Monthly Archives: July 2011

Timing Bismack Biyombo

Time Clock

Photo by gadl from Flickr

 

Bismack Biyombo will not be eligible to play for the Charlotte Bobcats until he settles a contract dispute with Spanish club Fuenlabrada, reports Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

Via “Bismack Biyombo Not Cleared By FIBA To Play For Bobcats At End Of NBA Lockout” by Tom Ziller

Surely this comes as potentially devastating news for our friends over at Rufus on Fire. Although, it’s not altogether surprising. This is the peril of drafting international players, most recently seen in Minnesota’s worse-than-imaginable Ricky Rubio Saga. I think Biyombo is a tantalizing talent and worth the time it’ll take to settle this dispute. He has a good attitude and knows where his talent lies and isn’t trying to deviate from it.  There will be no attempts at “across-the-board” success by Bismack.

Biyombo is here to block shots and control the glass. Watching clips of him in action on YouTube, the Congolese wonder does seem to possess an innate ability to anticipate a shot’s release and time the block perfectly. Some players, Shawn Kemp for example to continue my Sonics fetish, were athletic freaks who just happened to swat a few shots while they were at it. Bismack is an athletic freak, but his acumen for rising at the perfect moment to repel FGs is commendable. That timing will come in handy during his later years in the league. When that freakish athleticism takes a lickin’, his inner Timex will keep on tickin’.

Going back to Kemp, he was 6’10” and his blocks per 36 minutes ranged between 1.8 and 2.5 until he turned age 25 and thereafter it began a steady drop. That’s the loss of athleticism, be it from old age or copious eating. Looking at Alonzo Mourning, who was also 6’10”, you can see how timing keeps the blocks a-flowin’. At age 35 he set his career high in blocks per 36 minutes with 4.8 and nearly set a career low at age 25 with only 2.5. Biyombo may not put up such absurd, Zo-like numbers but you can believe his blocks won’t wilt away. I just hope we see him in NBA action sooner rather than later.

A Mariner’s and Barber’s Tribute to the Sonics

The Emerald City

Photo by The Western Sky from Flickr

The Seattle Mariners deserve a lot of credit for pulling this event off.  While some avoid talking about the Seattle Supersonics’ departure from Seattle, the Mariners addressed it dead-on.  

 Via “Sonics Celebration Night will go down in Seattle Mariners history” by David Nelson

Clearly, I’m not one to avoid the Sonics dead-on. Any chance I get, I’ll write about the SuperSonics. Thanks to the Seattle Mariners we get another opportunity to revel in the glory of Seattle pro hoops, which is a godsend given the M’s recent 17-game losing streak and the Seahawks declaration that their starting QB job is Tarvaris Jackson’s to lose.

In attendance at this Emerald City shindig was basically every great Sonics player in franchise history. The list is simply astounding: Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, Jack Sikma, Slick Watts, Gus Williams, Lenny Wilkens, Brent Barry, Freddie Brown, Michael Cage, James Donaldson, Dale Ellis, Hersey Hawkins, Spencer Haywood, Tom Chambers, and Nate McMillan. The only players of import missing are Xavier McDaniel and the deceased Dennis Johnson.

Coupling this glorious event with Spencer Hawes’s splendid haircut debuted earlier in the month, I think its high-time we unveiled the SuperSonics All-Time Hair Rankings!

Coming in at #5 is Paul Silas who was an absolute bruiser down-low, belying his affable off-court personality. I dig his well-groomed afro while our 16th President is charmed by his well-kept chin curtain.

Paul Silas from seventies1970s.com

Paul Silas / seventies1970s.com

At #4 is Shawn Kemp. He put nearly as much energy into maintaining his high-top fades as he did in shaming Golden State Warriors big men. He kept that cut ultra clean. Not a single follicle out of place.

Shawn Kemp Fade / Fat Shawn Kemp

Shawn Kemp / fatshawnkemp.com

Speaking of follicles, Slick Watts arrives at #3 despite having none. Nevertheless he deserves inclusion for being the pioneer of the “bald is beautiful” movement in professional sports. The movement as a whole can be traced back to the hot buttered soul of Isaac Hayes.

http://www.historylink.org/db_images/sonics004.JPG

Slick Watts / historylink.org

The premier Sonics center, Jack Sikma only manages a #2 showing on this list. His golden perm afro was a modern hair marvel. Slick gave men everywhere the courage to just shave their scalp instead of masquerading with half-fros (think Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire). Likewise, Sikma gave hope to white men that they too could enjoy an afro.

