Parker, France and the 2010 FIBA Worlds

13 01 2010

The FIBA World Championships is an international basketball tournament held every four years by the International Basketball Federation. For most people outside of the United States, its importance eclipses that of the Olympic Games’ basketball tournament.

Today, Tony Parker told reporters that he may forgo playing in the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Here are a few quotes from Parker…

“I just think I’ve played too much basketball,” Parker said to nba.com.

“I’ve played five summers in a row, and I think it’s about time I need a rest.

“It’s going to be tough. The contract’s coming up, and Pop wants me to play well every night.

“Sometimes it’s tough because you know you play all these championship runs and every year I play for the national team. Every year.

“This year is the first year I’ve found my body is a little bit tired, you know?

“So I’ll have to make some decisions, because I’m not Superman.

“I can’t do 82 games at the level Pop wants, and then play on the national team.”

Whenever a professional basketball player abstains from ancillary play, the critics come out in droves. Here’s a quote from a fan of USA Basketball’s Facebook page:

“Need to rest”…these players get spoiled.What more could a player want than to represent his Country? I haven’t had a vacation in 5 years,yet I still work hard at my job and my business.I believe that all of us would love to play all year whatever sport we love and get paid so well we can be financially independent at 30.Please professional players,save your excuses and go play.

This fan first asks, “what more could a player want than to represent his country?” Tony Parker has been representing France on the basketball court since 1997, when he was 15 years old. Parker played on the Under-16, Under-18 and Under-20 before moving onto his country’s senior national team. He has been the captain of the French senior national team since 2003. By all accounts, he has been very  much involved in France’s official basketball program for all of his adolescent and adult life. (Parker was even involved in Paris’ bid for the 2012 Olympic Games and was the first ambassador for Make-A-Wish France.)

A more appropriate question is “what more could a player do to represent his country?”

The Facebook fan then seems to trivialize Parker’s work ethic by saying “I haven’t had a vacation in 5 years, yet I still work hard at my job and my business.” This comment betrays a lack of understanding for how much dedication it takes to achieve success at the highest level of a commercially-viable sport. They seem to believe that the physical and mental demands on a high-profile athlete is comparable to their work struggles, since they work 10 hours a day.

Lots of casual fans seem to believe that the NBA (and other professional sports leagues) is filled with spoiled, lackadaisical athletic freaks who have all happened onto a high-paying job. A player of Parker’s stature has put a considerable amount of work into his trade and any fan would be misguided if they dismissed this fact.

The Facebook fan then seems to be making a connection between Parker’s financial position and his duty in representing his country. This particular fan is lucky enough to presumably own a computer and purchase access to the internet. Since these are luxurious afforded to him, should this fan have considered donating his internet budget to a trivial, sports-related, nationalistic cause?

The accompanying argument I hear a lot is “Athlete X is a great basketball player. He should be playing every year for the national team.” The rationale is that if a person has the capability to do a physical act, they should do that act since others cannot.

Here is an analogy: since some people do not have the use of their legs, a physically capable person should be obliged to run a marathon every year for their country. Granted, this is somewhat brash and hyperbolic but the spirit of the argument is the same. Since others cannot, capable people should do it whenever possible.

It can be argued that Tony Parker has contributed more to French basketball than any person in the last 10 years. Even if you take his visibility into account, I think he’s done his fair share. Why are clearly-dedicated players lambasted  when they take a year off from international play?





The Art of a Beautiful Game

1 12 2009

Chris Ballard delves into the depths of the NBA game with “The Art of a Beautiful Game.” I truly enjoyed this book; I couldn’t put it down until I finished it.

Although the subtitle is The Thinking Fan’s Tour of the NBA, it’s really more for observant NBA fans and true fans of basketball in general. It doesn’t necessarily challenge you to think about the impact of basketball or how it ties into society.

Ballard focuses on different aspects of the sport, tying anecdotes around an NBA star who most exemplifies this characteristic. For example, the chapter on defensive prowess focuses on Shane Battier or the chapter on shooting focuses on a 3-point contest the author had with Steve Kerr.

