During college, I had my fair share of adventures and (more often) misadventures. I climbed a 16-story clock tower while it was under construction, participated in a few intramural sports championships, had a 50-pound stereo speaker shatter my nose during sex (seriously), helped design and build potato guns, successfully snuck into various sorority houses, got kicked out of bars, woke up in random places (and with random people) I'd never seen before, so on and so forth. But I'm not going to lie: My first day at college was painfully, even embarrassingly lame.
After my roommate disappeared, I wandered around campus and got lost. I tried unsuccessfully to track down some fellow freshmen from my hometown. I went running and got lost again. I made a handful of mopey phone calls to friends and family. I took a nap.
That evening, my dorm held a beginning-of-the-year dance in one of the two dining halls. I got spiffed up in my own dorky way -- button-down shirt and khaki shorts -- and ambled down to meet and greet. Unfortunately, after only one lap around the dance floor, I got intimidated and left. Armed with my Walkman and a copy of Joe Satriani's "Surfing With The Alien," I took a walk and got lost yet again, after which I vowed to stop going on walks altogether. Defeated, I went to the dorm's after hours grill, bought a hamburger and shuffled back to my room. And even though I usually have only ketchup and mustard on my burgers, that night I added some mayonnaise too. After all, I was in college now. It was time to take chances.
I spent the rest of the night watching old Celtics games. I was in bed by 11:00 p.m.
At around 6:30 a.m., I woke to the sound of dozens of voices. Singing voices. I scrambled to the window and looked down. Our wing of the building was being serenaded -- poorly and somewhat profanely -- by our sister wing from the all-girl dorm across the street. I sleep hard, and I wake harder, so I was still trying to take make sense of this odd tableau when a giant pillow flew past me and slammed against the window.
"SHUT THE F*** UP!!"
My roommate was home. He was pissed. And he wasn't alone.
Mat was in bed on his back, and on top of him was a girl I'd obviously never seen before. Since the sheets provided by the dorm were barely big enough to cover Mat's hulking mass, I quickly realized they were both naked. The scene was...an eyeful. To say the least.
I flopped back down onto my bed and turned away from them, assuming they wanted a little privacy. Mat spent a few minutes yelling at the serenaders to go away, but they ignored his profanity and sang outside our window for almost an hour. Shortly after they finally left, I heard Mat utter a line I would become very familiar with in the coming months: "Baby, you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." He and the nameless girl then proceeded to have noisy sex for the next five minutes or so.
I was shocked. At the time, that was pretty hard core for me. I'd watched Cinemax After Dark, sure. I'd even shown a stag film called Grind My Groin at a going-away party I threw for my buddy Dave D. before he'd left for the army the previous June. But I had never been five feet away from a couple furiously making the beast with two backs. Even after they finished -- or, rather, after he finished -- I didn't know what to do. I waited a couple minutes, then sat up and tried to act as if nothing had happened. Turned out that was impossible.
Mat had pulled most of the sheet over himself, so the girl's body was almost fully exposed. I couldn't help but gape, less out of lust (although there was a little of that) than surprise and near-panic. As I goggled at his girl, Mat said, "Hey, you want sloppy seconds?"
Following a moment of stunned silence, I said, "Wh...what?"
"Sloppy seconds," he replied, like he was offering to let me borrow a pencil. "Me and the guys at my prep school always shared sloppy seconds."
I was terrified that the girl was going to start freaking out about being offered around like a plate of five dollar hors d'oeuvres, but she didn't look the least bit offended. In fact, she adopted a complacent, "I will do whatever he tells me to do" look.
"I'll pass, thanks."
Mat shrugged. "Suit yourself." Then he rolled over and fell asleep almost immediately. The girl maintained eye contact with me for another few seconds to make sure I really didn't want those sloppy seconds, and then she rolled over and fell asleep herself (or pretended to), an amazing feat considering she was clinging to the outter edge of the bed.
I got up, changed into shorts and a basketball jersey, and left posthaste. Fortunately for me, the co-recreational gymnasium was directly across the street from my dorm. I wasn't there five minutes before getting into a pickup game. Finally, I'd found something that made me feel halfway normal. Under the circumstances, it felt like the happiest hour and a half of my life. But one by one people started to leave until I was the only person left on the court. I berated myself for not trying to get a phone number, or asking somebody to hang out. Something.
By the time I got back to the room, Mat and the girl were gone.
For the next few hours, I just sat in the room watching old basketball games. Eventually, the phone rang and, surprisingly, it was for me. Zach, a semi-friend from high school had just moved into a dorm nearby and wanted to hang out. I probably left skid marks on my way over to his place.
Zach and I hung out for most of the day. We went to Taco Bell, stopped by some book stores, bought a couple posters, tried (and failed) to figure out our way around campus, shared a Papa John's pizza. We didn't like each other all that much, but there was a certain sense of relief in just being with someone familiar.
I had heard about a dance being held at the Memorial Union. Because dancing usually means girls, we tried decided to give it a try. However, after an hour of wandering, it became obvious that we were totally lost. "Zach," I said, totally frustrated, "where exactly are we going?"
"What?" he asked. "I was following you."
It took a good deal of backtracking and guessing, but we made it back to my dorm and staggered up the stairs to my room with the intent of ordering another pizza. However, when we got there, my roommate was waiting. And he had a different girl with him this time.
"Uh, I gotta go," Zach said, and he left without another word.
The stereo was blasting "Rat Race" by Bob Marley. I have no idea why I remember that, but I do. As I edged cautiously into the room, Mat lifted a beer to me in salute. "Hey der, roomie!" he blared. "Dis is Shelly."
There's no other way to put this: Shelly was hot. Fit, tan, brunette, huge...tracts o' land. And, most importantly, a really gorgeous smile. She leaped off the bed and hugged me like I was an old friend she hadn't seen in years.
"Hey baby!" she half-yelled as she planted a wet kiss on my cheek.
I had no idea what to say, so I just sat on my bed and looked at them. Mat sucked down the rest of his beer and then produced what I could only assume was a the world's largest joint. "Dude," he said, "you ever been high?"
"Well, then dis'll be your first time." In case I hadn't mentioned this before, Mat sounded like a reggae version of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I shook my head. "Nah, that's okay."
Shelly grabbed the joint, then came over and crawled onto my lap. She held the joint up to my mouth and whispered in my ear. "C'mon, baby. Get high with us." Man, my teenage hormones nearly exploded. I know that's probably not even physically possible, but I swear it almost happened. I was really close to doing it, and anything else she suggested short of a devil's three-way, but with a titanic effort I collected myself and said, "No, really, I don't want any."
"Whatever," she said, bouncing back to Mat's bed. They then proceeded to get very high and very drunk. I sat in bed reading a book and feeling like the biggest dorkwad the world had ever known. There were a couple times I considered asking for some beer or a hit off the joint, but I felt too stupid and ashamed.
By 11 p.m. I was exhausted, the extreme lameness of my day having worn me out. I went to the bathroom to change clothes and brush my teeth. When I got back to the room, Shelly was topless and straddling Mat. She turned to me, breasts swaying, and said, "Like the view?" I'm going to guess I was blushing, because my face felt like it was about to burn off.
Mat and Shelly went on to have sex while I taught myself to sleep with a pillow wrapped around my head. That skill served me very well for the rest of the semester. Eventually, mercifully, I fell into a dreamless sleep.
At around 6:30 a.m., I again woke to the sound of voices. And pounding. Only this time, it was outside my door.
"GET UP!" the voice screamed. "TIME TO GO SERENADE THE GIRLS!"
Ah, I thought, revenge. I'll pass.
I was about to roll over and go back to sleep, but the door -- which Mat (as would be his habit for most of our time together) had purposely left unlocked -- swung inward. In walked our R.A., Brett.
"Are you guys coming alo..." he started to say. Then he noticed beer cans littering the floor. And the girl in bed with my roommate, which was a clear violation of the overnight guest policy (i.e., you couldn't have any).
Brett grimaced at me and walked over to the huge mass of human flesh on my roommate's bed. He gave the girl a few quick pokes on the back and said, "Ma'am, wake up. I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
When she rolled over, Brett cried out out shock. "Shelly?!"
