Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

Welcome to 2013!  I’m happy you made it but PLEASE don’t read into it.  Nothing bothers me more than those elaborate 2012 reviews that casually ignore significant sports stories like Lebron James being unclutch, to Lebron the champion, to Lebron putting up 30-9-7 and no one is shocked.  They always seem to miss how bountygate became a story about Commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspensions and Saints brass seems to have gotten a total pass about the bounty system THEY started and were warned about by…the Commissioner’s office.  Oh and how about the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year being Michael Phelps; I understand the temptation to give it to an Olympian but to not give it to Usain Bolt is pretty egregious (USA bias?).  All of those things are best left to professionals.  I can only offer you two of my favorite things: the 2012 Commissioner of the Year award and an updated assessment of the ALL Sports Defensive Team.

2012 Commish of the Year

It’s been a busy year for the fearless leaders of the Big Four professional sports leagues in North America.  I give the Commissioner of the Year honor out to recognize the best of the most hated people in sports.  No one gives people greater angst than Tim Tebow professional sports commissioners but we should always stop and realize that they do oversee the things we love despite the fact that fans think they could do a better job with greater ease.  It should also be noted that you (yes YOU) probably cannot come close to doing their jobs because they work for the owners and you hate the owners.

This year was much harder than last year because lockouts really helped to cut down the pool by two people.  2011 saw Alan Selig storm to victory late in the year past Gary Bettman (gasp!) primarily because Selig and the MLBPA peacefully sat down and passed a collective bargaining agreement which got no media attentions because it wasn’t confrontational.  Furthermore, the deal that passed made the game more entertaining with the added wild card play in game.  Yes, instant replay is a problem and yes MLB does have the strongest players union but credit goes to the guy who provided stability and excellent playoff baseball to the views.

With that said, the final standings are:

4) Gary Bettman

Locked out again after an amazing hockey run.  Any bit of momentum created by this league is thrown away with an ease second only to the XFL.  No one respect Bettman and players have a viable alternative to hockey (though not viable in the long term).  Bettman does seem to do a good job with owners as not playing is more cost effective than playing but fielding no product is just not good enough.

3) Roger Goodell (2010 Winner)

For all my issues with how Bountygate has been misled it still has been a black eye on the commissioner’s office.  Anyone that does Adderall is apparently exempt from punishment for cheating because it’s not like football has a steroids issue. (Seriously have you seen these players?!  Don’t bother me about steroids in baseball if the NFL is loaded with muscular freaks) Oh the replacement referee debacle all falls on him and although ratings did not suffer, it’s never good business to allow less than your best to be on display.

2) Alan Selig

Not much to report other than baseball STILL has not adopted instant replay because old man Selig is old.  The changes to the playoff format, while great, were rushed through leaving glaring holes on what to do (re: one-game playoff rosters allowing for expanded slots for more pitching changes than Tony La Russa could think of).  Not a bad season just not good enough for high honors.

1)      David Stern

Started the NBA season better than anyone could’ve imagined.  For all his shortcomings (namely his world class personality), he totally embraced the bad guy role this year.  Check out the beginning of the NBA draft amid a healthy set of boos. “Woah…thank you for that warm welcome…” and the hand to the ear at the :49 second mark is stuff of pure gold.  Great season after a rough start in the lockout era and most importantly pushed through his grand idea of a “World Cup of Basketball.”  Congrats on this awards and announcing his retirement.

ALL II Defensive Squad Update

As many of you know, I defend a ton of people for pretty good reasons.  Often times these people get no credit or respect because their narrative is totally miscast by the broader media/fans.  Can’t pull a fast one by me.  It’s time to update the defensive team by sport: who’s in, who’s out, and a brief (I promise) explanation how we got here.

The National Basketball Association Wing (aka The Dirk Wing)

CURRENTLY IN: Russell Westbrook, Vinny Del Negro, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams (Suspended for sucking)

OUT: Chris Bosh, Erik Spolestra

Won a title and Bosh’s absence made things much harder for Los Heat to do it.  Value on display.  Second best player that playoffs for the Heat.  Spo won the chip and revolutionized line ups.

In: Mike Brown, my father Avery Johnson, Brook Lopez

Brown: Fired after five games without getting his entire healthy team on the court.  Kobe wanted the Princeton Offense.  Can’t fix being old as s**t.

Johnson: Won coach of the month the same day he was axed.  In the mist of a bad run led by an injured Lopez and career low shooting from Williams.  Got kiss of death from Williams.  Honestly a .500 team on pace to finish above .500 (by a game but still).

Lopez: underappreciated as an offensive force.  Team loses when injured.  Team wins when healthy.  Needs to get totally healthy but team is undeniably better when he is active and on the court.

The Major League Baseball Wing (aka Playing without Steroids Wing)

CURRENT: Ichiro, Carl Crawford

CHIKA CAN NEVER TALK ABOUT BASEBALL AGAIN AFTER ICHIRO’s PLATOON SPLITS WITH THE YANKEES LOOKED GREAT.

OUT: n/a

IN: Mike Scioscia, Justin Upton, Mike Trout

Scioscia is going to be under extreme pressure to win immediately after their loaded line-up missed the playoffs last year.  Smart manager.  Proven winner.  Thin ice.

Upton is the cause of great concern with his numbers regressing last season.  Many outlets are reporting that Arizona is looking to deal him (again) after signing Cody Ross.  Still like the talent that is in Upton; pure athlete that can put it together for a solid career though a jump to the American League may stunt that growth.

