Monthly Archives: January 2010

NBA Free Agency 2010: Things Moving In The Shadows

The Nets organization is operating under the premise that the NBA Board of Governors will officially ratify Mikhail Prokhorov’s purchase of the team during All-Star Weekend in Dallas. Also that weekend, Prokhorov has his first planning meeting scheduled with CEO Brett Yormark and president Rod Thorn, according to an official who is not authorized to speak for the team.

via NJ Nets lose to Washington Wizards, 81-79, on last-second Earl Boykins shot | – New Jersey Nets Basketball – NJ.com.

The Russian Cuban is taking aim at controlling ops.

Now, let’s switch over to what some handsome young writer wrote over at FanHouse (quite brilliantly, I might add):

But the Nets are terrible! They’re the worst team in the league! They’re the team with the worst winning percentage. But they feature a good-to-great starting center in Brook Lopez, depth at guard in Chris Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee, and oh, yeah, another late first round draft pick from Dallas. So you’ve got a foundation, the best player in the draft, you’re moving in two years to the biggest market on earth, and all the money you can have to throw at James. James can love Cleveland all he wants, but that sounds like a very attractive offer. That’s before you bring the possibility of Wade joining him somewhere for less money. The Nets would be able to give both players, or James and another free agent (Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire) enough money to make a slight paycut not so horrid. Their new billionaire Russian owner certainly sounds like he’s willing to put the money forth to build a winner. They have Yi Jianlian to cash in on the Chinese market, which is huge.

via A “LeBron to New Jersey By Way of Wall’s Kentucky” Exercise — NBA FanHouse.

Think about all the factors we have coming together. The Chinese market. A team with enough to pay LeBron and another star. Depth. Superstar talent. The potential number one pick. A big move to the big city. An open coaching spot.  We’re looking at a confluence of forces that could reshape basketball.

It won’t happen, because, well, life’s not that cool. But I keep returning to how the league has reacted to the Pau Gasol trade. There’s this overwhelming sense of “Jesus, is this what it takes? Two mega-stars, two supporting stars and some great role support?” And if you’re LeBron/Wade, aren’t you looking at this and saying “If the old man can dominate like this with that kind of team, what could we do?” That’s why I think the possibility of them taking less money to play together is real. If Kobe can accomplish what he has with Pau Gasol, what can they do together? These guys have a very real sense of their legacy at their young age. As truly great as they are on their own, they have a better chance of being remembered as the best if they sacrifice money and ego in honor of something special.

New Jersey offers these guys what they want. It all. They want it all. Contention: I know they’ve lost a ton of games but you can’t look at their roster and say this is worse than the Pacers, Wolves, or Wizards. Upside, solid players in key positions, and reasonable contracts. No anchors. The biggest market. Endorsement and business opportunities to cover what they’d lose in salary. An easy division with Boston’s eventual slide. They could choose their coach (and conceivably their President of Basketball ops).

It’s such a special opportunity, but it’s simply unlikely to happen because of the number of moving parts. Nonetheless, I can’t say that I don’t see a pattern in the moves. Brooklyn. Prokhorov. Yi. Jay-Z. LeBron. Wall.

Camelot.

Funny How Not Everyone’s A Jerkface About The All-Star Game

Before I was picked for the slam dunk competition, I told my agent that I wanted to do whatever it took to be a part of this All-Star weekend. I think it is going to be a historical one, being that it’s in Dallas and the expected crowd is supposed to be huge. I wanted to be in it, and I told him that if I couldn’t make the game, then to sign me up for the slam dunk contest. My family and my friends all said, “Don’t you think you’re a little too old for that?” But I just wanted to go out have fun and be a part of it in some way, and now I’m going to.

via Wallace overjoyed to be Bobcats first All-Star « Bobcats Break.

From Crash’s blog on the official ‘Cats blog.

It’s good to see a player who genuinely wanted to make it, to be a part of it, to the degree of being willing to do the dunk contest. That said, not very thrilled about his dunk chances after reading this. Doesn’t sound like he’s preparing too much for it.

Wallace making the All-Star Game is the kind of story the NBA needs to promote. While the absurdity of Iverson continues, Wallace is a player who has taken his game and his team to the next level, and he actually…gasp…cares about it. NBA media needs to realize Crash is a goldmine.

