Wednesday, November 28, 2007

LeBron Domination Check, Bullets, Links

-Before we get into LeBron's ridiculous numbers, look at what he's been doing to win games: The Cavs are 9-6 right now. They have led 1 game after 3 quarters. That is not a misprint. They are 6-6 in games they're losing over three quarters, easily the best winning % in the NBA from that spot, and 2-0 when tied after 3 quarters, like they were when the Cavs beat the Celtics tonight. The reason for this is LeBron. In crunch time, (less than 5 minutes left to play, neither team up by more than 5), LeBron is averaging 76 points per 48 minutes on well over 50% shooting, with 9.6 assists per 48 minutes to boot. Most superstars have clutch stats significantly worse than their normal stats.

-Today's "LeBron is putting up ungodly numbers" stat: When you combine points, rebounds, and assists, LeBron is at 723. #2 is Dwight Howard at 615.

-Heroes watch: Hey, Peter, if you can read minds, how about READING EVIL ADAM'S MIND SO HE STOPS PLAYING YOU LIKE AN IDIOT! Also, is the thing that concerns you most about the upcoming holocaust losing your moderately attractive girlfriend of a few weeks? Christ. Liked Sylar's story. 1 twin down... and every minute you spend in New Orleans trying to get that backpack back is a minute of your life you owe me. By the way, do you guys just tune out when I start talking about TV? I watch too much of it, so I figure I might as well write about it here, but if I'm wasting your time I'll stop. Lemme know.

-New Post on MVN. Go boldly.

-New Post on Free Darko should be up sometime this morning. By the time I wake up to edit this, it'll probably already be up, so just check the site.

-Quitting smoking this week. Wish me luck.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Artsy Movies! Jemele Hill! Nepotism! Patricide! Bullets!

I've got posts awaiting editing for SportsHub and Free Darko (I have editors now!), so for now you'll have to make do with some bullets:

-I really liked the last episode of Heroes, although I'm disappointed they decided to call it "Cautionary Tales" instead of "Patricide!" What we learned from the last episode(sub-bullets alert!)

-Claire ruining her father's carefully-laid plans by being a whiny teenager and wanting to stay with her boyfriend of three weeks: boo. The moral: women ruin everything.

-Moral #2: Mohinder ruins everything. Also, there has never been a completely successful standoff/prisoner trade in the history of television or movies.

-I'm really glad that HRG isn't dead, since he's one of my two favorite characters on the show(and now that Sylar's stuck with the twins, he's got the #1 spot locked up), but I'm annoyed that he has to be brought back to life. One of Lost's great rules is "when someone's dead, they're really, really dead." With time-travel and now Claire's magic blood, death on Heroes has officially reached Princess Bride-style degrees; kinda dead, mostly dead, and Malcolm McDowell. Also, they could have picked up "Don't add two annoying Hispanic characters who have nothing to do with anything for no reason, because people will hate them with a passion," from Lost. At least they learned to copy the shifting purpose of "The Others."

-Wow, I should have figured out that the hooded guy was Adam sooner. I'm terrible at spotting these sorts of things.

-Parkman's power doesn't suck at all! Hooray!

-HRG warming up to Claire's boyfriend and talking to him about cars: wonderful.

-Do you think Claire's brother has to tell people he's on Heroes? Does he use that as a pick-up line? Does it work?

-Do you think Peter absorbed the Haitian guy's power? Or is his absorbing a power that was blocked by the Haitian guy? I've always wondered if he would absorb his power and use it to block out his power of blocking out powers, then open up a can of blasting on his ass. I think too much about this stuff.

-Great article on College A Capella Groups. Full disclosure: the guy who wrote it has been my friend since 1st grade. Still, it's awesome. And it's pretty mean, so if you love A Capella, go over there and give him crap-friends should go through being torn apart by anonymous people together.

-Straight guys can really like Alicia Keyes, right? I mean, she's really hot. Yeah, I don't like her music at all. I just like looking at her. That's the ticket.

