing each time in contests that were infamously officiated by the great Tim Donghay. I remember watching these games some restaurant in a complete furor because I was so angry at the refereeing. And I don't think Donghay was the problem entirely - referees love the San Antonio Spurs. They let themselves be intimidated by Greg Popovich, they let Tim Duncan whine more than any player in the league, and they are constantly fooled by Emmanuel Ginobili's flopping antics. Oh, and then there's Bruce Bowen, the dirtiest, most reckless, most untalented starter in the league. He can ruin a game and forces the referees to focus on him in loco parentis.

One thing that makes me happy about Shaq being traded to the Suns is that he's not going to take all of that bullshit from the Spurs. I'm worried that he's getting to the point in terms of diminished skills where it doesn't matter, but I think one problem with the Suns in recent year has been that although Steve Nash is a good leader, he can't be the kind of enforcer that a Jordan, Isiah Thomas, or Larry Bird was. The reason those guys were able to lay down the law when things got dirty or tough was partly their own willpower and courage - and I firmly believe that Nash has both of those ingredients. The other part, though, was "the big guy" in the background. Jordan had Bill Cartwright (later Horace Grant, later Dennis Rodman), Isiah had a team of thugs, and Larry Bird had Parish and McHale (who were, despite their thin physiques, definitely down for a little fun and games). Steve Nash has never had that, and although Amare is big, and Marion was a great athlete, and Grant Hill is a longtime veteran, when Steve Nash was getting slammed, the Spurs weren't afraid. Did the Suns get off the bench, ready to fight? Yes. Did the Spurs care? Absolutely not.

Shaq is no longer young, his feet are slower, and he can't play defense the way he used to. Still, you can bet if Bruce Bowen is trying to step under people's feet or Ginobili is flopping, Shaq will not be afraid to inform them of the rules they are breaking. He is a member of the law enforcement community, after all.

I don't even need to discuss the matchups beyond that. We've seen this many times before and know how it'll shake out - Spurs getting stops and scoring on the seat of their pants while the Suns try to make their offense work with varied success against one of the league's great defensive units.

I hope and pray that it'll go seven and that the evil Spurs will be vanquished.

Suns in 7.

Did you know: Bruce Bowen averages less than 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.1 steals, and .5 blocks.......per 48 minutes.

Hornets v. Mavs. This series is the only series in the West that presents something different from what we've seen for the last half-decade, much like the Warriors/Mavs series last year. The Mavs have had an up and down season, and the Hornets are an unknown entity who have two players in the rotation with playoff experience (Peja and Bonzi Wells).

There are going to be some great matchups here. Paul/Kidd is presents an obvious "holding off a changing of the guard" scenario. West/Nowitzki and Stojakovic/Howard are fascinating contests between players who score in bunches in very different ways. Chandler and Dampier will face off to make the plays that win the possession battle.

I don't think Dallas has what it takes to win this series. They have too many defensive liabilities and New Orleans has too many scoring options. The only chance for Dallas to win is if Jason Kidd plays the series of his life, something he's shown a repeated inability to do in the past against lesser talent than Paul.

Yes, Dallas has the experience. But New Orleans has the youth and the talent. In the playoffs, the former matters more, but experience doesn't win playoff series by itself. Ask last year's Pistons.

New Orleans in 6.

Did you know: Jason Kidd's 3pt% for the Nets was 34%, about in line with his career average. Since being traded to Dallas, he has shot 46% from behind the arc, a better percentage than he has shot from the field or from behind the three point line in his entire career.

I'm going to do the East tomorrow, but I want to get my predictions down on the record for future embarrassment.

Celtics in 4.
Cavs in 6.
Raptors in 7.
Pistons in 5.

As always, e-mail me at

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Current Events

Yeah, you're so bored with history. I understand. There's a reason that there aren't a lot of sites about Purvis Short and Walt Hazzard.

As much as I'd like to think about how "Yi hopes to develop strength in the offseason" could lead to a communist steroid scandal, there's some big stuff coming up, the playoffs and the yearly awards. I'll save the playoffs until the seeding is set and give out the first annual Don't Ever Give Up: The Basketball Blog End of Season Awards (DEGUTBBESA).

