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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?


  1. There are obvious ppl to keep an eye on.
    Kobe, Dwade but these are the other ppl I keep my eye on.

    Yao Ming
    Of course I’m going to keep an eye on my giant brother from China. He is a dominant super star and if he can stay healthy he is easily the best center in the league. He is already showing sparks of his comeback in the preseason game. He has also shown that he is playing extra cautiously for fear of more injuries. I am really rooting for this guy to stay healthy. I hope the surgery he had has as good an effect on him as the other guy (I believe it was Ilgauskas). Only time will tell but I really want to see this guy do well. He loves playing basketball and wants to win so bad. He’s got a lot of heart. Just can’t stay healthy.

    Jeremy Lin
    Success story coming out of Harvard and he’s Taiwanese American and he can dunk and he’s playing for a west coast team? Hell yes! I don’t fore see him getting much playing time in Golden State but who knows. He isn’t getting too much time in the pre-season games however. I think he has tremendous talent and under the right tutelage can pick up some real nice moves. I was hoping he would go to the Lakers (there was talk of them picking him up) because of the obvious mentors in LA. GSW is not the greatest stop for him but they are a young team that I expect to go somewhere this season. Keep an eye on Golden State. Keep an eye on Jeremy Lin. Maybe he’ll become one of those undrafted super stars.

  2. Yi Jian Lian
    Are you seeing a pattern with the players that I follow? Haha. Anyways I’ve kept my eye on this guy since his Bucks days. There has been a lot of hype about this guy but he has never really fulfilled. I was expecting him to do pretty good with the Nets but he didn’t do too hot. Now I’m expecting him to do pretty good with the Wizards but I don’t think the wizards are going to do too hot. That’s just my opinion when taking a look at their roster and I don’t think Yi Jian Lian can play up to the spot that the Wizards are going to need him to play. I hope he proves me wrong.

    Courtney Lee
    Hey do you remember Courtney Lee? The rookie that played with the Magic when they went to the finals. Maybe you don’t remember him because he had an injury plagued and uninspires season with the Nets. It’s okay. He’s with the Houston Rockets now! This kid can ball! He is famous for missing that amazing alley oop shot that would have won a game for the Magic in the finals. But this dude can ball. Keep an eye on him this season. He’s in the back up role but I expect him to get plenty of opportunities to shine and shine he will!. I was sore about the Rockets getting rid of my boy Ariza but picking up another young player that I’ve kept my eye on softened the blow. Welcome to the 2011 Championship team Mr. Courtney Lee. (too soon? haha just make a note in the back of your head that I’ve been calling it since last season)

    Trevor Ariza
    Ariza started off hot last season and seemed to be the rising star that Houston needed him to be. Then.... he started throwing up enough bricks to build a house. It was rough watching some of his games. The emergence of Chase Budinger as a baller also made it easier for Houston to justify the trade. Enough depth at the Small Forward position. We know this guy can ball though and in clutch situations he can handle it. I’m hoping he has a bounce back season where he can play the position that he is more comfortable with. Unfortunately if he does have that bounce back season he’s still playing for...New no one will really care.

    Lamarcus Aldridge
    The only guy I follow on the blazers. I just like the way this guy plays. He’s got size and speed. He’s the real deal and he is only going to get better with experience under his belt. He’s got the defense and the offense. He’s got the dunk and the mid range. He’s even shown off some jaw dropping sky hooks! (A shot that I’m a huge fan of) One of the best power forwards in the league. He’s only going to get better...

    Carl Landry
    A reason Houston had as much early season success was largely due to the emergence of Carl Landry. He was scoring on teams at will. It will be interesting if he is able carry this going with the Sacramento Kings. He has been very efficient in scoring and his rebounds aren’t too bad either. He’s a very physical player. Now that he has a starting spot with the Kings we’ll see if he can seize the opportunity and become the player Sacramento needs him to be.

    David Lee
    Mr. Break out star last season is now on the Golden State Warriors. A team that I think will make the play offs this season. David Lee has gotten consistently better and really found his game last season. Of course he was playing for the Knicks who didn’t really have another option. It’ll be interesting to see how he rolls with some legitimate guards. I am keeping an eye on Golden State this season. I think they surprise a lot of people and make it ot the play offs.

    Serge Ibaka
    This guy is obviously not putting up monsters but his defense is right on target. It’ll be interesting to see how he has advanced in the off season. Perhaps he can get somewhat of an expanded role. He was getting pretty good minutes during the play offs last year when he was blocking every Laker that came into the paint. It’d be nice to see him get some offense.

  3. Oh I forgot Mickael Pietrus...I like that dude a lot tooooo