Just what in the name of Odin's shaggy beard was Danny Ainge thinking? Let's see: The Boston Celtics are led by a 6'6" All-Star perimeter player. So what does Ainge do? He deals the 5th pick in the draft for a 6'5" All-Star perimeter player. Ray Allen is basically just an older, lamer version of Paul Pierce who, in case you didn't know, is already a Celtic. And he's coming off surgery on both ankles. And he's got three years and $52 million left on his contract. Assuming the C's keep him, he and Pierce are going to account for between $30 and $40 million in cap space over the next three seasons, which drastically limits their ability to add other quality players.
This isn't going to work. It won't. It can't. Allen and Pierce are both quality players, All-Stars even. But they play the same position and do the exact same types of things (mostly firing it up from the outside). Does anybody remember how the 2002-03 Wizards teamed Jerry Stackhouse (a mad bomber) with an aging Michael Jordan (whose creaky knees had transformed him into a fall-away jump shooter)? That didn't work either, unless you consider 37 wins and an early vacation "working." Then again, after a 24-win season that featured an 18-game losing streak, 37 wins would be a pretty significant upswing.
Speaking of moves that made me want to whack my head with something hard, how 'bout those Knicks, huh? On paper, it looks like a great move: they essentially dumped Steve Francis and his bloated contract (two years, $33 million) for a legitimate 20/10 guy. Zach Randolph was, without a doubt, one of the best low post players in the West. But the Knicks already had one of the best low post players in the East. Do Randolph and Eddy Curry really complement each other? Of the Knicks many needs, "second inside scorer" was not among them. Plus, they're not exactly making cap room: Zach has four years and over $60 million left on his current contract.
Let me break this down for you: The Celtics and Knicks, two of the worst teams in the league, both brokered deals that brought them more of what they already had, and at a very high price. I don't get it. Am I the only one who doesn't get it? Did I forget everything I ever knew about basketball overnight? Can anyone explain these moves to me?
And lastly, I have to address my Bullies. They drafted Joakim Noah, supposedly a "steal," with the 9th pick. Again, on the surface it was a great move. Noah's a high-energy player with boundless energy and enthusiasm. He's also a character guy and a proven winner. What he is not is anything remotely resembling what the Bulls actually needed, which was (primarily) a low post scorer and (secondarily) a big guard/small forward who can penetrate and create his own shot. Noah is not a scorer. He can't score inside, nor can he shoot from the outside. Most of the 12 PPG he scored in his Junior season at Florida came on layups and tip-ins. You know, last summer, the Bulls spent $60 million on a guy who could rebound, bang bodies, had a winning history, and couldn't score in an empty gym full of five-foot hoops. His name is Ben Wallace, and he already does all the things Noah is predicted to do.
Update: Several new Worsties have been added (look items marked NEW). Thanks to everyone for the continuing contributions.
Welcome to the first annual edition of the NBA Worsties, a list that describes the best of the worst of the recently concluded NBA season. And there's a lot of it.
Editor's note: Think I missed something? Post it in the comments section. If it's good enough, I'll add it to the list and give you credit.
The new basketball fiasco: Prior to the season, David Stern (along with marketing partner Spaulding) made the unilateral decision to "upgrade" the basketball used in NBA practices and games. Being the backward-thinking but all-powerful dictator that he is, Stern failed to ask current players for their input (although he did let former players like Steve Kerr and Mark Jackson test out the new ball). To nobody's surprise, the players hated it. Months of whining ensued, during which time many players complained that the microfiber ball was hard to grip, bounced funny, opened tiny cuts on their hands, and caused the U.S. dollar to depreciate by five percent. Shaq said it felt like a rubber toy, and Mark Cuban even paid for a psuedo-scientific study that concluded the new ball was "different." Stern finally gave in and brought back the old ball in January, at which time happy players immediately started humping each other in excitement. Rip Hamilton even described the situation as being "like a lost girlfriend that just came back home."
Boston Celtics: An 18-game losing streak. Twenty-four wins. Red Auerbach died. Dennis Johnson died. They only got the 5th pick in the draft. The Celtics Curse continues.
Isiah Thomas: Going into this season, Isiah was in the hot seat. After several ruinous years as the team's GM -- during which time he assembled a team of overpaid, underperforming players and even got slapped with a sexual harrassment lawsuit -- Thomas was named head coach. However, team owner James Dolan issued an ultimatum: Thomas had one season to improve the team or he would be fired. Suffice it to say, Isiah was probably a little stressed out. Perhaps that can explain why on October 27 Thomas almost got into a fight with Nets assistant coach Tom Barrise, or how on November 11 he tried to pick a fight with Bruce Bowen and could be heard telling his players to "break [Bowen's] foot!" After the game, he got into a shouting match with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, and at the post-game press conference he said that, had he faced Bowen in his "Bad Boys" days, he would "murder him." This frustration would lead to a number of incidents, the worst of which was...
The Knicks-Nuggets Brawl: In the closing minutes of another routine blowout of the Knicks, Nuggets coach George Karl decided to leave his starters in the game. Thomas -- who, for the record, also had some starters in the game -- was irate, and no doubt had something to say to his players. With a minute and 15 seconds left in the game, Knicks rookie Mardy Collins flagrantly fouled J.R. Smith on a fastbreak layup attempt by horse-collaring him and throwing him to the ground. Smith and Collins started jawing at each other, then Knick guard Nate Robinson ran up and pushed Smith. The three were surrounded by various Knicks and Nuggets players, as well as officials. Things escalated when Carmelo Anthony grabbed Robinson's neck. At this point Smith, who was being held back by Knicks player David Lee, charged at Robinson, which landed them both in the courtside seats behind the basket. Eventually, the officials got things under controle...but then Anthony punched Collins in the face, and then ran to the other end of the court as Knicks forward Jared Jeffries, Nate Robinson and some other Knicks immediately ran after him. There were several suspensions, the harshest and most notable of which went to Anthony, then the league's leading scorer, who received 15 games (and yet another significant blow to his reputation among players and fans).
Extended vacations: Heat coach Pat Riley and his lumbering center decided, perhaps jointly, to take the first half of the season off. As a result, Dwyane Wade was left behind to lead a crappy team. The defending champion Heat therefore spent a good chunk of the season hovering around and below .500. Things would not end well (see below).
The "Leastern" Conference: The talent disparity between the Eastern and Western Conferences used to be laughable, but now it's just sad. It's like watching a schoolyard bully beat up on a kid half his size. Wait, that's actually pretty funny, unless you're the one getting your head stuffed in a toilet. But you get my point. Maybe if Lebron James and Shaq got traded to Detroit for Dale Davis and Chris Webber, maybe then the East would have one team worthy of competing with the West. But I doubt it.
NEW -- The Kiss: The NBA All-Star Weekend featured one of the greatest events of all time -- a foot race between Dick Bavetta and the pile of blubber that used to be Charles Barkley. Sir Charles managed to shamble his way to victory (despite falling on his butt en route to the finish line), and things should have ended right then and there. But it didn't. You see, everything in the universe has to even out. Good has evil, Yin has Yang, Batman has sex with Robin the Joker, and so on. So I guess it makes sense that Bavetta and Barkley would have to destroy the awesomeness of the race by kissing -- on the lips -- afterward. I still feel dirty, and no amount of soap can ever change that. [Thanks Ben.]
NEW -- Kids shouldn't do drugs: Back in March, Scot Pollard was doing what he always does -- sitting at the end of the Cav's bench, silently wishing he could still play basketball. Suddenly a camera was shoved in his face, and Scot said the first thing that popped into his strange mind: "Hey kids. Do drugs." After getting reamed in the press, Pollard eventually apologized and referred to the incident as "a bad joke." Based on that comment and his ever-changing hairdo, I'd say that it's pretty clear just who's using the drugs here. [Thanks to Mr. Anonymous for this suggestion.]
Ron Artest: You'd think that destroying an entire organization (the Pacers) and doing irreparable harm to the sport of professional basketball (via the Pacers-Pistons brawl) would have sated his hunger for mindless mayhem...but it didn't. Ron-Ron began the season by feuding with Kings teammate Mike Bibby and coach Eric Musselman. He then (surprise!!) said he'd like to be traded (however, a potential deal with the Clippers fell through). On February 5, Animal Services officers seized Artest's dog, Socks, and placed her into protective custody. Apparently, Artest had forgotten to feed her for a few months and the dog looked like "a rack of bones." Eventually, Artest gave the dog up for adoption after admitting he couldn't take care of her. And you can add "family" to the list of things Artest can't take care of, because on March 5 he was arrested on domestic abuse charges. Apparently, he got into a fight with his wife -- grabbing, slapping, and repeatedly pushing her to the ground before driving off in his Hummer (which she chased after and hit with a frying pan). Oh, it should be noted that their children were in the house at the time. Artest was setenced to 20 days in jail and 100 hours of community service (neither of which have yet been served, so far as I know). The Kings briefly dismissed him from the team, but ultimately brought him back so that he could contribute to their stellar 33-win season.
