Friday, January 30, 2009
First up is the lack of Love in the Rookie-Sophomore challenge -- the snub of T-Wolves forward Kevin Love. Yes, the numbers do point to a productive player; high (or is it the highest?) per-minute averages in rebounding and...uhh, wait, it's just rebounding. Well, OK. His per-minute scoring isn't too bad either, but naturally, the Wolves are conveniently neglecting just how slowly Love's NBA career started. His play in 2009 has merely subdued what was, for a long time, resounding criticism of GM McHale's draft-day trade of OJ Mayo for Love.
Quibbling over numbers aside, there is definitely one curious element of the Rookie squad selections that works as an argument for Love. Of the 9 players on the team, exactly one is a forward. There are 5 guards, 3 centers, and one forward. Huh? Rudy Fernandez is listed as a combo guard, but if you've seen him play, you can see he's more guard than forward. And if the 12-member all-star teams don't have 3 legitimate centers, how do the rooks end up with 3 for only 9 slots? Their centers aren't even of the F/C combo, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan-breed. Greg Oden, Brook Lopez, and Marc Gasol are traditional centers in every sense. And I have the overwhelming feeling that no one in Jersey, Tennessee, Spain, or anywhere else in the world would've batted an eye if Lopez or Gasol weren't selected.
But for all of McHale-and-company's pontificating about per-minute numbers, perhaps if they played him more minutes, more folks would notice him? Not really a point, just a thought.
In any case, for all the great guards (Rose, Mayo, Westbrook, Gordon) that the rooks are fielding, the sophomore forwards are gonna have a field day scoring over those smallish guards and around those not-exactly-fleet-footed centers. I get the feeling Kevin Durant is about to make all-star Friday his personal showcase.
Maybe this (poor team construction) is why the Rookies rarely win the challenge?
Another Year Without Al
Al Jefferson should've been an all-star reserve over David West. Really, I'm not sure what much more this guy has to do to get recognized as one of the 12 best in the conference. Fitting him on the team within the format is pretty easy. Your guards are Billups and Parker, Dirk and Pau are your forwards, and Shaq is the center, leaving Brandon Roy and Big Al as the wildcards. I don't think anybody saw the selection of David West coming. Did we mention that he's currently out with back spasms, yet the Hornets have won 4 of their 5 games without him? Including 2 blowout wins over Denver and Philly? Or that it was Big Al's T-Wolves that gave N'awlins that one loss?
The good Lord knows I don't wish injury on anyone, but let's say West's back doesn't loosen up in the next couple of weeks. Granted, I know that is quite a long time to be out with mere spasms, but in that unlikely scenario, I'm hoping the NBA's commissioner-emperor-chancellor-supreme will make the right pick.
Don't get me wrong, West is a good player, though I say all-star level with a bit of reservation. But c'mon. This is Big Al we're talking about. The winters are beyond cold in Minnesota. Have a heart. Give the guy at least one weekend in Arizona.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Guards: Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson
Forwards: Danny Granger, Paul Pierce
Center-sorta-kinda-sometimes-whenhehastobe: Chris Bosh
Wildcards: Joe Johnson, Vince Carter
Just missed out: Ray Allen/Rajon Rondo, Caron Butler/Antawn Jamison, Rashard Lewis/Hedo Turkoglu, Mo Williams, Gerald Wallace
Keep in mind, you can't take everyone. Yes, people may scoff at my two wildcard picks, but they have certainly carried their respective teams at times during this half-season. Blame the fans. I shouldn't have to be curbing my choices around the Allen Iverson selection.
Guards: Brandon Roy, Kevin Durant
Forwards: Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol
Center: Al Jefferson
Wildcards: Chauncey Billups, Tony Parker
Just missed out: Paul Millsap, Shaquille O'Neal, Carmelo Anthony
Again, you can't blame me. I didn't put Matadorilla Gorilla in the starting 5. Millsap especially, his 20+ player efficiency rating alone, plus what he's been doing in Carlos Boozer's absense, definitely deserves a spot. We all want to reward Shaq's fountain-of-youth resurgence, but, Al Jefferson's been a beast for far too long to not be recognized.