Even if you’re just a casual fan, the small tidbits of information Ballard drops will keep you coming back for more. Want to know how Pittsburgh’s Sam Young prepared for the NBA Draft? Who is Idan Ravin and why does Carmelo Anthony respect him so much?

Ballard even drag-races Shaquille O’Neal after leaving the Suns locker room. After reading “The Art of a Beautiful Game,” you’re challenged to watch an NBA play closely and this book will definitely equip and reward you.





When You Draft Like The Pros

27 10 2009

… You’ll most likely get burned.

I’ve been a part of this fantasy basketball league since 2003. It’s a good, competitive league.

I had been looking forward to the fantasy draft like a young, wide-eyed, obese boy sitting in his kitchen on the eve of Thanksgiving.

I had been crowned the champion for the last two years and am eager to threepeat, complete with a postseason parade down Michigan Avenue here in Chicago.

The parade would be met by warm Chicago weather and a crisp acknowledgement that dreams are possible: fantasy champions can threepeat.

But today, with Blake Griffin’s fractured left patella, it all came crumbling down.

For whatever reason — because I’m a dumbass — I strayed from my usual, objective strategy of drafting boring players with great statlines and sprinkling the team with young role players on the cusp of increased rotation minutes.

Here’s a breakdown of my fantasy team…

Reliable Major Players: Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker
These are guys that I can hang my hat on. I know both will score but not much else.

Oft-Injured Almost All-Stars: TJ Ford, Al Jefferson
These guys may make me look like a genius or a complete idiot. They’re both up for big years — if they can stay healthy.

Productive Role Players: Rodney Stuckey, Jeff Foster
If Foster gets 20 minutes, he’ll get you 10 boards. If Stuckey gets minutes, he’ll get you some scoring and a handful of assists and steals. If Stuckey starts, he could be up for a breakthrough season. Those are all big “ifs.”

Young Guys On The Verge: Marreese Speights, Brandon Rush, Amir Johnson
These guys have impressed when they’ve played, especially Speights.  But can they edge out teammates to win jobs on the rotation?

Rookie Phenoms or Bust? Griffin, Terrence Williams
There’s been a lot of preseason hype on both players. Can they produce?

Why Did I Pick You, Again? Kwame Brown
Oh yeah, because you’ll start and get me 2 points and 7 boards a game.

All this to say, when you draft on potential, you’re going to get burned one way or another.





Damon Weaver With Dwyane Wade

30 09 2009

Damon Weaver’s interviews are great. Check this one out with Flash.





Old Enough?

14 09 2009

Etan Thomas and Dave Zirin discuss the NBA’s current age limit.

Thomas:

My mother’s position is that our people had to fight so long for the right to be educated and now young people are not valuing that struggle and are essentially throwing their education to chase a dream that has been dangled in front of their faces like the horse with the carrot. I can’t disagree with her point and we go back and forth on this topic. Now, I stayed in school for four years. Had a wonderful experience at Syracuse University. Got my degree in business management, met my wife, grew as a person and it prepared me for life. But that’s my case. Is it fair to force someone who wants to take a different path to attend college?

Check out the entire piece; it’s quite good.





Michael Beasley’s Illness and Judgment

30 08 2009

Heat forward Michael Beasley’s recent admittance into a substance-abuse program allows us to examine our judgments against those with illnesses and how that intersects with sports coverage.

When Beasley checked into the Houston-based rehab program, the public reaction was uniformly negative. The internet comments on the story ranged from aggressive lamentations on how “the NBA is all a waste of talent,” to dismissive statements like “Beasley is just another Eddie Griffin,” to the eloquent “what an idiot” and more of the same.

The lack of empathy didn’t surprise me; after my time on these internets, I have come to expect routine bile from internet commentors.

However, I did have a surprising epiphany when I thought about Beasley: people don’t care about someone who has committed a transgression. Even if the “transgression” is substance abuse and doesn’t affect society as a whole.

