Anyway, because I’m not going to discuss tomorrow’s Game of the Century (alright I’m going to talk about it a little bit at the end of this post) I figured I would try and get to a number of topics that I’ve been thinking about as of late. It’s been quite some time since I sat down and collected my random thoughts in this space and there’s no time like the present right? Right?
- Since I haven’t done this in a while, lets start with something easy. Well, I guess its really not easy for anybody other than Josh Smith to do something like this. Well, Josh Smith and Jesus, maybe.
- By now most of you know that Michael Redd scored 57 points last weekend. Redd’s performance was one of the top 5 highest scoring games in NBA history. Now, do you know who he replaced at #5? Purvis Short…yeah I had no idea either. I mean, I know who Purvis Short is but suffice it to say I had no idea he had EVER dropped 50 in an NBA game. Shit, he wasn’t even the most famous Purvis around when he dropped 50+ for Golden State in 84/85.
The ONLY guy who makes Danny Ferry feel good about his NBA career.
- More randomness: Check out the name for Kobe Bryant’s old shoe from Adidas. Wow. I guess you can’t name a shoe the Alleged Rapist.
- By now, most of you have heard that Gerald Levert died last week. What I’m wondering is how his son, Khalid El-Amin, has been dealing with the loss.
- I heard a lot of people bash the Spurs for not adequately replacing Nazr Mohammed and Rasho Nesterovic this summer. My first thought was, “We’re talking about the same two guys who couldn’t get off the bench in last year’s playoffs right.” After that, I began to think about the guys whom they did replace those two with and how I thought they might actually fit in better with San Antonio. The thing is, all the Spurs need out of their center spot is 6 fouls, hustle and a rudimentary concept of the proper rotations on both offense and defense within their system. Duncan is so good that he’ll draw enough double teams to allow a smart big man to get easy points through putbacks and cutting layups. Now look at who the Spurs brought in. Fabricio Oberto (ok, he was their last year but he never played) and Francisco Elson. Neither of them have much offensive game but they are both far more active and athletic than either of their predecessors. Furthermore, Oberto already understands so many of the little aspects of team basketball through his experience with the Argentinian national team that he actually makes the Spurs better defensively when he’s on the floor. To sum up, the Spurs spent less money this summer AND got better and more athletic. That, is why they are the best organization in basketball. I still can’t stand to watch them play for long stretches of time though.
- I’m a little biased here, but David Lee’s developing into a beast of a power forward. Exactly the kind of guy who could lead the league in rebounding a few years from now in an uptempo system. Don’t believe me, just look at his stats so far this year: 9 rebs in 23.4 minutes per game. Even I have to admit to being a little surprised by his level of productivity.
- I'm not really sure how this has slipped under the national radar, but it's come to my attention that Alabama big man Jemareo Davidson has taken a leave of absence from the basketball team after his girlfriend was killed in a car crash last week. Apparently, Davidson was sitting in the passenger seat of her car during the accident. Jesus, that sounds awful. I'm hoping to see him back on the court soon. (Note: I didn't mean to go all Peter King there but that's just a horrible thing for anybody to have to experience)
- Al Harrington has always been spectacularly ugly. I would even say cartoonish in his defining characterstics. However, now that he is rocking that mohawk, he looks positively ridiculous. I’m guessing thats why he torched the Magic last Friday night. It is awfully tough to play defense when you’re bent over laughing.
- As we all know, the NBA is a copycat league. So it comes as no surprise that a number of NBA teams are trying to replicate the Suns’ recent success by converting to uptempo offensive systems. In theory, this sounds great. Players love to run, the rules are currently set up for this style of play and any approach that allows teams to score more easily is always going to be welcomed by coaches. However, the system that the Suns employ is predicated on some specific parts that not many teams have. I watched a number of teams who have taken on this new, fast-paced approach and I have to say that the results (at least in the early going) are less than inspiring. I’m going to tackle three of these teams and point out why they are not cut out for this approach to offense.
Indiana: The first problem is Rick Carlisle. While he’s a fine NBA coach, he’s also the kind of guy who draws up plays during intramurals. The fast-paced approach needs a coach who’s willing to be hands off and let his players play fairly undisturbed. Rick Carlisle cannot do this. In fact, I’m pretty sure he wakes up at night in cold sweats thinking about Jamaal Tinsley directing his ball club unfettered. Beyond Carlisle, this system also needs a number of quality outside shooters who can spread the floor and open driving lanes. Indiana is woefully inadequate in this department. Name one consistent shooter on the Pacers. It’s okay, I have plenty of time. Jasikevicius qualifies but he can’t play more than 20 minutes a game, so who else does that leave the Pacers with? Stephen Jackson? I think you get my point.
Denver: Do you know why the Suns offense is so damn productive? Because Steve Nash is running it. Say what you will about Nash (no defense, stats inflated by the system, stupid hippie) but it’s tough to deny that he’s the perfect fit for the Suns’ system. Fast break teams thrive off of the play of their point guards. More specifically, players will run until their shoes fall off if they believe that their point guard will find them for easy layups and wide open jumpers. That’s Denver’s biggest problem. Their point guards are not suited to their system. Andre Miller is an average PG at best. He doesn’t have the jumpshot to keep defenses honest (and thereby open up driving lanes) and he’s a chronic over dribbler. Nothing can kill a fast break quite like a PG who doesn’t give up the ball at the right time. Miller may be averaging 9.5 assists/gm right now but all you need to do is watch him once to understand what I mean. He doesn't "find" people as much as he gets bailed out on his wild forays to the hoop.
