Friday, September 01, 2006

World, Peace!

Well, so much for that.

In a game that no one on the East Coast had much of a chance to watch (3:30 a.m., ESPN2), the latest incarnation of Team USA lost to Greece, 101-95, ensuring the bronze to be the best-case scenario (and beating Argentina certainly isn't a given). Here endeth the World Championships. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Not only did no one watch on TV, but there were hardly any American journalists on site in Japan to report the latest failure (Chris Sheridan of being the highest-profile attendee—probably due to ESPN's airing the games). Rather than being a sign of overconfidence, I took this to be more of a sign of apathy. Who really cared? If we won, great. If we didn't—who wanted to be there to see it?

And by now, anyone with a pulse should realize that the world has caught up, at least when it comes to international basketball. No one expects the NBA to be suddenly overrun by Greeks and Lithuanians, putting Americans out of work. But in FIBA-sanctioned games, the USA is just another competitor (ask Tim Duncan). It's no longer a case of winning by just showing up.

Still, this year was supposed to be different. After the Larry Brown Error, Mike Krzyzewski was supposed to usher in a new era, utilizing the LeBron/Wade/Melo-led roster to its fullest potential. The addition of Shane Battier was supposed to show a new emphasis on defense, correcting one of the major problems of '04.

But no one should have looked at this as a lock. After all, most international teams play together WAY more than any US teams do, developing chemistry that never clicks here. Individual talent may not measure up overseas, but their team play makes up for many deficiencies. It also appeared that the US didn't take seriously the biggest needs exposed in the Athens Olympics—the needs for more defense and three-point shooting. One player who could have added both, Spurs veteran Bruce Bowen, was the last cut before the World Championships began.

Instead, the USA selection commitee, headed by Jerry Colangelo, seemed to focus on the usual mix of superstars. No veteran playmakers, no three-point specialists. Should anyone be surprised that we experienced the usual result?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Change Of Address

You may notice in the near future that I won't be posting as much on here. (Some of you may wonder if that's even possible, to which I say ha ha.) Thanks to Lang Whitaker and Sam Rubenstein at SLAMonline, my entire blog will be moving onto their server. The best part about that, besides the prestige of the SLAM name, is that you (yes, you) will be able to leave comments without registering. And I guarantee that I will respond to said comments, and so on, and so on. I'm not sure whether the archive here will go to SLAM, but I WILL guarantee that I'll be writing more often.

What may end up happening in the future is this: Basketball-related posts will go up on SLAM, and this site will be a repository for my more esoteric musings. Um, not that I've actually posted any of those yet. But this could be the place for me to write about, say, the new Outkast record (which I still haven't bought), or the lousy weather we've been having lately. We'll see.

Stick around.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I have nothing against Jared Jeffries. Having never really spoken to the man, I have no feelings either way on him as a person. As an NBA player, he seems to be a more-than competent defender who can play pretty much anywhere on the floor (although, while he played five positions with the Wizards last year, he seems to be more of a 3-4-5). He's young, he's athletic, and while he hasn't been much of a scorer in his short NBA career, that doesn't mean he CAN'T score. His career average is a single-single—he's something of a poor man's Tyson Chandler, only shorter.

So of course the Knicks gave him their full mid-level exception. (How do they even have a mid-level to give? Didn't they give Jerome James a full mid-level contract last year? And aren't they already at roughly double the alleged salary cap? Shouldn't that matter? Especially when they're able to take a valuable player from a conference rival?) Now they can start a frontcourt of Jeffries, Channing Frye and Eddy Curry, who—if you believe Isiah Thomas, haha—should all be All-Stars before you know it. This moves Jalen Rose to the world's most expensive bench, alongside James, Jamal Crawford, Malik Rose, Maurice Taylor, Quentin Richardson and the ghost of Penny Hardaway. One must presume that the starting backcourt will be Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury, an arrangement that should work great for roughly a week.

Here's the thing that bothers me most about the Jeffries signing. (OK, the most for this instant, and besides the whole mangling of the salary cap and abuse of financial power.) Why sign him and let Jackie Butler go when Butler could have been had for a substantially lower price? At times Butler was the best center on the team last year, and with Curry and James both displaying a decided lack of interest in fitness, it's likely that both of them will be spending at least some time in ugly suits this season. Who's going to man the middle then? Jeffries? Frye? Both of them glued together?

Or maybe this bothers me the most. Who does Jeffries take the most minutes from? Most likely it's David Lee, who's a ridiculous athlete and energy guy. He's also probably the best locker room storyteller/conversationalist on the Knicks, along with Malik Rose, Frye and Jamal. And it's hard to imagine he'll still be a Knick once he gets the chance to go somewhere else. Especially if he finds himself behind Jeffries and Renaldo Balkman on the depth chart. Figure Jalen and Maurice Taylor get traded at the deadline for more veterans with absurd contracts. Maybe someone like Kenyon Martin, who should already be figuring out what number to wear in New York. Or perhaps Seattle's new ownership will decide to cut payroll and make Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis available.

It's pretty obvious that the Knicks don't think twice about adding salary—the last New Yorker to abuse a cap this badly was John Wetteland (and at least he won a World Series, and the MVP to boot). What with the 100 percent tax, Jeffries's deal is actually going to cost the Knicks $60 million over five years, which ain't bad for a guy who averaged 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds last year. And he's been a starter for all but six games over the past two seasons—for a aplayoff team, no less—so it's hard to imagine him accepting any less than starter's minutes in New York. Sorry, David. And Malik. And Jalen. And Q.

Ironically, JJ seems like he would have been a good Larry Brown guy. Too late.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Watched the latest incarnation of Team USA beat the living crap out of Puerto Rico last night. With the exception of the first quarter, which was actually close, it wasn't much of a game. Just a long highlight montage of steals, dunks, threes and salutes (the latest celebration technique). Even without Kobe Bryant (knee) and Amare Stoudemire (knees) this wasn't any kind of contest.

PR opened strong enough, behind point guard Carlos Arroyo. They stayed even with the the American starters (LeBron, Carmelo, Wade, Bosh and Chris Paul) for the first quarter, pulling ahead by four early in the second. Then came the inevitable run. A 31-2 run, no less, fueled by the guys off the bench—Brad Miller, Kirk Hinrich, Joe Johnson, Dwight Howard. By the time the run was over, so was the game.

The biggest danger for Team USA now seems to be overconfidence. It's hard to stay focused while on either end of a blowout, but it's important that they keep playing the way they should instead of transforming into a swaggering, obnoxious bunch like the World Championship team of '94. Given the roster—and the presence of Coach K—it's unlikely that would happen, but you never know. Then again, if that's the only concern, things are looking pretty good.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Didn't See That One Coming.

Shawn Kemp busted for marijuana possession? Because he was driving around with a little bit burning in a car with no license plates? That doesn't sound like the Shawn Kemp I know.

So much for the comeback. Then again, forget basketball. Let's find a way to get him in next year's Nathan's hot dog eating contest. He'll break Kobayashi's record, then eat Kobayashi.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sonic Doom

So let me see if I have this right: The Seattle Supersonics, holders of (according to none other than Commissioner David Stern) the worst arena lease agreement in the League, were recently sold to a group led by an Oklahoma City businessman. The Sonics's previous owner, Howard Schultz—who turned a little coffee shop named Starbucks into a multi-zillion dollar worldwide juggernaut—was having trouble making things work in Seattle. And Oklahoma City showed their NBA readiness by welcoming the hurricane-displaced Hornets with open arms and wallets. About the only thing that seems certain now is that Oklahoma City will be getting an NBA franchise in the near future.

The question now, of course, is which one?

The Hornets would seem to have the edge. After all, they've already settled into the area (Chris Paul surely considers Oklahoma City home, not New Orleans), and the most logical thing to do would be to simply let them stay. New Orleans is still a disaster area, and expecting that fragile economy (and landscape) to support something as expensive—and frivolous—as an NBA team seems silly.

Then again, abandoning New Orleans wouldn't do any wonders for the NBA's reputation. Players should never lose their starting jobs to injury, and cities shouldn't lose their franchises due to natural disasters. The proper thing to do would be to allow the Hornets to play in OKC again next season, with the expectation of their returning to New Orleans full-time for the '07-08 season. If that appears to be unworkable, then other plans could be made.

But will the Sonics slip into OKC instead? That is, to paraphrase Biggie, what has Sonics fans's hearts pounding like Sasquatch feet. (I'm sure they'll miss the Storm too, but—well, no, they probably won't.) If that lease agreement doesn't get settled soon, you can count on the Sonics leaving the Pacific Northwest no matter what. If not OKC, maybe Nashville or hey, why not New Jersey when the Nets move to Brooklyn?

Of course, I have a better idea—a King Solomon sort of solution. Let the Hornets and Sonics BOTH move to Oklahoma City. Not as separate teams, because that would be ridiculous. But merge them (and compensate the owners for half each, or buy one out). Neither team made the playoffs last year, but maybe the Oklahoma City SuperHornets could. Chris Paul at the point, Ray Allen at the two, David West at the three, Rashard Lewis at the four and Tyson Chandler at the five? Kick all those young Sonics centers to the D-league for seasoning, send the Hornets's Euros back to Europe, and let the coaching staffs duke it out for superiority. And to make the East and West even, just fold the Raptors, or sell them as an entity to FIBA. Later on you could always expand back to Seattle and New Orleans if it's feasible (and return New Orleans to the East where they should be anyway).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Big Ben and the Bulls reloaded.

Funny I didn't think of this when I made the initial post. I was trying to think of the last time a mainstay player from a championship team signed with a division rival, and nothing was coming to mind. After all, it doesn't happen very often—imagine if Kevin McHale had signed with the Sixers, or if Kobe Bryant signed with the Clippers (which almost happened, but that's besides the point).

Then it hit me, the most obvious comparison of all: Dennis Rodman, who I even mentioned. Lockdown defender and voracious rebounder on Pistons championship teams, he (eventually) signs with the Bulls and accumulates a few more rings. It obviously would have been a lot more similar had he gone to the Bulls in '91, when the wounds were still fresh (and he was less crazy), but I couldn't come up with anything closer. Anyone?


Not really. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Yes, you.

