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.








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