Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Blount That Keeps On Hitting

oregon duckducks 
Image Credit: Oregon Sports Report and Disney

Whew - it's been a while. I'm finally in the routine of this down here at school, and I think that I should be able to work in a blog post every now and then.

I must confess that I'm a little bummed that I had to take an extended layoff, so if you enjoyed reading my posts, sorry I let you down. Hopefully that wont happen again!

Honestly, August is also a dead month for sports. Any notable news gets covered relentlessly by the major outlets, and everything else is kind of lame. For instance, did you know Brett Favre signed with the Vikings? Yeah, me neither.

One thing I really feel like discussing is the current incident surrounding Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount.

In case you missed it, Blount sucker punched a Boise State defensive end Byron Hout after Hout had a few words for him after the Bronco's 19-8 win over the Ducks on Thursday.

Of course, like most things, the video does not tell the entire story.

Last season Boise State upset Oregon in Eugene, 37-32.

Earlier this year Blount told Sports Illustrated that there would be retribution for Boise State's late hits (two Oregon quarterbacks were in injured in the loss last year), and that frankly "we owe that team an ass whuppin'."

Because Blount failed to deliver that ass whuppin' on the field (he rushed 8 times for -5 yards...yikes), he decided that a post-game sucker punch would be the best way to substantiate his previous claim.

Oregon's rookie head coach Chip Kelly wasted no time, and on Friday he issued a heavy punishment for Blount, and suspended him for the remainder of the 2009 season.

When I first saw the fight (if you can even call it that), my immediate reaction was a full season suspension. It was a relatively unprovoked sucker punch, thrown after a loss, after an abysmal on-field performance, followed by almost inciting a riot.

However the more I began to read and see "full season suspension" the more I realized how daunting that is.

For Blount (a senior, junior college transfer), that full season suspension is most likely a lifetime sentence. ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay said that Blount, who came into the season ranked as the 2nd best senior running back, has most likely become "completely undraftable" after this latest incident.

Ron Artest went into the stands during an NBA game and started throwing Tyson-esque haymakers to anyone within reach. Albert Haynesworth could have killed Andre Gurode after stomping on his head during an NFL game (gruesome video here). Fighting is completely acceptable in hockey. And countless baseball brawls occur throughout the season.

Artest got suspended for the entire year. Haynesworth got 5 games (less than a third of the season), hockey players get 5 minutes in the penalty box and usually baseball players get only 5 games (under 5% of the season) for fighting.

So seeing a kid's entire future put into question after one terribly bad decision is somewhat disconcerting.

By no means am I attempting to justify the actions of Blount, but I just have a hard time seeing the value of a full season suspension for a senior.

Will he be more motivated to do well in classes? Doubtful. Does he even get to keep his scholarship? Probably not. Is there any motivation for him to make amends for what he did? Not really.

Let's say Blount was suspended until the eighth game of the season. It would be November 7th at Stanford. There would be four regular season games left of the schedule, and presumably one bowl game.

If Blount knew that he had a shot at redemption, where he could show his coaches, fans, and NFL teams that the punch was a single isolated incident instead of a true revelation of his character, wouldn't he be on his best behavior? For three months he would be in the weight room, staying in shape, saying the right things, and doing well in school, in an effort to prove that he was something more than a right hand hook specialist.

With his current suspension I simply see no way for Blount to vindicate his actions. If he sees the NFL as his only way to succeed in life, does he even stay in school? Or does he just drop out because Oregon decided to distance themselves as much as possible from Blount?

A seven game suspension with 11 games to play is plenty severe. It carries the same societal impact that a full season suspension would. Writers, analysts and bloggers would have their say on it, and after today's games, it would become a non-issue. Other news stories would supplant its relevance, and we would all forget about LeGarrette Blount.

If this game was not on a Thursday, I am almost willing to guarantee that he would have not been suspended the entire year. If it had been on the first Saturday of College Football season, the coverage would be less prevalent, the public outcry would be softer, and LeGarrette Blount's time as an Oregon Duck would not be over.

But because all media outlets took the story and ran with it, the only thing Chip Kelly could do was suspend him the entire year in order to silence the critics both in public and in private. It became a much bigger story than it probably should have been.

Deep down, it's hard not to feel pity for Blount. Wrong time, wrong place, wrong action, wrong consequence.

The question here, is not, whether all of our lives will go on with Blount sitting in the stands. 

The real question is, will his?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dear Michael: Please Buy the Bobcats, and Do It Quickly


Image Credit:

It has been widely speculated this summer that Michael Jordan has an interest in buying the Charlotte Bobcats. Current team owner Bob Johnson has expressed a desire to sell the team due to sagging revenues and sponsorships, losses in the "millions,” and an overall failure to become a successful business entity. Considering Johnson paid $300 million to establish the franchise in 2003 and it is currently valued at $284 million, even the simplest financial minds can see that this relationship has not been ideal.

His Airness has been a part-owner of the team since 2006. Although his role of “managing member of basketball operations” has always been somewhat unclear, he has clearly been an instrumental voice in the front office staff of the Bobcats. He has the final authority in basketball-related decisions, but he is not the one picking up the phone fielding trade offers. After a failed relationship of similar nature with the Wizards in 2000-2003, MJ has been moderately successful at this overseer position, even after considering the failure of Adam Morrison.

Jordan agreed to drafting Adam Morrison 3rd overall in 2006 (his first with the team), however, he only had two weeks between being named partial owner and deciding who got drafted, so it’s hard to put the blame entirely on his shoulders. In retrospect, Brandon Roy or Rudy Gay would have been better and more logical draft choices. However, former head coach and general manager Bernie Bickerstaff was influential in bringing Morrison to the Bobcats. And although the Kwame Brown draft pick defines his legacy with the Wizards, the Morrison pick will not do the same for the Bobcats.

Morrison (in case you'd forgotten) has quite possibly been one of the worst players to grace a basketball court in recent memory. When looking at his 11.8 points per game as a rookie, he appears to be a serviceable NBA player. However, he shot an atrocious 37.6% and managed to grab only 2.9 rebounds. He somehow managed to play 29.8 minutes a game, which makes his numbers look even worse. He tore his ACL before his sophomore campaign and missed the entire season. Thankfully the Bobcats managed to trade him to the Lakers this past season, separating Michael from the unfamiliar stench of failure. 

But all past dealings aside, it has been very clear, however, that Michael has been spending more time on the golf course than doing work in the Charlotte front office. This February 10th article in the Washington Post by Mike Cranston states “Jordan, rarely seen or heard from in Charlotte, insisted he's committed to making the Bobcats a winner and would be interested in buying a larger stake in the team.”

This is exactly why Michael needs to become the majority owner. Those are not things that should be said about upper level management. Instead, they should be words that describe an owner.

The average NBA fan can name probably 5 owners. Mark Cuban [Mavericks], Dr. Jerry Buss [Lakers], James Dolan [Knicks], Donald Sterling [Clippers], Robert Sarver [Suns]. Only one (Dr. Buss) has been able to ever bring his team to the promised land and the title of NBA Champion, while the rest are either known for their frugality (Sarver), failings (Sterling), eccentricity (Cuban), or imprudence (Dolan).

The most successful team of the past decade has been the San Antonio Spurs, and 95% of NBA fans most likely have no idea who the owner is. His name? Peter Holt. Who knew?

With Michael operating behind the scenes, he could leave all player-personnel decisions up to other staff members. And play all the golf he wanted to no detriment to the team. He would of course have the final say on all decisions, but he would be better suited to use his fame and personage to gain more corporate sponsorships, free agents, and financial benefits for the team. Michael could use his immense fame to make the Bobcats more competitive and appealing using his own personal brand, which would ultimately lead to more wins.

Much has been made this off season of players campaigning for free-agents to join their respective clubs through Twitter and other various network means. Pat Riley flew to Los Angeles and Dwyane Wade made numerous Twitter posts trying to entice Lamar Odom to join the Miami Heat. LeBron James did his best to get Trevor Ariza or Ron Artest to join the Cavaliers. Ultimately none of these attempts were successful, simply because the suitors did not carry the necessary weight to lure the free agents.

Imagine the influence that Michael Jordan would have in courting potential free agents to join the Bobcats. In his current position he is seen more as a manager than as an ambassador. If he were completely devoted to being an emissary of the Bobcats considering he was the principal owner, his prestige would be of a greater value to the franchise.

In six seasons as a front-office manager Jordan has been unable to lead a team to the playoffs. If he gracefully stepped down as he assumed the role of the owner, he would be able to lead the Bobcats in a much different manner. By giving more power to current general manager Rod Higgins, while still being able to have the final input on all decisions, Michael would be happy and the Bobcats would be better.

The Bobcats have seemingly been one key player away from being a playoff team in the East for the past three seasons. They have been unable to draw in top free agents, secure enough of a consistent fan base, or draw in the corporate sponsorships (and money that comes with them), to make them a contender.

