Friday, November 20, 2009

The Curious Case Of Stephen Jackson

Brad Pitt's one of those actors that I used to like who I now find incredibly irritating. Seriously, watching that guy act is like being forced to eat canned beets. What the fuck happened? He used to be pretty good, or at least I remember him being good in Se7en, Twelve Monkeys, Fight Club, Thelma and Louise. Anyway, my point is that I used to like Brad Pitt and now I don't.

I feel the same exact same way about Stephen Jackson.

When Jackson was a young player trying to make it in the league with New Jersey and San Antonio, I rooted for him. He'd already played in the CBA and for several clubs overseas. I admired his heart and determination. His 'former gang member does good' storyline was compelling, as well. When he won a ring with the Spurs, I was happy for him (or at least as happy as I can be seeing the Spurs win titles). Even though he was the team's third leading scorer in the playoffs, San Antonio didn't want him back and let him walk to the Hawks as a free agent.

He blossomed into an excellent player in Atlanta. The team thanked him by trading him to Indiana for Al Harrington.

Why all the movement? Because he was starting to develop a rep for being a headcase.

He played his best ball for the Pacers. The nucleus of Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest and Jax was imposing. And if you recall, Indy had the league's best record in 2004 and a sizable lead over defending champ Detroit on the road. Then Artest pushed Big Ben, precipitating The Malice At The Palace. Artest got most of the camera time but Jax was throwing haymakers at those fans, just knocking fools out left and right. Then he got into another melee at a strip club and got punched in the face and run over by a car.

Traded again, this time to Golden State. Again, he plays well, well enough that he winds up as team captain. The Warriors first round upset of Dallas in 2007 is legendary but in reality, that was a .500 team that barely made the post-season. It was a fluke. When they basically swapped Baron Davis for Cory Maggette (duh), the Dubs went from mediocre to lousy in a hurry.

Now a veteran (and a captain), Jax felt entitled for the first time in his entire career. He rebelled against the front office. He demanded a trade. He said he was as good as Kobe Bryant. Yes, he actually said that.

Talk about someone who doesn't handle success well. Geesh.

Traded to Charlotte for Raja Bell and Vlade Radmanovic. From the looks of things, it appears Larry Brown is handing over the reins to Jackson as team leader from the jump. In two games (both losses), he's led the team in minutes and turnovers.

I'd like to think Jax has one more surprise up his sleeve, that he could actually impress me again. Maybe not. Brad Pitt certainly hasn't. I wouldn't mind seeing 'em both retire.

Pictured: Jax explains the Guns For Jesus tat

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Pretty Sure Brandon Jennings Is Not Jesus

I watched Brandon Jennings destroy Golden State's 'defense' with multiple long, uncontested threes and thought to myself, "Are they ever gonna at least try to get a hand in his face?" I mean, the Warriors guards were going under every high pick and roll, even after the kid was on fire. Pathetic D. Really, really bad. Another thing I noticed was that many of his other buckets were off-balance floaters or scoops off of one foot, ordinarily low percentage shots. Even though he put up 55, I didn't see any dominant qualities. I saw a player get red hot while the other team did nothing to slow him down- no hard fouls, no going at him on the other end, NO GOING OVER THE TOP OF GODDAMN SCREENS- nothing good teams do to neutralize a shooter.

Because of the 55, the blogosphere is hyping Jennings like crazy. Every story is either a fluff piece or a condemnation of teams that passed on him on in the draft. Everyone seems to think he's a shoo-in for the ROY Award, despite the fact that this is still November. Whatever.

I'd like to point out some things about Jennings that seem to be getting glossed over. First, he's been feasting on a really soft schedule. The only good teams the Bucks have played so far are Dallas and Denver. Secondly, he's averaging almost 4 TOs a game. Third, he still can't guard anyone. And lastly, he's only doing all this shooting because Mike Redd's injured. He won't have the same green light once the team's leading scorer returns.

To his credit, I will say that Jennings is already one of the quickest players in the game. His handle and court vision are also impressive. But to imply that he's dominant already is pure hype. Let's see what he does against Boston, Orlando or Cleveland's defense before we put a crown on his head.

Pictured: Young Money

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Ten games is enough to judge an NBA team by. And while many injuries, trades and firings are still to come, it's pretty apparent already who's got a realistic chance at the ring this year. And who doesn't.

