Posted on: December 22, 2009 9:19 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2009 11:14 pm
The Atlanta Hawks take the court against the Timberwolves. Al Horford tries a 20-footer, Marvin Williams works his stroke to shake his shot from refridgeration. A layup in transition misses resulting in a Joe Johnson tip-in. The offense is taking it's first strides, but there is no need. This squad is already first in flight with a 16-to-4 run. Within the first fix minutes of basketball, the Wolves were forced into turning the ball over six times. Mike Woodson stands along the sideline taking steady steps between his bench and the scorers table. like every other game, he watches the team he assembled from scratch. Josh Smith picks up his second foul voices his frustration and takes his seat. A few assistants talk the young man down as Zaza Pachulia takes his place inside the paint. Zaza comes from a bench filled with gunslingers and potent role players, some of which are well-payed with enough talent to start elsewhere. But they like what they got going on here.
The Hawks are looking great. But last year had a similar start as they went undefeated for as long as the Lakers did. This team is so dynamic in that they have an All-NBA Second Team superstar talent, a proven point guard who stays productive past his prime, a coach that knows how to get the most defensive effort, and a handful of intangibles. That is the very makeup of a 2nd round team. The Hawks play the right way, and when they execute they can be a match for any team in the association. As the closing minutes of the 1st Quarter dwindle, the Hawks 52% shooting from the field looks to build as Jamal Crawford and Maurice Evans spread the floor to set up Horford.
The Hawks can dive to the inside, spread out zones with sharp-shooting, take flight and outrun the opponent on both ends of the floor as Mike Woodson taught them to do well, or they can isolate and let Joe Johnson try to become a hero. And by all means is Johnson the captain of the ship, a solid 20 ppg guy who can clean up in rebounds and assists when called upon. He takes his time and finds his role, game-by-game, and although he may not be the most consistent scorer among the superstar swingmen we've seen in the NBA. His work ethic on the court is what has my respect.
But the captain is not always the leader, nor are they always the center of a team's inspiration, nor are they the embodiment of a team's character. Superstar-caliber play doesn't always guarantee that feeling of brotherhood the two guards may get when setting the springs of a half court trap, or the seamless pocket created by the forwards and center when boxing out for boards. In other words, Joe Johnson is not the one that sets the Hawks in flight, the credit falls on the child with highest hops and widest wingspan.
When my eye falls over the hardwood, I see Josh Smith as an All-Star. I see the identity of the Atlanta Hawks through him. Everyone acts differently when he takes the court, adjusting themselves for his presence. An absolute freak of nature first showcased in the 2005 Slam Dunk contest when he defeated an Amare Stoudemire that oop'ed the off-the-forehead and off-the-heels alley's of the mighty MVP that was Steve Nash. You still see that when he gets a baseline to cut through, or a step on a dribble around his defender --utilizing an uncanny speed for a man of his size-- putting any and all opponents in the paint at his mercy. Josh Smith is a high and a bad trip, an exploding force that at times runs the risk of self-destruction, he is magician and a monster. But this year he's leading the league with 2.4 blocks--every swat sparking an Atlanta fast break-- a night, 1.7 steals, 50% shooting, and a solid 15 ppg to compliment an already potent offense. He's got my vote for the all-star team, even though I'm certain he's got a longshot considering how many great forwards run in the east. And I certainly do admit that there are times I think he's playing great, only to glance at the boxscore and wondering if I'm being lied to. And I do cringe when he spots up for 3's. I -hate- his jumpshot. Watching him settle for J's has me not envying Mike Woodson's job who must show the forgiveness of the prodigal son's father. But with that said, I believe that when it all boils down to ATL hoops, Josh Smith is their muse.
We've seen him scream at officials, publicly throw tantrums with Woodson, rack up some fouls both personal and technical, and let rage thorn the execution that this Hawks squad lives and dies by. But if you ask me, it's part of the game. It's part of his game. And that's exactly why Woodson has to often resort to tough love. Now with a shaved head as a result of a lost bet he made with his team to make the playoffs in 2008, an angered Woodson reminds me of Steve Harvey, but it's all part of this team's dynamic. Talent need their intangibles in order to succeed.
Even though this team is getting a lot out of their veterans like Bibby, Evans, and Crawford, this is still a team of potential. Aside from a team that is now executing this is a team that will evolve. They made their mistakes, like drafting Marvin Williams over Chris Paul and Deron Williams, or trading Pau Gasol for Shareef Abdur-Rahim you could argue, but they've put it all behind them for the sake of the fight. This team has an identity that sees success even when they have yet to find themselves.