With Michael Jordan at the helm, and operating as an icon for the Bobcats, he would give them the edge they needed to make serious headway and become a legitimate challenger to the Eastern Conference Elite. If he were able to finalize the sale of the Bobcats and secure ownership of the Bobcats, it would be one of the most significant moves of the NBA offseason.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Idea So Ridiculous It Might Work


(Image Credit:

Today, during my lunch break at work, I stumbled across this William Rhoden article in the New York Times, talking about soccer star Thierry Henry and his infatuation and love of America.

Who knew the French had it in them?

Henry, a 31 year old French striker who plays for FC Barcelona, spent time in the article joking about the difference between his fútbol and our football. He's convinced that we've got it wrong, because in American football, we don't use our feet.

However, he did not come across as a brash foreign soccer star. Instead, he showed his love for American football, specifically the New York Giants and Lawrence Taylor. He also did not hesitate to bring up American sporting icons Babe Ruth, Magic Johnson, and even Pistol Pete Maravich in discussing why his football has not had the same success as our football and other sports.

And that was the main premise of the article: Could Thierry Henry be the catalyst (à la Pelé) to bring professional soccer into the forefront of American sport and entertainment?

It was a role that was supposed to be filled by David Beckham and that has clearly not worked. And soccer, at least professionally, is still a second tier sport in the eyes of many Americans.

Thierry professes a love of American culture in the article and even expresses (in regards to playing in America), "It’s a wish, and I hope that one day it can be done. But I’m enjoying my time in Barcelona, I absolutely love it, but I wish that one day, it can be possible."

I began to think about this, and I really think that soccer can become a major professional sport in the US. However, no one man could bring soccer into the foreground of American culture. It seems highly unlikely in this day and age that one human could ever propel an entire sport.

So, I came to the conclusion that the only possible way for America to truly embrace soccer is to have a single American team, capable of playing against the top European teams.

I recognize this is a pretty radical idea, and I know what you're probably thinking - Impossible! That's ludicrous. No one would care. Have you heard of the MLS? It sucks. No one would watch. No players would play for us. The travel would not work. Etc. Etc. Etc.

However, I truly believe that the concept is not so far fetched.

Think about it.

First, the team would need an eccentric owner and a place to play. One name immediately catapulted to the top of the list: Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban.

Billionaire? Check. Famous? Check. Fan of the sport? Check. Stadium? Check - well, at least maybe.

I have a feeling fellow Texan Jerry Jones might let Mark and his fútbol players use the new 100,000 seat, $1.2 Billion Cowboy Stadium as their home turf.

With the city of Dallas having a strong love of sports, a large Latino population, an even larger general population, and location in the Central Time Zone (this would be crucial, so everyone in America could watch), the setting could not be more ideal.

If it were on the West Coast (Los Angeles came to mind), it would be too far behind the East Coast, and more importantly Europe. If it were on the East Coast (New York would be great too), prime time games would be played as people on the West sat in rush hour traffic. A game at 7:30pm in Dallas would be 8:30pm in the East and 5:30pm in the West. People would watch.

With the owner and the stadium out of the way, the next thing to address would be the roster.

The main reason professional soccer has not become an epidemic like the other major sports in America is because the quality of American professional soccer has quite frankly been awful. Americans only want to watch the best players playing the best game. It's why the Super Bowl, NCAA Tournament, and NBA Playoffs get the best ratings (and because of gambling - er...just kidding).

Watching a bunch of C-Level MLS players (sorry guys) simply does not excite Americans. However, if they had the opportunity to see top level competition, they'd show up in droves.

This was no more evident than when over 420,000 people went to 7 games involving premier European teams in the United States this summer in the World Football Challenge (including the friendly between Barcelona and the LA Galaxy that saw 93,000 people in the Rose Bowl). Also the US National Team garnered unbelievable support as they took down Spain in the FIFA Confederations Cup and nearly pulled off the upset against Brazil in the finals.

With Mark Cuban at the helm of the team, he'd be willing to shell out hundreds of millions to bring some of the best talent across the pond. If the team was able to secure a deal with one of Europe's upper echelon leagues and become a member, the players would see it as a practical alternative.

Players like the aforementioned Henry and Beckham, as well as Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko (rumored to have an interest to playing in America) would headline the squad. Although they would all be past the apex of their careers, they would still bring valuable name recognition and skill. Recruit star Americans Tim Howard in goal and Landon Donovan in the midfield, and then there are 5 bona fide stars to market.

Add a Mexican star like Giovanni Dos Santos and then there would be two countries that followed the team religiously. Incorporate some reliable starters and reserves and this team would be able to at least compete with some of the better European teams.

If the team had a large number of the best Americans playing on it as well, it would have "hometown feel" to it. Sign American players like DaMarcus Beasley, Brian Ching, Sacha Kljestan, and Ricardo Clark, and the team would look a lot like America.

It would be diverse, it would have players of all skin colors and backgrounds, and most importantly, every person would have their favorite player. This would be the way for the team to form an attachment to the general American populace, especially the youth.

If the youth of America believed that it was "cool" to play soccer because they had stars to emulate that also looked like them, the best American athletes would begin to play it more, and the quality of the American soccer player would improve.

Instead of kids pretending to be LeBron James, Peyton Manning, Derrick Jeter, or Sidney Crosby in their backyards, they might try and pull off their best Jozy Alitidore impression.

It would give rise to an entire generation of youth that had players that they wanted to grow up and be, and a team that they wanted to play for. Ask any male 35 and under and they probably dreamed of playing on the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan, at least one time in their life. The same cannot be said about the Houston Dynamo or any other team in the MLS.

The success of the team would ultimately have to be driven by the youth. As Tupac once said in Keep Ya Head Up "They say there ain't no hope for the youth and the truth is / It ain't no hope for the future."

Little did Shakur know that his words could also be used to profile the downfall of the "Great American Pastime." Because baseball did not cater to a younger generation and televised its World Series games at 9:30pm Eastern, their market share has almost become a nonentity to people under the age of 25. The popularity of baseball will begin to precipitously decline in the next 15-20 years. (But that's for a different post).

If this team were to exist, it could not afford to make the same mistake that baseball did, and would have to make a concerted effort to cater to people born after 1998.

Also if the team was able to work a deal with ABC/ESPN in which all of their games would be nationally televised, and their coverage would be abundant, they would eventually force themselves into the vernacular of the everyday sports language. There would be commercials for the games during Desperate Housewives, they would be a lead story on SportsCenter, and their information would be proliferated on blogs throughout the world.

There is already a solid base of professional soccer fans in the United States, and they would carry the team initially. Although they may have loyalties to their respective club teams (Liverpool, Chelsea, AC Milan, and Manchester United all come to mind), they would at least watch the new American team.

They would talk about it at work or at lunch or in the classroom, and then the outsiders who were not watching, would begin to watch the games in an effort to not be left out. Soccer is a beautiful game when it is played well, especially on HD, and the followers would grow as they watched more games. Slowly but surely the viewers and fans of the team would increase, until it became a national phenomenon and the growth became exponential.

If the team had an owner like Mark Cuban, a stadium like current Cowboys one, a roster with recognizable top pros (albeit older ones), a presence of American players, a deal with a top European league (Premiership is a possibility), and a network TV deal, simply put, it would succeed.

Those are of course a ton of variables, but if they all somehow were able to come together, there would be a viable professional soccer team in the United States.

European teams might have an aversion to traveling all the way over to the United States to play a single game, but with the luxury of today's airlines, they could certainly manage. Even the NFL is going global with a match up of the Patriots and Buccaneers in London on October 25th of this year. Travel would be a minor issue.

I'm also sure that I'm missing a ton of other objections (travel can surely not be the only one), so if you can think of one, let me know in the comments section. I know the ridiculousness of the proposition, however I think it is certainly feasible to believe that it could happen.

And at least for the time being, I think that this could be the impetus needed to grow professional soccer in American, and it could be a pretty effective.

The only thing left to do is come up with the name.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Silly Moves by the Braves


(Image Credit:

As you probably know, I'm a big Braves fan. As such, I was elated to see that they were able to snag the Sunday night baseball spot on "The World Wide Leader."

I was watching the game (and still am as I write this), and I noticed a familiar face playing first base, Adam LaRoche. I knew they traded for him a few days ago, but seeing him again got me thinking (a scary proposition, I know).

I began to wonder "Why did we get rid of this guy in the first place?" and more importantly "How did we turn Mark Teixeira into a player we already had?"

Those thoughts led me to doing a little research about a recent string of pretty odd, as well as poorly planned and orchestrated moves by the once illustrious front office of the Atlanta Braves.

It all started on January 19th, 2007, when the Braves traded first baseman Adam LaRoche to Pittsburgh for reliver Mike Gonzalez in an effort to bolster their bullpen. The left handed LaRoche was coming off a season in which he hit 32 homers, drove in 92 runs, and had a .298 average.

