Rep Britain or else

15 08 2008
Get your money, Lu

Get your money, Lu

The British National Team cannot find insurance for Luol Deng. Luol just inked a six-year deal with the Chicago Bulls that could pay him up to $80 million.

The issue is that playing in Great Britain’s qualifying games for the 2009 European Championship creates a conflict of interest.

The Bulls have paid him said amount of money, what if the man gets hurt? Bulls officials are still weary of injury off the somewhat-recent Jay Williams situation. It would behoove them to proceed with caution. Understandably, they have included this clause in their contract.

There is a school of thought that denigrates Luol. He didn’t make playing for Britain a priority. What gives?

Keep in mind that he’s of Sudanese decent and currently lives in the States. The British team was ecstatic when he volunteered to play and maybe shouldn’t except a rabid nationalism from him.

I don’t think anyone would accuse this man of being overly selfish. He’s worked hard to get to this point so why not get paid?

Is it simply a matter of nationalism versus income?

Photo credit: Slam Dunk Central





Elgin Baylor = Isiah 2.0

12 08 2008
Maybe LA is NYC West?

Maybe LA is NYC West?

The Los Angeles Clippers recently signed Jason Williams to a one-year contract. 

I must admit that I’m a fan of Williams but I’m not sure about this move.  This signing tells us that Elgin Baylor is more than a little skeptical of Baron Davis’ durability.  Or is he just Isiah 2.0?

With Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman on the roster, no problems will arise from their center position.  I would have used the money spent on Williams to pursue a consistent, dynamic forward to complement the stable, workman-like forces of Camby and Kaman.

The Clippers have an awful lot of players on their roster but let’s focus on the signed guards.  It’s kind of a mess and it seems like they’ll just throw some line-ups against the wall and see what sticks:

Baron Davis, Ricky Davis, Eric Gordon, Jason Hart, Cuttino Mobley and Mike Taylor will join Williams as contracted players.

Taylor will most certainly spend time in the D-League. 

Hart is a solid journeyman who averages 16.6 minutes in his career.  He can push for time and be a solid contributor if an injury hits higher on the depth chart.

It’s Baron Davis’ team, so he’ll start at the point but who will they have at the off guard? 

Cuttino Mobley was the starter last year until an injury hit and Quinton Ross stepped into the limelight.  Ricky Davis is available and can also see time at the small forward position. 

Mike Dunleavy didn’t shy away from playing Thornton as a rookie; he won’t let Eric Gordon rot on the bench.  And on the small chance that the Clippers — gasp — lose early, youth will be served.  It will be interesting to see how Dunleavy juggles the me-first Davis, the proud veteran Mobley and the instant-offense Gordon.

We may see Baron playing off the ball while Williams handles the playmaking responsibilities but I just don’t see how they can squeeze 25+ minutes for Williams. 

If Dan Dickau (15.5 minutes last year), Smush Parker (21.5 minutes) and Quinton Ross (19.8 minutes) return, it will further muddle the guard situation.  Someone’s ego will be bruised.  On the Clippers, that’s as predictable as a Tim Thomas three in transition.

The most important question is this: Is Baron Davis running in the mountains?

Photo credit: Sports Hub





The Bynum-Yao Debate Extended

7 08 2008
How high can you fly?

How high can you fly?

In response to the debate going over at Khandor’s regarding whether Phil Jackson would take Yao Ming or Andrew Bynum, the following is my response:

Essentially, the argument is “As a center in the NBA, at 20 years of age, Andrew Bynum is superior to Yao Ming in every statistical category with the following career averages:

At 20 years of age
Bynum: 163 games played | 78 games started | 7.2 points | 57.1% FG | 5.6 rebounds| 1.3 blocks
Yao: N/A

At 22-27 years of age
Bynum: N/A
Yao: 5-time All-Star | 404 games played | 394 games started | 19.0 points | 52.0% FG | 9.2 rebounds | 1.8 blocks”

Since Bynum has shown a higher “rate of progress” in his first three seasons — ie. 1.6 points per game to 13.1 points — it is reasonable to expect Bynum to surpass Yao. 

I mean, Bynum is scoring 13 points and grabbing 10 boards at 20 years old.  Yao, at 22, was only scoring 13.5 points and grabbing 8 boards.  Clearly, we can ordain a promising big man that posts a 13 and 10 average in 35 games (which is exactly 42% of a full regular season). 

