Monthly Archives: March 2009

And All Was Right in the World

For so long, Shaun Livingston has been the man who wasn’t there.  He existed, we knew that much.  He was somewhere, doing something basketbally.  Out of sight, somewhere in the very back of your mind whenever you evaluate your team’s miserable point guard rotation, as they say.

But this morning, the unexpected, illogical, and awesome occurred.  The Oklahoma City Thunder inked Livingston, whose D-League performances have been good, but hardly overwhelming, to a multiyear (probably unguaranteed) deal.  Yes.

The underlying sentiment of most Livingston stories will parade his rehabilitation, and rightfully so.  From that injury to what we can only hope is a full-time comeback, Shaun has come a long way.  At the core of this story is disappointment and redemption.  Strength, will, and resiliency.  But what Shaun represents isn’t a moral-of-the-story tagline or cheesy documentary featurette on the power of the human spirit.  Livingston, as much as any player, is hope.  Hope that a lanky, awkward 6’7” point guards can rule the league.  Hope that injured players can return to their previous form, even if that form was but a point on the slope to an undetermined end.  Hope that some players will realize that braids may not be for them, and that they look better with short hair.  Shaun Livingston, a prep star taken 4th in the NBA draft, is a remnant of an era that trumpeted potential, to the point that much of it was overestimated or assumed.  Maybe to some that mindset was the source of franchise failure, of one too many immature high schoolers or enigmatic Europeans. But take one of those ‘potential’ stars, and juxtapose them with the current Thunder.  Kevin Durant is already a star among stars, and among the best at his position in just his second season.  Russell Westbrook already seems destined for greatness, and combines high-flying sensationalism with a prowess for tackling the most beastly of beasts: defense at the point guard position.  Jeff Green is spectacular all on his own, versatile, determined, and just flat-out great at the game of basketball.  These guys have a combined five years of NBA experience, and are about as close to sure things as we get in the NBA this side of LeBron James.

The problem with players with elusive upside is that too many teams have put all their eggs in a basket that’s still being made; if Durant, Westbrook, and Green can provide a safety net, then won’t the structural integrity of both Livingston’s career and the Thunder’s prospects be the better for it?

This is essentially a no-pressure situation for Shaun.  All he has to do to earn a consistent spot in the rotation is be better than Earl Watson.  The team is young, and hardly faces a strict timeline.  Westbrook is already manning the starting point guard gig, relieving any pressure that Livingston would have to rush into a role that he just isn’t ready for.  He doesn’t have to take the lead, even if so many of his skills would typically lend themselves to just that.  All Shaun has to do is be the mysterious guy that sits in the corner, the one that no one quite knows what to make of, until he gathers himself, and puts together an outburst that none of us are likely to forget.  Or, y’know, just sit there.

Acquiring a hardly proven, injury-ridden point guard has never made so much sense.

Give In, Give Up

If there is a singular question that weighs on the minds of basketball heads the world over, it’s “Why?”

Why did the Pistons trade Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson? Why did the referee make that call? Why is Jeff Foster taking the last shot? Why isn’t Alexis Ajinca an All-Star yet?  And, a recent question of note: why on earth is Gilbert Arenas making his return to the court with just nine games left in an unsalvageable season?

In most cases, I’m all about answers.  I’m a curious fellow myself, and typically leave no stone unturned in my pursuit of what I deem to be an acceptable answer.

This time around, things are different.  There are several answers to the question, none of which seem worthwhile.  Maybe he’s returning for pride.  Maybe he’s attempting to raise interest in the team and bump ticket sales.  Maybe he’s just trying to get a few games under his belt going into the off-season.  None of those answers is going to mend the wounds of Wizards fans, and none are going to satisfy my own promotion of the forces of reason.  But why are we trying to make sense of a basketball player that, for a myriad of reasons, has ceased to make sense?  Why use common interpretations of logic to reach a conclusion about a player who defies those same standards with his play?

