Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I Am So Sick Of Saving All Star Weekend. Fine. One More Time. But Pay Attention This Time.

Alright, NBA, listen up, because I am only going to say this once. Do you have something to write with? Because you might want to jot this down. A tape recorder? Even better. Hit the little red button and pay attention:

All-Star weekend sucks. It sucks. No one cares. You ruined it. I already tried to tell you this, but you didn't listen. Idiots, every last one of you. And you know what the worst part is? No, you don't even know, do you? Good God, why don't you sit down for a sec, NBA. This might be harder than I thought.

The NBA All-Star game is the only All-Star game in professional sports that has any chance of being remotely entertaining. The only one. And yet you still screw it up. Your marquee event is the dunk contest. All you have to do is not make it suck, and you've got a ratings bonanza. But somehow you turned what should be a once-a-year spectacle of unbelievable athleticism and power and grace and "holy shit that was awesome!" into something that drew more interest because of who was judging it and was completely overshadowed by a fat ex-player who should probably be in a Gamblers Anonymous meeting racing a 102-year-old referee who was thisclose to shattering both his hips on live television.

I ask you: how the hell do you do that?!?! Really, how? You had to try pretty hard, didn't you? I don't imagine something like that is easy.

Listen, it is too late for the dunk contest. It's over. It has lost any momentum it ever had because you made it stupid. And screw this "players don't want to get embarrassed if they lose" crap. Tracy McGrady got absolutely owned by Vince Cater and he just started for the West All-Stars and is an MVP candidate. No one seems to mind that he lost to VC in a dunk contest; his shoe deal and street cred are still in tact. The reason no one wants to do it because it is stupid. Plain and simple.

So here is what you do: let the players tape their dunks and then let them submit them. Oh you don't think that'll work? Well then why are those two videos of Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard practicing their dunks infinitely more popular than the actual dunk contest? Let's take a look, shall we?

Here's Nate Robinson, who by all accounts has done more to ruin the dunk contest than any single person outside of the Birdman:

You know what? That was some cool shit right there. Nate Robinson currently has the rep of an immature gunner who acted like a complete punk when he single-handedly instigated the nastiest brawl of the season less than a year after taking roughly 472 attempts to win the dunk contest while screwing over a completely unprecedented dunk in the process and in that video he came off as likable. Read that again: after all he did, Nate Robinson came off as likable.

Now, why is that? Well, maybe it was because he could explain what he was going to do, which might reduce the awe factor a tad, but at least the judges will know what the hell they are looking at, which would be in start contrast to anything this year's judges could claim. Plus, we get to see him pull off his best dunk in just one try, making it unspeakably more impressive than if we had just watched him screw the pooch for the umpteenth time in a row. And last but not least, he does some creative, venue-specific stuff that should be rewarded.

So, to recap: he performs some new dunks in which we have a slight idea of what to expect and he aids some local flair for good measure. Ooooooooooooor we get to see him try just one of those dunks, screw it up Lord knows how many times and then screw over a much, much more deserving competitor for the second year in a row.

Moving on...Here's Dwight Howard practicing his dunk contest repertoire:

Is there anyone in America who would prefer watching the actual dunk contest to just this clip? Anyone? Show of hands? My God, Dwight...leave the rim alone. First he kisses it and hammers one home and then he smacks his head off it.

So here is what we do. Anyone in the NBA who wants to be in can be in. Submissions have to be due the week before All-Star weekend. Edit 'em up, put some music to 'em, whatever. Then TNT will show them all at once on live TV and then once it is over - once we have seen every tape - America gets to call in and decide who wins.

This fixes every problem with the dunk contest. To wit:

  • No more rounds. This eliminates the whole "saving of dunks" things. We didn't even get to see Dwight Howard's best stuff this year. Shame.
  • No more judges. Clearly, these guys either don't know what they are talking about or don't care. This is two years in a row the best dunker has lost; at least the other AI made the finals two years ago. One year may be a fluke, but clearly rounds and judges aren't the best way to decide who the best dunker is. America sees them all and then decides. Quick and easy.
  • We don't have to watch people screw dunks up over and over. This in itself should seal the deal.
  • We get to see some really creative stuff that the NBA would otherwise never allow - like dunking on 12-foot-rims or over Playboy bunnies sitting at a poker table - like either one of those wouldn't have brought the house down.
The only downside I am seeing here is we lose a little of the spontaneity. We lose some of the "in the moment." But whenever a dunker does something we haven't seen before - D-Ho and the other AI - they aren't even rewarded for it. So what's the point, really?

Besides, what's more impressive: doing something with no expectations attached? or having to live up to the hype surrounding unreal expectations? Let's say word got out that Dwight Howard was going to kiss the rim this year. Well, that really doesn't give the dunk away, does it? How would he do that? What would it look like? Can someone even do that? If anything, it makes it a more of a must-see event.

Airing taped dunks actually ups the expectations, like how teachers grade harder on take home tests. More people would get involved, too, I think. And with more and more people entered, the "embarrassment" of losing becomes less of a stigma, too - hey, you can always blame it on the idiot fans voting online who don't know what they are talking about. You know, the same fans who vote Shaw into the starting line-up every year.

Read the Rest After the Jump...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I Have No Idea Why I Am Doing This. It Will Not Be Worth It.

Alright, it has been a while. I know - my bad, my bad. I was trying to think of a way to make it up to you - yes, specifically you - and this is what I came up with. If this doesn't do it, I have no idea what will. Enjoy.

There are a fair few things ESPN does that really grinds my gears - among others: showing 30 seconds of highlights and then letting two yahoos argue about them for six minutes; showing the last two minutes of PTI five minutes into Sports Center; Mike Patrick - but near the top off the list is when they show basketball players spraining their ankles with no warning whatsoever.

Why do they show that? Does anyone want to see that? All it does is make anyone whoever sprained their ankle recoil in horror and relive the first time they sprained their own ankle for the next five minutes. (I've sprained my ankle so many times that it barely hurts anymore - I can't decide if that's a bad or good thing - but that first time is just indescribable. It hurt worse than when I broke my elbow. You can't think or blink;it is just an all-consuming pain. Also, upon rereading those last two sentences, I don't think I am as coordinated as I once thought.)

It has to be the worst thing ESPN does. Well, besides Mike Patrick. Just to be safe, I turn the channel anytime Bruce Bowen is near a jump shooter (because he's a dirty, dirty prick, that's why).

I had to ask myself, though: Am I being a huge skirt about all of this? I mean, it's just a sprained ankle, it isn't me getting actually hurt...what's the big deal? I have no problem watching quarterbacks being obliterated and suffering concussions or Sean Taylor lighting up some defenseless punter in the Pro Bowl. So why can't I stomach a little sprained ankle? I think I need to get over this. Confront my fears, if you will. Ya know, sky dive to overcome a fear of heights.

Well, apparently, there have been two horrific injuries recently - Brain Butch got his elbow bent the wrong way and something undesirable happened to Shaun Livingston's knee cap. I say apparently because I have been more scared than Tim Hardaway at a Gay Pride rally to watch these two clips. (Yes! My first Tim Hardaway joke! Felt good, felt real good.)

So here's what I propose to get back into your good graces: I'm gonna watch them for the first time and then immediately post my reactions. This idea is so dumb it just might work.

I'm gonna level with you: I am scared out of my mind right now. I really, really can't stomach this type of stuff. I have no idea how I am going to get through this. Wait - what would Jack from LOST do? He'd give the fear five seconds to do its worst, and then he'd laugh sarcastically at someone, that's what he'd do. Seems to work for him. Here goes...






First up: Brian Butch's elbow injury. Let's see...

OK, not too bad so far...view is from far away....someone for Wisconsin just got knocked over. I think it was Butch...OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! His arm is the wrong way! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! I have to rub my elbow furiously for the next five minutes, hang on...OK, I'm back...ah screw it, I need to massage my arm some more....Did you see the look on his face? I made the exact same face. Shit, I'm still making it. He was in total shock. He looks at the ref like, "Do you see this shit!?!! Look at my arm! Look at it! I look like I am permanently doing the robot! Are you currently seeing the horrificness that I am currently experiencing? My God, something!"

My hands are shaking...I can barely type. I don't want to see anything like that ever again. OK, video number two!

