Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Playoff Manifesto #3: Damon Jones!

Can be found here, over at MVN's Cavs site, which I'm a member of and don't write enough for. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Season Manifesto #2: Kobe Bryant!

Hello. I am Kobe Bryant. I will destroy you.

Our team is having a tough time right now. We have a talented young center, a great young playmaking guard, a quality veteran guard, a former all-star forward, a fantastic hustle forward, and a great glue guy in Luke Walton. However, all of them suck. Not one of them can score while I'm shooting the ball. Could I please get some help? I need a trade, but preferably to a great team that needs a guy to score 30 points per game for them, and wouldn't need to trade any good players in order to get me. Is that so hard? If I had some great players around me, then I'd be happy. Of course, I wouldn't want them to be too good, or I'd chase them out of town. Call up the Mavericks and trade me for Josh Howard and DeSagina Diop. Sure, we'd be worse as a team, but the important thing is that I'd be happy.

What I need is an efficient 20 ppg scorer who doesn't need to dominate the ball all the time to get his points, like that Caron Butler. Oh, right. I had him, and then his points and assists went up playing next to Gilbert Arenas, while I carried out the legacy of my idol by further destroying Kwame Brown's psyche.

Look, I'm a good teammate. I pass a good 4 or 5 times a game. When one of my teammates gets mad about me shooting too much or playing outside the system, I put my arm around them and talk to them like they're 12. I give young players advice on how to play within their limits while I shoot 30 times a game. I pretend to play really good defense for 10 minutes a game. Look at tonight-for 5 minutes near the end of the 1st quarter, I got right up in his grill and SHUT HIM DOWN before handing him off to Luke Walton and letting him score 30 points on 20 shots and 12 free throws. And whenever I sell out one of my teammates, I make sure not to do it to their face.

I'm stuck here in LA for now, and I've decided that the best way for us to grow as a young team is by shooting more. Tonight, I shot 32 times and shot 27 free throws, a full half of our team's shots. I made sure to lead the team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. Giving Bynum touches in the low-post or letting Farmar run a pick-and-roll might seem to help them, but ultimately they'll best improve by watching me take on double-teams all night long. That's why I tell Phil to keep Bynum buried in favor of Turiaf and Kwame; not only have those guys learned not to shoot, but by destroying Bynum, I will further prove my genius over Jerry Buss by undermining the team completely. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go practice shooting fadeaways over triple-teams.*

*I did not mean any of what I just said. I love the Lakers, love my coach, and my only goal this year is to win a championship with my current team. Also, I support global warming research. And for you young people, I have nicknamed myself Black Mamba. I can do the Soulja Boy. These things are "swaggerous," as you say. Why don't more people like me?

Season Manifesto #1: Andrei Kirilenko!

Greetings America,

I am Andrei Kirilenko. I had problem with Jazz management over the off-season. I enjoy to play the power forward. They tell me Carlos Boozer is power forward. In seasons past, I deal with this problem by calling my friend Vladimir and having them break Carlos' feet. Then I play power forward. However, Vladimir is now in the jail. But I will still play the power forward. Tonight, I poison Mehmet Okur's water, and he only play 13 minutes. However, they put Paul Milsap at the power forward then.

The Jazz did not trade me, and I was unable to escape to Russia. I still hate Jerry Sloan, but am forced to play for him. I have come up with solution. I will play very hard, but my allegiance will not be for him.

This season, I will play entirely for the purpose of fantasy basketball. My line tonight was 9 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 5 blocks, 3 turnovers, and a foul. Scoring points would make team win. I am not interested in making team win. I am interested in my value in 8-category roto leagues. If I am wide-open for dunk, I will pass to teammate with jumping shot to get assist. I will not block the ball to my teammates, but back at the other team so that I can get another block. I will stop playing man-to-man defense and begin only attempting to get blocks and steals. I will box out my own teammates for rebounds. I will deliberately miss shots in the paint so that I may rebound them. I will throw passes as hard as I can at opposing players so that they will bounce off of them and I can get the steal. I will bribe scorer so that he give me assists on entry passes.

Jerry Sloan will continue to give me the 40 minutes, or I will use my free pass to sleep with his wife. I will be successful in my quest. Did you see Enemy At The Gates? That tells you all you need to know about Russians. We never surrender. I am like the Jude Law, except in real life there would have been no triangles of loving; my wife would have been down for the threesome.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Before we get to "work," lets get some bullets in

-World Series is over! Now I don't feel any pressure to try and write about baseball anymore! Hurrah. Let's kill this baseball season with some final thoughts.

-Papelbon: The new Rivera. He's got essentially one pitch, you can't hit it, and when he's in, the game is over. Over. Whenever the game had less than 6 outs to go, there was no doubt. His personality puts him one up on Rivera: he's got my favorite on-field demeanor of any pitcher; normally, Fox cutting away from the sign and location of the upcoming pitch to do close-ups of the pitcher being pensive drives me insane, but that look in Papelbon's eye as he gets ready to fire is the coolest thing ever. And when he's not on the field, he's a total lunatic. Perfect.

-Dialogue from Marks Tower, room 804, as the game ended:

Friend #1: "Baseball coaches don't do anything."
Friend #2: "They change the entire dynamic of the team! They have to decide what kind of team it is and manage accordingly!"
Friend#1: "They're not like football coaches."
Friend #2: "Football coaches aren't all that important. They have coordinators to call the plays for them."
Me: "Dude, look at the Rams, or the Chargers after they got Norm. Football coaches matter."
Friend #1: "Exactly. When the Rams had Vermeil, they were great. Then they got Martz, and they were all offense. Now they just suck."
Me: "World Series is over."
Friend #1: "Oh."

Yep, enthralling World Series all around. At least the Red Sox have something interesting going for them.

-Movies I rented from the film major down the hall from me #1: Momento. Great movie. Ingenious premise, perfectly executed, great twists and turns, everything done right. 4 stars.

-USC is officially out of the national championship race. Sanchez screwing up means that there's no real reason to start Booty again, because we're not winning this year and might as well give the kid the reps now. Of course, he'll end up starting again anyways because of the bizzare nature of college football.

-Watched the Patriots play for the first time today. Holy Crap. Not much left to say; they really do look like Madden.

-Boykins is available. Worth a flyer, because we could always use more guards, but I think I've mentioned that Boobie is essentially a better version of him in his G-State years, so I'm not killing myself over it. Juwan Howard is available too; at this point in his career, he's a decent scorer who can't guard anybody. Pass.

-Ben Affleck is going to be Hollywood's Al Gore: Rise, backlash, redemption. On the flip side, George W. Bush is Washington's Pauly Shore: Career enabled by who his parents were, always disliked by intellectuals, extreme initial skepticism, brief run of success due to devoted and surprisingly large group of followers, eventual extreme backlash and implosion.

-Well, time to get to "work," by which I mean I'm going to write a column on basketball while I'm putting off doing 3 geology labs.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday Bullets

-First off, some news about me: I have 3 weeks left in my pledge semester. It's up in the air if I'll make it or not right now, but either way I'll have my life back and should start posting a lot more.

-I was thrilled that my "Price of The Game" post got picked up by TrueHoop, because it's one of my favorite ideas I've ever had. (Even though writing it made me realize my limitations as a writer right now-I need a lot more experience to really do that piece justice.) However, I guess it wasn't interesting enough; my sitemeter barely ticked up, and there hasn't been one new comment on it yet. I've said it before and I'll say it again: At this stage in my blogging "career," I really need to drum up more interest, and I don't want to have to make bold proclamations in order to do that. I can't break any news stories that people don't know about, so it makes me sad when a deep-thought post like that fails to excite anybody, because it's the type of writing I like to do. This is how Stephen A. Smith was born, everybody.

-I'm THRILLED that my Idol/Occasional mentor Bethlehem Shoals got a book deal; I know really have something to dream for. It's the kind of thing that keeps me posting.

-The Knicks cut Jared Jordan today. Note to the Cavaliers: SIGN HIM RIGHT NOW. We need a playmaker, and he led the NCAA in assists for the last two years. Every team that sleeps on him will pay the price. Plus, his whiteness, small-school-ness, and "balled on the playground at 13 next to much bigger, more athletic guys and dominated the game anyways"-ness has already made him kind of a legend, which is awesome. Please, please sign him.

-I understand that Kevin McHale needs financial flexibility and another draft pick, but could you please not help division rivals by giving them a starting shooting guard for free? I was really looking forward to Dwayne Wade missing the playoffs this year.

-It goes against every bone in my body, but I'm actually rooting for the Yankees to keep A-Rod, sign Johan Santana, and come out with a perfect baseball team next year. Their rotation would be

1. Santana
2. Wang
3. Hughes
4. Chamberlain
5. Petitte

and their lineup would be

1B: Phillps
2B: Cano
SS: Jeter
3B: Rodriguez
C: Posada
LF: Matsui
CF: Damon/Cabrera
RF: Abreu
DH: Giambi

For some reason, I want to see that.

-These Rockies fail to interest me. I'm sorry. Other than the Devil Rays or a team with young starters, it's really hard for a baseball team to ignite my imagination, which is why I find myself interested in teams like the Red Sox and Yankees and hating myself for it.

-I'm excited for the season premiere of Scrubs tonight, as well as the new 30 Rock and Office. NBC Thursdays are STACKED, and I don't even watch "My Name is Earl."