Common sense tells us that players like Arenas will never win a championship.  Frankly, I don’t care.  What matters to me most is returning to Wonderland, because as far as I’m concerned, I’m late for a very important date with the Mad Hatter himself.  Pull-up threes from ridiculous range!  That guilty smirk!  Those unexplainable runners!  Oh, what marvelous things!

All I ask of you, dearest of readers, is for once, ignore what seems logical.  Ignore the voices of reason.  Gilbert Arenas’ career has been exercise after exercise in the depths of impossibility, and I see no more fitting way to return than to a broken team that gains little by his coming.  Let go of that world we cling to so dearly, that dark, analytical place, and give in to the idea that some things happen for no reason at all, or at least no reasons that should concern us.  Gilbert’s coming back, and hopefully the ridiculousness you didn’t even know you missed will follow right behind him.  You can scoff at the notion of a meaningless return at the end of a meaningless season, but what is HP really about if not making nonsense of the sense of that with no meaning?  Madness is the name of the game, ladies and gents, and Gil is the main event of basketball that doesn’t matter.  I’m mad.  You’re mad.

You must be, or you wouldn’t have come here.

Betrayed By a Dear Friend

Nostalgia operates very differently as a framework in the NCAA tournament than it does in the NBA.  For college hoop heads, the past is a way to legitimize and dignify the system.  Every underdog could be “this year’s (small school upset),” and the biggest names and games are compared favorably with the grandest moments of yore.  Every year is simply an extension of the mythos of the tourney; an added chapter that by nature will conjure up memories of the greatest tournament moments without fear that the current product will be overshadowed.

In pro ball, the dynamic between past and present is very different.  The titan statues of Jordan, Bird, and Magic tower over the league, casting a seemingly inconquerable shadow of both brilliance and overglorification.  Today’s feats of strength can’t even measure up to Jordan’s jock, much less his jumper.

I’d wager the difference has something to do with legacy and longevity.  In the college ranks, personal achievements are coopted by the system itself.  It’s not because the NBA is an inherently more selfish game, but rather because even the brightest of college stars are products of the tournament and their laundry.  The greatest moments in NCAA history are great tournament moments (or great team moments), not great Michael Jordan moments or Christian Laettner moments or Carmelo Anthony moments.  Because the NBA at the very least creates the illusion of consistency and longevity (though in reality, the frequency of players switching teams might counter that idea), the focus is on the players, who are an establishment unto themselves.  The maximum career length is far longer, and thus each player has a sustained opportunity to create their own lasting importance.  Naturally, we’re still able to single out the greatest college players, but how could a student-athlete’s influence even begin to rival that of a pro?  Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki, two players who never enrolled in one of America’s fine collegiate institutions, revolutionized the power forward position forever.  MJ redefined greatness not because of the system-imposed limits at North Carolina, but because of his sustained greatness in Chicago.  Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain forced the game (and its rules) to change to specifically address their dominance at the pro level, not in college arenas.  The most significant basketball change has and will always take place in the professional sphere.  If not simply because the players are bigger, stronger, and outright better than their college counterparts, then because the ability to remain relevant for more than a few years allows players the proper avenue to demonstrate their brilliance.

This year seems different.  A season of instability in college basketball has turned out quite predictably, with the sweet sixteen consisting of four 1 seeds, four 2 seeds, four 3 seeds, two 4 seeds, one 5 seed, and traditional power Arizona.  UPSET ALERT!  Here’s my singular hope: that when all is said and done, with the slightly gimmicky tournament format turning in predictable match-ups, the nostalgia that runs in the veins of the tournament will turn from lifeblood to acid.  Without the excitement of the upset lingering in the air, casual basketball fans the world over will pine for the tourney’s more exciting days; the day of the underdog, the day of the tournament legend, and the day where all of the above created an artificial, temporary importance on the basis of singular, great performances.

Here’s A Brief Reminder That I’m A Moron

For those of you that frequent the site that consider us to have any idea what we’re talking about, I’d like to share with you the fact that that concept is completely and 100% false. For those of you that think that I’m a blubbering moron too partial to DWade and too negative towards the Lakers and basically is the personification of insight FAIL, well, this should just make you happy.