I actually wonder which team would refuse that trade? (Assuming that the salaries would work—and I'm sure they could be made to with some throw-ins either way.) In Iverson, the Knicks would be getting yet another undersized two who'd expect to start (obviously either Francis or Marbury would have to go next, preferably for a big like Jamal Magloire). But he's exactly the kind of player that New York fans are starving for, and his jersey would sell in RIDICULOUS numbers.

In Crawford, the Sixers would get a talented, young replacement for AI (at a reduced price) who showed flashes of brilliance last year. Unlike some of his teammates, Crawford accepted Larry Brown's criticisms, and became a better player for it. And Curry, while still questionable in conditioning and desire, is one of the few young bigs who can score productively in the post. He might never learn to rebound or defend, but he's still somewhat of a rare commodity in today's NBA.

Not that it's going to happen—or even be discussed.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Big Ben and the Bulls.

So big, bad Ben Wallace is a Bull. And I'm torn.

Good: Ben Wallace is a championship-tested veteran who can lead.

Bad: Ben Wallace makes Shaquille O'Neal look like Rick Barry from the line.

Good: Ben Wallace is a defensive and rebounding machine who fits perfectly into Scott Skiles's system.

Bad: Ben Wallace is a one-way player who couldn't score in a roomful of drunken hookers on X.

Good: Ben Wallace is a premier free agent—the first to sign with the Bulls since, well, I don't even remember who.

Bad: Ben Wallace is a 32-year-old who will make $60 million over the next four seasons.

So yeah, I don't know. I like Big Ben, fear the 'fro as much as anyone. But don't the Bulls need scoring? And don't you reserve that sort of money for people who can play at both ends of the floor? Also, it's not going to be much fun if the Bulls win 55 games next season while averaging 75 points a game.

Still, I'll take it. It's not like they were going to land Allen Iverson or Kevin Garnett, and Tyrus Thomas probably won't be ready right away. Factor in the double whammy of taking the defensive linchpin (and symbolic hairstyle) from the best team in their own division, and it seems like a win-win.

Yes, there's the money. Four years, $60 million. A lot to pay for a slightly more sane version of Dennis Rodman (watch the tape of the Artest melee again and remember how much of a role Big Ben played), someone who can't shoot his way out of a wet paper bag. Then again, with Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler gone, the cash is there. May as well use it. I'd rather see the cash go to a proven commodity—and as much as I like Al Harrington, Wallace was the best choice. His championship pedigree being the deciding factor.

It would be nice if J.R. Smith works out too—but if he doesn't, at least he comes off the books. It's hard to believe that Tyson Chandler is going to develop into much more than he is now, and if he doesn't, the Hornets will be looking to unload his contract soon enough. Peja Stojakovic's too, most likely.

Other things from this summer:

• It's nice that the Knicks are all happy and lovey-dovey with Coach Isiah, but let's see what's happening around New Year's.

• J.R. Rider arrested for felony cocaine possession? Never woulda guessed.

• Kirk Hinrich in, J.J. Redick out. Team USA just got a lot more likeable. And, well, better.

• A lot of people saw the T.J. Ford for Charlie Villanueva deal as a decided win for the Bucks. I'm not so sure.

• Kevin Garnett isn't going anywhere—unless the Wolves are out of it around the trade deadline, in which case he's gone for sure.

• I still have trouble believing that Allen Iverson will get traded to the Celtics. The CELTICS? Who were the Sixers archrival for decades, who play in their own DIVISION? Besides the fact that he'd drop 50-plus on his old squad four times a year, I don't think they want to see him in the playoffs. Um, assuming either team gets back there anytime soon.

Denver makes a lot more sense—as does any other Western team—but does Philly really have interest in Marcus Camby or Kenyon Martin? Put one of those guys alongside Chris Webber and you've got an orthopedist's dream come true. And one hell of an expensive frontcourt.

• If Amare Stoudemire is 100 percent next year (or even 85 percent), the Suns are my pick to win it all.

• I can't take credit for this one (thanks, Jeff Pearlman), but if you're the Nets, wouldn't you make an offer to Keith Van Horn? Frontcourt scoring, three-point range, and he'd probably take a hell of a pay cut to play with Jason Kidd.

• WNBA All-Star game tonight! Uh, yeah.

Friday, June 30, 2006

You Tube

You probably saw that Bill Simmons AKA The Sports Guy posted his favorite 33 YouTube links on I'm gonna give you one right here that I think is better than any of his.

Latrell Sprewell, The American Dream.

2006 Draft

Yes, I went. I posted my notes on it from the Garden on I'm sure you can find them.

Monday, June 26, 2006


It's the week of the '06 NBA Draft, and mock drafts are everywhere. I'd be remiss if I didn't join in, despite the fact that I have no idea what the hell is going to happen. Basically I don't know anything about the European players, none of the college guys seem like sure things, and with high-school players as ineligible as I am, it just doesn't promise to be all that interesting anyway (except, of course, for the anti-Dolan forces that are coalescing in New York at this very moment). Honestly, with the World Cup going on, I care about the NBA Draft less than I ever have before (and this with my Bulls having the second overall pick). But what the hell.


NEEDS: Well, if you have the No. 1 pick, and it wasn't given to you as an early Christmas present by Isiah Thomas, you probably need everything. This is pretty much true, as the only place the Raprots are set is at power forward, with Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva. What the Raptors really need is a star to help at the gate, which they won't be finding in the Draft. (And, as Bosh gets closer to becoming that star, he's probably busy planning his exit strategy.) If the owners were smart, they wouldn't worry about attracting fans. That way the Raptors will become the Oklahoma City Drillers in no time.


THE REASON: The alleged best players in this draft are power forwards, but none of them are proven. And the Raptors have a scout named Larry Siegfried, so Roy seems like the right choice.


NEEDS: What the Bulls don't need is more youth, but when Isiah Thomas offers you a first-round pick, you take it. What they really need is solid frontcourt scoring (since Tyson Chandler is never gonna do it) and a star-quality veteran with playoff experience. What they should do is undo the Chandler deal and offer the No. 2 back to the Clippers and get back Elton Brand. Although even Donald Sterling isn't THAT dumb. Still, trading the pick would be wise if (as part of a package, obviously) it could bring in someone like Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal or even Vince Carter. That would get them further along in the playoffs—and they still have another potential lottery pick next year regardless. Thanks, Isiah!


THE REASON: Everybody loves Tyrus, so if the Bulls decide not to keep him, they'll be plenty of takers. And if they keep him, he anc Chandler should prevent EVERYONE from scoring inside. Now, if they could only find a way to score themselves.


NEEDS: In just their third year, the Bobcats have roughly three locks: Raymond Felton, Sean May, and Emeka Okafor. Given their short draft history, they probably would have taken Joakim Noah if he came out, but he didn't, and there really aren't any Gators available worth considering this high. So they'll have to do without a college champion this year. What they should do is see who new employee Michael Jordan likes, then take virtually anyone else.


THE REASON: Bernie Bickerstaff may not be able to get a champ, but he can go with a proven player from a proven program. Also, apparently Jordan wasn't impressed by his workout. Unlike, uh, Kwame Brown's.


NEEDS: Someone without a police record. And who isn't a point guard.


THE REASON: With Roy gone, take the next available somewhat local hero. Besides, the wispy mustache and long hair should evoke memories of the glory days of '78.


NEEDS: Another 6-8 athlete for Billy Knight's ongoing experiment.


THE REASON: At 6-10, Aldridge doesn't fit the height requirement, but even Billy Knight wouldn't pass on him here.


NEEDS: Latrell Sprewell's head on a stick.


THE REASON: ESPN's Chad Ford has him going first overall, but then again he liked Darko Milicic. Provided Bargnani isn't the next Nikoloz Tskitishvili, he can help make up for the absence of Kevin Garnett, either due to trade or homicidal rage.


NEEDS: To figure out how to win before Paul Pierce is old and grey and not walking through that door. (Do you think Antoine Walker waited a day to call him and gloat, or did he ring him directly from the locker room?)


THE REASON: A semi-local based point guard who knows how to win? Makes sense to me.


NEEDS: A trip to Oz to get Yao a heart (all kidding aside, he's getting there) and T-Mac a back (can the Wizard do that for a brotha?). jeff Van Gundy could use some better hairplugs, too, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

THE PICK: MOSES MALONE, Petersburg High School

THE REASON: Because I've stopped caring about this draft and there's still half of the lottery to go. Terrific.

I might get back to this later, but I doubt it.


A short congratulations to the Miami Heat—the first team of absolute mercenaries to win the NBA Championship. I know, all NBA teams add players to help them towards titles. But the Heat are the first I can recall who added SO many ready-made pieces the same year they won it all. Jason Williams, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, James Posey. Even coach Pat Riley, who as team president replaced previous coach Stan Van Gundy...with himself.

It's funny. Mark Cuban gets a lot of press as a billionaire and free-spender, but as NBA owners go, he's not even all that rich. Heat owner and cruise ship magnate Mickey Arison is worth roughly $6 billion—three times more than Cuban. He's the kind of guy who can afford to have Shaquille O'Neal as a second option. Of course he's also the kind of guy that no one had really laid eyes on until he was accepting the trophy at center court. Cubes, not so shy.

Of course, Cuban makes up for his relative financial shortfalls by placing the team first—spending untold amounts on keeping the players happy, and hanging around the bench like a 12-year-old kid at his first game. He's genuinely taken in by the spectacle of pro sports, and it's safe to assume that he'll do his best to have the Mavericks right back in the Finals next year. That's not to say the Mavs will definitely be able to handle the Spurs and Suns again, but you can bet Cuban will give them all they need.

Will the Heat be as hungry next year? Dwyane Wade will be, but everyone else? Shaq, sure. As befitting someone who wants to be known as the greatest of all-time, he would love to add more rings to his collection (and separate himself further from Kobe Bryant in the process). But what of this year's additions? Payton, Williams, Walker, Posey. Do they want more? Or is the one year of work/reward enough? Will they be willing to do what it takes to stay ahead of the pack, to once again handle Detroit (and maybe a VERY hungry LeBron James?). I don't see it. In fact, the Heat seem to me to be the first championship team in recent memory who won't be the favorites going into next season. Who, in fact, were probably being written off for '07 before they even started celebrating '06.