Jack Sikma / thearch-info.com

Jack Sikma / thearch-info.com

At the top of the hair summit stands Michael Cage letting his Soul Gloooooo. Few NBA players wore the curl, so Cage easily beats the hoops competition. But expanding our scope to the entire population, Cage’s curl was bested only by a few (Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie). You could never tell if Cage was incredibly sweaty or just greased in activator. It’s little wonder he won a rebounding title in 1988 since opposing players were either a) disgusted by the curl or b) just slid off of Cage, preventing any effective box out.

http://cdn.bleacherreport.net/images_root/slideshows/1012/slideshow_101214/display_image.jpg?x=536342

Michael Cage / bleacherreport.com

The Squid is Back, Milwaukee!

Sid the Squid

Photo by x-ray delta one from Flickr

 

Sidney Moncrief, a veritable legend in Milwaukee, is prepared to sign an agreement to return to the Bucks as an assistant coach, replacing the recently departed Kelvin Sampson.

Via “Sidney Moncrief returns to Bucks’ bench, Brandon Jennings knows kung-fu, and a tub of socks ” by Dan Sinclair

In what can only be described as a feel-good story, Sidney Moncrief is headed back to Milwaukee as a member of Scott Skiles’s coaching staff. Moncrief has had previous coaching experience both as an assistant and head man. He spent a year apiece as head coach at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock in 2000 (with a 4-24 record) and at the NBDL’s Fort Worth Flyers in 2006. His assistant coaching experience was as the shooting specialist for the Golden State Warriors during the latter part of Don Nelson’s most recent tenure. If you saw the Bucks offense last year, you know a man with experience as shooting coach is desperately needed.

Considering Sid the Squid’s playing career (which is Hall of Fame worthy) it’s a bit funny to see him serve as a shooting specialist. Garnering back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Awards in 1983 and ’84 while also making 4 All-Defensive 1st Teams, Sidney routinely locked down PGs, SGs and SFs and dutifully helped the control the glass as a 6’3″ shooting guard.

However, he was an accomplished offensive player, too, playing for Don Nelson’s 80s Bucks teams so it’s not crazy he’d be on board as an offensive coach. He could easily bring the ball up court, run an offense in a pinch, play off the ball well, and had a more-than-dependable jumper. Moncrief would probably be considered the prototype for today’s shooting guard, if it weren’t for his debilitating injuries and the rise of Michael Jordan.

Bringing on a man of Sidney’s determination and skills can mean nothing but good things for Milwaukee’s players. Particularly, the younger guards Shaun Livingston, Brandon Jennings and Beno Udrih. Hell, maybe even Stephen Jackson, a player with an eerily similar skill set but with a much more volatile attitude, could learn something (discerning shot-selection mayhaps?) from the Squid.

Those who can, do. Those who can’t, coach. That’s the plan for these guys, anyway.

While we’re all waiting for something to happen, guys to sign somewhere, do something crazy or announce that they’re taking up a new sport, something pretty cool is happening, it just doesn’t involve NBAers actually playing basketball. Well, it kinda does, just not as the competitors we’re used to them being.

First, we found out that Andrew Bogut was going to be spending his lockout serving as an assistant coach of the Australian National Team:

Bogut hoped to play for Australia in the best-of-three series, the winner of which will qualify for the 2012 London games. But Basketball Australia was unable to insure his multimillion dollar contract, and instead the former No. 1 NBA draft pick will assist coach Brett Brown on the bench.

Brown joked Thursday “he’ll be my richest assistant coach. He’s fantastic about wanting to play, but with injury and insurance issues with the NBA lockout, he’ll play his role from the bench next to me.”

via Yahoo! Sports

How baller is that? Can’t get the insurance you need to play for your country so you decide to coach your peers instead. I love this.

Later that night, Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio tweeted a trio of tweets reporting that John Calipari announced John Wall, Rajon Rondo and Eric Bledsoe would be enrolling at the University of Kentucky if the lockout continues and also that if they are enrolled as full-time students, they would all be eligible to be studen assistant coaches:

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/KySportsRadio/status/96743091515555840"]

Earlier this year, Rondo returned to the Celtics lineup for a game against the Raptors after he had missed seven games with an injury. Unsurprisingly, he was key down the stretch as the Celtics pulled away and after the game I asked him about his time on the sideline, and if he’d learned anything about coaching. Here was his response:

“It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating as a coach. I don’t know if I want to coach when I’m done. Guys, you tell them stuff, they do the opposite…When I’m out there, you can almost kind of control it a little bit, you can direct someone into their place, but once you’re a coach on the opposite end of the floor, it’s frustrating.”