-One more thought about Heroes: How hard does Parkman's power suck? He can read minds, so long as the other person doesn't mind if he does. What's the point?

-Movie I need to see this year: American Gangster. You could update the Scarface formula every year and I'd be happy.

-Has Showtime finally pulled a Red Sox-esque coup over the Yankees? With no Sopranos, look at their starting lineups:

HBO: Entourage (Good, but severely overrated)
Flight Of The Conchords: Probably the funniest half-hour show on television, but the utter lack of through-line keeps it from reaching Office heights.
Tell Me You Love Me: Eck.
Curb Your Enthusiasm: People love this show, but I've never been a huge fan; I'll go for Seinfeld reruns if I want to see it done better, Office if I want to see some misanthropy, or FOTC if I just want to laugh for half an hour.
The Wire: Their ace in the hole. It's one of my TV projects when I get home, but it's only on for another season, and only recently starting picking up steam.


Weeds: Perfectly done dramedy.
Dexter: My favorite hour-long drama right now.
Californication: I went off to school after the first two episodes, and apparently it's fallen off hard, but I loved this show, because Duchovny has perfect comedic timing, gives a great performance, and this is absolutely how I see my future going if I become a writer, albeit my ex-wife would be less hot and I would lack the power to make women sleep with me using only my eyebrows.

Brotherhood, This American Life, The Tudors: I don't watch any of these shows, but they're supposed to be great. My mom loves The Tudors.

With production values rising through the roof on network and even cable shows, and cable getting to push the envelope as far as content and controversial storyline, could HBO be losing some of its mojo? "Mad Men" absolutely looks and feels like an HBO show, as does "Rescue Me." With HBO steadfastly refusing to get into the procedural or overarching Lost-type game, they need a major move, and soon-they're the Cavaliers of TV.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Price of The Game

My dorm room is up on the 8th floor, and there's a great stairwell just outside my room where I go to smoke. From the stairwell, I get a perfect view of the downtown LA skyline and the Galen Center, our big, beautiful new basketball arena. In the shadow of the Galen Center are three concrete courts. Anytime from 10 in the morning to around midnight, there's pickup basketball there.

The games range from one or two guys awkwardly hoisting jumpers or playing a game of 21 laced with ennui to full-court 5-on-5 games with backdoor cuts, jumpers off of screens, jump-stops, and slap layups. Getting swept up in the flow of the latter games, I think about just how much time these men have spend working on this game, and how for every kid who gets to play in the big gym across the street, there are so many more who put in so much just to capture, for a moment, the feeling of what it must be like to play in that gym. I think about them, playing for an audience of one man watching from a stairwell on a Tuesday night, and then I think about all of the people who have paid so dearly for the game I enjoy so much.

First, there were men like Red Auerbach and Press Maravich, playing the game in its infancy for dollars a week, throwing up two-hand set shots and breaking their noses night after night, not knowing if anyone was watching, to try and make the game something real, and then continuing that obsession long after their bodies were no longer able, figuring out the right way to play this new game on a team level, trying to find something transcendent in it.

Red tried to achieve transcendence through the team, working tirelessly and bending more than a few rules to craft a system and the perfect team to execute it, eventually creating a dynasty made up of the perfect role players and solidifying his place in the game's history before succumbing to the pressure and the pure work. Every time I see a perfect defensive rotation or outlet pass, I think about Red.

Press originally started out trying to find a team system, but eventually was consumed by attempting to make his own son into the perfect basketball player, putting a ball in his hands before he could walk and giving him a never-ending stream of drills, making him dribble blindfolded, with gloves on, and outside of his car. His efforts created the original combination of flair and substance, the prototypical modern superstar, but the price was steep; Press ended up estranged from his son, his wife drank herself into insanity, and he was fired from his job coaching his only true love. Pete himself was driven into a form of insanity by the pressure of having to carry a team every night and having a game generations ahead of its time, drinking constantly and wishing that aliens would just take him away. Every time I see Kobe Bryant drilling fadeaway after fadeaway, Steve Nash throwing a pass behind his back, or Allen Iverson boldly flying through a double-team with a crossover, I think about Press and Pete.

Wilt Chamberlain had the kind of game nobody had ever seen before, 7-3 with the speed of a track star, with the talent to win games by himself. He was a superstar at a time when the game still didn't know what to do with superstars, a man bigger than the team before the concept had entered anybody's mind. Nobody knew where to fit Wilt's game or flamboyant personality, and he was forced to spend his career as a pariah before finally finding some semblance of meaning with the Lakers, although he was relegated to being the me-first runner-up to Bill Russell, a more manageable talent who found himself in the perfect situation from the start. Whenever I see Shaquille O' Neal's dominant game and gigantic personality being accepted and even praised wherever he goes, I think about Wilt.

Elgin Baylor was the game's first high-flyer, slashing from the perimeter to making unbelievable plays above the rim when nobody spent any time up there at all. All that jumping in his game led to his knee giving out earlier than it should have, and because there were no doctors prepared to deal with the stress of being a skywalker back then, he was forced to sit on the bench and watch while the Lakers won the championship that he never got. Whenever I see Amare Stoudamire dominate on his reconstructed knees, I think about Elgin.

Michael Ray Richardson was another player with a talent that nobody knew what to do with; he was bigger, faster, and stronger than anybody else, and had an unstoppable jump shot to boot. But since nobody knew what to do with him, he ended up not knowing what to do with himself, never committing to bettering his game and eventually succumbing to cocaine addiction. 20 years later, there was Lenny Cooke, who dominated every game he ever played in on the playgrounds of Brooklyn. He allowed himself to believe the whispers of the agents who told him that he was already a star in high school, that he was set for life, and didn't need to work on his game or even study in school anymore, that everything was going to fall into place for him, and now has no college degree and can't get a job in the D-League. Every time I see a player like LeBron James, whose talent and ego have been nurtured and kept in check since he was in middle school and is hence able to tap into the full power of his abilities, I think about Michael Ray and Lenny Cooke.

But most of all, I think about the four kids from Darcy Frey's The Last Shot. They all went to Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, where basketball is everything. Tchaka Shipp was a smart kid from a moderate-income family, a 6-7 bruiser who had no offensive game to speak of but could rebound, dunk, block shots, and do all the little things on the court. He went to play for P.J. Carlisemo, who gave him a scholarship and promised him a life, but instead only used him as an insignificant cog in his machine, barely putting him on the court and eventually leading him to transfer. Tchaka now makes 9 dollars an hour, giving new meaning to a player who "does the garbage work to help his team." For some, that means getting $4 million to dive for loose balls; for Tchaka, it means throwing away his life so that a millionaire coach can get an inch closer to another banner on the ceiling.

Corey Johnson was a guard blessed with brilliant talent, speed and court vision and everything else, but refused to let basketball take over his life, continuing to date and write in his spare time, and seizing every day as the best of his life. His refusal to commit led to him going to junior college and eventually working a meaningless job.

However, two characters stand out above all the others. The first is Russel Thomas, a scrappy guard with lock-down defensive ability and a killer outside shot, crafted by hours every night alone on the court shooting 3-pointers and one-handed 15-footers while sitting in a chair. He was everything a coach could ever want, a perfect role player if there ever was one, a player whose game was defined by jaw-dropping amounts of work on the court and off of it. To get the necessary 800 for his SATs, he studied incessantly, even during his lunch hour, and sat at the front of every class. But the system ultimately failed Russel, and because he had never so much as been taught Algebra, he never made the 800, was relegated to junior college, and eventually killed himself at 27. Russel ended up paying for the sins of the educational system he was brought up in and the system that made basketball his only way out with his life.

The fourth character is a cocky young freshman guard, head and shoulders above all the competition he faces, already being heralded as the next great New York City point guard. While the other three players are polite and have given themselves to their dream of playing basketball, he is entitled and arrogant, seeing basketball as a way to make the world do its bidding. He is shameless in taking the gifts his talent allows him to have, and his father comes up to the author and demands to be paid for allowing the author to follow his boy around. His name is Stephon Marbury, and there's a reason he is so cold towards the game. Stephon had two older brothers who were supposed to make it out, but ultimately fell short and found themselves trapped on Coney Island. Stephon's family had paid his price, and now he was going to get it back. Other players speak of just wanting to win, how lucky they are to get to play basketball for a living, and how much they enjoy the system they are a part of, and how they are ultimately in its debt, which is exactly what those of us who don't get to play for a living think they should feel. Stephon knows better. He feels no debt to the game. He knows too well just how cruel the game can be, and has responded with a desire to exploit it like it exploited his older brothers, seizing every opportunity to use the game to advance himself and get what he is owed. We often say that players like Stephon are "immature," when in reality they're far more mature than we'd like them to be.

So the next time you see a broadcaster wonder why every player doesn't work as hard as Dwayne Wade, remember Russel Thomas, who gave his life for putting in the type of obsession we feel is necessary for basketball players. And the next time you wonder why more players aren't robots devoted to nothing but basketball, remember Corey Johnson, whose decision that there was more to life than basketball stopped him from achieving glory. And the next time you see Stephon Marbury take a shot he probably shouldn't have or demand a bigger contract, remember that there's a reason that he is the way he is, and it's a reason we can't pretend to understand. Think about those who have paid dearly to make the game you love what it is, and think of those who continue to pay. For every no-look back-door alley-oop you see, think about Red drawing it up when he should have gotten a real job, Press teaching his kid to throw it before the world was ready to see it, Elgin for throwing it down before his body was ready too, Michael Ray for letting it go to his head, and most of all Tsaka, Corey, Russel, and the million other kids on playgrounds like the one outside my balcony who continue to play the game every day in the fleeting hope that they can become a part of the game we love.

