Monthly Archives: June 2009

C-Nuv Gonna Get E-Nuv Money

The Bucks in their infinite wisdom have decided the guy who does a little of everything pretty well but nothing really well and often something very poorly must go. And you know what that means?

C-NUV BOUT TO GET PAID, SON!

Villanueva is one of those perfect combinations of above average talent, stifled by inconsistency and a lack of focus, but who can go absolutely NOVA for short stretches. If HP had a crest, his bald head would be on it.

His options are pretty wide, now. He can go with a championship contender for less money, or a rebuilding program for the bank.  That’s a win win.

With his Twitter escapades and likable personality, he could fit in nicely in Cleveland, and it would mean that they would never again have to suffer through the following phrase: “Starting at Power Forward, from under the bridge downtown, Andy Varejao!”

I suppose what makes V-Nuv so endearing to me is that he’s one of those players that seems to be trying all the time, even though the results don’t necessarily reflect that. He’ll slam down a terrific put-back, or nail a transition pull-up, or get a great falling away block, and then the next play he’ll get torched, or brick up a wide open baseline J. It’s not a matter of effort or intensity, he’s just not a player that puts it all together. He’s a well meaning incomplete player. And his Tweets reflect that, in his discussion of naps and his passion for UConn. He’s the kind of player that fans can get behind if they can stop wishing he’d knock himself unconscious to slam some sense into him. He’s long, athletic, talented, and confused, drifting, overzealous. And that’s the type of player that goes into free agency in a weak year and walks out with a big fat contract.

V-Nuv is feasting on the undercurrent, and it tastes good.

For the Bucks? Hey, you don’t really need a power forward in this league. There are only about 700 explosive good ones.

Coaching For More Basketball Consumption

Zach Harper is the author of TalkHoops.net and Cowbell Kingdom. He has difficulty (as most people do) with how fast I speak in real life. He’s a former male gymnast who won gold at the 1994 Bel-Air gymnastics tournament. That last part is a lie. He’s our newest contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm. That part is not a lie. Revel in him. He opens with a discussion of hoops junkiehood, and the joys of young boys. Seriously.

There are basketball junkies and there are BASKETBALL JUNKIES.

There are people who watch most of the games and there are people who will argue the importance of Muggsy Bogues and how he changed the concept of what basketball could be (perhaps a future article?).

I fall into the latter category of basketball fans. I’m someone who can’t really consume enough of it. I actually enjoy watching the Bucks and Bobcats go at it on a random Tuesday night because it gives me a chance to compare and contrast Larry Brown’s affect on a team as opposed to Scott Skiles’, it gives me a chance to see if I believe in Boris Diaw Frenchness more than I believe in Charlie Villanueva’s hairless approach to scoring, and it lets me figure out if I’m actually willing to back Ramon Sessions in some future argument of the Nevada point guard versus Raymond Felton.

But there are points in a season or calendar year in which the grind starts to wear you down. Chris Paul’s jumper starts to look flat and pointless. Emeka Okafor’s jump ball genius loses its luster. Kobe Bryant’s spin moves and reverse pivots seem cumbersome and my criticism of LeBron James’ defense even starts to annoy me.

These are the points in which your mettle as a basketball nerd is tested and tested hard. It’s like David Noel at a pre-draft combine trying to prove that his athleticism is more valuable than his lack of pure basketball skill. It’s like LBJ learning through failures how to win. It’s being tested like Dwight Howard learning that he’s entered the mode in which it is better to foul him than give him a shot to make a move towards the rim. I feel like Maximus at the end of Gladiator in which I’m trying to honor my family while proving myself to hordes of people wondering if I’ll make it or not through the end of the final act.

And this year was no different. I felt those struggles and the wear’n’tear of 2,460 regular season games as the second season began in mid-April. But something different happened in my life to keep me juvenated and inspired to keep wanting to consume more and more basketball.

I started assistantly coaching junior varsity basketball for a local high school. It was going to take up two nights a week of my life from 6-8pm and it was going to dominate my weekends with four tournaments in four weeks. It didn’t just find a place in my life. It didn’t just become part of my schedule. It became my schedule. In fact, it became my schedule during one of the more exciting basketball playoffs in recent memory. Sure, the series weren’t all that great and there were quite a few teams that looked more like they were playing in those aforementioned Bucks-Bobs games than the Celtics-Bulls series but it was still a good time to be covering basketball on a nightly basis.