Rookie of the year: Kevin Durant. I'm not going to beat a dead horse here. Kevin Durant is very good, very young, and very thin. The last part worries me, but most professional athletes put on a lot of muscle in their early twenties (Jermaine O'Neal, Ben Wallace, etc.).

Honorable mention: Luis Scola. Am I impressed by Al Thornton averaging 13 points on 43% shooting for a crappy Clippers Team? No. Juan Carlos Navarro's 11 points per game shooting 41% on an even crappier Memphis team? I don't think so. I don't really think that much of Jeff Green at this point, and although Al Horford is having a good season for the resurgent Hawks, he's playing more minutes and picking up about the same stats Scola is for a very good Houston team. Throw in the fact that Scola shoots 51% and is a good teammate with a good all-around game, and I think that's good enough for second place.

Honorable mention second place: Mike Conley. I just wanted to stick Mike Conley in there. After a slow start, he's averaging a cool 15, 5 and 4 in April while shooting 49% and 44% on threes. Throw in a steal per game and an average of less than two turnovers per game, and you've got a solid point guard. He even led the team to victories over Minnesota, New York, and Miami this month!

Future good player that is not having a great rookie season: Thaddeus Young. Thaddeus Young is a player I like a lot who is an exceptional athlete and great slasher. He can't shoot or block shots at all, but otherwise he is pretty technically sound (good free throw shooter, good defender) and he gets after it. These guys are very necessary on a good club with a bunch of jump shooters (the Knicks, for example) and they often slide under the radar because coaches/GMs hate having guys that can't make a shot when called upon.

Sophomore of the year: Rudy Gay. He went from being Stromile Swift Jr. to a legit 20 ppg guy who shoots over 46% and can drain the three consistently. His team being terrible hurts him here and almost makes me want to pick LaMarcus Aldridge or Ronnie Brewer (or even Rajon Rondo) but 20 points is 20 points, no matter how you cut it.

Sophomore slump: Brandon Roy. It was tempting to pick Andrea Bargnani that's too easy - everyone knows guys like him and Bogut (and Olowokandi, and Brown) aren't going to be stars in the NBA once they finish underwhelming rookie campaigns without a hint of dominance. Even Adam Morrison looked like he had more potential than Bargnani last year.

I know that Brandon Roy had a good season this year (19.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.9 apg, 45% fg, 34% 3pt) and that it's pushing it to call him a disappointment. However, his stats certainly do not demonstrate constructive progression from a guy who had a great rookie year averaging 16.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.0 apg, 46% fg, 37% 3pt. Furthermore, a star shooting guard should be lead his team, and while Roy has plowed the road at times (in December, when the Blazers went 13-2 including 13 in a row, Roy averaged 21.2, 5.3 rpg, and 6.4 apg), he has also shown an inability to be the kind of shooting guard that is "the guy". It is a lot to ask for a second year player to do that, but when you have as good a rookie year as Roy did (arguable better statistically than Durant's this year), you set the bar high. Roy may be technically consistent in his scoring but never reaches the next level; despite being an almost 20 ppg scorer, he only topped 30 points twice this year.

Most Improved Player. Rudy Gay. This is obvious, for the reasons stated above. Just to underline them, here are his stats last year vs. this year.

2007: 10.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.9 spg, 0.9 bgp, 42% fg, 36% 3pt.

2008: 20.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.4 spg, 1.0 bpg, 46.3% fg, 35% 3pt.

Believe it or not, most of ESPN's people are stating that they believe Hyadet Turkoglu is the MIP. Um, he's averaged just under 15 points per game for the last four years, and now he averages just under 20. Whoop dee fucking do. The only thing that amazed me more than most of ESPN's pundits picking Turkoglu was how many picked Deron Williams, last year's (true) Most Improved Player. It's not a big deal to go from 17-9 to 19-10, you fucking idiots. And his team was good last year. Jesus. (The only person on's staff to pick Rudy Gay for MIP was some guy named Matt Wong...coincidence?) (I know it's silly that I'm so mad about this, but some people even picked David West. David fucking West? You don't improve when you come back from a half-season-ending injury. You're just healthy again. He averaged 18 and 8 last year and he's averaging 19 and 9 this year. People at ESPN are fools.)