Late-Night TV Carnival

I'm a college freshman, which means that my sleep schedule is screwed beyond all hope of repair: I almost never wake up before noon or go to sleep before 3:30. Today, I woke up at around 3, and now it's 2 in the morning and I still have stuff to do, and my 12:00 class feels like something I'm going to have to wake up for. (My 10:00 lecture is out of the question.) Fortunately, I also have cable in my room, albeit strange cable, (no MTV, no Comedy Central, but I have IFC, ESPNU, and ESPN News), which means that when 1-2 in the morning rolls around, I need me some entertainment. Here's my guide to what's good at late night:

Law and Order: SVU

I'm a huge, huge fan of the original Law and Order, so I was hesitant to pick up SVU, but I'm very glad I did. Basically, the idea for the show was "Hey, you know what would make weekly outrageous, twist-filled murders even more interesting? If all of them involved depraved sexual behavior! Also, let's make everyone better-looking! And let's make the Jewish detective Jewisher and the black detective blacker!" And so it was that Richard Belzer and Ice-T joined us.

I love this show. Basically, its changes from the original were:

1. To add more depraved sex-based crimes, which I appreciate-I don't watch these shows to get a sense of the legal system, just like I don't watch Flavor Of Love for advice on picking up women. I watch them to see something utterly creepy and mind-bending. By the way, I'm pre-law.

2. To put more focus on the characters themselves, namely the lead detectives, Christopher Merloni and that other chick. The original gave us fleeting glances of its characters, but only Sam Waterston was all that interesting, and since his only true passion in life is his cases, going into his mostly non-existent personal life was kind of pointless. Truth be told, these detectives aren't particularly interesting, but Merloni and the woman are good enough actors to hold our interest, and the depth given to the show by seeing them as people with distinct personalities is a good thing. Also, when doesn't having a man and woman who aren't being set up for an obvious romance be partners work? The pioneered this with The Avengers 30 years ago, and it's the driving force behind Bones, my favorite cop show now.

3. To mostly cut out the trial portion of the show, which leaves more time for ridiculous sexual twists, which isn't all that bad. This decision was also influenced by the fact that the ADA on SVU is a blonde woman whose sole talent seems to be squinting, much like the Cavs having Larry Hughes be their point guard because their original point guard is Eric Snow.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars, although I resent networks buying up the infinitely crappier Law and Order: CI and playing it 4 times more than they play SVU.

Futurama/Family Guy/Robot Chicken/Other Stuff on Adult Swim

Futurama: Great Show. Never gets old, even though I've seen all the episodes 5 times. 5 stars.

Family Guy: Has gone the way of Napoleon Dynamite and Dane Cook: The sheer irritation that comes from its idiot fans and its increasing self-awareness has made a great thing intolerable. 3 stars.

Robot Chicken: Family Guy's random streak taken to its natural conclusion. I actually love this show; it's great to see a show that doesn't take swipes at pop culture, but is written by geeks who know geek culture well enough to make jokes for its audience, rather than about it. Because of this, its Star Wars parody was the best I've ever seen. 4 stars.

Japanese Stuff: Thanks to sports, I never got into those serious Japanese shows. Thank god.

Bizarre, badly animated shows: I never got into these, partially because I feel it's just ridiculousness for ridiculousnesses' sake and partly because I don't have enough money for weed. 1 star.

The O'Reilly Factor:
I have no idea why this show is so enthralling. I'm not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination, but I love this show. First of all, on a college campus in California, you do get sick of liberals. (Two weeks ago, some fundamentalist Christians came to protest gay week here. 98% of students were proud of shouting down people who were so intolerant of other people's beliefs. That's ironical. By the way, my spell checker thinks that's a word. And 95% of the media does have a liberal slant, so the conservative viewpoint is actually refreshing. And say what you want about Big Bill, but he does believe in his message, and he's a smart guy. And yes, his off-the-charts arrogance and insecurity is enthralling to watch-what other respected members of the media would respond to a slam by pointing out that more people watch his show than theirs? Amazing.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The X-Files

Easily the best show on late-night. TNT bought reruns of this show, and they're brilliant. This show has gotten a reputation for being Lost before Lost, and it did have an overarching plot that dragged on way, way too long and ultimately made the show fade into obscurity, but those episodes were spaced between the procedural episodes, which is what TNT shows and are the most awesome thing ever. Let's do the procedural checklist:

Does the X-files have cool mysteries? Hell yes-the "X" type-stuff never fails to disappoint, from aliens to possessed dolls to government experiments gone wrong to time travel to body-switching to vampires. Are the characters interesting? Absolutely-Fox Mulder is one of my favorite characters in TV history; brilliant, obsessed, flawed, charismatic, everything. And Dana Scully is a perfect foil for him, although the one mystery the show never explains is why Scully continues not to believe. Their relationship, a great repore based on mutual respect, true personality conflicts, and just a little hint of sexual tension.

The acting is flawless; Duchovny has great timing and is proving that he can carry a show on his own over on Showtime, and Gillian Anderson just made The Onion's list of things that deserve second chances; she was great in this role. And the guest stars are a who's-who of people that were about to break out; Jack Black, Giovanni Ribisi, and the dad from Malcolm in the Middle have all been seen at 2 AM.

The writing is great as well, with great banter coming from the story editor, Tim Minear, who partnered on Firefly(the best show ever) with Joss Whedon, TV's Tarrantino, the master of the perfect 1-liner in a situation when you would never expect it. Great writing, great acting, great plots-sounds like just about a perfect show. And yes, I just revealed how much of a dork I am. I don't care. See you in the morning.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Northwest Blog Previews

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday Night Roundup

Howdy folks,

Sorry the NBA juices haven't really been flowing all that well lately; I've got a lot of stuff going on over here, and my last few hypotheses have been way off, so I'm in a wee bit of a rut. But since I love all of you and feel obligated to get something up, here's a quick set of ramblings on all in the world of Krolik:

-Watched a little of the Sonics-Lakers pre-season in between baseball and 30 Rock/Office: Kobe looks really good, every team could use a Ronny Turiaf, still not impressed with Durant. That's really all I could see from what I saw.

-Damn, Josh Beckett was on tonight. When a pitcher is spotting a 96-mph fastball, evil curveball, and wicked 90 mph change, it's just fun to watch. Now the Indians have to go to Fenway for a big game, which they can't be happy about. Theo should take notes on how most of his best values-Pedroia, Youk, Papelbon, Ellsbury, etc., have come from his own farm system, and how most of his mercenaries are screwing up. Billy Beane once said "Just give me $80 million so I can keep my own guys-the rest doesn't help." Trust Billy. And the "who won the Beckett-Ramirez trade?" question is one of the most interesting around right now-it was clearly the perfect move for the Marlins, and if Beckett keeps pitching like this in big games, the Sox won't look for a do-over either, because you need a guy like that to win a championship.

-Had my MVN fantasy league draft-in a 9-team head-to-head, my blue-chippers are LeBron, AI2, Bosh, and Big Al Jefferson, my mid-rounders are Kirilenko, Deron Williams, and Ginobili, my late-rounders are Bynum, Biedrins, and Raja Bell, and my fliers are Ty Thomas, Shaq, and Belinelli. I like my team-lots of breakout potential up and down the board. In fact, everyone on the team is due for a huge step up this year. That's a good thing, right?

-Show I'm watching religiously right now #1: Heroes. Like everybody else, I'm disappointed with it this season. First of all, my three favorite girls on this show have been killed off quickly; The sexily evil chick with the big eyes from Brick, The hyper-cute waitress who went to go make Epic Movie, and now the shape-shifting girl, who might have been my favorite of all of them. I basically just liked the waitress because she was adorable, but the other two were both the kind of characters that every show needs; multi-layered, mysterious, justifiably evil, intriguing, and good girl-gone-bad sexy. Now they're gone.

-Heroes seemed to have copied all that went wrong with Lost and forgot everything that went right-Lost's greatest strength was the depth of its characters. My favorite piece of Lost magic ever was the slow-burning swaperoo between Jack and Sawyer; at the beginning of the series, Jack was the guy I was rooting for, and every time I saw Sawyer on the screen I wanted to throw up. By season two, Sawyer was my favorite character on television, and Jack was revealed as loathsome, without one big, flashy revelation; it was done with an artful string of mini-revelations.

-Heroes seems committed to having its leads be as one-note as possible; Claire has all the personality of Tim Duncan on qualuudes,(by the way: Claire's big problem is that she "has to act normal." It would be one thing if I couldn't read minds or fly, but all Claire has to do is NOT GET MAIMED. How hard is that? I do it almost every day. Also, the Heroes writers seemed to have learned all they knew about high school from watching Bring It On over and over again, from the strict social hierarchy to the cheerleader rule to the good guys being emo-looking guys, right down to the one from the first season having headphones around his neck all the time for no reason. And that they put the first high school in Odessa, Texas, the actual site of one of the best books and TV shows about how small-town high schools really work, is just a slap in the face. And yes, I hate her new boyfriend.)