However, I was so hooked after my first practice with this group of 10 high school freshmen and one eighth-grade child that I realized an even deeper love and appreciation for the game of basketball. We traipsed through the first couple of weeks of our summer league by learning the correct ways to play basketball and by learning the strengths and weaknesses of our team. We figured that our team wasn’t very big or athletic but we had a lot of basketball skill from our best player to our 11th best player.

We played our first game four weeks ago and in that game, we learned everything we needed to know about our team for the rest of the summer. We were good. Check that. We were REALLY good. We were chaos masked in peach fuzz, braces and XBOX Live handles. We were a running, pressing team that played harder than anybody we faced and more hectic than Don Nelson’s brand of basketball could ever dream of being. And we won. A lot.

I missed the second tournament we played as I attended Blogs With Balls in NYC and never felt a more longing for home than since my first sleepover when I was five years old. I attempted to network and chitchat throughout the weekend while I kept checking my phone for voicemails and text messages to see how my team was fairing. When I heard the stories of success and losses, I felt like a working father who had to miss his child’s recital because of a business trip. When I came back to the team, I realized how much I loved coaching and it took over every moment of playoff splendor that I ingested.

Over the last two weeks, I saw my team win eight out of ten games and finish with a summer record of 17-4. In the final game of the summer with four months between this final 60 seconds of basketball and the next time we’d see the players at JV tryouts, we decided to run a play for our backup center who had been begging to let him shoot a three-pointer throughout the summer. We decided to put him back in the game with one minute left and allow him to shoot the three as long as it was in rhythm and off of a pass. Instead, he caught the ball on the break, took three dribbles to get to the three-point line, and fired up a three-point shot. It was against everything we taught our kids on how to play basketball the proper way. Shots off the dribble were bad and we took the ball to the basket in a strong manner on fastbreaks.

But the ball ripped through the net and pushed our lead to 21. The parents in the stands erupted. The kids on the bench went Dikembe Mutombo at a dunk contest as they tried to hold each other back while beaming with elation. The center and newfound hero of our summer was brimming with confidence and joy as he ran back up the court like he had just moved his school deeper into the NCAA tournament. It was a pure and heartwarming moment that capped off the summer in the best way imaginable.

It was the culmination of everything that we had worked hard for in the summer. It was the reward for the players who did everything we asked them to do. It was everyone coming together as a bonded group. It was basketball at its best.

And it’s the reason that I understand coaching much more now than I ever could have before this experience. I understand why Mike Dunleavy would never want to give up his spot as the play caller for the Clippers. I understand why Mike D’Antoni loves to create pandemonium on a basketball court. I understand why Mike Woodson struggles to get through to Josh Smith but keeps coming back for more. I understand why Scott Brooks is making the most of a situation that most men will never get close to. I understand why Maurice Cheeks would put up with guys like Zach Randolph, Qyntel Woods, and Darius Miles on an everyday basis. I understand why Larry Brown can’t stay away after not being able to stay in one place. I understand why Phil Jackson loves to win so much and why Red Auerbach received no greater joy than lighting up that victory cigar.

Coaching basketball is more than X’s and O’s. It’s more than game-planning and making sure your team knows the correct rotations on a full court trapping press that will be assured to create turnovers.

Coaching basketball for some is renewing that faith in basketball that wasn’t going to go away but become more mundane with the passing seasons.

And that’s where I’m at as a basketball junkie, once again. Ready for more.

Paging Chicken Little

There are certain phrases in the English language that fans of an NBA team should never have to endure.  Unfortunately for those in the greater Charlotte area that are crazy enough to be in love with Bobcats basketball, they’ve had to endure quite a few.  “Your new uniforms will be the same color as traffic cones.”  “Now introducing your starting point guard, Jeff McInnis.”  “With the third pick in the 2006 NBA draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select…”, well, you know the drill.