It’ll be interesting to see how Rondo takes to coaching this time around.

Who’s excited about this? I’M excited about this. Doc Rivers, Flip Saunders and Vinny D. should also be excited about this. Young point guards taking on the opportunity to learn about the game from the sideline? This is a good thing. How awesome for the Kentucky guys who will get to learn from current pros, too.

There’s always a lot of talk about young players being stubborn and pros being difficult to manage. Things like this show that most of these guys just want to play, learn and get better at the game that they love. I’m a fan of each of these things. Know what I’m not a fan of? This mf’n lockout. While I’d love to see these guys as assistants, I’d love to see them playing basketball in the best league on the planet even more. #justsayin

NBA Drama: Marcin Gortat vs. Robin Lopez

Photo by Alex Bellink on Flickr

Marcin said that on his first day in Phoenix he asked Robin if practice started on the court or with a video session. Robin told Marcin that he didn’t know so Gortat went to the gym while Lopez went to watch video. According to Gortat, a coach came to get him and asked why he was late and Marcin said that he had asked Robin and was told he didn’t know where practice was starting. The coach said everyone knew where they were supposed to be. Marcin took that as a sign of where things stood between himself and Lopez.

via SB Nation: Marcin Gortat’s Polish Tour Includes Dogging Robin Lopez and Bad Tennis 

Even in as bleak NBA times as this, human interest stories exist. In this case, we have a classic awkward bro moment between two centers thrust together by fate (and Otis Smith). In response to this harrowing twist of conflict, I’ve written a letter pleading with the two players to reconcile quickly.

 

Dear Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez, esquires of basketball,

So, things were a little awkward this year between you two. Marcin, you thought Robin was distant when he first arrived, even misleading. We’ve all been there. We’ve all swung and missed for high-fives. We’ve all made things awkward during a hangout by saying we like Nickelback “a lot”. But you two need to overcome your differences, and quickly.

Let’s face it, guys, the Suns are struggling these days. The team was mediocre last year, Steve Nash and Grant Hill aren’t getting any younger, and the plan for the future of the franchise after Nash retires seems to be “We’ll figure it out when the time comes. For now, more Aaron Brooks!”

They need both of you to work together and make each other better (Can you also make Aaron Brooks slightly better while you’re at it?), not break each other down with awkward moments over video sessions. I’m sure if you two talked, you could find some common ground. Maybe Robin could share some of his comic books with you, Marcin, and you could teach Robin how not to play tennis.

Look, you both seem like cool guys. I believe that you two can move past this misunderstanding and create a beautiful friendship and center tandem. Whenever player workouts start again (if they ever do), you two should sit down (or stand) and talk this out. Together, you two can do anything (except save the Suns from mediocrity)!

 

If either of you are reading this, please give the idea some thought. In a time of turmoil, conflict, and discord in the NBA, two cool centers should be able to solve their personal misunderstandings and amiably talk about rebounds and other center stuff.

 

Kobe Bryant May Play In Turkey

Photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video on Flickr

In the NBA lockout engulfed world we currently live in, uncertainty exists regarding what many players will do to fill up their time during the lockout. Will they get hobbies? Will they follow in the footsteps of Delonte West (and many other players) and work on a music career?

Many NBA players have already signed agreements to play for European teams, and nearly every NBA star has been rumored to be “interested” (or some other vague word), in signing with an overseas team. Given today’s FIBA release, allowing for the transfer of NBA players to overseas teams, an increasing possibility exists that we’ll see a decent number of NBA players on teams overseas next year. Kobe Bryant’s name has been one prominently mentioned over the last couple of weeks as being interested in playing in Europe, and the reports are only growing.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will be in the nation’s capital attending the World Football Challenge featuring Manchester United and F.C. Barcelona at FedEx Field on Saturday and the Mia Hamm-Nomar Garciaparra Celebrity Soccer Challenge on Sunday at Kastles Stadium.

Soccer won’t be the only sport on Bryant’s agenda, however, as the 15-year NBA veteran and his representatives will meet with officials from the Turkish basketball club Besiktas on Saturday, according to a Reuters report.