Boston and LA are head and shoulders above everyone else. Yes, I'm aware that Denver just beat LA by 20. Did Pau play in that game? Nope. In fact, with Gasol in the lineup, LA wins about 80% of the time. That's insane. Boston's killing everyone, too; their average margin of victory is over twelve. Also insane. Orlando, Cleveland, Portland, Denver, Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix have been impressive. Jury's still out on everyone else but I gotta give props to Skiles and Spoelstra for exceeding expectations so far.

Welcome back, Bobby Simmons! The official harbinger of doom for any franchise, Simmons is seeing plenty of action for the winless Nets. Across the river, D'Antoni's Knicks have already lost six of seven at MSG. With Aussie Shaq (AKA Nathan Jawai) leading the way, Rambis' Wolves are getting clobbered by 14 a night. The Grizz are equally atrocious, predictably. Traditional powerhouses San Antonio and Utah have been underwhelming thus far.

What the fuck's going on in New Orleans? The first half of last night's Blazers/Hornets game was some of the worst basketball I've ever seen. Terrible shooting. No structure. No plays. No timeouts. No coaching. If Byron Scott was watching that game, I guarantee he was laughing his ass off. Meanwhile, the hate continues to simmer in Oakland, where every player on the team probably has money on how long it'll take Jax to go Spree on Donny Boozeface.

Pictured: Bay Area BFFs

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shark Jumpers Of The NBA

The expression 'jumping the shark' usually refers to a defining moment when something/someone/someplace has turned a corner, gone from great to awful, relevant to meaningless, and can never be reconciled or repaired again.

Last year, we saw AI tumble from grace during his disastrous stint with the lying, deceitful Detroit Pistons, who promised him a rose garden and gave him a public reaming instead. This year, the Grizzlies made a big show of introducing him, sold some tickets, then stuck him on the bench. Predictably, he flipped out, made a fool of himself, and is currently no longer with the team. Or the league, for that matter. Funny to think that two years ago, Iverson had a 50 point game with Denver.

Elton Brand's doing some hardcore sharkjumping of his own at the moment. Looking slower than a tree sloth and about as athletic as Chuck Nevitt, Brand's disappearing before our very eyes, eclipsed by the emerging Marreese Speights. I don't understand why Philly brought Brand there in the first place. It's a team full of slashers who want to run and attack the rim. The last thing they need is a lumbering, undersized big clogging up the paint.

Don Nelson has the rare opportunity to become the winningest and most hated coach in history DURING THE SAME SEASON. This year's Warriors are dreadful and he appears to be doing absolutely zero coaching, unless you count stunting the growth of Anthony Randolph and Anthony Morrow as some kind of tough-love psychological ploy.

Gilbert Arenas had a 12 turnover game last night. Yeah. His 2-6 Wizards, despite hiring Flip Saunders and adding Randy Foye, are still garbage. Yes, they're missing Antawn Jamison but it's not like they're losing nail-biters; they're getting their asses kicked by double digits every night. And when that happens, players making 100 million bucks tend to get blamed. And traded.

Not hearing too many people referring to (the corpse formally known as) James Posey as a 'glue guy' anymore. Dude's a mannequin out there. A ghost. I ripped Danny Ainge for letting him go after Boston won the ring two years ago. My bad. It doesn't feel good to admit that Danny Ainge is smarter than I am. It burns, actually. It burns.

Mike Bibby said before the season that he was going to be more of a facilitator this year. Maybe he doesn't know what the word 'facilitate' means because he's averaging less than 4 assists and getting routinely roasted by every opposing player he 'guards.' His minutes are evaporating as shot-happy Jamal Crawford fills in the void. Because the team is 5-2, the Atlanta fans aren't calling for Bibby's head...yet. But there's no question his game and desire have fallen off a freaking cliff.

Speaking of fans (or lack thereof), I'm seeing some pretty large sections of empty seats in almost every arena, even for teams that are doing well. And the season's less than a month old. Not a good sign. Instead of focusing on individual players who've jumped the shark, maybe I should be talking about the entire league outside of Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Portland, Dallas and LA.

Pictured: OG Shark Jumper, Fonzie (and bitchen action figure)