Update on Alexander Johnson.

Alexander had a better year this year despite being shuffled from the Grizzlies to the Heat, where Pat Riley undoubtedly sees his potential as the next Oakley/Mason enforcer. Alex is averaging about 4 and 4 but he is in the rotation. Here is a little video awesomeness to remind you that he is huge.

Where are they now? aka Least Improved Player aka What the Hell: Emeka Okafor. This is a guy who won ROTY (official) over Dwight Howard. He was the number one pick. He's a great defender and has a good enough offensive game for the NBA. He's a team-first guy. He even had a 3.7 GPA at UConn.

I know Emeka's had injury troubles, but he's still a 26 year old, jacked, 6-10 athlete. He has started every game this year and averaged 33.2 minutes per. So how the hell is he having a worse year than he did his rookie year, when he averaged 15, 11, and 1.7 bpg? This year, he managed 13.7, 10.7, and 1.6 bpg. He was Mr. Irrelevant on Team Irrelevant, the Bobcats (who should have been better this year with Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, and Emeka). 13 freaking points per night is not going to cut it - he's getting outscored by Raymond Felton! He's averaging only 4 points per game more than Nazr Mohammed, who is so bad that people forget he's Muslim! Emeka...get it together.

The Whoa! Award for best under the radar season: Danny Granger. "Danny Granger averages 19.5 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 2 assists, a steal, and a block, and still manages to be a 45/40/85% shooter?"



The What the Hell? Award: A microcosmic Whoa! Award: "Danny Granger, in the last three games, has had 35 and 9, 37 and 5, and 30 and 11?"


"What the hell?"

Sixth Man: Ginobili. Probably the first year in a long time that the sixth man is completely without question. Barbaro-bosa had a glue factory year (by his lofty standards).

Coach of the Year: Stan Van Gundy. Traditionally this goes to the coach of either the best team or the Team that No One Expected to Do Well. That means it's either Doc Rivers, Phil Jackson, Byron Scott, or Rick Adelman.

I'm not that impressed by any one of these guys (with the exception of Adelman) and I would give the award to Stan. He had to deal with a max contract guy having a disappointing year (that must be fun in the locker room), knowing that he was the second fiddle to the very big douche bag that is Billy Donovan, a weird point guard tandem system, and a lineup with only one good defensive player.

Van Gundy turned the team around, got Turkoglu to play well enough that Rashard Lewis's lackluster effort didn't hurt the team, and managed to work out the best offense in the East (and 6th best in the NBA). I don't think anyone expected the Magic to do this well but they've consistently played well, and they're more than the sum of their parts. They won 50 games and even survived a midseason slump (the same kind that killed the Trailblazers). Stan, you are the man. If Shaq ran you out of town, it wasn't fair.

Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Camby. When you lead the league in blocks (3.6) and you're second in rebounds (13.2) it's that simple. Many make the argument that Kevin Garnett shores up the whole Celtics defense but to be honest I think that's taking away a lot of credit from a very good unit (especially Rondo) and heaping it on a guy who averaged 9.3 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and 1.4 steals. Giving the award to KG this year is like giving the Oscar to Denzel for training day. Deserved, but for the wrong reasons.

Honorable Mentions: Ron Artest, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler. Ron Artest is still the best overall defender in the league, Dwight Howard is a true big man and by far the best rebounder, and Tyson Chandler is the most active and versatile big guy who is not KG.

MVP: I hate to say this, but I have to give it to Kobe. He's the arguably the best player on arguably the best team in the league, and you can't say that about any other guy. He's clutch, he's a good defender, he's very clearly the leader of his team, he doesn't take games off, and he is probably at his peak as a player, even if he scored more in other years.

Honorable Mentions and why I didn't pick them: Chris Paul: Not dominant like Kobe, but my second place guy by virtue of the way he turned around his team and his incredible season. LeBron: Basically last year's Kobe and deserving of the MVP if it wasn't for this year's Kobe and Paul's great year.