For reference's sake, here are the starters chosen by those wonderfully-impartial fans:
East: Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard
West: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, Amare Stoudamire, Yao Ming
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
It's the 9-2 Minnesota Timberwolves. Yes, you read that right. Come on, show of hands, who didn't think that McHale coming down from the front office wasn't Isiah circa 2007 deja vu? Who? Come on, keep 'em up. Granted, they have been playing a lot of middling competition (Clippers, Grizz, Warriors, Thunder, Phoenix Suns), and I'm betting the next month won't look like the current one (Lakers twice, Celtics, Blazers, Jazz, Hornets, etc). But it wasn't too long ago when the Wolves looked like the Dallas Academy might give them problems, so, improvement is indeed improvement.
The other renaissance team, the Charlotte Hornets -- uhh, Bobcats. (How can anyone be expected to get used to that name?) As I write this blog, they are giving the West-leading Lakers all they can handle and a bit more -- 5 point lead with 2 minutes to go.
Kevin McHale and Larry Brown. A couple of guys at the beginning of the season you just figured had no idea what they were doing, in the midst of reviving their images and perhaps their careers.
Wow! Update on the Lakers-Horn--uh, Bobcats, game. Into OT, and in the first two minutes, it's been the Kobe and Andrew show. The sequence reads like this: Bynum wins tap, Kobe makes jumper, Bynum blocks shot, Kobe rebounds, throws ahead to Bynum for dunk. After another Bynum board and a Kobe miss, Bynum blocks another shot, Kobe rebounds again, Kobe converts a layup. That's what you call a 2-man game. And then...Kobe Bryant commits his sixth foul?!? When was the last time you ever heard of Kobe fouling out of a close game? Or anyone of his caliber for that matter? The 2nd overtime without Kobe, this oughta be interesting. Very interesting.
Well, not quite interesting. More like predictable. Valiantly, the Lakers tried to depend on Bynum for the better part of the session, but eventually the loss of their ace-in-the-hole, along with Gasol and Jordan Farmar coming up dry tonight, did the Western Conference leaders in. Methinks Kobe Bryant just earned a few more MVP votes tonight (I mean, was that Cleveland's Mo Williams with 42 points?).
But yes, for the record, LeBron still leads the MVP race by far. Seeing the Lakers implode though made the view of the race a little fuzzier.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The question is, was this a case of bad sportsmanship, or just an unavoidable beatdown by an overmatched opponent? Well, the view from Mars seems to be pointing to a growing mountain of evidence to the former. The first damning piece of evidence I read was from a parent, who stated that the Covenant girls were using a full-court press and jacking up threes for most of the game, until they reached the century mark. Hmm. A full-court press in a blowout is, obviously, about as sportsmanlike as kicking an unconscious opponent in the head for a half-hour. 1 + 1 = 2, and full-court-press + blowout = bad sportsmanship. This is not up for debate.
However, the now-fired Covenant coach has apparently disputed the claim that he was using a full-court press throughout the game; in fact, he says that once the game reached 25-0 in the first 3 minutes, he got his players to lay off, play a 2-3 zone, and emptied his bench for the remainder of the game. All ostensibly actions that are well within honourable measures at respecting the game.
But, alas, the plot thickens. At least one Dallas coach responded to that claim to say that, while Covenant did abandon the full-court press, they merely returned to an "alternate press later in the game". While I'm not sure what exactly an "alternate" press is or why he'd needlessly use such an ambiguous word, we'll have to nevertheless allow this as evidence for the prosecution.
But the final bit of evidence, sadly, comes from the defense. The Covenant coach, in defending his actions, released a quarter-by-quarter box score: 35-24-29-12.
Does anyone see a problem here? Let's go back to the coach's argument that he backed off after the score reached 25-0. Hmm. So let's see, you played the same way for the remainder of the game, thru the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters, and while you racked up 24 and 29 points in the middle 2 quarters, you somehow managed a mere 12 fourth-quarter points? The 12 points which just, by a randomly amazing coincidence, took you right up to the century mark?
