Monthly Archives: January 2010

NBA All-Star Game: Why It’s Good Josh Smith Wasn’t Selected

Oh, no, not because he didn’t deserve it. Heavens, no. You see, I, unlike the coaches, apparently, have some notion of common sense. So I’m aware that he should be starting at All-Star Weekend.

But the denial of Smith could lead to better things for his career, and the avoidance of things which have doomed others that have come before him.

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When we talk about motivation, we talk about leadership, determination, heart, all those things. You know what’s underrated? Spite. And I’m not talking venemous, “screw you, you don’t think I can? I’ll destroy you!” spite, or as I like to call it, “being Michael Jordan.” A simple point at which people tell you you can’t do something, and it brings reflection. That self-examination that’s often missing, especially from athletes. You draw up into yourself. And the things that you find there are what’s important. Most likely, Smith’s evolution as one of the most dominant forces in the game (and if you don’t think that’s true, you’re not paying close enough attention, but we’ll get there) has come without any such self-examination, simply through coaching and maturity. But it certainly seems like part of his identity. After all, all the things that have happened for him this season have come not from him opening up, but bottling up. Ducking his head down and driving to the post, using his body to hit layups off the glass instead of settling for jumpers. And, one of the funnest memes of the season, his avoidance of the three point shot. You have to be self-aware to make those adjustments to your game.

Being denied the All-Star game, especially when his partner in time, Al Horford, is going, is a pretty big slap in the face. All his hard work has been invalidated, because apparently Paul Pierce limping around the floor or Derrick Rose drifting 18 footers is more important for the spirit of the game. (No offense to Rose, from a “keeping the positions equal distribution” standpoint he’s a great pick.) I blame the coaches on this one. Should AI be playing? No. We all know that. Some are more okay with him playing than others. But that’s what happens when you have a system that gives the fans power like that, which is fine. The coaches should know better. Regardless, how Smith handles this could end up being a defining moment in a defining season for him.

He could respond to this denial with indifference. Keep his nose to the grindstone, his man boxed out, and his game simple, aggressive, and patient. Or he could respond with spite, in a bad way. He could say “You know what? I did everything they said I should do, and I’m still not getting credit. Screw it. BOMBS AWAY!” He could revert back to old habits, lose his defensive focus, drift away from the tough spots, and take his game back a notch. But from all indications, that’s not what’s going to be happening. Instead, he’ll respond with the positive spite. “I know what I’m doing is what I should be doing, but they haven’t noticed. So I guess I’m going to have to show everyone that they were wrong.”

This is kin to Jordan, but not quite the same, because there’s not the obsessive venom that follows Jordan. I’m not sure if Smith’s personality, from what we know about him, lends itself to that approach. But history is filled with people overcoming adversity based simply on a desire to prove people wrong. Smith has an opportunity to take his game a step further without damaging the relatively fragile makeup of the Hawks’ offense, and by extension, be the singular player that takes them further than they’ve managed to do before.

There’s a perfect storm shaping up on the horizon. Boston’s up tonight, likely cranky and motivated after a last second loss to the Magic last night. The Celtics are vulnerable, tonight and this season. Even if the Hawks can’t overcome the C’s based on their frustration, the Hawks have already run out three wins on them. The Hawks know, 100% that they can beat this team in the playoffs. They know it. You can sense that when they’re on the floor. When they met two years ago, it was a “Hey, let’s see what happens” feeling. Now there’s a confidence that they’re simply more athletic, faster, younger, and better. The Magic have dominated Atlanta this season and the Cavs have squeaked by them, but I don’t think you can look at either team as a paragon of invincibility. There’s room in the playoffs for the Hawks to do damage. Screw up the entire system. But Smith’s going to have to be the difference maker. Not free-agent-to-be Joe Johnson, as much as I love the guy. Smith. It’s Smith’s play that inspires the Hawks, now. He’s the one chasing down rebounds, throwing the outlet pass and finishing on the break. He’s the one making smart defensive plays to go along with the 12-foot-jump blocks. It’s Josh Smith and his spite of showing everyone why they were wrong about him being an All-Star that could make the Hawks a force in the Eastern Conference and force what would be our fifth realignment of power structure in as many years.

“Told ya’ so” is a powerful weapon. Here’s hoping Josh Smith is smart enough to know how to use it.

UPDATE: Coco in the comments points out that Smith’s said on his blog: “This WILL be my motivation for the rest of the season.” So Smith, or at least his handlers, seem to be in line with this thinking.