"Brett," she said in a hoarse voice. "Wha'sup?"
I know what you're thinking, but Shelly wasn't Brett's girlfriend. She was his cousin, who was visiting him from California. Only she'd slipped away during an orientation meeting Brett had to attend, and on the way back to his room she had run into Mat. And, well, yeah.
"Jesus," Brett said, slapping his forehead. "You've been drinking," he blurted out, glancing at the remains of the joint in the ashtray, "and doing...other stuff. Do you realize it's my job to keep this stuff from happening here? Do you realize how bad this looks for me?"
"I'm sorry, Brett," she croaked. "I's jus havin' a good time."
"Come on, I'm taking you back to my room, you can sleep this sh*t off there," he said. He grabbed her by the arm and started leading her out. But before he did, he turned to me and said, "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to write both of you a disciplinary report."
"Wait, what? Buh, both of us?" I stammered. "I didn't even do anything."
"Again, I'm sorry, but those are the rules. You're at fault for not reporting the activity to me."
Great. I had managed to resist peer pressure and avoid drugs and alcohol, but I was getting busted anyway. Fan-freaking-tastic.
"Do me a favor and explain that to your roommate when he comes to, okay?" Brett said.
"And tell him I'll call him!" Shelly rasped out as Brett dragged her away.
All the while, Mat lay there snoring. Sometimes unconsciousness is bliss.
Most of you have already noticed the new Basketbawful banner. I'd love to take credit for its wicked-awesomeness, but it's actually the work of loyal bawfulite Stephen Robbins. And to tell the truth, I made very few suggestions. Stephen simply used his own estimable talents along with what he knew about Basketbawful's rich and Ostertag-laden history to design a graphic that pretty accurately represents what this site's all about. Stephen: You rock.
What's that, you say? You wish Stephen could do something similar for your Web site, blog and/or bar mitzvah? Well, you're in luck. Stephen is a graphic designer for hire. Check out Stephen's Designs for more information. Feel free to tell him Basketbawful sent you.
The Rockets and Yao's reps are frightened over his future, and the concern is the most base of all: Does Yao Ming ever play again?
"The realization has hit them that this is grave," one NBA general manager said.
For now, the Rockets have privately told league peers it could be a full season before Yao might be able to return to basketball. Multiple league executives, officials close to Yao and two doctors with knowledge of the diagnoses are describing a troubling, re-fracture of his navicular bone. Three pins were inserted a year ago, but the foot cracked in the playoffs and isn’t healing.
"It sounds like he’s missing most of next season, if not the entire 82 games," one league executive who has had recent discussions with the Houston front office told Yahoo! Sports. "That's all that [the Rockets] will concede quietly, but they know it's probably much worse."
Houston general manager Daryl Morey refused comment on Monday and a team spokesman said the Rockets will not have further comment until Yao undergoes additional medical tests.
There's no reason for the Rockets to disclose the severity of the injury, nor the uncertainty over Yao’s future. Before the Rockets go public with a dire diagnosis, they plan to send him to three more specialists this week, a source said. For now, the Rockets have season tickets and sponsorships to sell. For now, the Rockets will publicly decry these doomsday revelations as premature, but this is the reality that they’re working under within the organization.
Poor Yao. His body just can't stand up to the rigors of NBA action. Kind of like how Pauly Shore's career couldn't stand up to an industry that requires actual talent. And assuming they don't waste another $40 million on re-signing Ron Artest, the Rockets will only have Knee-Mac left to lead them. So this seems as good a time as any for a Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen-inspired Optimus Prime facepalm.
Note: This is the first installment of a multi-part story about the first semester of my freshman year in college. During that semester, I lived with a member of the men's basketball team. That team was nationally ranked and featured a future NBA All-Star. Some of you already know where I went to school, others may suspect, and still others might figure it out over the course of this narrative. Nonetheless, I don't plan to divulge the name of the school, players or coaches involved. Other names might also be changed to protect the innocent.
Prologue -- Mid-July, several years ago: It was a lazy summer day, and I was at home doing something utterly meaningless. I can't remember exactly what that trivial activity was, but it might have been watching TV (probably old Celtics games I had on VHS), playing Super Nintendo (possibly Street Fighter or NBA Live), or maybe reading (I'm guessing Unfinished Business by Jack McCallum). Anyway, whatever I was doing, my time-wasting was temporarily interrupted by a phone call from a student assistant who was working for the dorm I would be moving into next month.
The reason for his call was to determine whether I would be willing to live with a student athlete. He said the possibility of that actually happening was remote, but the dorm had to have a contingency plan in case the student in question -- a Dutch-born basketball player -- couldn't be placed with another student athlete. I was mildly wary, but I said, sure, I'd do it.
He said, "That's great. But, uh, there are a few things I need to talk to you about. According to your housing form, you requested a roommate who's a non-smoker, who doesn't typically stay up later than 2 a.m., and who won't have more than four guests in the room at a given time. In order to put you on the list of prospective roommates for student athletes, I need you to waive those requests."
Honestly, I didn't remember making those requests when filling out my housing forms. Maybe my mom had done it. I had no idea. But I shrugged my shoulders and waived the requests without really thinking about it.
The student assistant thanked me and that was that. A week later, I received my housing contract in the mail. My new roommate was named Chad Riggle. Chad wasn't a student athlete. He was a sophomore engineering student from a couple towns over. As it turned out, Chad was the cousin of my soon-to-be girlfriend, Aimee, who described him as "quiet and harmless." Chad and I talked on the phone once. He told me in an exceptionally nerdy voice that he had a couch, mini-fridge and a microwave...which was fortunate, because I had nothing.
Late-August, several years ago: My first trip to school wasn't pleasant. I was in a car with three other people -- my mom, my aunt Peggy and Aimee -- and all my worldly possessions. And this particular car happened to be a two-door Buick Somerset. The car looked like this. Pretty small for four people and a lifetime's worth of possessions, right? Oh, and the air conditioning didn't work. It was 97 degrees that day.
My mom was entering the first stage of empty-nest syndrome, so she was angry and on-edge. My aunt, understanding my mom's volatile mood, was deathly quiet. Aimee, meanwhile, was reminding me why she didn't want to have a committed relationship with me (we were going to different schools, freshman year was hectic enough without a boyfriend, etc.). For my part, I was nervous to the point of near-illness. It wasn't that I didn't want to go away to college. I was more than happy to leave my hometown -- a teeny speck of burg known as Kokomo, Indiana -- in the rearview mirror. But I'd never been away from home before -- I'd never even gone to camp as a kid -- so I was a wee bit high-strung. So much so that, when we stopped for lunch, watching Aimee eat some pintos and cheese from Taco Bell almost made me throw up.
We got to the dorm and went through all the requisite check-in procedures. I filled out some forms, had my picture taken for my dorm ID card, and I signed up for my very first collegiate job...with the dorm's food service. Once we had all that squared away, my mom suggested we go find the room before pulling the car around.
Room 329 was located on the third floor of the building's northeast side. The dorm had opened in 1958 and was built to mimic military-style barracks. It was an all-male housing unit, and the combination of age, heat (remember, it was 97 degrees), lack of ventilation and dozens of sweaty dudes made the place smell like the world's largest locker room. The walk wasn't pleasant for me, and even less so for my female companions, each of whom looked like someone had pulled a dirty jock strap over her head.
When we got to the room, it was unlocked, which I found strange. (Upon check in, I was informed that Safety Rule #1 was "Always lock your door, even when you're in the room.") I walked in and immediately turned to my mom, told her to wait, and closed the door. I wasn't prepared for what I was seeing, so I was pretty sure she wasn't ready for it either.
There was a man laying in one of the two beds. Actually, he was more man-monster than man. He was a giant. And, within the confines of this tiny little room, he seemed beyond enormous. The best way to put it is he was Shaq-size: 7'1", almost 300 pounds. I think sometimes, as an NBA fan, it becomes all too easy to take for granted the sheer bulk of a muscled seven-footer...but not when they're right in front of you, and certainly not when you're trapped in a room the size of a large closet with them. To make matters even stranger, he had a shaved head (something that I had never seen in my hometown) and he was wearing nothing but a pair of bikini-brief underwear.