The Big Ol’ Honkin’ Boston-Atlanta Post

Prior to Friday’s Hawks-Celtics game, Boston center Kendrick Perkins said his team “put a hit out” on Hawks guard Jamal Crawford, who had burned the Celtics for 18, 18, and 17 points off the bench in winning the teams’ first three meetings.

Instead it was Crawford who did all the hitting — in the paint, off the backboard, beyond the 3-point line, and even from halfcourt. He scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half to turn a nine-point deficit into a 12-point halftime lead, and the Hawks coasted the rest of the way to a 100-91 win — one that was unusually chippy for a regular season game but par for the course for a Hawks-Celtics tilt.

via Boston ‘hit’ plan perks up Crawford – TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

No, there will not be a ‘Big Ol’ Honkin’ LA-Boston Post’ when LA creams them tomorrow.That’s of no surprise, and I doubt it will be competitive.

But this one’s relevant for a few reasons, so let’s take a look.

Hmm… you know, we started with schadenfreude yesterday. We should go the other way. Okay, let’s talk Haw…

Oh, hello there, Mr. Schadenfreude!

Hi there, Matt! I’m here to remind you to always take joy in the misery of others before moving on to positive takeaways!

Thanks, Mr. Schadenfreude! I’ll be sure to do just that. Bye, Mr. Schadenfreude!

So let’s begin with Mr. Perkins.

There’s being confident that you’re the best team. And there’s confidence that you’re the best player. And then there’s confidence that you’re the ONLY good team with the ONLY good players, which is what the Celtics fall into. The attitude wasn’t one of respect, it was “we can’t get beat by that scrub again.” And they paid for it.  And even if it was respect, you’ve got to keep your mouth shut to the media. You’ve lost three games to a team that’s on pace for a top four seed. You can’t just run your mouth. They’ve already done enough to earn some respect.

For the players in the Celtics’ locker room, “It means that they lost,’’ said Doc Rivers. “They lost to the Atlanta Hawks. I don’t think it means much more than that. Nobody wants to get swept, but I don’t think you get to go to the second round when you sweep a team in the regular season. That I know of. You get to go to the next game.’’

via Hawks sweep floor with Celtics – The Boston Globe.

But that’s not Boston. They won the title, even though they struggled through the first and second rounds, so therefore anything else that happens is invalid. Look at how they responded to Orlando, with the poodle comment. Now Orlando’s 2-1. At some point you need to recognize that you’re in trouble.

I still firmly believe that if the Celtics were to specifically gameplan and say, “we’re going to shutdown Crawford” they could. They’re great at gameplanning specific players. But they didn’t. They thought they could just outclass them, like they thought they could do to Orlando.

What’s worse is that this is endemic. There is a genuine lack of athleticism on the Celtics right now. It’s Rajon Rondo and a bunch of guys who are good at basketball but not athletic guys who are good at basketball. Which means when the Hawks buckle down and focus for long stretches, the Celtics look winded. Pierce was on fire last night, and still knocked down a big three, but he still looked flat-footed and winded.

Picking Up the Pace: The Hawks averaged a convincing 17.25 fast break points per game against the Celtics this season, while the Celtics lugged behind with asthma-filled lungs, posting just 12.75 fast break points per game. Slow and steady did not win this race. Usain Bolt would be proud.

via Breaking Down The Sweep – CelticsBlog.

There is, naturally, a refusal among the Celtics faithful to put this on age. If they do, well, that’s a wrap, kids. And they know that. Injury was the excuse, but now KG”s back. But I do think one injury still severely hampers this team. Marquis Daniels. Quis was capable of helping out with the Celtics’ weaknesses and would have also helped prevent something that’s killing them right now. Rasheed Wallace shooting.

******************

Now for the Hawks, I feel like they’re going too far in the other direction. This win means a lot. No lie. It’s a big deal, proof that this team can say “If we face Boston in Round 2, we have a great shot at the ECF, and then who knows?” That’s a monumental shift.

But let’s not go licking our go-go boots just yet, okay? You It’s better to just represent “They’re a great team, we’re proud of this win, now we’ve got to keep it up.” Resting on laurels will also get you killed. And beating Orlando tonight or Cleveland at some point would also be advised, since right now, you’re hoping for a near-impossible matchup set.

  • # The fourth quarter wasn’t much better outside of Joe Johnson suddenly remembering he was playing the Celtics and, thus, should start making every fall-away he could create for himself.
  • 55 points on 38 shots and 12 free throw attempts for Johnson and Crawford. Considering the opposing post defenders, Horford and Smith got a suitable number of touches. A fine offensive performance from concept down to execution.

via Hoopinion.

