Friday, May 1, 2009

BT

It's impossible for me not to pile on here, so here goes, what else are we going to find out about A-Rod in the coming months?

How great is it that he has “rounded pectoral muscles” so much so that his Yankee teammates call him “bitch tits”? I thought steroids helped guys look more muscular and manly. It's news to me that it makes guys resemble women. We all know about the shrinking testicle thing, but this A-Rod story has brought new stuff to light. Steroid dealers must leave out that part when slangin roids to their junkies.

Dealer: “Yeah, these will get you really pumped up.”
Junkie: “So, will my pecs get really huge if I use this stuff?”
Dealer: (suppressing laughter): “Yeah. Definitely.”

As an aside, just look at that picture. I mean really look at it. It's too perfect.

The BT term has been tossed around to fatter dudes for quite some time. I first heard the term in college and it was appropriate for some guys. For all I know, they could have been roided up and couldn’t very well confess to that (either that, or they were just fat and sloppy).

Back to A-Rod, what else is there? Was he selling credit default swaps? Was he an advisor to Bernie Madoff? Did he bring the swine flu to the U.S.? Has he been secretly arming the insurgents in Iraq? Did he waterboard detainees? Was he behind the sale of the Sonics to Clay Bennett? Did he hurt Tiger’s knee? Did he kill that guy’s mom in “Slumdog Millionaire”? Was he a consultant for George Lucas on the prequels? Did he turn Lindsay Lohan? Was he filming hand signals? Did he kill Tupac and Biggie?

All of the above are possible. What’s also possible is that A-Rod may not be human. It’s unclear what evil forces are behind his creation, but some nefarious beings are pulling the strings and it’s getting out of hand. It’s too bad Arnold is busy running California (into the ground) because we could really use Douglas Quaid, John Matrix, Ben Richards, Dutch, or even Detective John Kimble to get to the bottom of this.

Leroy

Sometimes I absolutely love being wrong. This is one of those times. I’m floored that the Hawks were able to sign Hill. It looks like Hill meant it when he said he’d love to stay in Seattle. He wanted to stay here and it looks like he got a very reasonable deal. The reported number is 6 years 38M with over 15.5M guaranteed. That looks like a very fair deal for both sides. Hill is a hell of a player who deserves that payday. The Hawks also need him so that they’re able to do what they want to do defensively.

By waiting until after the draft and after most free agency money has been snatched up, the Hawks essentially screwed Hill by giving him no chance to sign elsewhere for big dollars. Ruskell knew this and was banking on him not signing elsewhere out of spite. It was a huge risk and he would have been absolutely ridiculed and vilified if Hill left, but he didn’t and that’s why he sits where he does and I sit here with my thumb up my ass.

But that doesn’t mean that Ruskell is not to be questioned. We don’t know if Ruskell is the least bit influenced by fans and the media, but it’s clear that the public outcry was “We Can’t Lose Leroy Hill.” If that outcry affected his decision to sign Hill, even to the most minute degree, then the spouting off, premature worrying, and doomsday scenarios were worth it. I will gladly look like a fool if the result benefits the team that I root for.

