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Basketball at it's Finest. Also, other stuff. Sometimes.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Choose your Own Adventure...Put Up Or STFU

Training camp's in full swing and damn it feels good. The news is all about The Superfriends in MIA, Kobe's attempt to be "in the discussion" of G.O.A.T. with his chase of ring #6 (Never. Ever. Will he be The Best...that's for another day). The Bulls FINALLY getting the elusive post scorer and shooter they've lacked since MJ left, AND we get to watch D. Rose's ascension to top 5 point. Carmelo's drama and CP3 trying to drag that mismatched Hornets roster back to relevance (hard to believe that it was just in the '08 play-offs the Hornet's were "up-n-comers" in the west who almost knocked off the then powerful Spurs). But the thing I love about the NBA is the lesser known stories; the breakouts, the dudes trying to make their mark and stay on the map. Every die-hard NBA fan has playesr that he watches from the corner of his eye, that for some reason they want to see sink or swim. Whether it be the youngster labeled with "Potential", the vet making a comeback, or the established monster looking to break out, there are players with Red or Blue pills to choose. I can rattle off dozens, but here are 8 (ok, 9) players that I'm itching to see play, see if they ride or die:

Anthony Randolph (PF, New York, 3rd season): I caught snippets of Anthony Randolph in his 1st year at Golden State and thought he was a special effect, like CGI. No WAY a 6'11" cat could handle like that, jump like that, be that damn skinny. Then I watched him destroy the Summer League in '09 (yeah, it's summer league, I know...), but I couldn't figure out how he was NOT getting big minutes on bigs-starved GSW. I'm sayin', 11.6 and 6.5 with a block and a half in just 22 mpg? (answer: Don Nelson done lost it.). So I'm waiting to see if we got a Year 3 jump coming; he's in a wide open system tailor-made for his length and speed on a team in desparate need for his athleticism and defense. Randolph's ascent will usher in the new breed of long, athletic, unorthodox bigs like Washington's Javale McGee,the Clips' DeAndre Jordan and Sacs' Jason Thompson. Prepare for lift-off.


Andrea Bargnani/Danilo Gallinari (PF/C, Toronto/NY, 5th/3rd season): I'm listing these 2 mokes together because, I admit, I got a thing against Euros. It started with France's Frederic "French Toast" Weis getting intimate with VC's crotch in 2000 and it peaked with freakin' Skita getting drafted so high in 2002 by the Nugs. I'm intrigued by these 2. They're agile bigs with legit range, but I view them both the exact same way; stereotypically soft, jump-shooting euros. It's a damn shame for grown men so tall (G is 6'10", Bargs is 7'0"), to grab so few boards (Gallo is at 4.6 for last season, Bargs, 6.2). With Bosh gone from Toronto and NY FINALLY actually trying to be competitive, now we'll see if these cats are in the mold of Dirk in Dallas, or more Uwe "The Slob" Blab.

Michael Beasley (SF/PF, Minnesota, 3rd season): SO damn deadly in college, SO much debate about "Beasley vs Rose #1"   in '08, SO much frustration from the staff and fans in MIA over his air-headed antics and inconsistent play. 14 and 6 isn't terrible, but when you're a #2 pick, and those numbers drop to 10 and 4 in the playoffs, that's not gonna cut it. B-Easy had plenty of chances in South Beach; maybe the lights were too bright. His immaturity is well documented, and his, um, judgement was definitely questionable in Miami, from Day 1. Now he's getting a fresh start in Minny after being jettisoned from Miami. Judging from Beasley's "T-Wolves Rule, Rest of L Drools" comments, either he's ready to live up to his potential, or he's still high.

Joe Alexander (SF/PF, N'Awlins, 3rd season): He's not a big name player, he never was projected to be a superstar, but I remember how his name was buzzing in his junior year at West Virginia. 6'8", athletic, good kid, and 17 and 6 led to dude being picked 8th in '08. I was looking for him to hit the league and at LEAST wow with a dunk or 2 every couple of weeks, a la' Des Mason, be a rotation player. He's only 24, and SOMETHING allowed him to play high-level basketball until 2008. I'm not ready to yell "BUST!" yet, but damn, he was trash in Milwaukee and Chicago, toilet-bowl bad, so here's hoping that running with CP3 in the Hornet's training camp can finally unshackle JA. 