I’d like to give Bret a big ol’ handshake today. He ALMOST said something completely nice about a Joe Johnson ball-domination offense. I made this argument earlier in the season, and then wondered if I was wrong when the Hawks were struggling with him doing it more. So last night’s play wasn’t a validator, but it still fuels the debate: Joe Johnson’s ability to turn bad possessions into points is a good thing.

The Hawks offense ground to a halt early in the fourth. I mean, we’re talking “nothing doin'” territory. Josh Smith tried to be aggressive, but the Celtics were doing that weird “double-body” thing where they form a concave wall and manage to not foul (apparently), so he couldn’t get anything to fall. And then Johnson decided “You know what? That’s it.” And went all “08 playoffs” on ‘em. And then Crawford came in and finished the job. And that’s just too much measured firepower for the Celtics to overcome after working that hard. There are going to be times when they’ll need Johnson to take games over. As good as Josh Smith has become in all phases, as good as the Hawks are as units at both ends of the floor, they need someone to create his own shot and kill the other team’s soul. And he drove a big ol’ dagger into Paul Pierce’s heart last night.

Maybe this is nothing, and there’s no continental shift happening. But Atlanta’s consistently winning with a core of guys who have played together for several years and who perform at both ends of the floor.

And the Celtics? Well, while the team won’t because of its unwavering confidence in itself based off the jewelry it won 19 months ago, the fanbase is rapidly approaching full-blown meltdown.

Previously Undiscovered Bobcat All-Star Unearthed

In honor of the Charlotte Bobcats’ first All Star, we are proud to present “SarcophaCrash”; an original shirt design from Bobcats Baseline to celebrate the archaeological discovery of Gerald Wallace.It’s time to show your support for the ruler of the court with some mythical-Pharoah style. This Gerald Wallace t shirt features the unique design in blue on a black, 100% cotton tee. Production starts on these right-away, so get your order in asap!

via BOBCATS BASELINE » New Gerald Wallace Graphic T-Shirt Discovered! // the most obsessed Charlotte Bobcats Blog of all time.

Dope.

Rad.

Boss.

Etc.

*grumble, grumble* Ain’t nobody makin’ no cool David Lee t-shirts…

“If Anything, It Was A Little Wink, And A Nod, and a ‘How About Them Apples?'”

We recorded on my birthday, which normally we wouldn’t do, but we felt obligated to bang out an episode with the recent pictures of Greg Oden being revealed and Paul Shirley showing just how much of a jerk he is. Let’s get down to business. Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

– Greg Oden’s manhood is displayed on the internet when I least suspected it. Don’t take your eye off the internet.

via Weekly Fix Podcast: Episode 76.

Imagine we were no longer an ESPN-affiliate.

This profoundly NSFW podcast is what we would want to produce for a podcast. Graydon and I are Indiana small-county public radio partyline compared to this. Worth a listen, from our own Zach Harper.

NBA All-Star Game: Are We Sure Players Were Snubbed?

Popularity and personal taste are odd things.

I remember the first two All-Star Games that I REALLY watched (with an eye on basketball rather than just a casual fan) were the 1992 and 1993 All-Star Games. I was an NBA obsessive 10 and 11-yr old back then just trying to find any reason not to believe Michael Jordan wasn’t the best player in the NBA.

I didn’t have really anything against Michael Jordan. I’ve just been playing Devil’s Advocate in obvious arguments since I realized that you could have some fun with that sort of mental exercise. And I wasn’t really willing to accept that MJ was the best player (possibly ever) at the time because I wanted to find holes in his game. Confoundingly (is that a word?), I tried to convince myself that his dribbling ability and three-point shooting were weak enough that there could be an argument against his hands-down greatness.

Sure it was completely moronic and stupid but I was 10 years old. Aren’t all 10-year old kids moronic and stupid? Naturally, this made me gravitate towards players that hand amazing dribbling abilities and deep range on their jumpers. Guys like Kenny Anderson, Muggsy Bogues and Tim Hardaway dazzled me with their handles. Chris Mullin, Ricky Pierce and Dan Majerle bewildered me with their clichéd but accurate “in-the-gym range” on their jumpers.