I'm going to be truthful with you here: I am really, really scared. Very frightened. I feel like that poor guy in Gladiator who pisses his robe before some dude rips his head off with a metal ball that had two-inch spikes sticking out of it. Or Dominic Rhodes in a police car. Either one.

This morning I got an IM telling me to stay away from the clip. Do not watch it under any circumstances. I mean, when someone gets ahold of you just to tell you not to watch something, you probably shouldn't watch it. There are some things that you just can't unsee; I think I am about to see just that. Gulp.

Video: Shaun Livingston Dislocation

Damn, Steve Levy is warning me, too. I like to think he is talking just to me here. Why the hell won't I listen to anyone? Anyways, Shaun Livingston out on the break (Shaun Livingston is one of those guys where you have to say his whole name, isn't he?) he's all alone...really, how bad can this be? AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!


Oh, Sweet Mary, Mother of God. I just went blind and then puked. Or puked and went blind. It all happened so fast I don't even know. All I can see are constant replays on the back of my eyelids of Shaun Livingston's knee wobbling and then snapping like a twig.

I am fairly certain that his knee and ankle were touching the ground at the same time and I am equally certain that God did not intend ankles and knees to touch the ground at the same time. How the hell is he going to go on with his life now? I can't even imagine how scary it is going to be walking down the juice isle at the grocery store; driving through a crowded lane has to to be just about the most fear-inducing thing I can imagine. No one would blame him if he decides basketball just isn't worth it anymore.

Actually, you know what? Screw Shaun Livingston - how am I going to go on with my life? How am I supposed to have a normal day now? How do I get that out of my head? I think I need to go watch that bear on the trampoline like nine thousand times. Or drink heavily.

I can't believe there is an open-court injury that makes Tony Allen's needless dunk

where he shreds his knee for no good reason look harmless by comparison. And since these things tend to come in threes, much like celebrity deaths, who's next? Ty Thomas seems most likely, but I got my money on Brendan Todd Haywood, mainly because I wanted to say Brendan Todd Haywood.

But back to Shaun Livingston: AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

You know what? This whole crap about confronting your fears is bullshit. That's terrible advice. I want no part of anything like this ever again. But then again...maybe you just have to go over the top with it. So that's what we'll do. I've never seen Lawrence Taylor snap Jos Theisman's leg. Really, I haven't. So I'm gonna do it now. I know going in that this is a terrible idea that will absolutely not work and turn me into a shivering idiot for several days. But I'ma do it anyways.

Here we go...

I agree with the announcer: that was a really bad call. I don't feel good at all. This was a terrible experience that wasn't worth it at all. I am going to lay down on a matress surrounded by as many pillows and blankets as possible. And maybe Jack should rethink that whole count to 5 thing...I mean, he's the only one in a cage right now.

What a terrible, terrible idea. Good to be back, though.

Read the Rest After the Jump...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Seven Most Unstoppable Moves in the NBA.

Tony Kornheiser said the other day that the reason people don't watch the NBA is because the players are too good. And to an extent, that is true. NBA players are so good that they really make difficult things look mundane. Casual basketball fans, or even some avid ones, sometimes don't fully understand just how hard some of the things are that these guys do.

And not even things like Vince Carter jumping over some random seven footer or Rip Hamilton running his man off 14 screens before draining a 15-foot jumper, things the average guy sitting on the couch or the bar stool knows he can't do. I mean things just like a guy catching a pass in transition and hitting an open three or someone driving, absorbing contact and still being able to finish. You see them on highlights so much that you just expect it to happen and don't really appreciate it for how difficult it is. Sometimes it doesn't work out, and you'll hear "Oh, c'mon, it was a layup! I coulda made that!" or "He was wide open! What are they paying you for, anyways?"

And do you know who's fault that is? The super-duper stars. They make it look too easy, like they aren't even trying. The king of this is Tracy McGrady, who looks like he would rather be napping insted of scoring 35 on someone. But when those superstars really do try to score, they are unstoppable. No single human being on the planet can stop them. If there was a one-on-one contest in Vegas this weekend among the NBA elite, it would never end, because sans double teams, these guys are scoring every single time. No exceptions. They have moves that are impossible to stop.

So what are these moves, you ask? Well, why don't you just pull up a seat and let me tell you.

Ray Allen's Jumper. Alright, we are starting off with something that really isn't a move, per se, but it is just so damn pretty I had to put it on here. The release is so pure - the wrist just flicks the ball towards the rim, spinning it perfectly. The ball positively tears through the net; there may not be a prettier sound in the world. Whap! Then the ball rests in the nylon for a split second, almost pausing to admire what it has just done, and then falls peacefully to the floor, like it was meant to do nothing else. Poetry, really.

Paul Pierce's Pull Up J. Here's what Pierce does, and so do a lot of other players, but Pierce is the first one I remember doing it regularly, and I think he is the best at it. After he has beaten you to the rim a few times, you're expecting drive again. He dribbles once or twice with the left hand, and then starts the motion to cross over, raising his shoulders and moving his hands to simulate the beginning of the move. It really looks like he's about to cross over, only at the absolute last second, he aborts it and rises fluidly into his jumper. The defender is low and backing up, having recognized the crossover's commencement, and is helpless to rise up and challenge the shot. Pierce gets a clean look at the rim, which he usually buries. Unless you are waiting for it, there is just no way to stop it. Just pray he misses. All you can do.

KG's Baseline Fade Away. Length, athleticism, quickness. Garnett sets his defender up for this beautifully with a quick shoulder twitch to the middle, and by the time the D reacts, he is already spinning towards the baseline. He is so damn long you aren't going to block it anyways, but he is so athletic that he jumps higher and further back than anybody else possibly could in a fade away. Plus, he shoots it well above his head. The separation he gets is phenomenal.

Dwyane Wade's Spin. Perhaps the best move in the world, ever. I mean, how are you supposed to deal with this?

Dirk's Foul Line Fade Away. Kinda like Garnett's, but not really. Garnett is trying to out-athletic you, out jump you. Dirk has no such aspirations; I don't even think he leaves the floor to jump. He just knows that because of his perimeter skills, team's have no choice but to guard him with someone smaller and quicker. So he'll catch the ball on the perimeter, and patiently and methodically work his way to the foul line area. Once he's there, he shows you his back, leans back, and releases. It's that simple, but I don't think I've ever seen it blocked, and he's so good at it it is basically a layup. Maybe in the past you could play him to it, but now he's a threat to get to the rim, too, so good luck.

LeBron's Hesitation. Either in transition or at the top of the key. Really, I just feel bad for the guy in his way. Hell, sometimes two or three people can't stop it because he's such a freight train. Remember him carrying Pistons defenders to the rim in the playoffs last year like he was Mark Bravaro fighting for two extra yards? In transition, he is getting to the rim; all he does is pause for a moment to make the defender think, and then he is blowing right by them. Same thing in the half court: unless you are constantly backing up, he is by you. It is so effective and works because he is so strong. He's strong enough to take the contact from the initial defender and then from the help defender and still finish. If I was guarding him, I would pray he was shooting jumpers that day.

Kobe Bryant's Jab Series. Kobe Bryant is the only player I have ever seen pick up his dribble on the perimeter and then still jab himself enough space to get off his jumper. Seriously. He doesn't even need his dribble to back the defender up. I wish I could explain how he does that, but I really have no idea. Houdini doesn't. When he does have a dribble, fuggitaboudit. He will get to where ever he wants. It really is incredible how far up he backs guys just by jabbing his right foot at them. And it is a threat to happen every single time he catches the ball. Back when he shot every time, he must have scared the shit out of defenders. I mean, he probably still does, but there really isn't the thought of 81 looming over their heads anymore. Scary as hell.

Allen Iverson's Crossover. Yea, I know we aren't breaking any new ground here, and it's been around for a while, but it is still the gold standard of NBA moves. He doesn't do it as much anymore, and he isn't as vicious with it as he used to be (like when he got MJ) but when he does break it out, the defender is worthless. He just gets served, every time. Ask Antonio Daniels. It's like the good china you don't break out for every meal, but when it does come out, you know there is something to get excited about. Plus he has that sweet finish where he will come from the right side, drive past the rim, all the way to the left side of the rim, and then shoot back at the basket, falling away. It has been dissected countless times - remember that commercial with Pat Croce, I think? - but it's worth it. If you want to call it the single most unstoppable move in NBA history, you won't get an argument out of me.

What moves did I leave off the list? I know there's a few...

