Trevor Jumps Ship

27 08 2008

The sophomore foward Trevor Mbakwe left the Marquette program for good.

It’s kind of like Brett Favre but the opposite.  The poor kid has been debating on whether he should leave the team or not for the past year.  Several months back, he announced that he would be leaving the team for a DII Minnesotan program for “personal reasons.”

And now, he’s decided not to return for personal reasons.  Coach Buzz Williams has said that he’s had a great summer working out with the team and he’s being doing well academically.  So it’s decidedly not a physical or school-related issue.

I find it interesting that the guy goes through a summer of work outs and then leaves the team a month before the season starts.  It’s a shame that he’s gone because that makes our front court even greener.

Good luck to you, Trevor.





Reaching Up

20 08 2008

Find a Toronto Sun article on Liam McMorrow, the seven-foot Canadian center who has recently transferred to Marquette.

Instead, McMorrow, who had never even played an officiated, five-on-five basketball game a year ago, is packing his bags, preparing to leave his Scarborough home for Milwaukee, where he has landed a full basketball scholarship to Marquette University.

Most people are done growing by the time they are 18 or 19, but nobody told that to McMorrow. The 21-year-old McMorrow went from 6-foot-8 two years ago to his current size.

Now McMorrow, who only shot baskets the rare times he wasn’t playing lacrosse, ice or ball hockey, has dreams of playing professionally and for team Canada.

McMorrow averaged 8.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for the Durham College Lords in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association.  He’ll sit out for a season and then have three years of eligibility left for the Golden Eagles.

McMorrow’s size is welcomed on a Marquette program that can’t be accused of being particularly tall.  Besides the current 6’10” freshman Chris Otule, the tallest returning players in 2009 will be 6’7″ (Trevor Mbakwe, Patrick Hazel and Joseph Fulce).





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





Fear the Zone

13 08 2008
Zone?  No habla espagnol.

Zone? No habla espagnol.

American basketball players have been branded as arrogant, hot-dogging individuals masquerading as a team. 

You’ve heard of LeBron James’ “absolutely” answer to whether they will win gold.  There have been similar proclamations from Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade. 

It’s interesting that they’re so confident seeing as though they were part of the 2004 National Team that rode USA Basketball’s name through the mud.

Arrogance?  I smell it.  But I guess bad habits are hard to break. 

But what of Team USA’s coaches?  Are they as arrogant as their players seem to be?

On the eve of the much-anticipated USA-Greece Olympic basketball game, I’ve found this excerpt from a Chris Sheridan article to be very telling:

“Interestingly, Krzyzewski said the Americans’ game plan going in will not include much use of a traditional 2-3 zone unless the man-to-man defense proves ineffective. That’s particularly intriguing given Greece’s difficulty scoring against a traditional zone, something the American coaching staff noticed as it was on hand to scout Tuesday’s Greece-Germany game.

” ‘If I tell my guys we’re going to play a certain amount of zone, it’s almost like saying our man-to-man is not good defense. Just psychologically,’ Krzyzewski said Wednesday in discussing his tactical scheme with ESPN.com. 

But if they’re no good against the zone, shouldn’t you play zone? 

‘Well, no,’ Coach K said. ‘They may not be good against our man, and over the years, the championship teams I’ve had have made teams adjust to them. And if you’re constantly adjusting to who you play, then you’ve got to be careful you never know who you are. But again, zone is part of our repertoire, and I’m not saying we’re not going to use it, I’m just saying I don’t know how many minutes we’ll use it.’ “

“It’s almost like… our man-to-man defense is not [good enough]?”  Are you kidding me?  Clearly, it isn’t.  Clearly. 

For an example, please see the first two Olympic games featuring the American team.  Full-court to 3/4-court pressure masqueraded as their supposed tough man-to-man defense.  When they got into the half-court, their defense was putrid.  A couple nice, highlight reel weak-side blocks can’t erase actual sloppy defense.

Coach K is learning that coaching a group of high-powered NBA professionals has a lot of “ego and chemistry management” in the job description.  But is it worth it to be stubborn about applying a principle that is clearly effective against the Grecian National Team?

Does Coach K think that he’s Dorian Gray?  Where’s your portrait at, man?

Playing a 2-3 is not the equivalent of selling out the American dream.  Uncle Sam’s not going to swing out of the rafters and choke you with Old Glory, Coach K.

And regarding the “if you’re constantly adjusting to who you play, you never know who you are” gem, I think it’s easy for the coach of a top flight NCAA program to say that.  Year after year, his teams are injected with blue chip, 5-star talent.

As much as people like to talk about American dominance in basketball, this quote is very telling.  If USA plays a zone, they won’t be “playing down” to Greece. 

If Duke plays Appalachian State or Campbell and re-vamps their offensive sets, I can see how that is a needless concession to a supposedly inferior athletic talent.

But this isn’t some ACC vs. Southern/A-Sun exhibition.  This is an Olympic game against a team that spanked them in 2004. 

If Coach K is truly worried that playing zone will deteriorate the American team psychologically while conceding that the Greeks are better, he is sorely wrong.

The coaching staff’s talk about respecting their opponent is all clearly lip service.  They’re setting themselves up for failure.

Play zone.





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.





Favoritism in the American Game

4 08 2008
Will they be all smiles when it gets close?

Will they be all smiles when it gets close?

The USA’s Men’s Basketball Team is the consensus pick for gold in the Beijing Olympics.

Although their interior play and defense are subject, the Americans are the most talented and athletic team in the field.  They have been on cruise control through the pre-Olympic matches; no one has sufficiently challenged them.

If they dominate the Olympic Games with their style, no one in the field can catch them.  It’ll be like if Tim Allen challenged Tyson Gay in a 100 meter sprint.

But what happens if the American team is challenged?  If Spain drubs them early, how will they respond?  If Manu and the Argentinians stage a late-game comeback, can the Americans keep their composure?

Officiating will be a big factor in highly-contested games.  I’m not talking about Tim Donaghy; it’s the exact opposite, actually.

Every player on the American team is a stand-out in the NBA.  Since the NBA is more about entertainment than keeping to the fundamentals of the game, the NBA stand-outs get a very long leash.

In FIBA play, Deron Williams will be called for palming the ball.  Chris Paul will be called for his sneaky fouls.  LeBron James will be called for charging.  And on the list goes…

FIBA officials aren’t going to be worried about handing out the “superstars” calls.  But the favoritism for American players should be kept at a low; like the amount of food-stamps given out during the Republican National Convention.

Sure, LeBron James is a recognizable basketball figure internationally.  But why would an Angolan referee let James play football simply because the NBA and Nike have expended billions in marketing?

How the Americans respond to more objective officiating is up for debate.

During the USA-Russia game, Andrei Kirilenko was visibly frustrated with the officiating.  However, Fran Frischella never pointed out when LeBron or Dwyane Wade would complain about getting a charging or walking call.  Carmelo Anthony was every bit as moody as AK-47 during the first half and no one mentioned that.

I’m not trying to assert that the USA basketball team is a bunch of whiners but it is odd that the European-born NBA players are stereotyped as the complainers.  Why doesn’t the brush come back the other way?

Will the American team shoot themselves in the foot during a close game?








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