But the latest in the aforementioned series of miniature tragedies is the news that Michal Jordan, famous basketballer and infamous manager, is looking to spearhead an ownership group to buy the ‘Cats.

I repeat: the sky is falling. Cue up the R.E.M., stock the shelter with canned goods, and don’t forget to set the Tivo.  This one could get ugly.

Jordan’s missteps as an executive are well-chronicled, and have essentially built themselves a nice little cottage in the collective unconscious of basketball fans.  Whispers of the name “Kwame Brown” still haunt the streets of D.C. to this day, and Kwame was really just the tip of the iceberg.  The way the Wizards were mismanaged while Jordan was simultaneously running a reign of terror as an exec and trying to be the star on the court should have been a cautionary tale for franchises all over the country: this guy is not built for the front office.  He’s just not.  And yet Jordan parlayed a name an excellent video resume of stock highlights and Space Jam footage into a controlling position within the Bobcats organization.  I’m guilty of offering second chances to just about anyone under the sun, but even I can’t grasp why the Bobcats thought Jordan might find redemption in the front office.  Putting his name in the program isn’t going to sell many tickets, and the product he ultimately puts on the court likely won’t find much success.

All of that said, Jordan does deserve some praise.  Trading Jason Richardson for Boris Diaw and Raja Bell was a gutsy move, one that many (myself included) thought would backfire.  Instead, Boris acted as a catalyst toward legitimacy and Bell was an able contributor at the 2.  Richardson wasn’t missed.  He also grabbed D.J. Augustin in the 2008 draft, a move which certainly has two sides.  Augustin had a productive rookie campaign, and is clearly capable of being an impact guard.  But the Bobcats also passed on Brook Lopez, an impact center who had an even more productive rookie season.  I’m not going to grill Jordan for taking Augustin, but I do think Lopez would have been an interesting fit.  Of course we’d be looking at a very different Bobcats team, one without Diaw and Bell and still plagued by Richardson’s inconsistency and his contract.  But let’s stay off fantasy island for now.

In spite of all of Jordan’s reasonable success in the recent past, having him as the head of an ownership group is not only ill-advised, but flat-out irresponsible.  He’s the head of basketball ops in Charlotte, and elevating him to the majority shareholder in the team bears one flaw of cataclysmic proportions: no matter how terrible of an executive Jordan is or ever will be, he holds his own purse strings.  That means Jordan himself would have to be resigned to stepping down from his duties if that time ever came, which is not exactly the kind of thing you’d like to bank on.  Jordan, as a player and a person, is reknowned for his passion for the game, his refusal to quit, and his must-win mentality.  On the court, those things are an asset.  But in the case of an executive with a seriously blemished record, confidence becomes arrogance, resolve becomes stubbornness, and desire becomes insanity.

The Bobcats can live with Jordan right where he is: just tasting the power of ownership but without the ball in his hands at all times.  MJ is going to keep calling for that power and that responsibility as long as he’s a manager in this league, but sometimes a person just needs to be told, “No.”

The State Of Minnesota Is Now The Edge Of Madness

In sports, and in particular the NBA, fans go through peaks and valleys of swagger, fervor, hunger, misery, desperation, and redemption, which leads to swagger.  Unless you’re a Lakers fan. Then you pretty much just have swagger. All the time.

Of these, I find desperation to be the most fun to watch. Redemption is like Homeward Bound. It’s sweet, and heartwarming, but it’s still a talking dog and you always have to question whether they would actually end up getting hit by a car in reality.

But desperation? That’s a special kind of fun. They’re like the Christopher Guest films. Awkward, unbelievable, yet instantly recognizable as behavior we are familiar with. After a period of darkness, a franchise will convince itself that any plan is the answer. Memphis’ three-year plan is a good example. The Celtics’ rebuilding effort pre-Garnett trade is another doozy. But man, Minnesota? That’s a swan dive into crazy juice. Industrial strength, high density crazyville.

Al Jefferson. Kevin Love. Three first round draft picks. Expiring contracts. New GM. New head coach. There was nothing but hope headed into this draft. And the fans were ready for that next step. For the jump-start into relevance again.

Just one problem.

The Timberwolves did not look themselves in the mirror before they walked into that draft room Thursday night.