Read the Rest After the Jump...

LeBron Makes Gilbert Look Foolish. Again.

Well, LeBron responded to Gilbert's accusation that Bron Bron doesn't want the ball late in games, via Brian Windhorst's blog:

"I made two game-winners in the playoffs against him and knocked him out of the playoffs," James said. "I don't understand where he gets that from, that doesn't make sense to me."
Hey, I'm with ya Bronny. I said that same thing. And I can remember LeBron hitting a couple of game winners in the regular season, too.

But this is more about Gilbert than LeBron. There was no way that was going to end by making Gil look anything but foolish. He is just setting himself up to look bad. LeBron didn't really even have to try hard; I mean, it was one of the defining moments of last season's playoffs. They'll be showing that on ESPN's 50K episode.

I'm telling ya Gil - actually, I am begging you - just shut up until the playoffs start. Please. You will have people literally begging for you to say anything. You are just flooding the market right now. if "funny Gilbert quotes" was a stock, it would be plummeting. Create a little demand, eh? (I think I took that from a Dave Chappelle line, but I can't remember which one...)

And it is still crazy Arenas would say that after LeBron scared him into missing those two free throws last year. It really is. Maybe Gil got the whole thing backwards and meant to say it was actually himself who doesn't want the ball, although that doesn't make sense, because he hit a few games winners this year...oh, maybe that's it! Maybe he's all ultra-confident from putting his hands in the air before the ball even went through the net (which was distinctively cool, I must say). But there is a colossal difference between drilling them in January and drilling them in May and June.

We shall see, Gil, we shall see...

(I wonder what the conspicuously quite Zero has to say about all this. If anything sums up P23 and LitP, it is Bronny vs. Agent Zero.)

Read the Rest After the Jump...

Is Tiki Barber Whining? It Sounds Like He Is Whining. Yea, He's Whining.

Could someone please take two minutes out of their day and explain to me the appeal of Tiki Barber? I mean, he's a nice enough guy - I guess - and he doesn't stutter when he talks, which is nice, but what is so unique and desirable about him that he was the centerpiece of a bidding war between NBC and ESPN?

I don't know what other talking heads pull in, but it seems like NBC broke the bank to get Tiki. ESPN offered him 10 mil over 4 years, but he turned that down to do the Today Show and some NFL stuff with NBC for between 2.5 and 3 mil per.

I just don't see what is that overwhelming about the guy. I mean, has anyone ever said to you, "Hey man, you shoulda heard what this athlete just said" and you thought of Tiki Barber? Not at first, but at all? How about "Man...can you believe what that NFL player said?" or "I just heard the most insightful thing from this NFC East running back" and Tiki Barber popped into your head? To be honest, if someone said "Guess what Giants running back said this" I would have a hard time deciding between the Tiki Torch and Brandon Jacobs. And he's raking in 3 mil per?

Isn't it going to be weird hearing him talk about stuff besides football? What's he going to do on the Today Show, exactly? I hope it isn't interviews or human interest pieces, because he always crept me out a little. He would do that thing where he talked just above a whisper and acted like what he had to say was much, much more important than anything else. He was eerily condescending, if that makes any sense. I don't know how smart he is, but he comes off as thinking he is easily the smartest man in the room, so well-rounded around all these other people who are just athletes.

Maybe I am just too caught off guard by all this to make any sense of it. Has any other player been this coveted before? Was any other player basically talked into retirement because he had a lucrative career as a talking head lined up? Because that is the one and only reason Tiki left football; if he had no post-NFL plans, he would be lifting and running right now. OK, he would be getting ready to go to Vegas for the All-Star game and confuse the hell out of some groupies with Ronde. But next week, he would be lifting and running. As it is, he gets to spend Sunday Nights sitting in one of those big comfy leather couches listening to Jerome Bettis laugh.

I hope he bombs.

I don't know why, exactly. Maybe it is because he walked away from pro football for no real good reason. And now he's gonna sit around and talk about it. It's his life, and if he wants healthy knee caps when he's 60, I'm not gonna judge him. But it still pisses me off. At least when Barry Sanders walked away in his prime, he had some real issues and then disappeared from the spotlight.

Or maybe it is because Tiki is whining as he walks out the door.

"Coach Coughlin is very hard-nosed, and I didn't get a lot of time off, couldn't sit down and rest myself, and so it was a constant grind -- a physical grind on me that started to take its toll."
Man, I'm sorry to hear that Tiki. Really, that does suck. Sounds like some petty whining but at least you are being humble and mature about it.
"The grind took its toll on me and really forced me to start thinking about what I wanted to do next. And that's not a bad thing. That's a good thing, for me at least. Maybe not for the Giants, because they lose one of their great players, but for me, it is," Barber said.
Well, then. So much for that humble thing. "One of their great players"? Listen man, you were pretty good. You weren't great. You know why your TD numbers were down? Because you couldn't punch it in from five yards and in. And that is a real nice slap across the face to all your ex-teammates. "Hey fellas, I'm sittin' pretty, but tough cookies for you cuz you don't got me."
"[Coughlin] has changed in little ways, but I think he still has to more," Barber said. "The game has changed, players are different, and you have to understand them and get to know them in order to encourage and motivate them to be successful. We'll see what happens this season."
Man, doesn't that sound like he is just going to sit back, kick his feet up and cheer for Tom Coughlin to run the Giants into the ground? And how the hell does he take cheap shots at Coughlin? Before Coughlin was in the picture, the best thing Tiki Barber was known for was fumbling. That Escalade commercial is full of shit; Barber did not take advantage of opportunities - Coughlin, for not getting to know him, turned him into an All-Pro back.

I guess the thing that has me the most pissed off is that I was looking forward to not seeing or hearing from Tiki Barber ever again. That whole "let the fact that I am retiring thing out early so that I can bask in the limelight a little longer" thing was pretty much bullshit, and now I have to watch him act like he's better than everybody on the NBC set.

I hope Chris Collinsworth just owns him week after week.

Read the Rest After the Jump...

Tim Hardaway Hates Gay People. So Let It Be Known.

As you may have gathered, Tim Hardaway is not a fan of gay people. Here's the quote, just in case you haven't had it pounded over your head enough yet:

"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known," Hardaway said. "I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."
He said this while on Dan Le Betard's (Is he French? Sounds French.) radio show yesterday. I would love to hear the actual interview...if you are Le Betard, what do you do after someone says something like that? Do you keep pushing him to do a little more gay bashing? I mean, clearly Hardaway has something to say, a good interviewer let's him say what he wants to say, right? Or do you try to bail him out, maybe save him from himself? I didn't hear it, but if Danny boy did try to throw him a rope, Mr. UTEP 2 Step hung himself with it:
"And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that's right. And you know I don't think he should be in the locker room while we're in the locker room. I wouldn't even be a part of that," he said.
Let's get to that point first, shall we? Everyone has really brushed the whole locker room thing aside, which was, at least to me, surprising. It seems like a lot of athletes wanted to basically say what Hardaway said - maybe not in such strong language - and were groping for excuses to cover themselves, like LeBron saying it would be a "trust factor." That's a pretty sad excuse, I think, but it seemed like the whole "I would be uncomfortable naked in the locker room" thing was perfect if you just didn't like gay people and needed a politically correct reason to feel that way. Or if you really were uncomfortable with being naked in the locker room. Either one.

I haven't been in any NBA locker rooms lately (or ever), but the way I understand it, women aren't allowed in the showers. Why is that? Whatever the reason is, wouldn't that same reason apply to a gay man? Maybe I am way off base here, or completely uneducated about the topic, but it seems to me that, logically, that would add up. If I have this whole thing wrong, someone, please, tell me. Should I not be putting straight women and gay men in the same boat?

And can you get mad at a player if he didn't want to shower with a gay teammate? Some people might not have a problem with it, but if someone did, could you fault them? Maybe they feel uncomfortable exposing themselves to someone who may be attracted to what they see. That isn't to say they are homophobic and couldn't carry on a business, if not personal, relationship with them, but maybe they draw the line at getting naked and soaping up in the same room. I mean, a gay teammate isn't going to try something sexual in the shower - that, I think, would never, ever happen; my God, remember the reaction to Reggie Evans? - but can you fault Hardaway for not wanting to expose his junk?

If all he had said was, "I would feel uncomfortable showering with a gay man" I don't think anyone could criticize him.