Not an Honorable Mention: KG. He's already won an MVP, and even though he got screwed one year, he's not MVP this year. KG is a vital role player and the leader of the best team in the NBA. He can't score when called upon, he can't take over a game on offense, and being extremely intense and competitive and a great defender does not make you MVP. Ask Charles Oakley.

Best Dunker: LeBron, no question, fuck you very much Vince Carter.

Biggest Asshole: Kobe. He got lucky on the Pau trade, had nothing to do with it, was ready to bail on his team, and now has a chance to make his own legacy. Though he will be doing it with his own talent, the fact is he was working against it, and aside from Wilt, I think that's unprecedented. And Kobe is no Wilt Chamberlain.

Worst Coach: Isiah Thomas. Absolutely no inventiveness, an inability to instill chemistry, an allower of clear insubordination and quitting, and a team that still cannot play a lick of defense.

Worst GM: Isiah Thomas. Isiah, nice move trading for Zach Randolph. It was one of the only bad moves of the offseason.

I know everyone knows this, but Isiah Thomas is a good man and arguably the greatest point guard in NBA history. He's good at scouting talent, and has had better results than one M. Jordan. But he has to be judged by the same standard as any other team manager and he just hasn't cut it as GM or coach.

Worst Person: James Dolan. He: Permits sexual harassment of employees, can't run anything, has a media policy akin to Mussolini's, plays in a shit blues band with a very foolish goatee, has a billion dollars of daddy's money, signed Isiah to a four year extension after no progress even after signing Larry Brown to a 5/$50M and having it blow up in his face, turned MSG into even more of a piece of shit by continuing to try to give away tickets, AND....okay, I guess that's it.

As always, e-mail me at

James Dolan sings his "Oedipus Complex Blues"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

That Muslim Boy is Quite a Hazzard

Happy birthday, Mahdi Abdul-Rahman! Sorry for making a mockery of your name and religion for the sake of a very, very bad pun.

You may be asking yourself, who the hell is Mahdi Abdul-Rahman, and why should I care about him? At the very most, he's the NBA's first Muslim player or something like that, right?

Wrong, my friends. M.A.R. is college HOFer, an Olympic gold medalist, former PAC-10 coach of the year at UCLA, and father of DJ Khalil, who has produced (shitty) tracks for De La Soul, Planet Asia, Ras Kass, Keith Murray, G-Unit, Raekwon, Xzibit, Phil Da Agony, Cypress Hill, Talib Kweli, 50 Cent, Sway & King Tech, Jay-Z, The Game, and Nas.

In his career, Rahman outscored his closest fellow NBA birthday holder, some bag of beans by the name of Michael Cooper, by about 2000 points.

Although UCLA's greatness is generally associated with Kareem and Bill Walton, it was Rahman who got the ball rolling. In 1964, his second season on the squad, the team went to their first (ever) Final Four, and the next year, they went undefeated (Rahman was joined by Gail Goodrich, no slouch himself). When the team won the championship, Rahman was named MVP, All-American, and College Player of the Year (remember, Wooden was still coaching...Rahman). At the end of 1964, Rahman joined the Olympic team (featuring, among others, Larry Brown and Bill Bradley) and smoked the Russians at basketball, as was our custom at the time.

Rahman's UCLA number is retired, but Kevin Love now wears it, because Rahman graciously gave him permission to do so. Rahman's NBA career was highlighted by being the first star to play for the expansion Seattle Supersonics, and a narrow, game 7 loss to one of the great Bill Russell Celtics teams that saw Rahman's Lakers, featuring Gail Goodrich, Rudy LaRusso, and Elgin Baylor almost take down an all-time team of Sam Jones, John Havlicek, Bill Russell, Don Nelson, and K.C. Jones.

Rahman was a good ballplayer, but there are plenty of those throughout history. Fortunately, I came across an interesting piece of information about him that clearly illustrates a point in his career when he came close to throwing it all away only to press on and continue his path to a career as a professional basketball player.

Walter was one of the first players that was coached by the great John Wooden. He was found by Wooden's first player to make the NBA, Willie Naulls, who played for the New York Knicks and had a cousin on the Philadelphia Warriors. By virtue of the family connection, Naulls saw a fair amount of hoops action in Philadelphia, which included a young Hazzard dominating the high school scene.

