Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Loose Balls- Tuesday

*Yao might be done for next season and possibly his entire career, according to Bucher. Barring a trade, it looks like Houston will have to play Scola at center, not a winning formula in the ultra-competitive West where it'll take 45-50 wins to get into the postseason again.

*Carlos Boozer is supposedly weighing his options, trying to decide whether or not to opt out of his contract with Utah. C'mon. Of course he will. That's what he does. It's in his nature. The scorpion will always sting the frog and Carlos Boozeface will always bail out and break your team's heart.

UPDATE: Boozer just announced he's staying for another year...THEN he'll leave for more money. My bad.

*NY's plan to lure LeBron away from Cleveland next year is not going well. At all. Anyone really think a lineup of Darko, Duhon, Wilson Chandler, Lil' Nate and David Lee is going to turn his head? Me, neither. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the Cavs squad that LBJ inherited as a rook.

*By dumping Vince Cancer, the (Brooklyn) Nets have reduced their 2010 payroll to $38.

*Shaquille O'Neal changes the gameplan for Cleveland. On offense, he'll get a chance to initiate plays from the low post, kicking out to spot up shooters or dumping the ball in to cutters. This likely means less wear and tear on LeBron, which is a good thing. Shaq's propensity for attacking the rim will also draw more fouls on opposing centers (Dwight Howard, specifically) than having Big Z shooting 20-footers. This is also a plus. They'll still have problems defending the P&R but overall, a good move by Ferry (can't believe I just typed that).

*Hedo Turkoglu reportedly turned down a 35/mil extension to stay in Orlando. The club obviously saw this coming or they wouldn't have gone after VC. Most sportwriters seem to think this improves the Magic. I disagree. Turk's ability to initiate the offense and shoot over the top of the high screen/roll is why they beat Cleveland. I don't think that they should have given Hedo 10 mil or anything but now they're spending max money on one of the worst locker room guys in NBA history. FAIL.

*Lots of buzz about Portland's interest in Turk. Seems like a bad fit to me. Turk's best with the rock in his hands. So's Brandon Roy. Why would Pritchard overspend for a spot-up shooter and poor defender who's already 30 years old? I like Turk but not at the money he'll be asking for. KP needs to save that cash for a top-tier point guard. No, I don't mean Andre Miller.

*The Indiana Pacers chose dorky white guy Tyler Hansbrough in the lottery. Psycho T joins Dunleavy, Murphy, Diener, Foster, McRoberts and Nesterovic to form the dorkiest, whitest roster in recent memory (holla back, Minneapolis Lakers). AND they're still looking to move Marquis Daniels and Tinsley. That's two more open spots for slow-footed Caucasians! A name change seems in order. The Indiana Puffy Clouds. Or maybe The Indiana White Knights. Goathair from Blowtorch might suggest The Hans-Bros.

Pictured: Bird's wet dream team

Friday, June 26, 2009

Draftermath '09- Death, Drunks & Disappointment

What a weird fucking day. Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett died. Jeff Goldblum supposedly died. Shaq was traded to Cleveland. Vince Carter was shipped to Orlando for Alston/Lee/Battie.

Then the Draft happened.

One of the first things David Stern did onstage was congratulate the Lakers for their championship. Predictably, the rowdy (and most certainly shitfaced) MSG crowd booed lustily.

Stern rolled his eyes and sighed, "It's gonna be a great night."

The drunken douchebaggery didn't stop there. The mob broke into a classless 'USA!' chant when Minny took Rubio at #5. They howled in agony when Golden State snatched dreamy Stephen Curry away from them at #7. And they went positively apeshit when Jordan Hill was announced as the Knicks selection at #8. Poor Hill was visibly shaken when he took the stage for his subsequent handshake and interview. Then he started spouting out bitter, defensive answers like "I don't care" and "I just have to do what I do" and I wondered if any relationship between player and fans had every soured so quickly.

Milwaukee took Brandon Jennings at #10 but the kid wasn't even in the building at the time. Afraid of experiencing a humiliating Rashard Lewis Tumble, Jennings opted to watch the event on TV from a nearby location and then rush to the studio when/if his name was called.

Jrue Holiday should have done the same thing. Two weeks ago, mock drafts had him going as high as 3rd to the Superstolens. With his entire family cringing and weeping, the PG project from UCLA fell all the way to #17. To his credit, he didn't shed any tears, even as he saw millions of dollars evaporating before his eyes.

DeJuan Blair met with a similar fate. Projected as a lottery pick, the beefy PF from Pitt slid all the way to the Spurs at #37, taken behind some dudes named Christian Eyenga and Sergio Llull. Yikes.