Then on August 1st, 2007, the Braves traded the farm (literally) to acquire first baseman Mark Teixeira from Texas, to fill their gaping hole at first base and need for another left handed bat in the lineup. The cornerstones of the deal were minor leaguers, Jarrod Saltalamacchia (catcher) and Elvis Andrus (shortstop) as well as three other minor leaguers. Andrus and Salty are now both starting for the Rangers.

The trade did not give the Braves boost that they needed to make the playoffs as they had hoped. This was mainly due to a lack of quality players in their bullpen, as Mike Gonzalez went down in May with a torn elbow ligament that required Tommy John surgery.

Then 363 days later on July 30th, 2008, the Braves traded Teixeira away to the Los Angeles Angels knowing they would not be able to sign him as a free agent in the upcoming off season due to his high price tag (he ended up getting a contract for 8 years $180 million from the Yankees). They traded him for first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor league pitcher Stephen Marek.

366 days after that on July 31st, 2009, the Braves traded Casey Kotchman to the Boston Red Sox for Adam LaRoche.

So essentially, they've traded away two top tier prospects into, well, nothing. They haven't made the playoffs since 2005, and are really in no position to do so this season.

I guess the most frustrating thing about all of this, is that it they're right back where they started, except all of their players are now 2 and a half seasons older.

When they traded LaRoche, they clearly did not get enough value for him, and they needed his bat in the lineup from the outset of the season. Then they traded away two great young players for Teixeira in an effort to replace the things that LaRoche gave them.

[Now don't get me wrong here, I totally agree that Teixeira was an upgrade over anything LaRoche could have given them. But if they had kept LaRoche, they could have used their assets in a more efficient manner.]

Then instead of keeping Teixeira for the rest of 2008 (which would net them two first round picks when he left in free agency), they traded him for Kotchman and a pitcher who has a 5.66 ERA in minor league play this year.

I just look at those moves and think that they could have turned them into something more valuable. If they didn't trade LaRoche in the first place, they probably could have turned Elvis, Jarrod and other prospects into an all-star left fielder (Matt Holliday or Manny Ramirez come to mind, both of whom have been traded in the past 2 seasons) or a top-flight starting pitcher (Jake Peavy, Cliff Lee, or even CC Sabathia, all of whom have been traded in the past 2 seasons).

CC led the Brewers into the playoffs last year, same with Manny for the Dodgers. And Holliday and Lee look like they will be doing the same for their new teams this season. Whereas the Braves moves are simply exercises in futility that result in third place (or worse) finishes in the National League East.

Maybe this is all a learning process for new General Manager Frank Wren. However, if these types of miscues and trades are a recurring problem and the Braves continue to lose ground in the NL East and miss the playoffs, Wren will have to stop learning and start producing. Or else he may be out of a job altogether.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

NBA Trade Machine Fun

The NBA Trade Machine gadget on ESPN is incredibly fun to play with. It has all the stipulations of current NBA contracts and abides by all rules set forth by the Association. However it does not take into the ability of the actual players in question. So you can feasibly trade Larry Hughes for LeBron James.

In a recent Bill Simmons mailbag, a reader boasted that he was able to improve the Knicks 58 wins according to the ESPN Trade Machine. (After the most recent trade machine update, his trade has since failed).

Simmons came back with this trade and said he was able to add 66 wins to the Knicks.

Well, after playing around with the trade machine this afternoon, I added 73 wins.

What would their roster look like with this trade?


PG- Jameer Nelson [16.7 pts, 5.4 ast, 3.5 reb]
SG- Brandon Roy [22.6 pts, 5.1 ast, 4.7 reb]
SF- LeBron James [28.4 pts, 7.2 ast, 7.6 reb]
PF- Rashard Lewis [17.7 pts, 5.7 reb, 2.6 ast]
C- Dwight Howard [20.6 pts, 13.8 reb, 2.9 blk]


6- Mo Williams (PG) [17.8 pts, 4.1 ast, 3.4 reb]
7- LaMarcus Aldridge (PF) [18.1 pts, 7.5 reb, 1.9 ast]
8- Darko Millic (C) [5.4 pts, 4.3 reb, 0.8 blk]
9- Jordan Hill (Rookie)
10- Toney Douglas (Rookie)

Not to mention they could still land Nate Robinson and David Lee in free agency. And after September 25th, Darko can be traded for Greg Oden, Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum, which should add at least 8 more wins.

I'd be willing to bet that Knicks team would win a championship.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hoping for Healing

Today I bring you Yao Ming, the oft injured center, who is one of the most fundamentally sound centers to ever grace the basketball court. His greatest asset, his size (Yao stands at 7'6" and weights 300 pounds), has also become his greatest liability, and he has been marred by injury problems his entire career. It was announced recently that Yao will have foot surgery this off season and will miss the entire 2009-2010 season, leaving his career in jeopardy. One can only hope that he will return healthy in 2010, because his presence will surely be missed.

Yao Ming 
Image Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

If Eddy Curry is a behemoth, then Yao Ming could simply be described as monolithic. The 7'6" Ming was initially scrutinized before becoming the first overall draft pick by the Houston Rockets in 2002, as a lumbering giant, destined to be posterized by the Association's most formidable dunk artists, the likes of which had not been seen since Shawn Bradley.

After Yao's second full season as pro, Yao had asserted himself as one of the league's next great big men. He was a legitimate 25-12 threat after his third season, who did nothing but help the team. He made his free throws (his 83.2% career mark almost equals Kobe Bryant), passed well out of double teams, had a reliable outside shot, did not turn the ball over, avoided foul trouble, and played solid defense. He was on his way to becoming one of the 10 greatest centers to ever play.

Putting his basketball skill aside, Yao Ming was also funny. He was personable off the court, he spoke English well (better than many of his American born brethren), and he was a good teammate. Yao was so much more than anyone could have imagined. He was truly on his way to becoming something special.

However his body did not agree with his ascendance into the pantheon of great centers. Like many great big men before him, the constant pounding of the NBA season began to take its toll. He has broken both his feet (on separate occasions), and suffered a fractured knee.

In his first three full seasons Yao played 244 of a possible 246 games (99.1%). In the 4 seasons since, he has played 231 of a possible 328  games (70.4%).

As tragic as it may be, this is a story that is all too common in the NBA. There are countless stories of other big men who have faced injury problems and have never lived up to their full potential (Bill Walton comes to mind), Yao is just another name to add to the list.

But Yao is so much more than a talented big man. Yao was the NBA's medium through which it truly became a global game. With all apologies to Wang Zhizhi, Ming bridged the gap between the NBA and the world's largest market, China. He became the gateway to connect the NBA and the far east.

This was no more evident than on November 9th, 2007 when Yao's Rockets played the Milwaukee Bucks, the team of countryman Yi Jianlian. The NBA estimated that over 200 million Chinese watched the meaningless regular season game in the middle of November.

Yao Ming was the reason that Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and other "Redeem Team" players were treated like royalty at the Beijing Games last August. Yao Ming was the reason that the Cleveland Cavaliers sold 15% of their team to Chinese businessmen. He's the reason that eight NBA preseason games have been played in China.

The legacy he leaves behind is already so expansive, that he has transcended the sport like only one other before him (Jordan - 23).  He means so much more to basketball than anything he would be able to produce on the court. He has opened the NBA to a market that is three times the size of America, a market that is growing exponentially.

While China may be tuned in now, it is more than reasonable to think that if Yao leaves the game prematurely, then their interest may wane, and it may be impossible to captivate and capture that audience again. That would be an incredible blow to the league, one that they might not be able to recover from.

And that would be the real tragedy. 

Friday, July 17, 2009

Defending Allen Iverson

In part two of the much maligned NBA player series, I present to you Allen "The Answer" Iverson, harbinger of the hip-hop image problem of the NBA, connoisseur of cornrows, tattoos, headbands, and general thuggary. Enjoys press conferences detailing his habits during practice (or lack of). Also happens to be one of the best guards to ever hit the hardwood.

Image Credit: Dime Magazine

Allen Iverson has always been somewhat of a pariah on the NBA landscape. His image dominated the post-MJ era. His tattoos, slight frame, and cornrows perpetuated the idea that the NBA was driven by selfish, "me first" players who enjoyed rap music, do-rags, and baggy sweat pants.

This was an image that turned off many casual fans. He was the poster child for the NBA's marquee stars and best players from the earlier years of this decade that did not resonate with the wider American public.

What has largely been lost in this translation, is Iverson's basketball prowess.

For example, here are the career per game stat lines of two players. One of them is Iverson.















886 41.4 27.1 6.2 3.7 9.4-22.1 42.5 1.2-3.8 31.3 7.1-9.1 78.0 2.2 0.2 3.6















948 36.4 25.1 4.6 5.3 8.7-19.2 45.5 1.3-3.7 34.1 6.4-7.7 83.1 1.5 0.6 2.9

Player 1? Iverson. Player 2? Kobe Bryant.

Both were drafted in 1996, and their legacies could not be any different, although they are more similar than anyone may be willing to admit.