It was too much for me to take in. I just stood there, staring at him for several long seconds. He was reclined with his hands behind his head, and he didn't seem remotely alarmed or even interested in my arrival. Finally, I stammered out, "Uh, hi. Er, are you, uh, Chad Riggle?"
He sat up slowly and it was like watching a glacier move. He stuck out a hand the size of bucket and, in a low, booming voice, said, "No. I'm Mat [only one "t" because he was Dutch]. Are you Matt McHale?"
Ye Gods! The beast knew my name!
I shook his hand and admitted that I was indeed Matt McHale. He said, "Cool. I'm your roommate."
"No, you're not," I said, almost reflexively.
"Yeah, I am," he said with an air of complete finality. That settled that.
"Uh, okay," I replied, not knowing what else to do. "Well, I'm...going to move my stuff in now."
"A'ight," he said, and began to lay back down.
I took him in again and, noting the exceptionally tiny underwear, said, "Uh, my mom, aunt and girlfriend are going to be helping me." He said nothing. "Yeah. Three girls." Still nothing. "Do you understand what I'm saying? Three girls are helping me move in."
Finally, he said, "So?"
"Could you, you know, put on...something."
He heaved a deep, irritated sigh and pulled on a pair of shorts that were barely bigger than his underwear. But it was an improvement, and likely the best I could hope for under the circumstances.
I walked back out into the hall and closed the door behind me. My mom looked irritated and demanded to know what was going on. I said, "Well, my roommate is...not Chad Riggle."
"What?" my mom asked. "Who is it?"
I didn't know how to explain it, so I said, "Just come in. You'll see."
And they saw. But they could hardly believe it. Mat, though, was apparently used to people staring at him. He once again sat up and, to my great surprise, greeted them kindly and introduced himself. He even offered to share some of the Dutch marshmallows he was snacking on. They declined the marshmallows, but they were all very taken in by his presence, which kind of annoyed me.
Then we began the not-so-fun task of moving all my stuff in. I'll never forget this: While three women helped me carry my things up several flights of stairs, this huge, muscular guy just sat and watched. Not once did he offer to help, although he did flirt with Aimee every chance he got.
Fortunately, I owned almost nothing, so the moving-in process was mercifully brief. After finishing up, we all stood around making a little idle chitchat. Mat hadn't been interested in lifting or carrying, but he was more than happy to talk. He looooooved to talk, mostly about himself. I don't know whether it was his size or some natural charm I wasn't picking up on, but the women seemed to love him, and when I finally escorted them downstairs, they couldn't stop talking about how neat he was. Even my mom, who had been a total grump all day, repeatedly said, "Yeah. Yeah. He's really cool."
We exchanged the official tear-filled goodbyes, after which I watched them slowly drive away. Then I was alone...except for my new, titanic roomie, who was waiting for me upstairs. Only he wasn't. By the time I trudged back up to NE3, he had disappeared, like he was the world's tallest ninja or something. I didn't see him again until I woke up the next morning. And he wasn't alone.
While the Shaq and Vince trades had us wondering exactly what lengths teams will go just to save a buck, a new round of youngsters were selected to have their hopes for NBA stardom crushed in the next three to five years. Let's take a look...
Blake Griffin: There's no question that Blake Griffin is a great athlete and a big-time scorer in college. The big question would be is he capable of rising above the faces of failure, i.e. the Clippers frontcourt. Which actually isn't a sure thing. Kaman has size, Camby is a better defensive presence, and Zach Randolph is (gasp!) a more polished scorer. Also, with Oklahoma, playing D was optional for Griffin. How will he fare on that end in the pros? Can he one-up Zach's "non-existent" D with a "not a liability" of his own? If so, he's primed to be the Clip's most successful draft pick since, um... The Clippers Expect: A savior. Statbuster Expects: Carlos Boozer 2.0.
Hasheem Thabeet: If the NBA season is a war, Thabeet is a player you want by your side in a foxhole. Unless the only way out of said foxhole is making a 15-foot jumper. It's easy to forgive his non-existent offensive skills due to the fact he's 7'3", 265 lbs, and averaged over 4 blocks a night for UConn. And, as a bonus, Darko Milicic becomes immediately expendable. And by "immediately" I mean they traded him an hour later.The Grizzlies Expect: Dikembe Mutombo. Statbuster Expects: Tree Rollins.
James Harden: Late last season, Thabo Sefolosha was the Thunder's only best defender. Although OKC needs scoring and James Harden is unquestionably the more talented of the two, if Harden can't defend in the pros, he'll create as many problems as he solves. That's OK though...they'll have another shot at this whole lottery thing next year. The Thunder Expect: Brandon Roy. Statbuster Expects: A poor-man's Jeff Hornacek.
Tyreke Evans: I was really hoping we wouldn't see a boner tonight, especially this early. The King's already have a 20 ppg scorer at SG in Kevin Martin, and needed help at the point, AND Ricky Rubio was still available. Evans actually is a solid ball handler and passer, and could run the point in spot minutes. But a 220 lb guy with an assist/turnover ratio under 2 isn't someone you want defending opposing PGs or running the show for 40 minutes a night. Somewhere, Beno Udrih is giggling maniacally while de-listing his house on Realtor.com. The Kings Expect: To piss off a lot of fans. Statbuster Expects: Larry Hughes.
Ricky Rubio: Rubio brings a court vision that can't be taught. It's everything else that's suspect. With no fewer than 3 PGs on the books for next year, expect 15 minutes a night, a sub-.400 FG% and no fewer than 50 brilliant no-look passes to go ricocheting off the likes of Ryan Gomes and Brian Cardinal. The Wolves Expect: A poor-man's Pete Maravich. Statbuster Expects: Kenny Anderson.
Jonny Flynn: Apparently the Wolves hired the guy from Memento as their GM, as five minutes later, they draft a 2nd PG with their 6th pick. Flynn is more mature than Rubio, and less terrible than Sebastian Telfair, and should get the nod in the short term. However, neither Flynn or Rubio (or Telfair for that matter) are great shooters, so the Wolves' PGBC (point guard by committee) experiment will resemble some sort of masonry convention. The Wolves Expect: Mookie Blaylock. Statbuster Expects: 50 losses.
Stephen Curry: In drafting Curry and dealing Jamal Crawford, the Warriors' opening night backcourt will be comprised of a 6'3" shooting guard (Monta Ellis) and a point guard that doesn't pass (Curry). Which wouldn't work on any other team, but remember, this is Golden State. The laws of basketball fundamentals don't apply to them. The Warriors' Expect: Mike Bibby. Statbuster Expects: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (minus the Tourette's and the national anthem protest).
Jordan Hill: The fact that the Knicks drafted a PF sums up what the team thinks of Al Harrington and Eddy Curry (and the fact that David Lee will bolt via free agency). Hill will hopefully win over NY fans with hard work and defense, but, when Chris Duhon and Larry Hughes are logging 40 minutes a night, you'll wonder if another PF was the real need. The Knicks Expect: Chris Bosh. Statbuster Expects: Antonio Davis.
DeMar DeRozan: The word "project" popped up when the Raptors drafted DeRozan. Which means a player is big and/or athletic enough to use a lottery pick on despite the fact they have no discernible skills outside of being big and/or athletic. It's hard to ignore the fact that DeRozan basically had no stats (51 assists, 31 steals, six 3's in 1168 minutes) while there were still players on the board that could contribute immediately. The Raptors Expect: Another Vince Carter. Statbuster Expects: Harold Miner went to USC. I'm just sayin'.
Brandon Jennings: Jennings skipped college to enjoy one fairly horrendous year in Europe (38% FG, 6 PPG), but that wasn't enough to scare off Milwaukee from bringing him on as a project (Also see: DeRozan, DeMar). Jennings does have blinding quickness in his favor, but to run the point in the NBA he might need to shoot better and improve on a near 1:1 assist-turnover ratio. The Bucks Expect: Tony Parker, of course. Statbuster Expects: Keyon Dooling.
