Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Lockout Edition

Be honest: do you care about the lockout? Why or why not?

Joe Bernardo: Absolutely I care. The NBA is more popular now that it has been since before the last lockout. A work stoppage will slow some of the momentum the league has gained the past 3-4 years. Though Jacob is right (in his last blog entry) that true NBA fans will always stay loyal and the cadre of current young stars will keep the league fairly popular, I'm more concerned the lockout might lose those casual fans (like my wife who only watched basketball this season because of the drama surrounding Miami's Superteam and because of how hot Dwight Howard is). Let's face it, the Decision made Lebron a household name. But with a lockout coming, those casual fans will quickly forget what has been an unforgettable season. Sure, it won't be as bad as the drop off after the 1998-99 shortened season, but any work stoppage is not good for the league. Lastly, and more importantly, if the lockout becomes so bad that the season is canceled, I might as well shoot myself in the head because it will kill any chance of my Lakers (who I believe have one, maybe two God willing, years of contention left) from winning another ring and tying those !#@$! Celtics in total championships!

Alex Maki: Yes, I care about the lockout. The real reason? I want to see Rubio play. I want to watch him transform into the NBA fast break maestro we all know he can be. I want to watch an (gasp!) athletic Timberwolves team getting easy dunks in transition and cutting through the lane for delicious Rubio dimes. I want flash. I don’t even care about victories next year.

I am even interested in seeing Rubio doing the crash and burn, or perhaps just performing on par for an NBA point guard. But I need to see what he is capable of, and to finally determine if David Kahn is a crazy genius like Nikola Tesla or a mad scientist in the tradition of Dr. Frankenstein. This roster is just something else…

Franklin Mieuli: It is pretty ridiculous for the writer of an NBA blog to not care about the lockout, but no, I do not. I love basketball, analyzing basketball statistics and talking about transactions, but the business side of it is boring. I know what Bird Rights are, the formula for calculating whether two players can be traded for each other, how much owners make from TV rights and all the other business minutiae of the NBA, but I wish I didn't. I just want to watch basketball.

Jordan Durlester: Sure I care. I care for all the RIGHT reasons, unlike Maki who just wants to see Rubio ball in The Association (Spoiler Alert: Skinny pass-first guard greatly underachieves.)

Jacob Greenberg: I care a lot about the lockout. Besides the fact that I am a rabid fan of the NBA, and that I stupidly started an NBA blog on the eve of a work stoppage, this is a crucial time for the labor movement in America. Unions and worker's rights are under attack all across the country. Collective bargaining is no longer legal in the state of Wisconsin, and similar attacks are being waged by other state governments against unions. Even if this is a squabble between rich men, it doesn't take away from the fact that it is a struggle between labor (the players) and management (the owners). This struggle, like every labor struggle across the country, is crucial for the longterm survival of unionism in a time when unions are in danger of losing their power to effectively represent their workers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Spiritual Rebirth and Salvation of the Golden State Warriors

The Decision didn’t mean what you thought it meant. It was not the beginning of a new era in the NBA. There is no fundamental shift in the art of team construction. We won’t see scores of free agents accepting below market contracts to play with their friends. The Summer of LeBron occurred for the same reason the Jazz made the playoffs for 20 consecutive seasons, the same reason the Warriors missed the playoffs for 12 straight season and for the same reason we all feel unease when our team is involved in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs: the front office matters.

Heat owner Mikey Arison manages things perfectly. He hires smart people, gives them his checkbook and then stays the hell out of the way. If Dwayne Wade played for the Clippers or the Kings, the Raptors or even the Knicks, James and Bosh would not have joined him. Those front offices range from the worst in the league (Clippers) to merely pedestrian (Raptors), but they’re still miles away from the Spurs, Thunder, Jazz and Mavericks of the NBA world.

Dan Gilbert tried to sell LeBron on the idea of familiarity by commissioning a cartoon in the style of LeBron’s favorite TV show, Family Guy. Gilbert had to do this because he knew that trying to sell LeBron on the competence of his stewardship was tantamount to bringing a Super Soaker to a gunfight. Make all the jokes you want about LeBron disappearing in the playoffs, but who was his best teammate in Cleveland? Zydrunas Ilgauskas? “All-star” Mo Williams? Antwan Jamison? Their best draft picks during the LeBron era were ‘Boobie’ Gibson and JJ Hickson. Rotation players sure, but not starters on a championship-caliber team. The only decision the Cavaliers front office ever nailed was choosing LeBron in the draft.

And yet, Cleveland’s front office isn’t the worst in the league. It isn’t even close to the worst. For seventeen years (1995-2011) only the special brand of crazy that is Donald Sterling prevented by beloved Warriors from winning the both the “Worst Owner” and “Worst Front Office” awards. The Warriors excelled at drafting good players, but failed in every other respect. They traded away good players for ten cents on the dollar, hired bad coaches, gave all-star level contracts to mediocre players, alienated scores of agents and team executives and made disastrous basketball moves to save a couple of dollars, all in the midst of constant infighting, squabbling and political backstabbing. It’s a great time out!

Warriors fans are an adept bunch. They picked up on new owner Chris Cohan’s failings early. From the revolving door of head coaches to the poisonous atmosphere surrounding the team (the star player punched, choked and threatened to kill his own head coach!), Cohan’s poor administration was apparent immediately. The hatred came to a stunning, public zenith when the Warriors hosted the 2000 All-Star Game. Cohan took to the center of the court with his young son and David Stern to present an award to Michael Jordan, and the fans, Warriors fans, his fans, booed him. They booed him long and they booed him hard. They booed him so badly that, with his son by his side, he fled from the arena. As much as I believe that no man deserves the ridicule of 19,000 people in front of his son, I know that if I were there I would have joined in with no hesitation. Chris Cohan took something that I love, something that I have loved for three-quarters of my life, and tried his damnedest to run it into the ground.

So why was my joy reserved when it was announced that Joe Lacob had bought the team? To be sure, I was excited. I knew nothing about Lacob, but nothing was certainly better than Chris Cohan. A drunken monkey making decisions by throwing darts was better than Chris Cohan. After Lacob took over, I waited. He made move after move that I approved of (firing Nelson, hiring Smart, firing Smart, hiring Jackson/Malone, hiring Bob Myers and Jerry West), and yet I waited. The stench of mismanagement was dissipating, but it wasn’t time to take the gas mark off just yet.

One week ago, for my first time as a Warriors fan, the air smelled fresh. The hope in my chest, the hope that is so often restrained by realism, bloomed fully. Joe Lacob made the most significant move he will ever make as owner of the Golden State Warriors: he fired team president Robert Rowell.

He fired Robert Rowell! If you are a sado-masochist of the highest order, please go read Tim Kawakami’s column on Robert Rowell’s 25 fireable offenses. I, however, lived them, and have no desire to re-live them. As Chris Cohan sunk into the shadows after his public humiliation, Robert Rowell administered the Warriors how I imagine Napoleon might have, if only Napoleon had zero talent, charm or self-respect. He was the queen to Cohan’s impotent king, zooming around the board and leaving his pieces vulnerable (Mike Montgomery, Chris Mullin, Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Anthony Randolph) while never capturing any pieces (Kevin Garnett, any free agent of consequence, a respectable head coach) of his own.

If I wanted to quibble I would ask why it took Lacob eight months to figure out what the rest of us have known for years, but I am in no mood for that. Chris Cohan is gone. Robert Rowell is gone. Our new owner will talk to the media. Oakland is no longer on the “no fucking way” list for free agents. Other front offices will return Larry Riley’s calls. The Warriors will be considered the winners of a few major trades. Players will be signed to reasonable contracts. Stephen Curry will lead this team into the playoffs.

Perhaps I am overreaching. Maybe Andris Biedrins really will be traded for Hasheem Thabeet and Jordan Hill. Maybe the parade of lottery picks will continue. Maybe Lacob, West, Riley and Myers don’t really have a clue. All I know is that, for the first time since 2007, I believe.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"The Lockout Beard," Revisited.