Now that's what I call getting dunked on by Patrick Chewing.

Hopefully, these broken-hearted kids can use the snubs as motivation to prove their critics wrong. After all, things seemed to have worked out OK for Rashard Lewis.

As the now-departed King Of Pop famously said, 'No one wants to be defeated.'

Pictured: Jacko checking MJ, or maybe just ogling his junk

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Draft: Some Players Missing The Point

The Year Of The Point Guard. That's what the experts are labeling Thursday's NBA Draft. And while Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson most certainly ARE true point guards, there are several other impostors masquerading as floor generals for the sake of driving up their stock value.

Tyreke Evans is absolutely not a point guard. Neither is Jrue Holiday. Stephen Curry played one season of point at Davidson against mostly weak competition and while he racked up some big assist numbers, he also turned the ball over at an outlandish rate.

So why the smoke screen? Because 'tweeners and wing players are a dime a dozen while really good PGs are hard to find. At least that's the perception. It's the same reason that anyone over 6'8 tries to pass themselves off as a center. Remember when Kevin Love was considered a center? It's a joke.

The positional dupe also buries potential defensive dilemmas. For instance, if Curry isn't a point, then you (the nervous GM) have to ask yourself if he has the size and strength to guard 2s. Um, not really.

Many are already calling 2009 the worst draft in recent memory, and considering the Bargnani 2006 Debacle, that's really saying something.

So what's so scary about this year's crop?

One thing that stands out about 2009 is how few players have obvious positions. Blake Griffin is a legit PF, no question. Rubio, as I said, is a PG. He can't shoot but he's a natural distributor who sees the floor well, even if he is prone to playing a little out of control (Jason 'White Chocolate' Williams comes to mind). James Harden is a natural 2 with NBA range, a combo of Paul Pierce and Mike Redd. He'll be fine. But after those three, 2009's got issues, which is why Thursday might set a record for most teams trading down.

Then you've got Hasheem Thabeet, whose only talent literally IS his height. He's a center, just not a very good one. Some sucker is about to waste a lottery pick on the next Erick Dampier.

If I'm a GM, the only guys from this draft I'm interested in are Griffin, Harden and Flynn. If I can't get one of those guys, I'm swapping out my pick for a crack at the class of '10.

See also: 5 rules for drafting in the lottery.

Pictured: Evans and his 1/1 TO vs Asst ratio

Friday, June 19, 2009

Best Seat In The House

I went through the final regular season stats and looked at each NBA team to determine who played THE LEAST MINUTES in the NBA for the 2008 campaign.

To put things in perspective, Andre Iguodala lead the league in minutes played with 3,269 (over 82 games).

1. Steven Hill (OKC)- 2 minutes
2. Marcus Williams (SA)- 3 minutes*
3. Martell Webster (Por)- 5 minutes before shutting it down for the season with a foot injury
4. Joey Dorsey (Hou)- 6 minutes
5. JR Giddens (Bos)- 8 minutes (2/3 FGs, 3 reb, 1 stl- not bad)
6. James White (Hou)- 11 minutes (3/5 FGs, 1/2 3pts, 1 blk, 1 stl- even better)
7. Trey Johnson (Cle)- 14 minutes
8. Speedy Claxton (Atl)- 15 minutes
9. Nathan Jawai (Tor)- 19 minutes, not much run for Aussie Shaq
10. Blake Ahearn (SA)- 19 minutes

It should also be noted that infamous gay-basher Shavlik Randolph, who played a mere 27 minutes to qualify for last season's list, took an astronomical leap up to a whopping 37 total minutes this season after his trade from Philly to Portland. Sometimes, a player just needs a change of scenery to flourish.

*not to be confused with GS PG Marcus Williams, who only got 54 minutes of burn this year. Note to parents: if you want your son to grow up to be an NBA superstar, don't name him Marcus Williams.

Pictured: The Williams On-Court Pose, rarely seen

Monday, June 15, 2009

Redemption For Lamar Odom

He was gone. There was a different Lamar Odom trade rumor every day. For Shawn Marion. Ron Artest. Jason Kidd. Richard Jefferson. Gerald Wallace. The walking corpse known as Jermaine O'Neal. Brad Miller even popped up, exemplifying just how underappreciated Odom was in the Laker organization. Brad Fucking Miller? Yeah.

Then there was the well-publicized move to the 6th man spot, a transition that Odom openly bristled about initially before accepting his role for the good of the team.

And all this in the shadow of his child's tragic death.

Well, five years after coming to LA (with Caron Butler) in the blockbuster Shaq trade with Miami, Lamar Odom is a champion. Say what you want about the man (he eats too much candy!) but there's no arguing that he's a winner.