The worst basketball injury caught on film: Shaun Livingston's promising career may have come to a grisly end on February 26 when, in a freakadelic accident, he dislocated his kneecap and tore every ligament in his knee. The injury was so bad that recovery and rehab will take eight to 12 months, and he may miss the entire 2007-08 season. The video of his injury was so horrific that ESPN ran a disclaimer before showing it on the air. You can find it on YouTube if you want, but I wouldn't do it unless you're the kind of morbid sicko who enjoys Faces Of Death.
NEW -- Hair horror: The NBA has seen a wide variety of hair statements throughout the years, from the afro, to cornrows, to the "Fresh Prince" flattop, to carved-in words and phrases, to the fashionably shaved head (which was horifically bastardized by Rik Smits during the '98 playoffs). If this has been a sort of evolution, then Drew Gooden's neck patch is like man turning back into a gorilla. Looking at it, you might think it happened by accident, or that Gooden's using it to cover a birth mark or something. But no, he made the conscious decision to grow the thing, which he calls a "duck tail" and claims was inspired by 1980s hair fashion. Well, at any rate, at least Gooden's hairstrosity deflects attention away from teammate Anderson Varejao's resemblence to Sideshow Bob. [Credit to Joel.]
Doug Christie's "comeback": Jackie Christie's husband took time out from his hectic schedule of domestic slavery to play seven uninspiring games for the Clippers (1.9 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 29.6 hand signals to his wife per game). As his second 10-day contract was about to expire, the Clips tried to sign him for the rest of the season. He said no. Idiot.
NEW -- Scottie Pippen's "comeback": In February, Pippen announced that he wanted to make a comeback to the NBA. To show he was NBA-ready, he showed up the the All-Star Game and participated in the Shooting Stars competition, in which he hit a three-pointer and a half-court shot (the latter of which got his team disqualified because he wasn't eligible to take that shot). His desire was to return and play for a playoff contender -- the Heat, Spurs, Cavs, or Lakers. Despite the fact that three of those teams had major holes that a healthy Pippen could have filled, nobody wanted anything to do with him. This may or may not have anything to do with the following shot he took at Michael Jordan: "The fans who understand the game, the GMs and coaches. I think they'd rather have a Scottie than a Michael. Because I'm an all-around player. Coaches would rather have a Scottie-type player than a Michael. I was an all-around player. I made people around me better." Suuuuuure, Scottie. All I have to say is this: Do you think that, if Jordan tried to make a comeback, he'd get signed by somebody? Yeah, I thought so.
NEW -- The Age of Flop: I understand that flopping has been around for decades, but it's gotten way out of hand. Players don't bother playing defense anymore. Why go through all that effort when you can just drop to the ground any time somebody bumps into you. The leading Flop Master is Manu Ginobili, who is a seventh degree black belt in Flopjitsu. But the greatest flop of the post season came courtesy of Manu's teammate and thug, Robert Horry. Watch the following film in which, after no contact, Horry crumples then launches himself across the floor. [Inspired by Ben.]
Bad predictions: Gilbert Arenas was one of the true joys of the first half of the season. He dropped 60 points on the Lakers in L.A., and he followed that up by scoring 50 against the Suns in Phoenix (the Wizards won both games). He was also a quote machine, but unfortunately his mouth got a little carried away when he vowed revenge on Nate McMillian for being part of the coaching staff that ran him out of the Team USA tryouts during the offseason. He predicted destruction for McMillian's Blazers, but he then went out and had two of his worst scoring games of the season (3-for-15 and 4-of-16). As the season was winding down, fans and players alike started to get a little tired of Gilbert's wagging tongue. Sadly, Arenas tore his MCL near the end of the season and had to miss the playoffs.
Kobe: The bottom line is this -- Kobe is the best scorer in the league, not the best player. Period. He's also a whining crybaby who cares only about himself. God, typing that felt so good I almost passed out.
Kobe fans: Kobe Bryant would grind his own grandma into hamburger meat to win. He doesn't care if he alienates Lakers management, his teammates, or his fans, as long as he gets what he wants. So why do some people go to insane lengths to defend him? I once wrote a post in which my only contention was that Kobe isn't the best player in the league, and I got a flurry of hate mail, some of which centered around my untimely demise and/or sex with my dead skull. And while I'm never one to back away from lively debate, I'm not sure comments like "U r nuthin but a h8ter, ur site sux and i hope u die" really raises the quality of my site.
Tim Hardaway versus butt sex: There are plenty of things worth hating in this world: nuclear war, starvation, poverty, Kobe, those little stickers they use to seal DVD cases, etc. I would think that gay people would rank pretty low on that list. But then again, I'm not former NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, who let the homosexual world know he hates them. Why? We'll never really know. I would guess that a horde of gay barbarians ate his parents alive.
Contract Year Phenomenon fallout: You know how it works -- a player about to enter free agency goes balls out during the regular season and/or playoffs and fools some dumb team into signing him for way too much money. There were three great examples of that this season: Mike James, Tim Thomas, and Sam Cassell. James and Cassell played great during the 2005-06 season, and Thomas sparked the Suns in the 2006 playoffs. They got nice, juicy contracts in response, and they all promptly stopped giving a crap about basketball. It's worth noting that two of these guys signed with the Clippers.
NEW -- Through the gunfire: The Celtics acquired Sebastian Telfair in a draft day trade. He was supposed to lead C's into a new era of fast break basketball -- if the Wizards were "Phoenix-lite," the Celtics were to be "zero-calorie Phoenix" -- but the only thing he lead them in was gun arrests. Telfair was a collossal flop, a fact made even more painful because the man he was traded for, Brandon Roy, went on to become Rookie of the Year. [Thanks to Mr. Anonymous.]
NEW -- Anti-Contract Year Phenomenon: Nine times out of ten, a guy can coast along for years, play really hard for one season, or just one stretch of one season, and trick some suckers into rewarding him with a big-money, long-term contract. Bonzi Wells thought he was going to be one of those guys. After a solid 2005-06 season with the Sacramento Kings, Wells was ready for his big payday. The Kings offered him a 5-year, $38.5 million contract...and Bonzi just laughed at it. He decided to test the market, but nobody was biting. Nobody. And by the time he realized his mistake, the Kings didn't want him either. He ended up signing with the Houston Rockets for the paltry sum of $2 million a season (down about $6 mil per from the Kings' offer). Wells missed most of training camp, first due to a groin injury and then because of dental work. When he finally did show up, he was out of shape and overweight. Coach Jeff Van Gundy decided Wells didn't deserve much playing time, and Wells got huffy. As a result, Bonzi was placed on the inactive list, dismissed from team practices, and forced to work with trainers to get in shape. Things got so bad that Van Gundy exiled Wells from the Toyota Center. He was finally allowed to rejoin the team in December, but he promptly injured his back and had to miss 10 games. Bonzi eventually made it back from injury and everything seemed fine, but then, out of nowhere, he up and left the team because he felt like he was "disrupting team chemistry." Thus endeth his season. The moral of this story is: don't be greedy. [Once again, inspiration via Ben.]
NEW -- The Pacers: Donnie Walsh wanted Larry Bird to bring the Celtics tradition with him to Indiana, but apparently all Bird brought was the Celtics curse. The team suffered through another season of confusion and disorder, which started when former Pacer Stehpen Jackson got into a fight with a handicapped guy outside of a strip club, got run over by a car, and then fired his gun into the air. Eventually, the Pacers traded Jackson and Al Harrington -- whom the team had spent the entire previous summer trying to reaquire -- for Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy Jr. Right players, wrong decade. Then, Jamaal Tinsley and Marquis Daniels got into a bar fight. A short while later, the Pacers mascot, Boomer, got sued for assault and battery. The team finished 35-47 and decided the only thing to do was eliminate the one bright spot of the last few years, the leadership of coach Rick Carlisle. I'm honestly surprised that Reggie Miller's head hasn't exploded yet. [Danke Mr. Anonymous.]
Adam Morrison: We already knew he was no Larry Bird. Turns out he's not even Michael Smith.
NEW -- Spousal abuse: On January 9, 2007, Jason Kidd filed for divorce against his wife, Joumana, citing "extreme cruelty" in addition to intense jealousy, paranoia, and the threat of "false domestic abuse claims" to the police as reasons for the divorce. On February 15, Joumana filed a counterclaim, alleging that Jason was chronically abusive, having broken her rib and damaged her hearing by "smashing her head into the console of a car." And while domestic violense usually isn't funny, Jason's new "kiss my ass" free throw routine (as shown below) did give my funny bone a soft caress. Good times. [Tip of the hat to Mr. Anonymous and Craig from The Association.]
Big Mac Attack: Their brawl with the Nuggets didn't teach the Knicks a damn thing, and they almost started another huge fight after yet another blowout loss in Chicago. Leading 98-69 in the final minute, the Bulls players were trying to score one more basket so that their fans would get a free Big Mac from McDonald's. Several Knicks players -- Steve Francis and Jerome James in particular -- were so enraged at this that they had to be restrained after the game. In other hamburger-related news, just what the hell is Grimace supposed to be?!