AI has won 4 scoring titles, and 1 MVP award. Kobe has won 2 scoring titles and 1 MVP award. Last time I checked, I haven't heard anyone putting Iverson in the discussion as one of the greatest's of all time. Which is complete undue praise that has been lobbied Kobe's way in recent months.

Sure Kobe has 4 championship rings, but Allen Iverson has never had the supporting cast that Kobe has. When the two met in the NBA Finals in 2001, Kobe had Shaq, Horace Grant, Derrick Fisher, Isaiah Rider, Rick Fox and Robert Horry. AI? Dikembe Mutumbo, Aaron McKie, Eric Snow, and Tyrone Hill.

Kobe has had disputes with coaches (Phil Jackson - 2004). Demanded trades (Summer 2007). Quarreled with teammates(Shaq - 2004, Andrew Bynum 2007). Not to mention he was also accused of rape.

But he's competitive, and he just wants to win so bad.

Iverson has had disputes with coaches (Larry Brown - 2002). Demanded trades (2006). He's never had (public) rifts with teammates. And he was charged with possession of a firearm and marijuana after his rookie season in 1997.

But he's a thug, and a team killer.

Because it's one thing to be accused of rape. But it's an entirely different (and more severe apparently) thing to have a pistol for protection after growing up the son of a 15 year old unmarried mother in one of the poorest places in the country in Newport News, Virginia. His biological father was never around, so his mother's boyfriend dealt cocaine in an effort to provide for the family.

His high school coach was quoted in a 2007 ESPN article as saying "There were times when Allen never knew where his next meal was going to be. Here's a kid who couldn't take a bath because he had no running water because it had been turned off."

Kobe Bryant grew up in Italy while his father played professional basketball. His family then moved to a wealthy Philadelphia suburb that allowed Bryant to showcase his basketball ability on a national stage. He went to his senior prom with R&B sensation Brandy.

Yet somehow the two have managed to become the most iconic (and polarizing) guards of the last decade in the NBA.

Now why is this post relevant today? Well news has been circulating that the two could become the equivalent of basketball neighbors, as it has been speculated that AI might be signing with the Clippers.

The perpetually awful Clippers and Grizzlies seem to be the only teams in the league that want the free agent Iverson.

Although he is clearly no longer the player that he once was, I find it hard to believe that only the two worst franchises in the league have called for his services. I recognize that he is no longer the player he once was, and comparing his game to Kobe today is ludicrous, but the fact remains that he can still contribute.

Hopefully he will just be contributing to franchises that are more viable and desirable than the Clippers or the Grizzlies. With Eric Gordon (LA) and OJ Mayo (Memphis) asserting themselves as phenomenal young 2 guards, I find it hard to believe that there will be enough minutes to go around in either situation.

It is most likely if he signs for either team, someone will be unhappy, and he will again be branded as a cancerous prima donna, who only cares about individual accomplishments and not team success.

Meanwhile Kobe will be playing for one of the best teams in the league, and enjoying all of the benefits that success reaps.

Here's to hoping that the Answer will be able to find some sort solace around the league, and sign with a team where his greatness may actually be recognized.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rooting for Eddy Curry

Over the course of the rest of the summer and into the fall, I'll attempt to look at a number of NBA players that typically are viewed less favorably than most superstars. We'll start today with New York behemoth Eddy Curry.

(Image: ESPN)

An article in the New York Times today informed the nation that Eddy Curry has shown up to Las Vegas for off season workouts in shape. Typically that's something that goes unnoted, especially in a reputable news source like the Times, however Eddy Curry is some what of a sports enigma. And showing up to training camp in shape is quite an accomplishment for the 6'10'' 300 pound man.

Curry has been blessed with incredible size (occasionally too much) and talent, so much that the Chicago Bulls drafted him with the #4 pick in the 2001 draft out of high school.

However he has had a somewhat problematic time parlaying all of his natural skills into a successful NBA career.

This was no more apparent than last season, in which he only managed to play in 4 games due to conditioning issues and a recurring soreness in his knee. After showing up to camp out of shape new Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni quickly relinquished him to the end of the bench, something he was never able to overcome.


After hearing stories like that, it is a natural inclination to write someone like Eddy Curry off as an overweight, overpaid, enigmatic professional athlete.

But, his benching doesn't tell the entire story, and was not the end of his problems.

Curry was sued by his former chauffeur for sexual harassment, (claims he has vehemently denied) in January. Shortly thereafter he got the incredibly tragic news that his former girlfriend and child had been murdered in Chicago. And earlier this summer, news broke that his home was being foreclosed on, despite his annual salary that approaches 8 figures.

This guy just cannot seem to catch a break. Although I usually loathe players that never seem motivated enough to take advantage of the gifts that they have been bestowed with, I'll be pulling for Curry this year.

Any man that has been through that much deserves all the support he can get. Although I will not be purchasing his jersey-t anytime soon, here's to hoping that he is able to turn his life around this season.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Defending a King and his Court

(This story is based off the events described here)

The scene opens in a small gym in Akron, Ohio. A quick glance around the gym shows that this is no ordinary occasion. A large Nike swoosh adorns the walls behind the basket. There are multiple coolers filled with Vitamin Water. The court has been painted and waxed recently.

The gym is clean and the basketballs sitting in the racks are new, untouched and pristine. Clearly a special occasion is preparing to transpire; one must wonder what is going on. A look around the gym reveals no clues, yet it is so obvious something must be happening.

Something mythical...something epic.

Finally, the last glimpse reveals the occasion. A small sign sits in front of the large metal doors guarding this hall of majesty, it reads simply: Welcome to the 2009 LeBron James Skills Academy.

The next scene opens. It is one of controlled chaos. 10 human magnum opuses are running up and down the court. There are over a hundred more of these men standing and seated around the court, all with their eyes fixated on the round orange ball being thrown between the players.

A general camaraderie is evident between the men. With smiles and joking abounding plus dap being exchanged frequently on the court and in the bleachers, it is clear these men share a bond. Nonetheless there is an intensity circulating in the gym. No man wants to be seen as lesser than one of his equally skilled peers.

Even off the court, it is evident that some men loom greater than the other compatriots in the gymnasium. Although he is one of the smallest men in the gym, Chris Paul sticks out. The men he is seated around also conjure up images of basketball’s finest. Fellow Olympians Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony all loom large. Former collegian Stephen Curry can be seen chatting with fellow 2009 lottery picks DeMar DeRozen and Jonny Flynn in a corner of the gym.

Multitudes of the finest basketball players on the planet have assembled in this Akron gym to hone their basketball skills and pay homage to the king who rules this court. That man is the king of this state, but most importantly he presides over an association that they all aspire to rule one day. Unseating him on this throne will be difficult to say the least. His mythical stature is rivaled only by his basketball prowess.

The king of this court is none other than LeBron James.

One look at the game unfolding on the floor is all it takes to spot this basketball luminary. He stands taller than almost all the other participants, and has a physique comparable to the legendary Greek Titans. Approaching 6 feet 9 inches tall and weighing nearly 260 pounds, the man is one of the most intimidating men in the arena.

He is playing with passion and ability unseen before by his peers. Elegantly and powerfully he abounds up and down the hardwood. The full complement of his skill set is on display. His passing rivals that of Magic Johnson. His shooting harkens to that of Larry Bird. His defense, Bill Russell. His pure combination of skills and ability conjures up memories of the game’s greatest player, a man simply known as Jordan.

LeBron was banished from the playoffs by the Magic of Orlando and he has been determined to never let any team win another war against him again.

He has been playing like that of a man possessed. Not possessed by the devil, but possessed by a spirit of the sport’s finest players.

Even in these improperly deemed “practice” games he has shown his full ability. Step-back jumpers are rain in, drop step moves in the post that lead to easy basket, precise bounce passes to set up teammates, lane clearing drives that nearly bring down the rim, careening rebounds to start fastbreaks, and suffocating defense that stifles opponents. His closest companions and nearest rivals are in awe of his ability.

The teams briefly stop play to catch their breath. LeBron lingers on the floor with the ball in his hand. The King cannot help but smile as he surveys his court. He gazes at a silhouette of himself on the floor. He begins to ponder his sovereignty of the game he loves.

He feels as if he is only one season away from gaining what means the most to him, the title of champion. He has yet to claim the mythical Larry O’Brien trophy, a holy grail that is only given to the Association’s most elite kingdoms, not individual kings. It is a relic coveted by all, yet reserved for a select few. The King wants nothing more than a championship ring to be placed on the hand that he uses to rule empire.

Without it, LeBron feels like a prince, clearly capable of harnessing the greatness and power associated with the Larry O’Brien, and knows that his domination will not be complete until he hoists the trophy in June. Although he may be considered the King of Basketball by many, he knows he has not fully ascended to his rightful throne.

The teams step away from the water coolers and make their way back to join the King on his court. He hands the ball off to a member of the other team. The ball is inbounded and play begins once more.

Then the play happens. Not “play” in the sense of the game invented by Dr. James Naismith, but the play, one that will define this King’s reign. Albeit unrightfully, this one singular moment, a small fraction of time, and the action that follows will be etched into the volumes that chronicled his existence.