“At the moment there’s a 50 percent chance that Kobe may come to Turkey,” said Seref Yalcin, head of basketball operations for Besiktas, on Tuesday. Yalcin made the comments to reporters in Turkey, according to Reuters. “Everything will be clearer after the meeting on the 30th [of July].”

via Report: Kobe Bryant, Beskitas to meet

Well, this is interesting. When stories like this are reported, in which a team official or GM comes out and talks about how a player is genuinely considering playing for their team, it often indicates that the official is trying to drum up press for the idea and encourage other players (and Bryant) to be interested in said team (in this case, Beskitas). Of course, Yalcin may have been told from Bryant himself (most likely his representatives) that he’s very intrigued by the option of playing for the team alongside Nets elite point guard Deron Williams.

If a meeting does indeed happen between Bryant and the Turkish team on July 30th, I expect the talks of NBA stars playing overseas during the lockout to only intensify further. But all part of me doubts that Kobe would be interested in possibly endangering his NBA career’s longevity by playing for a year in Turkey. Adrian Wojnarowski has said that Kobe “is willing to listen to overseas offers”, but I doubt his interest will extend much beyond listening. I’m sure he’s always keen to further his global brand and compete, but I’m also sure he doesn’t want to casually use up a precious year of playing time, championship chasing, and stat-gaining in the NBA. He’s recently had experimental knee surgery, and knee issues have been a recurring problem as he’s aged during the past few years. Once your knees are completely gone, it’s not easy to get them back (Somewhere, a Blazers’ fan cries a single tear).

So, maybe Kobe will end up playing in Turkey next season alongside Deron Williams. Maybe Mr. Yalcin of Beskitas will wow him with tales of global branding and an existent salary, something the NBA can’t currently offer him. But it seems unlikely, because Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant, and he still likes doing Kobe Bryant things. That means winning, but in the NBA. Kobe isn’t risking his health and another chance at a championship easily.

Despite all of this, it would be interesting to see how Kobe’s personality would mesh with the crowds overseas and in Turkey. Would the Turkish people appreciate the Kobe jaw jut, or the classic Kobe Bryant “I’m very angry with you right now, Derek Fisher. But I respect you too much to tell you that bluntly, so I’ll give you this angry stare.” eyes? Maybe they would. Maybe they already do.

But for now, I tend to believe that Kobe will play basketball professionally again after the lockout ends (whenever that beautiful day falls) with that same good-old Kobe persona. Maybe he’ll even have a brand new pair of android knees in tow.

SHOT FICTION: Ray Allen’s Last Shot?

We’re a little worried about this lockout. We want basketball. But in case we don’t get basketball, we’re going to give ourselves a season.

The following is a work of fiction and no one was harmed in the writing of this story. These works will be based on how we think the 2011-12 season would play out if the lockout ended and the NBA is able to play all 82 games. Every other week, we will have a fictional work until the lockout is over. This is the first. The heart believes it will be a singular work and the NBA will be back in business soon. The head, sadly, realizes that it may not be the case.

BOSTON, June 1, 2012 — Ray Allen sat at his locker with a thin towel draped over his shoulders and another wrapped tight around his still-slim waist, a waist that hasn’t gained an inch over Allen’s professional career. His feet were in Jordan brand sandals, his toes separated by pieces of foam cut to fit. Allen said he learned the trick early in his career from a vet on his first team, the Milwaukee Bucks. The foam prevented the toes from sliding and smashing into the toecap and helped minimize bruising and torn toenails. Combine that with regular pedicures the he received to prevent ingrown toenails and Allen’s feet — the base from which he made an all-time NBA record of 2,703 three-pointers — looked as if they could carry him for another 16 seasons.

The scoresheet from the Celtics’ epic 99-98 Game 7 overtime loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals lay between Allen’s pristine feet. The rest of him looked spent. He had just played 51 of the game’s 53 minutes. If he saw his line, it read like this:

M: 51; FG: 13; FGA 19; 3P: 7; 3PA: 11 FT: 6; FTA: 6 REB: 3; AST: 3; BLK: 0; STL: 1; TO: 3; PTS: 39

The 39 points were the most he scored all season, regular or post. The 51 minutes were easily the most. Allen, a free agent, had no reason to hang his head in what had been his best game of this unusual season.

Yet there it hung and his shoulders sagged. Allen’s elbows rested on his knees and his fingers dangled like branches from a weeping willow. The Celtics locker room was quiet and reporters, who had just been informed that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce would be the only Celtics to go to the podium, milled about waiting for that precious eye contact from a player, a signal that he was ready to open up or spout cliches.