Similarly, I will make the argument that Stephen Curry is greater than Kobe Bryant.  Allow me…

In the NCAA
Stephen Curry
[2005-2006] DNP
[2006-2007] 30.9 minutes | 21.5 points | 46.3% FG | 40.8% 3PT | 4.6 rebounds | 2.8 assists
[2007-2008] 33.1 minutes | 26.9 points | 48.3% FG | 43.9% 3PT | 4.6 rebounds | 2.9 assists

Kobe Bryant: N/A

In the NBA
Curry: N/A
Bryant: 866 regular season games | 718 games started | 25.0 points | 5.3 rebounds | 4.6 assists

Since Curry has shown a higher “rate of progress” in his first three seasons of amateur play — ie. 0.0 points per game to 26.9 points, even with the necessary NCAA-to-NBA conversion rate — it is reasonable to expect Curry to surpass Bryant.

I mean, Curry is already scoring 20 points per game.  At the same age, Bryant was scoring only 7.6 and 15.4 in the NBA.  Bryant didn’t even play in the NCAA.  Clearly, we can ordain a promising little guy that posts 26 points against a different kind of competition, in a vastly different role within a relatively small sample frame.

Can’t we?

Discuss.





Artest Will Help The Rockets, It’s “Tru”

4 08 2008
Ron-Ron, doing his thing

Ron-Ron, doing his thing

Ron Artest mad.

Ron play defense.  Ron play hard.

Ron hate Kings.  Ron leave Kings.  Ron join Rockets.

Houston nice.  Rick Adelman nice.  Ron likes Rick Adelman.  Rick Adelman like Ron?

Ron is ready to win.  When Ron is on a good team, he wins.

Ron will help Tracy McGrady.  Ron will help Yao Ming.  Ron will really help the Rockets.

He is not just a redundant Shane Battier.  Battier is a nice player but Ron is better.  He is better on the boards.  He is better offensively.  He is better as a playmaker.  And he is better when defending the post man-to-man but not necessarily from the weak side.

Ron is the best two-way player in the league.

Is Ron a gamble?  Yes.  Is he worth the risk?  Sure.

Ron said it himself: if the Houston Rockets find playoff success this postseason, it will be more so because Yao Ming is healthy rather than Ron’s arrival in Texas. 

I very much agree with him.  Houston provides a change of pace for Ron because he desperately needed out of Sacramento.  In Sacramento, Ron was the first option and he deluded himself into thinking he was first-option material.

In his interviews since being dealt to the Rockets, he seems to have touched back onto the ground.  Ron says he just wants to play, regardless of the role.  He’s happy letting Battier start while he comes off the bench as the sixth or seventh guy. 

The perputed exchange between Yao Ming and Ron Artest was clearly embellished by the media.  And naturally, when the media is a go-between, all hell breaks loose.  An eagerness to label Ron Artest as crazy or mad brought upon Ron’s baited brush-off of the Auburn Hills brawl. 

The big question is whether Adelman can utilize Ron Artest to complement Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.  It seems that Houston’s top 3 offer a wider breadth of skills than some other squads — namely the Boston Celtics —  so that shouldn’t be a problem.





Drew Gooden (07-08 Synopsis)

29 07 2008

A portrait of a young beard

A portrait of an artist with a young beard

 

Drew Gooden — Chicago Bulls Forward
Measurements: 6’10” – 230 lbs.
Experience: Sixth-year, 27 years old
From: University of Kansas

2007 – 2008 Season Statistics
12.0 points | 44.9% FG | 8.6 rebounds | 1.2 assists | 0.8 blocks | 30.8 minutes

Season Highs
Points: 31 (vs. Atlanta)
Rebounds: 16 (2x)
Defensive Rebounds: 13 (@ Phoenix)
Offensive Rebounds: 8 (2x)
Assists: 5 (2x)
Blocks: 4 (vs. New Jersey)
Steals: 5 (@ Toronto)

What This Year Proved

Drew is your consummate hustle player.  He can crash the boards and set picks with the best of them.  But on a team where every front-court player is a “hustle player,” Drew had to bring his game.

And he did, for the most part.  In the 51 games before getting traded to the Chicago Bulls, Drew tallied averages of 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.6 blocks. 

In 18 games with the Bulls, Drew averaged 14.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 blocks.  He did a solid job for Chicago.  In Chicago, he improved his per game shot-blocking drastically, nearly doubling his 0.7 career block average.