If these trends show consistency, an explosive bench of Evans/Crawford's scoring, Joe Johnson's versatilities, Josh Smith's energy, and a defense looking to smother from inside and out as passionately without the ball as they can with it, this team is going to do more than the 2nd round sweeping they suffered to the Cavaliers last May. The Atlanta Hawks will receive a well-deserved raise.
Posted on: December 16, 2009 5:20 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2009 6:25 pm
My love for basketball is as deep within the redness of my blood as my love for Sonic The Hedgehog, Street Fighter II Turbo, Marisa Tomei's acting, and sushi with sake on a saturday night. My belief in the game goes beyond a board of numbers that say who scores, steals, or rebounds. The goal of the game is simple, score more than the guys in the other colors, you can follow these standards even with the simplicity of playing the shirts against the skins. You can understand it with a Japanese tongue, a southern accent, or through the rhythmic poetics of hip-hop that shake the sidewalks with echoing bass. You can grind out every game with the edge of your elbow, thugging-out the space of the key, or you can say showtime and leave the defenders at the dust of your heels with a fast break. It's all part of the game not in ways that are right or wrong, but complimentary to going about that goal.
As Red taught us through the hardware he wore at the capacity of his hands, good basketball is about playing the right way. But as times change with the players in ways that have brought us longer shorts, sharper bounce passes to split through seams that were once thought to have never existed, three-point bombardments from greater distances, we realize that the team finding "the right way" to play starts with finding their own. For instance there was my case. As a kid, I learned basketball through fundamentals. Fundamentals for a point guard that got downright boring like turning your back to the defender at the top of the key and waiting for the forwards to unfold themselves for the next step of the play. And then one day as I sat along the sidelines awaiting my downs on a pick-up game, I asked myself what could happen if I was the quickest thing on the court. And that's when I experienced the joy of beating someone off the dribble dipping my feet into the paint to draw the bigs out leaving the doors behind them open for the back-cutting teammates. That's when I always kept an eye out on the perimeter to beat any and all cherry-pickers to the basket forcing them to earn their keep. In 90% of the games I have played, I have been the shortest and far from the strongest.
Decades ago the only advice on the sport they would have given me was to drop the ball and yield the hardwood to the tallest people around. A man of my stature, regardless of my skill, would have been the wrong way to play basketball. But then the game saw the crossover dribble, the pistol with the number 44, Steve Nash's MVP runs, positionless offenses that spread the ball to dismantle a zone defense one pass at a time. Even larger players began to sharpen up their skills. From Magic Johnson and Hedo Turkoglu, 6'10 players with handles, to the Dirk Nowitzki's and Rashard Lewis' that compliment their height with the range of their shot. The game of basketball will always be about change.
And that's all David Stern's trying to say with his comment about females mixing it up into the association. I'm sure it got a whole bunch of writers throwing fits, sent shivers down the spines of all the fine shock-jocks we know and not love, and may have served to deepen grudges people already have with the commish. Let me just relay the quote here: "I think we might," said Stern. "I don't want to get into all kinds of arguments with players and coaches about the likelihood. But I really think it's a good possibility."
Let me first and foremost say that I don't follow the WNBA, I just think Candace Parker is hot. And at this given time I don't think anyone in that league is ready to play at an NBA-level and certainly not within the next 10 years. But maybe, maybe , they're NBDL level. After all, a lot of the NBDL consists of flat-footed centers and those that live and die by the offerings of their three-point ambitions. There may be girl ballers that can play the game with more dimensions than a handful of male ballers who hold their sweat-drenched headbands in anticipation of a 10-day contract with an NBA team.
What Stern says, about the game coming into that change, is something I once witnessed at my high school where the girls won 5 state championships over a span of 6 years. The guys were okay but their games at best only drew about a third of the crowd the girls team guaranteed at every showing. It was the pride of the faculty, even half the school's students traveled upstate with their families to watch them dominate. No one in a gym class said anything against them balling among us in full-court pick up games. They just went to a different locker room when the day was done. I even dueled one in a scrimmage and found myself out-classed and out-scored with steam arising from my shaken ankles.
But of course the NBA is the best-of-the-best. And if you ain't got it, you're not going to get it. We all know that. And I might not even be the best basketball player here at the CBS office. I know that too. But as someone who has seen the reflection of his own personality through his inconsistent jump-shot, I also know that the game is going to change. What it will change with remains a mystery.