The team is shaping up, on the defensive side of the ball anyway, quite nicely.
  • DE: Kerney. Please don’t be hurt. It would be very nice to see him make it through the entire year creating havoc on a consistent basis. They need him to be destructive.
  • DE: Redding? Tapp? Jackson? What is up with Daryl Tapp? Is he simply not that talented because of his size? He had a monster four-sack game against St. Louis in ’07, but that’s highly skewed because St. Louis had one of the worst offensive lines in the game. It seems very likely that they don’t trust the guy to do the job and that he won’t be here much longer. I had high hopes for him, but the coaching staff doesn’t seem to. Who knows what to expect of Jackson, he didn’t show much during his rookie year, but he’s got size and ability so the book is still out on him. I actually thought that Redding was a DT when they traded for him because of his size (6’4 295) and he seems like a weird fit as a DE in a 4-3 alignment, but whatever.
  • DT: Mebane. I love what I’ve seen out of this guy in his first few years. He was a great find in the third round and we’re lucky to have him. Rocky Bernard was fine, but not at any meaningful salary number.
  • DT: Cole? Bryant? No idea what to expect out of these guys. They are both huge guys who will plug up holes and keep linemen off of the LBs.
  • OLB: Curry. My man crush on Curry is in full effect. From a “good dude” perspective, he’s off of the charts. From a football player perspective, I only know what I’ve been told and seen in the highlights because I never saw Wake Forest play (a club that includes nearly everyone outside of the ACC). I choose to believe what people are telling me. Someone said that they reminded him of Julian Peterson. That seems like a very lazy comparison. For one, their body types are very different. Peterson was two inches taller (6’3 compared to 6’1) and weighed about 15 lbs less (240 compared to 254). Peterson is ripped like no one’s business, but he’s a more sinewy, athletic looking guy whereas Curry looks a lot more bulky and compact. I see Curry as more effective against the run with the ability to cover probably better than Peterson (in addition to being heavier, Curry is also faster than Peterson, at least timed faster 4.56 compared to 4.7). My hopes are dangerously high for this guy.
  • MLB: Tatupu. Love him. Don’t have much more to say about him.
  • OLB: Hill(!). See above. I’m ecstatic.
  • CB: Trufant. He played well last year, but will be even better this year with Lucas on the other side. They are a great duo.
  • CB: Lucas. Great signing for a cheap salary. They completely lucked into him. Also, I doubt very seriously that Nate Burleson will punch him in the face.
  • SS: Grant. I still like this guy. Big hitter and great leader from all accounts.
  • FS: Russell. I am unbelievably down on this guy. I can see very easily the young buck from Rutgers, Courtney Greene, beating him out. He didn’t make plays in the run or pass game and was massively disappointing. They need to upgrade here.

I’m looking forward to reading the reports out of minicamp this weekend.

Now, Ruskell, please get Curry into camp on time. I’m begging you. A training camp holdout would be akin to submerging my testicles in an ice bath.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jeremy Tyler

I love this Jeremy Tyler story that I first read here and then subsequently here, here, and here.

From a “what the hell?” standpoint, I love that Olden Polynice was a volunteer coach on Tyler’s high school team. O.P. was on some spectacularly mediocre Sonics teams in the late 80s and I’ll never forget him. I remember going to a game when I was 15, looking at the program, and thinking that there was something wrong with his face, and then feeling sorry for him. Not that how he looks had anything to do with his ability to play hoops, but it’s the singular thing that I remember about him. He was never a horrible player and was certainly better than the cavalcade of Rich King-like stiffs the Sonics subjected us to over the years.

On a national level, I’m guessing that O.P. was best known for one of two things:
  1. His arrest for impersonating a police officer
  2. Getting traded on draft day from Chicago to Seattle for Scottie Pippen

Number two is especially galling on a personal level. I would have liked a core of Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, and Shawn Kemp a great deal. Um, that probably would have been a decent defensive squad. Of course, Pippen may never have blossomed into Pippen if not for Jordan, but it’s very likely that he would have thrived alongside The Glove and the Reign Man… sigh… anyway, it looks like O.P. was the key ingredient (aside from Jordan) in the Bulls Dynasty.

Getting back to O.P.’s influence on Tyler, I really enjoyed this part of the article:

"Still, Polynice disagrees with Tyler’s decision to go to Europe. He said Tyler was being 'pimped;' he would not elaborate."

So O.P. just called Tyler a whore, which is a very nice thing to say about someone. Also, O.P. was never known for his work ethic, so it’s always funny to me when a guy like that gets to have any influence whatsoever on young people. For instance, when O.P was finishing his third tour of duty with the Sonics in the lockout shortened ’98-’99 season (otherwise known as the “Vin Baker Fattening Project”) and shooting an ungodly 30% from the free throw line he was routinely seen practicing half court shots at practice instead of working on parts of his game that might help the team.

O.P. comedy aside, it’s a very interesting story. Brandon Jennings’s story was and is fascinating because he was bypassing Arizona (who really could have used him this year) to play for cash in Italy. I loved that he was doing it because it sounded like he wasn’t going to qualify to play college ball and he wanted to stay sharp, learn some skills, and get paid. I mean, why not? I loved the Josh Childress story as well because he was being held hostage by the NBA restricted free agent rules and decided to exercise his options, as a free man in society, to do what he pleased, and get paid more for doing it. Good for him.