Trout should’ve won the MVP by MILES.  Best all-around player.  People don’t understand that defense is part of the game.  Do better.

The National Football Association Wing (aka Nate Kaeding Wing)

CURRENT: Alex Smith, Roger Goodell, Anthony “Tony” Romo, Joe Flacco

OUT: Pete Carroll, Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush

IN: Mark Sanchez

Romo is easily a top ten quarterback.  Over his career he consistently throws for 4300-4600 yards completing 65% of his passes with a 2:1 TD/INT ratio.  Yes he makes some poor decisions in huge moments but it’s not like his defense is helping him.  Winning late to make it into playoff contention should also mean something.  If Dallas thinks jettisoning Romo is going to make them better then they are bound to fail for the next five years.

Sanchez plays with no one talented.  Get that man a talented person at a skill position and then bother me.  (He is also here for comedic relief)

SO thats it.  Expect me to rant about how no one will be admitted in the Hall of Fame and I will reveal my clear cut NFL MVP which I declared in week 14.

ALL II

While watching the gold medal basketball game with friend and master chef Tony, we engaged in a very amusing argument over the best basketball celebration.  I think this began after seeing a highlight of Tyson Chandler blocking someone and doing something lame afterwards.  We both agreed that Dikembe Mutombo’s finger wag was awesome.  Top tier quality.  But that is for now number four behind the two options vying for second.

(If you are wondering what is first, then you need to look no further than Allen Iverson’s “Step Over” of Tyronn Lue.  First of all, it will never happen that often because people usually don’t fall in a place to be stepped over.  Second, AI hitting the shot stunned Lue long enough that AI could just step over him and do NOTHING about it.  Third, AI looked at him like he was the scum of the Earth.  Anytime you can walk over someone, it’s great.  Take my favorite Scottie Pippen highlight for instance.  You step over someone and you can walk around like a BOSS because, well, you are for that 15 second period.  Usually, though, it can be an issue.  AI doing it was just too good)

Tony believes the best celebration is Sam Cassell’s “big balls” routine after hitting a clutch basket.  Originally created by the movie Major League II, the big balls celebration represents everything people want from an over the top celebration.  It looks goofy.  You only do it at the end of games.  You will get fined from it.  Everyone knows what it is but the analysts can’t say what it is because it is somewhat crude.  Although I cannot find video of Sam Cassell actually doing this, I did find Kobe (dare I say) whipping it out against the Spurs.  It’s fantastic.  Eddie House doing it too.

Naturally I disagree with Tony and suggest that the only celebration worthy of the top spot should be Shawn Kemp’s finger pointing particularly after he crushed a dunk over Alton Lister.  It is as brash and in your face as you possibly could be without getting into a fight.  You just devastate someone with a dunk.  They are down and embarrassed and your face lights up while you emphatically point to the person on the ground, as if everyone isn’t looking at that person already.  It’s bold and hilarious.  And it can happen at any time you crush dunks on people.  It only helps that the camera guy sees Kemp pointing and immediately looks to the ground to see a shell-shocked Lister.  If I can point and yell at someone then I am all in.

You decide which is better: big balls or emphatic pointing in someone’s face?

As far as non-controversies are concerned, the David Stern/Jim Rome riff tops the list thus far.  To recap: Jim Rome straightforwardly asked Commissioner David Stern, in all sincerity, “was the fix in for the lottery?” referring to the New Orleans Hornets winning the first overall pick.  New Orleans had been owned by the NBA and was sold recently; Stern was also involved in the vetoing of the original trade involving Chris Paul  – a move I defended as he acted in his role as owner of the franchise with other league officials.  (For basketball reasons, vetoing that trade was smart)  Stern retorted in classic, snide, Stern way: “I have two answers for that: I’ll give you the easy one — no — and a statement: Shame on you for asking.”  After some back and forth about the ridiculousness of the question versus Rome’s job to ask what people are wondering, Stern fired off the line that got everyone up in arms: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?  At this point most people did not care to hear the rest of the interview and missed Rome handling the question with “Yeah, I don’t know if that’s fair” and a renewed discussion of public perception, Stern suggesting Rome asked the question for as a “cheap trick”, a practice Stern suggested Rome made a living off of, Rome being offended (gasp!), and an abrupt ending.

Whew.  Deadspin has the audio which you can find on their site by clicking here.

Why is this not nearly a big deal as everyone made it out to be?  Well, because it is gamesmanship between two Type-A media darlings (sarcasm Chika) and a ton of ignorance about the entire situation.  First, the question “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” was not personally directed at Rome, a guy who has no history of domestic violence.  It is a classic/famous/infamous/slick/wise-arse rhetorical logic game to illustrate a compromising position when answering said question.  Yes = I previously beat my wife but I stopped; No = I have not stopped beating my wife, thanks for asking.  The use of this trick (and general illustrations of loaded questions) can be frequently found among lawyers and products of law school training.  What do you know…Stern graduated from Columbia Law School so the phrasing was probably easy for him to employ.  Rome, to his credit, seemed to be aware of the turn of speech and didn’t take offense.  Many others – certainly his listeners- did not know and started comparing Stern’s question to that asked of Dez Byrant about his mother by the Miami Dolphins GM Jim Ireland: Is your mother a prostitute?