Monta Ellis (SG, Golden State, 6th season):  After 5 seasons, "breathtaking", "blazing" and "unstoppable" have been used to describe Monta, and his 25 ppg last season kinda backed all of the adjectives up. The average NBA fan is all about scoring and swagger, so to some folks, Ellis is already a bonafide star. But to me, after his injury fiasco and the crap he said about Stephen Curry, plus the fact that he played for Crazy Man Nelson thus far in his career, I'm not sure if Ellis has the mentality and the all around game to be a truly elite. Putting up numbers on a horrible team is one thing, but can he adjust his game and swallow his ego a bit to play winning ball? Playing for new coach Keith Smart and with the now known talent of Curry beside him, we'll see if Monta can be a real winner or just another undersized gunner.

Andrew Bynum (C, Lakers, 6th season) 6th year in the L and Bynum is only about to turn 24. The talent is definitely there, the attitude is there (remember when he dunked on shaq as a rook? When he said he wanted to be like Shaq, but "make his free throws"?). But the injuries. Oh, the injuries. '07, it was his left knee. '08, it was his right knee. '09, his hip and Achilles. Since being drafted, Bynum has played in all 82 games only once (season 2), and in his other 4 seasons he's averaged 49 games played. Yeah, the 15 and 8 from last season is nice, but he was so banged up by the time the playoffs rolled around he labored to put up 10 and 6 (the D was legit, though). He's already slated to miss the 1st part of this season due to July knee surgery, but it's so common the Laker faithful didn't even blink when the news came out. Bynum is at a pivotal point in his career this year; will he go on a top-flight big, or is he destined to limp off as one of the doomed "if only he could stay healthy" guys? Starting the season on the shelf ain't a good look.

Al Jefferson (PF, Utah, 7th season): Damn, the NBA has been hard on Al Jefferson. Just 2 years ago, Big Al was the darling of the league; articles were raving about his low-post awesomeness, he was The Future, he was going to lead Minny out of the NBA Basement. He was killing in '08-'09 before injury took him out, going for 23 and 11 a night. Then the torn ACL. The rumblings about his selfishness and ball-stopping O, his defensive liabilities. Now the other principle peice in the KG trade has been given up for picks and cap space, replacing another undersized-but-more-established PF in Boozer. Al is at a crossroads; will he be an elite big man, bringing true post-play back to prominence, or is he just an oddity, the last back-to-the-basket brute in a league loking for the superathletic, face- up bigs?

Elton Brand (PF/C, Philly, 12th season): ANOTHER injury/bounce back candidate. It's sad I have to put Brand in here; EB is the one of the only Duke players I ever didn't want to punch in his face. In 2006 he was a Top PF in the league candidate; 25 and 10 with 2.5 blocks and a deadly mid-range game, and even in '07, before he Benedict Arnold'ed the Clips, he just missed the Gold Standard 20/10 (20.5/9.3). But injuries, questionable decisions, and the shadow of young gunna Marreese Speights' potential got him struggling in Philly. His 14 and 8 last year weren't terrible, but he was definitely a shadow of the Beast he was prior to signing in Philly (karma?). This year is pivotal for Brand; either he returns to dominating form and locks his spot down, or he'll fade into obscurity on one of the worse contracts in recent memory.

Dwight Howard (C, Orlando, 7th season): I know, crazy, right? Look, I'm a huge D. Howard fan. Dude is an absolute MONSTER; jumps out of the gym, throws all the weak crap he sees out of the middle, hits the boards, and is the most physically gifted big in the L, no doubt. His team is an Eastern conference powerhouse, and he's the heart, I dig it. But something's...missing. For him to be that SUPERSTAR,don't we need to see him dominate at a higher level in the playoffs? Understand, 22 and 10 with 3 blocks in this year's ECF is awesome, but it's not how many he scores, but when and how he scores. He's efficient, and he breaks out a jaw-dropping dunk or block a game, but lets see him just punish teams. I know he never claimed to be the Next Great Big, but his shaky free throw shooting and the fact that his team "forgets" to feed him for stretches, plus his inexplicable temper flare-ups don't bode well. With Miami set to dominate and LA looking to dig in for the long haul, let's see if Superman 2.0 can take that next step up to join the LBJ and Wades of the game.  