Riiiiight. My finely-tuned bullshitometer just blew a fuse.
Friday, January 23, 2009
* Dirk over Amare: Dirk is way more valuable and disappears much less often than Magilla Gorilla.
* Harris over A.I.: Do I even need to bother explaining this one?
* Harris over Jameer Nelson over A.I.: Jameer has been solid lately, but Harris was simply dominating over the first 2 months of the season. 2 months is better than 1.
* Bosh over Garnett: it's close, very, very close. Either player is a fine selection.
All things considered, the fans did a pretty decent job with the selections, the Yi Jianlian scare notwithstanding.
Now onto the benches in a later post; there's where it really gets to be fun.
The way they've been torching the league lately, and the fact that they haven't played since Sunday, they were due for a bad one. Don’t think I’m not giving Boston their due by the way, especially the way they fought off the Magician’s run in the fourth quarter.
With family like that……I’m gonna call my mom tomorrow and thank her for never giving me the sibling I always wanted.
I suppose this is the chickens coming home for the MLB's sweeping the issue under the rug for so long. I fully expect Sammy Sosa's as-yet-unborn son to level an accusation at his popa at his college graduation.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
* Congrats to my boy Andrew Bynum for a career night, if even at the expense of the creaky-clippers (no Camby, no Kaman, no problem?). 25 pts, 10 boards -- at half-time, and 42 and 15 for the game. It was good to see him finally hit the boards after a loooong absence. He and DeAndre Jordan (25/12) were really going at it. Speaking of which, can Mike Dumbleavy find some minutes for this kid, regardless of how much Camby or Kaman plays, so he can develop? 17 minutes total in November? 5 garbage-time games in December? Hello, your damn team ain't going a damn place anyway. You got an absolute steal in the draft, now how about you let him grow with some quality minutes instead of leaving him to rot on the bench.
The Lakers were trying so desperately hard in the 4th quarter to get Bynum to the 40-point plateau, they put the outcome of the game as a complete afterthought. Even after the Clips went on an 11-0 run to get the game within reach, with the Lakers going nearly 7 minutes without a bucket, Kobe and crew stubbornly, predictably, kept trying to force the ball into the post to get Drew that last score. It was kinda hilarious actually; I've never seen a team so wholly dismissive of the mere possibility of their opponent winning the game. Once they built the big lead, it was like an exhibition game or summer-league scrimmage. Normally you'd say something like "my how the Clips have fallen" if not for the fact that they've been down here since, since, well, the beginning of time.
And what about Kobe Bean lately, 10, 11, 12 and 12 assists in their last four games. Some serious distributing going on there for an SG. And this week's inaugural Manned-Up Award for popping a dislocated finger back into place and playing on. That is damn-near sick. Lucky in a sense for him that he keeps injuring the fingers on the other end of the hand. Ain't no shooting with a jacked-up middle-finger, don't care who you are. But respect for the toughness nonetheless.
(And no, I don't actually plan on giving out a manned-up award with any regularity, or at any time in the future for that matter.)
* GSW vs OKC, two not-so-good teams naturally ended up playing a decent game. Looked like good ole Jamal Crawford had the game won with a shot with 1.6s left...until Jeff Green hits a turn-around buzzer-beater. Now, about Jamal's shot, would Coach Nelson mind explaining to me the strategy behind forcing your team to run the ball the length of the court with 5 seconds on the clock when you have 3 timeouts burning a hole in your pocket?? The fact that it turned out both OK (go-ahead shot) and not-so-OK (a bit too much time left on the clock) makes it somewhat debatable to second-guess. But it just seems a bit, umm, risky? Not that I'm surprised by his, umm, alternative approach to coaching, but you can't help but say "huh?" every time you see something outrageous. I guess I'm just too logical and rigid with my call-timeout, move-ball-to-halfcourt, set-up-a-play folly.