So the whole clan went to Vegas for a patriarchal birthday a week ago. And since I was seeking to avoid the end of my civilly recognized partnership with Paroxi-wife, I managed to stay away from the poker table. Mostly it was nice meals, dolphins, and LOVE (which was a lot like the Magic; really fun to watch but you’re not sure it really says anything).  But my one significant venture into the gambling arts was at the SportsBook.

I didn’t intend to win tons. I just wanted to walk away with a little extra thanks to my rather wide knowledge of the NBA universe. I wasn’t going to take any ridiculous underdog bets thanks to my heart getting its strings pulled by a lottery squad against a giant. I would place some bets, probably lose about half thanks to the unknowable mechanisms that comprise the NBA on a nightly basis, and walk away a little up with a good story to tell. Sounds nice, not too bold, right?

I GOT ROLLED.

KNOWLEDGE OF GAME=OVER, COMPLETE BOOB = VERY YES.

Going 1-7 in any given weekend goes far beyond a simple matter of poor luck. You have to genuinely fail to understand how professional basketball works or be drunker than Shane McGowan in hour seven of a binge to hit that kind of mark. There’s no way to make excuses for that kind of run.

So naturally, I’m now going to make exuses about them. Think of this as a way for you to mock my pain and some sort of therapy for me. Thanks for playing. Here are the bets and how they worked out.

PARLAY (Or As I Should Have Called It, Abject Surrender Of My Money)- Orlando (-8) Washington, Boston (-12) Memphis, Cleveland (-12.5) Sacramento:

Now this one I knew was dumb. I’d never done a parlay before. And if I was going to bet on one, I was only going to bet on favorites.

Orlando (-8) was pretty easy. Dwight Howard plus third best team in the East versus one of the worst teams in league. Yes please. And Orlando didn’t dissappoint, winning by nine. You guys are cool in my book, Magic.

Boston (-12) was one I struggled with before I made the bet. “That’s just a lot. And Memphis has so much talent! And the Celtics don’t have KG! And… wait, hold on. That’s just my Grizzlies penchant driving a stake in the railroad to the poorhouse. Besides, the Celtics get Rondo back. The Celtics are awesome and the Grizzlies suck. Bet like you’re Trey Kerby.” And so I did. And the Celtics are awesome. And the Grizzlies do suck.

Boston 102 Memphis 92. Thanks for those four free throws inside of a minute in the fourth, Hakim Warrick. Would have hated for you not to hit 8 whole points. That would be terrible.

Really, Memphis? After all the love? All the support? All the rationalizations for the Pau Gasol trade? This is how you treat me after I name Mayo Ra? I bend over backwards watching Lowry throw the ball at the rim, Conley trip on his own feet and Gay forget how to bounce the ball, and I excuse all of it, and you can’t lose by two more freaking points?

I WAS GOING TO BUY A SWEATSHIRT FROM YOUR OFFICIAL TEAM STORE!

So at that point the dream was dead, but just in case I hadn’t been kicked in my wallet crotch thoroughly enough, the Cavs let the Kings take them to overtime, and end up winning by just three. That one I can’t be too upset over, though. On top of the parlay, and the spread, Cleveland was on a back to back in a two-game road trip, taking out the Suns the night before in Phoenix. The Cavs were either going to make quick work of them, or struggle. They struggled. Can’t be too upset about that.

OVER/UNDER 202.5 (UNDER) Bulls at Sixers:

The Bulls average 99.3 points on the road. The Sixers average 97.8 points at home, and allow only 96.7. The Bulls can be a great team. They can be a terrible team. The Sixers are offensively challenged. This is not rocket science.

COMBINED SCORE: 205

Obviously this is, actually, rocket science.

Hawks (-6) Pacers:

There’s a certain delicious ridiculousness to the fact that the Hawks, a team rife with inconsistency, unreliable and prone to long periods of abject confusion, turned out to be the only team I could count on.

Well, them and the Granger-less Pacers.

Thanks for bringing a small ray of light to my dark gambling universe, Atlanta.