-Am I the only person who really likes Jemele Hill's writing? Judging by the comments on her articles, I might be, and that's a bummer, because I think she's really good; she writes about stuff most writers wouldn't touch with a 30-foot pole, and manages to offer a cogent and well-written viewpoint on it. She's not always right, but I don't believe a writer has to be right about everything to be effective; if they were, they'd be the ones actually making the decisions. I always come away from her pieces entertained and thought-provoked, which is enough for me.

-Watched Requiem For A Dream last night. I don't swear on this blog, so I can't really describe how it made me feel accurately, but that (stuff) was (quite) intense. I was (indeed) shaking by the end of that (mother-enjoying) movie. Most terrifying movie I've ever seen in my life.

-LeBron: 34,7,and 7! 11-22 shooting and 11-12 free throws! Cavs lose! 1-7 from 3; the annual "Hey, LeBron's hitting 40% of his threes this year!" period has officially ended. Come back next November.

-Amare had a 26-13; please return, Amare. Meanwhile, Mike D'Antoni played his starters 35 minutes each and played 8 guys in total. Hey, it's not like his teams have ever run out of gas in the playoffs or anything.

-THE CAPTAIN HATH RETURNED AND THE WARRIORS SHALL SHINE ON. Also, Eddie Curry has resumed sucking, although it's not like the Bulls are dominating without him right now. However, my rookie of the year pick of Joakim Noah over Kevin Durant isn't looking quite as stupid now, is it, world?

-Andray Blatche went ahead and poured in a 26/8/4 on 12-14 shooting. Apparently just being involved in a trade rumor with the Cavaliers will make you better now. I fully expect Mike Bibby to start putting up 35/13 after he comes back.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Various News And Notes at 3:30 in the morning

-I have my life back; my pledge semester is over and I MADE IT. We started with 24; 13 of us finished. It's a good feeling. Between having actual free time and the television writer's strike, expect a lot more posts; I'm shooting for 3-5 per week between here, MVN, SportsHub, and Free Darko.

-Here's My 1st Post on Free Darko, about how the NBA perceives class. I thought it turned out pretty decent; not quite as strong as I wanted to make my 1st post, but FD posts are really, really hard to write. Also, those commenters are really, really smart. You gotta bring your A game to FD.

-My 1st real post on SportsHub. In a word: yikes. I thought this was one of the best ideas I'd ever had, and emailing it along to Shoals ultimately ended up with me getting my dream job at FD. It ended up getting a reception somewhere in between Jenni Carlson's column and Howard Dean's "yeaaaaaargh!" I got absolutely freaking murdered over there, which really hasn't happened to any extent since my Durant piece, and even then there were a lot of positive comments. Also, Durant did make an amazing game-winner, but he's shooting under 40% with low assist and rebound totals and a 2-7 team, so I'm still not ready to call that a bad column. This was a bad column, for a number of reasons:

-The comparison that made perfect sense in my head was a bit of a stretch; it's always going to be hard for the lines of a fictional aristocrat and a shooting guard to match up, and if you don't want to see it, it's easy to poke holes in.

-I tried waaaaaaaaaaaay too hard to sound sophisticated and literary when I should have just stuck to sports stuff; sometimes I forget that I've only been studying English for a few months, and I'm really not even doing that well in my English classes, when a lot of my colleagues have Masters degrees and have been writing professionally for some time, so when I try to show off as a writer next to those guys, I just look stupid. Good lesson to learn, but I would have preferred to learn it when I wasn't posting my 1st essay on a site I'm really excited to be a part of.

-I'm trying to follow LBJ's example and be a "no-excuses" writer, but Jesus H. Christ, LA fans are tough. I think I got a little used to Cleveland fans, who are generally Midwestern, filled with a sense of doom about their team, and will hence never get all that defensive about their players; my colleague/boss at MVN has named Larry Hughes "Laura", Mike Brown should be happy he's not in effigy somewhere, and even LeBron is far from immune to criticism-the leading poster on the best Cavs message board on the internet's avatar was Dwayne Wade with the Jim O'Brien trophy for several months last year. On the other hand, Lakers fans are coastal and harsh, filled with pride over their storied Lakers, and ridiculously defensive about their own players, especially Kobe. When I get my degree, I'm moving to Wisconsin. End of story.