But he did say some other things, like "hate" and doesn't belong "in this world" and "homophobic" so he is going to be sent to the principal's office.

Maybe the most important question here, however, is, Where the hell did Tim Hardaway come from? I haven't heard that name in ages. He was just laying around and felt a need to speak up? Were they interviewing every mid-90s superstar about his feelings on John Amaechi? Hey, someone find out how does Anthony Mason feel about this! What are Pooh Richardson's thoughts on the subject? Did anyone check up on J.R. Reid's stance? (I kinda feel like playing NBA Jam on Super NES right now.)

You know what else I don't understand? He apologized. You know, there are just certain bells that can't be unrung, and this, I am afraid, is one of them. What the hell could he possibly say that would make things OK? It isn't like he was like "yea, I don't know, I think gay people aren't cool" or something. He said he hates them and they don't belong in the world. Clearly, he wasn't just caught up in the moment. This is how he really feels.
"Yes, I regret it. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said I hate gay people or anything like that," he said. "That was my mistake."
Two things here: first, he said "That was my mistake," which is exactly what Pete Rose said in his 20/20 interview, so we are off to a screaming success here. Second, all he said was that he shouldn't have said it; point being, yea, that's what I think, but that was stupid and wrong off me to say it in public. All around, one of the better apologies I've heard lately. He should hire Kim Etheridge. I don't think she's doing anything these days.

Why even apologize, though? Doesn't this whole scenario need a villain? Why not just be like "You're damn right I said it! I'd say it again! C'mon dawg, that shit is gross!" Maybe the whole being ostracized from the community thing would bother him. Who knows.

So, to recap: Tim Hardaway hates gay people, he knows he shouldn't have said it, and I have no idea what I am talking about. Very succinct.

Read the Rest After the Jump...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Gilbert Arenas Should Calm Down. But Just a Little Bit.

I have had enough of Gilbert Arenas. Really, Gil, it's enough.

Now, this is absolutely hypocritical of me. I know this. I can't stand it when athletes rattle off quote after rehearsed quote without even thinking about what they are saying. Nothing could be more boring. It was beyond refreshing when Gilbert started just saying whatever popped into his head. Most every athlete is going to have something funny or insightful or crazy or ridiculous to say every so often, but no one delivers the goods on a consistent basis like Gil - it isn't even close, actually - and, really, my life is more fulfilled because of it.

But he needs to just quit for a while. I don't stop altogether, but just take a break, gather his thoughts, drop some more game-winners, keep the Wiz winning, and everyone will be dying to hear from you come playoff time. I picture him with a little dry erase board where he can write things down that pop into his head so he won't forget later.

Let us miss you a little bit, Gil.

It is just getting to be too much. You can't go two days without hearing something outlandish from Gilbert HQ. Take his prediction that he would drop 50 on he Blazers because he feels Nate McMillan played a huge role in getting him cut from team USA this summer. He didn't get 50; he didn't even come close: he scored 9. Instead of just chalking it up to an off night or making a small joke - really, anything would have done - he came up with some excuse about too much focus on defense that I don't even think he believed:

"I knew after I said that that they'd double (team) me," he says "so I came out not too aggressive and got my teammates involved. It was part of my plan. But when we go up to their place, they won't be expecting it, and they won't double me. That's when I'm really planning on dropping 50."
(Quick sidenote: I'm getting all this from The D.C. Sports Bog, which, aside from blogging about all things DC sports, is awesome and couldn't have possibly picked a better pro basketball team to blog about. You have the daily Arenas quote, you have Brendan Todd Haywood ripping out dreads, Etan Thomas reading poetry and psyco-analyzing teammates, you have DeShawn Stevenson gambling away 5% of his salary while on film, you have a coach flipping out and kicking basketballs...really, if this was a TV series, no one would even believe it. Hell, it's real and I don't even believe it.)

First of all, how the hell do you "come out real aggressive and get your teammates involved"? Those seems to be mutually exclusive to me. But even that isn't true; he only had two assists, plus he jacked 8 threes and made none of them. And now the next time you play is when you "really plan on dropping 50"? C'mon Gil, just say you had a bad game and move on.

Then, for no real reason apparently, he decides to take a jab at LeBron:
"The guy LeBron needs is Sam Cassell," says Arenas, "He needs someone who wants to take the big shots at the end of the game." I interject that LeBron would never stand for that -- it would kill his ego. "LeBron would much rather have Cassell take the final shot," says Arenas. "People don't realize that LeBron doesn't want it."
This...this is just astounding to me. Is Gilbert a goldfish? Does he not remember how his season ended last year? LeBron had two game winners, and a third if you count him psyching Gilbert out at the line before Damon Jones drilled a game winner to send Gil back to his hyper-baric chamber for the summer. Unreal: Arenas has the most memorable choke at the free throw line since Nick Anderson committed career suicide, and he takes unprovoked jabs at LeBron for not being clutch enough.

(Incedentally, LeBron really could use a great - um, good - point guard to play with. Cassell would be phenomenal in this regard. But not because LBJ isn't clutch enough.)

Listen, I love Gilbert. I love how he uses slights, whether real or perceived, to motivate him. If every athlete was this driven, the sporting world would be a better place. Much better, actually. I love how he wears the number 0 to remind himself of his doubters. I love how he works on his game constantly, to the point the coaches worry about him. I love how he looks for even the smallest advantage and then takes it to the extreme, like converting his entire house into one, huge hyper-baric chamber to simulate high altitude conditions. I love how he never forgets any disparaging comment, no matter how tiny; he started saying "quality shot" instead of Hibachi when he shot, because Kobe (!) questioned his shot selection.

But I am worried that he is turning into George Costanza in the last few seasons of Seinfeld, where George just really turned into a paradoy of himself. It was too much, it was over-the-top. Gilbert seems to be heading down the same road. He seems to just be saying shit because people have come to expect ridiculous shit from him. But really, he's like that guy from the Tigers last season who hit like 15 homers in the first week of the season - phenomenal, yes, but there is just no way to keep up that kind of pace. (Hey, I made Gil into a sitcom character and a baseball player in one paragraph. That was fun.)

Most of the stuff he says and does is usually all in good fun. After D'Antoni made his Duke comment, Gil took is seriously, but not too seriously; his "84 or 85" comment was great. Admitting he plays poker at halftime is hilarious, even if his coach probably wanted to pull an Awvee Storey on him after he said it. The $20,000 bet with Stevenson? Absolutely phenomenal; it showed simultaneously how good and light-hearted he is.

But this latest stuff....really, what purpose does it serve? Does it make him look funny? No, and it doesn't even seem like that is just "Gil being Gil." It seems forced, unnatural. Unprovoked shots at a player who owned you and your team in the playoffs? Bad excuses for dismal performances? He really set the bar too high; he set himself up to look bad. I just don't want him losing his credibility or people being dismissive of him because all he does is talk, talk, talk (man, I really do care...) and then has to make even more outrageous statements to cover for his old ones.

So, Gil, take a break. Honestly, what would cause more of a stir: Gil saying a few more off-the-wall things, or refusing to speak until the playoffs? People would lose their minds if he suddenly turned into a Belichik-level recluse. That, I think, would be the most talked about thing he ever did.

Read the Rest After the Jump...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dirk and Steve, BFFL

Right now, the clear front-runners for NBA MVP are Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki. You could make the case for Kobe carrying an underwhelming Lakers team (seriously, what is Smush Parker doing out there?) or Chris Bosh's valiant effort to make basketball relevant north of the border, but it really boils down to Nash and Dirk.

My question is this: if Nash had decided to re-up with the Mavs instead of bolting to PHX, would this still be the case? Would the duo be like Leinart and Bush at USC, a pair of teammates running 1-2 for the most coveted individual award in the sport? Would the Mavs be undefeated right now?

Or did Steve Nash just cost the world more glossy-eyed bar pictures?

Did Dirk need to be in a situation where he was clearly the man? Was his maturity and development a forgone conclusion, or did shouldering the weight of the franchise year after year force him into becoming the player he is today?

Same with Nash: would he be the two-time defending Most Valuable Player right now? Or did he stumble into the perfect storm in Phoenix? Does he only have those two trophies on the mantle piece because he plays with the perfect cast of characters for his skill set and a system designed to magnify his strengths and diminish his weaknesses?

The answer is different for both, I think.