It has been argued that the quintessential image of the NBA's last lockout was David Stern's so-called "lockout beard." On October 28, 1998, after months of bickering between players and owners, an unexpectedly bearded NBA Commisioner David Stern held an emotional press conference at NBA headquarters, where he dejectedly informed the world that the owners, represented by the NBA's lawyers, and the players, represented by their union, the National Basketball Player's Association (NBPA), had failed to draw up a collective bargaining agreement that both sides could agree upon, and that the regular season, scheduled to begin the next day, would be indefinitely postponed. Though the two warring factions would come to an agreement in early January--enough time to scrap together a 50 game season--undeniable damage had been done. Viewership and ticket sales dropped roughly 2 percent, and nearly 500 regular season games had been lost, as well as many millions of dollars in revenue, and purportedly, countless fans.

I have no memory of David Stern's lockout beard. I have no memory of the acrimony between the NBPA's Billy Hunter and Commisioner Stern, which reportedly included "profanity-laced tirades" and "excessive name calling" at times. In 1998, I was thirteen years old, and preparing for my Bar Mitzvah, so my life was filled with Torah study and my excessively cracking voice. At that age, when God was about to make me a "man," (as well as make me write hundreds of thank you cards to people I had never heard of, nor ever heard from again) I had neither the time, nor the inclination to read the news, which at the time, lambasted both players and owners as greedy, out of touch millionaires. As a young fan, this was not information I was particularly interested in, and at that age, I certainly had other things on my hormone-wrought mind (mostly Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager--resistance was truly futile.). In all honesty, I remember very little about the 1998 Lockout -- just like most things that happened to me when I was thirteen years old.

What I do remember, however, is the sense of happiness I felt when games returned. It was a sense of euphoria that I had not felt before; a sense of passion in an institution that I was in no way connected to, and an undeniable feeling of regret that something so entertaining and meaningful had been taken away from me for what seemed to be petty, insignificant reasons. At age thirteen, what did I know, conceptually, politically, and economically, about labor rights? What did I know about revenue sharing? About non-guaranteed contracts and retaining a player's Larry Bird Rights? At that point, my NBA fanhood was more rooted in watching the Chicago Bulls second dynasty with my mother, who was born and raised on the West side of Chicago, and famously cried when both Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan prematurely retired. Surprisingly, for me, it took the work stoppage for me to (retrospectively) realize that my fanhood not only in the NBA, but in the sport of basketball itself, had become something that I owned; that I now had all to myself, to cultivate how I saw fit. In other words: absence had made the heart grow fonder.

Though I cannot reasonably assert that this realization--that the Lockout had in fact increased my love of the NBA, rather than diminished it--was uniform among my peers, I do feel that could not have been the only one. I refuse to believe that there were individuals who, having grown up watching, attending, and loving NBA games, turned their backs on their fanhoods after 1998, and never returned. Fanhood seems to be more than something that is simply found and lost, like a wallet, or a significant other. Fanhood in anything, if done correctly, and fully, becomes a part of your identity, a fundamental way to describe yourself, and locate your place in society. For me, after 1998, I was no longer just Jacob the Jew, or Jacob the 8th grader. I was Jacob the NBA fan. For me, that was a distinctly new development, which only happened after the Lockout catalyzed that reaction. I feel I can safely assert there are others like me out there, as well. Perhaps not even with the NBA.

With this in mind, I question recent comments made by Lakers forward Luke Walton about the presumably negative effects the Lockout will have on the NBA's fanbase. Walton, alongside players and coaches, openly worries that the seemingly inevitable work stoppage will undo the progress the NBA has made in terms of building its fan base, and marketing its product. Walton is quoted as saying that, "the idea of the lockout and losing fans is probably the scariest thing of all...even moreso than missing games or losing out on your salary for however long you lose those games, it's losing the fan support because it's at an all-time high right now." Troublingly, recent numbers seem to support Walton's fears. All three networks that televise NBA games reported huge increases in viewership, arena capacity was at 90.3%, and record jersey sales for a number of NBA stars. This contrasts menacingly with statistics from the first lockout. The NBA lost 2% of its viewership, as well as about 2% of its ticket sales. Furthermore, based upon results from a New York Times - CBS Poll, roughly 29% of former NBA fans had a "negative view" of the League after the lockout ended. So yes, perhaps there is reason to worry.

But this is my question: Does having a negative view of something necessarily mean you are not a fan of it? Indeed, it's hard to fully support either side of this labor dispute, featuring millionaires and billionaires who are seeking to codify some very irresponsible fiscal practices in the form of a collective bargaining agreement. Neither the players nor the owners seem like relatable parties; it is hard for us, as "everyday fans" to identify with the issues up for debate. But with all that in mind, my fanhood in 1998 remained intact, and remains intact to this day. That didn't mean I wasn't annoyed with the entire situation--I'm sure I was--but at the same time, it didn't mean that I stopped caring about the NBA. Additionally, it didn't mean that I forgot about the NBA while it was gone. In fact, I was more excited to see it come back when it finally returned.

For me, this raises a number of interesting questions to consider as the new lockout looms ominously on the horizon, growing closer by the hour. While there are many unknowns to be resolved in the coming days and weeks, and it is hard to predict the outcome of this dispute, we know this: the lockout of 2011 will be nothing like the lockout of 1998. The abbreviated 1998-1999 season featured 50 games, while both the League and its fanbase processed Michael Jordan's (second) retirement from basketball (and there'd be a third, too), as well as the dismantling of the Phil Jackson-Jerry Krause led Chicago Bulls. A 2011 season, even if abbreviated, will still feature the great young players who have helped to make the League as popular as its ever been. People will still wonder if the Heat and Knicks can make Superteams work, or whether the Mavs can repeat, or whether teams like OKC or Memphis can unseat the big boys and reach the Finals. And as any basketball fan knows: momentum is important. The League has great momentum now with TV ratings, ticket sales and jersey purchases. It seems reasonable to assume those trends will continue even after the lockout concludes.

So, could the Lockout provide an unexpected boost for the League in terms of popularity and fanhood? Or, will it be like the last lockout in 1998-1999, and simply arrest the development of the NBA? Of course, no one knows. But we do know that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Not just for basketball, but for everything. For old jobs, old relationships, old memories. We miss what we don’t have anymore. The NBA will be no different for me. I’ll miss the Association when it’s gone. And I won’t be the only one. I am angry. We are angry. We don't want this to end.

But I also know that I'll be back. I am a sucker for punishment, after all. And you know what? You’ll be back too. We’re weaklings like that. And perhaps Stern will grow a lockout mustache this time around, as a consolation prize. That'd be a start, I guess.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Phoenix Suns and the Other Brother

It's been quite a few years since I last sat in the halls of the local synagogue reading Torah and playing pick-up gaga (a reference to the classic Jewish camp game, not the manish diva). Oh the fond memories. While it's true most of these memories surround Bar Mitzvah themes and hummus, I do seem to recall some of the ancient biblical stories passed down from generation to generation. After watching the NBA Draft last night a certain story in particular came to mind. It goes a little something like this:

Laban: Jacob, would you like to marry my smoking hot daughter, Rachel? Not only is her body bangin' but she will surely deliver you lots of sons.

Jacob: Yes.

Jacob stands under the chuppah next to who he assumes is Rachel and they exchange vows and smash a Kiddish Cup.

Jacob: Oh no! You aren't Rachel! You're her less attractive sister, Leah! I got the wrong sister.

Or something like that. Anyway, the point is, the Phoenix Suns front office must have been absent that day because since 2008 they have picked the wrong brother 3 times.

In 2008 with their first round pick the New Jersey Nets selected Brook Lopez. Brook was a can't miss type of prospect; A true 7 footer with the ability to score in the post with numerous moves and disrupt/block shots on the other end of the court.

Brook's twin brother shared his height and a fraction of his defensive prowess, but besides that was a goofy kid with side-show-bob hair. Just 5 picks after New Jersey grabbed Brook, Phoenix opted to take Robin. RoLo has had a below par NBA career thus far averaging just 5.9 PPG and 3.3 RPG. Strike 1.