Most of the reporters had turned away from Allen. They knew that he never spoke to them just after the locker room opened. In fact, it was rare to see Allen there at that time at all. By the time reporters entered after the cooling off period, Allen was gone to treatment, then the showers. If the local scribes did catch a glimpse of him, it was fleeting, like an apparition. When Allen did emerge from the players’ sanctuary, he strode to his locker in a bespoke suit, put a couple things down, usually the book he was reading and a DVD of the Celtics’ next opponent, and then turned around to face the media.

But in the silence that suffocates a space after a devastating defeat, there was what sounded like a sharp sob coming from the direction of Allen’s locker. Then another. Any murmuring between reporters ceased and their heads turned in Allen’s direction. Allen’s shoulders heaved once, then again. He pinched the bridge of his nose with his right hand and made a small circular motion. There was another sharp sound. The seasoned Boston scribes stood in stunned silence. None of them had ever seen this.

If Allen were upset, it would be understandable. It was the worst season of his 16 year, soon-to-be Hall of Fame career. He missed 41 games after the Pacers’ Danny Granger tripped trailing Allen on a screen and rolled into Allen’s right knee in a game on Jan. 6. Allen feverishly worked his way back from arthroscopic surgery. He was ready to return at the end of February, but suffered a setback as doctors had to go back in for a second surgery.

When Allen finally returned against Utah in late March, he came off the bench for the first time in his career. He couldn’t get his timing and his sturdy legs, which propelled him around picks and provided the springboard for the smoothest jumper in NBA history, were now shaky. So was Allen’s confidence.

“I’m working hard to get my rhythm back,” Allen told the Boston Globe in April. “My knee isn’t responding as I hoped it would. Your legs are so important to your shot.”

Throughout his career, Allen’s work ethic had been well chronicled, almost fetishized by the media. They noted how he arrived at the arena at the same time, ate at the same time and went through his pregame routine at the same time every game day. As a military brat, Allen knew routine as discipline and discipline as order. If there was order in his life, Allen knew success, built on a solid foundation of meticulous work, would follow. It did. He won a Big East tournament title at UConn, won a gold medal with Team USA in the 2000 Sydney games, made 10 All-Star appearances for three different franchises and played Jesus in a Spike Lee movie.

Then there was the crowning achievement in his career, the NBA title he helped the Celtics win in 2008. He had come close to the Finals with the Bucks in 2001 and nowhere near them with the Sonics. An alpha dog in Seattle, Allen subjugated his game to blend in with Pierce and Garnett. The result: the C’s 17th NBA title.

But as Allen struggled in his comeback, Yahoo! reported a Celtics source as saying they weren’t going to re-sign Allen, who wanted a two-year extension with the same player option he had when he re-signed for two seasons in 2010. The source noted Allen would be nearly 39 when the extension ended and that it would be in the C’s best interest to seek a younger option at two guard. Combined with the physical ailments, Allen’s world, which he had so diligently worked to put in order, was now out of whack. For the first time in his career, Allen was coming off the bench, a move Celtics coach Doc Rivers said was necessary to limit the guard’s minutes. Allen averaged 12.6 points per game and shot .332 from three-point range, both career lows for a shooter, who, if his jumper could sing, it would sound like Marvin Gaye.

Allen and that melodious jumper re-emerged in the postseason. He averaged 19.4 points in the first round against the franchise for whom he first played, the Bucks. Against Orlando in the second round, he shot a scintillating .435 from three-point range. In the East finals, Allen averaged 24.3 for the first six games running Dwyane Wade, who missed 26 games this year with shoulder problems, through a series of screens designed to bang Wade around.

Then came Game 7 and that overtime and those 39 points, the final three of which gave the C’s an 98-96 lead with 3.4 seconds left in OT. Allen was back. The Celtics were on the precipice of their third Finals appearance in five seasons before Mario Chalmers, the Heat’s fourth option, found himself open for a short-corner three right in front of the C’s bench. Swish.

And now, Allen sat at his locker after what was more than likely his last game as a Boston Celtic and he was … crying? Allen let go of his nose, stood and reached for something in his locker, his back to the reporters. When he turned to head to the showers, Allen instantly noted the sympathetic looks on the reporters’ faces and frowned.

“Hiccups,” Allen said in his flat baritone, his eyes dry and jaw set. “Pinch your nose, hold your breath, close your eyes tight and count to 20. Works every time.”

Now, some reporters looked incredulous.

“You all thought I was crying?” Allen said, neither his expression nor his tone changing. “You know me better than that.”