NEW -- Bruce Bowen: Is he the dirtiest player in the league? Tell you what, go to YouTube and do a search for "Bruce Bowen." Here's what you'll find: Bowen sweeping Amare Stoudemire's legs, Bowen jump-kicking Wally Szczerbiak in the face, Bowen kicking Ray Allen, Bowen undercutting Anthony Parker, Bowen undercutting Vince Carter, Bowen kneeing Steve Nash in the man parts, a couple montages of Bowen thugging various players, Bowen injuring Steve Francis, Bowen using his "foot defense" against Francis and Jamal Crawford...and that's just the first page of search results. If this guy was a terrorist, I'd never get on a plane again. In fact, I'd probably be cowering in a nuclear bunker surrounded by k-rations, bottled water, and porn. Anyway, the guy is as dirty as they come. And what makes it worse is how, right after his latest dirty deed, he throws his hands out and looks around in shock, or tries to pretend it was unintentional. You know, I used to play pickup ball with a guy who tried some of that crap, and his family had to show up one night with a bucket and a shovel to clean up what was left of him. If there's any justice in the world, that'll be Bruce Bowen some day. [Again, thanks Ben.]
Tanking: The Memphis Grizzlies, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks all tanked games this season, losing on purpose in an effort to land one of the top two draft picks (otherwise known as the "Oden/Durant Sweepstakes"). There's no conclusive way to prove they tanked, but we all know they did it. It's an insult to the fans who pay good money to watch and support their teams, and it's a black eye to the sport of basketball. The Basketball Gods got their revenge, though; none of these teams got the first three picks. Speaking of which...
The lottery: Despite what I said about tanking, the lottery system is totally screwed up. In fact, the random nature of the lottery might actually contribute to tanking, since teams may become obsessed with increasing their percentage chances for winning it. This dramatically increases the liklihood that terrible teams will miss out on the best players available, and therefore remain horrible teams forevermore (sorry, Boston).
NEW -- Viva Las Vegas: The 2007 NBA All-Star Game took place in the so-called Entertainment Capital of the World, but Vegas did a better job of living up to its better-known nickname of Sin City. The festivities were marred by street fights, near-riots, shootings that left three people in critical condition, and a scad of arrests. The best of the worst of these incidents, though, was the Pacman Jones strip club fiasco: Jones, an NFL player, showered several strippers at the Minxx Gentlemen's Club & Lounge with more than $80,000 in cash, the strippers thought they could keep it, Jones wanted it back, Jones grabbed one stripper and slammed her head down on the stage, his entourage fought with some of the other strippers (one of whom "hit a guard in the head with a champagne bottle and began biting and screaming when other guards tried to restrain her"), and finally some of Pacman's posse began blasting away with semi-automatic handguns, hitting a female customer and two security guards. The end result of all this is that Jones is getting a season-long vacation and the NBA probably won't be returning to Vegas any time soon. [Gracias, Mr. Anonymous.]
Doc Rivers extended: Doc Rivers ranks as the second-worst coach in Boston Celtics history, but only because of the existence of Rick Pitino. Doc's record after three seasons in Green is 102-144, including this season's 24-58 mark, which featured a record-busting 18-game losing streak. Everyone assumed that Rivers was going to be fired; ESPN columnist Bill Simmons was so sure of it that he wrote the seemingly inevitable "Doc Rivers has been fired" article well in advance. But Doc had the last laugh when the Celtics rewarded him with a 1-year contract extension worth $5 million. Mind you, that was before the Celtics lost out in the Oden/Durant sweepstakes...
NEW -- Bad news Wizards: For a team named after mythical old men who can perform miracles with the power of their minds, the Wizards sure ran out of magic this season. They spent most of the season leading their division and looked poised to make a nice push in the playoffs. Then Antawn Jamison got injured and they went into a tailspin. After he got back, their All-Star forward Caron Butler broke his hand. Then, as if they weren't bad enough off, they lost their best player, Gilbert Arenas, for the rest of the season and the playoffs due to a torn MCL. The Wizards ended up finishing second in their division and limped into the playoffs, where they were casually swept away by the Cavaliers. [Brainwave courtesy of Ben.]
UPDATED -- Isiah Thomas extended: Speaking of unwarranted contract extensions...you may remember how, several paragraphs ago, I mentioned that Knicks owner James Dolan had given Isiah one year to show "evident progress"...or else. Well, the Knicks won a whopping 33 games -- up 10 whole games from the previous season's 23-win campaign!! -- and that was good enough to secure a multi-year contract extension that will keep Thomas in New York through 2013. Dear merciful Odin, the nightmare never ends. My buddy Craig at The Association said it best an an e-mail he just sent me: "I love how sometime in the middle of the season, the media jumped on the whole 'Isiah Thomas isn't that bad of a head coach' storyline. They reasoned that it was a good thing that Isiah had the Knicks up to the 9 spot...in the worst conference in the history of the NBA! That story died by the All-Star break, but for a few weeks the media were like those volunteers at the end of a special olympics race looking to give Isiah a hug for finishing 9th in a 15-man race."
NEW -- The Non-Answer: There have been literally thousands of stories over the years about how well and Allen Iverson-led team would do in the playoffs if Allen Iverson just had some good teammates. Well, this season he was finally traded to the Denver Nuggets, where he got to play with the league's second-leading scorer (Carmelo Anthony), the Defensive Player of the Year (Marcus Camby), and some other solid NBA players (Nene, J.R. Smith, Steve Blake, et al.). And what happened? Yet another first round playoff exit. Of course, apologists will point out they lost to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs, but I say a loss is a loss is a loss. The fact is, Iverson still hasn't proved he can win it all, or make other players better. He could prove me wrong next season...but I doubt it. [Ben, again.]
Heat stroke: The Miami Heat lost Pat Riley for half the season due to hip and knee problems, and then Shaq and Dwyane Wade combined to miss 73 games, all of which led to an uninspiring 44-38 record for the defending champs. Riley, Shaq, and Wade were all back for the playoffs, but Wade's shoulder was iffy at best, and they still had a team composed of all-stars...from the 1990s. The Heat entered the playoffs as a darkhorse contender, but they got swept (and utterly dominated) by the Chicago Bulls.
The Mav's historic flop: The Dallas Mavericks went 67-15 during the regular season, which tied for the sixth-best record of all time. They were a consensus favorite to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight year, and conventional wisdom was that they'd translate the previous season's failure into a championship. Apparently, conventional wisdom just ain't what it used to be; they got ousted in the first round by a team that squeaked into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. It rewrote the book on first round upsets, and will be used as a cautionary tale to favored teams for years to come.
Another one-and-done for T-Mac: Tracy McGrady was probably grateful for the Maverick's fold-a-rama, because it diverted some of the attention away from the latest in his long and infamous history of first round defeats. This has given rise to one of the more odious titles of all time: The Best Player Never To Make It Out Of The First Round. This wasn't the first time one of McGrady's teams collapsed after holding a series lead, but what made this one worse is that Rockets lost Game 7 at home.
David Blaine: The guy might be a great magician, but "explaining the NBA" commercials were awful. Couldn't he have made those disappear? Now that would have been magical.
The "MVP" award: Dirk Nowitzki had an excellent season -- 24 PPG, 9 RPG, 3 APG -- but he was awarded the MVP mostly because his Dallas Mavericks won 67 games. It was obvious that the media decided shortly after the All-Star Game that Dirk was the MVP and nothing short of a total collapse by the Mavericks (which, sadly, didn't happen until the playoffs) would change their minds. If you check Dirk's season splits, you'll notice that all of his numbers were gradually dropping as the season progressed, and his team even lost both "MVP Games" to the Suns as Dirk was soundly outplayed by Steve Nash. This miscarriage of MVP voting culminated in the Mavs first round ouster, during which Dirk played more like an LVP (he was 2-for-13 in the deciding game). Of course, it was great comedy seeing Nowitzki receive the MVP in a staged press conference that was purposely delayed to avoid embarrassing anybody (Dirk, his team, the league, David Stern, et al.).
Bullcrap: After they swept the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round, the Bulls suddenly became the favorites to come out of the East. Wrong. The Pistons casually built a 3-0 lead before mercifully dispatching the Bulls in six games. Maybe next year, guys (assuming you actually get a player who can score in the post).
The Suns suspensions: The Suns were wrapping up Game 4 their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Spurs -- and thereby regaining homecourt advantage -- when Robert Horry body-checked Steve Nash into the scoring table. Teammates Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw jumped up to see what had happened and then returned harmlessly to the bench. Unfortunately for them and the Suns, the league has an archaic rule that says you can't get off the bench during an altercation (the rule, I should point out, does not define what constitutes an "altercation"). Unwilling to abide by reason, logic, or the most common of sense, David Stern (via Stu Jackson, the NBA's Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations) chose to further his dictatorship by suspending Stoudemire (the Suns' leading scorer and second best player) and Diaw (his backup) for Game 5, which the Suns lost 88-85. The Spurs closed out the series in Game 6, and thus we, the fans, were robbed of the only good series in an entire playoffs worth of crap. Thanks, Dave.
