If you’ve read my work before, you know that I can get fired up. Yeah, I write a lot of stupid stuff completely in jest, basically hoping to get other people going, but every now and then, I legitimately have to get some things off of my chest. This blog would be one of those times. I don’t know how I can get so worked up every year about the NBA screwing up the All-Star team selections, but it’s become an annual ritual, and it will continue to happen until Adam Silver finally comes to his senses and lets me fix everything about the NBA, including allowing me to pick the All Star teams each year. Continue Reading
Okay, so I just woke up from my postgame nap after getting up at 6:30 this morning to watch TJ Oshie and USA hockey vanquish the Russkies on their home ice, and I’ve decided to get back in the saddle and end my blog’s ridiculous drought of posts. I’m overflowing with patriotism and after watching the NBA’s Rising Stars challenge last night and the rest of NBA All Star Weekend looming, I’m in the perfect mood to write a blog I’ve had on my mind for about a week now.
I was watching Olympics last weekend and I noticed that Norway was stocking up on medals in nordic skiing and gaining the lead in the medal count, and I thought, it’s such bullshit that a country being the best at a stupid fringe sport like cross country skiing gets to rack up tons of medals because of the multiple events in the same sport and multiple entrants in each event for the same country. I think we can all agree that it’s silly that a team sport competition like basketball (or hockey, if we want to be topical) takes about two weeks to determine a winner, and then that gold medal counts as one medal in the count. Lame. Unfair. Team sports absolutely should be worth more, but also there should be more events for basketball, which I guess 3 on 3 is on its way, but 1 on 1 should absolutely be an event, and you could even throw in 3 point shooting and dunk contest. If they can judge triple axels they can judge 360 windmills. Now, on top of adding these extra events, why should the US be limited to one team in basketball? We’re so much better than everybody else, why should we be forced to settle for one gold when we could easily sweep the podium and shut out the Spaniards, Argentinians and Frenchies. So here is my triple Dream Team, if you will, or as I called it in the title: The 3 Headed Monster of USA Basketball.
I should mention that in choosing these teams, I tried to keep the squads young, much like actual Team USA, but I kept the vets that have been playing lately. The other big thing is I assumed everyone is healthy. Obviously Rose, Kobe, Westbrook, etc. are battling injuries right now, but the hope would be that in 2016 they would all be 100% and good to go. This is a fantasy, after all, so I can make that rule. Okay, now, here are the teams.
|Team Red||Team White||Team Blue|
|G||J. Wall||Rondo||K. Irving|
|G||B. Beal||Korver||K. Thompson|
|G/F||L. Stephenson||Iguodala||Jimmy Buckets|
|F||G. Monroe||K. Leonard||Bosh|
|F/C||A. Drummond||D. Jordan||B. Lopez|
Tell me, how is Spain beating any of those teams? I know they would stack their roster while we’re taking the risk of wearing a bit thin, but the beauty of these rosters is that they’re structured with more natural pecking orders of who’s getting the ball in late game situations and I’ve even sprinkled in some specialists. Let’s analyze these teams a bit more.
Probably the most stacked starting lineup, thus, they have a less experienced bench. Even though LeBron is obviously the centerpiece of this team, I don’t think there’s any question that Chris Paul would assume the leadership role. Funny thing about this team is that we don’t have a true power forward in the starting lineup, but both Melo and LeBron are big small forwards, and LeBron can guard all five positions so this doesn’t concern me in the least. Here are a couple lineups I foresee:
Crunch Time: Howard, LeBron, Melo, Harden, Paul (with Stephenson/Harden exchanging defense for offense in certain situations)
Small Ball Sharpshooting: Aldridge, Melo, Parsons, Beal, Paul
Lockdown D/Full Court Press: Howard, LeBron, Stephenson, Wall, Paul
Big Lineup: Howard, Aldridge, LeBron/Melo, Harden, Wall
One thing about this lineup is it is lacking in shooters maybe just a tad, but Melo tends to be very efficient in international play, and LeBron James really covers up so many of a team’s deficiencies that I tend to not worry about much with him involved in any lineup. With this starting lineup, this team probably looks like the A Team, so I’ve given Coach K the reigns after his years of service to USA Basketball, even if he is the evil face of Dook basketball.