They did. They knew he’d be back in about 15 minutes, freshly showered, freshly dressed, prepared to answer questions for however long it took to ask them. The reporters would pepper him about the game (“Hell of a game. I thought we had it, we just got caught looking at LeBron and Wade.”), quiz him about his knee (“It’s a little sore, but I’m 37. Everything is sore.”) and query him about his future (“I’d love to be here. Celtics green is the best green I’ve worn in my career. It’s where I won a title. It’s important.”)

With that, Allen paused and pinched his fingers to his nose again. A reporter tried levity.

“Hiccups?”

Allen smirked.

“You could say that,” Allen said. “This whole season has been one.”

He looked over the reporters as if to say, “anything else.” One reporter stepped forward to say good luck and thanks. Allen and the man exchanged pleasantries. Allen then grabbed his book — “Collapse” by Jared Diamond — and his coat. He started to walk out of the locker room with the confidence some mistook for arrogance.

“Yep,” Allen said to no one in particular, “a hiccup. Can’t go out like that.”

With that, Ray Allen, turned, smiled and was gone.

Aaron Brooks Stuck In The Desert, As Of Now Still Happy

Photo via JudyChen on Flickr

It’s not easy being Aaron Brooks.

Brooks went from being the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2009-2010 (though admittedly, it was kind of a lazy vote, more of the “he got a lot of minutes and scored more points than he did earlier” variety than the “he completely upgraded his skill set” type, but never mind that) to being an injured, disgruntled starter early this year in Houston. Then Kyle Lowry’s emergence as the bearer of all that is holy made him an injured, disgruntled bench player, and it was pretty clear that both Brooks and the Rockets won’t be happy as long as he’s not a starter, and he won’t be a starter as long as he’s in Houston.

So naturally, Brooks was traded away to a franchise built entirely around the existence of another point guard who is completely incapable of sharing the court with him (something Lowry could at least dream of). Brooks was slightly better with the Suns, but still nowhere near the kind of explosive scorer he was in Houston.

Luckily for him, he’s not sad at all about it. In fact, Phoenix+Aaron Brooks=happy.

“I’m doing great,” he said Saturday shortly before playing in the H206 Charity Basketball Classic, a contest featuring many NBA and ex-NBA players with Seattle ties. “How’s Phoenix? I love Phoenix. I think they like me, too. They picked up my qualifying offer, didn’t they?”

via Aaron Brooks can envision future with Phoenix Suns.

First of all, it’s important to note that picking up one’s qualifying offer means fairly little. Usually only players who have already done enough throughout their rookie deals to prove they do not belong in the NBA have their QOs declined, with exceptions usually requiring a guy to be either terrible, a headcase, on a team with serious financial issues (yes, all three of these categories refer to Charlie Villanueva), or a member of the Grizzlies. Brooks may have regressed this year, but he is still a serviceable player, and at 3 million a year he is an asset. Not to mention that, with restricted free agency’s future very much in doubt with the new CBA nowhere in sight, this qualifying offer might be reduced to a bureaucratic footnote in the history of NBA bookkeeping.

That said, Aaron Brooks does sound quite pleased with what is a seemingly a pretty bad situation. Phoenix is a team going absolutely nowhere, with approximately 2 and a half starting caliber NBA players (assuming Marcin Gortat’s post-trade performance wasn’t a fluke and the lockout ends before Grant Hill turns 45), one of which is the franchise player, who plays Brooks’ position. Brooks has an undersized frame and his biggest asset is his quickness. 26 year old doesn’t strike as old, but this is not the sort of player that ages well, even in today’s game and age. This is hardly the sort of pillar on which one rebuilds that which needs rebuilding, and one has to think that Brooks’ ideal team would either trot him out as part of its starting lineup or at least play for something meaningful.

Nevertheless, Brooks sounds happy. And since concerns about actual playing time are mostly contingent on actual playing, the lockout might postpone this Aaron Brooks situation far, far into the future. At that point, Phoenix will have to decide whether they want to keep a player who is too good to be a backup in a backup role, move Nash and have a player who isn’t good enough to rebuild around in a rebuild-around role, or move Brooks for the highest bidder. Until then, that special Phoenix sunshine should keep Brooks’ face at its normal level of glow.

Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, And Pandanalysis

Warning: this post is absolutely ridiculous. If we weren’t in the midst of a lockout, you would want my head on a platter for wasting your time with this. Luckily, you have way too much time that needs wasting as is.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Your eyes are not deceiving you. This is Carmelo Anthony holding a panda. In the middle of an innocent, harmless Thursday, Melo took control of our meaningless lives for one split second, enlightening us with the beauty above this paragraph, not even managing to ruin it with the ridiculously bad tweet he chose to accompany it with (I quote just for posterity’s sake – “PANDA-MONIUM!”. Ugh).