Dubious officiating: Twice during the regular season, the NBA suspended Kobe Bryant for elbowing opposing players in the face on the follow through to his shot. Yes the contact was intentional -- Kobe was trying to draw a foul -- but not truly suspension-worthy. However, David stern claimed the league was trying to protect players from head and face injuries and was therefore setting a precedent. That precedent was forgotten in the playoffs, however, when the Warriors' Baron Davis got frustrated and popped Jazz hero du jour Derek Fisher in the chops. No foul was called, nor any suspension levied. Al Harrington also popped Carlos Boozer in the face, in the same game no less, and got nothing. Jason Richardson clotheslined Mehmet Okur -- again, this is all in the same game -- and wasn't suspended (it should be noted that, during the previous year's playoffs, Raja Bell received a one-game suspension for clotheslining Kobe Bryant). While all this was going on, Bruce Bowen was grabbing Steve Nash, stepping under his feet on jump shots, and kneeing him in the balls. He also tried to sweep Amare Stoudemire's leg on a jump shot. Was he suspended or punished? Nope. But a couple guys got suspended for jumping off the Phoenix bench. Way to go there, refs.
Mr. Not-So-Big Shot: The Pistons built a nice, comfy 2-0 lead against the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, then watched in horror as the Cavs won the next four straight to breakdance their way into the Finals. Billups shot 19-50 (38 percent) in those final four games, but it wasn't just bad shooting...his shot selection was just atrocious. His game management was even worse. Can we please stop calling him "Mr. Big Shot" and comparing him to Earl Monroe? He really doesn't deserve it.
Kobe's freakout: Watching Lebron James lead a squad of less-than-stellar players apparently broke Kobe's will, and he then began several weeks worth of flip-flopping trade demands, calling out his bosses, the Lakers organization, and God Himself. He may end up getting Kevin Garnett for his troubles, and I hope Kobe chokes on him.
NEW -- The Lebron Lovefest: Lebron gave us one of the great moments in playoff history in Game 5 of the Cavs-Pistons series, scoring 25 straight and 29 of his team's final 30 points. That performance, more than anything else, is probably what helped catapult the Cavaliers into the NBA Finals. For two or three days, the entire world (minus a scant handful of haters) bowed down and performed wet, sloppy felatio at the Alter of King James. Somehow this made us forgive and forget the way Lebron coasted through the first half of the season and all his "Global Icon" bullpoopy. What...what happened? Did someone buy a tank of goat blood and cast some dark spell on us all? I mean, the dude gave a crap about, oh, say, 30ish games during the regular season. Would Bird, Jordan, or Magic have done that? Maybe Shaq's yearly 20-game vacation has desensitized us, but it sure seems like James got a free pass this year. [Credit: various.]
The NBA Finals: This year's championship series was a yawn-fest featuring one of the worst finalists ever (the Cavs) versus the best but most boring team in the league (the Spurs). People stayed away in droves, preferring to watch bad reality TV rather than the world championship of basketball. As a result, the 2007 NBA Finals had the worst ratings of all time.
We all think Tony Parker's life is just peaches and cream, wine and roses, fun and games. We have this notion that being the NBA Finals MVP and being engaged to Eva Longoria means that Tony Parker has an amazing life and doesn't share the same problems as the rest of us.
Guess again, people.
First of all, having been the Finals MVP, Mr. Parker has some extremely high expectations to live up to. I, for one, wouldn't want to have to deal with pressure like that. And then there's the huge target on his back; everyone will be trying to replace him as Finals MVP, including players on his own team. Word is that Tim Duncan is secretly a jealous, obnoxious jerk who, even at the expense of the team's success, will find a way to see to it that he gets all of the accolades next season. Robert Horry is openly an obnoxious jerk - when it seemed likely that Steve Nash was on his way to being the league MVP - and perhaps the Finals MVP - Horry body slammed him. The obvious next step? Going after Parker.
No, I wouldn't want to be Tony Parker. The poor bastard.
Tony Parker is on Letterman tonight, and I just saw his Subway commercial with Jared, the Subway mascot who lost 1,463 pounds eating low-fat subway hoagies. The two are arguing about "more meat" vs. "less fat." Profound stuff. I myself prefer more fat. Anyway, Tony Parker is everywhere - he's on every show, doing every interview, appearing in every commercial, and likely being forced to attend a potpourri of charitable events that involve sick children, unfixed animals, and appearing before large crowds with - ack - Peyton Manning. That sound fun to you?
In addition to all of that, Parker is undoubtedly flying almost every day, into and out of various time zones, causing him tremendous jet lag. JET LAG. ALL THE TIME! Sound a tub full of rose petals? I got news for you, people - Tony Parker puts on his pants one leg at a time, and he experiences jet lag too. Not fun.
Think being tall is great? Have you seen pictures of him next to Eva Longoria? There's like two feet difference in height there. What's that sex like? It's probably like when I got curious with one of my sister's Barbie dolls and...ok, well, I don't want to get too deep into that.
That's what she said.
And come on, we all know that Tony is taking second best. Marcia Cross and Felicity Huffman are clearly the top-tier Desperate Housewives...
...I'm sorry. I tried. I can't do it. Best I can explain is that I meant this as a kind of a debating class assignment, where I was told to defend the "Hitler really wasn't that bad" argument.
Dear Tony, please adopt me. I promise I'll be good. I'll only swim in the pool when you say it's OK. I'll pick up your birth control and your enormous dry-cleaning. And I'll go one step further, you sexy thing - if I were going to go gay, it would be for you. Does that embarrass you? Does it make you blush to realize how much I want you to "drive it to the hole"?
So what, you're rejecting me? I'm not right for you? You're going to go ahead and marry Eva? FINE! Go ahead and marry her. I didn't want you anyway. To hell with you, Tony Parker. You aren't even worth my time! Who the hell shaves his head when he would clearly have a full, lush mane of hair were he to grow it out? A self-absorbed show-off, that's who.
I hope she's worth it, Tony. I hope she can fulfill you like I could have.
No, I'm not a jaded Michigan alum and I don't hate Portland or feel sorry for Danny Ainge and company. But big men drafted out of the Big Ten Conference have a track record for failure that has reached Gilligan's Island proportions. Let's start off with...
Indiana: Kent Benson's path of destruction began when he hazed freshman Larry Bird to the point where he dropped out of school before the season started. Then the Bucks drafted him 1st overall, and he rewarded them with 9 points and 6 boards per in three depressing seasons. His most memorable moment came when he baited Kareem Abdul-Jabbar into punching his lights out in '78. Uwe Blab (17th) later upheld the Hoosier tradition in 1985. He scored a total of 505 career points. Fans were more interested in his name than anything he did on the court, which wasn't much.
Iowa: Before the Celtics were getting hosed by the lottery, Acie Earl (19th) was giving them false hope back in 1993. Hoping the Big Ten Defensive MVP would give them an anchor in the middle for the next ten years, they ended up with a poor man's Chris Dudley for the next two. And don't get me started on the comedic antics of Brad Lohaus (6 ppg and an appearance in NBA Jam).
Michigan: The Mavericks took Roy Tarpley 7th overall back in '86, and he was on the verge of joining the 20-10 club in his second year. Then he joined the 420 club and was suspended for drug violations. There were rumors of him making a comeback in 2005, but in between bong hits and glass knees, even Kenny Rogers isn't a big enough gambler to bring in this guy. And don't forget Tim McCormick (12th, 8 ppg, 8 seasons).
Minnesota:Joel Przybilla (9th) pretended to have talent for approximately 25 games in 2005, and now the Blazers are stuck paying $5 million a year for 4 ppg. Mychal Thompson (1st overall) was a solid 17 points and 9 boards guy for seven seasons with the Blazers. And you may remember him as being Vlade Divac's tag team partner in Lakers vs Celtics on your Sega Genesis. But the fact that Portland took Mychal over Larry Bird had to sting a little. Remember Randy Breuer? (18th, 7 ppg) Kevin McHale was awesome, so I won't count him.
Ohio State:Herb Williams (14th, 11 ppg) was a respectable player for 11 seasons. But he was in the league for 18. The Buckeyes also produced...um...Lawrence Funderburke?
Penn State: Before John Amaechi (6 ppg in 5 seasons) became a minor celebrity by being gay, he was an actual basketball player!Calvin Booth ($6 million/year, 3 ppg) is neither gay nor a basketball player.
Wisconsin:Paul Grant. 20th overall. 16 games played. 'Nuff said.
Purdue: Brace yourself for this. In 1980, Golden State traded Robert Parish and Kevin McHale for rookie Joe Barry Carroll (1st). Parish and McHale went on to become cornerstones for the Celtics championship run later that season. JBC ditched his team for a while to go play in Italy. Three years later, the Warriors would be Purdue'd again by a guy named Russell Cross (6th overall, 354 career minutes). Then Purdue strikes yet again. This time in Atlanta, with Keith Edmonson in 1982 (10th, 522 career points). This string of catastrophes may have contributed to All-Star Brad Miller going undrafted in 1998. Unfortunately, ten years later, Brad is slowly devolving from likeable underdog to marshmallowy salary cap-killer.
