Friday, June 12, 2009

The Most Overquoted Quote in the NBA Finals

Once again, sports writers have successfully gotten on my nerves. The next sports analyst to attach "master of panic" to a Stan Van Gundy coaching decision they disagree with deserves to get fired, slapped, and thrown to the wolves. Can you people come up with something, you know, original? Or, God forbid, accurate? Is every poor coaching the decision the result of panic now? Did you panic when you mistakenly picked Orlando to win the title? Yes, Jason Witless, I'm talking to you.

Let's get to the bottom of what actually can be considered a fault of Stan Van Gundy's coaching style. It comes down to one word: trust. He trusts numbers more than he does anything else; and certain players, with poor numbers, mmm not so much.

I can think back some years to when the Miami Heat were vying for a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, with Van Gundy at the helm and a rookie Dwyane Wade as the team's budding superstar. Yes, for all you A.D.D. sports fans and writers, it may surprise you to know that the Heat actually made the playoffs before Shaq arrived in South Beach. This was way back in 2004, and the Heat were in a do-or-die game verses the Indiana Pacers. For those of you who don't remember, here's a brief recap: 0-6 shooting, 0-4 from 3pt range, including a missed potential game-tying 3 at the buzzer. The culprit? One Rafer Alston. Shocked are you? Pick your bottom lip off the floor, thanks.

Now, is it panic that SVG pulls Rafer after a 1-5 shooting 3rd quarter last night? Or is it once bitten twice shy? Since when does mistrust get miscategorized as panic? Since when is it a panic move to trust a guy who, when healthy, has never let you down, over a guy who has as many poor games this postseason as good ones, whose thrown up air for you repeatedly in the past?

Moreover, on said issue of trust, I recall that 2004 game fairly well, because at the time I couldn't understand why SVG didn't have Dwyane Wade, his best player, on the court for the final play. We knew that Stan was playing the percentages, and that Wade at that time was a very poor and low volume 3-pt shooter, but I figured -- and still believe -- that you have to give the young kid a chance to become a star. Much like the Lakers put the ball Kobe's hands in the early years only to have him throw up airballs, everyone needs a chance to fail so that they learn how to succeed. Basic life stuff. But hey, can you blame a guy for doing whatever he can to give his team what he thinks is the best shot to win, in this era where coaches are on the shortest of leashes?

It's not panic; SVG simply goes with who he trusts, for better or for worse. Anybody who watched the Magic between November and February knows how much trust Jameer has built up with his coach. And anybody who truly follows the NBA knows from where the coach's shaky trust in Skip to my Lou stems. But what should I expect. These are the same people that can't figure out simple concepts like "home" and "away" to mitigate their confusion over Rafer's supposedly-inconsistent shooting from game to game in the past two Magic series. (Here's a hint folks: look out for a pretty little '@' symbol.)

Mind you, I too was sitting there wondering why SVG had Rafer on the bench in the final quarter (granted, I had missed the 3rd quarter and didn't watch it until later on replay), so I don't actually agree with said decision. But disagreeing with a decision over ideology and history is completely different than stooping to say someone is panicking.

Mr. Witless wants SVG to stop coaching with his heart and his hunches. If he actually had any sense of SVG's coaching history, he might begin to grasp that this may be exactly what SVG is doing. Riding a player who hasn't seen regular action since February is quite a risky decision, no doubt. But riding a Rafer who is well within rhythm hasn't exactly paid dividends for SVG in the past either.

But then, you wouldn't expect someone who doesn't cover the NBA specifically to remember such historical nuances. You know what they say: jack of all trades, master of none.

Speaking of the Big Quote-machine...

There was a rather scathing -- and, sadly, spot on true -- article about the Big Former Superman over on Yahoo! Sports a few days ago. Among other things, it accused Shaq of being immature, and insecure with his legacy as he enters the twilight of his career. Anyone whose watched Shaq over the past 2 season with an objective eye can atest to basically every word in the article. Did Michael Jordan ever take shots at Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, and all the other suspected heirs to his throne? We all know Jordan is a lot of things, but insecure certainly ain't one of them. Is Scottie Pippen twittering about how Lamar Odom is stealing his game and doing everything that he "invented"?

In any case, apparently word of said article got back to Mr. Shaqtus, who naturally couldn't resist pulling out his crackberry and firing off a scathing retort:
"O my yahoo sports wrote a bad article abt me , I'm gonna cry , yea rt, wanna kno the real its comn frm my shaqberry I'm da reporter now"
Like, umm, ok. Shaq, are you serious? Seriously, are you serious here? This is your reply to someone calling you immature? Matter of fact, why are you replying at all? Haven't we all heard about the biggest sports stars -- the Alex Rodriguez's of the world -- making it a point to not read the newspapers? Much less reply to them? I mean, Shaq, Yahoo! Sports? Did you not see the quote from the most-revered of statesmen, the one Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, telling the world that he sometimes "wonders about [your] maturity"?

Shaq, you're too big and too respected a figure to be shattering it all like this in your waning years. Don't go out like this big man. You did your thing, and have left (and are still leaving) your legacy for all to see. No one's trying to steal your shine or your past; it stands on its own. You did your thing, now others are doing theirs. End of story.

Cause if you really aren't immature, you certainly have a funny way of showing it -- again, and again, and again again.

What in the France is going on here?

I know Americans aren't the best when it comes to geography, but I'm getting a bit annoyed at seeing repeated references to Mickael Pietrus' being "born in France." Umm, excuse me, is Guadeloupe too difficult a word to type? Does anyone tell us that Tim Duncan was born in the United States? Do hurricanes hit England? Did Natalie Holloway disappear in the Netherlands? Can one of our little islands get some love?

Hail up Guadeloupe, birthplace of the Orlando Magic's Mickael Pietrus. I mean, it's only the place where he grew up, was educated, and learned to play basketball well enough to go straight to a European Junior League at 15 years of age. Silly little specifics that those might be.

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