Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kobe Dangerfield?

One game for that? Wow. It happened right in front of the Spurs bench and none of them even reacted to it.

"I'm blown away by it. It makes no sense," Bryant said.

Bryant's suspension also surprised Lakers coach Phil Jackson.

"I have been a little disappointed with how Kobe has been treated as a premier player," Jackson said.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Crumbling Legacy of Vlade Divac?

Urban Dicitionary.com: Vlade Divac 1.The most profilic flopper in the history of all sports. His ability to flop is only surpassed by his inability to jump. He also has the sweatiest and hairiest armpits known to man. Shaquille Oneal's arch nemesis. To pull a "Vlade" means to intentionally fall down after even the lightest of contact. A.K.A. The King of Flop, Floppy Divac, Sir Flops Alot, The Serbian Flop Monster

ex. 'The crowd erupts after Vlade Divac drew the charge once again after being touched by Shaq's shoelace.'

Today's Bloomberg News: "National Basketball Association players who fake fouls might soon be penalized themselves, a league official said.

The NBA is studying how often feigned fouls, known as "flops," occur and whether officials can consistently tell the difference between actual fouls and embellishments, said Stu Jackson, the executive vice president for basketball operations.

"They're really difficult to determine in real time. They're meant to fool an official," Jackson told reporters today. "Are we going to be wrong more times than not? It's tough, but we're looking at it.

FIBA, the governing body for international basketball, allows referees to impose a technical foul for flopping, a penalty that Jackson said the NBA is considering. Other sports, including soccer and hockey, also allow officials to penalize players who embellish fouls.

"We have so many more plays than you do in a football or soccer game and in a more intimate environment," said Jackson, who didn't offer a timetable for a decision.

Jackson met with reporters in New York to discuss the league's officiating program."

Many, if not all of the recent NBA rule changes have been met with a deserved skepticism. The dress code, and the 'no whining rule' both appeared to have, um, 'aesthetic purposes', but this seems to be a revision in the best interest of the game. The flop has to be my biggest pet peeve in the NBA. I can look past the carrying and traveling because they aren't tallied. Players can't 'travel out' of a game.

Like most folks, my first vivid memories of the flop center around an aging Vlade Divac-who was never the spryest of cats to begin with-tumbling to the floor after contact with a quicker & stronger opponent. It was certainly an understandable tactic, Vlade was not athletic enough to deter an elite post player (i.e. Shaq.), so he realized that the most effective way to slow them down was through the refs. If the whistle blew in his favor even a couple of times per game, it enabled him to weaken opponents through doubt. Any degree of hesitancy from the opposition helps balance the scales and can even alter their game plan if enough offensive fouls are called.

(Foulshots.com: Vlade himself admits to the flopping: "I probably do it once every six games. It's just timing, like any other move you have to work on. A lot of times it comes when the official has been missing calls, and you know that they know they're wrong [and they owe you one].")

What Vlade may not have realized was that he had propped open the door for a faithful legion of floppers to masquerade as good defenders. I respect the awareness and determination needed to continually sacrifice yourself. Charges aren't for pussies. But in essence, it's still a crutch. It is almost unilaterally used by the disadvantaged player, the smaller, the slower, the weaker, the player who is getting beaten to the basket. Who leads the league in charges taken? Steve Nash. Whoever your favorite player is, he has probably benefitted from-and also been fucked by, the charge call. There was a period in my lifetime in which this call went largely ignored and bodies were strewn about the paint as play continued, but now it's as common as, well, traveling. For this I cannot hate the player, but the game. Why such a commonly subjective rule was allowed to be exploited for this long is beyond my understanding, especially since it blew up during a period where rule changes were made to increase scoring. But I'm not worried, Stu Jackson is on the case and Lord knows he can't screw this up. Right? Farewell Vlade Divac, unwitting pioneer. I bedgrudingly salute you...