-Hiro is good but one-note, Peter went from laughably bad to interesting to pointlessly stuck in Ireland with AMNESIA!, Mohinder is terrible and one-note, Parkman bores me, and Ali Larter manages to play not one but TWO one-note characters. And Nathan's impression of Steve Carell in Little Miss Sunshine is boring too.

-Can't say enough bad things about the wonder twins, who seem to be competing with Nikki and Paulo for the "Hispanic couple everybody hates" award. And I know we should be accepting of people who are different, but I'm not sure I'd shed a tear for putting people who accidentally go on murder sprees in jail.

-The writers have choked big-time on making their two interesting characters interesting-HRG, last year's saving grace, has become boring again, and Sylar seems to be past a Sawyer-type redemption, seeing how he is a ruthless serial killer with no charisma. Look at how consistently good Lost's villains have been: Sawyer, Ben, Juliet, and Locke's dad have all been absolutely brilliant, and Sawyer and Juliet might even be good guys. Ben is always the most interesting part of whatever episode he's in, and the way Locke's dad slimes his way through everything he does is fantastic.

-Other end of the spectrum: The Office, which is now officially the best show on television in a walk. In the show's great first season and legendary second season, all the talk was about Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson, but the secret of the show's success was Jim; his pining for Pam gave the show great dramatic heft, and the scenes with him and Dwight-a master of the subdued next to the emperor of over-the-top; were simply genius.

Now Jim and Pam are together, which would have lesser writers painted into a corner, but the Office writers have stepped up to the challenge and come up huge. Where the third season struggled to find solid through-lines with Jim/Pam drama temporarily out of the question, the fourth season has set up plotlines that will keep us coming back for more.

First of all, I pray that I'm not cynical enough to ever get tired of Jim and Pam being really, really, really happy together. Unlike most "Jesus, when are they going to sleep together already?" plotlines, Jim/Pam managed to stay grounded in reality; for the first two seasons, Pam's relationship with Roy was real enough to keep Jim away; watch "Booze Cruise" again and it looks like poor Jim just has no chance. In the third season, Jim had a great girlfriend, was weary of getting roped in again by Pam, and Pam just wasn't bold enough to put it all on the line for Jim, which is what he would have needed to believe again. When they finally came together, it feels like we've all earned the right for them to be happy forever.

The dramatic void left by Jim and Pam's bliss has been gamely filled, from Michael's struggles with Ryan the evil temp, his relationship with Jan, and life in general-who else loves the scenes where Michael actually makes connections with people, like when he shows his chops as a salesman or becomes the most popular guy at his 2nd job? Meanwhile, Dwight's downward spiral and Jim/Pam's efforts to help him move on have been surprisingly touching-it's a testament to this show that we actually care about Michael and Dwight, because despite all their obvious flaws, their essential good-heartedness has been able to shine through, differentiating them from most "funny because they're evil" comedy characters.

And when Office needs a big laugh, it can always go to Creed (who regularly supplies the best line of the show-his "cults" line in the first episode and "financial fraud" line in this one both made me laugh so loud I woke my roommate up), Kelly, or Toby. And it was good to see Jan get closer to the "smart, capable, beautiful, but still miserable" character of the first three seasons than the "big bucket of crazy" she's been since the end of last season-Jan is layered like everyone else, and doesn't deserve to be cheapened. Andy remains the one character who is evil at heart, so I'm not thrilled to be devoting more time to him. But damn, I love me some Office.

Criss Angel is getting a network show? Great. For all his weirdness, he's pretty damn amazing. But Uri Geller? The guy who was exposed as a fraud bending spoons by Johnny Carson in 1973? He gets his own show?

And yes, Bee Movie is starting to grate on me. But he's Jerry Seinfeld. He can do whatever he wants. He has earned lifetime immunity.

Good night, everyone.

Hate the Patriots by Rooting For Them

Hey all, a couple of weeks ago I sent an e-mail to one of my favorite blogs, Kissing Suzy Kolber, and actually got it on the site, so I decided to push my luck with another e-mail. It didn't work out, so I've decided to post it here. Remember, it was for KSK, so it's distinctly more evil than what I put up here. Enjoy.

Dear KSK,

I've noticed that you, like most football fans with souls, have grown to hate the New England Patriots. I was pretty ambivalent towards them until this season, but now, thanks to my reaction to believe whatever you guys say and believe the opposite of what Bill Simmons says, I really hate them. Unfortunately, they don't seem to be planning on losing anytime soon. So now, as fans, we must think of a way to stop them. Your bounty on Tom Brady's knee was a good start, but I have a different strategy: Let Tom Brady stay healthy. Let the Patriots put up the best regular season since the '89 49ers. Let Simmons gloat. You know why? Because in the playoffs, when the pressure is on, they will lose.

First of all, I know it will work because it's a perfect reversal of fortune: after all, who did the Patriots beat to win the first Super Bowl of their dynasty? The ultra-stacked St. Louis Rams, who had the best quarterback in the league, the best running back in the league, a man who was at the time regarded as the best coach in the league, and a stacked wide receiver core. They weren't just beating teams, they were DEMOLISHING them. It was a foregone conclusion that they would win the Super Bowl. Remind you of anything?

The second reason I know my strategy would work is that it mimics the plans of all the best movie villains ever. Do good movie villains simply debilitate their enemies and cheaply destroy them when they're down? No. They wait for them to be at full-strength, so when they lose, they'll be completely crushed by knowing they gave it their all but still came up short. It didn't quite work out that way in James Bond, Karate Kid 3, or Sin City, but remember, those were heroes they tried to stop, not soulless football teams. When Tom Brady realizes he's not America's underdog hero anymore after he loses, he'll knock up Jennifer Connelly out of sheer misery.

Finally, think about what Simmons would say when his team chokes despite clearly being more talented. No more excuses, Bill. Your invincible duo sucked big time when it mattered most. Can you imagine the column where he tries to explain this while still clinging to what he believes so firmly? I'm sure you guys can do better than this, but here's my attempt: "I can't even believe what just happened. There's just no way to explain how Brady could have lost a big game to the Colts and Peyton Manning, unless you use something outside of my ridiculous theories about football that have led to me getting soundly defeated by my wife for the last two years. I mean, Manning has better career numbers, and the Patriots defense has some holes, but Peyton's not CLUTCH! There's no way this could have happened in 1983. Of course, I know what happened. The times have changed. We're in an era where touchdown dances and advertisements make having the ability to come up where it counts not matter anymore. Don't read that twice, because it doesn't make any fucking sense. I remember when Larry Bird was playing, he never missed an important shot, ever, because that arena didn't have a jumbotron. Now we have jumbotrons, and frauds like Peyton Manning can win two super bowl rings. Somewhere along that line, we lost our ability to be CLUTCH, and I think I know why; we got a black superstar. Not just black, but very black-hip-hop and everything. I'm not racist, really, but if black people were able to come through in big spots, why hasn't there been a black president yet? Again, I'm really not racist; I just like white athletes better than black ones. I have a solution: Trade Randy Moss for Kevin Robinson. It's so obvious, but 98% of GMs today just don't understand the unfounded crap I say as law week after week. I am way too smart to be a GM. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to pleasure myself to old video of Kevin McHale making up-and-under moves."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Central Division Previews

Chicago Bulls

Cobra Brigade

Bull Riding

Cleveland Cavaliers


The POJO Dojo

Cavalier Attitude

Truth in a Bullet Fedora

Detroit Pistons


Empty The Bench



Indiana Pacers

Indy Cornrows

Pacers Pulse

Milwaukee Bucks

Bango's Bunch


CelticsBlog NBA Page

Also see: Southwest Previews | Atlantic Previews

Cool! I'm on FreeDarko! Also, Welcome from FreeDarko!

First of all, if you read this site but you don't read FreeDarko, I don't understand you, and I can't imagine that many of you are getting there from here. Anyways, I saw that Shoals was planning to write something about my classmate OJ Mayo, so while I was doing the essay portion of a diversity and racial conflict midterm and properly in a racial-thinking mindset, I shot him an email about O.J., and he's actually put it up as a guest post. Shoals is the coolest guy in the history of ever. Here's the link: I hope you enjoy it; it's a little bolder racial-issue wise than what I usually put up here, and I was hoping to hide behind Shoals a bit, as racial attitudes are regularly and skillfully discussed over there, but I'm perfectly willing to deal with the full implications of the post, as well as the pressure of trying to hold my own on my favorite longform NBA site. I think. (Gulp.) And if you're visiting from FreeDarko, I implore you to stick around and check out the scenery; I've got some good stuff on tap for the next few days, and hopefully you'll like it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

My Cavaliers Preview

Last Year's Record: 50-32
Key Additions: Cedric Simmons, Devin Brown
Key Losses: David Wesley, Sasha Pavlovic(maybe), Anderson Varejao(maybe)

What Significant Moves Were Made Over the off-season?:

For the first few months of the summer, "quiet" would have been an understatement; not only were we unable to make a major move, but we couldn't even re-sign our own starting shooting guard and 6th man. My thoughts on how all this transpired can be found here.But for whatever reason, shortly after that post, we started to make some decent moves, trading David Wesley for Cedric Simmons' upside, which was startling to say the least, because the best Wesley-related news we were hoping to get this season was that he retired.