Ricky Rubio has a rare concoction of elements that make him unique unto himself out of this draft class. He has star power, fan hype, professional employment, and capable handlers. This formula results in the one thing that can strike fear into the hearts of drafting small market teams. Leverage.

Rubio, as we all know, doesn’t have to commit to playing here. He can take his scrawny ass back across the water and make a good sum of money and continue to be idolized by his countrymen until such time as he can go where he wants to go. Kahn, for his part, is trying to play chicken with him. This talk of “well, it may be a few years.” Are you serious? Your star player? The big catch? The one you’re plugging on your website? He “might” be available “in a few years?”

Are you out of your freaking gourd?

But Kahn at least did what he thought was best for his franchise. And he drafted insurance in Flynn. We can debate exactly the damage that entering the night with three first round picks and walking out with only Johnny Flynn and Ellington actually playing next year another time. What I’m fascinated by is the reaction from Minnesota fans.

They’ve bought into the idea that “sure, he may not be around next year, but eventually he’ll be here.” What’s the success rate on that? And in the meantime, you have a #5 pick that has netted you absolutely nothing.  Not only that, but there’s the level of exaggeration the kid has created in the fanbase, even as he makes it pretty obvious he has no interest in suiting up in Minny’s colors.

We’re not just talking “Wow, he’s going to be a great addition to this team as we rebuild, the future still is bright!” No, no. We’re talking “He is (not ‘going to be’, is) better than Dwyane Wade and Deron Williams.” (CORRECTION 4:50pm EST: Derek politely points out that he’s not saying Rubio’s better than Wade or Williams, just that he wouldn’t trade Rubio for them. So there’s that.)  Let’s remember this is a kid who’s body frame is going to be pulverized by half the point guards in this league and whose play style most closely resembles a former white freak of nature out of LSU that is best known for never living up to his potential.  All of this, and the guy doesn’t want to play there.

Not that Minnesota fans are apparently aware of it. No, instead, they’ve decided to wage a jihad on sources who are widely respected not only by fans and media, but by the GMs themselves, under the guise of wanting transparency. Transparency which would, of course, eliminate their ability to siphon any information whatsover from GMs who honestly hate anyone involved in the media on a general basis. But that’s not what they really want. They want to lambast people for these subjects being relevant:

Above and beyond the sourcing nonsense and the lack of searching for answers to the questions listed above, can we also stop framing this issue in the following narratives?

  • Rubio just wants to end up in New York
  • Rubio would be much better off financially in a big market
  • Minnesota is cold
  • Donnie Walsh is David Kahn’s mentor

If you really sit down and think about it, these sentiments are meaningless gap-fillers.  Lots of players want to be on the big stage.  Of course there are more deals to be had in a huge city.  Lots of places are cold.  Lots of GMs earn their stripes under other active GMs.  These things are not unique to this situation.  Minnesota picked a kid who entered the draft and they don’t have to apologize for things that are true but hardly unique.

Hmm. I wonder why those things are being mentioned? Most likely because they’re both relevant and true.

Gap-fillers? Really? Because you know what a gap-filler is? Kahn talking like Rubio’s going to be a part of this franchise. He ain’t. That kid has leverage. And he’ll use it to get what he wants.

Now, it’s entirely possible Kahn is just positioning himself to get as much out of Walsh as he can. I have high hopes for Kahn and think he’s going to do a terrific job in Minnesota, despite the spin-out he did on draft night. He’ll get hammered for letting this “once in a lifetime” talent go, and if (when) Rubio ends up being just another point guard no one will go back and credit him. But it’s still the move to make.

But this situation is a perfect example of how fanbases can go absolutely insane in a short amount of time. Minnesota was a disaster under McHale. An outright disaster. And Minnesota is trying to convince itself that it can climb back to relevancy by showing Rubio all the wonderful things about Minnesota. And if he were a normal draft pick, or even a normal Euro draft pick, this wouldn’t be an issue. He’d be pumped about the money, figure out a way out of the buyout, and start listening to Replacements tapes and fashioning a winter wardrobe. But he’s not. He can hold out. He doesn’t have to stage a public feud or make it ugly. He can lay low, and wait for time to force Kahn’s hand, all the while enticing New York to pursue him further.