* Just an awful, awful game by the Mavericks tonight. Only the Lord knows why I decided to waste my latest ESPN Streak on them. Oh wait, that's right; silly me thought that, with Andrew Bogut out, the Mavs might, oh, I dunno, try taking the ball to the rim? Anyways, they gave up 42 second-quarter points, and then backed it up by enduring the wrong end of a 30-9 run in the 3rd quarter. One minute, it was 67-all and the game was looking like fun; next thing you know, it's 97-76, and I'm focusing on making note of just how bad the Bucks announcers are. They just looked lost, utterly, hopelessly lost, for however long that run was. Exactly how many open looks does a guy like Michael Redd get before you realize not to leave him for a driver? But hey, it's just one game, I suppose.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
* Yi Jianlian (3rd-leading vote-getter among East forwards in the 2009 NBA All-Star game fan vote). Early returns made this a mildly disturbing development, with LeBron James and Kevin Garnett enjoying a decent margin over the 3rd-place Yi, but now this is getting dangerously ridiculous. The latest returns have Yi trailing Garnett by less than 200,000 votes...and, apparently, gaining. To make matters worse, superstud Chris Bosh is being lapped. This is already a travesty, and though I can't think of an adequate-enough word to describe the scenario should Yi overtake KG, I'll be sure to consult my thesaurus by time the NBA announces the final results. We've begrudgingly accepted the 2-billion-strong China voting bloc when it came to a skilled, performing, popular player like Yao Ming. But Yi? C'mon people, we have to draw the line somewhere.
* Rudy Fernandez (final participant in 2009 dunk contest). Naturally this is all conjecture and prognosis, but Rudy couldn't have been a worse pick out of the three possible finalists (over Joe Alexander and Russell Westbrook). 'Brook for his size has been dunking on people with amazing regularity ever since college, and somehow you trust that he is just a silly enough character to come up with an imaginative dunk or two. Alexander's resume includes a college dunk contest where he imitated the Vince Carter arm-in-the-cookie-jar with ease. Let me reiterate: he was in college at the time. Neither was any match for the all-of-Spain voting bloc. Rudy? Well, he's known for converting alley-oops with regularity...and boring stylistic monotony. If he does a single dunk that isn't worthy of a bathroom break I'll be duly surprised.
* Montreal Quebecians (4 starters from a 4th-place team). Even after adjusting for the automated-vote fraud issue, the Canadians still managed to place 4 starters in the game, whereas conference-leading Boston and San Jose have a combined none? Admittedly, I follow hockey from afar, and mostly only to see how low the Islanders have sunk and how the playoffs are going, but I don't think I need an NHL PH'D to see something is incredibly amiss.
So how do we fix these homeristic injustices? Enter the electoral college and weighted voting. No matter if all 2 billion Chinese voted for Sun Yue (only a minor tragic downgrade from the selection of Yi Jianlian), the 500 electoral votes he'd secure would be no match for Timmy Fundamental's 10,000 electoral votes from the rest of Earth's territories.
Seriously, I haven't worked out the math on the populations and percentages, but this needs to be instituted like yesterday. 10 pts and 6 boards for a losing team does not challenge 16/9 for a best-29-game-start-in-league-history contender -- and certainly doesn't belong in the same sentence as "all-star".
Disclaimer: no Chinese, Spanish, or Quebeckians were insulted at any time during this post.
Friday, January 16th
* Magic @ Lakers
* Hornets @ Cavs - I mean, this is a big matchup, isn't it? The Hornets are Conference-title worthy contenders, aren't they? Pfff. Their 3rd-best player is a disappearing violet (Peja), their center is an offensive liability, their bench is as thin as the paper it looks bad on. Am I wrong or is David West their only semblance of what might be mistaken for an inside presence? Chris Paul is truly a wizard, his play casting spells over some to make them believe his team is a top contender, his steals dizzying others into believing he is a strong all-around defender. Methinks James Posey could've chosen better. OK ok, I shouldn't be so hard on the Hornets; Paul and West are truly among the best in the league...I think this is a knee-jerk reaction to enduring their announcers. Please forgive me buzzers.
But with the slew of injuries that've hit them lately, their hold on a playoff position is about to become real, real shaky over the foreseeable future.