I suppose NBA ticket holders can be upset that there’s a possibility that he could miss some games. These ticket holders wouldn’t be able to see Beasley play basketball. But how utilitarian is that of them? A person has a drug-abuse problem and they’re upset because they dropped $50 and now, there’s a possibility that they’ll only be able to watch Dwyane Wade.

Although no one knows the details surrounding Beasley’s situation, everyone is up in arms about it. From what I know, if Michael Beasley the Basketball Player is abusing drugs, how does that affect me? Besides a peripheral transgression of a law on substance abuse — depending on the substance — what is it about Michael Beasley that makes people sick to their stomach?

Aside from a Dwyane Wade tweet, I haven’t heard any words of support for Beasley’s struggle nor have I heard any acknowledgement of the maturity it takes to check oneself into rehab.

Michael Beasley the Person is barely 20 years old. By all accounts, the substance-abuse program had been scheduled for weeks.  Multiple sources say that Beasley has been in Houston working out for the past two weeks, attending counseling sessions and undergoing clinical treatment to address stress and substance-abuse issues.

I know that most drugs are taboo in our society so when someone tries to address a drug-related problem, it’s met with cynicism and disgust. But I think we need to recognize that rehab programs shouldn’t be denigrated in the fall-out of our government’s “war on drugs.” I’m not a recreational drug user but I recognize that the stigma associated with government-approved vices (tobacco, alcohol, etc.) are very different from the stigma associated with non-approved vices.

The supposed deviancy of non-approved vices gives the public free reign to pass judgment when it really shouldn’t. Michael Beasley’s situation is a sad, private matter. Would it be different if he was on a nicotine patch or attended AA seminars?

Regardless, Beasley is a young person with a personal problem and shouldn’t be subjected to all of this maliciousness. With 24/7 sports news coverage, it’s important for us to take a hard look at ourselves, how we respond to athletes’ situations and what it is we derive from professionals sports in general.





Russian Vodka Confuses Pargo, Resigns With Old Team

10 07 2009

Jannero Pargo has returned to the NBA after spending a season with Dynamo Moscow. He has signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bulls for $2 million.

Pargo’s last stint with the Bulls lasted three seasons. He played 102 games, while averaging 6.4 points, 2.1 assists and shooting 39% from the field overall. He really didn’t have a huge role on the Bulls. He would seldom play more than 20 minutes as he averaged 14.2 minutes per game during those three seasons.

He went on and played two seasons with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. After that stretch, he must have felt that he deserved more than what was being offered to him so he jumped the pond to Russia.

Pargo is a very one-dimensional player. His numbers per 36 minutes are almost identical throughout the years.  If he’s out on the court for 36 minutes, he’ll give you 15.2 points but will jack up 15 shots.

Some media outlets are calling him Ben Gordon light, which I don’t exactly agree with. Both are undersized gunners best suited to play 2 guard. Neither can play a lick of defense. Pargo’s a little more careful with the ball than Gordon is but not by much. Pargo’s career assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.74 per 36 minutes while Gordon’s is 1.21. But Gordon is a much more efficient scorer with a 55.4% true shooting percentage (which accounts for 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws), Pargo comes in at 47.8%.

So both are looking to jack up shots but the results are much different. Plus, Pargo does not command defenders’ respect like Gordon does.  And that makes a huge difference in the gameplanning process.

Given the Bulls’ current roster, I’m perplexed by why they would throw $2 million to add another undersized guard. And this one can’t even guard larger players like Kirk Hinrich can. 

The inherent problem with having Ben Gordon on the Bulls was that he was a nightmare on defense. The Bulls would basically concede points with Gordon on D, although they would try to mask his deficiency by putting him on the opposing point guard.

I assume that Hinrich (if they keep him), will keep most of the backup PG duties. Pargo simply does not have the playmaking prowess of an NBA point guard. So if Pargo gets into the rotation, he will pose all the same problems that Gordon did. If he is paired with Derrick Rose, Pargo cannot adequately defend 2 guards without becoming a huge liability. So the only backcourt pairing that’s adequate defensively is when Rose is off the floor — Pargo on the PG, Hinrich on the SG.

Isn’t this defensive liability Joe Dumars’ problem now?








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