We’re getting the old dynamic duo of Phil and Kobe back together! If they can get 5 Larry O’Brien trophies why can’t they get one gold medal, right? Here are some lineups I like:
Crunch Time: Starters. Korver for George for free throws if we’re protecting a slim lead with the ball. Rondo for Westbrook potentially if Russell is being difficult.
Small Ball/Sharpshooting: Love, Leonard, Korver, Kobe, Lillard
Lockdown D/Full Court Press: Hibbert/Jordan, Griffin, 2 of Leonard/George/Iguodala for the 2 and 3 spots, Westbrook (Jordan for pressing, Hibbert ideal for halfcourt)
I could see Kobe and Westbrook clashing a bit at times since they both need the ball so much, but that’s why we have Rondo as a trustworthy caretaker of the offense if we have to give Russell the hook. I think Phil is far more capable of handling Westbrook’s dynamic personality than Scott Brooks anyhow, so I don’t worry too much.
My dark horse squad, the blue team. Can’t go wrong with the Slim Reaper as your go-to guy with the year he’s currently having. And D Wade is coming off the bench a la his magnificent Redeem Team performance. Let’s look at some lineups.
Crunch Time: Starters, but I’d maybe go with Curry at point, and Wade at 2 if we want a little more defense in some games.
Small Ball/Sharpshooting: Bosh, Durant, Thompson, Curry, Irving (my favorite small ball lineup of all of them)
Lock Down D/Full Court Press: Chandler, Davis, Butler, Wade/Thompson, Rose
Big Lineup: Chandler/Lopez, Cousins, Durant, Thompson, Rose/Wade
I don’t see a single downside to this lineup. It’s probably the one that fits together the best with all of its pieces. Popovich is the perfect coach to tinker with those lineups, too. And much like Team Red with LeBron, any weakness you think you might see kind of fades away if you plug in Durant.
So who got snubbed? Deron Williams comes to mind. Josh Smith, maybe. Taj Gibson is a personal favorite that I left off. You can let me know in the comments.
So the final question is, who wins the gold? I think Team Red would be the odds on favorite in Vegas, but I personally would put my money on Team Blue. They’d probably be the best value bet and I just want to roll with Popovich and my guy Derrick Rose. But let me know who you think and vote!
LeBron was horrible Tuesday night. His team was too, but they’re really only as good as he plays. No one on that team picks him up when he needs it. He’s the leader. It’s like a lesson I was taught back when I was a Bible camp counselor: The enthusiasm of the group will never exceed that of the leader. Well, LeBron didn’t have the enthusiasm or his best game Tuesday night, and his team followed.
So now the media has finally all turned on him. I know he’s always had his critics, but now just about everybody jumped on the LeBron hating bandwagon. As they should have. He looked like he checked out. He didn’t care that this could be his final game in Cleveland as a Cavalier. He deserved those boos and that criticism. And it’s for that reason, I predict a Game 3 type performance from him tonight in Boston. Even if LeBron really was checking out in Game 5, I really don’t think he likes all the heat he got for that performance, and immediately he wants to turn around and prove everyone wrong. I think he’s going to have more intensity than we’ve ever seen from him. The question remains is that going to be good enough for his team to win on the road if Rondo, Allen, and Garnett all play as well as they have in this series?
