Monthly Archives: April 2009

A Guide to Writing About Basketball on the Internet While Staying Sane

the-internet-is-wrongThe Internet is a terrifying place filled with pictures of cats, women, and cakes.  To successfully write about the NBA on the Internet, there are certain subjects you should not write about.  If you do choose to write about these things, the responses, backlash, over-analyzing, and ignorance will flow forth with the power of something very powerful.  In turn, you will go crazy, or alternately, insane.

In order to assist and guide fellow and future bloggers, here is a partial list of basketball topics that should be avoided, lest you lose your mind:

  • Boston Celtics
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Utah Jazz
  • Portland Trailblazers
  • flagrant fouls
  • officiating
  • the Seattle Supersonics moving to Oklahoma and becoming the Thunder
  • comparisons between Kevin Durant and Greg Oden
  • Kobe Bryant
  • LeBron James
  • Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James
  • San Antonio Spurs
  • anything non-Twitter related to Shaquille O’Neal
  • Chicago Bulls
  • Bruce Bowen
  • Kevin Garnett
  • Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Joakim Noah’s on-court demeanor
  • Pau Gasol
  • the relative merits of Ben Gordon
  • Tim Duncan
  • Kirk Hinrich
  • whether or not Seven Seconds or Less “worked”
  • Steve Nash’s MVPs
  • the MVP in general
  • coaching strategies
  • front office decisions

Take it from me, I’ve made literally tens of dollars writing on the Internet.  If you write about any of the things on this admittedly incomplete list, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you stop having fun.  Otherwise, have at it.

Hating Kevin Garnett is a Brotherhood

APTOPIX Bulls Celtics BasketballThis is the intro to the post where I say that I’ve always liked Kevin Garnett. 
 
I’ve always liked Kevin Garnett.
 
But then I mention that this season he’s really upped the ante on being a huge juicebag and how that it’s been even worse in the playoffs.
 
But this year, he’s been a huge juicebag.  I mean, really a lot guys.  The clapping in dudes faces and showing up other teams and generally just being a caricature of himself since his health and skills are deteriorating.
 
About now, you’ll say “his skills aren’t deteriorating!  He’s been hurt,” especially if you’re one of the 19,000 Celtics bloggers.  But then I’ll point out how he’s missed the most games he’s ever missed in his career and this is his worst season since he was 22.  So we’re both basically right, since he’s never going to get totally better.  Then I’ll press on with how he’s being a jerk.
 
And in this playoff series against the Bulls, he’s really being a jerk.  Well, I don’t necessarily know if he’s being a jerk, but he’s certainly being 11 years old.  Like when the Celtics told him that he had to sit on the bench even though he is so intense that he can’t sit on a bench and watch basketball like a  grown-up.  Then when he decided he couldn’t take it anymore, he went to the locker room during game 1.  But the Celtics had to tell him that they needed him on the bench, which they had already told him before, but apparently that was intensed out of his intense mind.  You know, typical 32 year old stuff. 

Or when he spent the next four games yelling and swearing at the Bulls like a shortstop in your Little League that no one liked at school. 

But then we’ll both realize that that shortstop was actually in the game, so this analogy needs some modification.

But the funny thing is, the shortstop is actually on the field.  So I guess it would be more like the shortstop’s friend yelling from behind the third base fence that you suck for four games.  And everybody on the other team is like, “who is that kid?  He’s not even playing.  Doesn’t he have anything better to do?”  It’s basically the exact same situation, except that Kevin Garnett is 32.

Now I’ll realize that I should probably address the fact that Garnett has always done this.

Of course, Garnett has always done this kind of thing.  But there’s a huge difference now that he’s NOT ACTUALLY PLAYING.  I mean, yeah, he can punch his teammates and attack smaller players when he’s the main guy on the court because I guess that’s honorable and intense.  But no one’s going to attack an injured guy, so Garnett has free reign to just act like a juicebag kid all he wants, I suppose. 