Whenever I caught a glimpse of Dan Majerle, I was particularly enamored. He would spot up five to eight feet behind the three-point line and drill it. It seemed so effortless. It seemed so natural. If he was on NBC on the weekend, I was going to watch. Well, I was going to watch regardless but I was going to focus on him during the game. I just wanted to see the shooting stunts he would attempt each game. So when I buckled down with my “wealth of basketball knowledge” at the age of 10 and watched the 1992 All-Star Game from Orlando, I was thrilled that I was going to get to see one of my favorite players giving it a go in his first All-Star Game.

He didn’t do much. Made a couple of baskets, missed a couple of threes and was one of many players lost in the celebration of Magic Johnson as he dazzled the court that day, stopped Isiah Thomas and Michael Jordan on the last two defensive possessions of his hey-day and made that improbable three-pointer to cap off an incredible display of respect and love for the recently retired legend.

However, the next year in Salt Lake City, Dan Majerle shined a bit brighter. He made three long-range shots. He finished all over the court and ended up with 18 points off the bench in 26 minutes. He even blocked a couple shots and grabbed some boards. It was a nice showing.

So what’s the point of all this Dan Majerle rehashing?

Well, Dan Majerle probably never really deserved to be an All-Star. He made the ASG three times in his career. And he was a fine player. He was a really good player in face and a game changer quite often. But was he actually an All-Star? Does it even matter? His best pre-All Star break numbers in a season were the ’94-’95 campaign in which he averaged 17.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while shooting 44% from the field and 38% from three. He did it as the main guy for the Suns while Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson battled the injury bug.

Here’s the crazy thing about this All-Star appearance though – he came off the bench for the Suns during most of that first half. He only started 46 games that season and 21 of them came before the All-Star break. He was voted into the All-Star Game by the fans becoming the first bench player to ever be voted to start an All-Star Game. And where do you think the All-Star Game was?

Phoenix, Arizona!

Dan Majerle was a really good role player throughout his career. And for a four-year stretch, he was arguably the best role player in the NBA. But was he ever truly an All-Star? What does All-Star even mean? Are we sure he was one of the 24 best players in the NBA those three years? Was he just voted into his third ASG as a starter because of some hometown cooking? Does it matter?

I had an epiphany last night. I was thinking about the All-Star Game and what it meant. Even though we all regard it as a meaningless exhibition, the majority of us still hold it in high regard. You can tell we hold it in high regard because we’re outraged that Allen Iverson is starting the All-Star Game despite the fact that he received over one million votes.

Should we really be outraged though? What is the All-Star Game? It’s a celebration of basketball, right? Maybe it used to be the 24 best players from that year showing up to play a spirited exhibition at the mid-ish point of the season but it hasn’t necessarily been that for some time now. Players no longer take it seriously unless they’re trying to win the MVP award for that game (see: Kobe, LeBron, Iverson).

Everyone gets mad at the fan voting system (myself included) because it often puts one or two guys into the starting lineup and therefore the game itself when they might not be completely “deserving.” Does this upset us because it’s a basketball injustice or because we keep confusing the term “All-Star” with “All-NBA?”

The All-NBA teams are meant to tell us who the best players in the NBA are for that particular season. The All-Star teams are supposed to tell us who the stars of each conference are. That’s a huge difference. In fact, those are two different worlds altogether. With the starting lineups in the ASG format, there are already HUGE flaws for determining if these 10 players are deserving, most popular or a combo of the two.

The All-Star ballots are put together before the season starts and voting begins about two weeks after the start of the regular season. Why would you have voting two weeks into a 25-week excursion if it was supposed to truly reward the 24 best players of the first half of that season? With All-Star voting, it’s never been about who is having the best season. It’s always been about popularity. And after this epiphany last night, I don’t really have a problem with it. We’re mixing popularity with this celebration of the game. So why do we get bent out of shape about “All-Star Snubs?”

Does anyone honestly think that David Lee is one of the 24 best players in the NBA this season? Sure, he puts up some fantastic numbers and is one of the few bright spots on the Knicks this year but he doesn’t play a lick of defense and I’m not sure I’d have him in my Top Ten Forwards in the East list. Are we SURE that Josh Smith’s snubbing is a bad thing? Matt Moore perfectly articulated what this could mean for his career by taking this personally. Well, isn’t that more important to the game of basketball than giving him 18 minutes of play against the Western Conference this year?