OVER/UNDER 183.5 (OVER) Spurs V. Rockets:

Yes, I’m aware I’m a moron. This was my first bet on the second day, and since the other games I planned on wagering on were such locks, I decided to have some fun. And consider the following:

  • Without Ginobili, the Spurs tend to attack the sort of things the Rockets are succeptible to. Backcourt penetration. Parker explodes for big games. I considered it likely that a team aiming for the playoffs would bring its A offensive game on the road.
  • The Spurs were on a back to back, but are resilient enough to counter that situation, but it could have the effect of weakening their defense.
  • The Spurs are pretty awesome when scoring over 100 points this season. Last time I checked it was something double-digits and one. So they clearly know how to put points on the board when they need to.
  • I’d been drinking most of the day.

COMBINED SCORE: 173

Yeah, here’s a shocker. Two defensive teams playing one another with one in a back-to-back and both missing a major offensive player failed to score 183 points. Only a fool would take the over!

I CAN HAZ MARKER?

PARLAY: Charlotte (-5) Minnesota, Hornets (-1) Chicago:

Aha! Larry Brown coached team in the mix for the playoffs versus lottery dreck with absolutely nothing to play for. No Al Jefferson. Team on a hot streak. Team on a cold streak. Victory is mine!

Wolves 108 Bobcats 100

What in hell? They were down by 20 at one point, Charlotte. Really? You guys couldn’t put your little freakshow together against the ghost of Gomes and Rashad McCants? Emeka Okafor can’t handle Kevin Love?  Really, Minnesota? You just decided you needed a few fewer ping pong balls? No need for a top three pick, you’ll be fine with the backcourt that Europe forgot?

If that weren’t enough, the Bulls curbstomped New Orleans. Because clearly, when I compare Tyson Chandler to Joakim Noah, I know who’s rolling who. John Salmons and Ben Gordon > Chris Paul and David West. I want 2007-2008 back.

Thunder (+8) Suns:

This was supposed to be my reclamation story. I heard whispers Durant was coming back that night, but got my bet in when the line was still pre-Durantula. And then the Thunder jumped out to a double digit lead! Victory! Sweet victory! I knew I should have bet the underdogs! As long as the Thunder don’t completely fall apart like a flan in a cupboard, I’m golden!

Suns 106 Thunder 94.

It was like getting stabbed in the wallet by a miniature Steve Kerr, all the time ranting about how Shaq is the missing piece. My own personal nightmare come true.

And with that, I dropped $40 on a video poker machine and bought the wife room service.

So either I know far less about the NBA than I thought I did, or the linesmakers in Vegas, who I already considered Gods of information, are smarter than I originally thought.

Consider it both.