Long live Anthony Peeler, if he’s still alive.
————-
Quickly about the foul, since Matt provoked a response.  It’s flagrant.  Matt points to the Bynum foul as evidence that it wasn’t, so I’ll invoke the Horford foul, which was a flagrant, in support of my argument.  Horford was going for the ball (on a fast break, against a quicker player, which is harder to judge) and he got called for a flagrant.  Rondo did the same thing (though his was in the halfcourt, on a slower play, when he’s way quicker than the guy going to the hoop), as he fouled on the head, from behind.  Miller just didn’t fall down because he’s way bigger.   Rondo was still a good two feet away from being close to the ball even if he was “trying.”  Like Barkley said, “it’s the result, not the intent.”  It should have been a flagrant.

horford miller

Nonetheless, I can’t weigh in on the game since I was at the Flight of the Conchords concert and missed everything but the highlights.  The missed call didn’t lose the Bulls the game.  They did that themselves way before that.  Either way, Bulls in 7.

This is Pure Idiocy

The best coaches never let ego or emotion get in the way of good coaching. Pop doesn’t do it. Phil Jackson has never done it. In the words of the great Herm Edwards (former Kansas City Cheifs/New York Jets/ Matt Moore’s Bizzare Fantasy Team head coach):

If the ultimate goal of sports it to “win,” one can assume that in order to win, you would want a coach to make the best decisions possible, as often as possible, based on rational analysis, matchups, skill set comparisons and teamwork. However, Vinny Del Negro seems to have a slightly, um, egotistical view of how this is done. Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald leaves us this little tidbit from the post game:

Watching and listening to Miller speak with the media after the game, it’s a wonder Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro even let him go to the line. ‘Rondo hit him in the head,’ Del Negro said, ‘but when you’re a big guy you never let a guard take you out of the game.‘”

No, Vinny. That is completely incorrect. And I, for one, have been lobbying hard for you during these playoffs. Withholding misgivings, exhalting good manuevers. I mean, I invented the hashtag #VDNWillNotBeStopped. But this, THIS, has got to be a joke. This ain’t streetball. This ain’t trash talking. This is playoff basketball. It’s not about cajones, its about winning. If Brad Miller gets slapped hard enough across the face to knock a tooth out and fill his mouth with blood, you don’t patch him up and put him on the line. You sit his butt on the bench and put in your best free throw shooter. So what, Brad Miller looks liks a chump!?! REALLY? He’s Brad farking Miller, not Shaq (for what it’s worth, I would love to see if VDN would have kept Shaq in under similar circumstances – ah, fantasies!).

If it’s possible to pull a player in the exact same position, do you not think that Pop would have punted, say, Matt Bonner half way to Corpus Christi and brought in Finley? Phil would have rolled out his yoga mat for Bynum to relax on while The Machine drained 2 gimmes.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that a playoff series is a jog, not a sprint, but you cannot let emotional decisions and tough guy stereotypes get in way of winning basketball. Personally, I tend to think the Rondo foul was pretty flagrant. Rondo is staring at Miller’s head (and away from the ball), slapping towards his nose/mouth and nowhere near having any play on the ball. The old mantra is “Defending champions get all the calls on their home court in the playoffs.” Yeah, well, it’s true. Regardless of what you think of the foul, you can’t go back and re-write history. What you can do next time, VDN, is put the ego aside, concentrate on winning the game and use whatever rules and players are available to make sure that happens.

And if Rondo thinks Brad Miller is a punk afterwards, so what? His team will be down 3-2 and going on the road to keep from getting their “defending champion” butts whipped in the first round. Maybe Vinny should cut down on the hairspray? Or, better yet, just play to win the game.

Reality’s Hanging Out Somewhere Around Here: Magic vs. Sixers Series Notes

  • I supposed you’re wondering why I haven’t written more about this series.
  • Not going to lie. I’m annoyed. Annoyed at Philadelphia for vastly outperforming its projected potential. At Orlando for panicking and falling apart. At Chris Webber for ignoring how good this team has been at more than threes this year and for talking about them being a poor passing team. At Rafer Alston in general.
  • Let me point out an example of what I’m talking about. Thaddeus Young is an awesome NBA player. Also  a really nice guy I talked to last year. Big, burly, talented, athletic. He’s in the mold of the players I obsess over. He’s also a 34% career 3 point shooter. 34%.
  • He’s was shooting over 70% until tonight in this series from the arc. He was shooting close to 40% better from the arc.
  • Louis Williams is a career 32% shooter. In this series? 44%.
  • Rashard Lewis was shooting 40% this season. In this series before tonight? 37%.
  • Sensing a pattern?
  • This series isn’t about matchups or hustle or effort or talent. It’s about shooting percentages. It’s a data anomaly. And tonight, the mean came crashing back down on Philadelphia. It’s not that they’re a mediocre team.
  • Well, okay, yeah, they’re mediocre.
  • And Orlando has played down to their level, while Donyell Marshall and Theo Ratliff have put in significant minutes. And with Howard out for the next game (stupid, stupid elbow), it’s going to come down to whether the anomaly holds or dissolves as it did tonight.
  • I will now say something that pains me very greatly.
  • Andre Iguodala is a very good NBA player who has almost earned his contract this year.
  • Now get off my lawn.