Naulls called Wooden and Wooden got the kid in there, but Hazzard did not meet the academic standards at UCLA, so he enrolled at Santa Monica City College. Through some egregiously poor planning (unimaginable today and hard to believe on Wooden's part), no one had realized that Hazzard would not be allowed to play because of a SMCC rule barring out-of-staters. (Santa Monica City College did not mess around with its integrity.)

There was nothing left for young Walt to do but play in the local AAU league for a team coached by a former UCLA player. Wooden only had to see him play once. As he said in his book: "'Walter,' I told him after that first game, 'you don't have to worry about making the team when you get to UCLA next season. And, you've got a scholarship all the way.'"

With only an AAU season under his belt, Hazzard became the starting guard at UCLA immediately. He was great, the team was great, and the rest is history. I'll let John Wooden take it from here:

"The next year, however, Walt erverted to his one bad habit. When he came to us he had a tendency toward fancy play and did a lot of behind-the-back and blind passing and fancy dribbling. [Imagine a little bit of stress showing on Wooden's face when he uses the term "fancy dribbling".] He had found out during his sophomore year that I did not permit this type of play, but somehow, perhaps because of his success as a sophomore, he began to revert to his old habits."

"Our first road trip game that year was with the University of Colorado at Boulder. Walter got carried away and was too fancy for me so I pulled him out, and he sat the rest of the game out on the bench. We lost it and it was tough to take because our chances of winning had been greatly diminished with him on the bench. They beat us rather handily, however, and his presence might not have made any difference. "

"The next night we played at Colorado State. Again I had Walt on the bench at the start and for much of the game. We lost this one, too, by one point in a double overtime."

"Shortly after, I had a call from Rev. Walter R. Hazzard in Philadelphia. It seems that Walt had called him and said he was going to quit because I wouldn't let him play basketball the way he knew best. But Mr. Hazzard said, 'I'm on your side, Coach Wooden. I told Walter not to come home if he quits--there would be no place for him here.' Of course, he did not mean it that strongly, but he wanted his son to stand up to adversity."

"Walter stayed on and had three great years."

Funny what one decision can do.

As always, e-mail me at

Information from "They Call Me Coach" by John Wooden, a somewhat self-aggrandizing but very good book by the man among men in NCAA history.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Purvis v. Pervis

For no real reason at all, that Purvis Short post made me think about Pervis Ellison. Actually, there is a reason: they're both named Puhr-vis. Here's a video of Pervis Ellison dunking for your consideration. My opinion is that for a guy with not much vertical, he was a very adept reverse dunker, which was pretty solid at the time.

Sorry I couldn't find video of Purvis (I couldn't even find a picture of him with the team he scored 28.0 ppg for, the Golden State Warriors).

Lost stars: Purvis Short

Adrian Dantley was recently elected to the hall of fame, at long last. His previous omission was one of those egregious things that happens in sports where an all time great is forgotten for reasons that are not entirely clear. I wrote about it last year. A similar problem occurred for Bob McAdoo before he was enshrined in 2000. (Why do they call it enshrinement, anyway? It's not the shrine of fame.)

Purvis short ain't gonna be in the hall, or shrine, or anything of fame any time soon. He's not even the best player from his hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Danny Manning holds that honor, and there's a good chance that another resident, Brett Favre, would beat Short to the Hattiesburg HOF by a few strides. (Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Floyd are other notable residents.) However, like Dantley, Purvis is also a man notable for his omission - he is possibly the best player in NBA history not to make an all-star team.

Purvis Short was a guard/small forward who played the majority of his career with the Golden State Warriors teams of the early eighties. The year before he was drafted, they reached the Western Conference Semifinals. The year he left, they reached the Western Conference Semifinals. However, in the ten years between (1977-1987), the Warriors never smelled the playoffs even once.