Dirk would have gotten to this point, I am pretty sure, regardless of who he played with or where he played. He is just a supreme talent; it was only a matter of time before he figured out the best way to combine his height and shooting touch. And he has started to take over games, and serieses (How the hell do you say 'more than one series'? What is the plural for series? My head is about to explode. There is no way 'serieses' is correct, but it will have to do for now): he was a one-man wrecking crew against San Antonio in the playoffs; not only did his improbable three-point play save the series (clutch), but he continually got the the free throw line (smart) and killed people on the glass (tough).

Would he be the same player with Nash still around? Well...I mean, how can having Steve Nash on your team hurt you, really? Dirk would still be able to take games over down the stretch - the Suns don't rely exclusively on Nash with the game on the line; more than a few Suns have hit big buckets late in games. What would happen is this: he'd still be one of the most frightening matchups in the L, but we'd underestimate his importance because he was playing with Nash. So maybe Nash did have to go for him to be as fully appreciated as he is now, but one thing is for certain: he is one stylish German.

Steve, on the other hand...I just don't think there is any way he reaches this level of prominence in Texas. Whether he makes the system or the system makes him is irrelevant. The point is that the PHX style of play and Steve Nash are perfect for each other. They really are. That system would not work as well anywhere else in the league, and Steve Nash would not be this good anywhere else in the league.

If he had stayed in Dallas, he would still be a tremendous point guard, an All-Star, someone always among the league lead in assists and who always made their teammates better. But he definitely would not have two MVP awards, and probably not one.

Remember, when he first left, everyone felt the Suns overpaid for him. He was old, his back was a question mark and even Mark Cuban wouldn't shell out the amount of dough Phoenix would. But Phoenix has rejuvenated him.

First of all, Nash couldn't have hand-picked better guys to play with. He has two absolutely phenomenal finishers in Amare and Shawn Marion, and Marion doubles as maybe the most versatile player in the league. He has shooters to stretch the floor, widening lines to drive into and making it harder for teams to help because they risk giving up wide open threes. He has a tough defender in the back court to guard the opposing teams best scorer. He has ridiculous options on the pick-and-roll even down to who he runs it with.

And the system in which he plays doesn't emphasize defense. Well, it does, but in a roundabout way: D'Antoni hung a sign in the locker room that says - and I may be paraphrasing here - "The best defensive team at the end of the night is the one with the most points." You won't be hearing that taught at too many basketball camps, but it really is hard to argue with. The Suns do play D, but they will never, ever be known for it, and that helps Nash out immensely.

If he had stayed in Dallas and played under Avery Johnson, this wouldn't be the case. Mr. Fire and Brimstone spouted the importance of defense since the moment he took over (and probably before that). During last season's playoff run, the Mavs almost always had someone on the floor who was there solely for defense: either Diop or Dampier in the middle and/or...oh, what the hell was that guards name - someone help me out here. Anything they get offensively was gravy. In PHX, all four players around Nash can score, and score in a variety of ways. In Dallas, his options would have been limited; in PHX, they are endless.

One thing is for certain: he is one stylish Canadian.

If Nash had stayed, I don't think either of them wins an MVP. They would cancel each other out; we'd hear that Nash is making Dirk look good and that Dirk can bail Nash out.

But now they are on separate teams and are probably going to meet in the Western Conference Finals, with the winner taking home their first championship. Good for one of them. I just hope that after one wins, the other takes him out to some random bar, gets bombed off Molsen and Becks and then the pictures of their revelry finds their way in to this here Interweb.

Read the Rest After the Jump...

:35 Shot Clock

We might as well get this out of the way first: Duke is still going to make the NCAA tournament.

They will wind up getting 20 wins, and that’s before the ACC Tourney, in which they have been historically successful. They have three impressive non-conference wins against Georgetown, Indiana and Air Force and they beat Gonzaga before their best player got busted with some psychedelic ‘shrooms.

But what if they end up 7-9 in the ACC? Should a team that can’t win half it’s game get into the tournament?

Ethically, I say no. Even though 65 teams get in, the playoffs are supposed to be an exclusive place. There are a lot of teams that can go 7-9. But The Dance is also supposed to include the 65 best teams, and Duke is one of the 65 best teams in the country, as much as I hate to admit it.

So they’ll get in, but as like a 9 or a 10 seed. What is more embarrassing: missing the tourney altogether, or going as a 10 seed? I say going as a 10 seed. If you muss atogether, you just say hey, you know what, we’ve fallen on hard times and this just wasn’t our year. But we’ll bounce back next year. But going in as a 10 seed…well that is reserved for all of the underachieving programs that CBS just wants to see on TV. And that is exactly what Duke is. I don’t care what Andy Katz or Pat Forde say, the committee thinks about this stuff.

That said…what if Duke goes 6-10 in the ACC? I think it’s a pretty real possibility; they still have to play at No. 21 Boston College, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Maryland and at UNC. BC is playing out of its mind right now, they already got handled by G Tech, Clemson is going to want revenge after getting screwed in Durham (boy, that sentence has an awful connotation to it, doesn’t it?), no one gets up for Duke quite like Maryland, who already beat them handily anyways, and there is no way they are beating UNC on UNC’s home court. Is there a guaranteed win anywhere in there?

Forget 7-9….it is completely conceivable that Duke does not win another game in ACC play all year. I mean, it probably won’t happen, but if it does, would you be surprised? No way they get in with only five ACC wins, or even six, I don’t care who they beat outside ACC. Duke has some work to do. Let’s hope they screw it up.

You know what is going to happen? They are going to go 6-10 and then win the ACC Tournament, get the automatic bid, make a run to the Elite 8 and piss off everyone in the entire nation. (And yes, that was a whole hearted reverse jinx.)

The Dukies start their road to the NIT tomorrow night when they play BC. I don’t know who to cheer against more: Duke or Jared Dudley. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I dislike J-Dud so much; maybe it is all the screaming and yelling, maybe it is his hair, which looks…ah, not very well groomed. I think it is just his general demeanor on the court. I want to tell him to shut the hell up. You play for Boston College and no one cares. It would be very satisfying to see him miss 23 straight shots. Yea. Still, it is Duke. Go Eagles.

Also: I would like to amend my selection of Dominic James as the point guard I would feel most confident in leading my team on a Final Four run. James is still an incredible talent, and if you need him to get you 30 some night and carry a team to a win, I think he’s your guy. But as far as LEADING a team on a prolonged run, the pick has to be Acie Law IV, who will be known as simply AL4 from now on around these parts. He has handed in some ballsy performances lately, giving his team whatever it needs – scoring, distribution, defense – you name it. And Bill Self called him the most clutch shooter in the Big 12. A gutsy leader who gives you whatever you need: sounds like the ideal point guard to me.

You know what match up I most wish would happen in the tournament? West Virginia vs. Georgetown. They are the two most difficult offenses to prepare for in the county, I think. And if you are a fan of the backdoor, this is your dream match up (upon a second reading, I probably should reword that sentence, but it made me laugh, so it is staying). WVUs two-guard offense going against G’towns Princeton offense. Is there another match up that could more perfectly illustrate the difference between NCAA hoops and the NBA? I say there is not.

The Weekly Final Four Confidence Picks: As far as resumes go, the polls reflect pretty well how the teams should be ranked, I think. But rarely – if ever – does the teams ranked No. 1-4 all make it to the Final Four. Usually at least three of them crumble. Wisconsin is ranked second in the nation right now, but are you really confident they will be playing for the national title? Me neither.

So, who are the four teams you are most confident in making a trip to the Final Four? As of right now, my list looks like this:

  1. Florida. So much experience and they are just ravaging the SEC right now. They deserve the No. 1 spot, even if they are incredibly annoying, Joakim Noah punched a cheerleader and they have no compelling reason to cheer for them.
  2. North Carolina. The sheer talent is just overwhelming. Take the Duke game: they played atrociously, didn’t guard a soul but were so deep that they could hang around until Duke started shooting itself in the foot. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: they are the only team who can hand in a sub-par effort in the tourney and still win it all.
  3. Texas A&M. They are just so gutsy. There is no shot in hell these guys fall victim to an early round upset. AL4 just won’t let it happen.
  4. No one. I feel incredibly confident in those three right now, and no one else is really all that compelling. Ohio St. seems very up and down to me, and guards dominate college hoops, not big guys, so the Oden factor isn’t overwhelmingly important to me. Kansas has choked more than a two-year-old eating grapes and UCLA got shredded defensively by WVU. Not even Kevin Durant can get that Texas team to the Final Four. This fourth spot is up for grabs. Gun to my head, I’ll say Butler.