Humility Has No Place Among The Desperate: Bulls at Celtics, Game 5

  • Truth.
  • I have to keep repeating this, out of fear my concern for Pierce’s health will come off as me hating him. I don’t think Pierce is injured and therefore isn’t that good. I think Pierce is hurt and he can’t be counted on for 48 minutes.
  • But in that last 12 minutes, he’s pretty freaking good.
  • What killed me was that Salmons/VDN should know he can’t drive. If he does drive, you’ve got help. What you can’t do is let him kill you with the drive right, pull-up jumper. That’s what you can’t allow
  • You especially can’t allow it THREE TIMES.
  • It wasn’t flagrant. I want it to be. I do. It wasn’t. Rondo went to distract him and got him in the face. It was unfortunate, and likely meant Miller missed the free throw (not that he’s an awesome free throw shooter anyway), but it wasn’t flagrant. Trey’s going to disagree with me, and light me up either here or on Blowtorch or on GMail, and I can’t blame him. Bulls fans, I can’t blame you for thinking it was a flagrant. But for me, it doesn’t get there. If everyone agrees Andrew Bynum putting Gerald Wallace in the hospital was just a hard foul, this was an unfortunate series of events.
  • And how unfortunate it was. I have blasted Miller since this series began. He makes dumb bounce passes in the lane that are always picked off. He can’t pass cross court. He shoots far too much given how out of rhythm he’s been. But damn, I feel bad for the guy. You can torch him all you want, but remember, you’ve had a day where you sucked at your job, too. Forgot a report. Reprimanded a student too harshly. Didn’t carry the 1. Missed a deadline. And you didn’t have to live with an entire city hating you for it. Brad Miller is an 80% free throw shooter in his career. So if he had ten of those free throws, he’s making eight of them. His two just came at a bad time. Try and remember to have empathy for a guy who’s actually tremendously good at his job (and he does play basketball better than 99.9999% of the planet) and just had a bad time for a miss, bleeding from his mouth.
  • If I’m VDN, I tell Brad Miller not to stop the bleeding. You tell him to also act concussed. And you get him out of the game. You had a pass to put in Ben Gordon, who would have sank those like they didn’t exist. (Note: Forgot this was only if the foul had been ruled Flagrant.)
  • The other alternative I immediately brought up to Blog-A-Bull was Tyrus Thomas. My belief? If that was Tyrus Thomas in that play, he immediately soars towards the bucket, dunks it, and one, misses the free throw, overtime. His response? He freaks out, tries to pass, backs up, bricks a fadeaway fifteen footer. We’ll never know. VDN strikes again.
  • Celtics fans. For all the complaints about officiating, at least try and recognize that tonight is proof that it all evens out in the end. Your guy hits the other guy in the face, knocks his teeth out, and is called for a personal foul, nothing more. So try and keep your teeth gnashing to a minimum, huh?
  • Bulls fans. If you guys would just hit your freaking free throws, you’d already be booking flights to Orlando. Quit angling for leaning 15 footers with two defenders on you off-balance as time expires and hit the ones with no one defending you.
  • I wonder if Kendrick Perkins will get this kind of carte blanche against Dwight Howard? I’m still fine with what he’s allowed to get away with, it’s the playoffs, they’re the champs, he’s bigger and more aggressive. I just wonder if he’ll be fouling out in the 2nd quarter next series.
  • The posteuring by the Celtics has kind of hit a new level, and that of its fans. They come off the floor thumping their chests and popping jerseys when they tie the seventh seed who’s had a ten point lead on them. They run their mouths against a team who’s two decades younger than them. The fans are proud of this team. Really? Look, even without Garnett, this should be a cakewalk. The team relied on Brad Miller and John Salmons in crunch time. Need I say more? Act like you’ve been there before.
  • Wow.
  • Everyone, please try saying this out loud.
  • “There is a vast NBA conspiracy by David Stern to keep the #3 market and the #2 overall fanbase with 3 of the largest marketable stars OUT of the Finals against the #2 market and #1 fanbase (in terms of value, Boston fans are much better fans).  This is evident in the fact that a team that prides itself on hyper-physical defense playing against much younger, much quicker players had a lot of fouls.”
  • Boston’s closing this out in Six, kids. I don’t like it any more than anyone else does, and it has been an incredible series. But Allen and Pierce can smell the sweetness of a six day rest before Round 2 and they’ll do whatever they have to to get it.
  • Please pour one out for all the possessions Ben Gordon’s single handedly killed.
  • There, now that I’ve outraged both Chicago and Boston fans, I can call it a wrap.