(Note to Purdue alumi: Statbuster attended Iowa State. Let him have it.)
"I'm still young enough to play. Last year was the first time in 24 years I haven't played. It was fun, but I think I can still do it. I might give it a shot this year. I'll tell my agent to put my name out there and see what happens."
I'm guessing "what happens" will be a lot of laughing, followed by a recitation of his career stats (4.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.7 BPG), followed by a lot more laughing. 'Tag's comments came after he participated in a 45-minute scrimmage with Kansas University's current varsity players and former Jayhawk Michael Lee. Greg's line: 4 points on 1-for-6 shooting and 9 rebounds. Now normally, you'd assume that the team with the former NBA player would win hands down. But not when that former player is Greg Ostertag: His team lost by the score of 75-70.
KU's senior power forward Darnell Jackson, who viciously dunked on Ostertag and even stuffed one of the big guy's shots, actually claimed to be "impressed." Why, you ask? Well, according to Jackson, "Greg Ostertag takes up a lot of space!" Well, yeah. So does Rosie O'Donnell, but I can't see anybody signing her to an NBA contract. (Okay, maybe Isiah Thomas, or Kevin McHale, but, like, nobody else.)
So where does Greg go from here? "First I have to get my fat butt in shape. I've got some weight to lose. Then I may have to go in and work out for somebody (NBA team). I don't know how it works. I've never been in this situation before."
Hey, you know, I think the Lakers are looking for a quality big man with playoff experience. Ostertag has been the the NBA Finals twice. Don't worry, Kobe, help is one the way!
Fun Greg Ostertag Fact: Larry Bird earned $26,495,000 in salary during his 13-year NBA career. Ostertag earned $48,251,390 in 11 seasons. As always, I'm just sayin'.
It's official. Nobody was watching the NBA Finals this year.
Well okay, not "nobody" exactly. But the Finals averaged a pitiful 9.2 million viewers per game -- the worst ratings ever for the Big Show, easily surpassing the previous all-time low of 9.9 million (for the soul-numbing 2003 Nets/Spurs Finals).
To put this into perspective, more people tuned into America's Got Talent (11.8 million), So You Think You Can Dance (10.6 million), and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader (9.97 million) than Game 4 of the NBA Finals (9.91 million). That's right: the American public would rather watch a tone-deaf cocktail waitress try to sing and dance, or an auto mechanic try to guess the capital of Montana, than see Tim Duncan battle Lebron James for the world championship of professional basketball.
That sound you just heard was David Stern's bleeding ulcer. Exploding.
Better than the NBA Finals? Millions said "yes."
Some other NBA Finals fun facts: The ratings for this year's Finals were down 28 percent from last year. What takes that tragic figure and gives it a Super Size of "sad" is that the 2006 Heat/Mavericks crapstravaganza was one of the worst-rated Finals in history. In fact, you can accurately consider this a trend, since the five lowest-rated NBA Finals have taken place during the past six seasons (three of which featured your world champion San Antonio Spurs).
So what can be done to fix this mess? John Hollinger has some ideas, but, no offense to him, they suck. His suggestions include such revolutionary concepts as better exposure for the league, better team matchups, and a better overall season. Wow. Those are some pretty radical suggestions there, John.
Forget all that namby-pamby stuff. PBS can't afford to show an NBA "Game of the Week," it's impossible to legislate quality of play, and short of fixing games via dubious suspensions (or even dubiouser non-suspensions), the league can't dictate which teams will make the NBA Finals. Well, never fear, my children. I've got your fixes right here:
Things that could improve the NBA Finals
1. Show the Finals on tape delay, just like the late 70s/early 80s. Only instead of actual footage, the games will be lovably and laughably recreated by the makers of Robot Chicken! Tim Duncan might be as boring as listening to your boss talk about how to seamlessly operationalize cross-platform paradigm transfers, but an animated Tim Duncan made out of chunks of clay that look like cow poop? Now that would be worth watching.
2. Build a time machine. Then, if the Finals end up sucking (again), you can simply go back in time and tell your past self not to watch. This will probably cause some kind of deadly catastrophe with the Space-Time Continuum that will destroy this universe and maybe a few others. But if you actually watched this year's championship series, I'm sure you'll agree that snuffing out billions of lives will probably be worth it.
2a. Before destroying the universe, you should go back to first grade and beat up that bully who pulled your pants down in front of Heather Durfy.
3. Before the tip-off of Game 1, replace the members of each team with a prechosen mix of lumberjacks, monkeys, pirates, ninjas, and Chuck Norris. This will require you to surround the court with an unbreakable steel cage and a bubble of shatter-proof glass, but oh man, the show would be television gold.
5. Quest for the Holy Grail. Assuming you survive the quest and actually recover the Grail, use it to restore the youth and vigor of various NBA legends (Bird, Magic, Michael, et al). Then let them save the league and, by extension, the Finals.
6. Expose all current NBA players and draft prospects to large doses of radiation (Gamma Rays, Cosmic Rays, etc.). The players who don't melt or immediately develop a deadly cancer will probably be imbued with fantastic powers beyond our wildest imaginations. Wouldn't you watch a basketball game where everybody had superhuman strength and half of the players were on fire? I know I would.
Well, Kobe trade rumors are flying around again today, with prognosticators saying he could most likely end up with the Bulls. While this would no doubt be a boon to the commercial profitability of the Bulls and to new Kobe jersey sales, the Bulls shouldn’t do it.
We all know what the Bulls would have to give up to get him - Ben Gordon and Luol Deng. While Gordon has been quietly - and sometimes not-so-quietly - considered very tradable (he’s undersized and overhyped), Luol Deng, by contrast, is the future of the Bulls – even more so than Kobe could ever be, even more so than Elton Brand ever might have been.
Am I saying that Deng's upside is better than Kobe’s? Within the context of this team, you bet. This is an unselfish group that plays more like the Spurs than the Cavs, and to introduce a far-more-selfish-than-LeBron-has-ever-been player like Kobe will upset the apple cart. Not to mention that we all just saw how Spurs-style team ball easily trumped Cavs-style LeBron ball in the Finals.
Deng is unflappable, unselfish and a future all-star. He was fantastic against the Heat in the playoffs and showed plenty of spirit against the Pistons. This Bulls team, as it stands, is very close to being the best in the East. With another year of experience, they are poised to be better than the Pistons and the Cavaliers. Note to John Paxson: if you decide to dramatically alter this current chemistry, you had better be right. The Bulls are already an exciting, dynamic, crowd-drawing, playoff-calibre team. If you mess with that just to get a superstar name on the roster, you had better be right that it will produce a winner.
Possible exception: If you can manage to get Kobe while keeping Deng – perhaps with a Ben Gordon / Ben Wallace or Tyrus Thomas / draft picks trade – then consider it. But only consider it. Getting Kobe is not a no-brainer. Even if you keep the critical pieces of the team in tact, andretain enough talent and positive attitudes to maybe offset Kobe's monster ego, introducing a player-slash-personality like Kobe is a complete team makeover. This is a guy who Phil Jackson and Shaq had a tough time handling; you seriously expect Scott Skiles to keep him in line? Granted, Skiles is a bulldog, and I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley without a kickass set of Chinese throwing stars, but he doesn't have Kobe-cred. Kobe would, by default, be more powerful than the coach, and that is a disaster waiting to happen. It's already a disaster for the Lakers, but they wouldn't admit it for a second. Don't be surprised if they take just a little bit less than you might expect to get rid of the cancer that is Kobe Bryant.
All in all, keeping the status quo would be wise for the Bulls. They are on the verge of turning a very big corner as a team, and the best move by John Paxson would be no move at all. Unless, of course, he LIKES cancer.
…Just managed to get to the game after a busy day, at the beginning of the second quarter. Saw the Parker twisting lay-up highlight. Nice. Apparently, this guy is more than just a pretty face and an Eva Longoria plaything - jealousy grows with each passing day.
…One of the commentators just said “THIS is how you use LeBron James against this defense. Off screens.” Hmmm, took three crushing loses to figure that out? Look at my previous posts…I’ve already covered that obvious strategy, people. Way to wait until the series is out of reach.
…”Transformers”…expect that silly movie to be a guilty pleasure this Summer.
…7:49 in the second – There’s nothing quite so sad as seeing “Game 5 (if necessary)” – it might as well say “Game 5 (If the Cavaliers manage to play some decent basketball and actually win one).” It’s way longer, but much truer.
…6:13 in the second – Ginobli hits a three. Spurs 30, Cavs 25. Cavs timeout. LeBron is on the sideline getting taped up. He’s been poked in the face, and now they’re working on his leg…the Cavs are simply grinding their wheels like no other team I’ve ever seen. At least when my Red Sox pulled out 4 after going down 0-3 against the Damn Yankees in ’04, they had firepower that was just dormant and lurking…I just don’t have the feeling that Gibson, Gooden, Ilgauskas and Varejao are “dormant and lurking.”