Terrence Williams: Williams is rare in that he does everything well except score. He was 1st among SGs in rebounds (8.6), 3rd in steals (2.3), 5th in assists (5.0), and 6th in blocks (0.8). Unfortunately, his jumper is somewhere in between streaky and non-existent (43% FG, 58% FT), although he did muster a 38% on 3s his senior year. Although, after watching Vince Carter the last few seasons, I doubt the fans will notice. The Nets Expect: Andre Iguodala. Statbuster Expects: Darrell Walker.
Gerald Henderson: The Bobcats are hoping Henderson will replace Raja Bell as their SG of the future, although I'm not convinced his offensive game will translate to the pros. While he has a great first step, he's a shade undersized (6'5"), and is only an OK ball handler. That along with meh 3-point range (34%) could work together to neuter his offensive game. While at Duke, he showed some solid defensive skills. So, in a worst-case scenario, he'll be a defensive role player, just like that Raja Bell guy he's replacing. That should be awesome. The Bobcats Expect: Latrell Sprewell. Statbuster Expects: Fred Jones.
Tyler Hansbrough: The Pacers came into the draft needing shot-blocking and a point guard to replace Jarrett Jack and/or T.J. Ford, and got neither. But Hansbrough should be a better defender than Troy Murphy, and is already better offensively than Jeff Foster. If Indiana signs one more white guy, they'll have to hire Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper to coach them to an improbable championship run via a series of inspirational montages. The Pacers Expect: Dave Cowens. Statbuster Expects: J.R. Reid.
The Steal of the Draft: DeJuan Blair, who was pegged to be a lottery pick in most mock drafts, fell to the Spurs at 37th. Some people pointed fingers at ACL injuries he had in high school. I'm pointing the finger at Mike Sweetney and Sean May. By whipping themselves into shape for the Draft, then immediately eating their way into irrelevance, they may have ruined the NBA for fat post players everywhere. Although that's probably what Blair will do too.
Note: This post is the word of semi-regular contributor AnacondaHL. What follows is the unedited e-mail he sent me late last night.
Bawful, go ahead and cancel whatever you were going to post tomorrow, because do I have a story for you. To be honest, I didn't think there would be enough content for a post when this all started, but with the way things happened, well, you'll have to see for youself. I've got a buddy who moved to Las Vegas to work in a club, and I recieved a text message from him tonight. Said buddy is incredibly sports-unknowledgeable, but he can tell in an instant if you (male or female) are wearing anything from Express. I'm going to post the whole conversation un-edited, minus some comments in parenthesis by me, but you can feel free to edit it however necessary to protect the innocent *snicker*.
(21:40) Las Vegas: There a whole bunch of nba players coming into the club right now. I have no idea who they are u would appreciate this so much more
(21:44) AnacondaHL: The NBA draft is tomorrow holy crap that's hilarious. You are in for a busy next 30 hours
(21:50) LV: Its a private party for the players association. I'm talking to lots of tall people. And managers/owners/important folk. I wish u could switch brains with me cause I don't care about any of these people
(21:58) LV: Who is dr harry edwards?
(22:01) AHL: Never heard. Google says he works for the Golden State Warriors.
(22:16) LV: He asked me to send him a very tall 140 pound woman lol
(22:17) AHL: O. M. G. You need to document all of this so I can post it on BasketBawful.
(22:50) LV: Rashaw mckay?
(22:54) AHL: Uh, Rashad McCants maybe? He's an NBA player oh God please let it be Rashad McCants
(22:57) LV: It's a player. That's probably it that's just what my ears heard
(22:58) LV: Lots of people were recognizing him anyways
(23:02) AHL: Oh God please make sure. I'm emailing you a link to his website, including his poetry/rap. (insert link here to us discussing it prior on this blog)
(23:05) LV: No data plan I can't use that. Somebody said to him "u were great in north carolina"
(23:08) AHL: OMG. STAY AROUND HIM SOMETHING HILARIOUS IS BOUND TO HAPPEN. REPORT BACK TO ME ANYTHING. GET HIM TO FREESTYLE.
(23:08) LV: There's another guy here too people were talking about. All star won a dunking comp dwight something. Or something dwight
(23:10) AHL: ...No. You are lying. It can't be Dwight Howard. It can't. You liar.
(23:11) LV: I'm not allowed inside I'm working lol. if I try to go in and openly socialize I'll be assassinated by my managers.
(23:12) LV: That's it. How could I be lying I don't even kniw his name. His manager or agent or something was telling he's a huge clown though (At this point I punched myself in the face)
(23:19) AHL: Yea that's him. I'd send you an MMS, but I'd feel stupid since he's such a recognizable face and name. Ask the agent how much of a jerk Stan Van Gundy really is
(23:23) LV: He's inside now. Nobodies hanging around front with me anymore lol
(23:25) AHL: I want hourly updates on all the NBA groupies going in and out, who their with, 10 scale hotness rating, and percent chance they are prostitutes.
(23:27) LV: Very few women have gone in actually. I'm very surprised. Its all hotshots with admission badges. Although agent manager guy was telling me about the girls they have up in the suites
(23:29) AHL: YES THIS. More tall 140 pounders!
(23:36) LV: Lol I know one of the girls is an employee at tao. Scandalous, but expected
(23:47) LV: Some tall thick black woman just strolled in w/out creds. Nicely dressed and mannered tho (me, scrambling to load up my computer)
(23:56) LV: Derek fisher? Richard lerner?
(00:00) AHL: Derek Fisher is on the Lakers, who just won the championship, beating the Magic, who's star is Dwight Howard. This is such a confusing list you're giving me
(00:02) LV: Apparently its a commitee. There are player reps here from all the teams
(00:04) AHL: Damn. I knew dreaming for a club confrontation between Vujacic and a thick woman was too good to be true. Ask who's here for the Suns!
(00:11) LV: Lol lemme see (at this point, I've found this on Google) (disappointed at finding a lack of thick women in the brochure)
(00:16) LV: My manager doesn't know
(00:25) AHL: Well at this point this event is probably old news on Twitter. F'in scrubs. Let me know if anything/anyone else happens. Plz don't get shot.
(00:30) LV: Lol
(00:31) (Shaq just got traded to the Cavs. Haha now you're stuck in Ohio!)
(00:31:03) (For Sasha Pavlovic and Ben Wallace. Fuck.)
(00:35) (And the Amare trade rumors begin again. Yay economy!)
"...for Wallace and Pavlovic. Don't laugh, I think it could work."
I had plans for today. More Worsties. Maybe a post about fighting in pickup basketball. But I scrapped those plans when I heard about the Shaq-to-Cleveland trade. The deal might help Cleveland bust through their championship wall. Meanwhile, it means nothing short of utter and absolute destruction for the Phoenix Suns. In the short term, anyway.
Look, kiddies, the fact is this: Times have changed. The United States economy is sucking so hard that it could choke down Oliver Miller AND the World's Fattest Man in one huge gulp. Of course, the reality is NBA basketball never has been about winning. Well, it is sometimes, but only inasmuch as winning typically means making more money. That's just good business. But other times, and this is one of those times, good business means losing. Just ask the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks. And losing is what you can expect from the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns. And I mean a lot of it.
In return for the Big Brad Daughterneze, Phoenix is getting the decaying shell of Ben Wallace (which is the same as getting nothing), Sasha "The Invisible Man" Pavlovic (ditto), the 46th pick in Thursday's draft (double-ditto) and some cash (which is actually something). They'll also save money in salary and luxury tax (about $10 million, according to some reports). This was nothing more or less than a cost-cutting measure. They need to save greebacks, and they will...at the expense of winning basketball and the happiness of their fan base.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't the Shaq of the early 2000s we're talking about. He wasn't great. However, he certainly was good last season: 17.8 PPG (on a league-best 60.9 percent shooting), 8.4 RPG, 1.4 BPG and a PER of 22.3 (which put him ahead of guys like Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, Danny Granger, Devin Harris, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, etc.) He came close to setting a career-high in free throw percentage (59.5 percent). Cav-a-Shaq was an All-Star and even made the All-NBA Third Team for the first time since 2005-06. I guess all those things make him one of the best players in the game.