Maybe I’m way off. “Sources tell me” that there’s a good chance Rubio thinks he’s got a greater ability to get where he wants by playing in the NBA than by not. But let’s step back from the edge, take a look at this situation and deal with what’s actually going on, instead of blaming sites that are well connected for using anonymous sources.

I’m no Marc Stein. I’ve watched that dude operate in a locker room, and it was like watching the Godfather work a crowd. I talk to guys that are on the inside. Me? I’ve landed on the surface with a rock hammer and tried to chip my way in. And I can tell you from my very limited experience? GMs HATE most media members. Because essentially, their entire job is to try and take all the valuable information they have and give it away. Whether that’s juicy gossip, scouting reports, or contract details. And the distrust and revulsion is pretty clear, unless it’s a face that they know and trust. And that goes all the way from GMs down the line. And I can’t blame them for that. So when you work your way into a trusted position with these guys? You’re not going to use their names just so don’t leave the door open for a fan to start freaking out trying to find ways to rationalize his denial of what’s actually happening, namely, Ricky Rubio thinks you live in Siberia and that is not cool with him. And what’s Ricky? Ricky’s cool. Well, actually, Ricky’s scrawny and overhyped. But he’s also cool, supposedly.

What will now become awesome is that every step of the way as Rubio drags his feet on coming to Minnesota, there will be blame placed on the “New York media” for propogating the theory that it’s not just the buyout details but Rubio’s preference for location. T-Wolves fans now have a shadowy enemy to blame. And that’s much easier than pointing fingers at the star player that you want so badly to save you.

Now that I think about it, Minnesota fans and Cleveland fans should go bowling together.

UPDATE:

In response to the flurry of Timberwolf comments regarding Rubio wanting to come to Minny, I’d like to address something. Let’s try a little exercise.

You: Do you want to eat at Applebees?

Me: I want to eat.

How about this one.

You: Do you want to watch The Notebook?

Me: I want to watch a movie.

Or this.

You: Are you excited to visit a place where their biggest attraction is a shopping mall?

Me: I’m excited to travel.

Are you sensing a theme here? Reading between the lines?

Look, I love small market teams. They’re my bag. I want Minnesota to succeed. And if they trade Rubio, I think they can do just that. But this idea that “Rubio hasn’t said he doesn’t want to play in Minny! He hasn’t said it! LALALAAICAN’THEARYOUHEWANTSTO PLAYHERELALAALAL” is not going to be good in the longrun. He said “I’m excited to play in the NBA.” He said it was cold there. He said good things about other cities. And he skipped the freaking introduction!

I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. God Bless you, Minnesota. You are making for fine post-draft entertainment.

An Open Letter To The Memphis Grizzlies

Dear Memphis Grizzlies,

This is the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write (in the last ten days). I know we’ve had some special times. Like the first game where OJ went off. And the game where we started to believe Marc Gasol was for real. That was nice. And who can forget when Darko tore his shirt? What a hoot!

And it’s not like you can say I haven’t stuck through the hard times since we started our relationship. I was by your side when you had lineups featuring Jaric and Buckner. I stood by you when everyone was making fun of you about Pau Gasol. You traded Javaris Crittenton and Kyle Lowry, putting all your eggs in Conley’s basket, and I supported you. I even tolerated the insane teasings toward the OJ-Mayo-As-A-Point-Guard fiasco, or as I like to call it, “The Turnover Manifesto.”

But this, I can’t stay with you for.

I begged you,  pleaded with you. I used podcasts, blogposts, emails to people who know you, to try and steer you from this course of action. But you wouldn’t listen. And look what you have to show for it.

A seven foot pogo stick with a Twitter account.

Okay, fine you didn’t want Tyreke Evans. Lots of people question the 6’5” player with killer explosiveness with insane ability to get to the rim who also happened to come out of the same program as this year’s Rookie of the Year who was also a point guard and which happens to be located in the same city as your damn franchise ensuring that you would have at least had a player on the squad that someone would know. That’s fine. But what about any other prospect? Listen, I’m not the biggest fan of Ricky Rubio, but even if you had drafted him and done the smart thing insteaf of propogating the delusion like Minnesota is, you would have at least walked away with some serviceable pieces, Jordan Hill, and furthered your rebuilding cause.