The ten year period was a giant transition in the history of the Golden State Warriors. When it started, Rick Barry was the leading scorer on a team that featured Jamaal Wilkes, Phil Smith, and a young Robert Parish (something I grew up considering an oxymoron). When it ended, the it was Chris Mullen's rookie year, and the Warriors were on the cusp of entering an era of late 80's/early 90's coolness (Mitch Richmond was still two years away; Timmy Hardaway, Sarunas Maciulionis, Uwe Blab, a dying Marques Johnson, Tom Tolbert and Manute Bol three...what a team).

(An aside: in 1989, Tom Tolbert played 1347 minutes for the Warriors [about 20 per game] and Manute Bol played 1310. Tom Tolbert had a total of 25 blocks that year, and Manute Bol had 238.)

The intervening years between Rick Barry and Chris Mullen were not entirely terrible, even though there was never a playoff series. For instance, In 1981, the Warriors won 45 games but did not make the playoffs. In 77, they won 43 but again filled to make the playoffs. The problem with the team seemed to be an acute lack of progression - one year they'd win 35, the next 45, the next 25, and so on.

Purvis Short was a good rotation player for the Warriors in the late 70's who blossomed into a lethal scorer in the 80's. How lethal? Here are his averages from 1982 through 1986:

1982: 21.4
1983: 22.8
1984: 28.0
1985: 25.5

On November 17, 1984, Purvis Short scored 59 points against the Nets, and at the time only 9 players had had higher single game outputs.

Those were years good years for basketball, and with Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, and Dominique Wilkins grabbing tons of headlines, it's understandable that a 20-point-per-game scorer for a listless Warriors team wouldn't be front page news. But isn't it a little strange that a guy could average about 24 points a game for four years without making any headlines, and without being considered an all star?

Purvis wasn't just a scorer, either. He averaged on or about five rebounds a game his entire career, as well as more than 3 assists during his high-scoring years (not bad for a SG/SF). He also averaged close to one and a half steals and less than three turnovers per game. His shooting percentages were consistently over 47% and he did it all without a viable three point shot.

Purvis was also notable for his defense - at least for one game. In 1981, Larry Bird scored zero points against him in 37 minutes - the first time Bird had gone scoreless in his college or pro career. I don't believe that ever happened to Larry Legend again, though I could be wrong.

The one thing Short could never do was win. The closest he came to winning a championship was when he led the Israeli team he played for in 1993, Hapoel Tel Aviv, to the finals against Israeli juggernaut Maccabi Tel Aviv. Unfortunately, Short lost there, too, in game 5 of a five game series.

Purvis Short was a prolific scorer has his place in basketball history and who deserved recognition while he played. He never made the NCAA tournament despite averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds a game over his four year career at Jackson State. He had only one chance to make an impact in the NBA playoffs, and his greatest success was against inferior overseas opponents. I'm not sure what to make of Short - I've never seen even a clip of him playing. Either way, he presents an interesting example of a player who reached the height of individual scoring prowess but could never capture fame or recognition from it.

As always, e-mail me at don'


Short now is the director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA - the union) Player Services Department. He was Vice President of the union from 87-90. Basically, he is the guy that runs the orientation program to educate young players about the dangers of being young, rich, and famous. And, based on the recent years, I'm not sure he's gonna be getting any fame for that, either...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I'm back, or am I, oh hell I don't know...

Oh, if only this were a rumor about Jordan coming out of retirement, as one could vaguely construe the title and picture to imply. Unfortunately, it's just me, back from another six month period of not caring about basketball. (Shows how intelligent I am, just when the NBA is getting better. At least that's what I hear.)

I have to be honest. The Knicks just about killed the damn sport for me. I'm aware that there have been a ton of great games on (and I've managed to catch a few of them) but I really came close to giving up on the sport entirely. Am I a pussy? Yes. However, to use the "reasonable man" standard of our justice system, I think my actions have been entirely understandable. And, because no one reads this blog, I suspect I'll earn a free pass.

A couple of brief notes:

-I called the Hornets;
-I did NOT call the Bulls;
-If the Celtics win the chip, I called that, and though that doesn't seem like much of a stretch now, at the beginning of the season it was at least a bit of an interesting prediction;
-I won my NCAA pool this year despite knowing very little about college basketball and picking the second-fewest number of winners in my pool;
-Last night, I realized it is possible that Derrick Rose could be drafted by the Knicks next year. This was perhaps my first NBA-related thought that is worthy of writing about in a long time.