And yet he wasn't making the Suns any better. Meanwhile, he was chewing up $20 million worth of cap space. When you can't win with someone AND you can't afford him, well, it's probably time to bid him adieu. Normally, a team will try to get actual basketball talent in return. One trade I heard bandied about was Shaq to the Bulls for a package that could have included Luol Deng (finally a small forward to replace Shawn Marion and spell Grant Hill), Kirk Hinrich (finally a backup point guard to give Steve Nash a blow), and maybe some draft picks and cash. That move might have restocked some shelves and allowed the Suns to run free again. Or maybe not. But what does it matter now? The deed is done. Steve Kerr's failure is now complete. Or it will be once he gets rid of Steve Nash and trades Amare for Tracy McGrady.
On the other end of the trade spectrum we have a Cavs team starring LeBron and LeBrawn. Think about it for a second: Cleveland added Shaq -- a Shaq who proved last season he still has some Power Thirst left in the tank -- to a team that won 66 games and has the league's reigning MVP. AND THEY GAVE UP NOTHING. Wallace and Pavlovic were D-U-N, done. And if Shaq doesn't work out, so what? His contract comes off the books next summer...and the Cavaliers will be waaaaaaay under the cap. (Right now, they're committed to only about $36 million in 2010-11.)
Look, there are plenty of reasons to suspect that Shaq will be a bust in Cleveland. But it's a worthwhile gamble for the Cavs. It's not like when the Suns traded for Shaq and had to give up one of their key players. The only thing we have to figure out now is who's championship piggybacking off who? Because let's face it: King "Check My $tats" James wants the world to bow to his basketball supremacy...and so does Shaq. The Big Cavalanche can play kissy-face with Kobe all he wants, but unless I know "jack" and "sh*t" about human psychology, he'd love to earn championship numero cinco while cock-blocking Mamba's quest for a fifth.
It'll be interesting to see how this trade works out for Cleveland, and what moves the Eastern Conference Elite (Celtics, Magic) will make to counter it, if any. (Due to salary constraints, all Danny Ainge will be able to do, I think, is to watch helplessly and maybe pee himself.) As for the Suns, well, watching them is going to become exceedingly depressing. But I'll take some comfort in knowing that Robert Sarver will be saving some money while Steve Kerr is (presumably) saving his job.
Brian Scalabrine: The Official Mascot of the 2008-09 NBA Worsties.
That's right: It's time for the NBA Worsties, a month-by-month recap of the best of the worst of the 2008-09 NBA season. Here's Part 1:
The Iverson-for-Billups trade: Under Joe Dumars' careful stewardship, the Detroit Pistons made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals six consecutive times from 2003 through 2008. They also reached the NBA Finals twice and beat the Shaq-Kobe-Mailman-Glove Lakers for the 2004 title. There were some knocks against this team, though, particularly when they fell apart in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 ECFs. The naysayers said they lacked a killer instinct, tended to coast and/or underestimate their opponents, and perhaps were "only" good enough to be one of the best teams in the league...but not The Best.
But Joe Dumars had the answer: Blow that sh*t up. On November 3, Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb were traded to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Allen Iverson. This is what I had to say at the time: "AI to Detroit for Chauncey Billups and 'Tony McDyess? Because the Pistons need a ME-ME-ME-FIRST!! scorer handling the rock? Bad trade. Baaaaaaaaad trade." As usual, I would turn out to be right about that. But more on that in the upcoming Worsties.
Shortly after the trade, it came out that Joe Dumars might have made the deal in hopes of clearing cap space for the Summer of 2010. I'm sorry, but if the plan really is to make a big run at Bosh, Wade or James in 2010, it's a flawed plan. I guarantee that Bosh and Wade are going to re-sign with their teams, and LeBron is either staying in Cleveland or bolting for New York. But hey, what do I know? At least we got a little high comedy early on.
Shawn Marion: Going into the season, things were looking up for the Matrix. He was healthy, and he was ready to play Robin to a healthy Dwyane Wade's Batman. Oh, and it was a contract year to boot. I'd be willing to bet Marion went pretty early in many fantasy basketball drafts. But the people who drafted him probably never really watched him play, or perhaps they simply didn't fully grasp his game. Or lack thereof. Without Steve Nash feeding him a steady diet of gimmies, Shawn's game regressed. In November, he averaged 11.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shot a crummy 18 percent from long distance. Mind you, this is the same guy who was genuinely disgusted to be the third option (behind Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire) and the highest paid player on some darn good Suns teams. Memo to Shawn: This is why Robert Sarver didn't want to throw bags of money at you. Speaking of disappointments...
Mike James, worst backup PG in the league: He was supposed to, in the words of Tommy Heinsohn, give Chris Paul a blow when Paul needed a blow. But the only thing that blew was James himself. Byron Scott lost faith in "The Amityville Scorer" almost immediately, and Mike ended up playing only six games for a total of 56 minutes in November. His averages for those six games were: 2.3 PPG, 1.2 APG, 33 percent shooting (6-for-18) and almost as many personal fouls (5) as total assists (7).
From CP3's primary backup to DNP-CD, just like that. Why? Well, coach Byron Scott provided a few hints last week: "In this offense, what [James] needs to do is really look to get everybody the ball. I don't know if he can do it or not. I think Mike has been programmed his whole career to be a score-first point guard. On this team, that's not what we really need right now. So he has to try and change his focus and do a better job running the team and getting guys involved. Obviously, the first seven games have not been the best for him."
Ouch. And here was James' response: "If I'm out there for two minutes or out there 20 minutes, I'm going to play my game. I'm just going to do what got my name and credibility in this league. I'm just going to be aggressive, make plays, score or pass. It's freedom of mind." At the time, I said: "With that attitude, Mike, it's going to be less 'freedom of mind' and more 'riding the pine.' Good luck handing out Gatorade during timeouts, Mike." Little did I know that James would soon be traded to the league's most pathetic team...
The Los Angeles Clippers: On the surface, it looked as though the Clippers actually made some good moves during the summer of 2008. They signed Baron drafted Eric Gordon, signed Baron Davis to a free agent contract, and traded a whole lot of nothing for Marcus Camby (the Clippers gave Denver the option to swap second round draft picks in the 2010 NBA Draft). But let's face it: They are who we thought they were. The Other L.A. Team finished went 3-11 in November, while scoring about 92 PPG and giving up close to 100. To make a bad situation terribly, terribly worse, on November 21 they traded Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas for...Zach Randolph. And it's really saying something when trading two players whose careers are basically over for a 20/10 guy is an awful trade for the team getting the 20/10 guy. Oh, and did I mention all this happened in the wake of Elgin Baylor's forced resignation and the promotion of Mike Dunleavy Sr. from coach to coach AND general manager. Worst. Franchise. Ever.
Starbury's newfound appreciation for Larry Brown: Even as Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni were doing all they could to banish Stephon Marbury forever, Marbury came to adore the coach he once despised. Stephon Marbury: "Looking back at the last two years, I kind of liked Larry Brown," Marbury said with a laugh. "I kind of liked Larry Brown. I'm like, 'Man, I wish this guy was here to drill me now.'" Who knew that Stephon liked to be drilled, let alone by Larry Brown. But looking past the rather obvious homoerotic overtones for a sec, just think about that statement. Considering the way Larry Brown got run out of New York, that would be like the villagers from Frankenstein saying, "I kind of liked the monster. Man, I wish that creature was here to strangle me to death right now!" Here's the rest of what Starbury had to say.
The Spurs' slow start: Minus Manu Ginobili, the Spurs began the season 0-3. Two of those losses took place in San Antonio, where the Spurs have been nigh-invincible the last 10 years. It was the team's worst start since opening the 1973-74 ABA season at 0-4. For the sake of perspective, that was their first season in San Antonio after playing in Dallas as the Chaparrals. (The Spurs joined the NBA in 1976.) And here are some factoids from that third loss. Matt Bonner (zero points, 0-for-5 and 5 boards in 20 minutes) started at center last night. Michael Finley shot 1-for-3 and finished with 3 points. Ime Udoka was 0-for-4. George Hill was 3-for-7. Kurt Thomas played 12 minutes without scoring a single point (he was 0-for-1) or snaring a single rebound. The Fabulous Oberto returned to play 14 reboundless minutes. Frankly, if it wasn't for Roger Mason, the Spurs might have lost by 30 instead of "only" 17.