Now here comes young Jeremy Tyler and his decision to go to Europe and bypass his senior year in high school along the way. Every time I hear about a kid who leaves high school early (like the football players to enroll for the spring semester at Universities to take part in spring practices), I can’t help but think, “why would you want to leave high school early? I had fun in high school, especially my senior year.” Then I snap back to reality and realize that their lives and my life as a high schooler are slightly different. They’re going to be playing big time sports in college or the pros and I was going to run track in the spring and miss going to the state meet because I wasn’t good enough. I guess that’s different.

From what I understand, Tyler is going to leave school, but take online courses or be homeschooled, so he’ll still get his high school diploma. So what’s the big deal? Doesn’t this happen all of the time but we just don’t know about it or don’t care? Don’t child actors do this all of the time? The SI article pointed to entertainers who leave school early and finish elsewhere. The ESPN article talked about tennis and golf players who do this with regularity. I don’t get what the big deal is. Why the hand-wringing? Why the concern?

ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb, arguing that Tyler’s decision to go abroad said the following:

"If it is acceptable for Tyler to leave high school after his junior year to play professionally, when does it not become OK to leave? Tyler is setting a dangerous precedent by making this move. What about a sophomore or a freshman making a similar decision? Why even have high school at all?"

A few things here:

  1. I’m not sure who needs to “accept” that Tyler could leave high school. It’s of no one’s concern but his and maybe his parents. It’s not a question of it being acceptable or “OK” for him to do this. He, or anyone else, can do this whenever the hell he feels like it.
  2. This “dangerous” precedent-setting decision that Tyler is making is, again, of no one’s concern but his. Does he have some sort of obligation to anyone else but himself? Is he supposed to “think of the children”? If he wants to do this, then he should do this. If it affects someone else’s decision down the line, is that really on him? And if it does, does it matter?
  3. Gottlieb asks, “Why even have high school at all?” I have the same question myself and am planning on writing about this at a later date. If these guys want to pursue their dreams of playing basketball and who also don’t care about school (I’m making assumptions here, but by and large if a guy leaves after one year in college or, previously, skipped college altogether, then they aren’t very interested in school… I’m just sayin’) then why should they go to school?

Aside from the obvious ethnocentric (scared of the European sports system) and racist stuff at work here (again, no worries about tennis/golf academies, entertainers, or foreign athletes who do this same thing) there is another element that doesn’t get mentioned and that’s the nationwide high school graduation rates for African Americans hovers around the mid 50% range every year. From what we know, Tyler is going to graduate from high school. What about the millions of kids who do not graduate from high school and who are not immensely talented basketball players? Where is the outcry about the education of these kids? Kids drop out of school at alarming rates and those that do earn far less than their cohorts that do earn their diplomas. Tyler is leaving high school, but plans on graduating, and is getting a head start on a potentially lucrative career.

People lament that kids are lazy and don’t take advantage of the opportunities that are provided to them. We get upset when someone doesn’t maximize his potential and make use of his talents. Well, Tyler’s talent is in basketball. He’s making a professional decision to do what he thinks is best for him.

Is it sketchy that Sonny Vaccaro is involved? Sure. But how is this any less seedy than college programs hiring a big-time recruit’s AAU coach or someone affiliated with that player with the hope that doing so will land them that recruit.

I mean, please. Stop with the goddamn hypocrisy already. Whether we agree or disagree with his decision is of no consequence. The teeth gnashing is insincere.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Overemphasis on Big Guys

I alluded to this point in the previous post, but to reiterate, teams, the media, and fans tend to inflate the importance of big guys in the draft and through free agency (power forwards and centers). That’s not to say that when a clearly superior big guy is available that a team shouldn’t take him. Guys that come to mind are Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Shaq, Chris Webber, (come on, we all thought he’d be awesome), Tim Duncan, maybe Yao Ming, and Dwight Howard. Those guys are easy picks. They were considered franchise-changing talents, and for the most part they lived up to their billing.