Unless, that is, they get the same refs.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Even-up out West

Well, despite the Suns's blowout win over the Mavs tonight (Raja Bell for MVP!), I still think the Mavs take the series. After two previous seven-game series for the Suns, I think the third time's the un-charm. Assuming Dallas takes the next game at home and holds court, the Suns will need to go seven again to make it to the next and final round, and I just don't think they have it in them. Of course, I could be wrong. Steve Nash seems to be making a habit of making liars out of people. And, um, we are all witnesses.

Meanwhile, out East, we are perhaps witnessing the death of an almost-dynasty. If the Pistons do lose, is it vindication for Larry Brown? Or would this have happened even if he had stayed, and he just knew when to bounce? (Then again, he went from the frying pan into the toilet, so maybe I'm giving him too much credit.)

I like to think that the Pistons just ran into the wrong team at the wrong time. Since last year at this time, when Dwyane Wade went down and the Heat fell to these same Pistons, everything has been building to this series. The re-match for the ages. Is it any wonder that Wade is shooting 60 percent from the floor, that Shaquille O'Neal is prancing like a brash rookie? Once again a legendary coach will reach the Finals from the East, only this time it will be Pat Riley instead of Larry Brown.

Assuming the Heat and the Mavericks make the Finals (which would be an entertaining matchup, to be sure), either one would make an intriguing NBA champion. If it's the Heat, Riles finally gets one for the thumb, Shaq goes one-up on Kobe (and leads a third team to the Finals), and GP gets his belated Diesel-powered ring (and I suppose Zo justifies, at least to himself, his escape from New Jersey). If it's the Mavs, it's all about Mark Cuban, NBA champion. Will he finally leave the officials alone? Will his blog take over the entire internet? Will he offer to trade franchises with James Dolan in order to take on a bigger challenge? (Dream, Knick fans, dream.) Will David Stern just toss him his ring from across the court? The thought of Keith Van Horn with a ring isn't exactly comforting—and the reality of it would probably give guys like Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley nightmares for decades. Could be worse, though. Could be Tim Thomas.

"I want to die a Knick."

We hear you, Steph. Better hope that Dolan and Co. don't take it as a suggestion, though.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Game 2, Western Conference Finals

It's round about 10 of 9, Eastern time, and TNT was just playing Fugazi's "Waiting Room" on the lead-in to Mavs/Suns. FUGAZI! Hard to believe. I wonder if Ian Mackaye is watching?

Joey Crawford is part of the officiating crew, and as much as he overreacts sometimes, I like the guy.

Keith Van Horn and Tim Thomas are both starters. Awesome. Not entirely sure about what kind of message that sends the kids, but hey, after being traded for each other twice they may as well have something else in common.

Somehow it seems doubtful there will be too many 24-second violations in this one.

It's highly unlikely that either Leandrinho or Devin Harris are on steroids, but has anyone tested either of them for nitrous?

Van Horn is the Mavs starting CENTER tonight, which is funny because he probably wouldn't get called for a three-second violation if they were cumulative.

Interesting that none of the playoff beard teams made the Final Four. Has ANY NBA team that's adopted a hair-related postseason unification theory EVER won a championship? John Hollinger should do the research.

If anyone offers Tim Thomas more than three years at the mid-level exception, they're insane. I don't care if he winds up the Finals MVP. In fact, he should probably offer to play his next three years for free for one of the teams he mailed it in for.

Doug Collins has gotten seriously creepy over the years.

If Phoenix can go home up 2-0...yikes.

Yes, I'd rather wear Cheryl Miller's clothes than Craig Sager's. And TNT is OK with this? Charles Barkley should go on wearing a half-shirt and a Speedo.

With every game, I'm becoming more and more convinced that Steve Nash is all good as MVP.

And doesn't the success of the Mavs and Suns cement the genius of Don Nelson? Enjoy retirement, Nellie, you earned it.

God, I hate David Hasselhof.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Lucky Sevens

Not for LeBron, I guess. He could have used some help from his teammates (Larry Hughes gave a decent effort, all things considered) and maybe in-their-prime versions of Mark Price. Brad Daugherty and Craig Ehlo. Well, maybe not Craig Ehlo.

But it's not like anyone thought the Cavs would beat the Pistons, let alone take them seven. It would have been almost disappointing had the Cavs won, like things were progressing too fast. It's bad enough that LeBron already looks 28, already has an alarmingly well-rounded game, let's take the time to savor his early struggles before he starts accumulating the big prizes, like rings and Finals MVPs. Before they have to amend the saying on that statue in Chicago.

I still think the Pistons are going to win the whole mess, by the way. Despite going seven with the Cavs, I don't think they're terribly tired. Rip Hamilton could probably play a 70-game series of triple-overtime games and be less tired than I am after updating this blog. Ditto for the darn near ethereal Tayshaun Prince, the Schwarzeneggerish Ben Wallace, and the utterly insane Rasheed Wallace (I love how he talks to the refs with an exasperated look on his face even when the calls are going his way). Chauncey Billups has been terrific as well—I just hope that Rick Pitino's been watching.

And their slow-down, defense-first style helps keep them fresh. They can score 75 points and still win by double-digits, while teams like Phoenix and Dallas score 130 in nailbiters. It's not that the Pistons exert much less effort, it's that less of it is spent running up and down the court like lunatics.

Which is exactly what I'll be looking for in the Western finals following tonight's pair of Sevens. San Antonio may still hold serve at home (they're clawing their way back as I type), but I think everybody would love to see a Phoenix/Dallas series. Nothing against the Clippers, whose presence this deep in the playoffs almost qualifies as a sign of the apocalypse (I believe Chris Kaman is either Pestilence or Death), but the idea of Nash running against his former mates is just too good.

I'm thinking it's Detroit vs. Dallas in the finals, with defense leading Detroit to another address change (FOUR Championship Way, or whatever). There's a chance that another D, Dirk, could decide things, but I'm thinking the Commish would let Ruth Riley, Bill Laimbeer and Joe Dumars ref a deciding game rather than deal with Mark Cuban, NBA Champion. Although the thought of Keith Van Horn with a ring does bring a tear to my eye (by the way, Keith, your playoff beard would be more intimidating if you stopped getting that grade-school haircut).

More later—seriously. I want to talk a little about L'Affaire Larry, which is all anyone could have wished for following the Knicks season of horrors.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Some random playoff thoughts...

....before everyone forgets about me.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas's beard is epic. He's like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with a low-post game. And damn, that thing grew faster than LeBron James.

Speaking of beards, it's a damn shame we only got to see Pau Gasol's for four games when he took the trouble to grow it all year. Guy Ritchie needs to put them both in his next movie—and I will NOT be satisfied until Z gets cast as a Bond villain, dammit.

The most prominent players in the first round? The officials, of course. Then again, with all the clotheslines and ball-grabbing going on, I had to check a few times to make sure I wasn't watching the WWE by mistake. (Chris Kaman's hair was no help there, either.)

The Clippers are in the second round of the playoffs, while the Knicks and the Celtics missed the whole shebang by a country mile. There must be a lot of older NBA fans feeling REALLY old these days.

All in all, it seems like the Nuggets would have been better off not making the playoffs at all. But hey, I guess they've got five more seasons to learn how to deal with Kenyon Martin. Unless the Knicks want him.

LeBron IS growing up fast though, huh? He's already working that baseline fallaway that Jordan didn't pick up until he was in his mid-30s. At this rate Bron's going to quit to pursue a baseball career by the time he turns 24—and he'll bat .400, hit 80 home runs and go 28-2 as a starting pitcher.

I wish the Wizards/Cavs series would go 25 games.

Imagine if Peja Stojakovic misses half the Nets series AND doesn't re-sign with the Pacers? I guess the only consolation is that Ron Artest is still as crazy as—well, crazy.

Kobe probably won't be naming any of his kids Raja.

The disparity between the top-seeded teams and lowest-seeded teams is pretty far these days. Has it always been like this? I can't remember one way or the other.

Not sure if the Spurs are going to defend their title this year, assuming they survive the Kings. Especially with the Mavericks waiting for them.

Who DOESN'T want to see a Clippers/Lakers second-round series? Well, besides Steve Nash and company, of course.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wild In The Streets?

The Knicks season isn't quite over—they should notch their 60th loss tonight in Jersey—but it sure seems like it is. Not only to the fans, but apparently to the players as well.

Because late yesterday afternoon at West Fourth Street, among the usual mix of hustlers and jeans-clad old-timers, there was Knicks rookie Nate Robinson, semi-incognito in grey wifebeater, baggy red shorts and pristine red suede Jordan XXIs, getting in runs. And this wasn't just a cameo. Nate ran for a good hour or more, pushing the ball upcourt, catching the occasional dunk putback, blocking a few shots.

Yet the crowd wasn't more than for the usual run. And Nate's the defending slam dunk champ! Imagine the crowds Jordan would have drawn in Chicago in the summer of '87, or Spud Webb in Atlanta in the summer of '86. Even Kenny "Sky" Walker on these same courts in the summer of '90. And this is before the season is even over! Not sure if it speaks more to the aloofness of New Yorkers, the waning interest in the Knicks (none of the daily papers had anything on Nate's outdoor exploits today) or simply the fact that, at 5-7, Nate doesn't exactly stand out in a crowd.

There was some buzz, for sure—people calling friends, pictures being taken on camera phones and Sidekicks—but not much. After it all ended (with Nate's team leaving the court winners) Nate ducked into the McDonald's across the street as one of his bopys warmed up his rimmed out (25s at least) champagne H2 parked right across from the court. (If the rims didn't give it away, the Washington state plates did.) As he pulled off a few minutes later, the crowd hadn't visibly changed from when he was playing, despite the fact that a ragged pick-up game had replaced the Knick rookie.

Guess that's just New York.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Just A Thought

...before everyone erases this URL from their bookmarks forever (I'm fully blaming my irregularity on the Knicks horrificness), I figured I'd post something I postulated a few days ago.

It hit me, while watching the Suns get killed by the Nets WITH Amare Stoudemire—and then watching them blow up the scoreboard in Toronto without him (140 points), that maybe they should go against all the usual rules and mortgage the future for the present.