You want your guy there because you want recognition for your team/player. People want to ignore the fact that Monta Ellis has more turnovers than a breakfast buffet or makes Troy Hudson look like Gary Payton on the defensive end of the court. It’s the reason that Chris Kaman is a snub. It’s the reason that Marc Gasol is a snub. It’s the reason that Andrew Bynum is a snub. It’s the reason that Derrick Rose making the All-Star Game in the East this year is “absurd.”

Is it really that absurd? Between Derrick Rose and David Lee, who would be more fun to watch in an All-Star Game? It’s Derrick Rose and it’s not even close. Now, with Josh Smith you have a better argument. Josh Smith is one of the five players I make sure to watch every night. He always does some otherworldly ish on the basketball court.

So if we’re celebrating the game of basketball this Valentine’s Day weekend, maybe we DO need him in Dallas. Maybe Kevin Garnett will not want to risk further injuring himself in the All-Star exhibition and sit out, thus opening the door for Josh Smith to show his stuff.

Whatever happens, just know that it’s a game we put too much thought into. We should be much more concerned with the All-NBA teams and the All-Defensive teams at the end of the season. This game is about fun and it will be fun for the most part. The pace will be fast, the shots will be plentiful and we’re all going to get to see some amazing feats of basketball.

It’s not about who the best is. It’s not about who the most deserving is. It’s about giving those 10-yr old fans something they’re going to remember.

Now enjoy your weekend with some Dan Majerle highlights:

The Big Ol’ Honkin’ Celtics-Magic Post

That was ugly. After starting strong in the first quarter and building a 16 point lead, the Celtics let the Magic back in the game and just didn’t have enough energy to hold them off in the 4th. Sheed’s airball as time expired was an absolutely fitting finish to that game (and the uncontested layup just before that was even worse). Just ugly.

via CelticsBlog – A Boston Celtics Blog: 17 Banners and Counting.

For a game that was pretty sloppy and illustrated mostly weaknesses on both sides (yes, I’m linking Hollinger, give me a minute), there’s a ton to come away with from the game.

Hmmm…Magic, Celtics, Magic, Celtics…winner?

SCHADENFREUDE!

I don’t know if I just get weepy when I see the usually strong Garnett get blown by on a drive to the basket- or if I just can’t stand watching him hobble through a whole quarter of basketball and claim it had nothing to do with his knee. Whatever it is, Garnett and Allen are making me feel pretty low. I remember watching Larry Bird retire and not understanding why he would ever stop playing (okay I was six, leave me alone). The Celtics were a “young team” for so long that I haven’t gotten used to the thought of any of my beloved players hanging it up. Most of my favorite Celtics over the last ten years have been role players that more of less stopped getting phone calls- Walter McCarty, Eric Williams- so their exodus was much easier to take/ gloss over.

Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are not done yet, but their days as elite players are numbered. Call it naivete, call it denial- call it blatant homerism if you want, but I didn’t think this day would come this year. Unfortunately, I can see Garnett and Allen declining sharply this season and into next season.

Someone, anyone, leave me some words of encouragement.

via Is Ray Allen Back? Is KG Still Hurt? Do They Make Horse Socks? » Boston Celtics Basketball – Celtics news, rumors and analysis – CelticsHub.com.

The big debate today is whether this means that KG is old and “done” or just had a bad game, which is what he’s saying. It would be one thing if his fadeaway wasn’t falling (he had a bad shooting night but made a biggie down the stretch and drew a foul on Lewis on another fake-to-the-up-and-under). But the problems are painfully obviously physical. When you don’t finish an alley oop at his height, standing under the basket? DANGER, DOC RIVERS, DANGER.

I don’t think when I watch the replay that Garnett physically couldn’t get his body over to close off the baseline. He made that same adjustment five times in the third quarter that I noted and was his usual awesome self. From what it looked to me, the wear and tear of the game wore on his focus, and enabled the slightest slip in his reflex  to not be able to recover from the swing right.  That’s something that he can overcome with a few days of rest in April and then go out and blow doors off hinges in the first round of the playoffs, provided they don’t get a tough opponent. Then again, we’ve said that the last two years and those series have both gone seven games. Garnett may be able to knock down doors int he first round, but will the rest of his team? It’s not so much a matter of winning the first round, because I think they’ll do that, it’s the wear and tear of it. What if they get the Bobcats? That’s at least six games of “Dear God, quit throwing yourselves at us” basketball. That team is relentless. And that wear and tear will lead into the second round, where, you know, they’re likely to meet a team that has beaten them.  It’s not one flaw, one achilles, that will doom this team, it’s the collective attrition of the same thing they were built for, the playoffs.