I Saw A Film Today, Oh Boy: Notes From 3/17/09

  • Courtney Lee isn’t going to be a superstar. But damn if he isn’t going to be one of those guys you wish was on your club. He’s got some veteran savvy in the noggin’, great acceleration at the rim, and terrific stroke. He works inside the offense and takes direction from the veterans. He blistered the Cavs twice at the rim with a very Tony Parker like drive. He did that weird thing where he drivesto the elbow, hesitates for a bout a half tic, then shoots straight at the rim. Lee is a great example of how a late first round pick can turn into a significant contributer. If you guys see Phoenix in the hall, please give them this note.
  • I’m coming to terms with the new LeBron James. And by new, I mean since Andrew Bynum put him on his ass in the first Cavs-Lakers game. He’s starting to attack the rim again, which is good to see. But if he finds the officials aren’t giving him the benefit of the doubt? It’s off to the mid range jumper! Hi-o, cheerio! James’ jumper has actually improved in the last month since he started shooting them at a higher rate. Practice makes perfect and all that. He’s using every facet of his game to the fullest extent. Wade’s doing something similar, but whereas you constantly fear Wade will burst into flame and then shoot through the roof to return to his brethren in the sky, James seems like each possession he’s fully rested. James played 42 minutes tonight and looked completely rested when he nailed the game winner.
  • If you’re Orlando, what do you do with that game? You had a nine point lead. You led by one with less than a minute to go. You went under the screen, cut off the baseline, and forced James into a pull-up three pointer. Can you really be mad at yourself? Is that a letdown? Conversely, do you think Ayotte, Wunderlich, and Nies wake up tomorrow, sit straight up in bed and go “Oh, God. We called three seconds with less than 30 seconds left in a two point ballgame between the two best teams in the East. What have we done?”
  • Bill Walker had one of those games that they show later during local broadcasts to embarass veterans with how silly they were as rookies. He posterized Brad Miller after a whistle and picked up a technical. This is after picking up about 7,000 fouls in six minutes. You know Doc would have strangled him if he had another guard/forward/trained llama.
  • Kirk Hinrich did one of the old school ball fakes that absolutely shredded Walker. When Hinrich is in full form, constantly making steals, blowing past defenders, and most importantly, actually running an offense, this team has another gear. I will now wait for Trey to blast me for this.
  • Earlier in the year, Gary Payton and Chris Webber were chuckling about the Bobcats visiting the Lakers. Ahmad Rashad kept saying “The Bobcats are playing well. This one will be interesting.” Payton and Webber laughed at him. They weren’t laughing when the Cats walked off with the win. Yet there was Payton tonight with a crying mask, saying Chicago would look like this. Whoops. Don’t feel bad, Gar, I lost $40 this weekend trying to predict the Bulls.
  • The Celtics are now 4-6 with Marbury, and have more injuries than the Walking Dead.

BRILLIANT!

Morning Bell – 3.17.2009

Things About Last Night

- I watched a few games of basketball last night, and other than Thunder/Spurs, none were terribly interesting.  And even the game I watched wasn’t GOOD, just interesting down the stretch.  Combining for 154 points isn’t terribly exciting, considering the Suns put up that many the day before.  Nonetheless, nice down the stretch.  Kevin Durant is good.  The Spurs need Manu back.  Blasny blasny, you know the tale.

- Here’s why +/- can be confusing:

I’ll buy that the Spurs starters are better than the Thunder starters.  Ergo, all positive for the Spurs starters and all negative for the Thunder starters.  But, is the Thunder bench really better than the Spurs bench?  Last night, both were pretty terrible.  And then at the end of the year, that -12 for Durant counts just as much as the +12 for Kyle Weaver.  It’s a strange stat that I don’t think tells us much over the course of a season.

- I have a hard time pegging the Spurs and the Jazz.  I don’t feel like I’m really sure about where these teams stand.

It doesn’t seem like the Jazz have been truly healthy, so it’s tough.  They aren’t as bad as when they were only an average team at the beginning of this season and they aren’t as good as 12 game winning streak and they’re not as bad as a three game losing streak.  This is a team that’s had its desired starting lineup together for all of 10 games this year, and when they’re all healthy and used to playing each other, they’re right near the top of the second tier of teams in the league.  But I’m also not entirely convinced that we’ve seen a “normal” team from them.

The Spurs are a little easier, since they’ve been healthier than the Jazz.  Of course, they desperately need Ginobili to be ready for the playoffs, and to acclimate Drew Gooden to playing important games again.  It’s also impossible to know if the Spurs are even trying.  Greg Popovich loves to just let his teams relax and not kill themselves over seeding.

- I can’t believe it, but I still like the Raptors green jerseys.  I don’t like the Bulls greens.  I don’t like gimmicky uniforms that are clearly a cash grab.  I hate it when girls wear pink Cubs hats.  But I like those Raptor greens.

Paroxysm Playoff, Round 2: How Deep is Your Love?

Awwwwww, yeah. It’s about that time. Yeah, you know what time it is.

Oh, you don’t know that? Well, let me tell you. It’s time to go deep… deep into the heart of the “Race for the 8.” We’re gonna get so deep, deeper than you’ve ever gone.

And why is that, you might ask? Well, because the #2 reason on the Tic-Tac-Dough Board of Wonderment belongs to the team with superior depth. As we are nearing the end of the regular season, many problems start cropping up for teams – especially those frantically scrambling to grasp that last invite to the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Fatigue, injuries, players finishing strong, players struggling, addition and attrition. As Matt noted in the previous post, great coaching is the first, pointed element when it comes to deciding these increasinly close contests. But, the coach can only do as much as his rotation will allow. Following is a study into the comparative strengths and weaknesses of each team’s depth.