I want to be clear that I do think Jim Rome is not wrong for asking the question; his viewers and most people (not me) believe the draft was fixed so asking upfront would seem to help clarify the issue (though we all know that it did not matter what the Commish says because people believe what they want.  If he just said no, would people say: “Oh, glad we cleared that up”?  Doubt it.)  While Rome asked a reasonable question, the assertion behind the question (the fact that it needed to be asked) is offensive and irritating if the draft is not fixed.  No one asks that question if they believe the league to be genuine in its efforts.  That is Stern’s point: it questions his integrity and that would piss me off too.  Sure he could’ve taken the high ground and kept saying “no” and moved on as suggested by Yahoo! Sport’s Dan Devine (who blasted the Commish for his petty shot) but sometimes you get sick of answering questions that call you into question.  To Stern’s point, later in the interview he acknowledged that people would constantly think the draft was fixed regardless of if New Orleans won the pick:

“I commented last night in my presser that there was one guy who I won’t dignify by naming who says, ‘I have no reason to know anything, and I don’t know anything, but I tell you, I believe it’s fixed.’ OK, that’s good. Why is that? ‘Well, because this team won.’ And if that team won, it would’ve been fixed also, and if that team won, it would’ve been fixed also. And if every team was invited to have a representative there, and there were four members of the media there, and if Ernst and Young certified it, would you still think it? ‘Yes.’”

And no one whining about conspiracies today can reasonably respond: “I would not have suggested it was fixed if [insert other team here] won the draft.”  This is classic hate the guy in power business (plus unresolved shadiness in the Patrick Ewing draft but I digress).  Bobcats win it?  A gift to Michael Jordan to jump start the ship.  Wizards?  Great to place two great Kentucky players together – maybe lure Coach Cal. Cavaliers?  Lebron James back in the finals – let’s build them up to compete for the East.  (Remember, that was the theory last year for the Cavs).  Nets?  Team is going to Brooklyn, let’s make sure they open up with a huge splash.  It’s always a conspiracy to conspiracy theorists and it gets old and is tiring.

So yeah a whole lot of nothing and hot air and misunderstandings.  Not like we should be talking about this or that I spent 900 words on it.  Oops, non-story.

Basketball is a team game. Five players working in concert is paramount to winning at the highest level. Kobe Bryant blatantly disregarded that simple, well-known since-the-grade-school concept last night when the young and spry Oklahoma City Thunder unceremoniously knocked the slow-footed, ground-bound Los Angeles Lakers out of the playoffs.

Bryant was far from the main culprit for the loss last night. Terrible pick and roll defense, an ineffective bench, and very little production from the point guard position (1-7 FG, 8 points) were the main reasons for the loss but Bryant’s attempt at being a one-man show certainly didn’t help. To beat a team that is better than you (yes, OKC was definitely the better, talented team) requires every player on your team to be engaged and playing at their highest level.

Bryant wasn’t interested in incorporating his teammates (ZERO assists). From the start of the game, he was only concerned about himself. Rather than think “What can WE do get this win?,” his mindset resembled more like “What can I do to pull out this victory?”.

That same attitude contributed to the Lakers’ downfall in Game 2 and undeniably cost the Lakers game 5. Down the stretch in game 2, Kobe was held scoreless, took several questionable shots, and committed several critical turnovers. In the fourth quarter of game 5, Kobe missed eight out of 10 shots while Bynum, who played extremely well in the first half, was only afforded four shots in the second half.

Lambaste Pau Gasol all you want to for his passive, inexcusable mistake in the final minute in which he opted to turn down a wide-open 10-15 foot jump shot and make a cross-court pass that was picked off by Kevin Durant. But be aware that the blame for the Lakers losing the double-digit lead in the fourth quarter rests almost entirely on Bryant’s shoulders and his poor shot selection.

Arguably, the Lakers could be up 3-2 right now but instead, the offseason has come for them. This team was flawed and probably never had a legitimate chance to compete for the title. Their bench production was one of the worst in the league, outside shooting was a constant issue, and the lack of a playmaker besides Bryant wasn’t sufficiently addressed.

To compete for a championship in the future, the Lakers will try to ship out Gasol for several players and/or might try to trade Bynum for Dwight Howard, but the first step should be Bryant realizing that he no longer is good enough to be the best player on a championship team. He isn’t the same player that he was when the purple and gold defeated the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals. His skills have diminished and will continue to do so.

Unfortunately, Bryant’s salary will be going in the opposite direction. The Lakers are scheduled to pay roughly $28 and $30 million to Bryant in the next two years. Good luck putting together a championship team when you owe that much money to a declining player who is no longer a top-5 player and whose salary accounts for close to half of the salary cap.

Don’t forget to check out my Western Conference (aka the Better Conference) preview.

Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia Seventy Sixers

The Sixers did their best to suck their way to the eighth seed.  Maybe they thought they match up better against the Bulls?  Doubt it.  Bulls bench is better, star player is better, and coach is better.  Bulls can use this as an adequate tune up for tougher defensive challenges and getting Rose and Deng healthy.  There really isn’t much else to say about this team.  Eastern conference basketball bringing the A-game.  Sixers had losses to the Raptors, Wizards, and Howard-less Magic.  I feel like a loser spending this many words on it.

Bulls in four

Miami Heat vs. New York Knickerbockers

Certainly the most talented series with the 2003 draft class reunited in full.  It’s hard to think that Wade is the only one of the three to have a NBA championship but such is fate given that he is riding that title to all the passes in the world for his poor close out defense, propensity to turn the ball over late, flop at the slightest increase in air-conditioning, and become replaceable in this grand experiment.  Miami is and will always be the team to beat despite their less than spectacular bench and poor three point shooting/defense.