Now let's just expound on that last point. Right now, the Knicks have the fourth-worst record in the NBA. The top 5 picks should be Rose, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Eric Gordon, and some combination of Jerryd Bayless, Anthony Randolph, and Kevin Love. There's probably some foreign guys out there that suck and will get drafted to high (Semih Erden, I'm talking to you, you Turkey sandwich!), but I don't know shit about them and don't subscribe to ESPN Insider. ("Where you can pay for Chad Ford to tell you Anton Ponkrashov has a game like Kerry Kittles and has been acquitted of second-degree murder twice!")

Miami should be in line for the #1 pick, and I think they might take Rose if they get the chance. They don't really need another small forward since getting Shawn Marion, Eric Gordon is not going to be useful for obvious reasons, Pat Riley's not stupid enough to screw around with the Lopez twins, and I don't think Kevin Love has a shot at number one. The only choices that make sense are Rose, Mayo, or Bayless, and I think last night made it clear that Derrick Rose is an NBA scorer and a great passer.

However, I personally think he has an overly similar game to Dwayne Wade and that they don't really need another slasher with Wade and Marion. Rose is such a good passer I bet Pat Riley could look past that. The poor guy hasn't had a good point guard since Tim Hardaway died of AIDS. Still, it's not a natural fit by any stretch.

I think the player that would help the Heat the most is Kevin Love. As much as I'm down on him in college (and that's a lot, for my own senseless reasons), I think he'd fit on nicely on a team with good wing players like Shawn Marion and Dwayne Wade. If the Heat agree with me, I think they'd be able to trade down to at least 7th (where the Clippers need help) [hopefully Shawn Livingston gets better]) and still get Love. I don't think the Clippers would have interest in Rose because they already have Livingston and Brevin Knight and because Mayo would make more sense as a (sorta) hometown kid.

The next worst team in the league is Seattle. They would take Derrick Rose in a heartbeat. The Knicks would have to get a pick ahead of them or pray that their GM (who appears to be extremely competent) placed undue value on someone like Eric Gordon or Mayo. As much as it seems like Rose is clearly better than those guys now, things can and often do change drastically in workouts and other predraft evluations. As Bill Simmons recently pointed out, the Magic were a bad Penny Hardaway workout away from drafting Chris Webber, which would have created a frontcourt for the ages. Webber was in many ways the equivalent of Derrick Rose and he had a much loftier college pedigree than Hardaway, but NBA teams seem to care less and less about that.

The only other team worse than the Knicks is Minnesota. I think they would take Beasley (or someone else big) if they had the chance, because they already have Randy Foye and Rashad McCants, both of whom are having pretty solid seasons, especially the underrated McCants (14.8, 3, 2, and a steal in less than 30 minutes a game and only 24 starts out of 69 games). Throw Telfair in the mix (he's still only 22 or so) and I just don't see the sense of getting another point guard. Plus, the T-Wolves' need for size is extreme and NBA teams in their position tend to draft for size.

Memphis presents the final problem (they are only one game better than the Knicks and could easily steal the mantle of the NBA's fourth-worst team). Despite the chance the Grizzlies will get the pick, I think they'd tend towards someone with size (like a center) because they already have a bunch of young talent at point guard (Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry) and because they literally do not have a center (not even a big white guy!). Darko certainly ain't going to cut it. He started almost every game he played and averaged 7.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 2.6 fouls. So for every three points he scores, he picks up one foul. That's nice.

Based on the foregoing, I think there's a reasonable chance the Knicks could pick up Derrick Rose without having to get lucky in the draft lottery. Could they get unlucky? Of course. Could they get the #1 pick?

"Yes" - David Stern.

Either way, it's nice to have a little hope for a change.

I think the Knicks have a shot at Derrick Rose, and I think he has a shot at being a franchise-defining player at best and a solid point guard at worst. The Knicks have been in dire need of both for a long time.

As always e-mail me at

PS: The Illinois Illini were this close to getting Derrick Rose and Eric Gordon to play for them this year. Imagine THAT.