P.S. Just a thought, are the "Stop Bitchin'" & "Stop Floppin'" campaigns the NBA's way of acknowledging that last year Finals were fucked?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Steering Wheel of a Maybach....

I already touched on this in my top ten list, but the sound of Nash slurping these days is deafening, so allow me to expand on my distaste for Canada's greatest export. In the summer of '03 practically every basketball pundit was dumbfounded as to why the Suns would offer Steve Nash a max contract. Four years later he's working on his third straight MVP? Ridiculous.

The historical significance of the award is being tainted by naive and biased voters. Of course there are those who will claim that the MVP is decided upon on a year by year basis and that historical context should not be a deciding factor. The previous winners obviously don't reflect that rationale, but I digress. By either definition-best overall player or most irreplacable player-Nash is not MVP. He's clearly not the best player in the league, unless the court is shortened to 45 feet and defense and rebounding are outlawed. More importantly, Nash is receiving a lion's share of the credit that sould be spread evenly amongst his teammates, coaching staff and front office. Colangelo put all the pieces in place, and D'Antoni implemented the perfect system for a roster with two other uniquely talented All-Stars. How many other players in the league can finish off a fast break, rebound & defend like Matrix? Is there a more ideal partner for the pick & roll than STAT?

Why isn't anyone acknowledging that Dallas got better after Nash left? That Dallas is better because of their improved defense? Can we agree that Dallas is better than Phoenix? That it's because of defense? So, can we also agree that Nash is playing in a run n' gun system that inflates his offensive statistics while masking his defensive deficiencies? What makes this completely laughable is the fact that Stephon Marbury-everyone's least favorite point guard-took almost the exact same Suns roster to the playoffs. Granted it was an 8 seed, but they still almost upset the top seeded Spurs. Nash comes in a couple of years later-doesn't win anything either-and is en route to receive the stamp of dominanace that even Jordan was denied? Bottom line is that players don't get that much better at 31 years old. Something around them changes.

Friday, January 5, 2007

A Tree Falling In the Forest.

Intros are always difficult since they require a naive confidence to believe that anyone is actually reading. Nevertheless, I continue. If you have no interest in the NBA, you shouldn't. Continue, that is. I love the game in it's current state, and all previous incarnations. While it would be an exaggeration to proclaim this a new golden age, the league is certainly in good hands.

Good time for a top ten list. Best player?

10. Allen Iverson- He's stubborn and unpredictable. But that's half of what's made him the best player, six feet or under, in NBA history. Playing in a weak ass Eastern Conference for almost a decade is the other. I heard something about him being 'indestructible', or 'moving at the speed of thought' too. Something like that. Although it might have been "quick little monkey". Yeah, that was it. Such eloquence.

9. Jason Kidd- He'll turn 34 in March and currently leads his team in rebounds. If it weren't for his suspect shooting, he'd be a top 5 player. If I thought about it long enough, I'd move him up two spots for his wife alone.

8. Yao Ming- He can shoot from outside and from the line. He's an excellent passer and a naturally intelligent player. No, that is not an Chinese stereotype, saying he can quickly calculate statistics or that he knows karate would be an Chinese stereotype. Plus he's massive. If he would assert himself more on the block, no one could move him off his spot on either end of the floor. 25, 15 & 5 are within his reach. Time will tell. (This song is spectacularly awful. John Tesh is somewhere writhing on the floor with something sharp sticking out of his ear...)

7. Kevin Garnett- Sally Struthers should give up on feeding third world orphans, they're so trendy these days. Hook up with Stern and build a "Feed the Children" type campaign to get KG out of Minnesota. Put together commercials of Laettner, Sczerbiak, JR Rider, Olowokandi, Trenton Hassell, Marko Jaric, and Mark Madsen-take a deep breath-and realize that outside of three people (Steph, Spree & Cassell) those are the best teammates this man has had in his entire career. That should break anyone. Oh, and scroll McHale's phone number at the bottom of the screen. So no, he's never won anything. Only came close once. But a guaranteed 20, 10 & 5 along with his quickness, ballhandling skills, outside shot and defensive presence? Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeet......