Steve Francis, fashion guru: Guess who showed up for a Rockets home loss to the Boston Celtics: Stevie Franchise, a guy who was only nominally on Houston's roster. From the game notes in the AP recap: "Houston guard Steve Francis, out with a knee injury, arrived at the arena wearing a red velvet sport jacket with 'Barack Obama' spelled on the back in sequins. Francis said he would try to attend Obama's presidential inauguration. 'Today is a transitional day in my career and everybody else's career,' he said before the game." The only transition his career made was from "showing up to random home games" to "never to be seen or heard from again." Nice jacket, though. I imagine it's what a pimp would have worn to the Democratic National Convention.
The Magic of Mike and Marv: These guys have a terrific on-air chemistry, but let's face it, they've been broadcasting together for decades. Sometimes they get board, sometimes they act like an old married couple, and sometimes...it's both. That's when this kind of stuff happens:
Marv Albert: It's time for our J&R Music and Computer World Upcoming Schedule. Following tonight, the Nets will finish up the home stands...that's, uh, very lovely. On friday night against Allen Iverson and the Detroit...what is that?
Mike Fratello: It's a car.
Marv: Oh, Motor City, oh I got it.
Mike: It's a car.
Marv: So clever. You think about this for long periods of time? And then at Miami on...at Indiana on Saturday, I'm sorry.
Mike: I didn’t want to throw you off.
Marv: I, I know.
Marv: All right. Indiana, what do they get? What's that? That's very creative. What is that? Is that a building?
Mike: It's a building.
Marv: For Indianapolis?
Mike: It is.
Marv: And then at Miami on Monday night.
Mike: You know Miami gets, they get another, ohh yeahhh.
Marv: Oh very cute, yeah, all right and then back home for the Pacers next Wednesday. but frankly we've seen enough.
Marv: The J&R Music and Computer World Upcoming Schedule. The Nets playing four games in five nights.
Mike: I was trying to think of how to draw a hurricane for Miami, not sure how to do that.
Marv: I'm sure you'll come up with something. Iittle box for the city of Indianapolis.
Brian Skinner's awful missed dunk: As Wild Yams said: "Here's a video of Brian Skinner from the Clippers blowing a wide-open dunk against the Lakers, which he then follows up by grabbing Derek Fisher in frustration or embarrassment." Well, in all fairness, Brian has a lot to be frustrated about. He was a Clipper, after all. Still, watching him blow a dunk when there isn't anybody within five feet of him is pretty funny, and it has the added benefit of making Yao Ming feel better about himself. So, you know, win-win.
Amare Stoudemire, flop master: Serious sad face material here. As Basketbawful reader Garron put it: "You are NOT allowed to have a major dunkage, go to the whole King Kong chest bump, then fly half the width of the court after a backup point guard touches you. 49 points was great for Amare. Flopping, is not." Agreed. But hey, let's face it, just think about all those years the Suns were humiliated by the Spurs. Amare learned from The Masters.
Chicago Bulls drama: One of the reasons the Bulls fell from grace last season was that many of the players had their own agendas and therefore tuned out Scott Skiles. And even after Skiles was canned (on Christmas eve), they didn't exactly kill themselves for interim head coach Jim Boylan. All that stuff was supposed to be ancient history...but it's not: Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are already making subtle criticisms to the press. "Starters have to get off to a good start; that's their responsibility," Gordon said after Sefolosha went scoreless and starting forward Tyrus Thomas had one point against the Cavaliers. "They have to step it up. Maybe Coach needs to mix something up a little bit." Translation: Coach needs to start me.
Deng, on the other hand, seems to think his slow start is the fault of the team's offense. "I still don't feel I'm playing how I want to play. We have to find sets that we're productive from and try to give teams different looks. We stayed with similar sets, especially in the fourth quarter. We have to switch it up a little bit." Translation: Coach needs to call more plays for me.
But Vinny D isn't changing for nobody, nohow: "No, no, no; they're the players, I'm the coach," Del Negro said. "The easiest thing is to look from the outside in and say we should do this or that. But when you go through it, it's a lot different. We're trying to put everybody in the most successful area we can. Sometimes it's not the system; sometimes it is. Sometimes it's the familiarity of everything."
Del Negro then put the onus right back on his players. "It's probably frustration talking. [Deng] got good looks [Wednesday], just like a few other guys. At times I thought we played pretty well moving the ball, but [we're] still shooting the ball too quick. Guys [are] a little bit unsure and thinking too much instead of playing. What happens is, sometimes [players] get a little bit out of sync and they start forcing things and try to do things they're not comfortable with. That hurts them even more. You just have to be patient and understand where you're going to get your shots."
It's always good to have everybody on the same page...
Elton Brand and the Philadelphia 76ers: Shortly after the Philadelphia 76ers signed Brand to that $80 million contract last summer, Elton said: "I'm prepared to do some big things this year." In November, those "big things" included scoring 16 PPG and watching his team -- a squad that was supposed to challenge Boston for Eastern Conference supremacy -- go 6-9 for the month. Fail.
Basketbawful History Break!! On November 9, the term suck differential -- officially coined by AnacondaHL -- officially enteres the Basketbawful lexicon. And there was much rejoicing.
Yao Ming, worst nine-foot tall dunker ever: Poor Yao. He spent a lot of time in the early part of the season either blowing dunks or getting them stuffed, somtimes in spectacular fashion.
This led to an early-season "Yao Watch." Here's one example of it: "I did a little box score review, and I discovered that Yao had four of his shots rejected this weekend (once by the Lakers and thrice by the Clippers). That brings Yao's season total of "blocks against" to 14 in seven games. That's right: The gigantic Yao is having his shot stuffed an average of two times a game. In addition, some research at 82games.com uncovered the following "stunning" revelations: Yao's effective field goal percentage on dunks is only 50 percent. Just as damning, if not more so, are the following stats: 22 percent of his "close" shots are getting blocked, 19 percent of his inside shots are getting stuffed, and 17 percent of his flush attempts are being returned to sender. Also, you can officially add Kobe to the list of things Yao can't dunk over or against."
Oh, and by the way, it didn't end with Kobe...
Dirk Nowitzki's Ass of Doom: The mad German made a four-year-old boy cry when he crashed into the tyke while trying to save a ball from going out of bounds. But no worries. Jason Terry -- who missed his first 11 shots and finished 3-for-15 -- ran across the court from the Mavericks' bench to give the brat his sweaty headband. I'm sure you'll be able to find it on eBay as early as right now. Anyway, here's the first shot of Dirk's ass-attack on the front-row youngster.
Now take a look at his face. He's being absolutely traumatized by Dirk's butt. NBA action: It's FANNY-tastic!
LeBron James cold start: Before he hit 4-for-7 from downtown against the Bulls on November 8, James was 1-for-19 from beyond the arc. After his hot game, he was 5-for-26 (19 percent). And according to 82games.com (at the time), LeBron's effective field goal percentage on jump shots was 17.9 percent. Did the terrorists taken his jumper hostage? How much did they want for it? I'm sure Nike ended up covering the ransom. Or...did they...?
Joey Graham: Normally, lacktion figures like Joey don't make it into the Worsties, but he gets special mention for both going by "Joey" and receiving a Code Red from Super Mario West!
The Washington Wizards' slow start: They dropped about $160 million on Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison during the summer of '08. Then, when the season started, knee surgery had reduced Agent Zero to just plain zero, and the Wizards began a season of epic suck. One winless weekend included a home loss to the Knicks and an embarrassing blowout in Orlando. Those two losses dropped them to 0-5, and Jamison wasn't happy about it. "Anytime you lose like that you definitely don't approve of it. But it's extra disappointing when you are in the position we're in, and for us not to come out with the energy and focus that we needed for this game. We're 0-5 and we need people to play basketball." It's funny you said that, Mr. "I just signed a $50 million contract extension over the summer." The team report said: "Jamison seemed disinterested during the late stages of a blowout loss, something that was evident when he did not join a team huddle during a timeout in the third quarter." Nice team leadership, Antawn.
Kevin Garnett, hardwood bastard: Who knew that finally winning an NBA championship would transform KG into a Batman villain.
Sasha Vujacic's chest bump fail: So awesome you'll pee.
