Monthly Archives: May 2008

Of Course

Of course the Spurs get executed while I’m in Destin, Florida for a bachelor party. Of course. They even deprive me the opportunity to be a part of the discussion of their demise.

With Corndogg effectively driving this blog into a cliff while I’m gone, I’ll simply tell you, a proper send-off is in order for one of the most dominant franchises in NBA history, and I’ll lay it out when we get back.

For right now, I’m back to white sands, Coronas, and a little bit of chaos. I’ll right the ship when I return.

Oh, and Celtics in seven, we repeat.

Well, That About Does It For The Spurs!

Corndogg Here and loving this glorious day. Why, you might ask? Because I hate, hate, hate the Spurs. And don’t care what anyone thinks. And since Matt is away on vacation, I am taking this opportunity to tell those Spurs and all their fans that their team can make like Jackie Moon and his Bud Light: SUCK ONE! Finally, I am redeemed!

Not one, but TWO huge pieces of news today. First, the NBA has decided that it was indeed a foul that Derek Fisher committed on Brent Barry in the waining seconds of Game 4 two nights ago. And you what, BFD! The League isn’t changing the outcome and the Spurs still aren’t winning a title. At least we have some comeuppance, both from the League and for the Spurs, but not without controversy. Just as with the whole “rogue” official-Donaghy scandal, the refs are saying one thing and the league is saying another. This is not conspiracy theories, folks. This is truth. Just read the article.

And, the second piece of news, which will almost surely ruin the chances of the Spurs ever making it to the WCF again, is that the league will now be fining floppers! Yes, that’s right. A team like San Antonio, who runs a tight ship, with cost effective payrolls and teaches flopping as sound defensive technique, its totally, utterly screwed. How can all those guys on those small salaries get by getting fined two and three (or in Parker’s case – 142) times a night just for using proper defensive technique? Answer: they won’t. So now, either teams are going to have to actually attempt to play defense or they are going to get some serious kicks to the morale and the wallet.

Look, I know it looks like I am preaching armageddon for the Spurs. And you know what, I am. Because (even though I respect Buford, Pop and Duncan) I really, really hate that team. Always have. They have gone for so long getting egregious calls and ridiculously lucky “rule interpretations” that I have begged, pleaded and prayed for this day to come. And finally, it is here. So what if I had to sell my sole to the NBA gods and become a Laker fan for a series. It was all worth it. What good is a soul anyway, once the season is over?

Please feel free to splash all of your vitriol in the comments section. Or better yet, save your tears for the River Walk, because the reign of terror is all dried up way down in San Antone.

Tom Ziller Will Melt Your Face With Awesomeness

So I’m trying to catch up on things, balancing three blogs, catching up on the Clark Kent Job, making plans for the next trip I’ve got, and working on a few interviews I’m pretty proud of.

And then Tom Ziller goes and blows open the barn doors of the NBA Internet with two pieces that aren’t especially ground breaking, but are just really, really damn good.

First, he dishes this Combo Guard piece over at BallHype which made my mind light up like a plasma ball. The combo-guard v. pure point argument has been rattling in my brain for weeks and I was actually going to try and put something down on screen for it. Thank God I didn’t because it wouldn’t have been half as good as what Tom did.

But he wasn’t done. No, no. Then he dropped this piece on why the Draft is better than the Conference Finals, which essentially taps into the core of the reason we started RU.

So I’ve come to the only conclusion I can, given how much better Ziller looks than me today. Hell, I can’t even keep Detroit and Boston straight.

Tom Ziller has to die.

Be warned, House of Ziller.

Mike D’Antoni, How Does Your Garden Grow?

The following is another public service announcement from the Corndogg. Please remember not to go swimming for at least an hour after reading.

Lots of internet types are goofing on the Great Mustachio, now that the Bulls have won the Rose Bowl while the Knicks are stuck picking 6th (oooh, but OJ Mayo might be there!). However, while I was trying to decide if this were truly an awful decision on D‘s part, I came across one factor that I think might shape his future in New York indefinitely. D doesn’t just want Rose, he wants a Garden full of Roses. What’s that you say, are you using horticulture references in this post? What is this, a Flower Blog? No, it’s not, but that idea is imperative to the way DAntoni should approach his seemingly ill-fitting team this summer. When life gives you a big pile of crap, you turn it into fertilizer.

Run those bitches until their legs fall off.