The Weekly Team That is Completely Overrated. Ladies and gentlemen, the Pitt Panthers. Let's ignore the fact that Pitt has not fared well in the NCAA Tourney over the last few years, and focus on this year's team instead. Let's look at their quality wins, shall we?

They did trounce Florida St. in the sixth game of the season, and they did beat G'Town in the middle of the year, but really, that's about it. They lost to Wisconsin and OK St. back to back and lost to Marquette and now Louisville. Their best road win of the year was at WVU, and that is a rivalry game. I know they have a good record, but are they really the seventh best team in the country? Would you be surprised if they lost in the first round? Me either.

If they had one perimeter player who you could just give the ball to and he'd get you a bucket, Pitt would be phenomenal. But they really don't. They rely mainly on their defense, and all it takes is one above-average shooting day from a team they aren't familiar with to knock them out of the dance, because they really can't go bucket-for-bucket on the other end. If I am a mid-major, and I draw Pitt in the opening round, I'm packing my suitcase for three nights.

The Weekly Oden or Durant Debate. I’m still firmly entrenched in the Durant camp. Here’s my latest reasoning. The No. 1 pick has a pretty good chance of going to Boston.

Of course, it isn’t guaranteed that Boston will get it – they have just a 25% chance as the worst team in the NBA. But they have the best chance. On an related note, doesn’t the lottery actually encourage tanking rather than discouraging it? If you really want that first pick, you have to do everything in your power to make sure you get it. Lose, lose and lose some more. Give yourself the best chance possible. But if the team with the worst record gets the No. 1 pick, can’t a team try to compete once it knows it will finish with the worst record? I really think the lottery does nothing to prevent teams from tanking, even encourages them to do so. More often than not, it only further hurts than bad teams and rewards middling teams out of sheer dumb luck. Am the “drama” it creates is more overrated than Super Bowl commercials. Shoot it in the head, Barbaro-style. And yes, I love saying that.

But back to the No. 1 pick: say whoever it is, either Durant or Oden, winds up in Boston. They are going to be charged with nearly single-handedly reviving arguably the most storied franchise in professional basketball. Being a rookie in the Lig Is head enough; having the entire city of Boston breathlessly awaiting your ascendance into the rafters is nearly unbearable pressure.

From what we’ve seen, who is more likely to be able to handle that? Oden, who has contributed to an already very good team who was a top 10 team with out (they were competitive on the road at UNC while The Bearded One was still wrapping towels around his neck)? Or Durant, who has carried a solid Texas team since the second he arrived on campus? Durant has thrived in the pressure, demanding the ball relentlessly, scoring over double-teams, hitting huge shots down the stretch of close game, helping Texas win games it should lose and stay close in games it should be getting routed in.

You really have to factor that in, I think. Cripes, Kwame was supremely talented, but he wilted with all the hype a No. 1 pick brings, and he isn’t the only one. I’m not saying either Oden or Durant will pull a Kwame – I think both will flourish in the L actually – but from what we’ve seen, I think there is no question Durant is more equipped to handle that type of pressure.

The Weekly All-American Selections: Two of these guys you can pencil in for the rest of the year: Oden and Durant. No brainers. But who are the other three?

  1. Durant (POY, too). The best player, right now, in college hoops. Period.
  2. Greg Oden. The reason Ohio St. went from really good to “Man, they could win it all.”
  3. Alando Tucker. If Wisconsin’s PG wasn’t a dead ringer for Chris Rock, no one would be able to name two players on Wisconsin. And they’ve lost twice. Well done, Mr. Tucker. (Hey, his last name is Tucker…like Chris Tucker! Rock and Tucker! These two need to film a cop buddy movie.)
  4. AL4. Cajones, man. Cajones.
  5. Tyler Hansbrough, Some one from UNC has to make it, right? He’s been the rock of the best offense if college hoops. That should mean something, right? (Ed. Note: This is a complete homer’s pick. But you knew that.)

One last thing: tournament week is a like college football’s bowl season, only it is meaningful and doesn’t suck. Just terrific game after terrific game. And they start at like, 8 am. Let’s bet on it.

I know it is still a little while away, but is that something you would be interested in? A little Point 23 Championship Week Challenge? We’d keep it simple: just pick the tourney champ from every conference, one point for each conference, and we’ll see who has the most at the end. I’ll set up a spreadsheet over at Google Docs to keep track of it.

What does the winner get? Well, I don’t know. How about a post about anything they want to write about? Is that appealing? I would say everyone throw in five bucks, but you can never get everyone to pay for their poll during March Madness and that is when everyone sees each other every day. So, it is either pride or a free post, or suggest something else.

Let me know if you’re interested…leave a comment, send an e-mail, instant message. I’m nothing if not accessible. You sleep on it, and let me know.

Read the Rest After the Jump...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

All-Star Weekend Is Being Played at the Wrong Time.

Does anyone even like the NBA All-Star weekend anymore?

The player's hate it, apparently - everyone from rookies to two-time MVPs are spouting off about their distaste for it. Tyrus Thomas is only in it for the free money, and Steve Nash is pissed he has to dribble around in circles and throw bounce passes into those little nets for the second year in a row.

Speaking of Ty Thomas – the Bulls fined him ten grand for his comments. Can you fine someone for anything? How is that legal? Why just 10 grand? If they wanted to, could they fine him a million? His whole salary? If they can’t take his whole salary, why can they take 10 grand? Who decides the cutoff point? I want to know.

(And his quote is fun, so here it is:

"I'm just into the free money. That's it. I'll just do whatever when I get out there."
Free money, that really is the best kind, isn't it?)

Coaches and owners can't be fans of it; they have their best players running around all weekend in Vegas. What good can come of that? If anything newsworthy happens, it will be negative. Seriously, can anything happen this weekend that will help a team win the title? What the hell was the NBA thinking? They are contemplating banning players from night clubs, so the most logical course of action would be the gather the 30 most marquee players and let 'em loose in Vegas. I'm not saying I'm not a fan of it, but the NBA is really just setting itself up for the type of pub it positively hates.

Fans are wildly disappointed with the characters they round up to be in the dunk contest - Dwight Howard? Really? Unless he shatters the backboard, what the hell is he going to do? And for the record, that is exactly what he should do. Three straight rounds of trying to rip the rim off. And I don't know about you, but I am geeked to see Nate Robinson attempts No. 52-74. (They might as well bring The Birdman back.) How can you even take the thing remotely serious after the other AI throws the ball off the other side of the backboard and dunks it, and then loses to an absolute maniac with little man's syndrome?

No one really cares about the three-point shootout (some one would have to turn in a perfect round for anyone to even remember it), and that thing with the WNBA player is only good on the rare chance that there is some underlying sexual tension, with an NBA Legend looking on. And by "good" I mean "creepy" and "weird."

The game itself...well, it's sloppier than a) the Super Bowl in the rain or b) an episode of Taradise (I couldn't decide, you pick) and the best part is seeing the players giggle on the sidelines. Why don't we just have Dave Chappelle perform, stick the All-Stars in the front row, and have the camera focus on them the entire time? Same thing, really.

So what to do with the All-Star game? Take it out back and shoot it in the head, Barbaro-style? Well, yea. Kinda.

Why not play it in the summer?

I know, I know. If you think players are pissed about giving up a day during the season, imagine how pissed they would be if they had to give up a weekend during the summer. But it would only be one weekend, they'd get a free trip to Vegas and they would get to do those half-hug, pound things like 30 times since they hadn't seen everybody in a month or so. That's always fun.

Plus, it would allow the NBA to stay relevant outside of its calender year. This is the most important thing, I think. MLB has the Hot Stove, which kinda keeps people interested. The NFL is just a juggernaut, and with people studying up on fantasy football, their attention is on football at least a month before the season even starts. What does hoops have? I mean, they can't rely on the Pacers to beat the piss out of night club managers every month of the year, can they?

As a basketball fan, how cool would this be? It's the end of August, beginning of September. What's going on? There's some regular season baseball on, which is thrilling to be sure, but you can only watch so many drunk Cub fans sitting on their roofs at noon. You've already had your second mock fantasy football draft all by yourself. Then, out of no where, the 30 best players in the NBA are playing. How exciting would that be? You're telling me people wouldn't be looking forward to this? Outside of an Olympics or World Cup, this would be the marquee event of the summer.