Backup PG Earl Boykins is even more ill-suited to this offense. He is and always will be a shoot first PG. It’s not entirely his fault. He never would’ve made the NBA if he wasn’t such a prolific scorer. However, that doesn’t change the fact he just doesn’t work with what Denver’s trying to do. Additionally, Denver actually has less outside shooting than Indiana. Other than Carmelo (and Earl when he’s hot) they don’t have a single player on that team whom opposing teams fear as an outside shooter. For example, on Tuesday night in Orlando the Nuggets had this lineup on the floor for almost half the second quarter: Miller, Linas Kleiza, Carmelo, Reggie Evans and Marcus Camby. Can anybody say zone?
Washington: Here’s a team I think could actually be successful running this system. While Arenas is a shoot–first PG of the highest order, he does involve his teammates in the open floor. More importantly, the rest of the Wizards lineup is well suited to this style of play. Guys like Jamison, Daniels, Butler and Stevenson (even Thomas) all benefit from playing a more wide open style which accentuates their strengths (athleticism, speed) while also speeding up the tempo of play and covering up for some of their defensive deficiencies. While they lack an ideal number of outside shooters for the system, they probably have enough to keep defenses honest on the break. So what’s the problem? Well, Eddie Jordan publicly admitted that he had no idea how to run such a system. I guess that takes care of that then.
- Speaking of the Wizards, I commented earlier this year that I didn’t understand why DeShawn Stevenson would sign with the Wiz, basically saying that he didn’t fit in and would (likely) end up nailed to the bench. It seems as though I was wrong. Shocking, I know. He has not only been a starter since day 1 in DC, he also seems to have supplied the Wiz with some much needed defensive intensity. Furthermore, his willingness to get his offense without having plays called for him has allowed Washington to feed the ball to their primary offensive options without worrying about keeping him happy. While Stevenson is far from a perfect player, his toughness and unselfishness make him a very positive addition to the Wizards.
With that said, and I never though I’d say this, the Magic miss him this year. The Magic don’t have many natural “2s” on their team. Other than Bogans, all the other swingmen (Hill, Turkoglu, Ariza) are more natural “3s”. This has lead to some problems in matching up with some of the leagues better wing scorers. You don’t want Hill guarding the team’s best scorer for 35 minutes a night and at 6’10” Hedo is not athletic enough to keep up with most of these guys on the perimeter. As for Ariza, while he’s promising there’s absolutely no way he should be on the court for more than 10-15 minutes a night at this point in his career. Beyond the defense that he brought, Stevenson was also a primary facilitator of the Magic’s offense. He often ran the point in the halfcourt, which allowed Nelson/Arroyo to come off baseline screens for jumpshots and he was the Magic’s primary post feeder. While they are currently 6-3, the Magic also lead the NBA in turnovers (by a wide margin) and the absence of Stevenson is a primary reason for this. Its really too bad that Stevenson didn’t realize his agent was a total douchebag until it was too late, for both parties
- Finally, I wanted to give my two cents on the NBA’s recent attempts to clean up their image. I think we can all agree that the post-foul whining had gotten out of control in recent years and I have no problem with Stern and Co. trying to change the overall culture. However, the new rule has placed far too much power in the hands of the refs and thus has created a double standard among players. I’ve seen Tim Duncan throw his hands up in the air, walk away from a ref and then (with his back turned while walking upcourt) drop the ball as he was near midcourt. Do you know what happened? Nothing. Not a peep from any of the refs. If somebody like Stephon Marbury (Sheed was too easy) does this iis almost assuredly a technical, and possibly worse.
That’s only one example, there are plenty of more. Basketball is a sport. Sports are emotional and players will react when they feel as though they’ve been wronged. That is a natural part of sports. If you are going to punish players for minor offenses and gestures, it must be universal. Of course, we know this is impossible when human emotions are involved. So why not scale it back a touch? I’ve heard the argument that Michael and Larry and Russell, etc. were all emotional and they didn’t have this problem. That’s right, because they were given some rope by officials who weren’t both semi-incompetent and completely untouchable by any and all players and coaches. Do you know what else Larry, Michael and Russell did an awful lot of during their time in the league? Talked trash and got into fights. So does that mean we should bring all of that back to the NBA? Personally, I say the NBA could use a little more in-game vitriol these days as it’s becoming pretty antiseptic, but I think you get my point.
- What’s even worse than the “no whining” rule? This article in the New Daily News. I was already going to write about this based on Jermaine O’Neal’s recent fine for “wearing his wristband too high on his arm”. I realize that their has to be some regulation of uniforms in the NBA, but this is getting completely ludicrous. Me thinks David Stern needs to come down out of his ivory tower for a little while before he has a bigger (more racially driven) problem on his hands.
- Alright, now onto that game that everyone in the Western Hemisphere is so intrigued by( or so it seems). Here’s my extremely quick take:
Michigan’s D, (especially the front four) will give the Ohio State offense fits with the pressure they’re able to create. They won’t shutdown OSU but they will force a turnover or two. While I don’t believe in Chad Henne (never have, never will), I do believe that the Buckeye secondary is overrated, semi-untested and ripe for exposure. If Manningham is healthy ( I think so) they will have to play a lot of zone to avoid too many one-on-one matchups between OSU’s corners (the #1 is a former walk-on) and Michigan’s receivers. I think the Wolverines make enough big plays in the passing game and take advantage of a TO in OSU territory to win.
Enjoy this...I always do. Oh, and have a good weekend.