Then we went out and signed Devin Brown, a reliable guard who can defend and even score a little, for absolutely nothing, giving us a reliable rotation player essentially for free. The strategy with both signing Pavlovic/Varejao and making a move right now is to engage in a war of attrition-from what I can surmise, Ferry is betting that we'll do just fine without Pavs and Andy, forcing them to sign for less money, and instead of trying to force a deal when every team in the league thinks it's going to the playoffs, he's going to wait until a team gets itself in a "fire sale" position at the deadline and swoop in and pluck a star from them; if Pavlovic and Varejao have reasonable 1-year tender offers, they could be major trade chips to accomplish this. All in all, we ended our off-season with more questions than answers, but it's better than going into the season with the wrong answers, like we did in the Hughes/Marshall/Jones summer.

What are this team's greatest strengths?

Our 3-pronged strategy for getting to the finals last year was defense, rebounding, and LeBron. We were a top-5 defensive team in the regular season, and in the playoffs our defense was second to only the Spurs'. As many have mentioned, the curious thing about the Cavs' defensive excellence is that the starting lineup didn't feature any elite defenders by reputation: Even though Hughes made an all-defense team a few years back, that selection was a fluke because of his high steal totals, which he won't replicate in our defensive system, which differs from the Wizards' in that it actually stops opposing teams from getting to the basket. Also, age and injuries have cut Larry's lateral movement so much that he can't defend anywhere near as well as he once could have. Pavlovic was regarded as another European matador on defense, and actually said to Mike Brown "My offense is my defense." LeBron's defense has long been maligned. Drew Gooden is an outright disaster at the defensive end, and "can't guard a chair" was in the scouting reports on Z for many years.

So how did we get so good defensively? First of all, having LeBron means we don't need a true point guard,(although one would help), so we were able to play the "big backcourt" with impunity, giving us great defensive presence. Pavlovic stepped up his defense tremendously, putting his athletic gifts to work, and even shut down Vince Carter in the Nets series. Illgauskas somehow made himself into a master of the paint. LeBron stepped his defensive intensity way, way, up, especially in the playoffs. And Varejao proved himself an invaluable defender because of his quickness, footwork, ability to never give an opposing player a clean look or comfortable dribble, and unrivaled ability to draw charges. Eric Snow played great defense as well, but his offense is so very bad it that it canceled out the benefits of his defense. A lot of the credit for this goes to Mike Brown, a defensive savant whose rotations, defense-first attitude, and ability to close out the 3-point line made him the most valuable assistant coach in the whole league. Oh, wait, he's our head coach.

Rebounding is pretty simple to explain-again, the "big backcourt" allowed us to get a lot of rebounds cheaply, and Gooden, Varejao, and Z are some of the best rebounders in the league. Devin Brown and even Daniel Gibson are great rebounders as well, and hopefully their extra boards will make up for the loss of Varejao, although I really wish we had him back.

Then, of course, there's LeBron, a top-3 player on any night and a top-1 player when properly motivated, capable of winning any game by himself, sometimes literally. There's not a whole lot more to say about him, but he's carried this team for 3 years now, and he's still 22 and getting better.

What are this team's Major Weaknesses?

Offense. Plain and simple. We were at the middle-to-low end of the pack offensively last season, and when you have a player like LeBron James on your team, that's just plain ridiculous. Our outside shooters were largely ineffective and unable to keep the floor spaced for James. We still don't have a consistent 2nd scoring threat for LeBron-Larry Hughes can't get himself to the hoop consistently anymore, forcing him to settle for his shaky jumper way too much. Z and Gooden are both mainly 15-foot catch-and-shoot guys, getting their points in the flow of the offense instead of posting up and creating their own baskets.

Varejao can't create his own offense. Pavlovic has shown flashes of being a capable slasher and outside shooter, but he's still inconsistent, and has games where he can't get anything going regularly. Also, he might be in Europe all year. Boobie is an intriguing question mark, and Shannon is a depressing question mark. Compounding all of our problems is Mike Brown's offensive genius, which can't get LeBron the ball in spots he likes or get our team in the full-court, often leading to a bad fadeaway from LeBron or Larry with 3 seconds left in the shot clock. Having a true point to take the pressure off LeBron could help, but there's no use wishing for what you don't have.

What are this team's goals?

Championship. Now. They got sort of close next year, and that's the only hurdle left. The next year or two could either be the beginning of a powerhouse for years to come or the tail end of an ultimately failed attempt to surround a singular talent with a team that he could carry to the promised land. Other than a championship, I would say that this team's biggest goal is to form a solid Kobe/Shaq, Nash/Amare, Duncan/Ginobili/Parker-type core that will make sure Cleveland stays important for the next few years instead of continuing to go to war with LeBron and the E Street Band, which will help us avoid a Heat-style championship hangover.

What is LeBron going to do this year, after the most disappointing and best season of his career?

Whether LeBron comes out with passion and fury this year is something that remains to be seen-I wouldn't be surprised to see him spend the first month or two of the year trying to get an offensive flow working with his teammates, working on his jumper, and experimenting in the post instead of driving with a vengeance and trying to take over every game. Last year, it too often looked like there was a switch LeBron was turning on and off-he'd sit around, pound the ball, over-pass, and fire 20-foot fadeaways for a quarter, then start weaving through defenders and dunking with authority the next. More than any mechanical sort of adjustment this year, I'd like to see LeBron do away with the switch and have the freaky sort of season we all know he's capable of having. Better free throws, a consistent jumper, and a low-post game are all great, but it will be the intensity with which he goes about the game that will determine how his season goes. I want to see him play every game like it's his last.

Is the third season going to be the charm for Larry Hughes?

The fact is this: Larry Hughes has been horrible the past two years. Forget the injuries for a second; even when healthy, Larry has been completely and utterly ineffective. His shooting percentage has been abysmal, his defense has been slightly above average at best, and he doesn't impact the game with his rebounding or playmaking. For some reason, many NBA writers have decided that the problem with Larry has been one of "fit": Larry is most effective as a slasher, so putting him with a driver like LeBron has forced him to be a catch-and-shoot player, which is all wrong for him. If there are NBA GMs reading this, and that's what you believe, call Danny Ferry right now. Also, I'm thrilled to inform you that you've won $5,000,000 in the Ukrainian lottery; all I need is your credit account number and we'll get you that money.

The real story is that Larry has just been flat-out bad, regardless of his tendencies. If he's such a slasher, why does a quick look at his stats tell us that he goes to the hole much less, draws less fouls, and finish worse inside than Michael Redd, the kind of "shooter" who's supposed to work well with LeBron, despite the fact the exact same number of their shots come off of assists? Watching Cavaliers games, what Larry will do is take the ball at the 3-point line, pump-fake, try to get to the basket, fail, and end up pulling up for a 20-footer that he seldom makes. LeBron never enters into the equation. We'd love a second slasher on this team, and Sasha Pavlovic was successful doing that in the 2nd half of last year, but Larry is not that slasher; age and injuries have sapped his explosiveness to the point where he can't get to the basket or finish when he does get there.

Oh, and as for the "Larry's really just a big point guard!" argument, fueled by the fact that we had a hard time losing games when we started Larry, Sasha, and LeBron in the backcourt, remember that the lineup was mainly effective because of its defensive capabilities, and that it also marked the first time Sasha, our 2nd-best offensive player by the end of the year, saw time in the starting lineup. Larry's preference to look for his own shot and inability to drive by his man make him a horrible offensive point guard.

This year, however, it might be time for everything to change. Larry's last year in Washington let us know he's talented when healthy and motivated, and all the reports from this off-season say that's exactly what he is this year. Not only have there been "Hey, Larry worked his booty off during the off-season and worked on his shot with Mark Price!" stories, but Brian Windhorst reported that Larry has been dunking with authority in training camp and looks like he might actually have his explosiveness back, which would be huge news, and I'm ready to believe in Larry Hughes again, even though his preseason performances (4-11 with 0 free throws in his last game) seem to suggest that he might just go back to being Cleveland Larry again this year.

What Kind of Impact are the 2006 Kids Going to Make On our Abysmal Backcourt?

We all know about Daniel Gibson; after all, it was his 31-point assault from beyond the arc that finished off the Pistons, and he was one of the few bright spots in the Massacre at the Alamo. All through the season, he would come in for a few minutes, hit a few threes, then watch Eric Snow play 30 minutes, not get covered, and force Cavs fans to put pins in their Mike Brown voodoo dolls. He was a spot-up shooter who wouldn't shoot a whole lot, but seemed to be able to make them when he did shoot them. Then, in the playoffs, a whole new Boobie showed up. He kept on drilling 3s, but he also attacked the hole with abandon and started drawing fouls. He's got good size for the PG position, blinding speed and a good crossover, so the optimistic among us seeing him learning to combine his athleticism with his deadly shot to become an offensive force in the very near future.

