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.

Read the Rest After the Jump...