The play begins as any other. The ball is inbounded, is dribbled up court. A player with the ball crosses the half court line and begins to facilitate the offense. Men begin moving, cutting around the maze of bodies along the baseline and top of the key. Then the ball moves into the hands of an unknown proletarian, a man from Xavier named Jordan Crawford.

After a quick pump fake the 6-4 guard blows past his defender at the top of the three point arc and barrels towards the basket. LeBron sees the action and reacts, as he too heads toward the basket. They leave their feet and begin their jump at the same time. Jordan is closer to the rim and reaches the apex of his flight sooner and he sees LeBron has not yet made it to his.

Jordan takes the ball in both hands behind his head and slams it to the rim as LeBron’s outstretched arm and body below him fails to alter the flight of Crawford and the shot.

The Play is over. The gym erupts. Madness ensues.

In a game born on playgrounds, the dunk is the most powerful assertion of dominance. Dunking on someone is the penultimate symbol of supremacy.

For that one moment suspended in time, LeBron went from King to serf. He was stripped of all power and glory, a weakness was captured and exploited. LeBron was unable to defend his court from a man who may never even be allowed to join the association that the king presides over.

It was 1 Samuel 17 reenacted. An unknown David had conquered Goliath. An Israelite took down the champion of the Philistines. The proverbial underdog had taken down the King, at least for a miniscule amount of time.

LeBron knew there was no evidence except for the faint memory etched into the minds of the observers who witnessed the occasion. He began a jog down the court, his legacy would remain intact since there would be no visual evidence of the encounter. There would only be a brief mention of the play by the scribes sitting courtside who were allowed to chronicle the happenings in the gym that afternoon.

Then one scribe in particular caught his eye. The man was holding a forbidden video camera, its lens was squarely focused on the King. He had not noticed him before. Another man close to the first caught his eye as well. He too had a camera aimed at the King.

He wondered how long they had been there. His calmness was broken, and he became uneasy. No men were to be allowed to record the undertakings on the court. How had these two gone unnoticed?

With the gym still electric from the dunk, the King called time and motioned for an assistant to the legendary Phil Knight to speak with him. The two conversed quietly and departed. As the game resumed, the men holding the video cameras were approached. They were told that they were committing a forbidden act, and were asked to forfeit their tapes.

As the King continued to play he watched the event unfold. There was no argument, just a peaceful exchange of the evidence. He knew that if that video reached the unregulated internet a domain outside of his realm, it would become viral, and the witnesses to the play would grow from under 200 to 2 million within a matter of hours.

His honor would be questioned. His ability would be challenged. And his reign would be unfairly viewed as less superior than that of other players who had presided over the league before him. A mere peasant challenged a king and succeeded? He might be dethroned faster than the dunk occurred.

He was able to stop the event from going public, and he began to play once more at peace, knowing that his legacy was safe. Little did he know that asserting his power would lead to even more questioning of his ability to preside over his kingdom.

Yet it does not bother him now, for he knows without the tape, no damage can be done. It will only be a play of mythical legend, that can be disputed since there is no evidence. He will remain King.

And rightfully or not, a king will always do whatever it takes to remain on top.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Team By Team Draft Breakdown

Team – Overall Pick #, Player Name, (Position – School/Country)

Atlanta – #19 Jeff Teague (PG – Wake Forest) & #49 Sergiy Gladyr (SG – Ukraine)

Good pick with Teague, they needed a point guard, and were probably hoping Lawson would fall to them (missed him by 1 spot). Teague is a great player, but his production fell off towards the end of the year. The Hawks have a lot of talent on the roster, which will take the burden off of his shoulders.

Gladyr bears a striking resemblance to the word Gladiator, and that’s all I know about him.

Boston – #58 Lester Hudson (G – University of Tennessee Martin)

The Bad - He’s 24 and played in a conference that included Austin Peay, South East Missouri State, and Tennessee Tech.

The Good - He’s 6-2, averaged 28 pts, 8 rebs, 4 ast, 2 stls, 46% fg, 39% 3pt, and 83% ft.

Those are some video game statistics. He did pretty much all he could, where he could, so give him credit for that. Destined to put up similar numbers in the D-League. Have fun playing for the Reno Bighorns, Lester.

Charlotte – #12 Gerald Henderson (SG – Duke) & #40 Derrick Brown (PF – Xavier)

The Bobcats needed help at the 2, and Henderson should fill in admirably. Bobcats took the hometown kid, and will appease all of the Duke fans after taking three (!) UNC players since 2005.

Henderson will provide reliable defense and will also gladly punch the opposing teams best player in the face if Charlotte is losing in a must win game.

Look out Kobe, Henderson is coming to deviate your septum.

I also loved the Derrick Brown pick. Xavier has been my NCAA Tournament sleeper team the past two seasons (it didn’t work out) and he was a big reason why. He can shoot the 3, is very athletic and can play two positions. He could turn into a very serviceable NBA backup and spot starter, aimed to make the lives of the Rashard Lewis’s of the world a little more difficult.

Chicago – #16 James Johnson (PF – Wake Forest) & #26 Taj Gibson (PF – Southern Cal)

The Bulls have a pretty deep front court with energy guys in Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. So why did they draft two more forwards? No clue.

The word is James Johnson could play small forward, which would definitely fill a need for the Bulls, considering John Salmons is not getting any younger. Johnson has the talent to be a legitimate starter in the league, but there are questions about his work ethic. Could be good, but he seems pretty similar to Tim Thomas, Antoine Walker, Al Thornton, etc. Big guys, great talents, one minute he’s the best player on the planet, the next it’s hard to imagine he made an NBA roster.

For example here are his stats from 6 consecutive games this past season (points – rebounds): |8-2||24-11||26-11||28-18||8-8||9-8|Talk about contrast.

Gibson has some good upside, but his size (6’10” 220lbs) does not translate to the physical force in the paint Chicago envisions him to be. With questions at both shooting guard and small forward, I think the Bulls may regret passing guys like Sam Young, Wayne Ellington and DaJuan Summers in a few seasons.

Cleveland – #30 Christian Eyenga & #46 Danny Green & #57 Emir Preldzic

After Cleveland drafted this Eyenda, the announcers did not say anything for a solid 120 seconds. Yikes. Any time a team absolutely has to make a solid pick to prevent the best player on the planet from leaving after this season, they shouldn’t go with a guy no one has ever heard of and won’t play for at least 2 seasons. They clearly wanted an athlete, but there were much more proven (and better) players on the board. If LeBron bolts in 2010, expect this to be one of the reasons on his list.

The Danny Green pick was phenomenal. He gives them 3 point shooting, athletic ability, and is a great chemistry and glue guy coming off the bench (see: 2009 UNC Championship Team). Excellent pick-up in the middle of the second round.

Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry may have passed him up if the two did not share the same first name.

As for Emir? Your guess is as good as mine.

Dallas – #25 Rodrigue Beaubois (PG – France) & #45 Nick Calathes (PG – Florida) & #56 Ahmad Nivins (PF – St. Joseph’s)

Beaubois is 6’2” has a 6’10” wingspan and 39” vertical jump. That’s unreal. There are questions about his skills apparently, but if he is that athletic, he’ll probably be a very good on-ball defender (something 36 year old incumbent starter Jason Kidd is not).

Calathes was great in college, and it was very surprising to see him fall so far. He’s one of the few players from this draft I’ve seen in person, and I liked what I saw. He apparently signed a deal with a team in Greece before the draft, which was very perplexing, so there are questions about whether or not he will even play in America this year.

Nivins went to St. Joe’s and averaged 19 pts and 12 rebs his senior year. Love the guys that learn how to play in the big city.

On a side note, the Mavericks have only had four first round picks since 2000. They include, Maurice Ager (2 ppg career) Josh Howard (loves reefer, plays good ball), Etan Thomas (6ppg 4 reb career), and now this guy from France. It’s amazing that they’ve actually been any good.

Denver – Traded 2010 first round pick for #18 Ty Lawson (PG – UNC)

Great pick for Denver. Absolutely wonderful. Will be mentored by Chauncey Billups and will thrive in the Nuggets up tempo system. He will be asked to contribute from day one, and will certainly be able to do so.

Detroit – #15 Austin Daye (SF/PF – Gonzaga) & #35 DaJuan Summers (SF – Georgetown) & #39 Jonas Jerkbo (SF – Sweden)

Austin Daye 6’10” and can’t bench press 185 pounds and graded out as the worst athlete in this year’s draft class. Not only could he not bench press 185, he was the slowest in the ¾ court sprint, 2nd slowest in the lane agility test, and tied for the worst vertical jump at 28”. In the 4 major athletic categories, he graded Last, 2nd to Last, Last, and (you guessed it) Last.

Detroit was looking to rebuild, but this guy has bust written all over him. It will be surprising if he plays more than 200 games (2 ½ Full Seasons) as a pro.

Summers on the other hand? Good athlete, produced at a big time school, and had first round talent. Excellent second round steal.