“But uh, Corn, most of the Knicks can’t run to the toilet, much less 94 feet and back consistently.” And you know what, it doesn’t matter. In fact, if I were D, I would do my duty to Old Glory and coach the Olympics team (and give mustache rides to the likes of Lebron and Wade), but after that, focus on the one thing you know how to do better than anyone else in your profession – Coach uptempo basketball.
It’s the perfect storm. You don’t worry about trades. You don’t try and cut costs. You don’t bother with personnel decisions or who fits what position and what their skill levels are. You just run. Like Forrest Gump, you run. This is going to accomplish a multitude of things. First, you are going to break those guys who do not really care about basketball. “Oh, I’m sorry Stephon. If you don’t like the way I run my f*cking ship, then take $2 mil and go back to Coney Island.” Secondly, you let all the waste of cap and bench space slowly die off while you find out for sure who can and will fit your system (no one is looking at you, Jerome James). Third, you design a game plan that allows every single person on this team to take a shot whenever they touch the ball, if they feel like it. No consequences, just like in Phoenix. You let them play fast, play offense and let the defense come along if it can. If this collection of filth thinks they are individually so talented and worthy, let them prove it to you game in and game out.

Sure, this seems loony. But what about D‘s style and methods have not seemed loony in the past. The cream rises to the top and the garbage gets thrown away. You don’t make any excuses or apologize for the way you run your team. Not only will this get the media off your back, but it will show your fans and other free agents you are coveting that you couldn’t care less about expectations, trends and critiques. You are just there to coach the best way you know how. And once you take that Gung-Ho attitude into year two, you will be able to have a much bigger say in your personnel issues, you will be the darling of the Big Apple and you will know exactly where you stand. No one thinks you can do it anyway, not with this mess. So you might as well buckle down, zone in and work like you’ve never worked before. Nothing else matters.

Trying to make a mountain out of a dunghill? Sure, but if you build that mountain high enough, you won’t even be able to waft along the smell of crap from whence you first started. In fact, all that feces will have turned into compost. The perfect base from which to start your own Garden.

Memorial Day Quick Thoughts

  • I’ve been traveling since Friday, which is why no updates. Didn’t even have time to drop a note that I’m gone. I’m out in North Carolina visiting the Corndogg, basically having too much beer and screaming about DeAndre Jordan. Flight back to Austin is later today, so regular posting resumes tomorrow.
  • Manu Ginobili is “bery, bery good” at basketball.
  • I like Damon Jones as a SportsCenter analyst.
  • Chauncey Billups looks D-U-N.
  • That Garnett jam made me jump out of my skin. It was terrifying.
  • Corn and I figure that Lamar Odom shot about .130 from inside the paint, under the basket last night. The Spurs did a terrific job of forcing him away from the basket on every drive. Conversely, Sasha Vujacic kept up on Ginobili’s left, but Ginobili went to his step back three. The Lakers need to be fine with that. If Ginobili’s going to beat you, that’s the way you need to let him do it.
  • We like Boston, predictably. I said the Pistons and Celtics would both go 1-1 at home, and they have. Then it’s a three game series, and I like he home team to prevail in all three.
  • Game 4 for Lakers-Spurs is going to be huge. The Lakers won’t go away like the Hornets did in Game 4 in San Antonio. San Antonio may win, but this one won’t be a blowout.