I’ve always been a LeBron fan. Since he graced the cover of my Sports Illustrated when he was a high school junior, I couldn’t wait for him to enter the league, and I clung to that cover to this very day, as it clings to the wall in my bedroom. But when Cleveland added Shaq, the only two teams I disliked more in the league than the Cavs were LA (Lakers) and Boston. And too many quotes and poor body language from LeBron make me wonder if he’ll ever be a winner, and actually, I’m pretty sure he won’t be. I e-mailed Bill Simmons in hopes of getting mentioned in a mail bag, that LeBron needs to lose the head-band if we wants to be mentioned with the greats, because non of them (save a washed up Lakers version Wilt) wore headbands, and it makes him seem less serious and not as cut throat as guys like Jordan, Bird, West, Magic, and Russell. I don’t think LeBron wins more than 2 titles, save for one scenario: He loses tonight, and then signs with the Bulls to join Rose, Noah, and Taj Gibson to make a very nice core of players that would be together for the next 10 years and contend for the next 10 titles. Cleveland will not win this title, even if they come back against Boston, mark my words. And even if they did, they still have a ramshackle supporting cast put together to try to win just this year in hopes that that would keep LeBron there. I don’t think he stays either way, but I think losing hurts the cause. If LeBron goes to New York or New Jersey, the other two teams that seem like frontrunners, he’s going to teams that are built only to sign him, and he’d be in a situation kind of like Cleveland: being the guy, but having no one who could pick him up when he’s down (Although, if Jersey could land either Turner or Wall, especially Wall, in the draft and sign LeBron, they’d have a guy who could pick him up and could play with him for the next 10 years), and then he’s in the same vicious cycle of dominating the regular season and coming up short in the post season year after year. I’m a Bulls fan, so I want LeBron to come to Chicago, but it would feel weird if he just rolled over and died in this series and then came. I want him to play his heart out tonight like he did in Game 3, but have Boston just outplay the Cavs enough to win anyhow. And then LeBron could come over to Chicago with dignity, and not come off as quite the loser. The reason why this is a crossroads for the NBA, as well, is because there are all those teams out there that created cap space for LeBron to sign with them, but only one team will get him, and then after that it will be a free-agency circus. We’ll see some crazy stuff go down, and what team LeBron lands on will greatly affect the landscape of championship contenders in this league for the next decade.
So tonight, expect LeBron to be fantastic, but I’ll be rooting for Boston to win, and hopefully that means a win for the Bulls even more so.
For anyone who plays the game of basketball, you know that having a player on your team that can run an offense, bring the ball up the court, set up teammates for good looks at the basket, and be a vocal leader on the court is essential to team success. Almost always, this comes in the form of your point guard. Sometimes a player from another position will take on this role, or even just for key possessions in big games they will. Think Michael Jordan, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, or Larry Bird. None of those guys play point guard, but they acted like the point guard (or the cute little term some people like to coin “point forward”) in big spots. Anyhow, the point is (no pun intended) you need this role fulfilled to win, and when you see teams like Utah, Phoenix, and Boston advancing in the playoffs, you can’t help but notice a lot is due to great point guard play. Since Deron Williams has been one of the best at this position for the last few years, and the fact that he plays well on both ends of the court, it seems like some basketball pundits out there have kind of crowned him as the best point guard in the league almost as default. Well, I disagree. I made a cheap shot text to my buddy, Gabe (who has always been a Williams fan) after Deron missed the game winner in game 3 against the Lakers on Saturday night. He didn’t like that, and then on Monday he challenged me to make a list of my top ten point guards in the league RIGHT NOW! This isn’t based on the future, the past, or anything else. Who do you want leading your team in a big game TONIGHT, if your life depended on the outcome. Here’s the list, in reverse order.
10. Jameer Nelson
Decent facilitator, but is actually a better score-first point guard by my evaluation (only 5.4 apg this year). He has a great jump shot in the mid range and uses his quickness and his perfected spin-move to penetrate well for layups and foul shot opportunities. I haven’t seen him play enough to judge him very much defensively, but I can’t imagine he’s great due to his lack of size and he’s never really mentioned for his great defense. I don’t think Jameer clings to this top ten spot for much longer, as Brandon Jennings looks to be quite the young player on the rise, and I’m not considering Steph Curry or Tyreke Evans PGs in these rankings.