Patrick O'Bryant: Nah, I'm playin'. This is his best highlight. O'Bryant sucks.

That's just a few; I mean, I'm sure this is the year that makes or breaks Yi Jianlian, and I definitely want to see which way Yao's career goes with this bogus minute count. Who do YOU want to see decide their own fate this season?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Melo...Get a Damn Life.

My man Marc Stein is saying that the Nets finally woke the hell up, pulling outta the Melo sweepstakes. Let me finally send this note off to Melo:
    My man Melo,
       As a player, I like you, man. You've came a long way from the dough-boy knucklehead out of Syracuse. Watching D. Wade win championships and LeBron strong-arm the L while you score bucket after bucket for a team spinning it's wheels in the shadow of the Lakers out west must have been tough, but you matured from the Hood DVD-cameoing, punk-slapping-n-running, weed toting kid to a dude actually worried about his career. Here's the thing that no one wants to say to you, Melo, but the sooner you hear it, the better for your future: You're just not as good as you think you are, homie. Let's not get it twisted; you're a prime-time scorer. You can get buckets any time, anywhere, and you've shown you can be clutch. I dig it, you're definitely a top 5 shot-maker, teams will throw throw handfuls of cash at you for it. But Melo, you're not in the Mt Olympus of Wade, LBJ, Kobe'. You're just not. Yeah, you're really, really good, but how do you play 2 more minutes a game over 2008 (up to 38.2), yet average LESS rebounds (6.2, less than Ilyasova, less than DeJuan "No-Knees" Blaire in his 18.6 minutes a game)?  I know what you're saying, Melo, "My job is to win ball games, not rebound". Man, 3.2 assists a game?? How dare you. That's less than Josh freakin' Smith, Trevor Ariza, and Boris Diaw! Look, Melo, I get it; you're Big Time now. But I watch your zero defense, your falling in love with the the "dagger" 3 even though you shot less than 32% for the season and 30% for your career, and I wonder, who do you think you are? I see Wade slaughtering Dallas in the '06 Finals, LeBron dominating the Pistons in the '07 ECF, and I think, can YOU show that kind of killer mindset? Why is Billups still taking clutch end-of-games plays, why aren't you putting an end to that crap? Oh, and you show up at media day and pull a Bill Clinton - "I did NOT ask for a trade." Yeah, right.  You're a bomb scorer, you seem like a stand-up guy, so're not a franchise 'ship winner. You're not on par with the heavy hitters in the league. Play your position; play out your contract, do what you need to do next summer in free agency, no sweat. I mean, yeah, the Nuggets backed you on the  DUI arrest, the "that ain't mine" weed run-ins, the girly-punch Knicks brawl, the "Stop Snitchin'" crap...but this IS a business. What I'm saying is, you're not LeBron, and you're making yourself look real foolish with this primadonna crap. To sum up: Melo, stop bein' a ho.

                                                                            YES! The Nail In The Coffin

So Sad....