Lost in the Rhetoric

Since reading Graydon’s piece on the current psychology of the Spurs, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.  Graydon laments the transformation of the Spurs, and uses a psychological springboard to discuss between the Spurs’ losses in this series compared to series’ past.  One passage in particular stuck with me:

Speculating on the psychological state of players is always a reckless endeavor. A quick examination of their pre- and post-game quotes won’t reveal a body of evidence on which we can base our assertions; all we come across is an echo chamber of cliches. We gotta take it one game at a time. We gotta treat every game like it’s game seven. We gotta have a short memory. The homogenization of rhetoric in the NBA is a tremendous disappointment, given the highly expressive nature of the game itself.

For years cliche found its redemption in the Spurs. For most teams there seems to be little connection between the language they use during interviews and the performance they give on the court. From the day they enter the league players are taught to overwhelm the press with banality. But for the Spurs, on-court execution seemed to grant all the truisms a level of authenticity. Our particular brand of bland was always interpreted as a sign of professionalism.

Delving into the minds of athletes is what writers do, and I doubt that will ever change.  It’s not even something that can be remedied with an hour-long exclusive interview; spending time with these athletes will teach you how they act, but they won’t teach you how they think.  Regardless, we tag some players as cerebral, some as instinctive.  Some as emotionally immature, and others as stone cold killers.  We assign psychological traits to players retroactively, and tailor them as their stories unfold.  Psychological assessment in sport doesn’t determine causes so much as it determines symptoms.

Is there any ground for this type of diagnosis?  Well duh, there’s all the tape of playoff implosions, game-winners, and clutch plays.  We’re able to cherry-pick our evidence and play amateur psychologist, because getting into the heads of these players is rolling out a red carpet to the one exclusive area to which we will never be allowed.  Former players will write books with tales of battles in practice, outrageous coaches, and marathon film sessions.  Beat writers will describe locker room antics, team rapport, and anything else we generally dump into the “chemistry” bin.  We can pick apart play after play using DVR and YouTube as our aid.  All of this information is laid out for us, and it isn’t enough.  We want to know what makes players tick, what they’re thinking, and how they’re thinking it.

And as a result, we use a combination of all the evidence we have to fill that void.

Team psychology is an even stranger beast.  We juxtapose a variety of psychological profiles into some sort of cohesive whole, but these assessments are even more guilty of skewing in favor of the results.  Teams that don’t give up leads have killer instinct because we have no other way to make sense of it.  Teams that crumble under pressure must be mentally fragile, because well, that’s what teams that are mentally fragile do.  Sometimes this works out fine, analysis-wise, but using the symptom to define the cause can only take you so far.

The Spurs are a strange case because of their roster turnover, but a rotation of the supporting cast is practically a San Antonio staple.  Role players funnel in and out of SanAn, earning legitimacy with work on a championship-caliber team.  But in spite of all the departures and acquisitions, Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich helped the team to maintain a mental edge that few other squads could match.  They were as mentally tough as anyone in the league, and yet the same Spurs, with the same formula, are losing in completely uncharacteristic ways.  Without Manu, there’s certainly an issue of talent, but the psychology of that team is certainly different.  If anything, the sudden mental transformation of the Spurs at once confirms the dynamic nature of player psychology and the notion that the diagnosis is bred simply by results.