The Suns-Rockets Brawl: It was a catfight in Houston. And here's Slasher 14 with the call: "T-Mac set a screen on Nash where Nash appeared to hurt his shoulder. Next time down the floor Rafer Alston went to set a screen on Matt Barnes, who just pushed him out of the way. Alston ran over after Barnes and a scuffle broke out. When it looked like everything had been cleared up, Nash, who was running over to try and break the fight up, appeared to slip and fell into Alston. McGrady saw this and probably thought he was after Alston, so McGrady pushes an off-balance Nash to the floor. Then Shaq comes in and clears T-Mac out of the way and then gives Yao a push for good measure. It's kind of funny watching Yao fall over: He falls at about half the speed of a normal sized person. Maybe the laws of gravity have a different affect on Yao, which is why he is having trouble dunking this year?" Slasher's right about Yao. Watch and laugh at his slow-motion fall. It kind of reminds me of Bela Lugosi's slow, stumbling Frankenstein monster in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.
Reggie Evans: Mercilessly owned. By Andrea Bargnani. I can think of few things more humiliating than being in Bargnani's poster.
Joey Crawford, pure officiating evil: Joey strikes again! The ref with the infamously itchy whistle-finger hit Kenyon Martin with a flagrant 2 foul, which meant an automatic ejection. Good call? Bad call? Ridiculous call? I'll let you be the judge.
Martin was understandably indignant after the game. "It's basketball, man -- it's a contact sport. It's not bowling or table tennis." No, it's certainly not. Fans can actually stay awake through most NBA games (assuming the Spurs aren't involved). What made the call even more ridiculous is that Dahntay Jones and LeBron got into a shoving match earlier in the game...and nothing was called. Not even a tech. Ah, NBA officiating: A model of inconsistency.
Boobie Gibson's super haircut: Gibson unveiled his latest masterpiece of hair-cuttery: A Superman-style symbol with a big "B" in it. He explained the hieroglyph thusly: "I talked to my Dad the other night and he said he hadn't seen my smile in a long time. I guess I was being 'Daniel' out there on the court, so I got the 'Boobie' symbol to remind me that I need to be out there having fun and enjoying the game again." Hey, who cares if you look like an idiot as long as you're having fun! I don't have a picture, unfortunately, but here's one of his previous hair-stravaganza: Bat-Boobie.
Kenyon Martin's lip tattoo: The tat's an homage to his hottie girlfriend Trina...but my question is this: Why choose such a fruity tribute? He might as well have gotten a tattoo of a penis or Richard Simmons. But who knows? Maybe Trina made him get it to keep all the NBA groupies away, because I'm pretty sure he'll be getting the John Amaechi treatment from now on.
Shaq the Detroyer: He was called for a flagrant 2 foul and ejected after nearly killing Rodney Stuckey. The Big Excuser tried to explain it away (see below), but seriously, this foul would have gotten Shaq charged with attempted manslaughter in some states. (But remember, you can't have "manslaughter" without "laughter"!) Actually, this play kind of reminds me of the Kevin McHale / Kurt Rambis clothesline, only if McHale was a giant gorilla and Rambis was a frail midget.
Jerry Sloan's venomous tongue: Considering they were without Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring, the Jazz put up a pretty good fight on the road against a surging Cavs team. But Jerry Sloan got pretty riled up over his team's "defense" on LeBron James, who scored 16 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter. "We didn't even get close enough to guard him at times. You have to compete against the guy. If you say, 'I'm not going to touch him,' you'll be saying that 20 years from now. You might as well get an autograph and go home." Wicked. When asked if his players backed down a little bit in guarding James, Sloan said: "A little bit? It was like we were afraid to even touch him." You know, Jerry's been around for such a long time. I wish he would just open up and tell us what he really thinks.
George Karl, President of the Allen Iverson Fan Club: Karl had some rather unflattering thing to say about the recently-departed Allen Iverson: "There are less bad plays, more solid plays. I think the wasteful, cheap possessions that we used to have 10 to 15 a game, they don't exist very much anymore. We have contested-shot charts, bad-shot charts and cheap defensive possessions. I would say that when A.I. was here, we had most games in the teens of contested, tough shots, sometimes in the 20s. And I don't think we've had a double-digit one since (Billups has) been here." And more: "I don't think there's any question coaching a team for many minutes, without a passing and point guard mentality, is frustrating for a coach. Sometimes I saw something, but I couldn't get it done on the court because I didn't have a playmaker out there."
The Return of Knee-Mac: You'd better sit down for this, because it's going to be quite the shocker: On November 17, T-Mac left a game against the Thunder in the opening minute of the second half after hurting his left knee, which was sliced open during the summer to have "loose bodies" removed. And, even more shockingly, he didn't return.
Said McGimpy: "Tonight I went back to square one, even before surgery, is how my knee is feeling right now. I want to play, man. I want to play. Just to get off to this start, for me personally this is a bad start. To have to play your way through an injury that I've never had before and a surgery that was my first surgery is very frustrating. My game is really based on athleticism, and that's something that I don't have right now. I've never had any relief because I've just been trying to work my way into playing shape and strengthen my leg. I've never been 100 percent. I've just been trying to play, hoping that playing on it will take me over the edge and I don't have any more pain. It hasn't worked in my favor. It's sharp pain. It almost just seems like I never had surgery. I'm feeling the same pain."
I went ahead and checked with science, and science says this event shocked -17 people, which is an unofficial world's record.
A comically stupid Nuggets fan: Our buddy Ben Q. Rock of The Third Quarter Collapse provided the following write-in: "It's pretty ridiculous for a guy to hold a sign saying 'Iverson Who?' while wearing an Iverson jersey. It's like, dude, just check your own clothing if you've forgotten who the guy is. God." And here's the idiot in question:
The Sacramento Kings: On November 18, they made it official: The Kings are worse than the Memphis Grizzlies. They let the teddy bears shoot 54 percent (62 from beyond the arc) and outrebound them 46-33...a solid effort on the Fail Scale (I give it a 7.6). Rookie forward Jason Thompson, who had two of his shots blocked (a game high!), said: "Some of the stuff [the Grizzlies] were doing, it happened so fast that we weren't reading our coverages, and guys were missing assignments." When the Grizzlies are moving faster than your senses can accurately perceive, you really need to have those senses checked by a licensed medical practitioner. They did hold O.J. Mayo to only 11 points, though. Sometimes it's the little victories that count, even though they aren't real victories. Oh, and a special callout goes to Quincy Douby, who went 0-for-9 off of Sactown's bench.
Quentin Richardson, super tough guy: After the Knicks-Celtics game -- which Boston won 110-101 -- Quentin Richardson said: "I'm just real curious to see what those guys will be saying if we weren't in a basketball league and didn't have referees. I mean, it wouldn't be the same story. I mean, they are the world champions and rah, rah, rah, but the tough part I don't factor. I come from a neighborhood where you can say what you want to say, but until you do something, it don't mean nothing." Seriously. Put the dumb pills down, Quentin.
A few more if Q's choice words: "I think a few of those guys know they can’t just say anything to us.... Some of those guys are happy to get a ring, but you ain't been in the league long enough to talk to people like that. I don't have a lot of respect for that. Like I said, I'd be curious to hear what they have to say in a different setting. I'd be very curious to see that." I'm sorry, but really, when did Quentin Richardson become a "tough guy"? Did I miss something? Does he suddenly think he's all manly and stuff because he plays in New York?
Andray Blatche: Bulletproof (real nickname) released a foul wind on the Washington bench...from which there was NO ESCAPE. People in Chicago are always doing that on the elevator. Just FYI. You can see stills of the entire odorous incident as it went down at Truth About It.
Man versus Machine: Poor Sasha Vujacic. First Trevor Ariza almost kills him with a chest bump. Then he got all up in his face. Rough season for the Machine. (The spat is at the end of the video.)
LeBron James, ego-machine: On the one hand, the King tried to say all the right things. To wit: "We hear it every day, we see it every day on TV about 2010 all the time, we still go out and take care of business. We don't worry about what's going on. Me the leader, I can't let that faze me because I'm leading these guys onto something that we want to accomplish, and that's win an NBA championship."