9. Tony Parker
Tony is not a great defender, is only an okay facilitator, and has never been a great jump shooter. But the guy is a gamer, and he still knows how to get his shot in the paint. He’s a great scoring point guard, and in the past, he would have been higher on this list, but for now, he’s #9.
8. Jason Kidd
Kidd is way over the hill. He’s not nearly the defensive player he once was and he doesn’t drive to the basket the way he used to. But to make up for that, he’s added a spot up 3-pointer that he never used to have, and he’s still one of the great playmakers in this league. He knows his role, and will always look to set up his teammates, which he still does quite nicely. He also is one of the best rebounding point guards of all time, and he still is putting up those numbers pretty well.
7. Chauncey Billups
The list of slightly washed up point guards continues with Chauncey Billups. He’s not quite Mr. Big Shot anymore, but he’s still the great leader that he was that took his teams to 7 straight conference finals appearances. Apparently, as we learned this year, he still needs a decent coach behind him for the his team to succeed, since Adrian Dantley was not doing a great job filling in for George Karl. Chauncey is still a good scoring point guard and knows how to be a floor general, and he’s not a defensive liability either. I’ve got him at #7.
6. Russell Westbrook
I’m a big Kevin Durant fan, but Russell Westbrook was by far the best player on the Thunder in their first round playoff loss to the Lakers. Westbrook was unguardable for most of the series, and he showed an explosiveness that is rarely seen at the position (exceeded only by my #5 point guard). He still has to learn how to set up players better, but it should be easier having Durant to pass to. I expect him to be even higher on this list the next time I make it.
5. Derrick Rose
I mentioned in one of my first blog posts that this young man is my favorite player in the league. It’s not even close. So that’s why it pains me to put him this low on the list. But don’t worry, Rose could easily become the best point guard in the league within a few years. He continues to improve his jumper, and his athleticism allows him to get his own shot whenever he wants it. He also will improve as a leader, passer, and defender, but right now, those slight deficiencies leave him at #5.
4. Rajon Rondo
I can’t stand Rondo. He’s such a little female dog. But that kid can flat out play. People are starting to realize that he’s the best current Celtic. I realized that fact last year when the Celtics beat the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. He’s the best defender at his position in the league. His long arms make up for his lack of height, and so he gets a lot of steals. He can score, but he knows he doesn’t have to, and so he’s so good at setting up teammates (only Nash, Paul, and Kidd exceed him in that ability right now). I don’t like him, but I know he’s good. (And I know Derrick Rose will surpass him shortly.)
3. Steve Nash
This guy is unbelievable. At his age, and with his back problems, you just shake your head and wonder. Last Sunday, the performance he had with one eye, shows you his heart. Nash would be #1 on this list if he wasn’t such a horrible defender. Offensively, he’s everything you want: great leader, great passer, can penetrate and get his shot despite ideal quickness, and has one of the best jump shots in the league. He absolutely spoon feeds his teammates sometimes. Unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before his body won’t allow him to be ranked this high anymore, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen any time soon.
Deron certainly knows how to win. He’s got everything you want in a point guard, and with his size, he’s more eye-appealing at his position than anyone on this list. Which is probably why he was taken one spot higher in the draft than #1 on this list. Deron does, however always seems to be in the shadow of that other player, and now all of a sudden, because his team stinks around him, and he was hurt this year, people just want to take away the title of ‘Best PG in the League’. Well…
1. Chris Paul
I haven’t forgotten you CP3. When you were a rookie, I predicted you would be the best point guard in the league by your third season. You accomplished that by year 2. You should have been MVP of the league in 2008, but Kobe won it because everyone decided he was too good to never have won the award. Next season, CP3 will be healthy again, and he’ll lead the league in assists and steals yet again. He may not have D-Will’s size, but he’s a better all-around point guard, with a worse team around him. He even has a better nickname. (Does D-Will even count? Lame.)