New York has enjoyed(?) a Broadway drama from underachieving, revival with Jeremy Lin, sabotage in getting D’Antoni fired, and now a run to the seventh seed.  The three point buckets will be critical for the Knicks to stay close, something they can do.  More importantly for me is the play of Carmelo Anthony, arguably the second best player in the second half of the season behind, well, Lebron James.  Usually I don’t play arm chair psychologist but I genuinely believe Melo is out to prove a point and will play very good defense and amazing offense to remind people who felt he was NOT a superstar (some Bulls fans on this blog for instance) that he was in the same class and has performed at an astronomically high level throughout his career.  Superstars matter and the greater talent will prevail in the most exciting series in the first round.

Heat in five!

Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando Magic

Magic have the better coach but talent on the court matters more.  No stabbing you Dwight in the Back Howard (it’s a pun!) so this series is useless.  If the Pacers are serious they don’t waste any time and sweep.  I think they will sweep.  Who cares either way!?  This is exactly why the Eastern Conference sucks!  For the first time in a while the East gets all teams in over .500 but we get two garbage series because the conference is trash.  Will Howard be there supporting his team?  Will he root against Stan Van Gundy?  Only drama in this series is how fast will Stan Van Gundy be fired.

Pacers in four.

Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks

Bill Simmons has been pushing the big three as elite again to my disappointment but I cannot ignore the revitalization of Kevin Garnett and the stability of Paul Pierce.  Most notably the oft trade rumored Rajon Rondo is simply a BOSS.  Boston’s size – or lack thereof based on Garnett playing at the center position- means an injured Pachulia may still be effective in the paint.

Joe Johnson definitely has a favorable match up on Avery Bradley with height and will expose him.  Pierce will do the same on the other end.  In the end Rondo will be the X-factor; he struggled mightily in the season series but will absolutely shift the momentum to Boston.  These teams are remarkably close and this will be a good test for a team that does not score or rebound.  Underappreciated Josh Smith will have his hands full with KG at the center position too making for a competitive small line up leading to tight games.  Experience will prevail in this one as long as Rondo doesn’t shoot 23% all series.

Celtics in Six

Simple but hopefully detailed assessment of the first round of the NBA Playoffs.  To see our picks for the major awards and finals match up check out a soon to be posted blog post about it (Full Disclosure: That collaboration post probably won’t go up for a while, certainly not in a timely manner.  Get over it).

San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz:

Let’s not keep talking about this team as old (they have upgraded the pieces around Duncan and Parker) and lets stop talking about last year (even though I picked the Grizzlies to beat them in round one and the E.I.C. picked the Spurs to get to the finals) because Manu Ginobili’s injury restricted the team.  Everyone is healthy and should create a huge problem for not only the Jazz but the entire West.  Despite being an under-average defensive team, the Spurs have greater depth on their bench and the better perimeter player in the underrated Tony Parker.  According to the great folks at http://www.synergysportstech.com/ the Spurs will be going against a bottom five pick-and-roll defensive team.

Al Jefferson is one of my favorite bigs in the league, one of few players that demands a double team and can still dominate a game.  After Jefferson I have major questions on the effectiveness of Paul Milsap with Boris Diaw matched up against him at all places.  Sure Milsap-Jefferson-Favors line can dominate and has dominated this season but they cannot sustain that over the course of a game.  The size looks good for matching up with the Lakers but it is not helpful against the efficient Spurs team.  It should be noted that NO ONE expected Jazz basketball in the playoffs and that in itself is a major accomplishment.

Spurs in Five

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. World Champion Dallas Mavericks

My Mavs are not in a good place.  19th in scoring, out rebounded, out shot, and out manned by most ever metric available.  What’s in their favor is the reason that people doubted the Mavs last year: can a team that is so reliant on the outside shot remain red hot throughout the playoffs?  Clearly the Thunder have two top five scorers (plus the elite and recently concussed James Harden) but they also have offensive liabilities in Ibaka, Sefolosha, and Perkins.

Conversely the Mavs are only Dirk Nowitzki.  Kidd posted horrific numbers this year, Delonte West is literally four steps away from the insane asylum, and Vince Carter can accurate be described as ineffective and generally shameful.  Mavs still have the effective zone defense which led them to a top ten defensive season.  Their games have been close all season and I think this series will be MUCH closer than people think.  Talent will win out but I don’t trust 5 vs. 3 basketball granted the five for Dallas are not world beaters.

Thunder in seven.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Team versus Superstar?  High tempo offense (second fastest pace team in the league, tops in fast break points, and just fast) versus slow, half-court offense?  Nuggets versus Lakers provides a case to explore all of these concepts though we know the answer that superstars and size matter.  Kenneth Faried is a machine on the glass but the seven footers in Gasol and the most important player in the playoffs Andrew Bynum will control the glass.  The same size advantage will come into play as the Nuggets are a top five team scoring at the rim, something infinitely more challenging against the Lakers.  I am not sold on the Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo (an elite defender) combination in sticking Kobe.

Where the edge may come to Denver is the absence of Metta World Peace, the best perimeter defender on the Lakers. LA does not close out particularly well on outside shooters which may help.  JaVale McGee is on the Nuggets so they WILL lose.

Lakers in five.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul is second on my most valuable player ballot (that I do not have) and will single handedly carry the Clips to some quality wins, nothing new this season.  Paul was second in assist to turnover ratio which helps against a Grizzlies team that led the league in turnovers.  The problem is the Clips are one dimensional and the “great” Blake Griffin does not bring the proper array of moves to get through an aggressive Grizz defense.  The absence of Chauncy Billups is huge here as Griffin still can’t shoot the jumper and the Gasol – Randolph combination won’t be getting dunked on.