Consider. The Suns are such a great team (again) despite the absence of Stoudemire and the trades of Quentin Richardson and Joe Johnson for one reason: Steve Nash. Well, and the system that Mike D'Antoni put around him, and the unearthly athleticism of Shawn Marion, and the apparently until-now-untapped skill of Boris Diaw. Nash seems well on his way to earning his second straight MVP, which—if he gets it—will be well deserved. But he's also 32 years old. And even in the best-case scenarios, it's unlikely that his and Stoudemire's primes will overlap for very long. (Given his microfracture surgery and recent aborted comeback, that's assuming that Stoudemire's prime hasn't already passed.)

Which is why I think the Suns should make a concerted effort this offseason to acquire Kevin Garnett, even if it requires trading Stoudemire. Assuming he comes back full strength, Stoudemire will be a beast for years to come. But it seems that putting Garnett alongside Nash and Marion would give the Suns their best shot at a championship. And isn't that what it's supposed to be about?

An I insane? Probably. John Hollinger probably wouldn't agree with me. But at least I'm posting, right?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Eight Is Enough

Well, I think the moon looked blue last night. And if it was, it's because it was so damn cold—25 degrees this morning, which is stupid for late March. March madness, indeed. And if you'd like another non-sequiter, I don't want to talk about my bracket (or North Carolina, for that matter). I'd also like to temporarily ignore the Knicks (although you can see my latest comments on that mess on today) and get to something I've been meaning to write about for quite some time.

That would be Kobe Bean Bryant.

Some of you are aware that I wrote the cover story on him for SLAM 97. Even less of you are probably aware that I wrote the cover stories on him for two issues of KICKS, interviewing him at length in two consecutive summers following the Lakers first two titles. One would think, based on all that, that I would have a pretty good grasp on who Kobe Bryant is, what he's really like. One would be wrong.

I had 3,000 words for this last story, and I feel like I couldn't have told the full story in 10,000. Since Kobe was good enough to speak at length, I felt his words needed to be printed, so that cut my own room for analysis in half. I got to most of my points, but there were a few things I didn't get to address. So I figured I'd do that here.

His tunnel vision, for instance. Or self-absorbtion, if you prefer. He seems to be able to put anything and everything aside in order to go out there and perform, which is equal parts admirable and creepy. It's how he could go directly from court in Colorado to the court in L.A. and score 40 and hit game-winning shots. Probably how he could co-exist with Shaq for so long despite their obvious lack of connection. But it's also how he can still be yelling at his teammates on the court for mistakes, rather than waiting until they were back in the locker room. Instead of correcting in private, he does it in front of the coaching staff, the opponents, the TV cameras. One gets the feeling that this isn't Phil Jackson approved behavior (although one also gets the feeling that Phil, like Larry Brown, may be content to just cash the checks at this point).

There's also the rather hard-to-ignore matter of his taking so many goddamn shots. It's obvious that he doesn't trust his teammates much, if at all, and feels as he's the best option every time down the floor. This may indeed be true. But it's not the way you win in the long run. Michael Jordan was certainly the best option every time down the floor for the Bulls, but he didn't start winning championships until he started to trust role guys like John Paxson and Steve Kerr (not to mention bigger cogs like Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant).

I'm too distracted by "Team America: World Police" right now. More tomorrow or tonight.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hell Freezes Over

Quick, what's more shocking—the fact that there's an update here, or the fact that the Knicks have won two straight? Take your time, I know it's a tough one.

OK, not that much time.

So this week I saw the second-most disgusting thing I've ever seen in an NBA locker room. The first-most disgusting thing I've ever seen in an NBA locker room—one that is likely never to be topped—was Anthony Mason conducting interviews buck-ass naked. What barely beat out Damon Jones's bare feet for second was this: Kings center Brad Miller with a pinch of mint Skoal (the blue can) in between his lip and gum, spitting tobacco juice into an empty Dasani bottle. Not the most flattering habit, as habits go.

More later—I just wanted to get something new up before Lang made fun of me.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Oh Yeah

I forgot something about the Pistons and the Darko Milicic Experiment when I wrote about it yesterday: If Carmelo Anthony (who, last I checked, led his college team to a CHAMPIONSHIP as a FRESHMAN) would have messed up the chemistry and derailed the Pistons by taking away minutes from Tayshaun Prince, wouldn't you think that Tayshaun (and no disrespect intended here) would have been an All-Star by now?

Look, he's a nice piece, and he fits in well with what the Pistons are trying to do. His long arms and quickness obviously bothered Kobe Bryant when they beat the Lakers in the Finals. But on a squad THAT team-oriented, wouldn't he have been just fine with platooning with Anthony, giving him minutes when they needed an offensive burst, and coming back on when they needed more D? And wouldn't have Anthony, the year after winning his own title, fully understood what it took to win, and accepted less minutes for the greater good? (In fact, wouldn't Anthony have been able to get minutes at the 2, 3 AND 4, depending on the looks they wanted to throw out there?) It's hard to imagine ANY way how the Pistons would have been worse with Anthony instead of Darko.

The Ship Be Sunk

Another night, another 20-point loss for New York's aptly nicknamed Team Titanic and the Unsinkable Larry Brown. On a day that saw Isiah Thomas and James Dolan add another ill-advised max contract holder to their collection (Stevie Franchise), the Heat came to town and laid the smack down, beating the hapless Knicks 103-83.

Francis was acquired for nothing much—the moldering corpse of Penny Hardaway and the delusional Trevor Ariza—but it's hard to imagine how his arrival is going to do any good. Unless there are more trades in the works (and seeing that Isiah remains in charge, they probably are), Francis's arrival probably makes things worse. Assuming that's possible.

For starters, minutes. Penny hadn't played a one for the Knicks this year, and Ariza had fallen out of favor long before yesterday. Francis, on the other hand, has been a constant starter, and will probably expect 35 minutes a night, minimum. It's hard to imagine Stephon Marbury's minutes being reduced, so Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson should expect a change of scenery or drastic reductions in playing time.

Then there's the fact that Francis is essentially a carbon copy of Marbury—and he's had a hard enough time figuring out Brown's way (which, incidentally apparently involves lots of different starting lineups and games that are decided by the midway point of the third quarter). While a starting backcourt of Steph and Franchise may be good enough in the world of fantasy basketball, it's hard to imagine it working very well in the real world. Both want to dominate the ball, and neitehr are going to be terribly thrilled about guarding opposing twos.

And of course there's the little matter of getting under the salary cap, which at this rate should happen around the year 3000. I'm actually amazed at the fact that Isiah didn't mention Stevie's contract expiring in 2009 or whenever as one of the main reasons for acquiring him (when he can then be traded for some other guy with four years or so left on his own ridiculous max extension, like Boris Diaw or Darko Milicic).

Meanwhile the Knicks continue to stagger towards the lottery, where they can drop Rudy Gay or J.J. Redick or that big kid from Texas right into the waiting arms of the forever grateful Chicago Bulls. Tonight, Eddy Curry, the centerpiece of that trade, managed a whole four points and four rebounds before fouling out and getting booed all the way to the bench. Yet he still looks like a combination of Wilt Chamberlain and Mechagodzilla next to Jerome James, who's pretty much done nothing to distinguish himself since partying too hard on New Year's Eve.

Best I can tell, Isiah is assembling this team by poring past All-Star rosters and seeing who he can get, with no regard how they fit together. Which, as seemingly anyone could figure out, is a bad idea. Look at it like food: say you like steak, and chocolate, and bacon, and sushi, and pizza. That doesn't mean they'd taste good mixed together. Not sure why it's taking Zeke so long to realize.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Second Half Buzzer

Yeah, I know. I failed to blog during the All-Star game. Actually, I DID keep notes on here, but they were embarassingly bad. Nothing worth wasting anyone's time with. So I figure, to make up for it, I'd just mention a few things from the trade deadline, the first half just past, and the second half which is just getting started. (I'm watching Mavs/Clippers right now.)

THE DARKO TRADE: You know what? I think that Joe Dumars is an outstanding GM. I think that the Pistons are probably the best TEAM in the NBA (and they apparently don't need Larry Brown to succeed). But I'm tired of him getting a free pass on the Darko Milicic pick, because taking someone like Wade or Carmelo would have cut into Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince's minutes, and thus ruined the team's delicate chemistry, and resulted in their not winning an NBA title, which indeed they did during Darko's rookie season. Nice theory, I suppose, but isn't that a case of trying too hard?

Why wouldn't you want the best player available, no matter how your team is set up? Wouldn't you want to try to work Carmelo or Dwyane Wade into that rotation? Seems like some analysts go so far to say that the pick was actually the RIGHT move for the Pistons. In that case, would it have been an equally good pick had they just passed? Or picked, say, me? I would have been even better than Darko, because I wouldn't have cared about playing time. Not only that, but if you're going to play fortune teller and assume that the Pistons would have won neither title with Wade or 'Melo (which I still think is ridiculous), couldn't you also assume that, had they traded Darko for solid bench help at the end of his first season, that they could have won two straight and been looking for their third? Sure, they got back a lottery pick from Orlando, but this year's draft id full of question marks. Kind of like Darko.

As for Darko himself (some SLAM readers will remember I picked him over LeBron to be Rookie of the Year, thanks to extreme Chad Ford-driven hype—never again), it'll be interesting to see how he fares in Orlando. If nothing else, he should get a lot of playing time, and maybe have a chance to get into a rhythm, which he never was able to do in Detroit. Even when he did get extended minutes, which was a rarity, it was usually in garbage time, which doesn't much resemble real NBA action. He's still only 20, and I do believe that the reasons Detroit liked him so much HAD to be based on some fact and real skill. It's far too early to declare him a bust. Will he have a Jermaine O'Neal-type breakout season? It's possible.

And what if he does? Does Detroit look bad for dealing him? Probably not, actually. As long as they remain contenders, and put out a young, talented lineup who all seem to get along swimmingly, there's no regrets. They continue to pursue titles, and Darko finally gets to play and perhaps blossom. But Carmelo Anthony would still look mighty good in royal blue.