*Props to Corn for the video suggestion

Ranka-Ranka-Ranka

21. Knicks (18-26) | Prev.: 21

The Knicks lost by 50 to Dallas (50!) on Sunday and won by 27 against Minnoestaon Tuesday. That doesn’t quite mean we can soon expect to see a 77-point Mavs win over the Wolves. I’d like to see that, personally, because I’m a fan of awkward comedy, and a 77-point loss as “high comedic value” written all over it. But it probably won’t happen. More likely is that Mike D’Antoni’s Knicks continue to do this Jekyl and Hyde nonsense, clicking with the shots fall and falling when they don’t. — TZ

via NBA Power Rankings: Jumping Jazz — NBA FanHouse.

Power rankings over at FanHaus, which I contributed to. Check ‘em out.

A Legion Of Options, Heretofore Unfullfilled, And Stuff

People buy the NBA’s all-encompassing League Pass option for two reasons. Because a) They moved from their hometown, and still want to watch their favorite team on a nightly basis or b) they want to watch star players like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James and Dwight Howard every night. That second group is small, though, mainly because NBA League Pass is really expensive, and once you buy it, most casual fans realize that sifting through eight games-a-night is more work than it’s worth.

NBA Redzone, or League Pass Alert, would do that work for you. We wouldn’t have to do away with NBA League Pass, and the NBA could still reap all the profits from League Pass, as plenty of fans will still sign up to see every game. But if the NBA took the best of league pass, crammed into one five hour block every night, and made it free, there’s no question that the NBA would suddenly see a dramatic spike in interest. People may not have the attention span to sit through an entire regular season game, the best parts of eight different games, including at least one or two close fourth quarter finishes? It’d be a home run.

via 1. What If The NBA Made League Pass Into One Channel, And Made It Free? – SB Nation.

Sharp touches down on League Pass, simultaneously drifting towards the idea that most people don’t care about that many games, and arguing that a five hour block of the best stuff would do wonders.

I agree to a certain level, but while I agree that the atmosphere can be lifeless (and believe me, I agree with Tom Ziller on some ideas on how that can be changed), there’s something about the flow of an NBA game just like there is with baseball. There are a dozen little moments that can impact a fan, make an impact, and endear them to the league. And many of them don’t happen in the last two minutes. Similarly, have you SEEN OKC IN CRUNCH TIME THIS YEAR? It’s like watching car wreck footage in slow-motion. But I guess that’s entertaining in and of itself. I think refocusing on just the last two minutes makes the value of really watching a game and everything that goes on within it less. It would be entertaining as an addition, though, to always have a channel showing the juicy bits. You could pretty easily adapt the Mosaic channel to do this, just have it zoom in on under a minute, zooming back out during commercial.

Another idea would be to have a “best of the night” hour that just splices together the best pieces. Throw in Wade v. LeBron 2nd quarter without the other three quaters of suck the other night.

One final element to League Pass that we’re just now seeing the impact of. League Pass recently started reshowing games for about 16 to 22 hours after they’re played. And while the immediate effects are great for junkies like myself (I sat down last night at 1AM and had five games to flip between, and knew which ones sucked and which ones didn’t. Amazing!), there’s also a run off effect of your average viewer getting more of a chance to watch games. The value of League Pass actually matches its price in my opinion, with this replay added in. If you catch the 7EST Celtics game, and it’s a snoozer, you can go back later after the wife and kiddo’s gone to bed and check out Durant dropping 37 or look for that ridiculous dunk your buddy texted you about. It’s true that most regular season games have very little appeal for the average fan. But every night there’s one game that holds value to everyone, and often times it’s not the big names.  Embracing the replay means it’s more likely for someone to catch that game. Now all we need is an NBA bar, showing nothing but games 24 hours a day.

Hmm….

ESPN NBA TODAY PODCAST: While Russillo’s Away, The Bloggers Will Play

Frank Dale and Joe Mead hit the TrueHoop Blog Network to speak with Brett Hainline about the Bobcats’ struggles on the road and Royce Young about the Thunder’s commitment to defense.

via ESPNRadio.com – Podcenter – ESPN.

GO LISTEN!

Some notes:

  • Frank asks the question about comparing a potential LeBron-Wade team-up to Shaq-Kobe and I almost feel like Wade-LeBron would be bigger, because those two had to grow into it. Shaq was a huge star, but still wasn’t what he’s looked at as now. Wade on the other hand has already won a championship, and James is the best player on Earth. Besides the actual basketball potential (which would be off the charts, we’re talking about two of the most athletic human beings of the last … ever), it’s got superstar capability that exceeds all boundaries. And while Boston was the first to pull off the recent mega-lineup move, LA would have to stare this thing in the face and realize it brought it about. Then LA would probably win and I’d cry a million tears. Let’s move on.
  • Frank notes that the Celtics are going to be there in the end if they’re healthy. I’m upside-down about that team right now, and the next three games will be huge deciding factors in if I can pencil that team into the ECF. Orlando-Atlanta-LA. They’ve gotten revenge on Orlando, gotten the crap kicked out of them three consecutive times by Boston, and haven’t faced LA. Take 2 out of 3, and I’ll believe they deserve the pencil treatment. Sweep ‘em, and I’d be tempted to move it to pen. But take 1 out of 3 or God forbid get swept, and that team moves to the bottom of the big 4, even in late January.
  • Hainline makes a great point that essentially the Bobcats are succeeding despite “losing” on the Hornets-Bobcats center trade. He says some good things about Tyson, but you can tell he’s got the “man, what if we still had Okafor?” feeling. And listen closely to what he says about Crash.
  • We live in a world where a Bobcats blogger thinks NOT making the playoffs would be a disappointment. Bottled water is available at your local grocery or convenience store.
  • Royce talks about how this year is a learning curve for Durant figuring out how to win close games. Even though he’s not doing great at that lately.
  • Royce does a great job of laying out Durant’s last shot struggles and points out that he doesn’t perform well in ISO situations. If you were to send Durant off curls in a Ray-Allen-catch-and-shoot type-way? Their success rate would skyrocket, I’d bet. Dribble-dribble-jumper ain’t working. Also, note Royce correcting his Oklahoma accent on “collapsin’.” Hilarious.
  • Durantula is an awesome nickname. We must not debate this.

Hey, Ricky, You’re So Fine, You’re So Fine I’ll Probably Body You Up With A Big Guard And Watch You Drown, Hey Ricky, Hey Ricky!

Overall, I remain high on Rubio as a prospect overall, though I do find it uniquely challenging to try to project Ricky’s NBA future because of these competing factors:

Pro: I believe Rubio truly has the court vision of an all-time great. Stockton, Magic, Nash – name who you want. I think Rubio sees the floor on that level.

Con: Rubio just cannot finish at the basket at all, and he doesn’t really score in the lane, either.

via The Painted Area: Checking In on Ricky Rubio.

Haubs is drinking the Kool-Aid over at The Painted Area, with a check-in on Ricky Rubio, including the same hype we saw before he was drafted and then scooted on back over the pond. I can’t really judge Mark, since I think John Wall will be the best prospect since Dwyane Wade, but at least I’m not comparing Wall to Jordan or Magic , even in a singular area.

Haubs goes on to do a projection of Rubio’s Euroleague stats, which would indicate that not only will he lead the league in assists, but he’ll also cure cancer, get the Wizards out of Arenas’ contract, make Larry Hughes stop taking so many bad shots and shave Varejao bald.

My issues with Rubio are the same as they were before the draft. He’s going to get murdered against the sized “big” guards. Tyreke Evans will chew him out and spit him up. Wait, strike that, reverse it. Even a guy like Derek Fisher will make life miserable for him by chest bumping in and bruising that tender, Twilight-like frame.  His inability to score isn’t as much of a concern for me. Eric Gordon is little and round, and he does just fine, and as long as you can develop a jumper off the pick and roll when the defense sags, you can get buckets as a point. But I still feel like his potential is still only “very good.” That kind of vision is a great quality, but you need to be able to combine it with a solid frame and lethal approach. Instead, Rubio seems like what he is, still. A schoolboy, drifting passes gently up and down the floor.

But, I’ve been wrong before, and if Haubs is THIS sold on the guy, I’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt. You know, if he ever comes over. Ever.

Man, Tyreke’s gonna kill him.

Crazy Pills Is Having Some Mental Trouble

But Artest, who went to Sacramento and then Houston from Indiana, isn’t altogether comfortable as a Laker yet either. Artest keeps making mistakes in the triangle offense, going the wrong way or picking the wrong spot or finding the wrong time.

Phil Jackson said after the victory in Indiana that Artest did well on defense against Danny Granger but remains an offensive struggle. Artest shot 1 for 6 from the field with one assist and one turnover in 24 minutes. Jackson said Artest isn’t getting it “as quickly as I’d like.”

“Everything he’s trying to do is kind of forcing the action,” Jackson said.

Artest again sat out the entire fourth quarter in favor of Shannon Brown, who isn’t yet up to being the triangle facilitator but still is far ahead of Artest in understanding the offense.

via Artest not getting triangle as fast as Lakers want – Lakers blog : The Orange County Register.

I noticed this pretty early on, but everyone was so impressed with Ron not taking a bunch of shots  that I didn’t want to say anything.  Artest’s offense is reigned in, but it’s not in concert with the rest of the squad. His shots seem to come mid-rotation, mid-play, and are often the result of defenses trying to anticipate what happens next, since you know, surely he won’t take that…. oh.

There seems to be the Lakers’ offense, and then Ron Artest. He’s wandering off on his own. Defensively, he’s dialed in, but it’s been weird to see Ron playing with hesitation, doubt. And that’s a good thing.

Just imagine how good they’re going to be if Ron manages to decipher the philosophy.