It is a poorly kept secret that The University of Oklahoma recruited Taylor Griffin to get a foot in the door with younger brother, Blake. Taylor was all-in-all a pretty solid NCAA guy. He worked hard in practice, made all the hustle plays, and was a vocal leader as an upperclassman. However, he possessed no skill greater than being the most effective recruiting tool a collegiate coach could ask for.

Evidently the Suns once again overlooked the obvious and selected Taylor in the second round of the 2009 Draft. Sure, second round picks don't usually turn out to be superstars by any means, but I'm sure they were hoping for more production than 1.3PPG and .3RPG. Strike 2.

Last night the Suns selected Markieff Morris with their first round pick. The Morris twins both had pretty solid careers banging down low in the blocks at Allen Fieldhouse (and picking fights with the Jayhawks Football team). All the talking heads pretty much agreed that Marcus Morris was the better NBA prospect averaging 17.2PPG and 7.6 RPG while his SLIGHTLY taller brother averaged 13.6PPG and 8.3RPG.

I should note that Markieff shot the 3-ball at an impressive 42% in his last year of school, but if the Suns drafted him to be ANOTHER big with a preference to shoot (Channing Frye) than they have more problems than I have time to go into. I think they botched this one up, too. Strike 3.

God I'm Bored: The Diss Diaries the 2011 Draft.

While I was in undergrad, there used to be a group of guys who would turn the NFL Draft into their own personal Mardi Gras. They'd post up in some dorm lounge, strapped down with snacks and sodas and all sorts of unhealthy shit, and just watch the NFL Draft. And I don't mean the first round, or the first round. They would watch all 476 rounds of that sadistic marathon. What would be more impressive would be that these guys--who could generously be described as "nerds" at a school full of nerds--knew a sizeable amount about each prospect, each anonymous tailback or middle linebacker from Eastwestern Missasota State or wherever. It was stuff of legends. I was never invited.

For whatever reason, I never developed that type of relationship with the NBA Draft. To be honest, I don't know many of the players in the draft. I don't watch college ball until March Madness, and complain about watching "30 seconds of kicking the ball around the perimeter before some guy I've never heard of takers a bad shot" basketball throughout the entire tournament. That said, I do enjoy the pageantry of the NBA Draft. Each player is described by television analysts as a franchise savior, when at most, they'll be solid rotation players for a team different than the one that drafted them. Besides that, the entire event has a sort of pseudo-auction feel that vacillates between military conscription and beauty pageant. In a highly performative league, this is NBA theater at its finest.

This year, I decided to play along. I would get down and dirty with the NBA draft; study the players, watch both rounds. And, most importantly, record my thoughts, to share with all nine or so of you. And yes, this is what Bill Simmons does. Yes, it's what he's done for like thirteen years. Well, it's a pretty great format. And rest assured, my experience watching the draft is nothing like his. Jonathan Mahler of the New York Times reports that Bill Simmons does most of his sports viewing in the "Neverland of his four-flat-screen 'man cave.'" I guess I have a man cave, too. It's called a basement apartment. And my laptop gets ESPN 3. Take that, Sports Guy.

Anyways, here'sThe Diss's 2011 DraftDiary. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 22
1:36 AM: Check work schedule. No work tomorrow! Turn alarm clock off.
12:10 PM: Awaken at the crack of noon. Behold, the overeducated, undermotivated future of America.
12:30- 4:00: Work on "The Diss" at local coffee shop while religiously refreshing HoopsHype. There's some pretty juicy trade rumors, centering mostly around Andre Iguodala going to the Clippers. I'd love to see Iggy in the bay, so I keep my fingers crossed something happens. But all quiet throughout the "work day." I still don't get much done, though. Curses upon you, HoopsHype. I just can't quit you.
4:01: Get home. Turn on laptop. Load up ESPN 3.
4:03: ESPN 3 still loading.
4:04: ESPN 3 still loading. Love me some Comcast.
4:05: Finally! The talking heads. We're in business. Jeff Van Gundy's a fucking hipster, though.

4:06: Ric Bucher's on! A trade to report. This is what I live for. What blockbuster could be on its way?
4:07: Huh. Hardly a blockbuster. Captain Jack and The Ghost of Shaun Livingston to Milwaukee, along with Beno Udrih and the #19 pick, while John Salmons and the #9 pick go to Sacto. Charlotte gets #7 and Corey "Gotta Get My Numbers" Maggette. Some interesting names in there, but none more interesting than Captain Jack, who I, and all Warriors fans, have a soft spot for, despite our messy divorce two seasons ago. Bucher claims Jax isn't happy about being traded to Milwaukee. I miss you, buddy.
4:07: I also note that neither Ric Bucher nor Andy Katz have aged within the last 10 years. Botox is a helluva drug.
4:13: Bunch of white noise from the talking heads. Which team needs what? Who could be traded? Not once do they mention that this entire performance is somewhat moot due to the impending lockout. That's not til next week. Relax.
4:13: Memo to self: you may not hate Jimmer Fredette, you may just hate his chin instead.
4:14: The Talking Heads comment that Utah is picking in the lottery for the first time in a few years, and have just suffered their second losing season (39-42) in twenty two years. I have many interesting thoughts about Utah as a franchise. They've never had a hard time filling the Delta Center because they've always had winning teams. Those days are quickly changing in Salt Lake, with Sloan on some ranch somewhere, and D-Will doing hard time at Prudential Center Penitentiary. Jazz fans have never been asked to support a perennially bad team, which the Jazz are destined to become. Will they continue to fill the arena, or could the Jazz face the same problems the Kings have?
4:20: Now watching ESPN's 3rd Jimmer Fredette feature. I've only been watching fifteen minutes. Fuck-a-ree. Just ask to see his magic underwear, already. This is intolerable. Somehow, there must be a way to make this experience more tolerable.
4:24: Much cough better! cough.
4:26: Fran Fraschilla, deemed "international expert" graces us with his lack of personality and insightful analysis. Hearing his voice reminds me of watching the World Championships in Egypt, and being completely unexcited by the whole affair. At least he keeps it interesting: he predicts Jan Vesely will win a dunk contest in the NBA someday. Jan Vesely! Watch your back, Brent Barry.

4:28: Former Blazers executive and current ESPN capologist Tom Penn's a silver fox.

4:29: The bumper ads are baffling. For some reason, they have projected lottery picks dress up like newsies, and play on a hodge podge set of drums. Whichever intern thought of that either deserves a raise or swift termination.
4:30: ESPN 3 stops working. "Event ended." Event ended? What the balls?
4:31: Reload ESPN 3.
4:32: ESPN 3 still reloading.
4:35: STILL RELOADING .ESPN 3 is a joke of a service. Terrible quality, terrible sporting events, completely unreliable. I need to somehow get into Bill Simmons’ 4-screen Man Cave.
4:37: Still nothing. I begin to brainstorm other article ideas, since I'm pretty sure I missed the first pick.
4:38: FINALLY. Jon Barry's puffy visage comes into pixelated focus. Hi there, you chubby bunny. Doesn't look like I missed the first pick either. Everything's coming up Milhouse!
4:39: The Man, The Myth, The Legend—David Stern—walks to the podium to announce the first pick. I sort of adore this man. He's sort of been my Rabbi forever. And he tells us the obvious: Kyrie Irving is the Cavs choice at #1. 4:40: Draft Day hats look good. Real good. Why couldn't they have gotten something similar to the Mavs?

