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...

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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