Updated Dec. 16
No NBA columnist's life would be complete without questions, compliments and insults hurled from loyal readers. Unlike e-mail to your boss, spouse or various customer service departments, the e-mail you send to me actually generate responses. Here they are, in the first edition of Geez, Berger -- which is an even more appropriate name for the mailbag than I knew, given the, um, enthusiasm expressed in some of these letters.
From: Gordon T.
That is probably one of the best and most fair articles I have read on Greg Oden. I am a Blazer fan and can't believe the wild swings of opinion on Oden. Great job!
Thank you for your kind words. Check, cash or PayPal?
From: Max B.
How do you have a job as a writer? I mean you're not that bad, but I just read your Rose-Oden article -- one of the 10 worst articles I have ever read on this site, I'm not joking. Do you really believe that Rose is a better player than Oden? If you do, lay off of the pipe dude!
Thank you for reading, Max. Kindly consult with Gordon T. before sending your next e-mail. P.S. How many of the other nine worst articles have I managed to author in the past three weeks?
Just look at the slogan on his site. ... That's all you need to know. LOL.
Starbury thought he was bigger than basketball, and bigger than his team. He has learned otherwise.
From: Mike V.
Get off Oden's back! Jesus Christ, give him a year or two before you call him a bust. I hate all these idiots that after five games of a player's career, they call him all washed up. I will wait until after the second full season before I pass judgment on him, but so far I think he is playing well and fits perfect with this team.
This is my first mailbag, so I'll cut you a break. We're all getting used to how things are going to be done here. But in the future, rather than invoke J.C.'s name, address your complaints to the title of the mailbag: "Geez, Berger." Has a more, I don't know, collegial feel to it.
Now, I'm pretty sure I never wrote that Oden was washed up. Learning, yes. And the learning curve for a big man is much steeper than for a guard like Rose. And I agree, Mike, that Oden -- once he gets the nuances of defending and running pick-and-roll and gains some confidence -- will be a perfect fit for the Blazers. I just think that Rose is the rare exception to the rule that says you always go with size, with all else being equal.
From: Jason M.
Man ... Let's see. If Oden averages 38 minutes a game like Rose, his numbers pace out to what ... 14 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks? He has looked dominant at times, and looked horrible. I was at the Rose (Garden) in Portland for the Bulls game, and Rose was not even in the top three guards in the game the way he looked. Amazing ... some good games, some bad ones. Oden is learning, and he's a big man. He needs time, and to build up his stamina after being off for so long. He is coming back off of microfracture surgery, and it is also in his first games in a year and a half. Not to say this is a stupid comparison, but comparing Oden to Rose is dumb.
Couldn't have said it better myself, Jason. Oh, wait ... I did! (Your point about per-minute averages is an excellent one, and your math is close. With 38 minutes a game, Oden's numbers would translate to 13 points, 13 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. I can think of about 15 NBA teams who can't defend the basket or rebound who would kill for a guy like that.)
From: Jason T.
The Lakers are phenomenal. The only thing I learned about the Finals last year was it was painfully obvious who the league wanted to win by looking at Game 2; the Lakers were without their second-best player and forced Odom and Gasol to play more inside, which is away from their natural positions. So get off it, Ken.
Phil, is that you? Phil Jackson? Hmmm, I remember two things about Game 2 of the Finals: Phil complaining about the officiating after the loss -- which he does after every loss, as is his right and talent as a great, strategic Zen Master -- and Leon Powe facing no resistance as he dunked his way to 21 points off the bench. The Celtics did have an enormous advantage in free-throw attempts (38-10), but the Lakers were called for only seven more fouls (28-21). I thought we were finished with these conspiracy theories about the officiating. Silly me.
From: Tracy J.
You're half right with the Lakers taking nights off on defense when facing inferior teams. But the Celtics also have this problem; they barely won against the Bobcats -- winning by four points -- and lost to the Pacers and a Nuggets team not known for their defense. Most of their games, the Celtics have been behind after the first half, relying on second-half spurts and defensive stops, so they only play a half of good defense. Just to be fair, that's all I'm saying.
Tracy, you're 100 percent right, and I would like to go to Atlantic City with you. This invitation is based on your prediction that, less than a week after writing that the Lakers don't play enough defense, I would write that the Celtics take quarters off and lack killer instinct. Clearly, the Celtics read this column, since they have now won 15 in a row.
From: Ralph M.
Ken, Why are assists referred to as 'dimes?' Thanks.
Ralph, you win the prize for the question of the week. Unfortunately, the only reward we are currently offering is an answer to the question. According to various websites -- Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary -- the term dates back to when it cost 10 cents to place a call at a pay phone. So when you dropped a dime, you were calling someone up. There is a possible nefarious connotation to dropping a dime, meaning you're snitching -- calling 911 to report somebody's crime, which might or might not have included the exchange of a controlled substance. Of course, the NBA and its sponsors, marketing partners and players acknowledge no connection to that particular definition and disavow any and all implied connections to such activities.
From: Damon F.
Ken, Don't you think you're being a little hard on the Lakers? We were almost one game from winning the Finals last year and we are better this year. Instead of making comments, why don't you make suggestions? By the way, we would sweep Cleveland in a playoff series. Be more insightful, man.
Damon, I don't think I was being any harder on the Lakers than Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, who both have admitted that the Lakers needed to step up their defense and toughness this season to compete with the Celtics. Clearly, the Lakers share the pedestal with Boston and Cleveland. But both of those teams play better defense. I thought a healthy Andrew Bynum would help, but Phil has stopped playing him late in games. It would appear that Phil is more disappointed in the team's defense than I am. (Even so, Phil has yet to ask me for my suggestions.) If the Lakers face the Cavs in the Finals, they certainly have enough talent to beat them. But they better defend more consistently than they're doing now.
From: Alex B.
Hey Ken, when are you guys going to do a power ranking for the NBA? Oh, yes, hurry up you guys.
Alex, Stay tuned.