4:40:Here are the Kyrie Irving highlights. Nice moves, kid. Not spectacular, but nice. It becomes abundantly clear to me that while the analysts keep coming up with wildly unique descriptions like "Less Athletic John Wall," or, "Poor Man's Chris Paul," or "Diet D-Rose," or whatever, Kyrie Irving is basically Jrue Holiday —a tall, strong guard with nice court vision but without elite level speed. Jrue Holiday will be good for three or four All Star appearances, and I think we can expect the same from Irving. Nice pick for the Cavs.
4:44: Camera turns to Turkish center Enes Kanter, who Bucher says the Wolves are thinking about taking. Is there such a thing as the Turkish mafia? If so, they're definitely sitting at Kanter's table in the Green Room tonight. No one diss Ataturk.
4:45: Wolves! My favorite picks of the draft belong to the Wolves. They keep things exciting. Right now, they have a glut of point guards and tweener forwards between 6'8'' and 6'10''. Accordingly, they will draft a point guard, or a tweener forward. And, luckily, the best tweener forward in the draft is...
4:46: ... Derrick Williams, the second pick of the draft! Smart pick, if they plan on trading him. Williams is a nice player, but seems to be a David West type player. That's highly similar to what they had in Al Jefferson, who they shipped off to feature Love. I'm beginning to wonder what—or who—is actually controlling Crazy Dave Kahn. Moreover, I wonder if it—or they—are threats to our ability to make logical, rational decisions. Trade D-Will II, Kahn.

4:47: I'm still wondering why they didn't take Kanter. Are they really that enamored with Darko? I feel for Wolves fans.
4:49: Jazz pick coming up. So weird to see them picking in the draft. I continue to fantasize about the Seattle Jazz (though they would actually be called the SuperSonics, coming to Key Arena in 2017.
4:50: Kanter goes third. The Jazz logo is surprisingly fly.
4:52: Stuart Scott reports that Enes Kanter wants to become a WWE wrestler after he retires from the NBA. This is instantly the coolest thing I have ever heard. I immediately begin to thinking of potential names for the 7 foot center. Turkish Delight? Ataturk the Impaler? My Giant II? Paging Pauly Shore.
4:56: "I am terrible with foreign names." - Jeff Van Gundy, who has the most American, non-foreign name I've ever heard.
4:56: First surprise of the night: Tristan Thompson, freshman forward out of Texas, goes #4 to the Cavs. Most mock drafts had him in the mid-teens, so this is a bit of a shock. Or, so The Talking Heads say. I was shocked when Bin Laden was found. I'm feeling pretty okay about this.
4:58: Cringing at the Tristan Thompson highlights. He has absolutely no semblance of a go-to move, and his footwork, despite Jay "I Like Every American Born College Player Ever" Bilas' opinion to the contrary, seems really raw. This is a major project for the Cavs, whose fans would appreciate a quicker return to respectability than most.
4:59: Also, Thompson has a Hitl--uh, a "Charlie Chaplin" mustache. Probably should deal with that.
5:00: Last note about Mr. Thompson: he's Canadian. Good for him, I guess. Stuart Scott says on air that he joins only two other active Canadian players in the NBA: Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire. Oh, so close, Stuart Scott. You just forgot that other Canadian player, the 2-time MVP or whatever, Steve Whatshisnuts. You'd better hope Nash doesn't hold a grudge.

5:02:Raps take Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas. I expect them to announce their withdrawal from the NBA, and entry into FIBA Eurobasket, within a matter of days.
5:03: My Main Yawn Fran Fraschilla's back, here to drop some dimes about soon-to-be-household name Jonas Valanciunas. In his answer, he uses at least four of the seven all-too-ignored "THESE ARE OBVIOUS RED FLAGS ABOUT A EURO PROSPECT AND MAYBE YOU SHOULD CONSIDER BUYING AMERICAN" phrases, including:
  • "Long term potential..."
  • "Has to get stronger..."
  • "May be some complicated contract buyout issues with his European club..."
  • "Could pay dividends at age 24 or 25.
5:04: Valanciunas struggles with comprehension in his interview. His English is obviously weak. I feel for him, having struggled through countless conversations in Arabic in Egypt. I fail to realize the adjustment some of these foreign players will have.
5:06: Vesely to the Wiz. Not much to say here, except that the new Wizards logos are pretty sick.

5:08: Highlights. He's athletic. Quick. Suddenly, I'm starting to like Vesely and Wall as a dynamic duo. With JaVale McGee and Nick Young, this team could be decent down the road. Nice pick.
5:10: Yep. Vesely's girlfriend is smokin' hot.
5:10: Charlotte's pick. They've never been good, but apparently that news failed to reach Jeff Van Gundy, who claims the Bobcats have "been in the 7th, 8th seed for a long time now." Close, Jeff. They made the playoffs two seasons ago under Larry Brown, getting unceremoniously swept by the Magic. That's their only playoff appearance. Ever. Do these guys even attempt to do research before they get on the air?
5:11: B-SMACK! Bismack Biyombo goes in the lottery. Charlotte or bust! (Most likely, bust.)
5:13: Fran Fraschilla tells us that Biyombo's age "allegedly is 18 years old." Nice, Fran. You're right, Africans can't keep track of their own ages. Thank god Europeans came and gave them calendars, but those savages just don't know how to use them!
5:13: Stu Scott informs us that Biyombo speaks six languages. How many languages do you speak, Fran?
5:15: Random observation: picks 3-7 have all been international picks.
5:16: The Talking Heads show us an elegy for the Pistons, who have missed the playoffs the last two years after qualifying the previous eight. As I watch the old times, I realize that I don't miss the Pistons at all.
5:18: Pistons draft combo guard Brandon Knight. This means trouble for Rip Hamilton. Or Rodney Stuckey. Or Will Bynum. Or Ben Gordon. Or Tracy McGrady. Did Matt Millen get a job with the Pistons? Who let that guy back in town?
5:19: The Talking Heads call Knight Mr. Magna Cum Laude. Not a bad nickname.
5:23: Kemba Walker is headed to the Bobcats. Not much to say. Jimmer's left. Here come the interviews. For the next ten years. Or until he busts.
5:29: It's Jimmer Time. Sigh.
5:30: God. The Maloofs, once the darling owners of the NBA, really are a joke now. I can't believe the Kings picked Jimmer Fredette. It is a pick based purely to sell tickets, not to actually get better at basketball. Jimmer and Tyreke Evans in the backcourt? Two shoot-first, very unpure point guards, who play little defense? Such a shame. Sacramento deserves a better final year than the one they're about to get with these two jokers.
5:33: WARRIORS. My boys, picking 11th. They've done well the last few drafts, so I'm somewhat optimistic. I'm hoping for Klay Thompson.
5:35: YES! Dubs take Kavalier Klay. He's a big shooting guard who plays some defense -- in many ways, the exact opposite of Monta. He at least offers a challenge to Monta, and perhaps a better long term backcourt mate for Curry. Great pick. I'm smiling. This draft thing ain't so bad!
5:41: Jazz again, who take Alec Burks, some guy who I've never heard of. Looking at highlights, he reminds me of Wes Matthews. Nice! I bet the Jazz would've liked to have had Wes Matthews at some point, he's a good player. Oh, wait.
5:43: Burks also may be in running for best suit of the Draft thus far.
5:44: Interview with Mark Jackson, the new coach of the Warriors. It looks like the role suits him well, though I'm not really used to it yet.
5:45: Stu Scott asks Jackson about trading Monta. Jackson gives vague answer. Smart. We've gotta be trading him. No organization shops its franchise players as openly as the Warriors do. I hope we send him somewhere in the East.
5:46: When prompted to give one of his signature lines, Jax delivers this gem: "Well, here's my latest line: The Golden State Warriors will be in the Playoffs next season." He was probably expecting to hear the screams of "WE BELEIVE!" to rise from all parts of the Dub Nation. But there's the thing: he's not the first coach to promise a playoff berth in year one. He's not even the second. Keith Smart, Don Nelson, Mike Montgomery, Erik Musselman, and even Dave Cowens all pledged playoff berths. It'll take more than charisma to save this franchise, Jax. I hope you're up to it. If you aren't, whatever. No one else was, either.
5:48: In the surprise of the night (thus far), Jeff Van Gundy gets all ferklempt while seeing his old ESPN colleague as a coach in the Bigs. JVG, of course, had sizeable stints with both the Rockets and the Knicks before (seemingly) retiring for broadcasting. I had noticed a change in their on-air dynamic after Jax was hired as coach. Van Gundy seemed a strange mix of proud, jealous, and nervous for someone he obviously admires and cares a lot about. It's an interesting dynamic to see. I wonder how those two will do without the other this year.