…Cut to a clip of a Spurs pre-season party with Tim Duncan playing the old Carson character Carnac. Some things are so not funny that they’re funny – this was not one of those things.
…Nearing the half – Parker makes a pretty double-clutch lay up. Replay shows the move to be a clear travel – which even my 8-year-old is able to notice. Perhaps we need younger refs? I mean, not fetuses, but younger…like ones that can see.
…There’s so little to enjoy on the court, we’re now star-gazing. Franco Harris is in the crowd. Last game, we had Payton Manning, now it’s Tom Brady and Terrell Owens. Hey, now that this Finals series is as good as over, how ‘bout dem Patriots? Can’t wait to hear this call on the hook-and-ladder play…Brady passes to Stallworth, who laterals to Moss!…I think I just peed myself a little with anticipatory joy….
…Nike “We are all witnesses” commercial…seems a little silly with an impending sweep…we are all witnesses to WHAT? Self-destruction and ignominious failure?
…Remember the hyper-down halftime report “Cleveland Misery”? Well now we get over-hype halftime report “Spurs Dynasty.” ABC already has them surpassing the Kobe-Shaq Lakers and the Bird Celtics in greatness?* Christ, we can’t even let them actually WIN the fourth championship before we start making outrageous comparisons like that. Yeah, I know the Spurs have four championships, but the ones against the Knicks and Nets should only count for half. And come to think of it, this one should count for only, like, a quarter championship - at least in the “How does this team measure all-time” argument. And Larry’s ’84 series win over Magic’s Lakers counts as two…God, I love it when I get to make up the rules. After watching this Spurs lovefest, I have a sudden rejuvenated need to see the Cavaliers come up with the impossible.
*I’ll take a Larry’s Celts and Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers over any of these Spurs teams – all…day…long. Don’t be fooled by something as silly as a number – black-and-white judgment of greatness by number of championships is a simplistic way of looking at things…unless it’s football, whereby Tom Brady is clearly three times as good as Payton Manning because of the three championships vs. one…Now, see how silly that sounds?
…Barkley and Wade “Fave 5” commercials…forget Cleveland’s misery, what about the misery I have to endure watching these?
…1:24 left in the third – LeBron is poked in the eye for the second time in the game, this time by Horry. Horry gives him the “Hey man, you OK?” Ah, heartwarming. If the series were tied and competitive, Horry would be body-slamming Gibson to get LeBron kicked out of the game. Sign your team is completely awful? Robert Horry is being nice to you : “Hey, loser-we’re-wiping-the-floor-with, you OK buddy?”
…End of the third – The Cleveland crowd is chanting something. Whatever it is, it’s irrelevant and pointless.
…We 're starting the 4th, and it’s 60 to 52…I’m thinking to myself “Maybe it’s time to take up watching the WNBA…”
…9:52 left – Cleveland makes a run to get down by 4. They’re pumping fists like they’ve actually done something. Note to Cavs. Keep it down, the Spurs are getting ready to celebrate.
…Cut to shot of Eric Snow trying to jack up his team – didn’t understand a single word he said. I think I managed to make out “Advance or go home,” but it may have been “Chance for a loan?”
…9:16 left – Cavs down by three. Hope seems silly.
…7:50 left – Cavs up by one. Hope feels…almost dirty.
…5:50 left – Varejao flops and the refs fall for it, calling an offensive foul on Duncan. It appears David Stern has ruled from on high that there shall be a Game 5.
…5:05 left – LeBron is fouled, hits one of two, he’s 2-for-6 on free throws. That’s not what superstars do. Think he would’ve hit three free throws at the end of game four if they gave them to him? Neither do I.
…2:29 left – Spurs back up by 6. Done deal.
…The Cavs are back to looking completely awful – a fitting end. All they can do now is chalk up these finals to “getting experience” - sure, getting a terrible, humiliating experience, but an experience nonetheless.
…A minute or so left – Mike Breen actually says “Spurs trying to hold on” to add some artificial drama to the moment.
…Two “filet-o-fish” talking to each other in a commercial just cheered me up, only to be followed by another Barkley and Wade commercial to bring me back down.
…7.5 ticks left – Ginobli called for a phantom foul on a Damon Jones three. The refs are still trying to follow Stern’s “Make Game 5 happen” decree.
…Breen again trying to add drama, saying how the Spurs owner “looks nervous.” Nervous about what? How hot it’s going to be at the parade?
…Great time management over the last minute Cavs. That is some bad coaching right there…AND to add insult, the Cavs sink the buzzer-beating three to make it a one-point final score and further make you wonder how the game could have turned out with better time management…
…Cavaliers are giving those post-loss handshakes that smell suspiciously of “Yep, we were really just happy to be here.”
…Duncan interview. Good for him. True class act. Never says a single word that makes you dislike him. Robert Horry, on the other hand…7 rings? Jesus. So is he better than Larry and MJ and Shaq? Of course not…that’s like Jeff Goldblum pretending that everyone went to see “Independence Day” and “Jurassic Park” because of him.
…The Cleveland fans are booing the Commish…Amen, Cleveland. But now you’re booing the Spurs…and Tony Parker as the MVP. Don’t do that. It makes you look petty and classless. One of the enduring images of sportsmanship I recall from my youth is Boston fans applauding the Lakers when they won it all on the Celtics’ floor. You don’t have to like the opponents, but you should, as a sports fan, appreciate them (put Yankees caps on Kareem and Magic, however, and they wouldn’t have gotten out of town alive). On second thought, Parker is French, so if you’re booing that, I am in full agreement.
…Finley says he is going to put the game ball “between me and my wife in bed.” Well, well, Michael, we all love basketball, but clearly not quite in the same fashion that you do.
P.S.> Ironic "ring" footnote: Robert Horry: 7, Steve Nash: Zero
Ok, ok, enough of that. Congrats to the Spurs, 2007 World Champs.
Tonight, while I'm treated to stomach-turning images of Robert Horry gloating over his seventh ring, I began to ponder the sea of "what-if's" that surrounded Cleveland's performance. What if LeBron drove more? What if Eric Snow turned back the clock and shut down Tony Parker? What if Drew Gooden cut off his rat-tail and stop making rookie mistakes on defense?
And then I realized...the Spurs have won their fourth championship in nine seasons and I am still not giving them any respect. At their core, the '07 Spurs are the same 59-win team that won the rings in '05, except that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are now more grizzled and experienced, and are coming off career years. Swap Devin Brown and Nesterovic for Michael Finley and Oberto, and this team is better than the '05 Spurs.
But, partially due to their Conference Semis bounce in '06, the Spurs became the forgotten team. The league was distracted by the Mavericks nearly posting 70 wins, Nash's almost MVP three-peat, the Miami implosion, the Melo-AI tag-team creating nightmares (sometimes for George Karl), etc. But the Spurs quietly went into their business-like defensive assassin mode and, officiating and thuggery aside, a 16-4 postseason run and four game sweep in the Finals is not a fluke.
And there is no reason to think they won't be back again next year. Tim Duncan is 31 and will perform at a high level for at least a few more seasons. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are both in their 20s and are the best backcourt in the league (put your hand down, Detroit). The only issues are their older-than-dirt role players. You can only put Bruce Bowen in that hyperbolic chamber so many times.
If you're still crying into your beer, or whatever you normally cry into on a Wednesday afternoon, look on the bright side..
If LeBron did get the continuation call on the missed desperation three, he would have received three free throws to force overtime. Given LeBron's less-than-stellar clutch free throw shooting (82games.com says 66% in the clutch), James only stood a 43% of hitting even two of the free throws, much less three straight.
In this case, or in the case that LeBron got the call before the shot (which was the Spurs strategy; foul before the shot goes up), the fate of the game would have relied on an intentionally missed free throw, a perfect bounce, and a tip-in by Andersen Varejao. Yup, the game was over before it was over.
While Bruce Bowen is licking the tears of your unbridled sadness, be thankful. Be thankful you aren't a Pacers fan. In between fan beatings, stripper shootings, and gimpy-kneed lottery picks, we have good ol' days like this to reminisce over...
George Vlosich, the world's only greatest Etch-A-Sketch artist, took the time to commemorate the Cleveland Cavaliers first-ever Finals sweep by using a toy from the 1960s to draw a picture of some guy..it may be Ira Newble. How he completed this in under three minutes is beyond me.
….One minute left in the half and the game is tied at 38. Is the defense really this good, or is this about LeBron and Duncan both having to sit the last 6 minutes of the second quarter with 3 fouls?…both of the superstars, by the way, were forced to sit on nothing calls – Bowen flopped on a hand to the back from LeBron, and Duncan did NOT foul Ilgauskas for his third. Nice work refs…way to let ‘em play.
…Parker hits a teardrop to put the Spurs up 2 at the half. The Cavs played as tough as they have in this series and find themselves down 2. That must be a sucky feeling.
…Gatorade commercials are the second most effective commercials in recent memory. Keith Jackson is the God of hydration.