THE KNICKS: Yeah, I know, I talk about them every time I post. I can't help it. They're absolutely amazing. And now there's talk of them trading for Steve Francis without giving up Stephon Marbury in the process. Do they not have to pay the remainder of Larry Brown's salary if he commits suicide? I like Steph and Franchise personally, but is that a backcourt you want to have out there (one that's owed roughly $100 million over the next three years, at that). It's hard to say that Jamal Crawford is a bargain, but he's a blue-light special compared to Francis. And if Maurice Taylor is included, this trades an expiring contract for another long maxed-out one. Pardon me for being cynical, but at this rate Ground Zero is going to be rebuilt before the Knicks are.

It'll also be interesting to see what happens with the rookies. I fully expect at least one to be gone by Thursday, for no other reason than they'll have to include one in any trade just to interest any other teams. My money would be on Nate Robinson, who doesn't really fit in to begin with—and would fit in even worse behind Francis and Marbury, neither of whom are very tall.

Back to Francis for a minute, haven't most of his recent issues been with coaches? Brian Hill and Jeff Van Gundy? Why would things be any different with Larry Brown, especially in a situation as hopeless as this one? I'd rather see the Knicks try and land a bonafide superstar—like Kevin Garnett or Allen Iverson—to at least give them some identity.

THE MVP: Right now I'm looking at Steve Nash. Chauncey Billups is up there, but the fact that three of his teammates were All-Stars seems to indicate that they all share the credit. All Nash has done is lead a Phoenix team who have been without three of last year's starters to a 35-17 record. Credit Shawn Marion with a lot, but it's Nash who has helped turn afterthought Boris Diaw into a stellar player, and kept the team going without Amare Stoudemire.

THE TRADE DEADLINE: Judging from the staggering number of players who have been brought up in potential trades—and the names of them—it appears readily apparent that there are just a lot of teams out there who have basically no idea what they're doing. That, and the fact that it's harder and harder to justify your players huge salaries when your team is losing.

There's probably a whole four teams who can afford to do nothing—Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio and Detroit. Every other team should have an active war room. Of course, this probably means that next to nothing will happen. Or, you could see names like Garnett, Pierce, Iverson, Martin, Marbury, Francis, etc., changing teams. I'll definitely write more on this stuff as it happens.

CHRIS KAMAN'S HAIR: What's up with that, dude?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

NBA Saturday Night

Hm. The stuff before the actual events on TNT are kind of lame. "The Best Dunk Ever"? I feel like the Jason Richardson off the glass and through the legs is the best dunk ever, and it didn't even make it out of the first round! Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Skills comp is first, and it probably has the best cast of characters. Nash, LeBron, Dwyane? This should be fun.

Shaq can dress! Three-piece and a biscuit. And actually the other crap is first, with the legends and stuff. Dan Majerle! Magic Johnson! Can't wait!

Steve Nash still has Marilyn Quayle's hair. Oh yeah, shooting stars is first. Still gotta get them WNBA players up in here. WE DON'T CARE. And it's crazy that Magic is still doing this shit. Feels like he'd come back again if they'd let 'em. Wonder if Nike told Kobe to do it? And T-Mac? Star-studded, at least. Not paying attention to the first thang, though. Worst. Competition. Ever. One round? That was seriously terrible. And I still hate the WNBA. Skills next.

I'm pulling for Lebron in the skills challenge just because he's not a point guard. Reason enough for me. CP3 would be fine, too. And he's up first. Kenny's right—CP ain't fast enough. And his chest pass sucks. Dribbling is toooo sloooow. He ain't moving on. Trust me.

D. Wade is up next. Dunk e'rything! Reggie's right on the wack jumper, but he still wastes CP3. LeBron now. He ain't gettin' there. Too big to dribble fast. Beat CP3, but Nash'll be faster. Although he can't shoot. And thinks he can. Out. So it's Wade against Bron in the final. Which is also wack. This comp ain't the greatest. But Bron has a killer run in the final, and Wade's got a tough road.

But he hits EVERYTHING on his first try. And he probably deserved to win, but how is it only two rounds? Waaaaack. Still, big ups to D Wizzy. Good roll. And now we get to the real events.

I can't even pick a winner in the three-point shootout. Arenas? Q ain't gonna defend, and Ray-Ray takes too much time. F it, I'm going with Chauncey.

Gilbert missed his entire first rack, and ain't so good through a couple. 14 is all right, but he ain't goin' nowhere. And Jason Terry is slow, with only 13. You out, too.

Diiiiiirk. Long hair fo sho. Shoots all right, but gets 12. Charles Barkley is on fire with the commentary. None of these guys are winning, I don't think. But they count Dirk's moneyball even though it was obviously late! Ain't cool. Ray up now, and he's on. Kills it. 19 points, which ain't bad at all.

Now Chauncey. And he's out. Brickin' galore. Misses a lot of the money balls, and now it's Q. He's out, too. Misses last six. So it's Gilbert, Dirk and Ray A in the Final. Goin' with Dirk.

Gilbert's got 16 first, although this should be 20 for the win. And there aren't enough rounds like there used to be. Too many comps now. Dirk loads 18, and that's awesome, but it leaves the door WIDE open for Ray Allen. Who runs out of time. And Dirk wins. And this sucks. Come on, y'all, gotta have at least three rounds! Better work on this. But I got it right, right? Um, despite the fact that he shouldn't have even been in the final.

I'ma take Igloodala in the dunk contest.

But yeah, Andrea Bocelli first. Blind-ass cracka.

Four competitors in the dunk contest? Four? That's pathetic. PATHETIC. Kill the shooting comp! And Charles Barkley is the best. Period. Hakim Warrick is aiight with his first, but it's a long way from great. Iggy's much better. Windmill off the bounce, that's real. Nate's even realer, though, 3-6 off the bounce. With both hands. Mean, Now it's J Smoove, and he's got on the free-throw line with both hands. And that's the lowest score of the night? HATERS.

Hakim's got a nice beard, but that's it. Miss the first attempt? And that second wasn't nothin' anyway. Should be a wrap for HW. But we got too much weird shit with passes. Chill, AI Jr! Ai't you got enough of your own shit? Looked aiight, but too many attempts. Too complicated. Shit was cool, but it barely even made sense. On second thought, that's a winner. A serious 50.

Nate's was OK, but J Smoove is goin' to the Finals. Least he better be. 'Cept he can't, because Nate got enough points to make it impossible for Josh to get past him. Shit's fucked up. Nate and Igloo in the finals.

Nate up first, And he tries to go off the glass through the legs? If he hits that, it's OVER. And now it's too many tries. Gettin' bad. Cause it seems like he's tryin' something new. You lost, Nate. Good tries, though. And he does get through the legs, but it takes what, eight times? East Bay funk, what? CB remains realistic.

And AI off the bounce and behind the back? Silly. That ain't right. One last dunk—Nate better get real. The Spud jersey? Already done last year with J Smoove. Bangin' for sure, but to win? Tough call. AI's only gotta get 45 to win. But he better get the shit DOWN. Lots of misses, too. Sucks for real. Missing is bad news. And that ain't enough for me. But it's a tie! Which is better, actually. Let's see where it go.

And OK, there are WAY too many attempts allowed. What the fuck? Nate's turning into Birdman without the meth. How many times can you try? At this point, he's trying it often enough so Dre falls asleep, I think. I think the fans are falling asleep, too. As am I. Please get something? OK, he gets it, but a dozen-plus tries? And a 47? Come on. If that wins...that's bad. 14 tries? What the fuck?

AI up, and...let's see. Baseline through the legs, on the second try, and it's not enough to win? BULLSHIT. That's fucking terrible—they gave Nate that many tries? So, so, so, so bad. All-Star Saturday can fuck off.

And I'm out.

Friday, February 17, 2006

2006 Rookie Challenge

No offense to Dwight Howard and Chris Paul (and several other guys), buy this might be the lamest Rookie Challenge ever. No LeBron and Carmelo and Dwyane, no Iverson or Kobe or T-Mac, just a bunch of guys who in some cases don't even start for their own teams. Heck, Channing Frye only got 15 minutes for the Knicks in their last game, and that team is 20-plus games below .500. Sure, Andre Iguodala may throw down a rugged dunk or 10, but Howard and Paul seem to be the only two guys who have any chance at playing on Sunday in the coming years. And Paul's hurt (although he will play). Meanwhile, last year's rookie of the year, Emeka Okafor, is out. At least we get to listen to John Thompson, who seems like he's on something. OK, and TJ Ford could be exciting, along with the 13 Bulls who are on the sophomore squad. And maybe Nate Robinson will give us a little dunk contest preview. Still, though, this isn't really much of a premier event. It'll be interesting to see how many people are in the stands (I'm guessing a lot of people will skip it in favor of the party circuit, which oughtta be in full swing already.

Hey, it's the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge! Maybe I should be watching this on my Sidekick? Good to see some Rockets legends getting love on the coaching staffs. And Luther Head is the first introduced—sheesh. This IS bad. Danny Granger, Sarunas Jasekevicius, Andrew Bogut, Chris Paul, Channing Frye, Nate Robinson, Charlie Villanueva and Deron Williams. They're gonna get KILLED. Meanwhile, the PA announcer needs a Halls or something. Or a record contract from a blues label.

The sophomores: Emeka Okafor (in a suit), Delonte West, Luol Deng (why is he from the Sudan and not Duke?), Ben Gordon, Andres Nocioni, Devin Harris, TJ Ford, Nenad Krstic, Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala. Yep, they should murk 'em. But no Al Jefferson? That sucks. And no Josh Smith?

I guess this could actually wind up being more of a game, Then again, Channing Frye AND Nate Robinson are starters. Ha. Think Larry Brown is watching this?

Reggie Miller thinks Ben Gordon is gonna be MVP. Ha. I'm going with Dwight Howard.

Nate Robinson jumps center, which shows how serious this game is. Give me a break. And Channing Frye scores on the first shot. Feeling the half-orange, half-white ball. ABA, whoadie.

Turrrrnovers. We're barely a minute into this game and I'm already losing focus. Ben Gordon wets a trey. I kind of wish that the Rooks and Sophs would wear matching unis instead of their team uniforms. Dick Stockton just referred to Nate Robinson as a "little guy," and Reggie Miller picked him to win the dunk contest. I don't see it. Then again, maybe I just want to disagree with Reggie whenever possible.