The only problem is, even machines’ get old. Machines wear down and cease to function as they once did. This may be why Ray Allen can’t (or won’t) admit what is really going on with his shot lately (save for last night). He might not be able to tell you. A car’s check engine light doesn’t tell you what’s wrong with it, it tells you to go see someone and find out. I don’t know about you, but I’m dying to find out.

A broken clock is right twice a day- which means Ray Allen will have games like the one he had last night again- but until I see him perform the way he did last night on a consistent basis, I will not say he is back. I can not say he’s back because he is not. 20 points on 8-12 is a great performance and exactly what the C’s needed from Ray last night. The problem lies in the fact that 20 points on 8-12 shooting should be the normal production the Celtics see from Ray Allen. Those numbers should be expected.

via Is Ray Allen Back? Is KG Still Hurt? Do They Make Horse Socks? » Boston Celtics Basketball – Celtics news, rumors and analysis – CelticsHub.com.

Holy CRAP, what happened to Ray Allen? Seriously, can someone tell me what happened to Ray Allen? Yes, I realize he got old. I understand that. But I mean, we’re not talking “lost a step or two.” We’re talking “lost a step or two, and then fell off the cliff into a revene and then the train fell off the revene and landed on top of him and then a bird pooped on the remains.” His PER is sub 15, kids. He’s shooting 35% from the arc. Even as he gets older, he should still be draining threes off curl screens. Last year, I would have been terrified on that last possession the Celtics had. But then I saw Allen, and I realized I was only afraid of it because of what he was, not what he is. I’m no longer terrified of rooting for the other team when Ray Allen has the ball on a last possession. He may make it. But it’s no longer a guaranteed dagger into your throat and then throw you out the window deal.

3) Hollinger is spot on about Rasheed Wallace’s help defense. During the live chat of Boston’s first game of the season, David Thorpe pointed out how slowly Sheed was rotating to provide weak side help. He said it would be something to watch all season.

He was right. I watch it every game. There is no way to generalize about Sheed’s help defense, except to say that it is inconsistent and that he is the worst help defender among Boston’s big guys. (Which really isn’t saying much—this team rotates like mad).

In big spots, it has to be better.

via More on KG and the Shard Shot » Boston Celtics Basketball – Celtics news, rumors and analysis – CelticsHub.com.

I’d blame Sheed for last night’s loss, but not for the airball. Everyone’s talking about him not rotating.  Including, yes, John Hollinger:

Of course, Lewis’ drive wouldn’t have succeeded except that no help defense came from behind Garnett, despite having had ample time to do so. The closest defender, Wallace, inexplicably stayed next to Dwight Howard at the opposite block rather than rotating down to the baseline to stop Lewis’ drive.

via Daily Dime – ESPN.

For me it wasn’t even the slow rotation. Celtic commenters have pointed out that if Sheed leaves Dwight, that’s an alley-oop Dwight Howard dunk. What does bug me is that Sheed still had a play on Lewis. Not on the ball. But on Lewis. Isn’t that a staple of good defense? No layups allowed? Not habitually, and not constantly. But in that situation, you can let Lewis go, or you can put him on his back and make sure he has to hit free throws to win the game. Is it likely he’ll miss? No. But it’s more likely than Rashard Lewis missing a layup.  I’m not saying Sheed should have punched him in the neck, but the Celtics’ entire defensive strategy is built on three things: 1. Communication, 2. Dedication, and 3. Bullying. They failed on all three on that possession and it cost them a big game last night.

On to the Magic:

I took four pages of notes during last night’s Celtics loss to the Magic. Mostly it’s really boring stuff. But there’s one thing in all caps, and underlined: VINCE CARTER SUCKS.

I’m not talking about the man. I have met him, and found him to be amazingly nice. I have talked to his mom, his high school coach and all kinds of other people. Nothing wrong with that guy.

I’m talking about his play last night. He almost killed the Magic single-handedly. It’s hard to remember any player have a worse game.

via TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

AMEN!