My home boy Dun is from the Chi. I've known this cat for over 7 years, from my time in the military, and he's one of the reallest dudes I know, hands down. One time we went to a comedy show, dude on stage was cuttin' up about brothas from the Chi, I put my man on blast, pointed him out. Dude asked, "What part of Chi, my man?" Straight ice-grilled, my boy Dun says, "West Side." Now, I never been there, I don't know what it's like, but this semi-well known comedian stopped all joking, apologized for makin' fun of West Siders, and hustled through his set without another glance at Dun. Well, it's a well-known fact that dudes from Chicago look out for each other, they're proud of "their dudes", and Dun was no different with ballers with Chi connections. Even with these less-than-stellar numbers (7 footer not ever grabbig 8 boards a game. How dare him.), and some suspect accusations, Dun grudgingly mumbled about "potential and "post game vicious".  But even HE can't possibly still defend  Eddy "Spicy Chicken" Curry this year. I bet less than 1 or 2% of the population is 7 foot tall, with less than half of those having the athleticism to get paid millions to play 82 games a year. Watching Curry loaf and eat his way through such a pathetic career is maddening; you got thousands of ballers scuffling by in crappy leagues around the globe, dudes playing for damn near free because of the love, the drive they have for basketball. Good men would sell their souls just for a sniff of real NBA run, and this chump hoodwinked the NBA into making him rich and giving him the best seat in the house for games in MSG. Curry was handed the NBA on a platter; a mobile, strong 7 foot millionaire right out of high school, drafted by the Bulls at a time when, if he'd just had a pulse, he would have been a hero to the talent starved franchise. Nope. Curry's been soft, lazy, and now, he just doesn't give a damn. NY's GM Donnie Walsh and coach D'Antoni are dancing around the subject of Curry's fatocity, but dammit, I'll say it: he just doesn't give a $%@&. So sad....

It's Faaaaaantastic

Man. It’s almost here. IT’S ALMOST HERE. We got to watch Team USA bust heads in the World Championships, but there's nothing like the anticipation for a new NBA season, and this one is going to be one for the ages. I’ve been an NBA junkie for almost as long as I can remember. I remember  1987, lil girls wearing sideways ponytails, the crappily drawn Simpsons, and the 6’9 cat in gold-n-purple ripping up and down the court, lobbing it in to the 7 foot alien dude with the impossible hook shot. I remember BeBop n Rocksteady catchin’ beatdowns from the damn Ninja Turtles, watching V.I.C.K.I. on Small Wonder (dude almost went to jail cuz V.I.C.K.I. told Child Welfare he kept her in a closet; I’d have turned her into a damn lawnmower), and Young MJ going God on the Celtics, making Bird find religion even while the Bulls fell to the Celtics. Bill Simmons talks about the mid 70’s to late 80’s like the NBA Golden Age, but funk dat, give me the epic bloody battles between the early 90’s Pistons vs The League, the Eddie Haskell “good guys you love to hate” Pacers, the ultimate domination that was “Soul Crusher” Jordan’s Bulls, the mind-numbingly precise “Stockton-go-Malone” versus Reign-Man’s terrifying athleticism and the Glove’s desecration of all point guards. I read the reports on the early internet about Mike retiring, the Baseball stint, the lock-out, the Duncan Tankathon. I was in San Diego, learning my way in the Navy, watching Shaq ruin centers careers, wracking up ‘ships with Wanna-be-like-Mike, crushing my boys in NBA Live 2000. The end of the Air Jordan era was bittersweet; dude was IT, and we loved seeing him pin Ron Mercer’s shit to the glass WITH TWO HANDS to win a meaningless game against Chicago, but it was like watching an aging King being ran by less talented knights with young legs. I soaked up the Kobe/Shaq, the Kobe/Colorado, the Kobe/Snitch, the Pacers keepin-it-real-goes-wrong, Portland’s degeneration to bullshit (but Sheed was legit), the young Guns of ‘03. Contenders to the throne, from the Soft Cousins Mcgrady and Vinsanity, to the cursed Grant Hill and the incredible Penny. I got to watch LeBron go from breathless potential to “get the #%&# outta here” League Conquerer to the black sheep of the sports world. And every ESPN editorial, every Sports Guy article, every Chuck Barkley “I tell ya what…”, I thought, I could DO that. Basketball’s been part of my life, through navy deployments, wild times overseas, dumb moves, birthdays, fights, promotion, break-ups, failures, ball is there. I yell about it, argue about it, text about it. I’m ALWAYS saying, I wish I could take it past me and the fellas just choppin’ it up, past me trying to drunkenly explain why Perk would have meant a W in game 7 for the Celts in a bar full of Lakers’ fans in San Diego. So it is written… I’ll overanalyze, I’ll nitpick, I’ll prognosticate, I’ll argue with anybody; if a cogent view is expressed, I’ll even flip the script and take the hit and be wrong (yeah right). It’s more than just points and dunks, its beyond the box score. So let’s go…