Podcast Paroxysm: Good Vs. Eh

On this episode, Graydon Gordian from 48 Minutes of Hell stops by to discuss Amare to the Spurs potential, the strength of the Western Conference, and how much of a jerkface Vince Carter is.

Oh, and check us on iTunes, sweetheart. You’ll never love anyone like you love us.

Download it here.

NBA Trade Deadline: Sources Confirm The Bulls May Have Been Lobotomized

A source confirmed the Bulls have had discussions with the Lakers about Hinrich, most likely for Adam Morrison and Sasha Vujacic, but nothing is imminent.

Salmons’ contract is relatively low risk. He’s owed $6.7 million next season and has an option to terminate the final year of his deal, so he might turn out to be an expiring contract anyway.

It’s possible the Bulls could resurrect the potential deal sending Salmons, Brad Miller and Jerome James to Houston for Tracy McGrady and filler before the deadline.

via Daily Herald | Brown’s arrival might pave way for more Bulls moves.

Wow. Just wow.

Okay, let me try and put aside the anti-Laker stuff for a moment.

Hinrich’s deal is an anchor. A big, nasty anchor that was fine a few years ago when there wasn’t this massive awesome free agency and and a recession and an unbearable slide into mediocrity by your Chicago Bulls. Getting rid of him is tossing free the limitations of that guard setup completely, meaning that Salmons becomes bench scorer extraordinaire and they can sign the big free agent small guard.

But you’ve got a defensive stopper who can run an offense and is a capable NBA veteran. And you’re going to ditch him for The Machine and Ammo? Two of the worst bench players in the NBA? Forget the post-Laker-phenomenon, where players that played with excellent players on excellent teams with excellent coaches go elsewhere and suddenly find that their ability to fly is gone and then crash into a taxicab like the guy in the Kick Ass trailer. You’re getting .25 on the dollar for a moveable asset. This is similar to the Gasol trade in one respect (and one respect only): there absolutely, positively HAS to be a better deal out there. You’re talking about making your offense, defense, and depth worse, just as you’re starting to heat up and make a playoffs push. A meaningless playoffs push, I grant you, but a playoffs push.

You’d imagine that teams would look at Ariza in LA, and then look at him now, and then look at him in LA, and then look at him now, and then start laughing as they walk off the call whistling dixie. But apparently, the teams that need to push the detonation trigger (Philadelphia, Indiana) are going to clutch tightly to their little dysfunctional families and the teams with movable assets and something to play for are going to start throwing guys out there on the stoop and see what possum they can bag in return.

NBA Trade Deadline: Do The Pistons Have A Gun To Their Head?

Joe Dumars on making trades before seeing what the Pistons can do when they’re healthy:

“It’s hard to say what you have when you’ve had your team for just two games,” Dumars said. “You don’t know about your team. It’s not like we’ve had our full complement of players and we have the record (15-28) we have. “You don’t know if you are a playoff team or not. So you don’t talk about making trades.”

[...] “You have to play with each other for a full stretch before you can get a feel for exactly how your team plays,” Dumars said. “That’s what I am trying to say. I think it would be premature to do something right now.”

As eager as I am to see him pull the trigger at the trade deadline, he’s right — there have been only a scant handful of games that all key players have been available. But most of the injuries have been suffered by wings — you don’t need to see a healthy four-guard rotation to realize this team desperately needs a post presence.

(Random side note: I’m going to save my daily rant about already knowing the Pistons are not a “playoff team” and assume he simply means he doesn’t know if this team can be a “playoff-caliber team,” as in, capable of beating legitimate contenders on any given night when mostly healthy and in sync, regardless of whether the Pistons advance to the postseason or not.)

via Morning Shootaround: Trades, Energy and Injury Updates (Again) – Detroit Bad Boys.

Some good thoughts from Watson on the Pistons and their situation.  I think at some point you have to look at your roster, and their performance, and estimate what the best case scenario is. Then you measure that against your goals, and the likelihood of you reaching that best case scenario, and make a decision on if this set of pieces is enough. I can’t look at adding the injured players back to this team and them reaching a top seed in the playoffs, even next year. I can barely see them making the playoffs, and that’s dependent on at least two teams falling off hard.

The really important thing for the next few weeks has to be showcasing the players they know they want to move. As Watson says, they have four wings with trade value. You don’t need to see how those guys fit to know that’s too many, that it was too many when you added some this offseason, and that you should probably start exploring their value as soon as possible. I’m sure Dumars has already done that, but it’s better to enter into talks now and then hammer something out, rather than wait to see if something clicks and this team suddenly bursts into contention.

I’ve long thought Amar’e would be a good fit in Detroit, a reasonable market, with some history, and adding him to V-Nuv and Gordon and Stuckey would make for a pretty significant impact, and they could probably re-sign him versus a lot of teams on the buyer’s list.