Now, I’ve always been against VC. I understand teammates love him. I hear he’s very nice. He does a ton of charity stuff. And if I covered him day in and day out, I’d probably get to like him and defend him. I don’t. And so I can tell you that he sucks worse than anyone else alive at the art of being alive. The sooner Vince Carter is gone from the public space to the private life (where I hope he lives very long and happily), the better this world will be. I can’t prove that Vince Cater is responsible for the recession but I can’t prove he’s innocent of it, either.

That said, I tried desperately to put that aside. This had the makeup of the “maligned scorer goes to a winner, puts in his best season and becomes a difference maker.”  The Magic thought enough of him to dump Turkoglu and add him. And many a pundit screamed about Hedo’s aging body and limited skillset and applauded the Magic for adding a weapon like this. So I tried to buy in.

Vince Carter is THE problem with the Orlando Magic. Not kidding. He’s the root. He instills a shoot-first-pass-only-if-necessary approach that the Magic have caught like VD. His defensive effort is lacking, to the point that I actually started to notice last night that the Magic as a team worked harder at running off threes (like they did against Boston in the playoffs) when he wasn’t on the floor than when he was on. He still acts like every incident of contact is a devastating blow to his physical well-being (leading to the House three last night), leaving his teammates to walk the plank. And he has no concept (neither does SVG apparently) that this is Dwight Howard’s team. Yeah, his offensive repertoire might not be as diverse as VC’s. But you know what? He’s still a freak of nature, a leader of men, and a dominating basketball player. And Vince Carter is a washed up gunner who has failed three different franchises.

Howard was superb down the stretch, showing leadership and poise, and taking the Celtics’ much balleyhooed “Perkins canah totahly shot dawn DHo wan on wan!” and smashing it into a million pieces. If the Magic get Howard the ball, good things happen. The Celtics have neither the size nor speed, nor recognition to handle him. And that reality was a cold splash of water last night.

Jameer Nelson’s step back can be covered. They have Anthony Johnson who never gets playing time yet always plays well when called upon. Heck, they have Redick, who ran that offense better last night than Jason Williams did. This team’s greatest success has come on the back of nontraditional ballhandlers. Last year it was Turkoglu. So why is this team burying Pietrus, occasionally Redick, and keeping the ball away from Lewis in order to watch VC use the same tired tricks he’s been using for two seasons unsuccessfully?

Hedo Turkoglu is having a terrible season. It’s true. And many of the reservations people have about him are completely accurate. But his ability to work with this team was a large part they went to the Finals. SVG needs to wake up and realize that he has one of the most loaded teams in the league, but he’s got to be willing to use them in ways which do not fit his model. Adapt or perish.

Orlando’s defense looked good tonight, too. Poor rotations and pick-and-roll defense helped the Celtics reverse the ball to an open three-point shooter in the first half, but for much of the second, that pick-and-roll defense tightened up. And the “roll”? Boston could forget about it. As Tom Haberstroh of Hoopdata.com pointed out on Twitter, the Celtics missed 12 of their 20 shots at the rim tonight, bumping their season total to 30 misses in 50 rim attempts versus the Magic. Nothing easy inside for the Celtics, due in large part to Howard and Gortat, who combined to tally 7 blocked shots.

For the rest of the season, I doubt we see Howard and Gortat play together very often, or Lewis at small forward. But those rotational tweaks worked tonight, a credit to Van Gundy and the players. For me, though, the biggest wrinkle tonight was Howard’s ability to finish difficult shots against the stout Perkins. If the Magic can begin counting on Howard to create for himself down low, against elite defenders like Perkins, then they’ll be in excellent shape for the next decade. Nevermind the rest of the season. With apologies to Lewis, Howard gets the game-ball tonight, with Gortat also earning kudos for playing Garnett, a future Hall-of-Famer, to a virtual draw.

via Orlando Magic 96, Boston Celtics 94- Orlando Pinstriped Post

The Magic are capable of being so good, if they get beyond their idea of what would make them great, and focus on what’s actually happening. Performance, not ideal. Function, not concept.

They’re Still Professionals

It is a common topic of conversation in sports: Would the best college team be able to beat the worst professional team? Obviously all common sense says the answer is no, but it’s 2010: who is listening to their common sense these days anyhow?

So I decided to sit down and create a fictional scenario between what is likely going to be one of the most historically bad NBA teams and one of the most highly regarded semi-professional NCAA teams.