Zach Randolph will absolutely OWN Blake on the offensive end as people seem to casually suggest Griffin is a top ten player but does not play a lick of quality defense.  Grantland explored this issue with Sebastian Pruiti, founder of the NBA Playbook blog writing: “As good as Blake Griffin is on offense, he’s just not a good defender at this point in his career, and he’s particularly bad at guarding the post. This means that his matchup against the Grizzlies and Zach Randolph could be a rough one. Randolph has been matched up against Griffin twice since returning from a knee injury, and it has been a tale of two players. The first time, in late March, Randolph was extremely aggressive. He sealed strong, got excellent low-post position, and attacked the rim. For all of Griffin’s physical strength, he hasn’t learned to use his body on defense, and players who go straight at him tend to have success.” Nuff said.

Memphis in Six

Today, April 21, 2012:  National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter doesn’t like Derek Fisher.  NBPA president Derek Fisher really doesn’t like Billy Hunter.  Something shady is going on.  Eight random players have some importance on the executive committee but are about as worthless as Otis Smith in the future of the Orlando Magic.  That’s the summary of the drama of consequence in the NBA.

Clearly the disdain between Fisher and Hunter began during the NBA lockout, an event that tested leadership and reveal what many – yours truly included- believed from day one: Billy Hunter was going to mismanage the mess out of the lockout, forgo all leverage, look like a bumbling fool, and come to the same conclusion he should’ve reached many months too late after giving up more than he needed.  Nothing screams a lack of solidarity than holding separate media appearances after daily negotiations against a clearly unpopular opponent in team ownership.  Players apparently split into factions some siding with Hunter others with Fisher.  While I lack all requisite details to understand why players felt so divided, I do know that Fisher’s attempts to get the Union to negotiate sooner than Hunter wanted came off to some as caving into demands and not standing behind player interests.  “Sources” suggested Fisher met privately with Commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver to make a deal independent from the NBPA; these reports were not confirmed with some Fisher supporters suggesting rumors came from Hunter to emasculate Fisher’s authority.  Given how the new CBA looks, it appears that Fisher was probably right in his strategic instincts but if anything is clear it is player will continuously be disrespected for their intelligence.  When the media “disrespects” players, we hear about it; when player leadership does it, deaf ears.

Fisher, serving as union president since 2006, is suspicious of Hunter’s business activities and via conference call on April 13, 2012 convinced a majority of members of the eight player executive committee to agree to an internal audit of Hunter’s New York offices.  From what I could gather from the Associated Press, ESPN’s Ric Bucher, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski (who broke the story), player reps learned of the decision to have an independent business review earlier this week.  Hunter later contacted each committee member and convinced them that an internal audit would be unnecessary as the NBPA/Hunter’s offices is audited regularly.  I should note: the committee voted 8-0 to kill the independent audit of finances and practices; we also know four of the players on the committee thanks to Yahoo! Sports’ obtaining a copy of the memo: Chris Paul, NBPA Vice-President Maurice Evans, Roger Mason, and Keyon Dooling.  Sources also said that Hunter also suggested that Fisher’s calls for an independent audit constituted a personal attack on Hunters leadership.

Allow me to interject hear.  I clearly don’t think Billy Hunter is a very good leader.  That’s my opinion.  I also think Derek Fisher is one of the classiest, intelligent, and genuine people in basketball.  The fact that Fisher suspects something fishy (pun intended) makes me wonder if there is financial misconduct.  Hunter’s quick movements to kill the audit AND mobilize the executive committee to demand Fisher’s resignation gives me all the reason in the world to side with Fisher.  Something is going on.  People who act guilty usually are guilty.

Hunter and the weathervane-esque, toothless executive committee want Fisher to resign citing: “numerous instances over the past six months, where Fisher engaged in conduct detrimental to the union, including acting in contravention of the players’ best interests during collective bargaining, declining to follow the NBPA Constitution, and failing to uphold the duties of the Union President.” (Statement quotes courtesy of Yahoo! Sports)  I don’t know what the NBPA Constitution is or says but players support Fisher who is calling for more transparency from the top – you know the same thing players and Hunter was livid about when the owners were not 100% forthright.  Fisher, with two years remaining as NBPA President, is refusing to resign and intends on fighting “the man” for clarity with renewed player support:

“I, along with many others, are extremely disappointed with the Executive Committee.  Their demand for my resignation and their need to protect the NBPA management and their own best interests instead of protecting the players we were elected to serve is unfortunate…The allegations that are now being directed at me are defamatory…But I urge our members to order an independent review beginning immediately and that will be proven along with finding out definitively if there are any issues with the NBPA’s business practices and finances.” (Courtesy of ESPN and Associated Press)

Sources also told ESPN’s Ric Bucher that Billy Hunter has hired a public relations firm – conceivably an independent one as the NBPA certain acts as its own.

So there you go.  The player led executive committee seems to be the puppet regime of Hunter, an organization just last week that supported an audit less than seven days later unanimously killed the audit and wants the person calling for the audit to resign.  Questionable, no?  Something is definitely not right in the NBPA and I tend to side with Fisher on this one.  Popularity and support will matter the most here a legitimate movement and its leader may be crushed for doing his job.  Sports mirrors politics and power corrupts all.  Just another day’s work in the business of sports.