Think about it this way: ff the NBA scheduled it the exact same night as the MLB All-Star game, which do you think would get higher ratings?

The only downside I see is that some players might show up out of shape. But really, those guys who are All-Stars are probably dedicated enough that they are in shape year round, even if they have taken some time off. Guards and swing guys are usually always in shape, and they are the only guys who matter in an All-Star setting anyways.

(Incidentally, this is why the All-Star ballot shouldn't be divided by positions. Does anyone really care what the hell Shaq or Yao does in an All-Star game? The only memorable thing I can remember a big guy doing was Shaq doing his Merton Hanks impersonation. Man, I loved Merton Hanks. But big guys are only there to get dunked on. They screw everything up. It's cute when hey bring the ball up once or twice, but really, get it to a guard so we can see some cool shit. Thank you. David: just make the All-Star ballot one long list with all the players on it. The results will be much more fun. Trust me.)

Listen, all the All-Star games are worthless right now. The Pro Bowl is a complete waste. Football is no fun to watch if the players aren't trying to rip each other's heads off. The baseball game is baked by maybe the dumbest premise in sports. The NBA game is overshadowed by players bailing left and right. The whole time you are watching, you can't help but think "this could be so much better." So what better to do than lower expectations?

When the game is played in the summer, no matter who shows up, you are going to be thrilled. I mean, its NBA basketball in August. How can you complain? This is literally Christmas in July.

So what do we do with the time the All-Star game currently takes up? Have a three-quarter court shoot out. I think the main reasons players don't do the dunk contest and other things is because they are afraid of losing something head-to-head. Remember, these guys don't play tennis. They are used to having teammates, if not to fall back on, then to at least use as a scapegoat. This is all them. So it is kinda hard to fault them for not wanting to get exposed in front of millions of people.

So shoot shots from the other foul line. It has nothing to do with basketball, really, but it would be fun as hell to watch. And even if someone goes 0h-for-100, you won't think any less of them as a player. I mean, its from three-quarters court, it's freaking impossible. But how great would it be to see someone throw in a few? That place would go nuts, and you'd spit your beer all over the bar when Dirk swished two in a row.

What else? A few things...

We could have the Pistol Pete Memorial "Who Can Spin the Ball on Their Finger the Longest" Contest. I would watch that.

I think an NBA game of dribble tag would be phenomenal. You know dribble tag: everyone gets a ball, tucks their t-shirt halfway into their shorts and starts dribbling around. If you get your shirt pulled out, you're out, too. You gotta dribble the whole time. There would be so much funny shit going on you wouldn't be able to watch it all (Plus, Shaq could sit on the sideline and do that thing where he rocks back in his seat and laughs with one leg in the air, which seems to be an All-Star weekend staple).

Basically, any games you played during basketball camp. Knock out, even. Just two days off camp games. That would be phenomenal.

Is there a downside here? To any of this?

Read the Rest After the Jump...

LeBron Wants to Run.

So LeBron wants to run. Well, no surprises there: even before Steve Nash and the Suns turned pushing the ball into some eclectic blend of art and science, getting into the open court has been the deepest desire of every kid to pick up a basketball. Ever. No kid has ever demanded their playground mates slow it down and execute their half court sets; well, maybe Tim Duncan. You could make a sound argument that there is more fun to be had in between the three point lines than there is inside them.

Few questions, though: Is pushing the ball the best way to utilize LeBron? Is pushing the ball the best thing for the Cavs as a team, given their current personnel? What is more important, getting the most out of LeBron or getting the most out of the Cavs, and are those two issues the same thing?

First, pushing the ball is absolutely the best way for LeBron to play. Hands down, no questions asked. LeBron is a playmaker, first and foremost. Not a scorer, not a passer - a playmaker. Sticking him in predictable sets - the scouting in the NBA is so in-depth it doesn't even make sense; the other teams know what is coming, trust - limits his abilities to make plays.

Getting out in transition eliminates all of that. Not even the player with the ball in his hands knows exactly what is coming. It is where playmakers are at their best. I'm not saying playmakers can't be effective in the half-court; they can. But they are better in the open floor. It's like the Colts offense - they can win on grass, sure, but they are much better on turf. It enhances their already considerable skill set. It is the ideal premise for what they do best.

LeBron doesn't want to score to win games, either. He likes to pass. Look at the Olympics. Clearly, he was the most talented on the team, but Melo was the leading scorer. I think that says as much about Melo's determination as it does LeBron's playing style. (Chris Webber was always saying he wants to play like this, though, and we see how that turned out. Actually, Webber is getting to play exactly how he wants, and pressure free. This could be a very good thing for the Pistons. But I digress...)

But is pushing the ball the best thing for the Cavs as a team? Well..maybe. Their bigs are not suited to run. Big Z is either most well known for his hook shot that starts at his knee caps, his Russian-mobster beard or his bad feet. It's a three way tie, really. None of those scream, "Throw me the oop in transition!" Gooden is a bruiser. Eric Snow...not so much. But now that Daniel Gibson is getting more minutes, along with Varejeo (I'm not looking up how to spell it; Hubie Brown can't even say it and you expect me to spell it?) and Sasha Pavlovic, it just might. Playing in transition helps Larry Hughes, too, I think - he can shoot the 15-footer all day.

Overall, the Cavs aren't ideally suited to push the ball, but they have lineups that can do it. They can't turn into the Suns, I don't think, but they can selectively push it. To push it all the time, you need a superior decision maker, and unless those outlets passes are being thrown to LeBron, the Cavs don't have one.

But what is more important here - making LeBron happy, even if it doesn't suit the team the best, or doing what the team is best suited to do, even if it makes LeBron grumpy? Well, if Mike Brown wants his job, I'd say make Bronny happy. But if making Bronny happy ends up regressing the team, he's likely gone anyways. He might as well do things his way, 'cuz I think he's gone. Listen to some of these quotes from Bronny:

"We've got enough athletes where we can get up and down the court. At times the coaching staff feels the same way, at other times, no. We're kind of playing basketball for the playoffs. Our offense is geared toward half-court basketball instead of getting out and running.

"At the end of the day, if you don't put points on the board, you're not going to win basketball games. You can hold a team to 42 percent shooting, but if they make enough offensive plays and we don't, you're going to lose.

"We don't get easy buckets. I don't get easy buckets like I used to. Easy buckets can always help, it doesn't hurt. At times, it's fun to get up and down and throw lobs, I've probably caught two lobs this year, that's a career low."

Reading between the lines, I'd say the players are pissed with Mike Brown and he's gone. Larry Hughes, among other, backed Bronny. That doesn't bode well for the coach, who doesn't inspire that much confidence to begin with (actual quote from someone who had never seen Mike Brown before during last night's game, after his fifth straight close up: "What is the matter with that guy? Is he going to throw up?")

Seems to me, with all my inside knowledge, that Brown is gone after this year. He has Doug Collins written all over him. If you are going down, Mike, might as well go down your way.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Second Half: Live Blogging Carolina/Duke.

Alright, here we go...LOST will have to wait...

Paulus splits a double team and hits a floater. Shoot me in the face. Quick dunk at the other end for B-Wright, though.

Zoubek travels again. He's starting to make Barbaro looked coordinated. And Barbaro is dead.

Sheyer wiith another three. Dickie V calls him the next JJ. I don't know who I hate more.

Reyshawn Terry is laying on the ground, A-Rod clone David McLure falls over him, and Terry picks up the foul. This game is just not going Carolina's way. They are just slamming their heads into the break wall to no avail. The frustration, at least to me, is palpable. Sometimes it just isn't your night (and if you think this is a reverse jinx...well, it is). Lawson gets a steal for a deuce. Kilcoyne might be on to something...50-40, Duke.

Open looks, offensive rebounds, hustle plays...this is driving me nuts. If I could punch John Scheyer in his Stonehenge-esque head, I think I would feel a lot better. Scheyer is killing Carolina right now, mainly because they refuse to guard him. Paulus, on the other hand, is easily playing his best ever at Duke. I'm gonna go crack my head off the coffee table.