Saturday, January 17th
* Magic @ Nuggets - I fully expected a bit of a letdown from the Magic men this game. Coming off a hard-fought win vs. the Lake-show less than 24 hours ago, traveling to the Mile High City and its famously-thin air, a bit of sluggishness might've been understandable. No such luck for Chauncey and crew. After playing a close first half, the Magic laid some smack down in the 2nd half, showing both resolve and excellent conditioning.
* Hornets @ Pistons - You know, if you combined these two rosters, you might have a pretty good team. Rasheed, West, and Prince up front, CP3 and Butler/Stuckey at guard (with all due respect to the AI lovers, we've already seen what a nightmare two diminutive guards creates for a team's defense). Then you have scorers like AI, Hamilton, and Peja coming in off the bench, bruisers like Chandler, McDyess and Maxiell, and specialists like Posey and...and...well, Posey. OK, well, maybe not quite a title-contender, but it'd definitely be stronger than what either team is working with right now. Just flip a coin to see which city loses out and gets to start over with a bunch of draft picks. Or maybe they could share. New Orleans is used to sharing.
These two teams generate way more hope and print than their rosters would seem to dictate.
* Heat @ Thunder - What, a matchup of 2 of the 4 non-plural teams in the league isn't noteworthy? OK OK, I kid I kid. Sunday belongs to the NFL. Speaking of which, parity or no parity, there is something intrinsically wrong with a 9-7 team in the Super Bowl. Midnight is supposed to strike sometime before the big game. This is sports dammit, and there are rules to be followed. Kinda like the rule that says self-praise will usually lead you to embarrassment and humility...
* Suns @ Celtics - Following Sunday’s win over the Toronto Raptors, Amare’ Stoudemire, who had 31 points announced, “I’m about to get my gorilla game on”. Next game: 3 points, 0-7 shooting, 1 rebound, 4 turnovers, 1 block -- in 30 minutes.
Talk about your unintentional comedy. Does the Mike & Mike Show on ESPN Radio still give out the Just Shut Up award? Every time I look at STAT's stat line I burst out laughing. You can't make this stuff up.
* Cavs @ Lakers - Like two heavyweights slugging it out in the late rounds, the 4th quarter was definitely the most intriguing aspect of this game. Big run by the Lakers to put the game out of reach -- followed by a big run by the Cavs to render the first run obsolete -- followed by another run by the Lakers to clamp the door shut. Nice end to an intriguing weekend.
As a side-thought, what's up with my boy Andrew Bynum trading boards for scores? I suppose as long as he's playing good D, boxing out (Gasol and Odom seem to be picking up the loosies that Andrew's stopped getting to), and those defensive efficiency numbers stay looking good, it's not a problem. That is unless Andrew's on your fantasy team or something. Then you're free to curse and carry on smartly.
Friday, January 16, 2009
So, since Anthonia went down, the Nuggets have beaten:
It's not a bad stretch, but it doesn't really excite me either, so I'm gonna reserve judgment. If Denver holds their own over the next 2 weeks, with games against Orlando, Houston, Utah, and New Orleans, and beat the other teams they're supposed to beat, I promise to come back and declare Chauncey fit for MVP consideration.
Anyways, between looking at the raw numbers -- 7 double-doubles in last 10 games is putting in work, no matter how you frame it -- and listening to my coworker and others, I'm duly impressed. I'll sign up for saying Shaq is earning a spot on the All-Star team. I never thought I'd be saying that again without stepping into a DeLorean.
However, I'd be remisce if I didn't point out a couple things:
Thursday, January 15, 2009
But the final (whistle-)blow was the horrific call on Trevor Ariza's drive. Inexcusable. Calling a foul on Ginobili, though the right call, would've been surprising. Pocketing their whistle on a late-game drive with contact would've at least had precedent. But a travel call on what was clearly a two-step drive? And barely even 2 steps? Bad, bad, bad official. And I don't want to hear the explanation that Ariza's two steps were awkward; if driving awkwardly fooled officials into making traveling calls, Manu Ginobili wouldn't have taken an unwhistled layup in 6 years.