During the NBA All-Star break, superstar point-guard, Chris Paul, appeared on the B.S. Report and offered this nugget on how he has modified his game in hopes of cutting down his injuries.

“I think back [to] my first two years in the NBA, I was top-5 in the NBA in free throws attempted per game. I just went in there reckless. I remember I cracked my ribs. I was getting injured and stuff like that and then I got the mid-range and just started pulling up. I’ll still go in there depending on the game situation but just being able to stop in the middle of the lane and shoot it before the defense gets to me to put you on the floor and stuff like that.”

Paul exaggerated his rank in the league as it pertains to free throws per game—he only ranked 22nd and 42nd in free throw attempts in his first two seasons—but his style of play has changed. According to hoopdata.com, Paul’s shots at the rim per game have dropped from 4, 3.9, and 4.4 during in his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seasons respectively to 2.9, 2.1, and 2.8 in his last three (hoopdata.com didn’t start collecting data until 2007, Paul’s second year).

There is a lot of logic to Paul’s thinking. Attacking the rim results in many violent collisions and presumably, your chances of suffering a significant injury increases with each collision. However, he neglects to mention that injuries happen at any place on the court—see Ricky Rubio’s ACL tear or Chauncey Billups’ ruptured Achilles tendon—but limiting your amount of advances at the rim in order to avoid injuries does make a lot of sense, especially for someone as small as Paul [6 feet tall (barely) and 175 pounds].

Derrick Rose should adopt Paul’s mindset and adjust his game in a similar fashion. Relentlessly and fearlessly, Rose attacks the rim with a ferocity that is unmatched by very few, resulting in countless, cringe-inducing tumbles. This season, he has averaged 6.3 shot attempts at rim per game, placing him 3rd among guards and 12th overall, per hoopdata.com. Unfortunately, at just over 6-1 and 190 pounds, the pounding that comes from driving in the lane with great vigor takes a great toll on Rose’s body. Until this year, he was able to avoid the injuries that cause a player to miss a significant amount of time.

This past Sunday, Rose suffered an injury for the fourth time this season. First, it was a turf toe, then back spasms, followed by a torn groin, and most recently, a sprained ankle that caused him to wear a protective boot on Monday and miss the game against the New York Knicks on Tuesday. Unlike Rose’s first three seasons during which he was extremely durable—only missing a total of six regular season games—he has missed 23 games this year.

It should be noted that his increased absence this year is partly due to the shortened season—the rapid succession of games doesn’t afford players the usual time to heal between games—and since the Bulls have played very well without him, the team can afford to give him lengthy periods to recuperate. But considering Rose’s relatively small size coupled with his predominantly attack style of play, it is not outrageous to think that his inability to stay healthy this season indicates that there may be future injury-plagued seasons if he doesn’t alter his game.

NBA Top 10 Revised

Posted: April 4, 2012 in Collaborative Posts
Tags: ,

Back in September, ESPN released its top 10 NBA players according to their esteemed writers. So I (Mr. EIC) thought that it was important to have my esteemed panel  (Allen and Chika) comprise their list of the top 10 players given the results of the season thus far.

We first visit ESPN’s top 10 list which goes as follows: Blake Griffin, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzski, Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard and LeBron James. Give a little commentary as to where these guys have ended up on the list and the finish it off with a newly revised top 10. 

Feel free to comment and please do not hesitate to berate these writers.

E-I-C

10. Blake Griffin
Shawn Kemp without a jumpshot, real post moves or an ability to play defense. Vince Carter without a jumpshot. There’s absolutely no way this player ever deserved to be in the top 10. ESPN decided to drink their own kool-aid a bit, by adding this guy to the top 10. Especially considering “Lob City” has not been nearly as effective as most thought they would be considering the hype going into the season. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate his dunks… Drops out of the top 10, possibly not even top 15.

[youtube:www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozmDKn-f1yk]

9. Deron Williams
If he didn’t play for the Nets in the black-hole that is New Jersey, he would be considered a top 10 player. But I can’t change reality, so no matter what kind of numbers he puts up, he’s going to be relegated to about the 4th or 5th best Point guard in the league. Drops out of the top 10.

8. Derrick Rose
With all of his injuries and the fact that the Bulls are pretty much the same team with him as they are without him, I say he’s appropriately rated. I think Rose will be a victim of the Ewing theory come playoff time. No matter how good you are, when you’re injured and miss a good chunk of the season, you can’t turn it on just because it’s the playoffs. Drops 1 spot.

7. Kobe Bryant
He’s playing the most minutes of any player in the league in his 16th season. He’s leading the league in scoring and almost single-handedly keeping the Lakers afloat. At least that’s the argument Lakers/Kobe apologists will make. For the purposes of this list, I will ignore his Allen Iverson esq. numbers and join the “Kobe is a fearless warrior who can do no wrong” and move him up. Moves up 1 spot.

6. Kevin Durant
Although I believe LeBron James should win the MVP considering he was having the best statistical season in history up until about the All-Star break and his numbers are still stellar. Kevin Durant will be the MVP, because that’s what everyone wants. He’s more likeable and dare I say more admirable than LeBron James. Plus he was anointed the MVP in the beginning of the year, so technically it was his to lose. Moves up 4 spots.

5. Dirk Nowitzki
Still doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a top 20 player of all-time, but he had a slow start and his just rounding back into form at the right time. Drops 3 spots

4. Chris Paul
Best point guard in the league. The biggest difference maker as a little guy in the league. It’s not even close either. Appropriately Rated.