…The Wendy’s commercial with the people kicking trees – and the guy in the red pigtail wig saying he wants a tasty burger – is the first most effective commercial in recent memory. Why do I want a fresh, not-frozen burger? “Because I have a mouth, and it wants one.” Amen, brother.
…Half time chat now, where the Cavs get called out for stinking up the joint (offensively, anyway)…Grant Hill just called this game “The varsity vs. the JV.” Ouch, but boy does this appear true.
…The halftime short: “Cleveland Misery”…a chronicle of Cleveland’s futility and failure in professional sports. Something tells me there will be another chapter right in line with this theme in a few days.
…The Barkley / D Wade “Fav 5” commercials are the worst ever. Wooden acting, not funny - proof positive that writing – not LeBron – is king, and that just getting two superstars together for a commercial doesn’t make magic.
…Jeff Van Gundy has a face for radio. He reminds me of a turtle…that may be an insult to turtles.
…If “Live free of Die Hard” is as good as the trailer, it’s gonna be a fun summer.
… The “Secret of the Surfer” on this go around had better be how to keep a Fantastic Four movie from sucking ass.
...7:55 left in the third - Spurs 44, Cavs 42. The Cavs offense is as bad as their defense is good. About as pretty to watch as Gollum taking a shower.
...Eva Longoria is clapping for her man. Color me jealous of Tony Parker.
...Drew Gooden just hit a sick hook shot to tie things at 48. Dare I hope that this game might get interesting?
...Harry Potter is growing up, and so are his movies. Dare I hope that Lord Voldemort kills the whiny little bastard? Can't wait.
...What I CAN wait for is an iPhone. That thing just screams beta.
...3:17 in the third – Ginobli called for a silly offensive foul. Yet another case of “Let ‘em play, refs.” These refs are back to being whistle happy. Makes me whistle sad.
...2:33 in the third – Drew Gooden called for two loose ball fouls in a row. The Spurs don’t make mistakes like this. They just don’t.
...:38 in the third – Bowen sticks a three. 55-50 Spurs. In this game, 5 points feels like a mountain.
...:06 – Gibson clearly fouled in the act of shooting a three. No call. The refs continue to amaze with their inconsistency. Let’s stop making this a part-time job for retirement age men, shall we?
...Ah, David Blaine is advertising the finals…the only thing more annoying than the refs? David Blaine. Want proof? Watch this, and then this. You will thank me. And the words you will use to thank me have already been written down. Just look in your pocket.
...King James isn’t attacking the basket like he did against the Pistons. In fact, he just dribbled around – got none of the picks that I have been begging the Cavs to make – and passed to Donyell Marshall who immediately shot and missed a 3. Spurs 58, Cavs 50.
...Shaq is helping kids lose weight. Good for him. “Don’t fart on me Walter,” will always make me giggle.
...The Cavs offense is looking abysmal. They’ve taken and missed 3 threes in a row.
...9:30 in the fourth. Duncan just hit a patented jumper. The man just does what he does. Spurs by 10.
...9:17 left – James gets a pretty “and 1” Spurs by 7.
...6:36 left – after some back and forth, Finley hits a three. Spurs by 10. Varsity and JV indeed.
...5:28 – LeBron finally drives to the frickin’ hoop. Spurs by 4. Mike Breen reminds us that this is when Wade took over last year’s Finals. LeBron, you have to go to Legendland, Legendland won’t come to you.
...Every time the ball leaves LeBron’s hands, the other Cavs are making mistake after mistake. Oy. I’m starting to think that showering Gollum wouldn’t be so bad.
...2:28 left – The Spurs haven’t scored in 4 minutes, and yet the Cavs can’t buy a basket. Me thinks some sort of consistent offensive player would help the Cavs greatly. Perhaps they can work a trade for Duncan.
...1:33 left – Spurs up two. Gooden just yanked on Duncan’s shirt and then screamed “All ball!” You just fouled out, Drew – on six dumb fouls. Sit down.
...A three by Parker. Eva cheers. Jealousy ensues.
...10.4 left – Spurs by 3.
...5.5 left – Spurs by1 after LeBron layup.
...Ginobli hits his freethrows. Spurs by three. Timeout Cleveland. One three-pointer is all it takes to maybe, just maybe, make this a respectable series.
...LeBron is fouled in the act of shooting (Bowen TRIED to foul him prior to the shot), and in pure NBA ref form, the call isn’t made. LeBron complains in vain. Spurs would have taken overtime anyway, I suspect.
...Cavs down 3-0. I stand by my six game prediction – mainly because my wife is from Cleveland, and it would be nice to see her city not be completely humiliated.
Well, you can thank the 1990's Chicago Bulls for fooling us into believing that relying on marginally talented or over-the-hill defenders is an acceptable strategy. And for years the Bulls hung their hat on Cliff Levingston, Bill Cartwright, Bobby Hansen, Dickey Simpkins, etc. But the big difference is that the Bulls had the luxury of a guaranteed 60-70 points a night from Mr. Jordan and Mr. Pippen, so their shortcomings on the offensive end are much less of an issue. And ever since, coaches have been duped into giving guys like Erick Dampier and James Posey copious PT, and wondering why things fall apart down the stretch.
Mike Brown made the mistake of reading the NY Times and gave Eric some blow in Game 2, and, of course, he did a respectable job on the defensive end. But regardless of how much "veteran presence" and "playoff experience" Snow brings, he can't/won't shoot the ball, and the Cavs were essentially going 4-on-5 every time up the floor. And, when the Cavs are on pace to score 60 points for the entire game, containing one Spurs player is the least of their problems. Snow scored one point in 11 minutes and was never seen again.
(And yes. That is Eric Snow in an Aquaman costume.)
Cavalier - adj.: Carefree and nonchalant; jaunty. Spur - noun: anything that goads, impels, or urges, as to action, speed, or achievement.
OK, I'll admit it; I didn't watch the whole game. I think left when the Spurs were up 97.
Despite the lopsided nature of what I saw, however, I still maintain that this series is going the way of the Cavaliers' play, rather than the way of the Spurs' play. What do I mean? I mean that if the Cavs get close or even - gasp - win a game, it will be because they play up to the Spurs level, not because the Spurs choke, or play badly, or lose their composure, or don't play championship ball. The Spurs are the epitome of cold-blooded efficiency, and this series is theirs, unless the Cavs play dirty and body slam Steve Nash - uhm, I mean Tony Parker - to get a few of Spurs' superstars ejected for a game or two.
All that said, I still think the Cavs will find a way to pull out two at home. At least, I hope so.
This is the NBA Finals, Cleveland. Play like it.
And by the way, who came up with Cleveland's team name? How did that meeting go? "OK, gentlemen, we have to name this team and I'd like to do it before lunch, which is in five minutes." "How about something that means 'Half-assed'?" "Beautiful. Find a word that starts with 'C' and have it on my desk in the morning. LUNCH!"
Can the performance-enhancing hormones that run through a pregnant woman's body be ruled illegal? Dammit, they should be. The sad thing is, this VERY SAME THING happened to me on a pickup court last weekend. Afterward, I sobbed on the sideline like a bitch.
Game 1 of these NBA finals is over. Everything pretty much went as expected; Spurs teamwork outdid LeBron and the Supremes. There's still no doubting how good LeBron is...the Spurs threw pretty much the entire team at him on most plays, leaving low percentage shots, dish offs and kick outs as LeBron's only options.
While there's no denying that the Spurs' single-minded "Stop LeBron" defense only further proves how good this guy is, there's also no denying that the Spurs are a well-oiled Championship machine. They are all business, they have done this before, they play unselfishly, and, well, they're the better team in these finals.
That said, I feel a disturbance in the Spurs Force, like thousands of voices (those in the SBC Center) cried out, and were suddenly silenced (like when LeBron hit that second three-pointer in the 4th).
Really, Obi Wan? Tell me more.
Good teams make adjustments. The Cavs lost on the offensive boards 13-9, lost on the defensive boards 30-23, and LeBron was held to 4-of-16 shooting - and the Cavs only lost by 9. The Spurs played a great all-around game, but the Cavs can play better, and if LeBron studies enough film and figures out where and how he can get his shots (and I believe he is savvy enough to do that), the Spurs could be in for a fight. Don't forget, the Cavs were down 2-0 against the Pistons and then won 4 straight.
My advice to the Cavs? Pick, and pick, and pick again for LeBron. It looked to me like the Cavs stopped playing after the first pick set for LeBron, assuming he would use his athleticism to score. That worked sporadically against the Pistons (aside from the amazing game 5, when it worked consistently, because LeBron played like Zeus), but it will not against the more talented Spurs. The Spurs defense swarmed effectively because there were no bodies in their way. If the Spurs are going to send a boatload of defenders in LeBron's direction, then the Cavs must set an equally tenacious swarm of picks. Too often, one pick was set, and the roll to the basket was ineffective because the entire Spurs team was already in the lane waiting for LeBron (or for his long dish, which was regularly intercepted). Give LeBron the ball, yes, but don't expect him to take on five Spurs by himself, or force him to bullet pass an assist from three point line - allow penetration (that's what she said... no time... but she did... NO TIME!).