His sudden defensive prowess can be attributed to his new role as one of Chicago’s primary big men.  The pressure defense employed last year helped funnel drives to either him or Joakim Noah.  Drew proved that he can be an adequate, if not exemplary, anchor for a thinning Bulls defense.

Quote Him

“Man, I got jealous of the ducktail.  The ducktail started getting more attention than me, so that’s why I cut it off.” — on cutting his old rat-tail

Looking Forward

We know Drew can run the floor and finish.  We know he can hustle and board.  But as the Bulls are currently constructed, he’ll need to do more than that.

When he establishes position, he has a high-percentage baby hook that he hits over most defenses.  Drew gets into trouble when he starts acting like Arvydas Sabonis.  The Big 90 convinces himself that he can hit fadeaway J’s a la Sabonis but they’re bad, off-balance shots and he’s no Paul Hamm.

Drew needs to use his muscle and width to get as many easy inside buckets as he can.  Alternatively, he has some speed and enough determination to beat his man down the floor.  Easy buckets can come his way by looking for an outlet or a quick entry pass in the early offense. 

Because the Bulls haven’t addressed their big man deficiency, Drew Gooden will need to assert himself past his comfort zone.  He doesn’t have second or third option skills but being the most polished big forces him into the equation.

Season Grade: B

Fourteen and 10 is nothing to sneeze at.  Drew performed as well as he’s ever performed in his career.  Although his efforts didn’t translate into more wins, it’s greatly appreciated.  Keep on keepin’ on, especially with that gnarly beard.

Photo credit: Slam Dunk Central





Dalembert and the Canadian National Team

24 07 2008

A lot can happen behind the scenes of a sports team.  More often than not, fans like us can’t flip the curtains open and take a real look inside.

Samuel Dalembert’s dismissal from the Canadian National Team is an instance where many will see an opportunity to lash out at an athlete.  Some people will rail against Dalembert for being an “egomaniacal malcontent.”

Find a fresh interview with Sam Dalembert at The Starting Five.  We see his side of the story…

“They kept saying ‘Sammy is late for this. Sammy is late for that.’ I was like ‘dude, I’m never late. You don’t show up for team meal some of the time because you are with your wife.’ If things were mandatory, I should have been given the respect to at least known that. I wish it would have been said to me.”

Dalembert’s dismissal from the national team was accompanied by nothing but a vague question of commitment from coach Leo Rautins.  Here’s another excerpt from an interview with Sam Dalembert…

“Another thing was everything was day by day. There was no set schedule. He would move practices up and wouldn’t tell us until 30 minutes in advance like we had nothing else to do.

There was no communication. I was laughing. I thought this was funny. I wanted to be organized. We have to follow strict schedules in the NBA. Sometimes we had to take cabs to the airport after he said there was no bus, then there was a bus. It was getting irritating. Then I said to myself, that since this is summertime, I was not going to stress myself out. He would tell me that he wanted to make sure I did everything I was supposed to do.

I agreed.  Suddenly, everything was cool. Then we lost a game where I sat out for a long period of time (loss to Slovenia). We didn’t play well as a team.

Everything pretty much fell apart from there. He wasn’t telling me things. Five minutes before we boarded the team bus to play South Korea, He said he wanted to talk to me. We sat down and he said some things that were not true. It got heated, he put his finger in my face. I told him not to do that. I got on the bus. They said the bus wasn’t going anywhere and told me to get off. Coaches asked me to get off, so I did. I waited to hear from them and I didn’t. God as my witness. If I’m lying…”

Now take a look at this article about the Canadian team from the Montreal Gazette via the National Post.  I think that it’s a shame that athletes aren’t given the benefit of the doubt.  It seems like any “report,” regardless of how valid it is, will set the dogs out on these “spoiled, self-centered, loathing, million-dollar athletes.”

Photo credit: AP





The Forest and the Trees

14 07 2008

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a very interesting roster.  My friend, Dave, shot me an e-mail the other day.  He wanted to see if I had anything to say about the Wolves. 

The note served as a call to add some much needed flavor to my broth.  It may surprise some people to know that I have been keeping tabs on other teams, even though I’ve been writing about San Antonio, Brandon Jennings and Derrick Rose ad nauseum.