The super-optimistic among us see him as being our point guard of the future, because he's point-guard sized and actually good, which you can't really say about any of our current point guards. I'm skeptical about this one, mainly because a lot of point guards like to pass, and Boobie really doesn't. He averaged 3.4 assists per 48 minutes in the regular season, and that number went down in the playoffs. To provide context, no other point guard in the league, be they a starter, shoot-first guard, or backup, averaged less than about 6 per 48 minutes, and the good ones are comfortably over 10. Technically, the ability to pass can be taught, but I'm not comfortable projecting that type of jump in any player. The ability to pass is like the ability to work the count in baseball; it seems easy enough to learn, but few players actually do it, and the type of jump needed to make Gibson a true point would be like Rocco Baldelli turning into Barry Bonds. There are exceptions to every rule, and I'm hoping Boobie will be one of them, but he won't come out of the gate looking like John Stockton. In a perfect world, Boobie would turn into a Ben Gordon/Earl Boykins type of scorer off the bench-look at the shooting (eFG% on jump shots), % of shots that were jumpers, assist, and foul drawing numbers from Boobie, Gordon, and Boykins in his breakout year with Golden State:

Gibson: .561/84%/2.5/9.4%
Gordon: .514/85%/5.3/9.7%

Even though even those guys passed more than Gibson, it's clear they score effectively by shooting from outside well and often and getting themselves to the line a disproportionate amount.

Shannon Brown was not the type of rookie success story that Gibson was; despite the fact he was our first-round draft pick,(ahead of solid point guard Jordan Farmar and the potentially transcendent Sergio Rodriguez), he never cracked the rotation consistently, and played poorly when he did get a chance. His suspect ballhandling relegated him to being a spot-up shooter, which he isn't that good at, and his defense was not up to Mike Brown standards. Shannon is another point guard who isn't a point guard, and while his shot is passable, it certainly isn't a strength. Shannon has a lot of (rhymes with "puptide") because of his wingspan and athleticism, and with some freedom, he could evolve into a great player in the NBA. His 14 free throw attempts in the last preseason game is the most promising thing I've heard all summer. Given an opportunity, Shannon could be a much better player than Devin Brown, Pavlovic, or even Hughes, but more than likely he'll be worse than all three. I'll have my eye on him.

Will a slimmed-down Donyell Marshall and revenge-motivated Damon Jones make the type of impact they were supposed to when they were signed?

No. They're terrible. I'm pretty sure swear TNT asked for Damon's suit measurements at one point during the playoffs.

How will the new guys be?

Wow, there's not a whole lot exciting about Devin Brown. He plays good defense, drives decently, shoots decently, is of average age, and should be a solid rotation player; he could be better than that, or he could be worse. I'd still rather have Sasha back, especially since he's younger and has more (rhymes with "truckslide"), but Brown at the minimum isn't too bad at all. Cedric Simmons is much more interesting: He was the #15 pick one year ago, he's got a freak body with a monster wingspan, is a real-live shot blocker, can dunk with authority, and has nothing resembling an actual offensive game or defensive discipline. There's a good chance he'll spend most of the season buried on the bench; he reminds me of Andris Biedrins in Golden State, who I wished we hadn't drafted for 2 years and then watched him become our most valued young asset overnight, even though he still looks like he's shooting a ball made out of Kryptonite. Hassan Adams is the type of solid young player who makes you say "Wait, nobody wanted him? Really?" and Darius Rice could be a rich man's Donyell Marshall. Hooray.

Projected Record:

55-27. Even with the East being a lot stronger, we could have a motivated LeBron James with a new bag of weapons, a healthy and effective Larry Hughes, an effective offensive strategy, an 82-game season from an athletic young point who can shoot the lights out, a young uber-athletic shooting guard, a solid guard with a chance to prove himself on the big stage, and an athletic young big with mountains of upside. Just a couple of those things coming together would make this team hugely improved, which is why I'm predicting a record jump this year. Have a good season and Go Cavs!

Southwest Blog Previews

San Antonio Spurs:
Spur of the Moment
Pounding the Rock

New Orleans Hornets:
Hornets 24/7
The New Orleans Hornets Fan

Shades of Blue



CelticsBlog NBA Page

Tom Ziller's Southwest Preview

Case Study in Draft Busting: The North Carolina Tarheels

With Florida's vaunted repeat champion teams entering the NBA this year, being picked at #3, 7, 9, 41, and 52, I got to thinking about the last individual college team with such rosy draft prospects and college success, the Carolina Tarheels of the 2005 NBA draft. Essentially, not one of them has proven themselves to be effective NBA players yet, which would seem like disturbing news to the Hawks, Timberwolves, Bulls, and Blazers. But let's break it down: how is this new crop of Florida boys similar to the 2005 NC team? How are they different? Will they ultimately bust the same way the 'heels did? As usual, I have no idea at the start of the post, so hopefully we'll find something more conclusive than in my point guard week starting post, which yielded disappointing results.

So let's get down to it.

Raymond Felton:

An ultra-quick, pass-first true point guard who had quarterbacked his team to an NCAA championship, Felton could well have been considered the safest pick of the 3,4,5 combo of points in 2005, as he had more of a history of success than Chris Paul and, at 6-1, didn't have his height concerns, and had the athletic talents to save him from the "college body, college game" concerns surrounding Deron Williams. Paul had the best rookie point guard year in recent memory, and is generally considered to already be a member of the elite PG tribunal with Nash and Kidd, while Williams shook off a subpar rookie season and led his team to a Conference Championship birth. Meanwhile, Felton toiled for the lowly Bobcats, averaging a seemingly solid 13 points and 7 assists on with an abysmal 38.4% FG and 3 turnovers per game.

Why has Williams fared so much worse than Paul and Williams, and the average NBA point guard? First of all, Felton is a worse passer than those two, although that's a bit unfair because while Felton is certainly a very good passer, Williams and Paul are spectacular passers, averaging 10+ assists per 48 minutes with stellar turnover numbers.

The real problem with Felton is that he can't score. IT IS NOT THAT HE CAN'T SHOOT. Allow me to explain. Around draft time, teams tend to look at a few things from point guards: Passing ability, Speed, Outside Shooting, Size, Leadership, and Defense. Felton's only weakness in those categories is outside shooting; with a .423% mark on jumpers, he's in the bottom half of NBA guards. However, there are many extremely effective point guards in the NBA who shoot from outside just as badly, if not worse, than Felton. Williams only shoots .468%, and Paul only shoots .433%.

Raymond Felton's unforgivable sin is that he can't finish inside, and he isn't too good at drawing fouls. Felton has blinding speed, which allows him to take a full 1/3rd of his shots from "inside"; that's more than Paul and Williams, who are at 30% and 32%, and draws a comparable amount of fouls. However, while Paul and Williams can finish inside at clips of .544% and .552%, respectably, Felton's "inside" mark is all the way down at .458%. Devin Harris and Tony Parker don't hit effectively from outside either, but their "inside" marks are both well over .600%.

The error made in projecting Felton was that his low FG% was due to poor shooting, which is a forgivable weakness that can be fixed over time, either by improving the shot or building your game around going to the hole. However, when a quick guard can't finish inside, he will have serious, possibly unsolvable problems being effective at the next level. Teams need to be wary of the difference between "bad shooter" and "bad scorer" when drafting players like Felton.

Shaun May and Rashad McCants:

There's probably something in here about Rashad being a dreaded "tweener," a shooter who really isn't shooting guard size,(different from Dwayne Wade, whose athleticism makes him not really a tiny shooting guard but a freaking dynamo who is faster and stronger than any shooting guard he faces), and May being a guy who could dominate the paint in college but doesn't have the body to do so in the pros, but mainly they've both had major knee surgeries. That's not good.

Marvin Williams:

We all know what happened with Marvin Williams; he never quite became a star, averaged 13 points per game last year on 43% shooting, and is probably the 4th-best forward on the Atlanta Hawks. Meanwhile, Deron Williams and Chris Paul, the players picked directly behind him, are on their way to becoming all-stars while the Hawks only now have a player that resembles a point guard.

Really, Marvin went ahead and combined all the ways a prospect can bust; like Felton, he's a poor finisher inside. (.507 eFG% on "inside" shots, which is abysmal for a forward.) Like McCants and May, he really hasn't found an NBA position that works for him; he's not enough of a physical player for the 4, and he lacks the skills to play the 3. Most importantly, Marvin never really developed "be-the-man-ittude"; instead of a player whose gifts were stifled by a college system and busted out in the pros, he was a talented 6th man in college, and seems content to play that role in the pros, despite the fact he's more gifted than 90% of the players he faces. It's honestly tough to predict which guys will bust out; just look at Andre Iguodala. On top of the standard hidden plagues that hinder his teammates, he's a huge Dunleavy head case, making him the biggest disappointment of all on a team full of them.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Who doesn't love a link dump at 2 in the morning?

I got an email today from the fine people at, which told me that they were fans of my site and asked me politely for a link dump, which of course I have too much journalistic integrity to give them. They're a fantasy basketball site, and browsing around there, it looks like they've really got their poop figured out. Seriously, they've got scatter plots and everything, and it looks like they might be on to some cool stuff over there.