Part of the problem is that most of these terms we use to describe player psychology are so overused and ambiguous that they’ve been nearly deprived of their meaning entirely.  Somewhere along the line, ‘choker’ and ‘soft’ and a laundry list of cliches all became an inbred cess pool describing one vague, amorphous visage of a player that fails to live up to our warrior-god ideal.  But at best, these determinations are cyclical.  The best teams execute better in crunch time, and their players produce more consistently.  Singular talent can trump roster inadequacy, but there’s an obvious disadvantage in not receiving that perfect inbounds pass, running off a well-set screen, or having the benefit of an extra offensive rebound.

So basically, we’re using ambiguous terms to describe a constantly shifting psychological state that may or may not simply be a rationalization for the events unfolding before our eyes to compensate for what we can never know.  But there is no grandiose solution.  I have no alternative that will change sportswriting forever.  Just a moment’s consideration about what we really know about these players, and how little we really know about what they’re thinking.

So please, Mr. Duncan, lay down on the couch.  Tell me about your mother.

Things That Have Been Beaten As Badly As Last Night’s New Orleans Hornets

In case you missed it last night (Rob Mahoney didn’t), the Hornets got beat worse, in basketball by the Nuggets, than I would in a foot race with Usain Bolt. As a sadist, I enjoyed this to no end. One of my all time favorite headlines can still be found here. (Heart U, P&T).

But I digress. Let’s have this pictorial do the talking. OUCH!


Drum

Washington Generals


Bad Children


Box


Hitler

Video Game High Scores (that suck)

Brian Sutherland

The Public Humiliation of Chris Paul

Last night, the Denver Nuggets defeated the New Orleans Hornets by 58 points.  Fifty-eight points. As in eight more than fifty. As in ChrisPaulisaneliteplayerbutgotcompletelypunkedintheplayoffs.  High-level players face high-level criticism, and it’s only natural that Paul faces his.  When Kobe’s teams couldn’t perform in the playoffs, some poked and prodded him with the “You can’t do it without Shaq!” stick.  When LeBron was swept out of the Finals, his lack of a perimeter game was front and center.  The game’s greats have been dissected for traces of nebulous traits like leadership, performance in the clutch, and killer instinct based on their own personal success, but also that of their team. Paul’s team and playoff hopes aren’t yet dead and buried, but I’m completely comfortable in starting the procession after the Game 4 brutality.

I’ve got nothing against Paul’s performances on an individual level.  He’s an incredible player, tops at his position in the league, plagued with the misfortune of having teammates that simply refuse to produce.  This roster isn’t full of slouches.  David West and Tyson Chandler are nothing short of legit, Peja Stojakovic can make doubling Chris Paul painful, and James Posey, though he hardly seems his Celtic self, was a key cog on the championship team of a year ago.  Peja and Tyson may not be right, but New Orleans has the guns to make any game a showdown…they just aren’t always loaded.  Is that Paul’s fault?  Hardly.  But when you’re the best player on the team and considered to be a fearless leader that doubles as an awe-inspiring magician, you probably need to answer some personal questions after losing a “must-win game” (heavy quotes) on your home court in unfathomable fashion.

Paul was tossed around, he’s probably fed up, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to take it anymore.  With the way the series has gone, I think a bit of frustration would be inevitable.  But despite how spectacular Paul has been this season on an individual level and how much he’s forced to do because of his comparative brilliance, that kind of embarrassment isn’t considered acceptable in most circles.  Chris Paul still holds the top PG title until someone else claws it from his clutches, but those dreamy eyes and that winning smile don’t exempt him from the same gauntlet that every superstar runs.

I’m hardly a Kobe apologist, but I’ll leave you with this: why is that when Bryant came up short with a limited supporting cast it was a testament to his flaws as a player, but due to position, rep, or other factors, players like Chris Paul, and on some level LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, are given a flyer?  Age and charisma are undoubtedly involved, but I’m curious to hear what you guys think.

Typical Fans

Orlando Magic
86012989JG021_MAGIC_SIXERS
Utah Jazz
jazz fan
Los Angeles Lakers
lakers fan jack
Boston Celtics
celtics fans
Cleveland Cavaliers
cavs fan
New Orleans Hornets
hornets fans
Denver Nuggets
nuggets fan
Orlando Magic
magic fan
Detroit Pistons
pistons fan
Miami Heat
heat fans
Atlanta Hawks
hawks fans
San Antonio Spurs
spurs fans
Chicago Bulls
wedding picture dancing
Dallas Mavericks
mavs fans
Portland Trailblazers
portland fan
Philadelphia 76ers
76ers fan