Of course, as keen (read: bored) NBA fans would recall, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a star small forward posing with a panda while touring China, the natural habitat of the magnificant bear. In fact, just one year ago, this happened.

I guess this is now a thing in the NBA: if you’re a superstar small forward who is also one of the best scorers in the world, you have to take pictures with a panda. Watch out, pandas, because Lebron James is coming, and if you don’t watch your back he will contaminate you with his evil.

Let’s get serious, though. With no actual basketball taking place, we have very little criteria to judge players upon. And judging players is what our entire existence is based upon. We have to take what we can get. So without further ado, here’s a breakdown of Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony’s basketball abilities based on the way they appear on camera next to a panda.

*Hubie Brown voice*

You have to love what you see from Kevin Durant here. Despite obviously being the bigger name than the panda, on the court, it means nothing. We see an outgoing, fun loving young man, with the emotional capabilities to allow his fellow panda to be the star of the show. Durant looms in the background, presence felt but in a secondary manner, even pointing in the panda’s direction, in case the viewer didn’t notice who’s in charge here. Durant shows no sign of protest as the panda gets all the apples (bananas? Pineapples? Passion fruit? What is that thing?), the sign of a true sportsman committed to nothing but winning. Since this is a still shot, we can’t know if Durant was handling the fruit and found a wide-open panda, or just drew away the attention of the defense, allowing the panda to get into position, leaving the work for a point guard zookeeper. But no matter what preceeded this picture, it’s very easy to see that good things happen for pandas when Kevin Durant is around.

With Melo, we see a very different picture. Melo’s game is based on swagger and confidence. While this isn’t necessarily a bad trait – Melo’s confident pose is definitely camera gold – it may not be as conducive to winning. Furthermore, we see that Melo leaves very little breathing room for his photo mate. The entire offense – and the entire panda – is completely in Melo’s grasp. Even though Melo is a talented offensive player, going one-on-one is never as effective as fully utilizing the abilities of your panda. Never.

Moving to the defensive end, it’s clear to see that Durant excels over Melo at defending the panda. The panda easily overpowers Melo in the post, establishing prime position despite being much smaller. Meanwhile, Melo seems to be making an effort of doing what every high school coach would tell you – sitting down on defense – but doesn’t seem to understand exactly what this means. This creates a situation in which Melo is forced to grab the panda in order to stop it. Odds are, Melo was called for a foul right after this picture was taken. Can’t let a panda do that to you, Melo.

Durant, in the meanwhile, does a much better job. Using his length to tower over the undersized panda, Durant uses his right arm to deny the panda of his deadly spin moves (I think we can all agree pandas have deadly spin moves), and stays away from pointless touch fouls. The panda does get the ball in decent position, here – Durant is far from perfect – but once the panda gets there, Durant a very good job using his body to frustrate it. The panda can’t get a shot off, and as a last resort, eats the ball. If you’re on defense, you take that every time.

Last but not least, we have to look at age, here. Durant took his photo in July of 2010, when he wasn’t even 22 years old yet. Melo’s picture is from today, at the prime age of 27. Now, don’t get me wrong, when you’re building your franchise around a player you’d clearly be willing to settle for a picture with a panda at the age of 27. But to arrive there before you’re even 22? The upside is enormous! Durant has so many years left ahead of him that it’s almost unthinkable what he can achieve. Pictures with kangaroos or elephants or even a platypus are all within reach.

The conclusion here is pretty clear. Kevin Durant is much better than Carmelo Anthony at posing with a panda, and therefore, the superior basketball player. All that’s left is to hope that Russell Westbrook doesn’t ruin this for us.

Stan Van Gundy Defends 3 Offense, Is Both Right And Wrong

Photo by Kyota on Flickr

Jump shooting teams don’t win basketball games.  Never mind that the Dallas Mavericks just won that exact way. Don’t confuse me with the facts, just let me stick to machismo stereotypes. Real men don’t fade away and make swish noises to score points, they fight in the paint.

It’s an adage that is almost as old as it is blind – the only way teams win basketball games is by scoring more points than the other team, because that’s how basketball is decided. It may be harder to win with jump shots than it is to win with other weapons, but saying that it’s impossible to win a certain way is almost as stupid as saying that the Miami Heat are failures because they didn’t win a championship in their first season after locking down an all-world roster for more than one season.