Rookies lead early, 8-7. It's like a high-school All-Star game, with guys doing stuff that they'd get pulled from a real game for doing. Chris Paul is looking like the MVP early, lacing everyone with passes. Luther Head checks in for Nate Robinson. The sophs are 3-10 from the floor. Can't really see much as far as shoes yet, and Rip Hamilton is the first All-Star they show in the crowd. Wonder how many are even there? Rookies are running away with this, 13-7, and the sophs call time out.

Reggie says that Chris Paul reminds him of Isiah Thomas in All-Star games, trying to get everybody involved. Well, except he didn't kiss a 6-9 guy on the other team, and he's not freezing anyone out best I can tell.

Hey, the Diesel's here! Lookin' good in the vest and the big-knot tie. He says he hasn't been paying attention to the game, just talking to his lawyer. Gangsta. CV with the bucket off the bench. Better pro than college player? No doubt.

Tons of media seats behind the baskets. They ain't seein' much. Lots of sloppy basketball, lots of missed jumpers, lots of long rebounds. Luther Head oop to Villanueva, Krstic fouled on other end. Rooks still up four. Three. Miss-Deng gets it back. One. And another head to Villanueva resets it to three. Nocioni cuts the rookie lead back to one, and Ford dunks to put the sophs up one.

West is in the game—and only here because Jameer Nelson is hurt. Lucky him.

More missed long jumpers. This game sucks.

Delonte West oop to Krstic. Deron Williams, Delonte West trey. Sophs up four. Delonte West layup, sophs up six. Timeout, rookies.

Shooters are SO off tonight it's not even funny. Krstic dunks to be safe, Sophs up 8. Make that 10 after another dunk, this one from Iguodala. Frizye gets fizouled by Krstic. Brick, wet. Then he goaltends Delonte West, who's gonna end up MVP if he keeps this up.

David Aldridge talks about Channing Frye being untouchable. Look, no one is untouchable. You're telling me if the Knicks could get a 25-year-old stud, they wouldn't give up Frye? Because that's just plain nuts. I like Channing, but they'd be a LOT better off with, say, just about anyone who's playing on Sunday (and quite a few who aren't). Is Channing the kind of guy you build a team around? Probably not.

Apparently LeBron and Kobe are in the building—and there they are! Kob's in a Nike jacket, LeBron looks like Kanye West. And hey, the rookies are only down four. Make that six.

Wow, Charles Barkley is a finalist for the Hall of Fame. Like there's any question? If he doesn't get in on the first ballot, someone should burn the damn building down.

Dwight Howard gets the and-1 but not the 1, then he blocks Granger. A turnover keeps the sophs from getting it back to 10.

Nate bricks the hell out of a three. Maybe it's the sight lines. Bogut passes out to the bench. Messy.

Ben Gordon hits a three over Nate Robinson. Eleven, until Bogut dunks in Nocioni's face. International relations, bitch. And then he gets a deep rebound off a Paul miss and whips a behind-the-back pass from the three-point line up top to Nate Robinson underneath. Sick. Off to Frye for the dunk. That's the play of the game so far.

Luther Head three. Eight. The rooks are 1-10 from three, now, and Luther Head is EVERYWHERE. Until Luol Deng gets a dunk. Then Bogut gets one. CP3 has five assists and no points. A Nocioni three and it's back to nine. Chris Paul gets his first bucket, and his yellow socks are gangsta as hell. 52-45 sophs at the half.

The new Jordan XXI ad with the kids replicating some of MJ's most well-known moves is pretty ill. Too bad the shoes themselves look like they were made for Randy Moss.

OK, Charles and Kenny had better kill this game. Or at least Charles better. Oh God, and there's Magic, Mr. Incomprehensibility. Oh yeah, Charles and Kenny both played for the Rockets. Funny. Annnd, they don't. But we do have the Kenny Smith/Reggie Miller three-point shoot out to look forward to. If Reggie loses, he might have to quit TNT.

And even the halftime show was lame, focusing mostly on Barkley's Hall-of-Fame nomination. Terrific.

Sophs up six early in the second half. And it's already 10:15?? This game seems loooong for two 10-minute halves. Guess they gotta stretch it out—which is why it should just be part of All-Star Saturday instead of a free-standing Friday event. Channing blocked by Dwight, then he gets the eventual rebound. His wallet should say "Bad Mother Fucker" on it. But yeah, Channing Frye is untouchable.

You know, that Heineken commercial with the girl who gets random guys to buy her beers, which she then in turn gives to her brother and his friend, is cute and all, but isn't the basic message "never buy a girl a beer again"? Oh well, Heineken is disgusting anyway.

Shit, I half-forgot that Darko is a Magic now. Gonna have to discuss that at some point. The Serbian Gangsta in Orlando.

Sophs up 13 with 16 interminable minutes to go. Turnover, turnover, turnover, Howard dunk. Howard the dunk? Granger trey. 12-point game, 15 and a half. Iguodala makes it 14 with a mean dunk. Iggy hops? Raw power. I'm getting delirious.

I love that TNT is relentlessly promoting the broadcast of "Armageddon." Are you kidding me? Hasn't everyone seen that by now? This is a big deal? Obviously someone over at TNT is even more delusional than I am.

Iguodala again. Blaow. He's got hops.

Luol Deng over Villanueva, his old high school teammate. Dwight gets another block, then on the turnover fouls hell out of Nate Robinson. Jeah.

John Thompson is incomprehensible, and Chris Paul is really good. Sophs by 14 on another Iguodala dunk. Not sure if he's made any other kind of shot. Eleven after a Jasekavicius trey. Wait a minute, isn't Sebastian Telfair a soph? Wouldn't he have made this game a little more entertaining? And given the Blazers a representative?

And yeay, a through-the-legs dunk from Iguodala, and the announcers get excited about it. Um, a straightforward through-the-legs dunk hasn't been exciting in 10 years, fellas. You gotta add some sauce.

Iguodala trey. Sophs up 19 with 8:48. AI might have the MVP on lock. Channing Frye is long. And untouchable, of course. T.J. Ford throws the worst pass of the game. Meanwhile, Chris Paul has like 27 steals. And Iguodala has 25 points. Sophs up 20. Jebus. Nate Robinson is trying fancy shit that'll probably end with his minutes being reduced by LB. Or him getting traded before Sunday. AI for three more. 28. Luther Head with a layup. Delonte West with a layup. He's got a bunch of points. Iguodala misses a through-the-legs dunk on the break (with his left?). Jumped too close to the rim, I think. Sophs up 19.

Pretty sure no one cares about the game at this point, including the people in it. Five minutes.

Chris Paul tosses an oop to Villanueva, and of course we're on the overhead camera from behind, which means the TV audience gets the same view as someone in the 400 level. Um, if there's anyone still there. And then Villanueva gets a three, and Paul gets a dunk on the break. 11-point sophomore lead with three minutes left.

Pretty sure Reggie just called AI "Andre Igloodala." Who gets a dunk and makes it 11 with 2:10 left. Then a dunk which makes it 12 (and he has 30 and a virtual lock on the MVP). He DID call him "Igloodala." Awesome.

It's a minute left and the sophs are up 11. CP turnover, and we're not even getting the final minute dunk contest that we deserve. Bastards. Head gets the ball stuck between the rim and the backboard, which is par for the course. Allen Iverson's on the sideline in full Yankee gear with a watch the size of a hubcap on his wrist blingin' like mad.

106-96 final, and Igloodala was so cold he's gotta get MVP. No dizzle. 30 points on nine dunks and two threes. No one else had 20, although Chris Paul did tie the assist record (11). And hey, AI2 thanks God. Yay.

They'll be back. And maybe I'll be. Not sure.

All-Star 2006

Well, this is the second year in a row that I'm not at the All-Star game, after attending every one since 1997's in Cleveland. New York, Washington, Philly, Los Angeles, Atlanta—all good times. I might go back next year when it's in Vegas. But this year I'll spend it on my couch, blogging the hell out of tonight, tomorrow and Sunday for my huge audience. Probably better off here anyway—from what I understand it's rainy and cold in H-town, and All-Star is usually a big clusterfuck anyway. Sour grapes? Perhaps. But I'm here instead of there, and I'm gonna make the best of it. Back in a half hour for the rookie game.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

New Theory

Is it too late to bring back Scott Layden and Don Chaney? Does anyone have Clarence Weatherspoon's number? Think Herb Williams could still put in some minutes at center? Through 50 games this year, the Knicks were off to their worst start in history. THEIR WORST START IN 60 YEARS. This with a $100-million plus payroll, the alleged greatest NBA coach, and an alleged genius eye for talent as GM/President. There's obviously something very wrong with this picture. And I have a new theory on what it could be.

Larry Brown is doing this on purpose. He knows EXACTLY what he's doing.

Look, you don't use 30-plus different starting lineups before the All-Star break by accident. You don't shuffle guys in and out of the rotation like a Vegas dealer with ADD just for the hell of it. There must be a method to the madness. And, best I can tell, the only thing that makes sense is that LB is trying to see exactly how much he can get away with. Look at the situation—a Hall of Fame coach making $10 million a season after his last stop yielded him his first NBA championship. He's back home where it all started, he's got a crazily overpaid roster of chronic underachievers, and who could blame him for absolutely not giving a fuck?

Maybe it didn't start out that way. Maybe he did try to win at first, and the lineup shuffling was because he didn't know who could give him what. That's all well and good in November, maybe even in December. But this is FEBRUARY, people. This is the All-Star break, and he STILL hasn't settled on nine guys who can give solid minutes? He hasn't decided whether to let the rookies sink or swim, or to do or die with the veterans? Sorry, I just don't buy it. LB has been around far too long to be this indecisive.

I think after 30 years of coaching, he's just decided to see how much he can get away with. What kinds of weird crap can he pull and still have his management back him and his players not give him a group Sprewell. How far can he bend things before they break? Before you dismiss this as ridiculous, ask yourself one question: Would ANY other coach still have his job after a half-season like this?