3. Dwayne Wade
Best shooting guard in the league. Former Finals MVP that can do no wrong in the eyes of the media, even though his team is 9-1 without him. The closer for the Heat. Drops 2 spots.

2. Dwight Howard
I can’t possibly have him this high considering the fact that he’s still a mediocre offensive Big Man. He still has wildly inconsistent weeks where he’ll score 40 one night and 12 the next. Still the Defensive Player of the Year and still the most dominant big center in the league. Drops 1 spot.

1. LeBron James
The highest ceiling of any player in the league and still not there yet. I’ll take a guy who has a bad day and still puts up 25-5-5. He can be disengaged and score 23. That’s impressive.
Appropriately Rated.

Top 10 List
1. LeBron James
2. Kevin Durant
3. Dwight Howard
4. Chris Paul
5. Dwayne Wade
6. Kobe Bryant
7. Kevin Love
8. Dirk Nowitzki
9. Derrick Rose
10.Rajon Rondo

ALL II

10. Blake Griffin
Never thought he belonged on this list and after watching his body of work this season I still don’t think he belongs. Speaks to the power of dunking and highlights. Griffin is probably the most overrated player in the league – which is not saying he is bad but certainly not top ten. At the very least Kevin Love should be here (though probably higher).

9. Deron Williams
Not his best season by any stretch of the imagination. I put Westbrook over him thus far and drop him out the top ten. I imagine he will be back when he gets out of that hell hole in New Jersey.

8. Derrick Rose
Underrated on this list. Needs to be in the top five as the reigning MVP and someone who’s shot selection is as bad as Kobe. Injuries are not helping his case so maybe fifth is where he should be but needs to be higher.

7. Kobe Bryant
Speaking of the Mamba. Appropriately rated. Not shooting at his normal clip but who is this season? Still selfish, motivated beyond belief, and rubbing up against head coaches.

6. Kevin Durant
Must be higher. The guy is arguably the best scorer in the league, quality defensive player, and the performance leader on his team – though Mr. Westbrook is the team leader. Elite player and should be in the top three.

5. World Champion Dirk Nowitzki
My main man has struggled mightily with injuries but has been up to his old, high quality ways after getting back in shape several weeks into the season. Being that it is a shortened season, his early poor production cannot be ignored. Still top ten, probably tenth. Drop.

4. Chris Paul
Needs to be one position higher. He is a definite MVP runner up contender and the best point guard in the league.

3. Dwayne Wade
Gets the most “passes” in the league: people ignoring his poor play because he is next to Lebron James. Still a top ten player but should be dropped because the top three players bring it EVERY time. They also don’t flop around like the English Premier League.

2. Dwight Howard
Lower. Needs to do more. Too much drama.

1. Lebron James
The Best Basketball Player In The World. No One Is Better. No One Is Close. Should Never Move From Number One.

Top 10

1. Lebron
2. Durant
3. Paul
4. Wade
5. Rose
6. Nowitzki
7. Kobe
8. Howard
9. Love
10. Westbrook

Cheeks

10. Blake Griffin
Has disappointed this season. Production has decreased pretty much across the board. Has shown no improvement in his game, particularly developing the mid-range jumper and he is still a bad defender. Drops out of the top 10.

9. Deron Williams
Has transformed his style of play from primarily pass-first to shoot-first. Probably due to the poor talent that surrounds him. As a result, his efficiency has suffered. Daily, I waver between he and Westbrook for the 3rd best point guard in the league. As of today, I am not on his side. Drops out of the top 10.

8. Derrick Rose
One thing that very few people notice or talk about is how much he has improved defensively. Was once an atrocious defender but now an above average defender. Also has improved his floor generalship. The one blemish is his propensity to shoot threes. 4.5 attempts per game is way too much for a poor three point shooter! Best point guard in the league by the slimmest of margins. Moves up 3 spots.

7. Kobe Bryant
Has cost his team several games this season because of his selfish, self-indulgent habits. Seems at times to be more concerned with getting shots up than playing inside-out. Doesn’t realize that he can’t carry offenses anymore and as a result, continues to force up shots leading to his least efficient season in years. Drops 3 spots. (Addendum: I seriously considered dropping him out completely)

6. Kevin Durant
Has become a more efficient scorer despite taking on more playmaking duties. But still needs to improve his off-the-dribble game. Moves up 3 spots.

5. Dirk Nowitzki
Having one of his worst seasons in years and yet is producing at a high level and is improving with every game. No longer is he the best power forward in the game. That title now goes to Kevin Love (26ppg & 14rpg). Drops 3 spots.

4. Chris Paul
Runs a team better than anyone. Has excellent vision and is remarkably efficient. His style of play is more appealing to me than Rose’s. Not gonna lie. There are days that I think that he is best point guard in the game. Second best point guard in the league by the slimmest of margins. Drops 2 spots.

3. Dwayne Wade
He is the best shooting guard in the league. No doubt about it. Has the second best player efficiency rating (PER) this season. Drops 1 spot.

2. Dwight Howard
Disappointedly, it seems that he will never reach his potential offensively. Should be averaging upwards of 25 points per game because of how physically imposing he is. Nevertheless, his impact defensively is second to none. Properly rated.

1. LeBron James
Only a few weeks ago, he was on pace to have the best statistically efficient season EVER. Need I say more? Properly rated.