At this given time Diana Taurasi can't guard a backup point or even one that's on injured reserve. Chris Quinn, Speedy Claxton, Acie Law, and even Stephon Marbury fresh after a UStream marathon may still be better options. But Diana Taurasi is far from an Apex of a dream, perhaps she's more of a glass ceiling. One that, once surpassed, will take the girl-ballers to a new level. Already Candace Parker is so ridiculous that no one pays any attention to her husband's career. He comes off the bench for the Kings and went to Duke by the way. Skills will sharpen, IQ's will increase, shots will rain from the skies, Stern is saying that the dream is not dead.
In fact, on the subject of women getting drafted: it actually did happen. Twice really.
In 1977, Lusia Harris was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz. Ann Meyers, a 3-time All-American for UCLA was also drafted and actually signed by the Indiana Pacers in 1979 but was released before the start of the season. Women playing in the NBA already could have happened. I can say beyond any shade of doubt that David Stern knows of this. And maybe that's why I'm laughing at all the people hating on his comment.
So this is to every girl that has broken the ankle of a male defender with a shift of a dribble. To all the ladies splashing J's on the asphault and on the hardwood. To every woman that has to learn to shoot with both sized basketballs. Keep your head up, keep scoring, keep talking trash, and just keep doing your thing. Some of you may find the right way.
And some of you might be as hot as Candace Parker too.
Posted on: October 24, 2009 4:45 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2009 4:51 pm
Thinkin of a master plan,cuz ain't nuthin but sweat inside my hand
So I dig into my pocket, all my money is spent
So I dig deeper but still comin up with lint
So I start my mission- leave my residence
Thinkin how could I get some dead presidents
I need money, I used to be a stick-up kid
So I think of all the devious things I did
I used to roll up, this is a hold up, ain't nuthin funny
Stop smiling, be still, don't nuthin move but the money
But now I learned to earn cos I'm righteous
I feel great! so maybe I might just
Search for a 9 to 5, if I strive
Then maybe I'll stay alive
So I walk up the street whistlin this
Feelin out of place cos, man, do I miss
A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape of
Me and Eric B, and a nice big plate of
Fish, which is my favorite dish
But without no money it's still a wish
Cos I don't like to dream about gettin paid
So I dig into the books of the rhymes that I made
To now test to see if I got pull
Hit the studio, cos I'm paid in full
With the first signs of the basketball season climbing over the horizon. I guess I'll start a new series of articles and continue them if and when I feel like it. I might not be able to cover every team so in the event your team doesn't get an article don't come at me thinking the absence of attention means there's beef. There's already going to be enough beef over what gets written that there won't be much reason to get hot over what's not written. I will however make an effort to cover at least 1 team of each division. And the Eric B and Rakim reference? You got me, no real explanation there. I couldn't learn basketball without developing an appreciation for hip-hop. Even though I'd be pretty well off if I had a dollar for everytime someone told me hip-hop was everything wrong with basketball. Personally, I think the announcer from NBA Jam was everything wrong with basketball.
But to me there's a lot to basketball, most of which can only be determined on the fine-waxed hardwood. Every respectable coach will tell you that success in this sport is about playing the right way. What is the right way? The image of the path grows in obscurity with age. Seasons pass and so do the standards. George Mikan took command of the backboard. Bill Russell swatted shots out of the sky to turn denials into extra possessions for the C's of the 60s. Wilt Chamberlain either scored or rebounded the ball if it came off the rim like a true player, Kareem and Magic added style to their size blurring the once-fine line between game time and show time. Michael Jordan stepped up every game not just by hitting the heroic jumpers, but by always being there. Today you see Wade attacking the basket on both ends of the court. LeBron James' superhuman qualities, Kobe Bryant's fundamentally-sound form, Dwight Howard's muscle, a perfect pass from Chris Paul weaving it's way out of traffic jam, or even someone like Brandon Roy when he's having one of those days. You just can't hold the same playbook. What is "the right way"? There is no success in seeking the philosophy, but what you can find, you can succeed.
So here's what I'm breaking down. I'm not here to list what teams are contending or crossing their fingers for love come the lottery. I'm not here to throw my gloves in regards to the MVP race. I'm not going to tell you about the rookie of the year. No power rankings, no speculating on Kobe and Artest potentially becoming one of the NBA's greatest odd couples or dysfunctional duos. It's too easy and frankly I don't care to write about that stuff. I'm here to talk about the guys who have a lot riding on their hustle. I'm calling out the players who are going to have to step it up in whatever ways they can. If these players can rise up and above their role, the team will benefit in wyas beyond expectation. And together we can get paid in full. While the teams I choose will be arbitrary, I will take suggestions on what teams you'd like for me to shed light on. Regardless of their projected standing in the league, I can care about every and any team in the NBA.