He's also a 2009 unrestricted free agent, which means if the team wants to keep him, they're going to have to shell out the big bucks. With starting SF Trevor Ariza also up for a new contract, this puts the brass in a tough spot. Chances are they don't pony up the dough needed to keep both of these guys. If this does turn out to be the last time we see Lamar in a Lakers jersey, it's fitting that he'll be remembered for hoisting the trophy and not pounding entire bags of Now and Laters.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fish And Ariza Tear Magic's Heart Out

Wow. Derek Fisher nailed an ice-cold 3 with 4.6 seconds left to send Game 4 into OT and then drained another huge bomb in the extra session to close out a thrilling 99-91 Lakers victory over the wobbly Magic who, quite honestly, just fell apart after leading by 12 at half. Greyhound Trevor Ariza took over the game in the 3rd on both ends of the floor, keying a 30-14 advantage in the quarter that put LA in control.

Just a classic, classic game...unless you're an Orlando fan, in which case you probably want to stick your head in the oven today.


Dwight Howard bricked 8 out of 14 freebies, including two that would have iced the game in regulation. He also turned the ball over 7 times. Van Panic continued to destroy the confidence of his young guards by fucking with their minutes, this time playing Jameer Nelson the entire 4th quarter and OT while starting point Rafer Alston sat on the bench and waited...and waited...and waited. Courtney Lee, another starter, got just 7 minutes of burn.

The strangest (and most compelling) aspect to this game is that Orlando actually looked invincible in the first half. Howard, who finished with a ridiculous 15 pt/21 reb/9 block (a Finals record) stat line, absolutely dominated the first 24 minutes. He single-handedly got Bynum, Pau and Lamar in early foul trouble. Things got so bad that at one point, Phil Jackson was playing a lineup of Farmar, Walton, Kobe, Ariza and DJ Mbenga. I actually found myself wishing LA still had Kwame Brown. No, I'm not kidding. I started having flashbacks of Game 6 against Boston and Game 5 against Detroit in 2004. Every long contested jumper that Kobe Nowitzki missed (he finished 11-31) gave me more of a sinking feeling. At 2:48 of the 1st quarter, the cameras showed a close-up of Howard and he had this look on his face that was the epitome of cockiness. He knew LA couldn't stop him. I was afraid, very afraid. The only positive in LA's favor was that Orlando kept turning the ball over, allowing the Lakers to stay withing striking distance.

During the ABC Halftime Show, Magic Johnson lit into LA: 'The Lakers are playing no defense! The game plan is to beat Orlando!' Thanks, Captain Obvious. I've always found it strange that Johnson, who's currently a high-ranking Laker official, is providing commentary. Reminds me of when CBS use to have Tom Heinsohn work the Celtics games in the 80s. About as biased as you can get, really.

The third quarter started with Fish and Ariza in every passing lane, diving on the floor for every loose ball. Kobe snatched a rebound away from Superboy and then threw the big man off of him, drawing an over-the-back foul. When Howard attempted to make peace, Kobe told him to 'shut up' and then calmly drained the FTs. The crowd started chanting 'refs suck' which I found ironic after all the touch (or nonexistent) fouls that were called on LA's bigs in the first half.

Then the game started getting really physical. Howard stopped his goofy smiling thing for the first time this postseason. Pietrus smacked Gasol in the grill on a rebound. Fisher talked shit to Rashard Lewis.

The added drama fueled the Lakers and rattled the Magic.

Down the stretch, Hedo Turkoglu missed 3/4 FTs. Ariza hit a bailout 3 as the :24 clock expired. And then, with the Nick Anderson Curse permeating the building, Howard clanged that pair with :11 seconds to go, setting the stage for Fisher's dagger.

In OT, the Tragic folded like a cheap tent. The biggest play was an ill-advised tap out by Rashard Lewis that went straight to a streaking (yes, streaking!) Pau Gasol for dunk to put the Lakers up 96-91 with :21 left.

So, does Orlando have anything in the tank? Can they muster the heart to win 3 straight, including two on the road, against a team that just bitch-slapped them?

Not if Fisher and Ariza have anything to say about it.

Fish: 'Thousand bucks says he misses these free throws'

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Game 3: Lakers Lackadaisical D

Well, THAT was predictable. After taking entire games off in the Denver and Houston series, you just knew this was coming. But allowing 62.5% from the floor, for fuck's sake? That's a disgrace. That's just not trying hard enough. The consistent knock on these Lakers is their cavalier attitude on the road, their lack of a killer instinct. After this anemic effort, the 'soft' label seems appropriate again. If a team shoots 62.5% against you, trust me, you're fucking soft.