6. Tim Duncan- If David Robinson hadn't been injured when he was, Tim Duncan would have been a Celtic and all of this would be moot. If the voters weren't sheep and Kenyon Martin could shoot, Jason Kidd would have one more MVP and Championship and TD would have one less. If Rasheed Wallace had rotated properly, we would still be talking about TD's massive choke job during the Finals instead of a Spurs title. If KG had TD's teammates, coaching staff and front office, he'd have been just as productive-if not more. All that being said, Tim Duncan is still a fucking beast. His footwork and decision making are impeccable, his defense and competitiveness are underrated and he's still got five good years left in him.

5. Steve Nash-Putting him any lower is disrespectful, but any higher would be naive. He's among the league's most accurate shooters and only Jenna Jameson is a better ballhandler. For 47 feet, he's one of the top 5 point guards of all time. But on the other end of the court he's a goddamn sieve and a liability. I honestly don't understand how a man could be in the midst of a campaign for his third straight MVP and his team still isn't the favorite in his own conference. He's like the bizarro KG, he's put in a situation where he can't help but succeed and when he does he receives more credit that he deserves. He's a humble and interesting guy who's fun to watch, but John Stockton did the same things offensively AND was one of the best defenders to ever play his position. He didn't win one MVP. Tell me the difference.

4. Dirk Nowitzki- Anyone still talking that "Dirk isn't a crunchtime player" mess is an idiot. Yes, he missed a big free throw in Game 3, but he also nailed two big fadeaways over Shaq & Alonzo during the final minutes of Game 5. He's as effective outside as Duncan is on the block. He's just as good a ballhandler as KG, and a better shooter. His defense and rebounding are steadily improving. In three years, anyone still talking that "Larry Bird" mess just might be right.

3. Dwayne Wade - Simply put, I don't respect that championship. Big fucking asterisk. Chris Wallace B.I.G. 97 free throws in six games is just ridiculous. Even Michael Jordan was somewhere laughing at that one. He travels all the time on that spin move. He carries the ball more than anyone too. He's turned flopping into an ad campaign. His perimeter game doesn't exist outside of 18 feet. International play exposed all of this. Twice. And I still can't put him any lower than this. He's as quick as they come, makes great decisions in traffic and the open court and could be All Defense First Team if he were more consistent. Cemented among league leaders in scoring, assists and steals. No one can guard him one on one. He still hasn't won a title though.

(The secret to Flash's superpowers?...)

2. LeBron James- If you put Magic Johnson and Charles Barkley in a blender you'd get LBJ. But a few ingredients are still missing. He's like a flying rhino going to the basket, but he can't make his free throws. He can get his shot off over anyone, but he's a streaky shooter. His court vision is amazing, but he lacks a killer instinct. If the refs called travelling, Brendan Haywood could effectively use a baseline defensively and Agent Zero could make his free throws, Bron may have gone home in the first round. Regardless, he's still figuring things out, and we all trust his judgment. But he's just not there yet. *I'm not lying when I tell you that this is one of the ten best highlight videos you will EVER see on YouTube. Watch it.

1. Kobe Bryant- There have been alot of "if's", "buts", "couldas", "shouldas" & "wouldas" on this list, but that's a big part of critiquing a player. Pulling at strings and seeing what holds together.
In fact, every player on this list has been one bounce of the lottery ball, one bad call, or asshole General Manager away from a completely different legacy. They are all either the beneficiaries or victims of circumstance, and this is more true for Kobe than anyone. "If he didn't have Shaq." "If he didn't snitch on Shaq. " Well he did. And he did. Kobe is still as good an overall post & perimeter player on both sides of floor as there has ever been between two shoes. His imagination and pure will on the court know no boundaries.

Now stop, take a deep breath, and acknowledge that he's probably going to get better.