Jerkbo is apparently very athletic and has a high basketball IQ. The Pistons might stash him overseas for a season or two, but will probably make an impact when he decides to come stateside.

Golden State – #7 Stephen Curry (PG – Davidson)

Apparently there have been rumors that the Suns will be trading Amare Stoudemire to the Warriors for Stephen, Brandan Wright and Andris Biedrins. That would be a terrible trade for Golden State. Those are three legitimate starters and all three have all-star caliber potential.

So for the time being, let’s go with the notion that Golden State keeps this pick.

Stephen Curry to the Warriors might have been a better destination than the Knicks. The Warriors play an even more up-tempo style than the Knicks, which will certainly suit Curry’s skill set. Also it’ll relieve some of the pressure from the crazy New York fan base off of his shoulders.

Curry has all the ability to be a terrific NBA player. He has a great feel for the game, a terrific jump shot, and is a grounded team-first player. There are questions about whether or not he can play the point full time, but I think he answered them this past season.

Much has been made of his so called “physical limitations,” but he’s taller than Chris Paul and the same size as Deron Williams. He also put up huge numbers against players with NBA caliber talent (44 point performances against NC State and Oklahoma this past season), and go take a look at his numbers from Davidson’s 2008 Elite Eight run.

Curry (terrific shooter) and Monta Ellis (terrific slasher) will complement each other very well, presuming that Stephen does not get dealt.

Houston – #32 Jermaine Taylor (SG – University of Central Florida) & #34 Sergio Llull (PG – Spain) & #44 Chase Budinger (SF/SG – Arizona)

Houston GM Darryl Morey always has a terrific second round, and this is no exception.

Taylor averaged 26 points a game as a senior, and Budinger was once projected to be a lottery pick. If either of these two plays to their potential, the Rockets have again managed to pick up very solid contributors in the second round.

And Sergio Llull has 4 (yes, FOUR!) L’s in his five letter last name. How awesome! Is there any other letter in the alphabet that works with? Zzizz. Aapaa. Ppopp. Qquqq. Nope, didn’t think so.

Indiana – #13 Tyler Hansbrough (PF – University of North Carolina) & #52 AJ Price (PG –University of Connecticut)

Hansbrough excelled in college, excelled in workouts, measured well, and was able to land in the lottery. He will probably never make an All-Star squad (along with the other 90% of the players drafted), but will be a very valuable contributor on his team for a long NBA career. Also Larry Bird simply could not pass up drafting another white guy for his roster. The people of Indiana will love him.

AJ Price was solid at UConn and had a few transgressions (stole a few laptops his freshman year, no big deal), but overall is a pretty good player. He should make the roster, but will not provide much else other than a few minutes here and there.

Los Angeles Clippers – #1 Blake Griffin (PF – Oklahoma)

Blake Griffin was clearly the best and the most NBA-ready of all the players in the draft and even the Clippers were able to see that. He should come in and contribute immediately, but with so many players in the front court commanding so much money, it’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to get enough minutes to showcase his skills.

The Clippers made the right choice and now just have to manage their roster correctly in order to get the best value for their pick.

Los Angeles Lakers – #59 Chinemelu Elonu (PF – Texas A&M)

Here’s a guy that needed to stay in school. But after getting drafted by the world champions, he’s probably pretty happy. Elonu was somewhat productive in college based on his limited minutes. But considering he was only able to get 24 minutes a night for the Aggies, I find it hard to believe he’ll be getting a lot of playing time on the Lakers.

The Lakers sold their first round pick to the Knicks for $3 million. They need money for Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom, but they could have kept the pick and drafted Sam Young or DaJuan Summers as an insurance policy in case one or both leave during free agency. Plus they are the Lakers and they just won the NBA Finals, I find it hard to believe that they are hurting for cash.

Memphis – #2 Hasheem Thabeet (C- University of Connecticut) & #27 DeMarre Carroll (PF – Missouri) & #36 Sam Young (SF – Pittsburgh)

Memphis GM Chris Wallace may be smarter than we all thought. After absolutely giving away Pau Gasol, he has put together his third solid draft in a row. The Grizzlies are absolutely loaded with young talent, and will more than likely push the Blazers and Thunder as the teams with the most potential to be title contenders in 3 years.

Hasheem will be a defensive force in the paint when he adds more muscle, DeMarre Carroll is athletic and has a moderate perimeter game and Sam Young was an absolute steal at #36, even after you factor in that he’s 24.

They will have an unbelievable eight players in their top ten who have NBA experience of three years or less. They’ll probably lose more games than they win, but could be very good in a few seasons.

Miami – #42 Patrick Beverly (PG – Ukraine) & #60 Robert Dozier (SF – Memphis)

Beverly left school at Arkansas after his sophomore season to play professionally in the Ukraine. He is a very good athlete, is a shoot-first point guard, and an excellent defender.

Dozier is another very good athlete, but lacks a true position. At least he has the unique title of being Mr. Irrelevant.

Milwaukee – #10 Brandon Jennings (PG – Spain) & #41 Jodie Meeks (SG – Kentucky)

Brandon Jennings is not half the baller that Compton brethren DeMar DeRozan is. He was not expecting to go as high in the draft as he did, so he turned down the NBA’s invite to the draft’s green room. Once he was drafted in the lottery, he showed up about 30 minutes after he was picked to walk on stage for 10 seconds. Surely that cannot be a good sign.

But he did rock a sweet high top fade during the McDonalds All-American game last year before he ventured to Italy because he could not post the necessary academic qualifications to get into Arizona. Success or failure, Brandon Jennings will at least have an interesting NBA career.

Jodie Meeks dropped 54 points on Tennessee earlier this season, so he can definitely score. Milwaukee has had some luck finding talent in later rounds (Michael Redd, Ramon Sessions, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute) and he could be another name to add to that list.

Minnesota - #5 Ricky Rubio (PG – Spain) & #6 Jonny Flynn (PG – Syracuse) & #28 Wayne Ellington (SG – University of North Carolina) & #47 Henrk Norel (PF – Netherlands)

Ricky Rubio could be an excellent player, but he may have to spend a season or two in Spain before he crosses the pond. Rubio has been compared to the greats, so time will only tell whether or not he surpasses those expectations.

Much has been made of Jonny Flynn’s performance in the 6 overtime game against Connecticut in the Big East tournament. Much less has been made of Ty Lawson’s spectacular NCAA tournament performance while nursing a very injured toe. Flynn could be good and has been compared to Chris Paul, however those comparisons are entirely too lofty. Not sure how well he fits in with Rubio on the roster.

Wayne Ellington was a terrific shooter and an underrated athlete and slasher so he will fill a need at the two guard for ‘Sota after Mike Miller and Randy Foye got traded to the Wizards.

Henrk Norel played with Rubio in Spain, so maybe he was drafted him to help ease Ricky’s transition stateside. Or the Minnesota brass just wanted to really stick it to DKV Joventut in Spain.

It is expected Rubio or Flynn will be dealt, with New York being a likely destination, but it remains to be seen if that will come to fruition.

New Jersey – #11 Terrence Williams (SG – Louisville)

Williams is apparently an awesome guy to be around. Chad Ford described him as an “eccentric dude” and was well known for wearing SpongeBob (my spell check recognized that as a real word) clothing on the Louisville campus.

He’s an elite athlete who can do a little of everything. He average 12.5 pts, 8.6 reb, 5 ast, 2.3 stl, and 0.8 blk during his senior season at Louisville. He doesn’t shoot particularly well (43.1% fg, 38.5% 3pt, 58.1% ft), but that is something he can certainly improve on.

He reminds me of a not as tall, slightly less athletic Gerald Wallace.

New Orleans – #21 Darren Collison (PG – University of California Los Angeles) & #43 Marcus Thornton (SG – Louisiana State University)

The Hornets desperately needed help in the front court. Tyson Chandler has battled injuries, David West is playing 40 minutes a night, and James Posey and Peja Stojakovic are both 32. After a solid rookie campaign, Julian Wright’s production fell off the planet last season.

So the Collison pick (who will be nothing more than a backup, considering Chris Paul is the best point guard in the land) was pretty bad value. Especially considering how many good forwards were still on the board.

Marcus Thornton scored at an efficient rate at LSU and will be a benefactor of the attention that Chris Paul and David West commands.

New York – #8 Jordan Hill (PF – Arizona) & #29 Toney Douglas (PG/SG – Florida State)

Jordan Hill is super athletic and will thrive in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo high octane offense. He will probably put up slightly better or similar numbers to David Lee, who could leave this summer in free agency.

Toney Douglas was a terrific scorer in the ACC this past season and if he was 3 inches taller he would have gone in the lottery. He is also a great defender, who will be able to pester some of the league’s better point guards.

If the Knicks lose David Lee or 6th Man Nate Robinson, these two should be able to fill their roles well. If Lee and Robinson both stay, the Knicks will be elated and will have some very good young pieces in place.