The ONLY theory that makes sense is that LB's doing all this crazy stuff on purpose, as a mindfuck to Isiah Thomas, James Dolan, even the players. After all, LB is a genius, right? Read and hear that all the time. Therefore, whatever he's doing must have a purpose, must have a payoff. Meanwhile, the season continues to swirl down the toilet, and Dolan continues to sign a lot of big checks. Payoff? Yeah, folks. LB gets his every two weeks.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Ship Be Sinkin'

Welcome to your nightmare, Jalen Rose. You thought giving up 81 points to Kobe Bryant was bad? Try spending the rest of the season with the Knicks, who lurch towards 20 games under .500 while finding new and creative ways to lose every night. And with a roadtrip beckoning—at Jersey, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas—things are just going to get worse for the worst team in the NBA.

Last night it was the Clippers turn. The Knicks made stringy-haired center Chris Kaman (as astutely pointed out by Nike guy Brian Faccinni, he looks a lot like Hulk Hogan without the mustache) look like an All-Star, and let Sam Cassell bury two treys in the final two minutes to bury them. Throw in (um, or don't, actually) a five-seconds inbound violation with 2.2 left down 1 since they were out of timeouts, and that's all she wrote.

Forgive me for being overly critical, but isn't that why Larry Brown was brought in to begin with? To avoid those incredibly simple lapses that result in losses? Meanwhile Eddy Curry mahaged to snare a whole two rebounds (NONE on the defensive end), David Lee played less than a minute (after getting a DNP the previous night) and Stephon Marbury once again watched from the sidelines (as did Isiah Thomas after a game's absence). Oh, and Malik Rose, who also got a DNP in the previous game, played big minutes. Showcase? On a more positive note, the Knicks didn't fall another game behind the Pistons, who lost to the Hawks.

Here's the thing that's most bothersome about the Antonio Davis trade, besides the fact that they added another year of max contract to the books: They traded the team's conscience for yet another player who doesn't seem to have one. Sure, AD has been kind of crazy this year—not wanting to report, going into the stands, being married to a lunatic. But even at 36 and on the downside, at least he had some PRIDE. He wanted wins, went after rebounds, broke scoreless streaks with emphatic dunks. He showed some emotion, some life. His flagrant foul on Kobe Bryant in the Laker game was uncalled for, but it at least was evidence that someone on the Knicks wasn't going to just stand by and watch the Kobe Show.

Now what? The Knicks are a vastly overpaid collective of untested talents, most whom have had exactly zero experience in the playoffs. Most of them don't know how to win, and evidently don't much care whether they do or not. As long as those five-figure paychecks keep clearing every two weeks, everything's great. To be sure, you don't need an entire team of obsessed winners, just one or two to keep everyone else in line. The Knicks, they had one. They don't anymore.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Seriously, how can it get much worse? I was at the Knicks/Lakers debacle last night, and Chris Sheridan—a friend and former AP writer who now writes for—stated that this Knicks era and team wasn't the worst, that it was worse in the Felton Spencer era. Now, it actually took me a minute to remember that Spencer (a soft-in-the-middle bust center who had braces during his stint with the Knicks) was even in New York in the first place, but I don't know. Did anyone think it could get this bad?

It's like Larry Brown is trying to play chess (that's giving him a HUGE benefit of the doubt that I'm pretty sure he doesn't deserve) with Monopoly pieces on a backgammon board. There's no sense to it. And the last two games were just astounding. A Larry Brown coached team giving up 250 points on back-to-back nights? Losing by a combined 52 points? And to the Hawks and the Lakers, neither of who should be competing for a championship. They also allowed the Lakers—not just Kobe, the entire team—to shoot 71 percent (and score 70 points) in the second half last night. In contrast, tonight against the Pacers, with 3:50 to go in the GAME, the Lakers have 73 total points.

Don't give me the whole "rebuilding" thing, either. This is rebuilt! Isn't that what Isiah told us? The payroll's still over $100 million, most positions are filled by vets. Also, THERE IS NO NUMBER ONE PICK to bail out a lottery-bound team. That belongs to Chicago. And even when Penny Hardaway and Antonio Davis disappear off the books this summer, it's not like they'll have cap space to pursue any free agents.

And why would anyone want to come to New York right now anyway? I thought about it while walking home yesterday—the Knicks play in the biggest market in the country, in the best gym to play ball in, have a gleaming new practice facility and the alleged best coach in the game. You'd think a superstar would totally want to play here. But right now, the way things are? I can't imagine a single big name—Wade, LeBron, Kobe, KG—wanting to come here. Well, Kobe maybe, he's the only one crazy enough to think he could turn it all around himself.

Also, what exactly is the esteemed teacher Mr. Brown teaching? Has anyone learned ANYTHING, except to be sure to check the lineup/inactive list very carefully each day? Jamal Crawford is still erratic and turnover prone, Eddy Curry still can't rebound, Jerome James—well, it's best not to even talk about him.

Meanwhile, the rookies are hitting the wall, the best player is the guy who was picked up on waivers (Qyntel Woods), and James Dolan should be happy most of his season tickets are in the hands of corporate drones instead of real fans.

At this point, it's hard to believe that Trevor Ariza's the only member of the organization who's delusional.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

As If Things Weren't Bad Enough.

You can always count on the Knicks to go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to controversy. Not content with a hugely overpaid roster, a $10 million a year coach who seems to share his temperament with longtime Knick fan Woody Allen, and a record that's a considerable distance from .500, it seemed like now was the right time for a sexual harassment lawsuit against Isiah Thomas.

Now, I have no idea what the truth of the matter is. I haven't talked one-on-one with Isiah since he was coaching the Pacers, and while I occasionally saw his accuser around the Garden, I never once exchanged words with her. I have no idea what—if anything—happened. What I do know is that this is a lose-lose situation. Either it's true, and Isiah is a seriously slimy dude. Or it's untrue, and Anucha Browne Sanders is a loose cannon who probably should have never been given such a high-ranking position with the Knicks in the first place. Either way, the responsibilty rests with the same man—Jim Dolan.

On the court, things aren't that much better. Eddy Curry continues to appear and disappear like some sort of Doug Henning trick, Stephon's shoulder is obviously more messed-up than he wants to let on, and halfway through the season, LB is STILL trying to settle on a rotation. About the best news they've gotten is Jerome James's sprained neck—which has put him in a comical neck brace, and more importantly, keeps him off the court. There have been some positives, including Qyntel Woods's surgence, David Lee and Channing Frye's continued progress, and Maurice Taylor's emergence as an LJ-like post presence (making up for lack of athleticism with guile and craftiness). Also, they didn't trade for Ricky Davis, Mark Blount or Michael Olowokandi. Then again, they didn't trade for Ron Artest, either.

I'd expect the Knicks to make some changes before the trade deadline. They have some excess parts—Jerome James, Trevor Ariza, Malik Rose and an increasingly disgruntled seeming Quentin Richardson. But they can't trade anymore draft picks, and God knows who would want to take on the contracts of James, Rose and Q. And if they pursued a true point guard, they'd probably need to get rid of one of their three undersized guards—Marbury, Crawford or Nate Robinson. Robinson seems the most likely to move on. While he's a fan favorite and a burst of energy off the bench, he's an incredible defensive liability on a team that isn't all that good defensively to begin with. Another team might be able to do a better job of hiding him.

They'll also need to figure out what to do with Antonio Davis, who comes off his suspension on Tuesday night against the Lakers. He seems like a good guy to have in the locker room (provided his wife's not around), but he also wants to play. And it seems silly to take away minutes from Frye and Lee (and Taylor, as well). Besides, by the time this team's ready to win anything, Antonio will be old and gray. Um, older and grayer.


On another note, Chris Andersen kicked out of the League (for a minimum of two years) for failing a drug test? And, from what it sounds, it must have been one of the worst drugs—cocaine, meth, or heroin. The stories published on it made it clear that he HADN'T ever tested positive for steroids, and you only get booted for a third (or is it fourth?) positive test.

The funny part is that I just saw Andersen when the Hornets came to town last weekend. I was working on a piece about where players go out in their home city, and he seemed really eager to discuss it, though not in the locker room. He gave me his cell number and Tmobile address, and told me to call him on Tuesday. I asked whether they had found spots in Oklahoma City, and he just looked at me with a big smile.

I caught up with him Tuesday afternoon, but he was busy, and wanted me to call him back. And by the time I did get back to him, it was 11:45 p.m. Eastern, and he was already in bed. I tried him the rest of the week to no avail, and found out about his dismissal from the L on Friday night.

I just hope that when his two years are up, the Birdman comes back better than ever.

Friday, January 27, 2006


So yeah, Ron Artest is finally an ex-Pacer. The Maloof brothers, owners of the Sacramento Kings and several Las Vegas establishments, rolled the dice and swapped disgruntled (and soon-to-be free agent) sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic to the Pacers for the All-Star forward who hasn't played since December. It's been a rough month for the Pacers thus far—to add injury to insult, Jermaine O'Neal suffered a groin injury that will have him out for a minimum of eight weeks. This does not bode well for a Pacer championship.

As for the Kings, they needed to do something as well. Their defense was weak, their record atrocious, and ever since the trade of Chris Webber and the departure of Vlade Divac, things just haven't been the same. If Artest manages to stay sane, he should provide an element of toughness that hasn't been seen since the days of, God, Brian Grant? He'll be their best defender since Doug Christie, and probably their number-one option on offense (although Mike Bibby has been on fire lately). You would think if things don't turn around—or if Artest and Bonzi Wells immediately embark on a tri-state killing spree—Rick Adelman won't last too much longer. I suppose it's for the best the Kings have Brad Miller, who played with Artest in both Chicago and Indiana. Hopefully they got along.

The Pacers just needed Artest to be gone so they could get on with their lives. It would have been nice to get more than Stojakovic, who's pretty far off form this year, but teamed with a healthy O'Neal, he could obviously be a lethal perimeter threat. The only question, of course, is whether they'll be able to retain his services past this season. With O'Neal out until late March at best, they won't have much time to see how well he fits before deciding whether to offer him a lucrative extension. If they do, you would have to assume Austin Croshere's days in Indy would finally be numbered (they always have been, but apparently the number was triple digits).


Then there was today's huge swap, which sent (among others) Ricky Davis and Mark Blount to the Timberwolves, and Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi to the Celtics. As Charles Barkley observed tonight on TNT, he doesn't see how this trade makes either team better. Taking that a step further, I can totally see this making both teams worse. Maybe KG will get along better with Ricky Davis than he did with Szczerbiak, but Blount has been every bit the underachiever that Olowokandi was this year. And Paul Pierce will absolutely hate Olowokandi, who is borderline useless. And will Szczerbiak be as good a second scorer as Davis?