So the first team that comes to mind are the Sixers. Over the last two years I found myself loving the Sixer style of ball, at least from February through the first round of the playoffs. Neither season started well and it's not going to go well if this one follows suit. The Eastern Conference is as hungry and healthy as it's ever been in the Post-Jordan era. The Raptors and Chris Bosh have a supporting cast of international superstars who have only begun to shake things up north of the border. A contract year and a successful rebuilding effort has given Dwayne Wade more desire to dominate. The Washington Wizards have their youth, some stolen starters from Minnesota for depth, and high hopes in regards to health. The Hawks have vowed for offensive consistency. Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando, named the best, look toward the West to quench championship thirsts.
But the Sixers are not screwed. Eddie Jordan could bring a lot to this team. Like a DJ melting vinyl to strengthen the MC, a coach can put new opportunities and openings in the playbook and mentalities of the team. Last year's Sixers could always use better possessions. There were stretches of the game where all they could do was isolate Iguodala in hopes that he'd get hot. Sometimes he would, sometimes he wouldn't. But they had something going for them. Intelligent and efficient point guard play from the steady dribble of Andre Miller. Miller didn't give you numbers, his jump shot has always been horrific, and he may not be anyone's first thought in regards to fantasy sports but you could see how he pushed the ball. He got things in motion or got things in the open court where players like Thaddeus Young could break out. It was when Andre Miller had the ball where the Sixers seemed the most in sync. At least 2-3 guys made plays to set each other up every time. And the Sixer basketball faces a new age without a veteran ball-handler setting them up.
The Sixer system this year certainly has some options for Coach Jordan to play with. Thaddeus Young is looking sharp at the 3 but he knows when to use his size and function as a power forward. Especially on the fast break. In theory, he could find more space on the floor to work his way into the system. And I say in theory because Elton Brand remains a wild card. Coming off 2 injury-plagued seasons the last of which had a few Philly fans thinking the team might function better without him like Houston did sans-McGrady last year. Brand is going to be on the court, but can he find his way and his midrange-J when things get grinded down into the half court. There's nothing wrong with isolating Iguodala. After starting in a slump, he proved himself to be one of the strongest shooting guards in the game after the all-star break. When his jumper happened, he got the Sixers on those 8-0 scoring runs that kept them in the 4th Quarter fight. Iguodala should be given the chance to establish some star power on the court. Jason Kapono might be able to show this team the benefit of believing in the 3-point shot (a first in a very long time), especially since they gave up a potent offensive rebounder in Reggie Evans to get him. With mores minutes Mareese Speights might fill the void Evans and his boxing out (not counting the time with Chris Kaman in the playoffs) has left.
And with that said, Andre Miller is going to be toughest thing for this Sixer team to replace. That's why we're all looking at you, Lou. How Lou Williams handles this offense under the willl very well either help or hurt the Sixers immensely in the pursuit of the postseason. Granted, Williams is the better shooter and scorer than Miller. He averaged a solid 12.8 ppg coming off the bench which has him at 19.5 ppg per 36 minutes. And while posting 3 dishes per game with an average of 23.7 minutes of play was acceptable, the 1.9 turnovers per game is not going to cut it this time around, Lou. Jordan's style of offense thrives upon ball movement. It's not just about setting the guy up for a shot but sometimes being the guy that sets up the guy that sets up the guy. Lou Williams has the talent to be the starting point guard, but does he have the balance of patience and passion to be the point guard the city of Philadelphia needs? Is he the floor-master general that knows when to control the court and when to bring out the organized chaos? I know Jrue Holliday has also been considered for point guard play, but whether he's ready for the floor is for the hardwood to decide.
The 76ers have gone back to their old look and perhaps the magic of the 1980's can come along without anyone having to wear Member's Only jackets or listen to Hall and Oates. When Andre Iguodala gets it in, it will be on. Elton Brand has to fid his place on the court, and stay on the court. Thaddeus Young will continue to find his niche and develop. But if Lou Williams can captain the charge: Together, they will be paid in full.
Posted on: August 25, 2009 6:52 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2009 6:56 pm
I take a day off from the wonderful world of sports. I get a little sun, do a little writing, drink 2 screwdrivers and get owned online in Madden because I just don't know what I'm doing with Jake Delhomme.