5:50: Sorry, was on Facebook. What happened? Oh, Markieff Morris goes to Phoenix at 13. Welcome to the end of the bench, Markieff.
5:51: Markieff's twin brother, Marcus, who also is a potential lottery pick, on the prospect of leaving his twin brother: "It ain't the end of the world or nothin'. I'll send him some flowers. Maybe some fruit." Quote of the night, thus far.
5:55: Hey! Marcus Morris to the Rockets. The NBA welcomes the Morris twins, who will succeed the Collins' twins as "Gimmick Players." You know, the NBA players who are famous for reasons that rarely include Basketball. Like Marco Jaric, who I'm pretty sure is only known for having eyes that are way too close together, and for getting someone to hypnotizing Adriana Lima for the last eight years or so.

5:57: Jeez, this draft hasn't had many trades. That's the best part of this thing. Kaman's still a Clipper. Iggy's still with the Sixers. Monta's a Warrior. I'm losing steam. This is getting less and less witty by the moment.
6:01: The world meets Kawhi Leonard. How is he as a Basketball player, you ask? Who knows. He played in the Mountain West. But his suit. His suit, man. Also, the Pacers drafted a non-white player!

6:05: Check HoopsHype twitter feed. Turns out they're planning on trading Leonard. My guess is for Chase Budinger.
6:06: Nikola Vucevic, a favorite here at The Diss, goes to the Sixers. Nice pick for them, but he sort of looks like Spencer Hawes. Trades must be a-brewin'.
6:07: Ah, Knicks up. The Knicks draft pick is one of the great inside jokes in sports. The ritual is always the same. The Talking Heads lament about the state of the Knicks for a few minutes before Stern emerges to fierce boos. He barely stifles a smile as he announces the poor schmuck who will be instantly villified by Knicks fans, when it's actually their deadbeat owner James Dolan. Pan over to Spike Lee, looking disinterested. Each year it's the same. It's like clockwork.
6:10: JVG's talking about his glasses. They are nice glasses, Jeff.
6:12: Here comes Stern. Barely stifling a smile. This should be good.
6:12: "The New York Knickerbockers select [name drowned out by pre-emptive boos]."
6:13: Well, it was some guy named Iman Shumpert. I'm going to guess the "Shumpert" jerseys may not fly off the shelves.
6:14: Time for the requisite Spike Lee interview. Riddle me this, ESPN: I understand celebrities are fans of certain teams. Jack Nicholson loves his Lakers. Bruce Willis prefers the Nets. Matt Damon loves the Celtics. Great. But are any of these celebrities big fans? Why ask them about these teams' draft needs? They don't know. They're busy filming things, or endorsing other things, or dissolving marriages, or whatever. Stop interviewing celebrities about sports. Interview them about their celebrity.
6:14:"I'd never heard of Carl Landry before."-Spike, on Knicks draft picks. I'm not surprised, Spike. He doesn't play for your team. Landry Fields, however, does. Someone get this man to the War Room, the Knicks have a second round pick! 6:15: Chris Singleton gets the 2011 Last Man in the Green Room Award. A dubious distinction, indeed, though some quality players have had that distinction (Rashard Lewis, Brook Lopez included). He'll be okay.
6:23: All right. I'm bored. Probably like the rest of you. I'm going to go play basketball in the Central District.

And there you have it! I made it through roughly 45% of the draft before I got bored and walked away -- probably like what you did with this post hours ago.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Trading Tony Parker...

Don’t trade him. I beg of you. Why even think such a thing? I don’t care that he sexted Brent Barry’s wife (not cool man). I don’t care that his game is predicated on quickness and that he’s 29 and entering his 11th season having just played the most minutes with the highest usage rate of any Spur. I don’t care because trading Tony Parker would mean that it’s over. The window’s slammed shut. Done for. All nada. D'accord?

It’s a salvo to the league that the last great dynasty of the heretofore 21st century has crumbled. Confirmation that Tim Duncan has finally worn down, his skills eroded, and that Pop plays him 26 minutes a night not out of care, compassion, or creed, but as a crutch. It confirms that Timmy is indeed a 13 and 9 player, an occasional 20-10 gamer, and just a role player.

Why did you give Manu an extension if only to waste his last productive years? Fiercely competitive and a winner by any definition, you know he only wants to win. And it’s still possible! Something may be brewing in NYC and South Beach already has its super team but the Mavericks proved that they can be beaten. Please believe, if just for one more year, that this team has a chance. Please believe so that we may as well.

Where do we go from here? Championship caliber franchise players come along once a decade and it’s unlikely we’ll land the next big name. My entire life has known nothing other than basketball success and now we find ourselves at the threshold of something portentous. But wait! Sidestep that shit and give me one last opportunity to be free. Give me that farewell tour and the time to come to terms with the effects of Father Time and Mother Nature. Let me see what you see before forcing me to take that step. It’s dark in there, and I am afraid there might be no light at the end.  

Legend has it that at the Battle of the Alamo, William B. Travis explained to his troops the overwhelming odds they faced and proceeded to draw a sweeping line in the sand with his sword. To stay and fight, or go quietly into the night. We’re all on the same side. So please, don’t trade Tony Parker, I beg of you. Run this thing into the ground because I am not ready to live in a world where it is an absolute certainty that Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Gregg Popovich never again raise the Larry O’Brien trophy. Parades do not float down the Riverwalk. Confetti does not fall. And there will be no dancing in the streets tonight.

The Peak of the Timberwolves Season

Minnesota is known as the land of ice and snow. Cold winters and brutal blizzards that shut down entire cities for days. Cars with frozen candy shells. Temperatures below freezing that spoil any notion of spending time outside.

Those characterizations are fairly accurate. But being a Timberwolves fan in Minnesota (or really a fan of any Minnesota sports team) does not always feel like being in the cold of winter. It does not suggest the typical Minnesotan experience from October to April. No, we do not shield ourselves from the brutal reality of the world. We do not ignore the fact that we are the perpetual losers of the NBA. Instead, being a Timberwolves fan more closely resembles the experiences of those living in the deserts of Southwestern United States. You see, like the barren sands of Arizona and New Mexico, Timberwolves fans wander from mirage to mirage, clinging to the notion that there will be some soul-sustaining brook or life-saving reservoir just around the corner. Kevin Garnett was a mirage. A false promise of sustenance. Kevin Love appears to be the current illusion. No fault of his own, but someone who may potentially bolt when the opportunity comes up. Someone we hope can provide for us, but of course will not be able to shoulder the awesome burden that comes with the Timberwolves franchise.

Because of this need for any hope at all, the NBA draft is the single most important occasion of the year for us. One that Timberwolves fans cling to. It is the kool-aid for our parched bodies. The one time where all rational thought and memory can truly be tossed to the wind. The one event where we can convince ourselves that this mirage we have once again stumbled upon, this time the water will be real and the thirst of our spirits can be quenched. Next season will be a success! We shall rise to the occasion and win 30 games next year (the thought!).

And David Kahn is our Moses. He is the current prophet that has led us to our supposed promised land. He is our Jim Jones, convincing us every offseason to drink the Flavor-Aid and to become excited about the next Timberwolves season. There are way too many parallels between the abusive relationships of lovers and how the Timberwolves franchise and its fans interact. But it is all we have.

So please, just for tonight, let me drink this sweet beverage. Let it leave a stain on my lips that I cannot wash away for weeks. Let me linger in the notion that we are going to trade our number two pick for a real shooting guard. Let the magic man David Kahn conjure up a trade to get rid of spare pieces (Jonny Flynn, Darko, Martell Webster, and maybe even Beasley) for a real, working center. Hey, it could happen! Because this night is for us. This night is dedicated to the entire Timberwolves fanbase clinging to irrational hope! Enjoy this, the most exciting night of the entire Wolves season!