It's a strange trade, because best I can tell both teams should be looking for the same thing: reliable veterans to surround their respective superstars (Pierce and Garnett) with so they can contend for a title—or, in Boston's case, at least a playoff spot. Exchanging your problems for another team's rarely works out. And I don't see this one working, either.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Seriously now, that didn't happen. They were Canadian points, so it was only like 65, right? Kobe Bryant torched the Toronto Raptors for 81 points on only (only, ha) 46 shots. Absurd. He bettered Michael Jordan's all-time scoring mark by an even dozen and didn't even need overtime (or, for that matter, all of regulation) to do it.

The worst part is that I didn't even watch it. Nope. Halfway through the Seahawks/Panthers I went to my girlfriend's in Brooklyn, and she doesn't have LeaguePass. Found out about it on the Channel 11 news this morning, then came home and actually endured SportsCenter long enough to see the highlights. Amazing.

It's only January, and Kobe has already done two things this season that Jordan never did—breaking 70 (and 80) and scoring 45-plus in four straight games. His 81 was only 19 shy of Wilt Chamberlain's record 100, and Kobe took 17 fewer shots and 12 fewer free throws. Not sure if Phil Jackson would say they all came within the flow of the offense (unless the offense simply flows through Kobe at all times), but the Lakers did get the W. He had 55 points in the second half. 55! How many players in the League have even scored that many in a game? (Let's see—Iverson, Shaq, T-Mac, LeBron...who else?)

The scariest thing, to me, is that it didn't seem all that difficult for him. Why shouldn't he get 90 later? Or a 50-15-15 triple-double? Regardless, he's making one hell of a case of who the best player in the League is. And he ain't in Miami.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


First off, I'd like to apologize for my absence of late. No good reason that I can come up with either, other than the fact that I can tend to be somewhat irresponsible. My bad. Gonna try to get into a groove of posting SOMETHING everyday, even if it's just a sentence. (I may have said that before, but hopefully I really mean it this time.)

Seeing that it's already 12:45 a.m. Eastern, I want to keep it short tonight, but I couldn't wait any longer to talk a little about what happened in Chicago tonight. For those of you who weren't watching Knicks/Bulls, it was actually an exciting game, with a Ben Gordon walk-off jumper ending things in OT. There was a brief scuffle between Chris Duhon and Maurice Taylor which ended with them both getting double-tech ejected. And Antonio Davis casually hopped over the scorer's table and went up into the stands.

Yep, Antonio Davis, the one-time Pacer, coached by Larry Brown, who was on the other side of things at the Malice In The Palace. Antonio Davis, who is 37 years old and the recipient of community service awards and countless accolades from his peers. Antonio Davis, who has been an All-Star and a mentor to many young players. Antonio Davis, who is the president of the Player's Association.

Now, this wasn't anything close to the Artest debacle. Apparently something happened involving Davis's wife, and he went up there to see what was going on. A natural reaction, to be sure. There were no punches thrown, and Davis was escorted back to the court (then back to the locker room) by arena security. Nothing happened. But didn't David Stern make it ABUNDANTLY clear after the Artest incident that players were absolutely forbidden from going into the stands for any reason?

Here's what he said following Artest's season-ending suspension last year: "We have to make the point that there are boundaries in our games. One of our boundaries, that have always been immutable, is the boundary that separate the fans from the court. Players cannot lose control and move into the stands."

Of course Davis's natural reaction is to protect his wife and chidren from harm. But this is an NBA arena in 2006. Has there EVER been a case in recent history of a player's family being harmed physically during a game? If there has been, I don't know about it. Sure, security didn't appear to be there when Davis arrived, but it was certainly on the way. There was no reason for him to go into the stands—in the opponent's building, no less—to do someone else's job.

If Stern was sincere in his words—and one has no reason to doubt he wasn't—Davis has to be suspended for his actions, however noble he felt they were. It certainly won't be for the rest of the season, but 10 games wouldn't surprise me. Whatever the case, someone definitely needs to get a quote from Artest.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Shooting Starbury


So since the New Year the Knicks are 3-0, and Stephon Marbury has been brilliant. Recent stories in the NYC tabloids put much of the credit for Steph's recent success at the feet of Larry Brown—for criticizing him after a few poor games. Even Starbury himself has admitted that Brown's words motivated him.

But let's not have the Pope fasttrack LB for sainthood quite yet. After all, despite the current winning streak, the Knicks are still an abysmal 10-21. And Marbury's stellar play of late isn't exactly unprecedented. After all, he's in his 10th year in the League, with averages of 20.5 points and 8.2 assists per to show for it. This isn't exactly making a silk purse out of a sow's ear (to use an old expression I still don't quite understand). In fact, Steph's overall numbers this year are well below his career averages—18.3 and 6.6—and anyone who thinks all is rosy from here on out might want to take off the tinted glasses.

Things may be good now, but the Knicks are still a disasterpiece. Give Brown credit for moving David Lee into the starting lineup at small forward, by all means, but at the same time, please question why Lee was on the inactive list for seven games at the start of the season. Why was Trevor Ariza so upset at finding himself out of the rotation? Why was Jerome James suspended for "conduct detrimental"? (OK, we know that one, but still, shouldn't Brown have been able to to make him play/practice "the right way"?) Why did it take until January to find a starting lineup that made sense?

Meanwhile, Brown's old team, the Detroit Pistons, are on pace to win 70 games, and are the class of the Eastern Conference. Another team Brown used to coach, the San Antonio Spurs, are the class of the West. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Some people awoke today sad to see 2005 gone. None of them are employed by the New York Knicks. Only a Friday night Nets victory over the Atlanta Hawks kept the Knicks from having the worst record in the NBA when the calendars changed. Of course, their record is still putrid enough to require a heck of a lot of deodorant. 7-21. Not exactly what everyone expected when Larry Brown came to town.

In fact, the only person who's thriving on the Knicks appears to be the Post's Peter Vescey, who appears more than happy to fiddle while Rome burns. While his latest column focuses on the recent (on-court) misdeeds of Kobe Bryant, he still finds time and space to belittle the Knicks brand of "casketball," a rather apt description.

And there really isn't any reason to think it'll get better in '06. Stephon Marbury and Brown allegedly hate each other (a feud which the local media is more than happy to fan the flames of), their certain lottery pick belongs to the Chicago Bulls, and two months into the season Brown STILL hasn't settled on a starting lineup. If it wasn't for his flashy resume (and his $10 million per deal) he would have been fired already. The Knicks aren't just losing, they're losing badly, with late collapses (didn't Don Chaney's teams do this too?) and hanging heads. Confidence is essentially nonexistent, and the playoffs are almost certainly out of reach.

It's Isiah Thomas who assembled this capped-out mess, of course, and even the timely retirement of Allan Houston didn't provide much relief to the bloated payroll or the crowded backcourt. It did mark the official end of the Layden era, as every player currently on the roster was acquired by Thomas. Their record is his legacy thus far.

What we have is failure. Two overweight and undertough centers, a few talented rookies who don't know from one day to the next if they're starting or being put on the inactive list, three point-guard sized shooting guards, a shooting-guard size small forward (and no real small forward), and all of one player with a sense of pride—37-year-old Antonio Davis, who didn't even want to play for the Knicks in the first place. The Knicks' player with the most passion, Kurt Thomas, was traded for a player without a position, Quentin Richardson.

The Knicks may have a slightly better record than the Hawks, but at least the Hawks have a future. They're laden with young talent—Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Al Harrington, Zaza Pachulia, Marvin Williams—that can either be allowed to develop, or be traded for other pieces. They're also well below the salary cap. The Knicks, on the other hand, have overpaid cast-offs whose former teams improved upon their leaving. Ask the Suns and the Nets about Marbury, or the Bulls about Jamal Crawford.

There's a reason Brown has used 19 different starting lineups, and it's not just because he's lost his mind. He's trying to assemble a puzzle with pieces from different boxes, with some duplicated and others missing altogether. The lineup that would seem to make the most sense—Marbury, Crawford, Richardson, Channing Frye and Eddy Curry—is short on leadership, rebounding and playmaking, not necessarily in that order. It also makes for a lame second unit, with only sparkplugs Nate Robinson and Trevor Ariza bringing any bounce. AD has fire, but at 37 he can only burn so brightly for so long. At least he doesn't give up the lane.

Some of these mismatched parts would be tradeable if they weren't being overpaid. Surely a team could use Jamal Crawford, but not at $55 million. Or Jerome James, but not at $30 mill. Penny Hardaway's expiring contract may be attractive to someone, but they'd have to take another poison contract in return. They could simply let it expire themselves, but given the mega-dollar presence of Marbury, Curry, James and Crawford (and Richardson), they'd still be above the cap. It's unlikely Antonio Davis will return for another season, and if he doesn't, who'll pick up the leadership slack?

It doesn't look like it'll be Marbury. His game is still fluid and dynamic—he can score with the best of them when he gets on a roll—but his personality is still caustic and damaging. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and too often it's broken. Rather than try to pick his teammates up when things get bad, he leads the sulking, which is every bit as contagious as enthusiasm, and far more harmful. Despite his considerable talents, it's hard to believe the Knicks will ever win anything with Marbury at the helm. And with $80-something million remaining on his contract, it's equally hard to believe that the Knicks will be able to trade him until his final year.

This, of course, is Isiah's problem. Acquiring Marbury was his boldest move, taking on tons of salary and a player with well-documented teammate troubles. It got him (and the Knicks) positive headlines almost immediately, as the first step towards building a contender. Every step since then, though, has seemingly been a backwards one. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the way Isiah built a team around Marbury—players were acquired simply because they could be, with little or no regard as to how they would fit into a system, or with the point guard. Instead of building a team AROUND Marbury, and trying to avoid the missteps that had led to his departures from New Jersey and Phoenix, Thomas basically set Stephon up to fail. Vilified in the past for his score-first mentality, Steph found himself again the best scoring option on a losing team. And there's not much that can be done. In purging the roster of all remnants of things Layden, Isiah built a roster with little—if any—flexibility.

Maybe things will get better in, say, 2008.