I'm not a big roto basketball guy; I'm getting back into the game in an MVN league for the first time in a few years this year, and I plan to pick LeBron first, get Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson at all costs, and ultimately lose. But if you're a daily reader of this site, not only do you rule, you're probably pretty obsessed with sports, which means you play fantasy. So if you do, hop over to their site, because they have put in a lot of hard work to analyze fake basketball, which makes my time spent analyzing real basketball seem meaningful. Also, did I mention that they took the time to email me and say nice things about my site? That means they're awesome. Go there now, especially if you're still awake right now.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

It's never too early to preview the 2008 draft

I love the NBA draft. It might be my favorite day of the year. On draft night, the game exists entirely in imagination-we get to see Greg Oden as an evolutionary center with Russell's defense, Shaq's domination of the paint, and Wilt's ridiculous athleticism for a big man, Kevin Durant as a 6-10 uber-star who can dominate anywhere from the 3-point line to the low block, Adam Morrison calmly draining contested jumper after contested jumper, JJ Redick grabbing kick-outs from Dwight Howard and filling up the net from long range. On draft night, we don't have to deal with the reality of microfracture surgery, back problems, or Adam Morrison going 3-16. There are no busts on draft night. Because of that spirit, I like to think about the draft as early and often as I can. Here are my thoughts on the big draft prospects so far, with the ones I don't know much about, like Michael Beasley, left out for no real pertinent reason:

O.J. Mayo:

The best-known name in the 2008 class, as well as the one I'll be watching the most closely because he's my classmate at USC. I have had one encounter with O.J. Mayo, on my second night here at about 1:00 in the morning during pre-rush parties, and it went like this:

(The author is inebriated as all hell, and attached to an equally inebriated girl whose build could best be described as Barkley-like. The author and said girl are about to do something that both parties would have regretted immensely, when the author sobers up slightly and decides the best course of action is to make a Larry Brown-esque exit. A few stumbles away, notices that several USC basketball players, including Taj Gibson and O.J., are sitting on a wall, calmly observing the proceedings and hearing praise from various travelers.)

Person in front of me: Hey, O.J., you're going to kick ass this year. You're so much better than Love it's ridiculous, man. (leaves, I step in)

Me(in a charming slur): The real question is whether or not he's better than Rose. And the answer is yes, man. (High-fives O.J.-also note that the author is still capable of providing pertinent draft analysis in any state) Man, I was like, thinking about going to USC, and then like, I saw you were going here, and I was like, now I'm definitely going to USC, because, like O.J.'s here.

Other basketball player, leaning over: Damn, (unprintable and inaccurate racial slur), how loaded is you?

O.J.(cold sober): Where you going, man?

Me: Away from that chick in the blue I just hooked up with. (points to girl)

(The entire basketball team starts cracking up)

O.J.: Have a good night, man.

(The author runs at full-speed towards the nearest frat house)

So me and O.J. are pretty much best friends now, even though I didn't remember to ask him for an interview or reveal my plan to get an apartment with him and Lil' Romeo next year and sell it as a reality show. My friend Marianne, who never watches basketball, has a writing 140 and Black Social Movements class with O.J., who calls her "Mar," and from her I know that O.J. is extremely nice, goes to every one of his classes, including lectures, which is more than you can say about the author, really works hard and wants to learn in every class, and gets tons of autograph requests, which he obliges wearily. That's my inside info on O.J. Now for the pure basketball:

Strengths: Incredibly pure jump shot, amazing handle, good court vision and capable of making great passes, extremely quick first step, amazingly polished shooting ability.

Weaknesses: Tends to be a shoot-first player who falls in love with his jumper from time to time, and hence will have nights when he's off and shoots a low percentage (like in the McDonald's game), has the skills to be a lead guard, but plays more like a shooting guard, and at 6-4 he doesn't have the ideal height to be a shooting guard, nor does he have the shocking athleticism of a Dwayne Wade to deal with it immediately.

Outlook: O.J. almost definitely won't fall out of the top 3 or 4 slots in the draft, but without dominating in college, he could easily slip behind Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley in the draft of their more seductive freak athleticism. Being a good 'SC fan, I don't think taking the college game by storm will be a big problem for O.J. Nobody will have a brighter spotlight on them this season, and nobody will come up bigger.

Movie Comparison: Dreamgirls (Huge early hype about him, beautifully polished, doesn't have the ceiling of a Babel, will at some point encounter an inevitable backlash, but is still a pretty damn good movie.)

Derrick Rose:

Strengths: Holy Christ, is this guy athletic. His YouTube makes me feel happy when I've bombed a mid-term. (Yes, YouTube is a major scouting resource for me. ESPN has showcases, scouts who watch his high school games, statistical breakdowns, and reports from private workouts and interviews-I have YouTube and nicotine. I could make a fancy argument, aided by Malcolm Gladwell, about how a too much information can be just as damaging too little in making major decisions, but basically I'm writing about this because I can. Also, has Chad Ford ever gotten smashed and told a top-3 prospect that he was the man? I think not.) But getting back on point, this guy has the type of hops that just don't seem to make sense-it looks like he's in Like Mike 3 sometimes. (There has already been one sequel to Like Mike. You needed to know that.) And he doesn't just have dunk-contest hops-he finishes with authority, and doesn't need a big running start to get fancy. He can also get to the rim at will, because of his speed and ridiculous crossover. And by the way, he's a full 6-4, with a scary-solid build. Most excitingly, all the reports on him say that he's actually a pure point guard with great court vision and a pass-first mentality, which is extremely rare for a kid athletically gifted enough to score at will at every level he's played at. If he is indeed ready to play the point right away, he's far and away the most athletic pure point guard in the league, maybe ever.

Weaknesses: Where O.J.'s scoring is smooth-flowing and meticulously refined, Rose's offensive game is often a bit clunky-his outside shot is a weakness right now, and often times his shots from the 5-10 foot range are bizarre off-balance things that look like the shots guys playing "21" take when they can't get to the hole instead of a clean-looking pull-up or fadeaway. And while his modesty and shot selection have been points of praise among league executives, because there's no reason at all for the best player on the court his entire life should be extremely self-confident, that could, along with his pass-first mentality, mean that he won't be able to take over a game the way Mayo can.

Outlook: Because of his hops and crossover, the most common comparison for Rose has been a young Steve Francis without all those bad tendencies, which would be pretty cool. His pass-first mentality and size has led to Jason Kidd comparisons, although Kidd couldn't take the air out of a gym the way Rose can. Those are really the only two comparisons draft experts have been able to come up with, which makes sense, because it's not like a 6-3 point guard with a great crossover, dunk-contest hops, a running-back body, great passing ability, and a shaky outside shot was one of the playoffs' biggest stars last year, and it's not like he's the namesake of this website.

Oh, wait. Rose's game reminds me very strongly of Baron's, and given what we just saw what an injury/attitude-free Baron can do to the best team in the league, people should be very excited about Rose, especially since he's even more athletic than Baron, especially at this stage in his career. Like Baron, it may take Rose a while to balance out the demands of being a scorer and a passer, but when he blossoms(no pun intended), he could well be the best player in this deep draft. His team-first mentality and combine-ready gifts will allow him to survive a non-dominant college campaign, because players like him are often shackled by the coaching and surrounding talent in college situations (look at Rajon Rondo), and barring injury, he'll be in the discussion for the first overall pick.

Movie Comparison: Babel (well-known but not a household name, ridiculously high ceiling, some obvious but ultimately insignificant flaws, slightly disappointing box-office run/college season, late Oscar/No.1 pick push upon review)

Kevin Love:

Strengths: A banger down low who can scrap for rebounds and tough baskets, extremely refined post moves, a good stroke with range out to (allegedly) the NBA 3-point line, the best outlet passer since Bill Walton, team player with high basketball IQ. Other than that, his game needs a lot of work.

Weaknesses: Not particularly tall or athletic, goes to UCLA, has a dad who's borderline insane.

Outlook: First of all, let's address the character issues of Love/Mayo. Mayo has been billed as another Iverson-like young punk who cares only about himself and even smokes the demon weed, while Love is the white model citizen who wants the team to succeed first and saves babies. First of all, it should be obvious is nothing like the picture that has been painted of him, although it would probably take a whole other column to reach the extent of my anger about this. Second, the most popular comparison for Love is Bill Walton, because of their position, passing ability, college, and skin color, which is good because Walton is now a beloved personality who teaches us all about Canada during the middle of a game. (Quote from the FIBAs: So while Canada is losing this game right now, we must stop to remember that this is the country that gave us the light bulb.") O.J. has been accused of Marijuana possession one time, and those charges were dropped when it was revealed that it belonged to a friend. This has naturally been blown out of proportion by people who want to paint O.J. as just another punk kid. But without even touching how prevalent casual marijuana use is among people my age (smell my hall sometime), has everyone forgotten that Bill Walton loved weed? He got special permission from John Wooden to blaze after every game, for the love of god. Just thought that was interesting.

Love is this year's "crap, I have no idea how good this guy will be in the pros" guy because of his limited athleticism; he's a top-10 pick on DraftExpress, but he's all the way at 17 on, which has Hasheem Thabeet, who may or may not be able to make a layup with both hands, at 12. His rebounding is a question-for every Paul Milsap, there's an Ike Diogu. His scoring is a question. Whether his Unseld act will work in the pros is a question mark.

Ultimately, like most skilled but not crazy-athletic prospects, I think he'd be a great complimentary piece, but will break hearts if he's put as the face of a franchise. Not only would a subpar college season mean that UCLA will be bad, but it'll make him fall to a team that will use his talents well instead of throw him straight to the dogs, so that's what I'm rooting for. And if he could have a bad season, do bad at the combine, and end up with a hooker in his room, subsequently causing him all the way to the Cavs and clean up boards, score garbage buckets and pick-and-pops with LeBron, and toss LeBron outlets in the full-court, I would be a happy man. David Stern, here's your next secret project.