They are talking ahout Dick Groat...apparently he lead the nation in assists and points one year, went on to play for the Pistons, was an All-Star short stop for the Pirates, cured cancer, wrote Seinfeld and invented the Internet. OK, I made up the part about the Internet. But the rest is all true. Look it up.

McRoberts picks up his third foul, leading to this from Vitale: "That's where they have to get the ball to Hansbrough, that's where he's so effective, I saw the best player in the country at Texas, Kevin Durant." It sounded worse, trust me.

Paulus is spazzing out. I choose to believe this will cost Duke in the long run. Rarely has spazzing out ever been an effective course of action. Scheyer misses another three, but it is wide open. Have I mentioned this yet? A Duke player getting a wide open look for no other reason than the kids in the cooler uniforms are leaving him wide open? Who the hell is guarding Scheyer? When he is standing there doing nothing, is he curious where Scheyer is, or does he not care? I think he does not care. If he was curious, he would have found him, like, once.

Goal-tending on Henderson on a Frasier fast break lay up. Carolina within 5. If they ever take the lead, its over. Duke cannot relinquish this lead. Well, they can...but they shouldn't.

Oh, do I hate McRoberts' facial expressions. He is the worst. The worst. Maybe if he ever accomplished anything, they would be a little more meaningful. He just missed two free throws to keep the lead at 5 and then picks up his fourth foul after he tackles Hansbrough under the rim. It's not good because he's out - really, he's not that good - but it's so good because no Zoubek has to play, and he doesn't know that you only get two steps. It's funny. Watch him, he really doesn't know.

Wes Miller for three! I love him! Miller and Frasier in the back court. This is the way to go, I think. At least those two will guard Scheyer and Paulus (I can't believe I wrote that...holy shit). 52-50, Duke.

McRoberts is embarrassing himself. His antics on the bench just cost him 5 spots in the Draft. He looked like a third-grader at the zoo who got his balloon popped. What a baby. Hansbrough ties it up with a baseline J but Paulus answers with another J! If Paulus could live any day over and over again for the rest of his life, he should pick this day.

Wright scores - he has 15? Scheyer with a wide open three. This is stupid. Seriously. Its so stupid how open he is all the time. They aren't even running plays for him. It's so stupid. 57-54, Duke. 7:35 left.

I can't do this anymore. Thoughts later. I'm going to watch the rest of this through my fingers.

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First Half: Live Blogging Carolina/Duke.

Waiting for G'town/Louisville to end so we can get to UNC/Duke. Len Elmore and some other guy calling the game. Can they do the next game, too? Do we really need Vitale and Patrick trying to top eachother like Bird and 'Nique to see who can salivate the most over Duke?

I called it. Freakin' tools with Carolina sweatshirts on shaming the whole rivalry on the ESPN couch.

Wow, close up of Mike Patrick. For once, I'm grateful I don't have HDTV. He looks like Lord Voldemort right out of the cauldron. Or the underside of a rock.

Isn't Josh McRoberts tough? I mean, look at his scowl! Man, he is so hard. Easy there, Josh.

Doris Burke talking about Coach K letting his players sign center court. I hate Duke, but ya know...that was pretty cool. Don't tell anyone I said that.

Rayshawn Terry smacks the first shot of the game off the backboard. He can jump high. Were off to a good start.

Wow. Lawson just got called for a pushoff on Paulus, who then goes down and makes a three. I'm gonna rub my eyes real hard like a cartoon and pretend that never happened.

Cripes. Terry falls down and looks like Peter Griffin after the water slide down the living room stairs...elbows and knees at odd angles. Not good.

Gerald Henderson with a jumper. Did he go to HS with anyone from UNC? This might top the "Paulus got rectuited by ND to play QB" angle. And that little bastard scored again! And now Scheyer...for the love of Wojo, Duke is on fire. Mike Patrick tucks his first boner. Another wide open three. I am in hell. Oh my God, another one! No, it rimmed out...thank God. Mike Patrick might have climaxed. 15-6, Duke in the early going.

Another offensive foul on UNC. Cripes. There is no way Duke can sustain this. There just isn't. It's absurd. If I wasn't typing this as I was watching it, I wouldn't believe it.

Roy subs in Bobby Frasier for Lawson. Lawson will be alright (I hope). Ellington hit a tough J. And then another. If he gets it going, look out.

I like when other announcers call Vitale by his name. I like to think they are secretly insulting him. "You know, I couldn't agree more, Dick."

Lawson's back; slashes through the lane for two and the lead is down to five. Told ya this couldn't last forever. McRoberts answers - Vitale says he should be scoring twenty; Patrick immediately bails him out saying that he doesn' score because he's so unselfish. Please. He just isn't that good, plain and simple. If you can't be good at Duke, you just aren't.

Duke puts three guys on Hansbrough and Lawson still throws it to him. C'mon Ty...someone is open.

What I miss? My dog just tricked me into getting hear a treat when I thought she had to go outside. Smart puppy. 21-12, Duke.

A scrum! A pile up! A melee! Gheorge Muresan's "little" brother and Terry get into it. Matt Dougherty just rushed out of the stands and tried to punch Wojo! Hey, Reyshawn's back! And I think that tall guy just said the fuck word! Aaaaand commercial.

I'll tell you what: Hansbrough is a better perimeter defender than people give him credit for. McRoberts just tried to take him off the dribble and Tyler walled him off - twice. Maybe he will be decent in the L. Game is getting frenetic now. Duke ends up scoring, but they've missed back to back lay ups and a three. This favors UNC in the long run. Duke just can't keep this up. 24-19, Duke. Make that 24-21 after Psycho T hammers one home.

Hey, they mention Dick Devenzio. I went to his camp a while ago..."The Point Guard College." It was a co-ed sleepover camp, but that wasn't in the brochure. I looked like Paulus staring down a full court press when I learned girls were sleeping over. And that little bastard scores again! Where does Duke get annoying white point guards? Are they rolling them off some assembly line, using Coach K's and a rat's DNA?

OK, maybe the most ridiculous technical foul I've seen outside of Skip Dry. Deon Thompson goes for a tip dunk, misses the ball, and then grabs the rim, all in one motion, like in NBA Jam when you would try to dunk but get stripped and your guy still goes through the motions. So stupid. Vitale and Patrick agree with the call. Of course they do. 28-21 Duke. Still.

Paulus with a heat check. Keep looking, Greg. That's more like it.

First pro-Carolina thing said by Mike Patrick: "Momentum looks to be swinging in Carolina's favor." This is followed by Reyshawn Terry promptly dribbling off his shin and out of bounds. He pulled a Kilcoyne! He reversed jinxed them! I don't think Kilcoyne will ever know how much I loathed his reverse jinxes. He had a solid five year run where it was automatic.

Wow. 10 straight shots of Duke co-eds. Um...they seem like very nice young ladies, very smart. Yea.

If Matt Dillon was seven feet tall and uglier, he'd be Zoubek. Zoubek takes nine steps and is finally called for a walk.

Can everyone just get the hell out of Ty Lawson's way please? No one can keep up with him. It isn't even close. Just get the hell out of the way!

Duke is shooting the friggin' lights out. This is excruciating. Duke is just getting open look after open look. Its unreal.

Is Brandan Wright playing this evening? Oh. There he is for a dunk. 'Bout time. 35-27, Duke. Carolina just looks totally lost. But Scheyer - who has like 15 right now on all wide open looks and hustle plays - is sucking wind running up court. 3:30 left. Whoever closes out this half the best will win this game. These are three really important minutes.

Paulus drives and is fouled...I can't take this. He can't play against Kent St. or Virginia Tech; all of the sudden he's Bobby Hurley reincarnated. I can't do this. I can't.

Oh God. Quentin Thomas is in. I am so scared right now. Petrified. Oh - he found Terry for a three! There's a saying about blind squirrels and nuts that applies here. But seriously, get him out of the game. Now.

Ellington drives and is contacted by two players, no whistle; Paulus drives and get a call. It is definitely a pro-Duke whistle right now. But we knew that going in.

Ginyard with a floater with 15 seconds left; that'll be the last points of the half. Duke up 5 at the break, 39-34. Duke is playing wonderfully, I'll give them that, but UNC is letting them. A plethora of open looks, bad shots on offense, careless with the ball. If it is any consolation, UNC couldn't have played any dumber and they are only down 5. I guess that's a good thing.

I can't watch the second half, I don't think. It's almost 10, I'm just going to watch LOST. Wake me up when it''s over.

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