But on the other hand, he also made comments suggesting that he's looking ahead just as much as anybody else. "If you guys want to go to sleep right now and not wake up until July 1, 2010, then go ahead because it's going to be a big day. July 1, 2010 is going to be a very, very big day."
He also let the NBA world know that he'll be willing to listen to anybody with the money to pursue him. "It's not just New York and Brooklyn. It's not just a two-team race." Presumably, his own team will be allowed to join in the LeBron Lottery...but that's quite a bit different than saying "I'm a Cavalier for life." I'm sure that's got to make the people of Cleveland feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
On July 9, Evil Ted and I will depart for Italy, a.k.a., Europe's Boot. No, this isn't a guys trip. If it was, trust me, we'd be going somewhere like Amsterdam. No, our company has decided we're important enough to send to Pisa for two weeks of extensive training. What kind of training? ARMY TRAINING, SIR!!
Just kidding. We'll actually be honing our technical writing skills. Assuming the boredom of said training doesn't finish us off, Mortal Kombat-style.
We'd love to get some pickup ball in while we're there, but...we have no idea where to go, or even if they play pickup in the Boot. Sadly, the almighty Google has failed us. So if you or anyone you know has played at or heard of pickup courts in Pisa or, hell, anywhere else in Italy, let us know.
Here's an item you'll never, ever, ever see on my annual Christmas List: A life-sized Kobe Bryant bobblehead doll. I am not making this up. For a mere $13,000. That's actually cheaper than the Shaq, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming life-sizers they came out with a few years ago. Those babies were $27,000 each. I guess the economy is even affecting the life-sized bobblehead market.
Anyway, the Kobe-doll is available for pre-order and will be shipped out in September. I wonder if you can order one that's fitted with a custom t-shirt...
First it was Greg Ostertag, and now this: Oliver Miller wants to make a comeback. In an article that was appropriately titled "Fat chance? Humbled Oliver Miller eyes the NBA again," Miller admitted that he has a burning desire...only this time, it has nothing to do with cheese fries or random foodstuffs covered in delicious frosting and/or gravy. Well, mostly nothing.
Said Miller: "I miss [playing in the NBA] a lot. But I hate watching. I can't watch it. The first thing you hear them talk about is the lack of a big man. Here I am a big man and I'm unemployed."
Yeah, well, there are reasons for that. Miller -- who's weight had ballooned to 415 pounds before he started watching what he eats and acting as (don't laugh...actually go ahead and laugh) his own personal trainer -- is 39 years old and a slim 330 pounds. Oh, and he hasn't set foot on an NBA court since May 31, 2004, when he submitted a 5-minute, 4-foul performance against the Lakers. (He also had 1 block, 1 turnover and 1 missed shot.)
"I am better than ever," Miller said. "I am in better shape than I was when I was last in the league. I am moving around quicker. I feel a lot better. I can give you 25 good minutes and a double-double. And I am a whole lot better mentally, maturity wise. ... What motivates me is that people don’t believe me," Miller said. "I love challenges. My challenge right now is to lose more weight and get back in. I ain't trying to look like Dwight Howard. I know what I need to do. I would just like to get back in the game."
Since I'm busy putting together material for this year's edition of The Worsties, why not tide yourself over with a few NBA blooper reels? They have zero calories and freshen your breath while you watch. (You know, assuming you're also chewing gum or sucking on a breath mint.)
Check out this post that ran on TMZ today. Alternate title: "LeBron gets totally owned."
Oh snap! Not too surprising, is it? This is pretty much the kind of pompous assery you'd expect from a man who speaks in third person and doesn't shake hands when he loses. The money shot, of course, is the direct comparison dis: "For the record -- you won't see Kobe Bryant wearing a shirt with his individual accomplishments plastered on the front of it during his championship parade today -- he's gonna let the trophy do the talking." (Note the wording "his championship parade." Because it's for him and not the entire team, right?) Uh, yeah. There's just one problem with that slam. Take a look at the shirt Mamba was sporting during said parade:
Whaaa...?! Let's take a closer look at that "I'm so team-first" t-shirt.
Why, I do declare! That looks like a puppet hand with four rings. Oh, and you'll notice in the parade pic that Kobe's holding up four fingers. Huh. I guess he wasn't content to "let the trophy do the talking" after all. Kobe wants -- perhaps even needs -- the world to know he has not one, not two, not three, but FOUR championship rings...one for each finger of his puppet's hand. Impressive. Most Impressive. But it's still all about him.
And please, please, pretty please don't try to use the "he's celebrating a team accomplishment" defense. That would fall somewhere between the Chewbacca defense and the Twinkie defense. The fact is, if the shirt was meant to celebrate a team achievement, it would have had 12 hands, or caricatures of him and his teammates, or whatever. No, this was Kobe saying, "I've got four rings," not "We have four rings," or "Phil and I have four rings together." I mean, when Phil held up his 10 fingers after the Lakers won, do you really think he was saying, "Me and Michael, Scottie, Shaq, Kobe, Jud Buechler, etc. have won 10 rings together."? Hardly.
Plus, let's take a peek at the official description of this t-shirt: "In celebration of Kobe Bryant's achievements during the 2009 NBA Finals, his 4th NBA Championship Title, and his first ever NBA Finals MVP Award, Nike created a limited selection of graphic t-shirts, including the 4 Rings Tee seen above." That doesn't exactly scream "team achievement," does it? In fact, I don't see the word "team" or any of his teammates names mentioned or even alluded to there. As always, I'm just sayin'.
Update! To be clear, I don't have a problem with Kobe's shirt. Or LeBron's, for that matter. People wear things that celebrate their achievements. If someone earns honor cords when they graduate from college, they wear them. Many college grads prominently display their diplomas. When people finish marathons, they usually put on the medal or t-shirt they get at the finish line. I once bought my grandpa a "World's Best Grandpa!" coffee mug, and guess what? He drank out of it! It's really not that big of a deal. I wrote this post because I was amused by three things in order: 1) TMZ using Kobe's "selflessness" to mock LeBron, 2) Kobe immediately doing exactly what TMZ said "for the record" he wouldn't do, and 3) the auto-Kobe defense that his puppet hand shirt was a celebration of team rather than self...which is ridiculous.
Update, Part 3! From Wild Yams: "For what it's worth, the announcing crew who covered the parade yesterday for Fox Sports West (including Rick Fox and Norm Nixon) were saying that when the players all gathered in Staples Center before coming out to board the buses, there were corporate sponsors down there giving them shirts to wear for the parade (just like the NBA passes out shirts and hats at the championship celebration). That's why Kobe had a white shirt on under the puppet hand one, it's why Fisher had the same shirt Kobe did, and it's why every other Laker was either wearing a Nike/KB24 "Carpe Diem" champagne cork shirt or a 2009 Champions "caricature" shirt."
It's official: McHale's 1.5-decade reign of consistent bawfulness -- which was occasionally interrupted by periods of solid mediocrity -- is finally and mercifully over. Why? Said McHale: [Timberwolves new president of basketball operations David Kahn] didn't really give me any reasons other than the fact he wanted to make a change." Reality check: The change Kahn wants is to go from "not winning" to "winning," Kevin. I'm just sayin'.
In those 15 years of McFailure, the Timberwolves amassed a 568-630 record, suffered eight non-winning seasons (which included four 20-win campaigns and two 30-winners) and lost in the first round of the playoffs seven times in a row. Did I mention he had one of the NBA's all-time greats for 12 of those seasons? Yeah.
Other highlights include: Trading Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury; a secret agreement with Joe Smith that cost the franchise Smith, three first round draft picks and $3.5 million; drafting one of the great all-time busts in Ndubi Ebim (which was Minny's first first-rounder after the Smith debacle); offering Latrell Sprewell a three-year, $21 million contract extension (which, fortunately for McHale, Spree turned down, stating that "Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I'm at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed."); trading Sam Cassell AND a first-round lottery pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marko Jaric; selecting Brandon Roy with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft and then trading him for Randy Foye, whom the Portland Trail Blazers selected seventh (Roy went on to win Rookie of the Year while Foye missed most of the season due to injury); signing Mike "Contract Year" James to a four-year contract; and, of course, giving his old team the gift of Kevin Garnett (and an instant championship).