Before I get into individual analysis, let it be know that the HP gurus have been discussing this topic via email threads and G-chats for the past couple days. We have diagnosed plenty of scenarios: what are the differences between good depth and bad depth; when you have more stars to lean on, does that make your depth as important; is a (hypothetical) entire second starting unit contributing from the bench better than 2 or 3 above average subs filling a myriad of positions?

So, between these discussions and our own individual analyses of the teams, here are the losers and winner (singular) of this piece of the delicious, deep Paroxysm Playoff pie.

Charlotte Bobcats: The Cats lose this category off the bat simply by virtue of the recent demotion of both Sean Singletary and (HP Fave) Alexis Anjinca to the D-League. No, I’m not kidding.

However, a more honest assessment of the Bobcats depth would indicate a surprisingly able and affable PG rotation with Felton and Augustin. Brown has lightened up on both in the latter half of the season and their results have gone up greatly. We all know Crash is a liability, but Diaw has been a godsend at the 3/4 spots, often times operating as the de facto point and letting the smaller guards play off the ball and get open. The Okafor/Diop tandem up front, supported by the inexplicably untraded Sean May has provided Charlotte with the beef and grit they were lacking earlier in the season. Raja Bell and Vlad Rad flank the wings, with Vlad sometimes offering less disappointing defense than the late Matt Carroll. Bell has been a stabilizer for the backcourt in a way that the more productive, yet mercurial J-Rich was not. Brown is happy to ride the horses that got him here, so depth management is not essential to his plans, but if anyone would have told you at the beginning of the season that Larry Brown would be able to turn a team that traded for both Diaw and Radmonavic (2 notorious space cadets) and they both helped this team fight for a playoff spot – you would have been slapped. Seriously.

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks are de facto losers of this category based simply on the awesome amount of back breaking injuries they have absorbed. Redd and Bogut on the sidelines dooms this team. On the bright side, these development have awoken the good coaching nodes somewhere in the recesses of Scott Skiles’ brain – and the Bucks have benefited.

You know you depth is not ideal when the PG running you team who everyone hates (Ridnour) is replaced, due to injury, with the PG in your doghouse who everyone loves (Sessions) and your team starts to blossom. Then, Ridnour comes back and both guys are achingly sporadic. At times, the Bucks can be downright scary on the wings, sometimes good (monster nights by Jefferson and VNuv) or bad (HP Fave Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s occasional spazzing out, combined with foul trouble on the starters, leaving Joe Alexander with way too much PT). However, we all recognize (and had a hard fought HP debate) the merits of the variety of skills and abilities Mbah a Moute brings to the table.  Regardless, the relative health and skill diversity of the wings can help the Bucks overshadow other glaring holes. The one hole it cannot cover is the festering gash in the middle. Gadzuric should be playing in Bosnia and Elson has been a warm body (and that’s a compliment) since he left San Antonio. Obviously the Bucks would be even closer to the spot with a marquee scorer like Redd and the reliable, if unremarkable, play of Bogut in the pivot. But for now, they are the craft brew equivalent of an ice cold Schlitz.

Indiana Pacers: Yes – Mike Dunleavy’s injury really hurts the Pacers’ depth. There, I said it. The fact that the Pacers are still in the hunt is remarkable to me. The fact that they get so little conversation in our email threads proves that, perhaps, I shouldn’t be so surprised. Granger and Ford can be lethal, but otherwise, the Pacers are just lacking any real offensive or athletic punch from their second-tier starters and short bench. Murphy tries hard, but is still Troy Murphy. Foster has dropped off and Rasho never had it to begin with. Jack has been pretty steady but Brandon Rush has not developed into that 7th man killer the Pacers were hoping for when they let Bayless skip town. They are, by far, the skimpiest team left running.