Since 3 point shots are jump shots (unless you’re Andre Miller), it is assumed that you can’t win a championship just by shooting 3s. I don’t know why 3 pointers are frowned upon – my guess is that it’s nostalgia-based ignorance, an irrational lust for the good old days in which basketball was a bunch of missed layups and didn’t include 3 pointers at all. Even in the NBA’s golden era, the 3 pointer wasn’t a marquee weapon - Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan never truly mastered it, and while Larry Bird was probably the best 3 point shooter of all time, he also played in an era where they were scarcely attempted.

You know who don’t scarcely attempt 3 pointers? The Orlando Magic. And Stan Van Gundy – in his very Stan Van Gundy way – wants you to know that he doesn’t care what you think about that.

“We think it helps our center and we think it helps our point guard in penetrating if we can spread the floor out,” Van Gundy said at the Coaching U Live event at UCF on Thursday. “The numbers think that’s a better shot than the mid-range. And the other reason is, that’s who we have.”

Van Gundy went on to say, in general terms, that the Magic haven’t possessed perimeter players adept at penetrating and scoring at the rim. More than 80 percent of the shots taken by Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu are classified as jump-shots.

“Especially from an offensive standpoint, this is a personnel driven league,” Van Gundy continued. “You do with what you have. We get it from our media all the time and our fans. We’ll have those nights, 2-for-23 from three. They say you gotta drive the ball more. Who? Who? That’s my question. Who? Who’s going to drive the ball? That’s not who we have. If I had a different team, there are a lot of guys in the league that I wouldn’t shoot threes with. We have who we have and we’re going to build our system around it.”

via Stan Van Gundy defends Orlando Magic’s style of play – Orlando Magic BasketBlog – Orlando Sentinel.

Criticizing Orlando for playing a perimeter heavy game is problematic on many levels.

First of all, it’s not as if the offense hasn’t been successful. Orlando has ranked as a top 10 offense for 4 straight years, peaking at 2nd in the entire league in 2009-2010. Also, lest we forget, the Dwight and 4 gunners approach carried the Magic all the way to the 2009 Finals, where despite being defeated in 5 games, Orlando held it’s own, losing two very close matches in games 2 and 4. Orlando didn’t lose the 2009 Finals because they were a jump-shooting team – they lost it because they were the second best team in the Finals that year.

The other problem with criticizing Stan’s offensive playbook is one that he mentions himself – what choice does he have? Do you want to see an offense based on Gilbert Arenas circa 2011 trying to take the ball to the rack, or Hedo Turkoglu doing anything? Look at the Orlando roster beyond Dwight Howard. Two solid power forwards with glaring weaknesses (this coming from a huge Ryan Anderson guy), a point guard who shows flashes of being elite but never quite gets it in Jameer Nelson, a nice role player in J.J. Redick, and a bunch of washed-up has-beens.

Of course, this brings me to where Van Gundy is mistaken. Pointing to your team’s inability to drive is all good, but the truth is that this is no longer an elite good shooting team anymore, either. Hedo Turkoglu had a mini-revival of sorts in Orlando, boosting his 3 point shooting up to 40.4% while remaining fairly awful all-around. Jameer Nelson crossed the 40% threshold as well. Redick and Anderson were close. Jason Richardson can still stroke it, though losing Steve Nash clearly hurt him.

But then again, the whole ordeal came crashing down in the playoffs, not in a single fluke game, but for an entire series. Atlanta’s defense – built around Jason Collins preventing Dwight from drawing double teams – played a huge part, of course, but these players just couldn’t hit anything. Richarsdon looked like a shell of his former self, Turkoglu just plain looked like himself, Gilbert was always more of a volume shooter than an accurate one. Orlando, as a team, regressed from 38.1% behind the arc in 2008-2009, to 37.5% in 2009-2010, to 36.6% in 2010-2011, to 26.2% in the 2011 playoffs.

It’s easy to blame the coach when an eccentric offense goes wrong. It’s much harder to give him credit when it goes right. In this case, I have no idea which one of the two is the right course of action. Stan Van Gundy ran this Orlando team to its absolute peak, with beautiful basketball at every turn, as the criticism just kept on coming. But finally, it may be justified. The Dwight and 4 shooters offense may not be the right thing for Orlando any more. But if this is the case, it’s because that certain brand of offense involves 4 players who aren’t Dwight. 4 players that Stan Van Gundy just doesn’t have any more.