Then in the middle of the night, I get a text message from an old trusted friend about how the Heat season is hopeless. Being an admirer of the organization since Pat Riley flew down here from New York and hi-jacked Miami basketball for the better, I took it to heart. He tells me that Michael Beasley was THE 2008 draft class bust, he's a miserable drug addict, and he can't find his place in the NBA...
"C'mon man, chill out." I told him, "Beasley can ball."
"Well he's balling in rehab."
It took a while for me to respond to that. I later got a few IMs from a few more good friends, one of which was a fully recovered drug addict who just brought a child to the world, and they're asking me how things got so difficult for the Big Easy. Without looking into the issue, I explained how Miami can be like to an independant 20-year old. It's a very beautiful city to which I owe an infinite supply of memories. But where the beauty climbs the fat pink skies comes the vices. And I don't have to tell you, in fact you can learn a lot by watching Cocaine Cowboys on Netflix. A most excellent documentary.
So now I'm here getting my research on. And I saw what everyone had to say.
If drugs are involved. And I'm saying IF. C.R. Bauman is saying IF.
So, If drugs are involved, and he's going to rehab. Then good for him. He's a 20-year old with the responsibility of bringing better basketball to a community, he also brought a daughter into the world a few weeks after a disappointing playoff performance against the Atlanta Hawks. He's going through a lot and if he's with John Lucas at a substance abuse rehab center, why are we treating him like he's getting caught? He's owning up. People do crazy things at the age of 20. And he's seeking help to change his ways. And for that I give him an applaud.
I have sympathy for Beasley because we don't know what he's going through. At first, he was rocking purple and black for K-State and impressing scouts with his ball-handling, jump-shooting, and post technique. He became the poster-child for the 2008 Draft Class. Then Derrick Rose impressed us all and stole the spot. And Chicago obviously did the right thing. Derrick Rose is one of my favorite point guards, a position I play.
So I read a few articles about how Beasley is now Chris Washburn...
My gloves are off. I'm swinging on you guys. The bartender will be telling me to take it outside and I will.
take a look at the 1986 draft class. And let's not count Arvydas Sabonis (who at the time was a BEAST) since he didn't come to the league for another 10 years. Only 6 all-stars and a hall of fame selection for Drazen Petrovic. The #2 pick also died of a drug overdose before setting foot on the floor for the regular season.
Now think about the rookies of Beasley's class and I rest my case.
I want to go into the stats. I want to point out how little minutes Miami gave the guy to develop. But basketball is a game I love to play. And I can't analyze a man's hitting simply by arguing that he should have had more at bats. But if you're interested, Beasley finished the year with 24 minutes per game and he only started averaging as much because Miami was letting him play for 35-40 to cover for the injuries of Udonis Haslem, Jamario Moon, and Jermaine O'Neal. And if you look at his numbers per 36 minutes, he's averaging 20 and 8.
But the problem on the court is that he's a creative person. Creativity on the court is a tough transition especially on the professional level. When you have guys who feed their families on how they protect the paint, a rookie can't come out and just whip out the right moves. There were games where he'd only play 5 minutes, and in those 5 minutes he had no time to establish any rhythm. He didn't know what was working. A creative player needs time and touches to read what the defense gives, and that's when the weapons work. When he only had two plays with the ball, he'd do a stupid half-spin or his first-step would fail. But if you watched him play 30 minutes, he simplified his game and became part of the Heat system. The jumper was wet and he found ways to rebound. Toward the last weeks of Miami's regular season he had a string of 25-point 15-rebound games with over 50% shooting.
He's someone who wants the ball. But no one wanted to talk about that. He was mentioned in as many trade rumors as Shawn Marion was. I could name three off the top of my head.
And with these rumors, you can't blame Heat fans for watching Wade's MVP-caliber effort and saying "Screw creativity. Let's be contenders."
So you're 20 years old, on your own, you're learning how to use your offense amongst the best in the basketball and the only thing the media says about him is where he should consider buying a new house. I feel bad for the guy, espcially when no one gave him any credit when he played the right way.
But now the 2nd pick of the draft fanfare has faded. Wade wants to be with contenders.
This is the month of August. The offseason is winding down and training begins.
And this is the best time for Michael Beasley to get his head straight.
Because come November, Derrick Rose will keep flirting with superstardom, Westbrook will fly higher, Brook Lopez and Greg Oden will swat balls into the stands, Kevin Love will continue to shine the offensive glass, O.J. Mayo's jumper will be sharper.
And Beasley will be ready and responsible for a new beginning.
Posted on: June 25, 2009 2:10 pm
Edited on: June 25, 2009 2:49 pm
This rookie class has a very tough act to follow considering what we saw last year.