Movie Comparison: Little Miss Sunshine (ceiling limited because of genre/athleticism concerns, about as well-done as can be, unique-seeming, loved by casual fans, backlash will come from the biggest film geeks/draft experts)

Brook Lopez:

Strengths: He's seven feet tall, athletic, and alive, which means he's a top-15 pick automatically.

Weaknesses: He can't score. I'm really only doing this one because I like the movie comparison. Also, I hate Stanford. A lot.

Movie Comparison: The Heartbreak Kid. Everyone knows that movies with Ben Stiller screaming all the time and prominently feature jokes about sunburns, deviated septums, fat people, emasculating sex, and Carlos Mencia are going to suck. But for some reason, studios put their full weight into these movies time after time, only to be shocked when they turn into a fiasco. It's the same way with 7-footers who show athleticism, can't score, and fall out of the top 7 picks-good centers don't fall out of the top 5. It's that simple. So if a center is available at 9 or 12, he's not going to be good. But look at that, Patrick O'Bryant was the #9 pick two years ago, and Hilton Armstrong was a top-15 pick last year. And they've both sucked. Big surprise.

Well, there you have it. I was going to try and make this more comprehensive, but I'm already pushing 2,300 words, it's almost 1:00 in the morning, and I haven't had drunken encounters with most of the other top-10 prospects. Enjoy your Wednesday.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Cavs and Major League 2: Redux

Hey all, sorry I haven't gotten a post up recently; I don't want you to think that I'm going into a downward spiral after that last semi-depressed post (I think the Sideways picture made the post seem much sadder than it actually was, but I liked it anyways; at the time of the post, I identified pretty strongly with both someone who was on the cusp of something supposed to be a major positive turning point in his life, only to be scared by the implications of it and retreat to doing what he had been doing before without fear of repercussion, AND the writer who was convinced that his career and life were going nowhere. So I liked it. But I'm not sad. And thank you so much to all of you who commented on the last post; believe it or not, that meant a lot to me, and is the type of thing that keeps me writing.) In fact, I finally got around to actually posting something about USC football today: here's the link.

I'd really like to get a fresh post basketball post up before the week is over, but unfortunately I have a paper due tomorrow and don't have the time; I started doing a post on how I think Boston's troika is going to work out, but ended up hating it after a few paragraphs. So I'm going to recycle a post from my message-board days, which I originally put up during the Cavs' midseason swoon, when LeBron looked officially disinterested and the general public was getting ready to write off the Cavaliers. This is definitely one of my favorite pieces I ever wrote for RCF, (my absolute favorite one is this one, which I definitely wish I had written when I was blogging; that might be my favorite thing I've ever written, and I wish more people could have seen it.) and I feel even better about it now that the Cavs' season ended up mirroring the Major League 2's Indians even more; after losing to the hated White Sox after a miraculous run to the playoffs in Major League, in Major League 2, the Indians bounced back from their difficulties and ended up beating the White Sox and making the World Series at last. (I get predictions right every now and then. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Kevin Durant fans. Also, he's officially a shooting guard to start the season.) Here's the original post, with new thoughts in italics:

As bad sports movies that regularly appear on cable go, it doesn't get much better than Major League 2. In case you don't remember, or haven't seen the movie (not a bad call), the plot goes as follows: In the first Major League, our heroes the Cleveland Indians were fresh off of an incredible pennant run, which they attained on the back of their young phenom pitcher, Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn. They were eliminated in the playoffs, but came back the next year with high hopes, as they hadn't lost anyone important from the previous year. (Except for Wesley Snipes, but he was replaced by Omar Epps.) However, things didn't go as planned for our beloved Indians. Almost all the players went into a funk for one reason or another, and it looked like their success had been a fluke, and that they would never win the World Series that they wanted so badly. You probably know where I'm going with this-if you really need it explained to you, yikes. Let's break it down, player by player-

Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn, who had carried the team with his blazing fastball and bad-ass persona, came into camp with a new attitude. He held off of throwing his fastball, talking about the need to "conserve his arm" and instead attacked hitters with his new assortment of off-speed stuff, which was mediocre at best. On top of that, his newfound obession with image and making money off the court made his passion for the game leave, and he ended up losing his heat for much of the movie. Obviously, that's LeBron, despite the fact that "Wild Thing" became AV's nickname. Just like Wild Thing, LeBron came up huge at the hugest time last season; after choking early in the series, he came back with beyond a vengeance and destroyed the Pistons in game 5, although he's still spending a healthy amount of time focusing on his image. Additionally, his determination to add a jump shot and post moves to his game reminds me too much of Rick Vaughn's determination to add ineffective off-speed pitches to his arsenal to supplement his unhittable fastball. LeBron, you're completely unstoppable when you drive to the basket. Just go. Last year, his switching from an attack mentality to a passive need to shoot fadeaways nearly made me chew a hole in my own flesh; if he drives even less because of the new facets to his game, I'm going to go crazy. And, for the record, I'm a huge supporter of LeBron working his jump shot and even more excited about the possibility of post moves, but Major League 2 has been Nostradamus-like so far, and this scares me. Okay, I'm not making sense anymore. It's 2:20 in the morning and I've been trying to make progress on an immigration paper for an hour and a half. Cut me some slack.

Willie Mays Hays, played by Omar Epps, had been the fastest/most effective leadoff hitter in the league last season, but came into camp nursing his injuries and foolishly attempting to hit for power instead of just putting the ball on the ground and running. That's Larry, who's nursing his glass ankle and trying to be a 3-point shooter instead of the slasher he's supposed to be. I don't have much else to say about this one; we're all hoping for the best and expecting the worst for Larry this year.

Jake Taylor, the heroic catcher played by Tom Berenger, is a solid clubhouse leader and veteran presence, but his extreme age has deteriorated his skills to the point where he's not kept on the roster, and is instead kept on as an assistant coach so that talented, eager, and inexperienced Rube Baker can come on and be productive, eventually serving as the downtrodden team's spark plug. It's Snow and Boobie. Called it called it called it. You know what it is.

Jack Parkman is the team's most talented player other than Vaughn, but his horrible attitude and desire to get paid causes him to be traded to Chicago, where he continues to produce/be a complete douchebag, until he finally gets bitten in the ass by karma at the end of the movie. There's Carlos Boozer! Now that Boozer effectively destroyed my Warriors on the boards, I hate him even more, and the fact that the whole Drew/Andy for cheap is just as good for Boozer for expensive! argument is becoming more and more untrue makes me crazy. Grr.

Pedro Cerrano(Played by President David Palmer) is the team's cleanup hitter, a man who has boundless power but is also a complete nut, costing the team games because of his need to save a bird, and just generally being a giant vagina because of his newfound commitment to Bhuddism, which nearly cancels out his immense natural talent. Drew Gooden, everybody. Just like Pedro, Drew had his redemption early in the playoffs; Pedro was one of the only ones who stuck around for all three movies, which is appropriate because I'm sure Drew's never going away.

Isuro Tanaka is an import from Japan, and despite his limited English, he comes in, plays hard every day, and gets up in the rest of the team's face in order to inspire them to play hard. Meet Andy. Later in the season, this could also have applied to Pavlovic; in the third movie, Isuro had quit baseball to run a mini-golf place, which is like Andy going to Europe.

Roger Dorn has made the transformation from overpaid, spoiled ballplayer who didn't play defense to the owner of the team, and even though his skills are now nonexistant, he still thinks the world revolves around him, at one point asking, "Do you think April's too early to have a Roger Dorn Night?" Damon Jones. Even more true now than when I wrote it.

I can't find anyone in the movie who resembles Z, or anyone on the Cavs who resembles that cute chick from Dazed and Confused who gets Vaughn to stop being such a pussy and throw heat again, but that's not too bad.

Finally, let's not forget the team's obnoxious, loudmouth fans, who instantly turn on the team when they begin losing, and especially have it in for Rick Vaughn, who they mercilessly ridicule, giving him the idiotic nickname "Vile thing" and eventually making him want to give up pitching. Even when the Indians make the playoffs, the fan says "We'll only blow it anyways," and seems genuinely thrilled by the team's failures up until the last scene of the movie, when the Indians win the World Series after Vaughn refinds his heat and get a clutch strikeout, at which point the fan proclaims "I believed in him all along!" Bill Simmons, everybody!

So why am I posting this? A few reasons.
#1, it's really weird that our team has this many similarities between a bad sports movie about a Cleveland team.

#2, I'm optimistic that LeBron and the team in general will turn it on like the Indians did, and quiet all the doubters and haters. Not being a homer and saying we're doing fantastic, just saying I have faith that this team is going to pull through this; remember last year, when LBJ wasn't an MVP candidate at mid-season, and everyone was ready to end the season early and hand the Pistons the championship. I could say this in any number of threads, but it's not where you start or middle, it's where you finish. We've got problems now, sure, although Boobie looks like he could be a solution to our biggest one(love, love, love his shot), but that's not the same as having problems in the off-season. Maybe it's because my hometown team is the Warriors, who I can't remember ever making the playoffs, and whose "superstar" is crazy Baron Davis, but I'm thrilled to be part of a team that's definitely headed to the playoffs with a player as talented as LeBron. (Not going to get into just exactly how good he is now, this isn't the right time.) Gives you some perspective on just how hard the Warriors came out of nowhere after the Dunleavy/Jackson trade. Also, looking back over this makes me feel like Yoda. Well, thanks for reading. Fresh posts next week.