Tell me where I messed up. I can’t wait for John Wall to be on this list next year.
My favorite time of year is upon us! March Madness began last weekend!
First things first, I have to give some props to my squad, the Golden Gophers, for showing up for 3 straight games at the Big Ten Tournament. I’m not sure the Gophers played well in 3 conference games in a row all season. It’s a bit frustrating to know that they could have played that well all season and been in contention for a 6 seed or above, and also that they thought that the Big Ten Championship is only played for one 20 minute period rather than two, but at least they were able to go on a run when it counted and salvaged the season by earning that NCAA berth and a Big Ten Tournament 2nd Place Finish. It gives me much more hope for next season, especially since Devoe Joseph and Colton Iverson were the ones that stepped up more than anyone, and they’re only sophomores. The showing in their first round game against Xavier was disappointing as well, but as evidenced by their second round defeat of Pittsuburgh, that Xavier squad is one good team.
As for the rest of the tournament, I, like most people out there, am the owner of a bracket that is full of crossed off picks. I’m in 14th place out of 16 in my pool. And yet, I feel as though I have the pool right where I want it. I’m the only person in the entire pool who didn’t have Kansas to the Final Four, and one of only 5 people who didn’t take Kansas to win it all. Only one other person was wise enough to choose Kentucky to win it all, and since he has Kansas in the championship game, and I have Ohio State, I’ll have plenty of points to overcome his lead on me when Evan Turner leads the Buckeyes to the National Championship game. Syracuse looked really tough against Gonzaga, and the only other two people in our pool that are alive took the Orange to win it all. I think that Ohio State is too good of an outside shooting team to lose to Syracuse’s 2-3 zone, and so I like the Buckeyes, but they still have to get there, and I’m also going to be rooting for Butler, K-State, or Xavier to knock off the Orange just so the Buckeyes don’t have to face them. I wouldn’t mind, however, if Syracuse and Baylor both made it to the Final Four, because I don’t think I’ve ever had then entire Final Four correct before, and I’d like to have that accomplishment.
So, why did I take Ohio State to beat Kansas (I’m not smart or lucky enough to predict a Northern Iowa over Kansas upset) and go to the Final Four when everyone else knew that Kansas was the best team in America? For one, I just wanted my bracket to be different from everyone else’s in my pool, but also, I just don’t want to believe Evan Turner can be stopped right now. I also dream to see a Turner versus Wall national championship game, where the winner could potentially lock up the #1 draft pick status by wowing the NBA scouts that would undoubtedly be in attendance. I don’t know the Kentucky team well enough to know how the matchups would work, but I do know that John Wall is a good defender, and even though Turner is 6’7″, he’s not exactly small at 6’4″, so we could even see them guard each other as they bring the ball up the court!
Since both of these guys are up for national player of the year in college basketball, and both are possible #1 overall picks in this year’s NBA draft, I thought I’d break down both arguments for you, with my opinions, of course.