The good news for LA fans is that Orlando's pretty soft, too. This is the third game in a row that the Magic D has given up 100+ in the Finals. Much has been made about Lee's D on Kobe, but Kobe wasn't asserting himself, preferring to Dirk it for most of the game, chucking up long jumpers, fading away, avoiding the paint like he was allergic to it. He bailed the rook out, basically.

And where was Bynum? 4 boards, no blocks.

Why didn't Odom post up until the 4th?

And what's up with all the missed FTs? 16-26. Yuck. Consider this: Orlando shot better from the field than LA did from the line.

Van Panic's rotation strategy continues to amaze. Alston played big minutes, Nelson barely saw the court (and his first action was to start the 4th- great coaching there). After playing 27 minutes in Game 2, Redick didn't get off the pine. SVP also gave the lion's share of backup center minutes to Tony Battie instead of Gortat, I suppose because Battie has better range on his jumpshot. Traditional wisdom says that clearly defined roles bring out the best in players. Well, other than Dwight, Turk and Rashard, nobody on this team has a clue what the hell their respective roles are.

So what does all this mean?

Probably that Game 4 will be more physical. Both coaches have to be chastising their teams for the atrocious D so far. If the Lakers hold true to form, they bounce back with an inspired effort and win Game 4.

Pictured: Bynum, last seen at Staples three days ago.

Monday, June 8, 2009

If Lee's Shot Goes In...

If Courtney Lee's layup goes in, everyone's talking today about what a genius Stan Van Gundy is, how Orlando has a chance to close this out at home. Instead, the rookie bricks the bunny and the Tragic are down 2-0 and looking shaky and discombobulated. Their morale is horrible. Rafer Alston's scared shitless, Jameer Nelson's wondering if he made a mistake by coming back, Anthony Johnson is seething and Dwight Howard probably won't pass the ball to anyone not named Hedo or Rashard for the rest of the series.

If Lee's layup goes in, there's no second-guessing Van Panic for playing JJ Redick 27 minutes and all of overtime. I mean, seriously, what the fuck was he thinking? Redick. That'd be like if Phil suddenly decided to give 27 minutes to Sasha.

If Lee's layup goes in, Orlando's strategy of going big is a 'key' and a 'solution' to the Lakers D. Pau Gasol is 'soft' again. Seriously, it's that fine a line.

But, as we all know, Lee's two-foot chippy missed by a foot and as a result, Orlando's outlook is pretty bleak. They've now lost six Finals games in a row. They have zero chemistry. They have zero momentum. They also have very little Finals experience (what's up, Tyronn Lue?).

On the positive side, the Tragic can take some solace in the fact that they played the Lakers tough, at least. They competed. They showed up, which certainly wasn't the case in those pitiful last three quarters of Game 1. And LA has been known to let teams back into series after assuming commanding leads, most notably the 3-1 chokejob against Phoenix a few years back when Raja Ball gave Kobe that forearm shiver to the throat. Apologies to die-hard Laker fans for bringing that up.

Orlando ain't done. Howard's got at least one monster game in him. LA's been gambling by playing Lamar and Pau on him at times but that's not a strategy that'll work long-term, especially at Amway Arena where the refs aren't gonna blow the whistle when Superboy throws elbows or barrels over people. The refs also won't call any offensive fouls on Hedo for his patented push-off. And most importantly, they won't give Kobe FTs for that touch foul on Lewis in OT.

If Houston and Denver both crushed LA on their homecourts, I see no reason why Orlando won't do the same. And 2-0 isn't insurmountable, by any means. It just doesn't sound as good as 1-1 with the next three at home. I'm sure Lee would agree.

Van Panic: 'No, JJ, don't make that pass! NOOOOOOOOOOO!'

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Loose Balls- Saturday

*Has there every been a worse year for NBA on-camera 'talent'? Mark Jackson, Reggie Miller, Cheryl Miller, Gary Payton, Doris Burke, Craig Sager, Chris Webber- EPIC FAIL. And honestly, the Kenny and Charles thing is pretty tired, too.

*Orlando's adjustments for Game 2: more touches for Howard, make Kobe work on D.

*Man, I'm so happy that the season's over for Dahntay, JR, Birdman and KMart. What a bunch of tools. I won't miss George Karl's fat face, either.

*Does Cleveland's collapse make it more likely that Lebron bolts? Can Ferry add another piece (no, not Charlie Villa-fucking-nueva) to put them over the top?

Pictured: The Millers- great with a basketball, brutal with a microphone