Kudos to the officials in this game. They finally let the teams play. I am so sick of officials falling for plays that "look like fouls." They didn't break up the action with free throws every five seconds, and that is a much more enjoyable game to watch.
For those of you in need of the schedule for the rest of the series, allow me to save you some time:
Up next: Game 2 Followed by: Game 3 Then: Game 4 If necessary (it will be): Game 5 If necessary (it will be): Game 6 If necessary (it won't be): Game 7
In the spirit of the NBA Lottery system, the order of games 3 and 4 may be reversed (whereby game 4 is actually played first) if, by his capricious and arbitrary will, Commissioner Stern deems it to be for the betterment of all basketball kind.
In last year's movie "Rocky Balboa," the fictional fight between the octogenarian Rocky and the lean, young Mason Dixon was billed as "Skill vs. Will." In that spirit, I shall give these finals it's own nickname - "The Roar vs. the Bore."
The Roar: Let's face it - LeBron James just looks like a more refined physical specimen out there. He's the best athlete in the league right now. Highlights of his Game 5 performance against the Pistons show that even when the referees put away their whistles and allowed LeBron to be fouled multiple times on individual plays, it didn't matter. LeBron was stronger and faster and more determined. And even when there were two or three defenders hovering around him at any given time, it didn't matter. LeBron was stroking jumpers and threes with Larry-MJ-lovechild accuracy. And he's making it look easy. Some may argue that the Pistons' defense played weak, but the Pistons' D wasn't weak; LeBron made it look weak with superior skill. Watch his defenders - they are good athletes trying damn hard to keep up with him, and he's blowing past them. LeBron is simply on a different level right now.
The Bore: Tim Duncan is everything that is right AND wrong about pro basketball.
What is right: Duncan is the most fundamentally sound player in the league and (Bill Walton superlatives aside) may the best ever at just quietly and methodically killing his opponents. His greatness is in his consistent excellence and his ability to get his shot. Rarely will you see him off-balance or fading away. He finds his spot, takes his time, and hits that 8-footer off the glass often regardless of the defense playing him. He is frightening - not a Hannibal-Lecter-eat-your-face way, but in a bubonic-plague-that-will-slowly-but-inevitably-kill-you way.
What is wrong: The way I feel - and the way every fan outside San Antonio - feels about Tim Duncan. This guy is going for his fourth NBA title. Even as the parts around him have changed, he has been there, winning and winning and winning. Watching him play should give me chills. But I don't get chills. And yet, I would be the first person to get on my high horse and say, "We need to stop worshipping these high-flying, selfish, hyperathletic players and worship those who play the game soundly - like Tim Duncan." Still, TD doesn't excite me. He should, but he doesn't.
The Prediction: The Spurs' team game should prevail - and easily. The Spurs should win another championship. But if somehow the Cavs win this series, make no mistake, LeBron will have given us the greatest NBA post-season performance ever. Forget about Larry and Magic and Michael. For various championships, Larry had McHale and Parish, Magic had Kareem and Worthy, And Michael had Pippen, Grant, Rodman, etc. If the Cavs win, LeBron will win it. He will score. He will distribute. It's all on his shoulders. Sure, he needs his role players, and he needs the other guys to "do what they do," but this is his team. He is The Man.
The Preference: Seeing as the Spurs have become the Bad Boys lately (the infamous Bowen foot defense, the ubiquitous Tim Duncan "I'm Tim Duncan, call a foul!" facial expression), I'd love to see the Cavs take this thing. Anyone else sick of the Spurs? Show of hands....thought so.
My selection of individual over team goes against all of my most firmly held beliefs. But hey, LeBron isn't Kobe - he plays the team game more consistently, and says all the right things (Hell, he has the basketball intellect and overall maturity of a 40-year-old), so I can feel like less of a tool by cheering him on.
But even as I'm getting excited every time LeBron touches the ball, I'll be inwardly wondering how it came to be that Tim Duncan's greatness seems to have been swept under the table (aside from the "We really don't appreciate Tim Duncan like we should" statements that have become all the rage with commentators).
If you feel a cough coming on, LeBron, be careful...it could be the plague...
Your friends here at Basketbawful (as well as a number of other bloggers) contributed their NBA Finals predictions on the latest Basketball Jones podcast Episode 176: The Finals Preview Podcast. There's also an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Kelly Dwyer. If you don't listen to the Basketball Jones, your life is probably an empty, hollow thing. This is your chance to shine a little light into your cave of torment.
Pat Burke isn't just a big, goofy-looking white guy that sits at the end of the Suns' bench and passes out Gatorades during time-outs. He's an oustanding actor as well. Here are a few of Burke's greatest roles:
1. Pat Burke's Hair Restoration Formula (via TrueHoop)
10. Patrick Ewing: Thanks to Michael Jordan's first retirement, the New York Knicks finally managed to make it to the NBA Finals in the summer of 1994. Unfortunately for Ewing, he had to face Hakeem Olajuwon, who had just been named league MVP (Ewing was fifth in MVP voting that season). Ewing's scoring and field goal percentage dropped dramatically (25 PPG to 19, and 50 percent shooting to a dismal 36). What's more, Olajuwon was lighting him up (27 PPG on 50 percent shooting). The Knicks lost a very close series, and Ewing's below-average performance was a big reason why, although not the biggest (see below).
9. Nick Anderson: In 1994-95, Anderson shot 70 percent from the foul line. But that didn't keep him from missing four straight freethrows at the end of Game 1 of the 1995 Finals. Those misses ended up costing his team the game. According to his Wikipedia bio, this event caused him to develop a "psychological disorder" regarding freethrows (indeed, his percentage eventually dropped to 40 percent).
8. Kobe Bryant: The Lakers won the 2000 Finals, but not because of Kobe Bryant. He averaged only 15 PPG on 36 percent shooting. He scored two points in Game 2 and eight points in Game 5. His defense on Reggie Miller was just as bad: Miller averaged 25 PPG on 48 percent shooting (both above his season averages).
7. Chauncy Billups: He's "Mr. Big Shot" huh? Then how do you explain his 3-for-8 (including 0-for-3 from three-point range) stinkbomb he threw up in Game 7 of the 2005 Finals?
6. Larry Johnson: Grandmama sunk the Pacers with his four-point play in the Eastern Conference Finals, but he was dreadful in the 1999 Finals. Game 1: 1-for-3, five points. Game 2: 2-for-12, five points. Game 3: 6-for-16, 16 points. Game 4: 2-for-8, five points. Game 5: 3-for-10, seven points.
5. Magic Johnson: Most NBA historians feel like the Lakers should have won the 1984 NBA Finals. In fact, they could have swept the series...had it not been for Magic Johnson. The Lakers had a chance to win Game 2 in regulation, but the Lakers didn't get a shot off because Magic dribbled out the clock. He then threw the ball -- and any chance at victory -- away twice at the end of the overtime session. In Game 4, he missed two freethrows that would have given the Lakers the lead. On the Celtics very next possession, Bird posted Johnson up and drained the go-ahead basket over Magic's outstretched hands. Instead of winning the series 4-0, the Lakers lost it 4-3. Johnson was so depressed afterward that Kevin McHale started calling him "Tragic Johnson."
4. Rik Smits: When the Pacers finally made it to the NBA Finals in 2000, somebody forget to tell Smits. He averaged a lousy 10 PPG on 39 percent shooting. Even worse, he averaged only four RPG, and had two games in which he grabbed only two rebounds. Did I meantion he was 7'4"? On defense, he let Shaq to score 38 PPG on 61 percent shooting. He shot 1-for-8 for two points in the deciding game.
3. Karl Malone: The Mailman didn't play that badly in the 1997 and 1998 Finals, and he had some bigtime games too. His 37 points in Game 3 of the '97 Finals brought Utah back from the brink, and his 39 points in Game 5 of the '98 Finals staved off elimination and gave the Jazz a chance to come back and win the title at home. But then again, his missed freethrows in Game 1 in '97 (leading Scottie Pippen to quip that "The mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays") and his turnover at the end of Game 6 in '98 both set up two Michael Jordan buzzer-beaters and, of course, two more championships.
2. Larry Bird: The 1984-85 season was a good one for the Celtics. They were the reigning champs, Bird was his second consecutive MVP award, and the team won a league-best 63 games during the regular season. The Celtics seemed like a lock to win back-to-back titles for the first time since the 1960s. But then Bird injured his hand in a bar fight during the Eastern Conference Finals and his shooting percentage dropped from the mid-50s to the low 40s. Not only did they surrender their title to the Lakers, they did it in Boston Garden. Bird was 12-for-28 in the deciding game.
1. John Starks: The New York Knicks lost Game 7 of the 1994 Finals by a score of 90-84. It was a game they could have won, and they would have won it...if John Starks hadn't shot 2-for-18 from the field. During the 2006 NBA Finals, Pat Riley stated publicly for the first time that sitting Rolando Blackman in favor of John Starks during Games 6 and 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals was "the biggest coaching mistake" in his career and stated that he has never forgiven himself for it.