National Player of the Year: Evan Turner
This award is not meant to gauge how anyone will do at the next level, nor is it meant to honor achievements over an entire career. It’s just to honor the best college basketball player in the country for that season. Turner is that player. Let’s compare Turner and Wall’s numbers from this season:
Wall: 16.8 ppg (4th in SEC), 6.5 apg (1st in SEC), 46.5% fg%, 34% 3pfg%, 76.3% ft%, 4.2 rpg(28th in SEC), 0.5 bpg, 1.8 spg (3rd in SEC), 4.0 TOpg
Turner: 20.3 ppg (1st in Big Ten), 5.9 apg (2nd in Big Ten), 52.3% fg%, 35.3% 3pfg%, 74.6% ft%, 9.2 rpg (1st in Big Ten), 0.9 bpg, 1.8 spg (3rd in Big Ten), 4.3 TOpg
Turner is better in almost every category. Wall clearly looks like the better true point guard with his better assist and turnover numbers, but Turner is so much more than a point guard for his team. An argument for Wall is that he is the best player on a superior team, and thus, more deserving. I do think Kentucky is a better team than Ohio State, but I don’t think that the margin is that great. Also, you have to look at Ohio State’s record when Turner was out versus when he came back from a BROKEN BACK! The Buckeye’s are 19-3 since Turner has returned from injury, and whenever they’ve been in close games, Turner has been the one to bail them out. John Wall has only lost twice all season, which is very impressive and a great argument for him, but like I said earlier, the team around him is superior to that of Turner’s, and I think that is actually a strike against Wall. Demarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, and Eric Bledsoe all have made big plays this year in crunch time. Wall still leads that team in big time plays, but Turner seems like the only guy the Buckeyes would ever look to with the game on the line. Okay, so I’ve ranted with a Big Ten bias about Turner for long enough, time to change it up.
1st Overall Pick in the 2010 NBA Draft: John Wall
All of those stats I mentioned above are far from meaningless for this debate, but pure numbers aren’t going to determine who will be the better pro. Wall is 2 years younger than Turner, which is already a plus because whoever is picking 1st is building for the future, and you want a guy that will most likely play a couple more years in the league. The NBA has shown in recent years that really good point guard play can be dominant. Young point guards like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, and now Tyreke Evans (kind of a point guard) are taking the league by storm. John Wall has the Derrick Rose size and athleticism (I still can’t decide who’s more athletic) but with possibly a better outside shot, and maybe even better point guard instincts. Also, look at the last two one and done point guards to play for John Calipari: Rose and Evans, and you have to think that Wall is another can’t miss prospect. I love Turner’s versatility, and since he plays point guard in college, who knows, maybe that’s how a team would use him at the next level, but he’s not going to be able to back down 6’2″, 195 pound college sophomores for easy buckets at the next level. Teams will put bigger, quicker perimeter players on him and give him trouble, so I don’t think his future in the NBA really is point guard. The only way I see Turner going #1 is if the team picking there is dumb enough to draft for need rather than best player available, or is convinced that Wall couldn’t play in their offensive system. (Timberwolves, I’m looking at you.)
So, now that I’ve put it out there that my bracket needs this matchup to happen, and since it’s what everyone else probably wants to see since the Jayhawks got knocked out, we know it’s probably destined not to happen. (I’ve never won an NCAA pool.)
So long for now.
I’d like everyone to know that since the NBA playoffs last year, Derrick Rose has been my favorite player in “the Association”. I followed him in his one year at Memphis, and despite not picking his squad to win it all, I found myself heartbroken when they lost that game to Kansas. And if anyone says, “well, it wouldn’t have counted anyhow since Derrick cheated on his SAT” or his ACT or whatever it was, I don’t really care. College basketball exists simply because it makes money, and anyone who thinks these guys are students first are kidding themselves. I’ve been really big on another Memphis point guard since last spring as well, Tyreke Evans. And now, John Calipari has got another superstar guard in the making in his program at Kentucky in John Wall, which is very exciting as well. But, the reason why I’m blogging tonight is to let you all know about Derrick’s unreal performance tonight against Phoenix. Before the game, Derrick pledged $1000 per point he would score tonight to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Relief Fund, and the kid went off for 32 points in true philanthropic fashion. He also added 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 rebounds, and only 1 turnover while shooting 15 for 21 from the field, and leading his team to a road win over the Suns. But despite all of Mr. Rose’s great charitable giving tonight, which I find quite mature by a player his age (he’s only 21), the biggest reason why I’m writing about him is to share with you his monster dunk over Goran Dragic that caused me to wake up the neighborhood with shouts of exclamation when I witnessed it live. So here’s the link. Enjoy.