In any case, this game featured a pair of normally-unsung players: the Spur's Roger Mason and Josh Powell of the Lakers. Mason looks deadly from beyond the arc, and -- phantom foul notwithstanding -- made a nice play to put in the game-tying shot. That's two late-game clutch plays this season by my woefully-poor count (game-winner vs. Phoenix). Nice start to his new team. And Josh Powell is pretty impressive with his mid-range game. Watching him I kept saying to myself: Ronny Turia-who? Powell isn't quite the rebounder that Ronny is, and doesn't quite have that boundless energy, but he seems to be in the same neighbourhood defensively and has a much better looking shot. Nice off-season pickups for both teams.
The Spurs looked stronger than I'd imagined they would have at this point in the year. Between Mason, George Hill, and Matt Bonner, they've got a few guys to help bring down that gray-beard age average the Spurs have been sporting in the past couple years. Ginobili looks healthy as well. But at the same time, we have to remember that the Lakers are still missing 3 regulars, and don't have a single backup point guard. So naturally we have to hold off on annointing one team fit to compete with another when one is missing 33% of its regular rotation.
But now Brand is back practicing, and could return to game action by this weekend. How is this team going to incorporate Elton's skillset and not lose their identity? I can't say I have an answer. And more importantly, something tells me the Sixers coaching staff doesn't have a clearcut answer either. Poor Phill...wait a second -- Phillies, Eagles, Soul...ok, scratch that "poor Philly talk".
I just checked the schedule; the Celts travel to Orlando next week Thursday. There's another game I'll be circling on my calendar and setting my cellphone on silent for.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Anyways, nice going Chuck. That sure is gubernatorial-level behaviour you got going on there.
For the second straight game, Orlando jumped all over the Hawks early, but this time there would be no comeback, no answers for the Hawks. The wide final margin of 34 points doesn't even relay how one-sided that game was. 43-18 early, 71-33 at the half, and up to 101-51 at one point. If the NBA had a mercy rule, they'd have never played the 2nd half. And what's become of Joe Johnson? Followed up that 13 point clunker vs. the Nets with games of 14, 13, 11, and 11? Shooting a solid 34% for 2009, after shooting over 45% for the first 2 months of the season. I don't think I can blame New Year's Eve hangover anymore.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Saturday, January 3, 2009
- Awful first-half. This early-season home funk the Nets are in makes no sense, and I was wondering (hoping) they'd be breaking out of it. Thru 24 minutes it didn't look too good.
- I saw the final play of the half coming a mile away, before it even happened. You could just tell something bad was bound to happen. Inbound to Brook Lopez (yea, he's at the top of the list of Nets playmakers), turn, dribble, fumble ball away, Hawks grab the ball and heave a desperation shot at the buzzer -- bottom net. Lead balloons to 20 points.
- 11-year old boy sings "Who's Loving You" and blows the arena away. The other two girls in the Star Search contest (this was supposedly the semi-final) didn't stand a ghost of a chance. Damn I wish I caught his name:
- Couple days ago, the Hawks coach and Joe Johnson (one of my favourite players) himself remarked that Joe had elevated to the stratosphere of NBA stars, up in the penthouse with LeBron, Kobe, Wade, etc. Then he proceeds to put up an invisible 13 points on 5-16 shooting, getting a potential game-winner at the end of the 4th stuffed by Devin Harris in the process. Self-praise is not a recommendation my yute:
- Carter could not make a layup. Never seen anything like it before. 5-7 from 3pt range, 1-11 everywhere else. I'm guessing he and Joe Johnson partied at the same spot on New Year's Eve. Just a thought.
- There were about 50 potential game-ending plays, and I got video of every bumbling one of the 800. It's amazing I didn't give up trying to record after the first 7999 mangled shots. But then...
- That was one helluva play to end the game. I'm officially putting Vince Carter on the short list of players who you want with the ball for a last shot. Seriously. Do a youtube search for "Vince Carter game winner", pack a lunch, and check 'em out. For everything people fault the guy for, he has a knack for putting it in the net when the game's on the line. Give jack he jacket:
-- insert clip of dev harris rejecting joe johnson --