The Kevin Love-for-OJ Mayo trade shook up the NBA draft.  However, until Love or Mayo blow up, I contend that the centerpiece of this trade is Mike Miller.  He is a very efficient shooter who upgrades Minnesota’s second or third scoring option slot. 

Miller finished last season with averages of 16.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists while shooting 43.2% from deep and 50.2% from the field. 

The Wolves perimeter player that comes closest to Miller’s efficiency is Rashad McCants who is shooting a respectable 45.3% from the field and 40.7% from three.  But after McCants, the shooting is about as pretty as a Geraldine Ferraro sound clip.

Take a look at the Timberwolves roster and you’ll find a whole lot of guys listed at “forward.”  Randy Foye is the only point guard currently signed by the organization.  So, with this group of ballers, who should Randy Wittman trot out come opening day?

Without the assistance of statistics, I would tell Wittman to send out Foye (1), Miller (2), Corey Brewer (3), Kevin Love (4) and Al Jefferson (5).  It seems like a no-brainer.  Miller can handle the ball, so have him out near the wings to assist Foye with ball-handling and entry-passes.  Brewer seems like a stud, so start him.  Love is a first-rounder; start him.  Jefferson is a beast; his physicality allows him to handle 5-men in the league.

However, I took a look at the Wolves’ 5-man unit statistics on 82games.com and realized the horrible truth.  Starting Corey Brewer doesn’t seem to help his team.  His on-court/off-court statistics don’t treat him well.  When he’s playing, the Wolves are -9.3 net points per 100 possessions.  While he’s in his warm-ups, the Wolves are better at -7.6 net points. 

Brewer’s Hollinger PER rating is an abysmal -9.4 at the small forward position.  My hunch is that he needs some more time to develop.  And although his defense got him into the league, that PER rating is a comparison based on Brewer’s production versus his direct opponents’ so it’s safe to say that his NBA defense isn’t quite up to snuff.

A look at Mike Miller’s PER rating shows that he’s decidedly better in the 3 role.  At shooting guard, Miller had a -0.5 rating and at small forward, he improved to +3.8.  Additionally, the Memphis Grizzlies scored 98.4 points and had a 32% winning percentage when Miller played as a 2.  While Miller was at the 3, the Grizzlies scoring average jumped to 104.2 points with a 49% winning percentage.

So, who takes the shooting guard position?  How about McCants, who was the Wolves’ second-best player last year.  McCant’s PER from shooting guard to small forward is negligible but his on-court/off-court statistic is relevant.  The Wolves are -4.5 net points per 100 possessions while he’s playing and drop to -12.5 net points while he’s sipping Gatorade.  So much for rest for the weary as that’s an +8.0 point differential, the inverse of Brewer’s contribution.

Over at Empty the Bench, Andrew explains why Al Jefferson at center is a crying shame.

“Defensively Big Al struggled for most of the season, but it was most noticeable when he was asked to guard longer and stronger centers. He lacks lateral quickness, length, defensive footwork and the instincts to recover. The numbers back up that anecdotal assessment. While playing at power forward Jefferson’s PER was 29.3 while the opponent’s power forward had a PER of just 19.5. That +9.8 PER ratio is stellar. However, when Jefferson is moved to the middle his advantage quickly falls off. As a center his PER went down to 25.3 while the opposing center’s PER rose to 20.4, amounting to a mere +4.8 advantage. At least statistically, Al Jefferson was less than half as effective when asked to play center.”

He goes on to question Kevin Love’s athleticism while saying that Love shares the same deficiencies as Jefferson.  Although I don’t quite disagree with this assessment, Love’s skill set is much more diverse and can provide a great complement to Jefferson’s hard-hat, physical-style. 

My concern is if Jefferson can “play up” to longer and more agile defenders.  When, you have a bunch of lower-tier bangers that are accustomed to guarding NBA centers, why not use them.  The Wolves have Jason Collins, Michael Doleac, Mark Madsen, Brian Cardinal and Craig Smith on the payroll.  Does Wittman really want to roll the dice with Jefferson at the 5?  If it’s a matter of giving Jefferson space to operate, Doleac and Cardinal have shown a willingness and ability to hit some mid-range shots.  Smith is athletic and can effectively hide Jefferson’s defensive deficiencies.  Would a combination of those players become an effective Timberwolves center?

My starting five is Foye (1), McCants (2), Miller (3), Jefferson (4) and Collins (5).  What’s yours?

Photo credit: The Sports Hernia








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