Top 10
1. LeBron James
2. Dwight Howard
3. Kevin Durant
4. Dwayne Wade
5. Derrick Rose
6. Chris Paul
7. Kevin Love
8. Dirk Nowitzki
9. Russell Westbrook
10. Kobe Bryant

24/7 access usually leads to heightened levels of self-genius proclamations.  Everyone sitting in an area seat, on a couch, and in a sports bar knows more than the people on the court.  This is true in all aspects of life!  People think they know how to solve wars because they read some news story but have NO access to day-to-day relevant information.  Similarly, one can rewind live television and prove how foolish Roy Williams is for not adjusting to a new defensive arrangement or rip referees for just about everything under the sun.  Head coaches, may be second to referees but probably not, find themselves consistently in the crosshairs of fans and media members alike usually suggesting why they should be fired.  A losing streak, mismanaged expectations, or simple ungrounded irrationality keep the coaching weather vane in flux between excellent coaching and unable to handle the situation.  Miami Heat head coach Erik Spolstra is a perfect example of this.  One outlet says he should run things up tempo to maximize his player’s athleticism.  Another suggests their advantage comes from working in the half court because the playoffs slow down play and preparation for that environment is crucial.  Spo does both!  Miami is a top offensive and defensive team and excels in fast break scoring.  When they win, people forget he is there.  When they lose two games, people claim he cannot coach the stars and Pat Riley needs to come from on high (or from the depths of hell) to salvage the team.  Never mind that the Heat came amazing close to winning the championship last season, Spo is constantly between top five coach and hot seat (along with Chris Bosh for some reason).  That’s ridiculous but he isn’t the only one in both professional and collegiate ball (re: Bill Self).  Here are some coaches that find themselves successful but under the gun for some legitimate reason and others that elude explanation besides fanaticism and fandom, the essence of the modern American fan.  (It should be noted that I also exhibit these tendencies so don’t waste time commenting that I am no different.  I know that, Sherlock, but it doesn’t mean I cannot be reflective.)

Mike Woodson – New York Knickerbockers

Riding a very impressive record going in to the final stretch of the season.  Melo’s fresh from stabbing Mike D’Antoni in the back and playing hard on both ends of the floor.  Amare and Lin out providing a nice cushion if the Knicks miss the playoffs for a coach everyone seems to like.  He even has the benefit of being affiliated with Isiah Thomas, a definite positive in New York (the same influence that holds them back).  Sadly, Woodson’s biggest fear is Phil Jackson.  The table is set for his return and virtually nothing should stop the Knicks from making him coach if he is interested.  It would also complete his coaching legacy in the major cities of America, something that would make his next book very interesting.

Mike Brown – Los Angeles Lakers

Benched Kobe last Sunday and followed it up by benching certified fool Andrew Bynum on Monday after his egregious three in a close game with 17 seconds left on the shot clock.  It may be one of the most inappropriate things I have ever seen.  He is a jackass.  Bynum exercised his right to be a buffoon in the postgame: “I guess ‘Don’t take threes’ is the message, but I’m going to take another one and I’m going to take some more, so I just hope it’s not the same result. Hopefully, I make it.”  And I would leave him benched the next game too.  I digress from that idiocy.  Brown came under fire for his X’s and O’s during Lakers struggles (timed with Kobe shooting 38% and leading the team in FG attempts but again I digress) and has had tense moments with his stars.  It should be stated that the Lakers are the third best team in the tougher conference, something that gets swept under the rug.  Brown also gets the crap end objectivity as he led the Cavs to tons of wins and probably maximized what that team could do with the best player in the world and decent players everywhere else.  Brown is continuing his good coaching, extending his defensive acumen to this historically lacking defensive team.  Consistently underrated we will see how far he goes in the playoffs but I severely doubt he is holding this team back.

Mr. “Make It To The Playoffs” Vinny Del Negro, “Lob City” Clippers

Certainly Vinny Del Negro has the most flaws of anyone on this list and the case against him is hardest to ward off.  Still, Del Negro came in and successfully did his job: build a team with cohesion and make it to the playoffs.  Given talent level and the loss of Chauncey Billups, I would be quite content with being the fourth best team in the west.  And honestly, where should they be?  Oklahoma City is first, a team many believe will make it to the finals.  San Antonio led the West last regular season and has better players.  And the Lakers, and their drama, are third but only two games ahead.  Being in fourth and close to third given the teams is close to overachieving but certainly is nothing that should be a fire-able offense.  I imagine another coach will be brought in next season and should do a better job managing minutes and timeouts but again, quality coaching comes in practices and we are not privy to those situations.  As much as I am amused by his successful track record, getting an upgrade is a priority.  Still, firing him with two weeks left in the season couldn’t be more insane especially given where the team is and how little time there would be to install anything substantial.  Del Negro should tell all his critics to zip it and point to the record.

Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic

Similar to Mike Brown, people truly don’t appreciate the work of Van Gundy – most notably Dwight Howard who controls the fate of the franchise before he leaves next season (oops, spoiler alert).  Amid turmoil and true talent deficiencies combined with a quirky system, the Magic find themselves third in the east behind arguably the two best teams in ALL of basketball.  His body of work, including a finals appearance means nothing despite molding that “team” into something far beyond what they should be, a potential sleeper.  Many want him gone and that’s all I can really provide for analysis.  What exactly is he doing that is not good enough?  What in general is he doing that is not good enough!?

This doesn’t even touch on people like Bill Self and John Calipari, both successful but always unfairly criticized: Self for early exits and Cal for not closing the deal.  Ultimately, exposure to players and the game create the best coaches at home but somehow they never find their way courtside.  Leave it to the professionals and let’s not forget that just because we know more than we did generations ago does not mean that we know what matters.