Oklahoma City – #3 James Harden (SG – Arizona State) & #24 BJ Mullens (C – Ohio State) & #54 Robert Varden (SG – University of Alabama Birmingham)

James Harden will be phenomenal for the Thunder. Kevin Durant is the clear star on the team and Harden will have no problem deferring the attention to KD. He’ll provide another valuable perimeter threat, and will be very effective driving to the basket. Drafting Curry or Rubio would have had more appeal to the fan base, but each would have upset Russell Westbrook and neither would really fit into their scheme.

After BJ Mullens got drafted, ESPN put up this graphic – Must Improve: Post Game. Any time a team can draft a 7’1” center who needs to improve his post game, they do it right? He’ll be a project, and will take a lot of time to develop, and will probably end up being not very good.

Varden will provide depth off the bench, and should be productive in limited minutes.

Orlando – None

The Magic traded their first round pick for Rafer Alston after losing Jameer Nelson to a shoulder injury. Alston then helped lead them to the NBA Finals. On Wednesday they traded him, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie to the Nets for Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson.

Courtney Lee is a good player, but he’s no Vince Carter. And with Nelson coming back healthy next season, Alston was expandable.

Ryan Anderson will also provide more front court depth, and fits right into their system considering he’s a power forward who is more perimeter oriented.

Excellent maneuvering from GM Otis Smith.

Philadelphia – #17 Jrue Holiday (PG – University of California Los Angeles)

Holiday was the top point guard recruit in the country last season. He averaged 8 points a game in 30 minutes, and was not a very good distributor (3.7 assists, 2.1 turnovers).

However, he’s big and athletic and was playing out of position all season, so that probably led to his poor numbers. It’s possible he could turn out to be a huge steal in the middle of the first round, or he could be pretty terrible, as his numbers indicated.

More than likely, he will fall somewhere in between.

Phoenix – #14 Earl Clark (SF – Louisville) & #48 Taylor Griffin (PF – Oklahoma)

Earl Clark is immensely talented, but the common consensus is that he could be a major headache in the league. I think that with Steve Nash and Grant Hill leading the Suns, they should be able to keep him grounded and his talent could shine through. Moving Stoudamire would also aide in his development, considering STAT is a major head case in his own right.

Clark could be a dark horse candidate for rookie of the year.

Drafting Taylor Griffin was a pretty perplexing. However, after drafting another not-as-good brother last year (Robin Lopez), I have a theory as to why they’re doing it.

In an effort to lure Brook Lopez and Blake Griffin after their rookie deals expire, Phoenix GM Steve Kerr decided the best thing to do was draft their brothers. Talk about great strategy to rebuild a team.

Portland – #22 Victor Claver (SF – Spain) & #31 Jeff Pendergraph (PF – Arizona State) & #33 Dante Cunningham (PF – Villanova) & #55 Patrick Mills (PG – Saint Mary’s)

Nothing very exciting from the Blazers for this draft. With a ton of young talent and picks 22, 31, and 33, they could have made a pretty big trade to push them over the top. None of these guys will be able to help them immediately.

It’s very possible that they may have been able to package some of these picks together to move into the lottery and grab the small forward that they clearly need in Earl Clark or someone along those lines.

Since they did not, it’s debatable as to whether or not that they simply have room on the roster for 4 more young guys.

Sacramento – #4 Tyreke Evans (PG/SG – Memphis) & #23 Omri Casspi (SF – Israel) & #38 Jon Brockman (PF – Washington)

All solid, albeit unspectacular picks from the Kings. Evans was somewhat of a reach at 4th overall, but will be a solid pro. Casspi was the first Israeli to have ever been drafted, and is apparently a very fierce and scrappy player. Jon Brockman is an absolute monster in the post, and will gobble up rebounds like Joey Chestnut gobbles up hot dogs on the 4th of July.

Overall a good draft from the Kings.

San Antonio – #37 DeJuan Blair (PF – Pittsburgh) & #51 Jack McClinton (SG – Miami) & #53 Nando De Colo (PG – France)

The Spurs do it again, three terrific second round picks.

Blair has lottery worthy talent and ability, but he does not have any ACL’s (not sure how that happened, I think it had to do with tearing them in high school), which scared off every other team in the league. If he doesn’t have any though, that means he can’t tear them, and that’s a good thing!

McClinton can catch fire at any point, which will make him a valuable contributor off the bench.

De Colo is European, and got drafted by the Spurs, which probably means that he is terrific and we will all hate him in three seasons. He also gives Tony Parker another guy to speak French with on the roster.

And they also managed to steal Richard Jefferson away from Milwaukee earlier in the week.

Excellent stuff again from the Spurs.

Toronto – #9 DeMar DeRozen (SF – Southern Cal)

The Raptors got my favorite player of the draft. Why? Well other than the fact his name is DeMar DeRozan, he played on Master P’s AAU team, and he’s from COMPTON, I really could not tell you why. I just think he’s cool.

He’s got phenomenal swag and pure baller status.

Utah – #20 Eric Maynor (PG – Virginia Commonwealth)

When a team has clear needs at the 4 and has one of the top three point guards in the league, it’s always a good choice to draft another point guard.

Wait, no it’s not.

Since when did teams use first round picks to draft back up point guards? Especially when the incumbent starter played on the Olympic team. At most, this guy will play 15 minutes a game.

Maynor could be a pro; however this was an awful pick for the Jazz. It simply does not make sense considering Boozer could leave via free agency, giving them a grand total of 1 power forward on the roster.

Terrible value at 20th overall.

Washington – None

The Wizards traded 5th pick (ended up being Ricky Rubio), Etan Thomas, Oleksiy Pecherov, Darius Songaila to Minnesota for Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Then they sold their 2nd rounder, #32 overall to the Rockets.

With DaJuan Blair (knee problems and all), Dante Cunningham, and even Derrick Brown still on the board, selling the pick was questionable. Blair would have given them much needed toughness on the front line, something they currently lack and will be desperately searching for if they want to take this team to the next level.

I think Rubio and Blair would have been great additions to the team; however Miller and Foye are two very good players. If they are able to get some solid depth in free agency, I think the Wizards will be serious contenders for the Eastern Conference title.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Donte Stallworth got off with murder...literally

Want to know something unbelievable?

Donte Stallworth is going to jail for 30 days for murder. Michael Vick recently ended an almost 2 year jail sentence for killing dogs.

1 month compared to 23. The life of a human compared to the lives of dogs.

Now don't get me wrong, I absolutely love dogs. I have a wonderful golden retriever that I adore. So I fully understand that Michael Vick was a part of a heinous, brutal and illegal crime ring and was deservedly punished.

Donte Stallworth was not.

If you don't know all the details, I can give you a brief rundown of the situation.

  • Around 7am on the morning of March 14, Donte Stallworth struck and killed 59 year old Mario Reyes in Miami
  • Stallworth had a .128 Blood Alcohol Content, one and a half times the legal limit
  • Mario Reyes was crossing the street to catch a bus, because he was a construction worker, so he could get work, to provide for his 15 year old daughter and their family

Stallworth apparently received a lesser sentence because he cooperated with police on the scene (I thought we were supposed to do that?), was remorseful (again, I feel that this should be a standard emotion), provided a confidential financial settlement to the Reyes family, and because Reyes was not crossing the street at a crosswalk.

And he only receives a 30 day sentence?

He was drunk at 7am and killed a guy!!

He didn't honk his horn at Reyes, he flashed his lights! I flash my lights when I'm letting people merge in front of me on the interstate. It wouldn't be my course of action when I was getting ready to end their life because my Bentley was headed straight for them while I was drunk behind the wheel.


I simply don't understand how 30 days is a just sentence for murder. This is less a post about sports and more about a flawed justice system. But I have to imagine if Stallworth was not a privileged athlete, he would be spending his next 30 years in prison, not his next 30 days.

I am a college student, and I am guilty of sometimes crossing streets at places that are not crosswalks. Of course I look both ways, and make sure it's safe. I also cross streets in the morning, like Reyes, because I have to. When I'm going to class, or when I'm working for my internship.

I have not been afforded the luxury of being able to stay out until 7am getting intoxicated while people of much lesser means have to perform manual labor in order to make ends meet.

Now it's possible that Reyes did not look both ways before he crossed the street, which certainly would put a small margin of blame onto him. Sober or not, if a man walks in front of your car, and you're going fast enough so you can't slow down, you'll hit him. It's physics and unfortunately it's inevitable.

However, I'm sure the last thing Reyes expected was someone who was so inebriated that he could not avoid hitting and killing him. Also, I imagine a sober person might have had the wherewithal to see Reyes, see the bus, and see the man trying to get to work, and slow down, or at least change lanes to avoid him.

Or maybe a sober person would have honked. And maybe that's all it would have taken.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Official End of An Era

Later this month I will turn 20 years old. I'll be halfway to 40.

Tomorrow will mark the first day of my life where either Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux or John Smoltz (or some combination of the three) were not members of the Atlanta Braves.

I am heart broken.