*Just to note, I think we should keep the pick and draft Williams. I think Rubio will have a decent season and will have some flashes. A competent coach (assuming we hire one) will help us defend the three-ball and play a type of offense that works to our strengths. And we might actually be fun to watch. Shit, I knew I shouldn’t have ordered that extra large kool-aid.

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: NBA Draft Edition

We thought about having our own mock draft, but then remembered that there are already too many mock drafts by uninformed half-wits, and we have less insider knowledge than that obnoxious PA announcer that yells “Let’s go Mavs! LET’S GO MAVS!” We couldn’t let draft day go by, however, without venturing some opinions on the worst draft since 2006. Without further ado. . .

Which predicted lottery pick will be out of the NBA before his rookie contract is up?

Jordan Durlester: Brandon Knight. A poor man's Tyreke Evans. I'll give him a pass if he brings back the cornrows.

Franklin Mieuli: Kemba Walker. There are a lot of candidates in this draft, but Kemba takes the cake. Since when did a ten game stretch take precedence over a 100 game body of work? Yes, he played great in the Big East and NCAA tournament, but he's still an undersized, shoot-first point guard. We've heard this story before. Best case scenario is Allen Iverson (and Kemba is NOT Allen Iverson), but a better comparison is a player like Aaron Brooks, JJ Barea, Jonny Flynn etc., and the are the GOOD compareables.

Alex Maki: Who cares? I just heard the news that Kurt Rambis is getting let go as the coach of the Timberwolves!! Sorry, had to get that out there. Anyway, I got to go with Jan Vesely out of the Czech Republic. Given the fact that this draft is weaker than usual (don't drink the kool-aid they have been trying to sell recently), there are really a few prime candidates here. But Vesely is especially suspect. First of all, I think any person transitioning to the NBA from Europe has the potential to have problems making their game work over here. So strike one. Strike two is that he can't really shoot. Yes, he shoot wells close to the rim and can finish, but if he hopes to really play small forward, he cannot just camp out in the lane and dunk home offensive rebounds and alley-oops. Strike three? The only thing the scouts laud is his "athleticism." Where has focusing only on "athleticism" gotten the Timberwolves the last 2 years?

Jacob Greenberg: Though he constantly goes in and out of the lottery in mock drafts, Bismack Biyombo is my (admittedly safe) vote. It's hard to give B-Smack any benefit of the doubt, as he only worked out for a handful of teams in the USA, so he doesn't have a large body of work to reference. However, Newsday's Alan Hahn reports via Twitter that a scout summarized a Biyombo workout by saying that "he went 1-on-none and lost." That doesn't seem to bode well for the future, and, given recent flameouts from other African lottery picks, most of whom were big men (examples include Hasheem Thabeet, DeSagana Diop, Mouhamed Sene, and Michael Olowakandi), I think Biyombo may get a shorter leash than most when it comes to development.

Joe Bernardo: Kawhi Leonard. I hate to root against Socal guys, but his lack of size and creativity are his biggest flaws. He may have gotten away with it in college, but it will be exposed to the fullest in the pros.

Long Bui: Definitely a European.

Which non-lottery pick will have the best career (bonus points if you pick a second rounder)?

Jordan Durlester: Nikola Vucevic. Got to stick with the big Serb out of USC for all the reasons listed in the post and then some. Dude can play.

Franklin Mieuli: I was at Allen Fieldhouse on December 2nd when UCLA lost by 1 to Kansas (on a blown call by the referee, but that's besides the point). Kansas had two sure-fire first rounders in the Morris twins, and a second rounder in Josh Selby, yet Tyler Honeycutt was clearly the best player on the court. He killed them all on the way to 33 points on 11-15 shooting (and 5-6 from behind the arc). He is going to be good player in this league for years to come. That also tells you what I think about the Morris twins.

Alex Maki: Kenneth Faried. By all accounts this is a guy that works his ass off and is dedicated to excelling at the small things. That is the type of player that an NBA team can always find an excuse to give playing time to for a long while. Even if his offensive game never really explodes, he can rest on his defense, rebounding, and improving post presence.

Jacob Greenberg: This draft has been characterized as solid, if not particularly star studded. There are a number of players who could have productive careers as skilled role players over the long term. Kyle Singler, I think, may be a step above the rest. He has an all around solid offensive game, surprising quickness and shrewdness on the defensive end, great basketball IQ, a winning mentality, and like all Duke players not named Corey Maggette, a very coachable demeanor. If he goes in the 25-30 range, as is widely predicted, he could join either the Celtics (25th), the Mavericks (26th), the Bulls (28th and 30th) or the Spurs (29th). All of those programs would provide the same type of structure and stability Singler is used to at Duke, and barring some unforeseen developments, the opportunity to play meaningful games on perrenial winning teams. I could see Singler becoming a more skilled Shane Battier, and one of the league's more lauded "glue guys" down the road.

Joe Bernardo: Tough question. Picking the right player in the draft is such a crap shoot and I don't envy any GM (well, maybe Neil Olshey since Elgin Baylor and Mike Dunleavy didn't necessarily set the bar very high). So, I'm going with a SG who has a good shot, savvy moves, and a tough heart, MarShon Brooks.

Long Bui: Nikola Mirotic. He plays against the highest level competition in Europe and possesses good size and a decent jump shot. He’ll also have a couple more years to develop before crossing the pond furthering increasing his chances for stateside success.

Which, year in year out, is the best drafting team in the NBA?

Jordan Durlester: The Spurs without question. Phenomenal at assessing talent and making the right picks to fit into their system.

Franklin Mieuli: The Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City: Sure Kevin Durant fell into their lap, but they also drafted Glen Davis and Carl Landry the same night (trading them away however...) 2008 brought Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, 2009 brought James Harden and Rodrigue Beaubois, and 2010 brought Eric Bledsoe. That is a hell of a four year run.

Alex Maki: I am going to have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. Really for one mega-reason. The fact is that they are always a successful team and rarely have a high draft pick, but whenever I tune in to watch one of their games they have some guys I have never even heard of that are contributing. And over and above that, they drafted their own mega studs! Yes, the Duncan choice was not very hard. But they took a flyer on Ginobbli and hit that one over the Green Monster, never to be seen again. And they were dead on with their late first round selection of Tony Parker. They know what they are doing, even if they only ever pick at the end of the rounds.

Jacob Greenberg: Given their typical draft position and meteoric expectations, it's hard to argue for any team besides the San Antonio Spurs. Their highest pick since 1998 (the year after drafting Tim Duncan #1 overall) was the 20th pick of the 2010 1st round (which they used to select Oklahoma State's James Anderson, who showed flashes of potential and progress at the end of the season). Despite their typically adverse draft position, Team Buford - Popovich have perfected the art of maximizing underhyped talent. Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, George Hill, DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter were all late first round or early-to-mid second round picks. They have served as perfect complimentary pieces during the final years of Duncan's career, and are all legitimate building blocks for the future. It's also worth mentioning that the Spurs have identified and developed players who have had quality careers with other teams, such as Luis Scola, Beno Udrih, John Salmons, Goran Dragic and Ian Mahinmi.

Joe Bernardo: San Antonio Spurs. Yes, David Robinson and Tim Duncan were no-brainers, but check out some of their late 1st rounders and 2nd rounders they drafted: Tony Parker, GINOBLI!!!!!!, Leandro Barbosa, Luis Scola, "No ACLs" Dejuan Blair, George Hill, Beno Udrih, Goran Dragic, and...2011 Champion Ian Mahinmi!

Long Bui: As a life long fan I’m bias towards the Spurs front office twin tower pairing of RC and Pop and I won’t further expound as you guys have basically hit on every meaningful point. I do think though there is a little bias involved in that it’s so much easier to pick well from the back of the draft because there really aren’t expectations place on late picks. In five years if… your late round pick in the first round is still a contributing member of any team? Win. Second round pick still in the NBA and not a complete joke? Win. I know the stipulation is year in and year out, but entertain the GSW for a hot sec, usually picking at the front where the stakes are highest: Ellis, Steph Curry, Pietrus, Dunleavy (a stretch), JRich, Jeff Foster, Murphy, Biedrens, Gilbert, Marc Jackson, and we can’t forget, the 2000 immortalized version of VC. Granted they gave up too early on most of them, but that’s damn good talent to have identified in just the last decade.

Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams?

Jordan Durlester: D-Will hands down. I admit I have a strong bias, being an Arizona alum and huge fan, but dude has an upside like no other in this draft. Get out of here with all this tweener talk and go back and watch the Duke game in the tournament...filthy.

Franklin Mieuli: Do I have to choose? Kyrie Irving played half of his freshman season for a school whose players are consistently overrated in the draft, and Derrick Williams falls into that awkward spot between SF and PF that is best suited for a 20 minute a night scorers off of the bench. I'm not enthralled by either.

Alex Maki: Irving. While I hope that the Timberwolves keep the #2 pick and take Derek Williams, I think he would be closer to the 4-6 pick in a stronger draft. I am a little skeptical his outside game will translate. I think he has the ability to be very good, but there is a certain chance he will become only a third-best player on a good team. Meanwhile, Irving has demonstrated, albeit in a smaller sample size, that he has all of the skills it takes to be successful. They both will be good, but I will take Irving in this one.

Jacob Greenberg: Irving. He's a surefire top shelf point guard who will have a great career, and will embrace the challenge of restoring the Cavaliers to pseudo-relevance. I expect him to win Rookie of the Year in 2012 -- provided there is a season.

Joe Bernardo: Cleveland goes the safe route with Irving.

Long Bui: Irving. I admit that I haven’t watched much of Derek Williams, but Kyrie seems the “safest” bet in this draft. At worst he’ll be a serviceable starting PG, think Luke Ridnour with speed, handles, court vision, and the ability to finish. Ok, so not Luke Ridnour. He can actually shoot (something that often equates success in the NBA), can penetrate with either hand and finish around the rim or dish out, and by all accounts, is a hard worker and good leader. While not as explosive as more recent PGs like Rose, Wall, Westbrook, or as skilled as DWill or CP3, he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses that would scream total bust. Yes, it’d be nice hit green every time, especially with the no. 1 pick, but you also don’t want to find yourself playing Kevin Costner on the 18th.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cool It On Pau.

Editor’s Note: If the league awarded the “Jack Nicholson Memorial Award for Most Tolerable Lakers Fan,” Joe Bernardo would certainly be a finalist. Joe has been a Lakers fan his entire life, enjoying dynasties anchored by Kareem, Magic, Shaq and Kobe. Despite a lifelong commitment to the Lakers, Joe is no homer. His critiques of the Lake Show are smart and informed, and often controversial. Joe’s articles, which focus on history and organizational practices, observed chiefly through the Los Angeles Lakers, are a welcome contribution to The Diss.

The latest trade I’ve heard suggested in the Laker rumor mill is Pau Gasol for Kevin Love and the Wolves’ #2 pick. And many fans are quick to give this ludicrous trade a go simply due to the effort the 7’ all-star forward/center gave in this past playoff run. Or, lack thereof.

Yes, he was pathetic. I, myself, was one of those die-hard Laker fans who yelled at the TV, flabbergasted by the pathetic performance of the Big Spaniard. Was he feuding with other Laker players because of what Andrew Bynum called “trust issues”? Was he just tired after playing the bulk of the frontcourt minutes when Bynum was hurt in the beginning of the season? Or, was he distracted because his hot GF dumped him like Kelly dumped Zack for that douchebag Jeff, Kelly’s manager from the Max? It may be none of these, it may be all of these. But to place all the blame of the Lakers’ demise this season on Pau is just unfair, and to “ship his ass back to Spain” is simply short-sighted.

Without Pau, this great Laker championship run would never have happened. Kobe would have peaced out, pulled a LeBron, and joined a contender back in 2008. But then, in comes Pau like a gift from God. Kobe quits pouting, stays, and gives Lakerland two more rings. Storybook.

Or was it? Seemingly, with all that success comes an unexpected downside. Since the Lakers got Pau, they made three straight NBA Finals appearances. That’s like playing an additional season on top of the three regular seasons they played. Not to mention that playoff games require an exponentially larger amount of energy and focus compared regular season ones.

Looking back on NBA history since the NBA/ABA merger (which Bill Simmons suggests is the proper temporal marker of when you can compare eras since the only 8 teams played in the Bill Russell-dominated 1960s era), three teams went to the Finals three or more times in a row (the Lakers did it four times 1982-1985, 1987-1989, 2000-2002, and 2008-2010; the Celtics 1984-1987, and of course, the Michael Jordan-led Bulls, 1991-1993 & 1996-1998). At the tail end of these incredible runs, these teams ran out of gas and were usually beaten by more or less inferior teams. For those who three-peated, the teams at the tail end of the run were never as good as their first championship team (e.g. 1991 Bulls > 1993 Bulls, 1996 Bulls > 1998 Bulls, 2000 Lakers > 2002 Lakers). All those extra minutes of going to the Finals year after year takes a toll on even the greatest championship teams. Clearly, this Lakers team is no exception.

This was glaringly evident during the Mavericks' painful four-game-sweep of the Lake Show a few weeks ago. By the time Los Angeles faced Dallas, I personally believe this Lakers team—and especially Pau, given that he logged in more minutes than anyone on the team—was simply mentally and physically exhausted by their fourth go at a Finals appearance. But after every horrible playoff loss in Laker history (1986, 1990, 2003) and despite speculation that management would unceremoniously blow up the team, they always regrouped, kicked ass, and found a way to get back into the Finals the following year (1987, 1991, 2004). While all things must end, the end need not be permanent.

So for those who are up in arms over the play of Pau and think that he’s washed up, I say: Don’t fall into the “grass is greener” mentality, and wait for cooler heads to prevail. Pau is still an all-star, the best skilled post player in the league, and most importantly, the PERFECT #2 to ego-driven Kobe. He simply fatigued and had 10 lousy games in May after 350+ good ones over the span of four years. Cut the guy some slack!

If anything, Bynum should be traded. He has higher trade value and he’s slowly becoming a team chemistry killer…but that’s another column waiting to be written.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In Defense of Nikola Vucevic

Editor's Note: Jordan Durlester is one of my oldest friends, though basketball was never a major focus until recently. Jordan and I met way back in 1990, moonlighting as young, innocent Jews at Beth Ami Religious School in our hometown of Santa Rosa, CA, before transitioning into angsty, flippant adolescent Jews in our youth group. Once Jordan went off to the University of Arizona, and our contact became mostly Facebook-based, it became apparent that we had a shared love of the game. Jordan and Kevin will both specialize on our beloved Golden State Warriors, but Jordan's knowledge of college basketball will inform his work as well. Facebook also implies he has a girlfriend. Way to go, dude!

For reasons unbeknownst to me, the Golden State Warriors front office has failed to recognize the importance of a back-to-the-basket presence. Perhaps it's because they've been having such a 'great time out!' at Oracle that they simply overlooked the fact that come summer time the teams that are hoisting up the Larry O'Brien Trophy TEND to have a pretty decent 4 or 5 (say a guy like, oh i don't know, Tim Duncan).

How? How is the possible? How is this really a thing?

Pointing out this issue (would seem to be) the easy part. Solving it through the draft, with the 11th overall pick is well...difficult.

The 11th overall pick in the NBA Draft is like going to prom with the ugly cheerleader.

Nikola Vucevic is our 6'11, back-to-the-basket, AVAILABLE, ugly cheerleader. In his 3 years at USC he put on body mass, honed his skills in the low post, developed a decent enough jump shot to keep you honest, and turned himself into quite the NBA prospect.

I'm really high on European players right now, probably due to witnessing Dirk put on a clinic this postseason, and I really feel this guy can be a contributor to the dubs. With his ability to rebound, you take some of that pressure and responsibility off of David Lee, which hopefully allows him more opportunities to face-up and get to the rack. Evaluating and drafting big men is an incredibly difficult and risky move but the payoff could result in a winning record. I'd much rather take a shot with Nikola than draft another undersized 2 guard or lanky 3.