Lakers-Spurs Game 1 Thoughts

  • Kobe Bryant is better than you.
  • And you.
  • And me.
  • And you.
  • And Ime Udoka.
  • You’re cool (Tim Duncan).
  • And you.
  • The Lakers, more so than any team this season (and yes, I’m including the Suns and Warriors), have an undeniability once they awake. It’s almost worse than when you’ve been in a slugfest with them the entire game. The Spurs settled into a groove, and had their usual clamps on. Then, Kobe. And more Kobe. And Kobe forcing, literally forcing Gasol to become involved. That got Vujacic going. And when they needed a big one, the MVP was ready.
  • Two years ago I wrote about how there was a level of fear that certain players can strike into your heart and how that was Kobe’s biggest flaw. Because even though you can’t stop his scoring and he was still a phenomenal player, you knew he was going to try and do too much, was going to force it too hard, was going to exert himself beyond the frequency of letting the game came to him. I have to tell you this, and trust me, it makes me sick to say it, but when he came up the court, taking the ball from Vujacic (who for some reason had dreams of being a point tonight, silly little mophead) and crossed over the half court line, instantly assessing where his teammates were, the screen, his defender, and using that ridiculous controlling dribble of his which is more confident than I’ve ever seen, and you just knew he was scoring? I got chills. I really did. I’ve hated Kobe Bryant for the majority of his career. And while I still can’t bring myself to root for him, tonight, instead of just pushing me to anger or disgust, it was different. Maybe it was the Spurs. Maybe I’ve just become a smarter fan of the game since starting to write and cover it so much. Or maybe Kobe Bryant has really reached that level where he’s one of the greatest of all time. Instantly, people who have brief timeout blogs or want us to give Kobe respect are going to say he’s been doing this for years, and they’re right. He’s been putting up the same numbers, getting the same wins, showing off the same moves. But it’s different. I’m telling you, it’s different. He’s letting the game come to him. And he’s not bitterly demanding wins, nor is he cold bloodily chainsawing the court for them. He’s in his groove, he’s confident, he’s taking advantage of defensive weaknesses, making the passes he needs to and then, when he smells blood? Crossover, crossover, goodnight Ime.
  • The Lakers played Duncan as well as you can without a dominant center tonight. The goal is simply to hassle him as much as possible and then make sure you rebound. It’s funny how fast the Spurs fall apart when you cut off their least valuable asset on the floor, Fabricio Oberto. They don’t know how to react without his easy buckets. He made Odom his chump in the first half. Then the Lakers realized, “Wait a tick. This is freaking Oberto. Screw this.
  • Dear Spurs: I know you hate defensive switching, double teams, and man-help. But you should probably hate Kobe Bryant annihilating you more. Please to bring teh double teamz if you wantz compeitiv serees. K Thx Bai.
  • Welcome back to the land of the living, Jordan Farmar. His stat line didn’t show it, but Farmar was obviously a lot more comfortable against the Spurs. Mostly because Tony Parker doesn’t call him “small fry.”
  • Ginobili had a terrible night. So did Odom. What do you want to bet both those guys have a bad Game 2?
  • The TNT Yellowbook Cam may be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. Here’s a screen shot.

    If you can’t tell what’s going on, they had four different cameras streaming online. One was mounted on the scoreboard (bottom right), one was behind the glass (bottom left), one player followed a Lakers player voted on by the fans (Kobe) and one followed a Spurs player voted on by the fans (Parker and Ginobili). It was fascinating. My favorite moment that I saw was a timeout after Manu contributed one of his 4 turnovers, leading to a Kobe score late in the third,just as the Spurs were coming undone. During the timeout, Ginobili did what he always does whenever he’s screwed up and doesn’t want to get reamed by Popovich, immediately heads for the bench. There, Robert Horry came over and gave him a 2 minute coaching session on how to get Kobe off of him with a ball fake/swipe. He went over it four times and kept staring at Ginobili, who was just staring off into space before finally nodding. They NEED to do this for every single NBA game and then sell them online. I would do anything for a complete game’s tape of Tyrus Thomas, to see him lollygagging through screens and then bursting on fast breaks. Or Antoine Walker on the bench, as Trey suggested, or JR Smith during a game. Think about it. Plus it gave you a fantastic sense of how much work these players go through just trying to get open and the little ways they support each other. In a long line of failed camera gimmicks, this is the coolest thing I’ve seen in years.

  • Spurs shot .250 from the arc, Lakers .400. The West has been entirely decided by three point shooting, I’ve decided.

Lakers-Spurs Pre-Game 1 Thoughts

The mission: To get through this entire post with no bitterness. For the sake of this mission, we are forgoing any discussion of the last round or the Lakers historically. We’re going to put these two in a snow globe, shake it up, and see how the snow falls. Here we go.