With Tom Glavine's release due to recurring injury problems, the Atlanta Braves officially ended an era that defined almost two decades of baseball in the south east.

The Braves, as we all know, are the official team of all things southern. Being the only professional baseball team below Washington DC, above Florida, and as far west as Texas will certainly do that.

I was born in Atlanta and lived there until I was 5. I have faint memories of Fulton County stadium, and a picture autographed by Mark Lemke.

I grew up on the Braves.

I grew up watching the most dominant pitching trio baseball has ever seen.

They have combined for 810 total wins and 147 saves (thanks Smoltz).

They won 6 straight Cy Young Awards (one of Maddux's was with the Cubs). 7 out of 10 of baseball's most prestigious pitching honor in the 1990's.

They brought the only professional championship to the city of Atlanta.

They fueled an era of unprecedented dominance, winning 14 consecutive National League East Titles.

Most importantly these guys did it "the right way." In an era in which recent baseball headlines have been fraught with steroid controversies, and some of the greatest players of the past generation have been given a black mark, these three have kept their names blemish free. Although baseball players seem to be guilty until proven innocent, I have a very hard time believing any of these three have ever used a performance enhancing drug. Which makes their combined dominance even more astonishing.

Right now I am somewhat at a loss for words. Although the luster of their greatness has waned over the past few years as the three have battled injuries consistent with being over 40 years old and pitching, having at least one of them on the Braves was always comforting. Now that they are all gone, the Braves seem so much more unfamiliar. A 20 year constant has now been altered forever, and I am unsure of how to respond.

But for now at least they still have Chipper. But what will I do when he retires?

I shudder at the thought.

(PS- I'm going to be writing a column for my school's newspaper on this exact subject. There will probably be a little overlapping, but I'll still post it on Sunday when I'm finished)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

LeBron's odds of beating the Magic...maybe no so insurmountable?

My Dad sent me a very interesting article calling into question whether or not the Cavaliers odds of beating the Magic were as bad as we all thought.

Teams that were once down 3-1 in a seven game series in the NBA have come back to win said series only eight times in 187 tries. Which is a winning percentage of roughly 4.


However, this article brought into question whether or not those numbers are actually reliable when comparing them to the current series.

Consider that in a large numbers of those series that the team that was supposed to win (the favorite) most likely held the 3-1 lead. They were probably led by All Stars, MVP's, and future Hall of Famers. I doubt Magic or MJ would ever relinquish a 3-1 strangle hold on a series.

So after a little digging, I found a neat little article (from a Cavaliers fan) that details and gives a short synopsis of the previous eight instances.

Here's a brief rundown of how they broke down:

  • 7 of the 8 times the team held home court advantage.
  • The one time the team didn't hold the home court advantage was the 1995 defending NBA Champion Houston Rockets against the Phoenix Suns. The Rocket were led by a guy named Hakeem and another named Clyde (who was acquired from Portland in a midseason trade). They'd go on to win their second title in as many years.
  • Three times it was during the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • One time Orlando was the loser.
  • Three times the team that won the series went on to win the NBA title.
  • The winners of these series had some of the greatest players to ever step foot on a basketball court. The names included: Elvin Hayes, Steve Nash, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning, Sam Jones, Robert Parish.

    But then there were guys like Clyde, Hakeem, Wilt, Russell, Bird, Havlicek, Baylor, West, McHale.

LeBron certainly has his work cut out for him, but the precedent has been set, and it is not an impossible task. Considering he's got home court, playing in an eastern conference final, and will be one of the best to ever play the game, at least he's pushed the odds a little more in his own favor. It will definitely not be easy, but it is certainly within reason considering the players and teams that have done it before him.

Here's to hoping that the Cav's win tonight and we all get treated to another Game 7.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nightly recap: Oddities and other fun stuff


The Cleveland LeBron's actually had a close game last night against the Atlanta Hawks. And by close I mean they only won by 10 points, 84-74. King James came through with 27-8-8. Which is almost exactly what he averaged during the regular season.

In such a low scoring game, those numbers are pretty unbelievable. LeBron either made or assisted on 17 of the Cavaliers 30 baskets. Meaning he was directly involved with 56% of his teams field goals! That's unreal.

To contrast that, in the Nuggets-Mavericks game (119-117 - Mavericks) last night two players scored over 40 points. Carmelo Anthony had 41 for the Nuggets and Dirk Nowitzki 44 for the Mav's. Respectively contributing 47% and 42.5%.

Granted, this is a pretty inexact science considering it doesn't take free throws into effect (and thus, overall points), as well as many other factors that make up a basketball game, but it just goes to show you how much LeBron means to that team.


There were only 4 games played last night, but some pretty neat things still happened.

Randy Johnson got the win, in a 11-7 Giants victory over the Nationals. Making it win number 298 for his career. He's inching closer to 300, but I imagine it's like watching an 65 year old former Olympic gold medalist run (walk maybe?) a 10k race. You know they're going to finish, and it'll be great when they do, but it's kind of painful to see them agonize their way through it. Kind of makes you wish they'd hang up the Asics and do something a little different.

Same thing applies to watching the 45 year old Johnson who has had chronic back problems for the past couple of seasons trying to make it to the magical 300 win plateau. The man has won 5 Cy Young awards, he doesn't need to prove anything else to get into Cooperstown.

Bronson Arroyo pitched well enough for the Reds to get another victory, bringing his record to 5-2 on the year (really good). Too bad he has an ERA hovering around 7 (really bad). Think anyone has ever had a winning percentage higher that 70% with an ERA higher than 7, with over 6 games started? If I worked at ESPN, I'd be able to tell you the answer to that, but I don't. I still really doubt anyone has.

Meanwhile the New York Mets as a team last night gave up 8 runs against the Braves, and only 3 of them were earned. Poor Johan Santana got the big L, even though he didn't allow an earned run, bringing his record to 4-2 on the season.

So a guy with an ERA of 0.78, a WHIP of 0.95, and 11.7 K's/9 innings, is on pace for fewer wins then a guy with an ERA of 7.02, WHIP of 1.61, and 5.0 K's/9?

That just ain't right.

I know no one would argue Arroyo is having a better year, but still, something about that just bothers me. But I guess that's just how the cookie crumbles, and as always, the stats don't lie.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rockets Rout the Lakers: A Showcase in Heart & Hustle

Today the Houston Rockets took down the Los Angeles Lakers 99-87. The Rockets were missing their best player Yao Ming, who was out with a broken foot.

After the Rockets stole the first game in Los Angeles, they promptly responded by getting blown out in the next two. Facing a 2-1 series deficit and missing their best player, the Rockets could have easily mailed in the next two games and started their summer vacation a few days early.

But they didn't. This afternoon the Rockets jumped out to an early 9-0 lead that they never relinquished. They started strong and showed the Lakers that they had no intention of laying down after Yao was declared out for the rest of the series.

In a post game recap for ESPN, former Laker great Magic Johnson said "The Lakers embarrassed themselves, the organization, and the Laker fans."

Clearly Earvin was not happy, and he had every right not to be.

Led on offense by minute guard Aaron Brooks (34 pts. 12/20 shooting) and supposed defensive specialist Shane Battier (23 pts. 6/12 shooting) the Rockets made all the plays necessary to take down the Lakers.

But the story here lies in the Rockets out-hustling the Lakers for loose balls, rebounds, and simply (using a cliché) wanting it more.

One can look no further in the box score to see where things went wrong for the Lakers. The Rockets out rebounded the Lakers 43-37 and 11-8 on the offensive glass, even without 7 foot-6 Yao Ming in the lineup.

Over the course of a game 6 rebounds, doesn't seem like much, but in reality, it is. During the regular season, Portland led the league in rebound differential at +5.4 per game and Golden State had the worst at -5.1 per game.

But those numbers don't tell the whole story. After doing a little math (check it out - Spreadsheet Here), I discovered that the average height of a player on the floor (on a per minute basis) for the Lakers was 6 feet 7 1/2 inches. The average height of a Rockets player was 6 feet 5 inches.

The Rockets gave up 2 1/2 inches per player! Over an entire foot of height for the whole team on the court!! And the Lakers were still out rebounded at a margin that would have been the best in the Association this season? How is that possible?

6-6 power forward Chuck Hayes pulled down the same amount of rebounds (9) as 7 foot Pau Gasol. 6-9 Louis Scola grabbed almost as many boards (14) as the top two Laker rebounders combined (15).

Those numbers are indicative of one team simply exerting more energy and trying harder. Basketball is a game where hustle can trump skill, and the Rockets clearly displayed that they wanted nothing more than to take down the mighty Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers were content to let this happen, as they stood idly while the Rockets were determined to out worked them for the win. Because when you're almost 3 inches taller than your opponent, there is no excuse for losing the battle on the boards.

The Rockets may not win this series, because often talent trumps effort, but tonight they overcame the odds and won a game they had no business winning. Let's hope they can do it twice more.

Author's Note: Take a look at the spreadsheet, I did a little more than adding up every player's height and dividing it by the minutes they played. It's a pretty cool document.