Instead, with the #2 overall pick, the runner-up prize in the Blake Griffin sweepstakes, with the second highest pick in an admittedly weak draft, you selected a player who’s ceiling is what? Dikembe Mutumbo? Emeka Okafor at best? Those are both good players. But are they #2 overall players? Would you spend a second overall pick on a pure shot blocker with no offensive game? What am I saying? Obviously you would.  You did.

So I’m going, Memphis. I’ll be around. Maybe we’ll see each other next season. I’m going to play the field for a while. I’ve been spending a lot of time with Charlotte, and I think they understand my needs better. They drafted a player that can actually do more than one thing at once. And in the end, I just don’t think I’m meant for just one team. I’m more a poly-fanatic.

I’d love to tell you that it’s not you, it’s me. But that’s a lie. It’s you. It’s you and your cost cutting. It’s you and your reluctance to seize the moment. It’s you and the fact that you actually had to have someone else turn down a trade that would have landed you Zach freaking Randolph.

I’ll call you when I reach my mother’s.

Bye, Memphis.

Love,

Matt

PS: SERIOUSLY? THABEET?!

2009 TrueHoop Network NBA Draft LiveBlog-O-Rama-Rama

The Great Day is upon us. Welcome our new idols to the sun. And drink, Lords of Men, drink!

Party on, Blake.

Party on, Beet.

We’ve got bloggers from all over the TrueHoop Network popping in and out, and we’ll be here to break it down for you start to finish.

We’ll also have Tweet coverage from TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott live at the Draft, as well as Tweets from some of the rookies on the board tonight, courtesy of The Rookie Chronicles.
<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&#038;task=viewaltcast&#038;altcast_code=c107dde33d” mce_href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php?option=com_mobile&amp;task=viewaltcast&amp;altcast_code=c107dde33d” >TrueHoop Network NBA Draft Liveblog-O-Rama-Rama</a>

The Weekly Nichols: How Do NCAA Statistics Translate to the NBA?

With the NBA Draft tonight, I often wonder how close the college game is to the professional one. It’s clear who the stars in the college game are. But are they just “built” for that style of play, or are they true stars who excel at any level (including the NBA)?

I have attempted to solve this problem by seeing how college stats correlate to NBA stats. To do this, I first took a large sample size of current NBA players’ career statistics and compared it with those sample players’ college stats. Everything was calculated on a per-minute basis. Once I had the stats, I ran a series of simple regressions to see how well the NBA numbers correlated with the college ones.

Below I have posted the R^2 values of the different correlations. R^2 basically says how well future outcomes are likely to be predicted by the model and can be thought of as a percentage. For example, if the R^2 of the correlation between college points per game and NBA points per game is 0.3405, then we can say that about 34.05% of NBA players’ PPG can be explained by their college PPG. The higher the R^2, the better.

Below are the R^2’s for the different correlations:

Points per minute: 0.3405

Field goal attempts per minute: 0.3522

Field goal percentage: 0.3436

Three-point attempts per minute: 0.6391

Three-point percentage: 0.7941

Free throw attempts per minute: 0.286

Free throw percentage: 0.7615

Rebounds per minute: 0.8312

Assists per minute: 0.8823

Steals per minute: 0.5981

Blocks per minute: 0.9327

Turnovers per minute: 0.4535

Personal fouls per minute: 0.4447

Those numbers are all higher than I expected before I began the study. Specifically, we can predict with pretty good certainty an NBA player’s blocks, assists, rebounds, three-point percentage, and free throw percentage based on their equivalent college statistics. Free throw attempts, points per game, field goal percentage, and field goal attempts are the weakest.

This all comes with one big caveat. The sample only includes guys that have made it in the NBA. The college stars that fizzled out at the pro level or the guys who NBA teams knew had no chance at the highest level before the draft were not included in this study. In other words, just because a guy is great in college doesn’t mean he will be great in the NBA. However, if he does make the NBA, we can somewhat predict how he’ll end up doing based on his college stats.