  • Odom is a nightmare matchup for the Spurs. Who do you put on him? Kurt Thomas? The Spurs system allows him to operate on a level above his ability, but somewhere along the way, there are moments within the game he’s exposed. Odom is not the guy you want exposing that because his game is pretty much automatic. I would love to do a stat analysis of how many touches of his have turned to points in the playoffs. Fabricio Oberto? Unless Odom gets lobotomized and ends up just drooling underneath the basket, that won’t work. Finely’s not a bad option, but Odom’s got too much size and speed on him. Duncan? Yeah, because Gasol versus Thomas/Oberto is a fair fight. The whole blueprint for beating the Lakers is to let Kobe get his and limit the role players. But what if you have to say “We’ll let Kobe and Odom get theirs?” at what point are you giving up too much territory?
  • Conversely, this is the series where Manu Ginobili goes OFF, unless the Lakers put Kobe on him. And if they do, you have to worry about foul trouble. Putting Radman on him is a mistake because he’ll cross him up. Other than that, no one has the right combo. This is going to be a ridiculously high scoring series, I think. Unfortunately, for the Spurs, that doesn’t benefit them.
  • Parker is also going to have a huge series. Fisher’s too old and Parker isn’t a Deron Williams, “I’ll cross you over or post you up” point. He just blows by you. And Gasol isn’t that good at rotating to defend the drive. So that’s two of the three.
  • Duncan is the best power forward in the history of the game and will destroy anyone that gets in his way. Period. That’s three.
  • So am I picking the Spurs?
  • No. Like I said in the Eastern preview, it comes down to what’s obvious. And the Lakers were obviously the best team in the Western Conference this year. When you factor in, “They have Kobe, no one else does” and “Lamar Odom is playing better than any player in the NBA right now” there’s not a lot left. I think this is the series where Lakers fans really start to question Pau Gasol and what he can do. He’s not getting any of those easy little lay-ins he’s used to getting, nor is he going to have as much space to work in. But the Big Three for the Lakers are going to open up things for the perimeter shooters, and I’m not sure the rotations are going to come as easy for the Spurs against them as they did against the Hornets.
  • Here’s a big one for tonight. Popovich apparently saw the same thing I did in Game 6 against the Hornets and used it in Game 7. Manu Ginobili running the half-court point position as the entry passer to Duncan in the right block. It’s unstoppable, nearly. The Lakers I think will bring weakside help though, from Odom/Turiaf, or move to a zone with the middle defender coming down to double. Making the Spurs shoot from the top of the key is a good move, because they’re not as comfortable there as they are in the corners and wings.
  • Of course, the big discussion is about screens and whatnot. But the real key for me? San Antonio’s transition defense. Their system is geared to stop guards and slashers on the break. The Lakers, though, have a terrific ability to get their bigs involved on the break. And quite honestly, the Spurs, and Tony Parker in particular, look terrified when that happens. Whenever Tyson Chandler got down court in transition? It was almost always a bucket. If the Lakers can get them sprung, it hurts the Spurs in an area they can’t stand to be hurt in.
  • Would it shock me for the Spurs to win in 6? Not at all. I picked this matchup at the beginning of the playoffs. And the Spurs have proved everyone wrong in every round. But all the calls they’re used to getting, all the momentum they’re used to having, all the “little things they get to go their way” that I’ve always talked about? That mojo? LA has about ten times that. They are the golden child of this league, like it or not. And they’re not losing this series.
  • Lakers in six.

SwaggerJack: New Blood

Because NBA players and their appropriate people can take longer to get to than you may think, this introductory post of mine will not be the interview that I was planning on. Instead, you get a little hello to all of the readers of HP as I introduce myself, the newest member to this crazy cast we’ve got here.

For anyone who frequents SLAMonline as part of your daily NBA hits, you’ll recognize me as the writer of the Post Up. For those of you who are Laker fans, you’ll recognize me as your family. I am -to put it simply- a girl who was born to write about this game. The squeaking of basketball shoes racing across hardwood is the first track on the soundtrack to my life. The footwork of Chris Paul as he quicksteps to the basket is the most beautiful dance I’ve ever seen and the effortless release of Kobe Bryant’s jumper followed by the net barely daring to breathe as the ball drops through is a feeling as close to perfection as I will ever experience. Basically, the game of basketball is the greatest love of my life.

Thanks to Matt, I’ve got space here to share that love with all of you. If you’ve noticed the column name and have been wondering why SwaggerJack was chosen, there are a few other things you need to know about me. My Stephen Jax love runs deep and this name was inspired entirely by his swagger. I love the NBA and its players more than I could ever attempt to describe. As much as I love March Madness, the D-League (Kelenna Azubuike…Rod Benson…I’ve got love for you both), Canadian college hoops and Euro league there is nothing like the NBA.

If I could choose only one player to be graced with a ring before he leaves the game it would be Iverson. I would be the happiest girl in the world if I could sit with Jack at Staples and I fully intend to make that happen, some way and some how. I also love JVG way more than anyone besides his family should. I’m a huge fan of KG and his intensity that borders on insanity and I think Amare and Raja are two of the coolest cats in the L. Magic was the man who made me like basketball, Kobe came along and helped me fall in love with it and now CP3 is making that love grow with every assist, steal and score.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, I’m going to do my best to bring you a piece of my basketball love every Wednesday with some of the best people associated with professional basketball. It might not be the players you are expecting, but it will always be something on someone I admire, respect and appreciate. Here’s hoping you will too. Gear up everyone; it’s going to be a long offseason after the Lakers win the title.