New Jersey Nets: The Nets and the Bulls depth questions elicited the most chatter in the HP Bat Cave. Which is the better star sqaud – Carter/Harris/Lopez or Rose/Gordon/Deng? Would you rather have the lethargy of Brad Miller or the incompatability of Sean Williams? Thomas/Noah or Anderson/Boone? Just kidding on the last one. But underneath, these either/or scenarios form the crux of the debate between these two teams and who would truly have the upper hand in this discussion.

I give that upper hand to the Nets. For starters, I think the Harris/Carter/Lopez triumvirate trumps any big 3 the Bulls run. Also, I think the guys on the Nets bench, especially Keyon Dooling, Ryan Anderson, Trenton Hassell/Bobby Simmons and others have a varying degree of flexibility and ability that the Bulls actually relented with the (surface-wise smart, but depth devastating) trades of Gooden, Noc and Hughes. Yes, THAT Larry Hughes. The Nets guys appear better and can have more impact because they are constantly around at least 1 of the 3 guys that are monumentally better than anyone in the Bulls Top 3 not named Derrick Rose. Depth is often good because players, regardless of actual number,  operate in close proximities and in synchronicity with those around them most often. A quality 8 man rotation is imminently preferable to a pretty good 6 man rotation – together with the 3 awful guys at the end of the bench that your coach inexcusably plays.

Speaking of which, I now come to the Chicago Bulls: The Bulls lose the depth category based on the fact that all of their players, with the slight exception of Rose, are so predominantly 1 dimensional and/or severely limited in part of their game that it hampers the sheer amount of physically gifted bodies they suit up every night. Noah and Thomas run and jump, but do not score well or have discernable ball skills. Gordon treats defense like teetotalers treat Jaeger bombs. Deng’s body is falling apart, quickly. Aaron Gray is a less skilled Brad Miller. Brad Miller is Brad Miller. John Salmons, who has seemingly not taken a liking to VDN, is just the opposite. He can do just about everything fairly well, but outside of scoring bursts and occasional ball handling success, doesn’t overwhelm his opposition. And the worst part of the Bulls, at least from the HP perspective, is that none of their players are actually fun. They don’t look good on the court. They aren’t exciting, or prone to wild distortions of roundball reality. They are just what you expect them to be. And, if you cannot use that statement in reference to the Spurs, it just makes you team look like a hack. For VDN, that might be close to a compliment. (and yet, these guys are still the odds on favorite to get the 8. Does that say more about Rose than we are inclined to dole upon him?)

New York Knicks: The winner of Sqaure 2 in the Paroxysm Playoff are the Knicks. A lot of it comes from D’Antoni’s style. He’s playing more players (mainly because he has so much less to play FOR than when he was in Phoenix) and they are playing better for him. Al Harrington could reasonably be the player of the month – EVERY MONTH. Yep, that Al Harrington. David Lee is second in the ENTIRE LEAGUE in rebounding (stupid HowardSmash smash smash). And Nate Robinson, if we redesigned the HP logo today, might actually make the head banner. Yeah, its that nuts in MSG.

But really, its so much more than that in NYC. Its fun to see Duhon go from 20 assists one night to a 10 day skid where he only accumulates 2, knowing full well he is playing at the exact same level. Q Rich and L Hughes are two of the most mind boggling enigmas in the league, but ones that are not only fun to watch – they are legitimately decent players in the league. Wilson Chandler is, frankly, nutcakes. There is no explanation for the Danilo experiment or the Wilcox conundrum. Everyone on this roster is alternatively amazing and awful. And, in HP world, that makes for dynamic depth. It doesn’t matter that the parts don’t really fit – the system doesn’t fit. SSOL can both princes and paupers make us, but this is a newer, sexier version. Sure, you get a lot of squishy, messy mishaps, but there are also times of wild ecstasy and inexplicable inconsistencies. This system may not win a championship (and with a 7 man roation in Phoenix, how could it?) but with a bag full of broken, though functional toys in New York, it might just be good enough to win the six team race for the 8th place.

And that’s all we care about here at HP. Stay young, Galinari.