In Defense of Bismack Biyombo

Editor's Note: I am excited to welcome Kevin Draper as a regular contributor to The Diss. Like yours truly, Draper is a lifelong fan of the Golden State Warriors, faithful throughout the malaise, and our brief return to respectability a few seasons back. He will focus on team building and culture changing during this transition period for the Warriors. He earned a BA in Political Science/International Relations from Carleton College, and currently lives and works in the East Bay, California.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."

2007 – Brandan Wright
2008 – Anthony Randolph
2010 – Ekpe Udoh

If you can’t see the similarities there, well, you aren’t trying very hard. Power forward? Check. Shot-blocker? Check. Thin. Young. Offensively challenged.

Three out of the last four years, the Warriors have drafted offensively inept power forwards. Two of those are no longer on the roster. Brandan Wright is likely a bust and Anthony Randolph is still trying to figure out how to tap into his enormous physical gifts. Under Coach Don Nelson, Wright was a frequently injured afterthought, while Randolph was habitually asleep in the doghouse. Nelson couldn’t tolerate two offensive liabilities on the court at once, and since Andris Biedrins was the only true center on the roster, the young power forwards got the short end of the bench.

Last year, under Keith Smart, defense was a bit more of a priority. After coming back from a hand injury Ekpe Udoh was able to get decent playing time, and even moved into the starting lineup for eighteen games. Udoh showed great shot-blocking ability and was a valuable help defender, but pulled in an astonishingly low amount of rebounds for somebody standing 6’10”, and his stone hands contributed to a 16.1% turnover percentage.

Ekpe Udoh and Keith Smartphoto © 2011 Keith Allison | more info (via: Wylio)

And now we might go through this again? Previous versions of both Chad Ford’s mock draft and the DraftExpress mock draft had the Warriors selecting Bismack Biyombo with the 11th pick. Biyombo is a young, raw, thin, power forward that excels at shot-blocking and defense. Sound familiar? I know there is a lot of consternation over following the same failed model, but I say bring on the déjà vu, pop in a copy of Groundhog Day and get excited for the Biyombo era.

I get the reasons not to pick him: the Warriors haven’t had success picking similarly skilled players in the past, he’s too raw, shooting guard is a bigger need etc. But here is the reason to pick him: the Warriors are still closer to a lottery team than a playoff team, and Biyombo is more talented than anybody else they can draft at #11. Even after Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber, Mark Jackson and Mike Malone, Bob Myers and Jerry West, the Warriors are still a bad team.

After struggling through the first year of Lacob’s ownership, waiting for the team to fire Robert Rowell (still waiting . . .), Warriors fans are ready to cheer for a winner. They embrace MarK Jackson’s pronouncements about the playoffs, are confident that the three-headed dragon in the front office can extract trade value out of Monta Ellis, and believe that David Lee and Andris Biedrins will finally figure it out this year. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the Warriors. For the first time in 20 years there is a seemingly competent group in the front office, which is reason enough to celebrate. Talent on the court is what matters, however, and in this department the Warriors are still lacking. In a rebuilding year, with only two coveted players to draft, I would much rather the Warriors took a flyer on the most talented player available, and unless Kyrie Irving or Derek Williams miraculously slip to #11, that player is Bismack Biyombo.

Yahoo! Sports writes: "Among this year's lottery prospects, Bismack Biyombo is perhaps the best candidate to be a boom-bust player..." That isn't the type of player you pick in a deep draft, or if your team is on the verge of competing for a championship. But if your team has been mired in mediocrity for 17 years, and are picking eleventh in a weak draft, that is exactly who you pick! The Warriors are in the position they are in because the Cohan era eschewed risk. The Warriors never picked the high schoolers who were high risk/high reward type players, they never hired young and up-coming coaches, and they never made that one big trade (though they gave it a valiant attempt with Kevin Garnett in 2007). There is a decent chance that Biyombo will be out of the league in five years . . . but there is also a chance that he could fulfill his own expectations: "I don't care how tough people are over there. I don't care how strong they play over there. I know that I'm strong, too. I know that I'm tough, too. I never let people just beat me easy. They're going after me and I'm going to go after them."

Of course, if Biyombo gets drafted before the Warriors choose, this entire argument is moot. But if he is available, if only to prevent me from breaking my TV screen, I hope the Warriors select him.Besides, how can you not love a player whose nickname is B-Smack?

Introducing: The Diss.

Welcome to The Diss, a blog about politics, culture, economics, race, class, labor and, most importantly, the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Association. My one true love.

The Diss was born in June 2011, but it has been in the works for nearly five years. It is the product of countless hours of fanhood of both the NBA and the NBA blogosphere. Blogs like TrueHoop, FreeDarko, The Basketball Jones (TBJ) and perhaps most importantly, Golden State of Mind, serve as major influences for this site. I have always been impressed with the writing of household names like Henry Abbott, Kevin Arnovitz, Bethlehelm Shoals, Skeets and Tas, and Rob Mahoney. However, I have been equally impressed by the analysis generated by fans on Golden State of Mind, as well as other Sportsnation blogs such as Sactown Royalty and Blazers Edge, whose analysis frequently rivals (if not trumps) work done by “professional” writers and bloggers. The Diss seeks to continue this evolving tradition within sports journalism through thematic, critical analyses of the NBA written by lifelong fans.

This site will feature eclectic analysis from a variety of perspectives. It is our goal to provide focused, well researched and well written opinions on a number of topics pertaining to the NBA, from the Draft, to the impending Lockout, to team development, to the regular season and playoffs. Contributors are informed not only by their extensive research of the league, but also by lifelong fanhood. Contributors to The Diss will look at the fortunes of a number of unrelated teams all at compelling stages in their franchise development. We hope to generate discussion about league wide trends through close analysis of certain teams – specifically, the Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves. Hopefully it works.

This blog’s name, “The Diss,” was unintentionally suggested by Joe Bernardo, our specialist on the Lakers, and my friend and colleague here in Seattle. “The Diss,” of course, refers to the popular slang term for Disrespect. To me (and perhaps only to me) Disrespect is a compelling concept to look at the league. Everyone feels dissed. That makes sense. But what about me, a fan on the eve of a Lockout? Truth be told, David Stern, I feel dissed. Things are great in the Association. The Mavs scored one for teamwork. The hated Heat fell in grand, dramatic fashion. It’s NBA Draft Week, and Tuesday (today)is always Ridiculous Trade Rumor Day on ESPN and HoopsHype. And most importantly: Things are looking up for my Warriors! Mama, here comes that coach! Mama, there goes that Monta (hopefully for Iggy)! Mama, there goes that playoff berth? Who knows. Who cares. We’re in the news. It’s great.

But curses. Curses! There’s about to be a Lockout. It’s all in jeopardy. I wonder about how an extended season of Disrespect will affect everyone associated with the league, from players to the media to the fans. I wonder how we will internalize this with other memories of being disrespected by petty millionaires –as a Warriors fan living in Seattle, I have unique perspective about this – and how that will translate in the long term. This blog will, at least tangentially, tackle this concept. But only sometimes.

And while we’re introducing things, I’ll take the liberty and introduce myself. My name is Jacob Greenberg. I am a PhD student (on leave) and respite care provider for WA state. I live in Seattle, a city whose native residents are continually encountering ghosts of a previously vibrant basketball past, and are still coping with the dramatic loss of its supposedly beloved team. I, having been born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, am a lifelong Golden State Warriors fan, though like several of my peers in the Dub Nation, have few memories of the Warriors existing while Jordan and the Bulls ruled the Association, or really, before Spree choked PJ. I have spent time moonlighting as a Wolves’ fan while living in and around the Twin Cities for college, and now spend my time processing the shell-shocked observations of Sonics fans while I desperately try and locate bar with League Pass so I can watch Warriors games in a city desperately and permanently bitter towards the NBA.

That’s it for me. Let’s talk ball.