I still think the article was a bad idea, but I still don't think I got a fair shake; I thought I executed on that post better than I did on my "Price of the Game," which I walked away from thinking I'd really failed to do the idea justice because of my shortcomings as a writer, and I've felt the same way about lots of other posts that have gotten picked up and gotten positive receptions. Okay, I'm just bitching now, but getting absolutely crucified will shake you up, especially when you're suddenly writing along with guys from The LA Times and ESPN, not to mention your idol, and are wondering how the hell you're supposed to be able to do that when you can't even pull a B in Writing 140. All writers are insecure: Malcolm freaking Gladwell, the best non-fiction writer on the planet, came back with a "hey, screw you," post on his blog when one of his New Yorker pieces got slammed by commenters. Bill Simmons, one of the best and most influential sportswriters out there, will shoot back at his detractors in veiled and not-so-veiled ways.

I'm a writer too, and unlike those guys, I don't have a huge guaranteed readership or, for that matter, any salary at all right now; it was a big sign of confirmation for me to get the jobs at SportsHub and Free Darko, so to see my 1st posts there met with ambivalence/outright hatred sent me for a bit of a loop. Add the fact that I'm 18 years old and have been pledging for the last 10 weeks of my life, and just try and fathom how insecure I am right now. I'm officially on Marlboro Reds now. I appreciate all feedback on my writing, positive or negative, and when I started this blog and accepted those jobs, I signed up to accept any and all criticism; I've never deleted a comment, and never intend to. However, I do my best to avoid making personal attacks on the athletes/coaches/executives I write about; occasionally, I break that rule, because I'm still the kid who made one too many wise-ass remarks in English class deep down, but I try to be as ridiculous as possible when I do, and I never, ever, ever make character attacks on amateur athletes. I'm an amateur writer, and while I respect free speech and your right to say what you want, remember that I'm reading all these comments and taking them to heart, and that I am a real person sitting in Leavy Library trying to write stuff that's fun to read for free. Call me a pussy if you want to, but that's how I feel.

-Okay, got a little side-tracked there. Last new post is on MVN, about why LeBron has improved so much this year for reasons we didn't expect. Have a good night, everyone.

Friday, November 9, 2007


In November 2006, I started writing about basketball by posting on a great little message board called One year later, I've made it. I just officially joined Free Darko. That's right. Free Freaking Darko. My absolute favorite NBA website on the planet. I've been reading it avidly for 2 years, and now I'm actually a part of it. Couple that with the excitement of joining SportsHub LA, and I'm really on a high right now-I feel like I can actually do this with the big boys. Thank all of you so much for allowing me to do this.

I'm now a member of 4 sites, including this beautiful little blog right here, so I'll be spread pretty thin posting-wise. (A reminder; my pledge semester ends Wednesday, which means I get to go back to "work" full-time.) Here's my basic schedule/plan for how I'm going to try and make good contributions to all these sites:

MVN: Cavs recaps, thoughts about the Cavs, Cavs-related things, generally fairly quick-hit, with the occasional essay mixed in there.

SportsHub: Laker/Clipper recaps, with longer posts about the LA basketball scene, including USC hoops (1st game Saturday!)

Free Darko: Long-Form NBA conjecture, generally dealing with FD things like meaning and implication, 3-4 times a month because it's not easy to come up with FD-worthy ideas.

TBF: Everything else, from goofier essays, bullet points, thoughts on TV, and essays that aren't about the Cavs, Lakers, or Clippers but aren't quite thought-provoking enough to be on Free Darko.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

My Season of Discontent

Hey, everyone. It's two in the morning right now, and I can't sleep. My pledge semester ends in a week, and I am officially a miserable shell of a human being. Perhaps that's why the NBA's first week has brought me more misery than happiness so far, but most of the major and not-so-major developments in the NBA so far have made me extremely displeasured. I might come back in a little with the things that are making me happy, but right now the list is essentially Boobie Gibson, nicotine, and Tom Jones' duet with Joss Stone. I probably feel worse about loving that than loving smoking, but I'll be damned if I don't love em' both. Anywhere, here's my list of misery:

1. Kobe's failure to doody or get off the pot

This was supposed to be the year when the Kobe in LA saga would finally come to its conclusion, with Kobe tiring of toiling in relative mediocrity and making a final push to either achieve greatness or finally implode unto himself like a dying star. Instead he's still with the Lakers, and he's playing pretty much the same way he did last year; unassailable greatness without true transcendence, mixing flashes of dominance with stretches of quasi-dominance, switching between singularly driven bursts of revenge basketball and a vague attempt to understand the dynamics of team greatness that remain opaque to Kobe despite all his efforts, with the ring he can call his own haunting him the way Daisy Buchanon haunted Jay Gatsby as he strove to make himself perfect in order to gain access to a place of bliss that his own hubris made it impossible for him to inhabit. Instead of drawing to an awe-inspiring crescendo, his story continues to linger, and I'm tired of waiting.

2. LeBron's failure to become the ultimate weapon

This summer, we saw a vision of the perfect basketball player; LeBron James, he gifted as none before him have ever been, was supposed to have gone home this summer and have brushed up his weaknesses, specifically his outside shooting and free throw shooting, and on top of that, he said he was adding post moves. Oh, and he got laser surgery to give him 20-15 vision. He then proceeded to flash his new pretty form at the FIBAs en route to making 2/3rds of his 3s. This was the season LeBron was to become the ultimate machine of basketball. And even though he's giving a crap and playing great so far this season, he continues to struggle with the weaknesses we all assumed would be cured by time and work; he went 3-11 on long jumpers last night, and 7-15 on free throws. Now I may be forced to cope with the fact that LeBron has a ceiling, which I refuse to do.

3. Boston's big 3 imploding horrifyingly on itself

I love KG. I love Ray Allen. I like Paul Pierce. It's somewhat enjoyable to watch them all play perfectly together, but how much more fun would it have been if they became a horrifying new version of the Knicks, especially since the Knicks have slid into unfunny mediocrity? KG probably would have punched someone out by now, and Doc Rivers would probably start wearing body armor to games. And admit it, we're all rooting for a little Boston failure right now. Of course, this may be lingering resentment over the fact that they were given the East Championship before the season started while my team got written off after WINNING THE THING LAST YEAR. Freaking East Coast Bias.

4. The Suns going establishment on us

At this point, they're really just a skilled pick-and-roll team with a great point guard and quality shooters. They've lost their breakneck pace, regularly scoring less than 100 points. More horrifyingly, the beast that is Amare is still MIA-seeing him fire up 20-foot jumpers is like seeing Che Guevarra take over and then decide it might be time to keep everything the way it is, except for some possible changes in tax law.

5. Gilbert losing his swag

If there's one guy who earned his superstar rep all the way, it's Agent 0. Now that he's fallen, the dogs are all over him like a fallen piece of meat, and it's not pretty to watch.

6. AI2 in hiatus

What happened to the guy that was an MVP candidate after Iverson left last year? Now he's gone back to being tantalizing. I hate tantalizing.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

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.

Monday, November 5, 2007

I Have Another New Job!

Good News, everyone!

Brian Kamenetsky, formerly of the L.A. Times and ESPN the Magazine, is starting up a website for L.A. sports, Sports Hub LA. He describes it as a "Huffington Post-type project, combining mainstream access with outsider opinion to create a 1-stop site for L.A. Sports." I'm excited about that, and I've never heard of the Huffington Post in my life. One look at their roster and I was completely sold-a slew of LA Times and ESPN journalists, not to mention the immortal Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog. Looking at that, I was convinced they'd made some type of mistake by hiring me, but far be it from me to correct them.

Even though I'm mainly a Bay Area guy, with a random allegiance to the Cleveland Cavaliers, I'm hugely excited about this opportunity; I'm going to get to be an actual member of the media, with access and everything. If you love Los Angeles sports, this site is the place for you to go. I'm still keeping the blog, of course, but I encourage all of you to hop over there as soon as you get a chance. Thank all of you guys so much for giving me the support I needed to get this opportunity-without you, I'm just shouting at the wall.