Kidding aside, the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats are loaded with talent and have torn through some of their competition (South Carolina aside, obvs) looking as though they are on a completely different level. So here are the premises of my statistical simulation:

1.) The two teams square off in a 40 minute pick-up game. Each team plays 6 players equally (33.3 minutes per player)

2.) The statistics used for the Nets will not be their professional statistics, but instead the statistics of each player the last year they spent in college.*

3.) The Kentucky Wildcats will be using their averages thusfar in the 2009-2010 season.

via Kentucky Wildcats vs New Jersey Nets: A Statistical Simulation > Buster Sports.

Chip Patterson with an awesome breakdown of what the Nets v. Wildcats would look like. And if you’d prefer, you can go ahead and sub in Kansas into this little formula and watch as the lead balloons to 400. Why? Because Brady freaking Morningstar is considered a crucial component to kU. Chris Quinn even thinks that dude’s got no business being on the floor of a competitive basketball game.

It’s great for a college site to have a rational view of the gap between college and pro. There’s a burgeoning movement of awareness in people that the NBA is just that far ahead of college. This doesn’t mean that college isn’t worth watching, but you look at the Celtics and Magic, and the level they played at last night, in what was overall a pretty sloppy game! There’s not a basketball team in the college landscape that could keep an interested NBA team within 50 points of them.

The Nets are wretched, but people forget how many of their games have been close, how many bad breaks they’ve gotten, and that this season could have been different. They’re not one of the worst teams in history. They’re just not. And their futures are much brighter than some teams I could mention.

Backboard’s Shadow: Craig Smith

Michael Pina is a contributing writer to the Huffington Post and Hoop Doctors.His Backboard’s Shadow column runs weekly here at Hardwood Paroxysm.

Here at Backboard’s Shadow the main purpose is to shine a light on those who deserve it.  Sometimes the spotlight is triggered by a hot stretch of impressive play, sometimes it’s to point out a player whom I believe will make an impact in the future (Trevor Ariza circa January 2009 would fit this criteria perfectly) and sometimes it’s to pull the curtain back on a player who people have been sleeping on for far too long. Today the focus is Craig Smith, a player who snugly fits into the last description.

Growing up down the street from Conte Forum, watching the Boston College product rip the ACC to shreds for four years was more than enjoyable.  He recklessly crashed the boards, tenaciously attacked the rim and with the ball in his hands wouldn’t accept no for an answer like an old man trying to send soup back at a deli.

Even though it was just five years ago, it feels like a decade and unfortunately it seems like people have forgotten what made Smith such a dominating college player.  Say his name to a casual fan and you’ll most likely meet the following response:

He’s that undersized, burly guy who used to be in Minnesota’s front court right?  Wasn’t he traded to the Clippers along with about 47 other players this summer in the Quentin Richardson merry go round?

Yes, yes he was.

Does he get minutes? He was pretty good in college.

Yes, yes he does.

Without further ado it’s time to educate.  Craig Smith is the most offensively gifted reserve forward in the league (apologies to Carl Landry who plays nearly twice as much). His collection of scoring tactics are a grocery list that would make William Perry jealous.  When the ball is in his hands and the basket is within 10 feet, there is nobody who one on one can shut him down.

It’s funny how the draft works though.  For a player to carve his own niche in the NBA it seems like he’s got to dig through a brick wall with a plastic spoon.  Despite what he displayed in college, players with weaker resumes like Tyrus Thomas and Josh Boone were taken above him strictly based on what they might grow to become.

The other players who were selected before Smith simply because he was projected to be too small for the four and too slow for the three is rather astounding.  He’s played in more games than LaMarcus Aldridge and Andrea Bargnani, has scored more points than J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison combined and has the number one field goal percentage in his entire draft class.

Four years later he’s now a 26-year-old in a contract year.  Whichever club decides to court him for the next three or four years will not be disappointed.  Sure defensively he can be taken advantage of if the other team’s got multiple giants, but on the whole he’s talented enough to tip the scales in a contender’s favor.

This past week against the Celtics and the league’s deepest, most devastating defensive front line, Smith beamed his game back to 2003 and treated his opponents like they were the Clemson Tigers.   He single-handedly kept the other L.A. team in the game with 10 straight points in the fourth quarter. Elusive up and unders, head fakes, ball fakes, shoulder dropping brute force aggressiveness, all were on display as the former Eagle did as he pleased.

Did Craig Smith take over a basketball game that featured a laundry list of all-star and hall-of-fame talent? Yes, yes he did.