The promise of the above guys are what lead teams astray. They see a guy like Greg Oden and try to forecast him into one of the guys who were franchise changers. They compare him to David Robinson because he’s a nice guy, he’s physically huge, he can block shots, and he has a “raw” (read: massively underdeveloped) offensive game. It’s not Oden’s fault that he’s not as good as everything thinks he should be or that he’s suffered injury after injury and will be arthritic prematurely. It’s just that we love to project big guys into stardom when they don’t really deserve it. I’m particularly sensitive to the big guy love affair because the Sonics, for three miserable drafts in a row, picked “raw” seven-foot “projects” early in the first round. From Robert Swift (picture him wearing all black, sitting in the back of a classroom looking sullen, and tell me you’re not thinking to yourself “Is the quickest way out of here through the window or do I try and bolt for the door?” – I realize that it’s the 10th anniversary of Columbine and that Virginia Tech was not long ago, and that it's completely insensitive and inappropriate, but when I see Robert Swift, I see that kind of kid, I can’t help it. I'm sorry.), to Johan “I’m as soft as an ├ęclair” Petro, to Mohammed “I have no earthly idea how to play basketball, but I’m tall” Sene. I’m sure they are all nice enough guys, but they will never be a reason that a team wins a playoff series in the NBA. They are seven foot albatrosses and they litter the NBA landscape. Big guys like this linger at the ends of benches year after year. They have different names, but they are all the same player. Tall guys who don’t have any basketball skills who costs teams far too much money and are taking up spots that should go to talented players who are six inches shorter, but several times more valuable in terms of actually playing and winning games.

It’s unfair to lump all big guys who are non-stars into this category. Not all big guys are complete wastes of space. Some non-star big guys actually contribute in many ways because they bring things to the table. Guys that fit this mold, in the playoffs are Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao, Chicago’s Joakim Noah, New Orleans’s Tyson Chandler (when not injured), LA’s Andrew Bynum, Boston’s Kendrick Perkins, Philly’s Sam Dalembert (although he costs way too much, at least he plays), Dallas’s Erick Dampier (same comments as Dalembert), Portland’s Joel Przybilla, and Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia. These guys actually bring things to the table and are useful, but not vital parts of their teams. Quite honestly, most teams could probably get by without having them at all except on the nights that they face an actually talented big guy, of which there are very, very, very few in the league.

I feel bad for big guys because oftentimes we hear stories about them where they sort of fell into hoops because they were tall and someone convinced them to play, so they played and are now making loads of money (so I don’t feel too bad for them) because of this genetic freakiness. Because a guy is tall and because there are guys who exist (the aforementioned superior big guys) who are great, we lump them together. We wonder why our big guy can’t simply get the ball in the post, turn to the center or baseline, and drop a jump hook through the hoop. We ask, “What’s so hard about that?” or say, “He’s seven-feet tall, why can’t he do that?” The answer is, “He’s not good.” A big guy will disappoint teams, media, and fans more than he will please them. We believe that all big guys are unstoppable because they physically resemble Olajuwon, when in fact they’re just tall and not special beyond that. Anyway, I’m not anti-big guy, but I do feel that a team should only acquire one for specific purposes. Some non-exhaustive purposes are:
1. If he’s a definite star (a la Tim Duncan)
2. You need a big guy for your definite star to beat up in practice
3. You need a big guy to sub into games to give your definite star a break or if he’s in foul trouble
4. When traveling, you want to make it abundantly clear that you are a basketball team
5. The big guy is young and you see promise, but only if you’re going to draft him very low and only if you have someone to teach him how to do big guy stuff

Drafting a big guy is like drafting a quarterback in the NFL. There is a big risk/reward ratio to work out. NBA teams often need quality big guys and NFL teams often need quality QBs for the same reason: there are only so many to go around. But teams make mistakes in both leagues when they project a player to be someone he’s not because a true big man/QB star isn’t there. The Detroit Lions may have made this error by picking Matthew Stafford (although he may be good) and the Portland Trailblazers definitely made this mistake when drafting Oden over Durant. For what Portland is doing, Przybilla fits them fine and Channing Frye could be playing Oden’s minutes as a backup. He’s more than capable even if he is a less-talented Aldridge. Portland with Durant on board would be a nasty, nearly unguardable team. As it is, they have Oden, who, again through no fault of his own, is placed in a position where he has so many expectations heaped on him. He’s never going to come close to reaching those expectations and it’s more likely that he’ll fall far short of them. It’s too bad, really.

If I was running a team I would continually value basketball IQ, skill, and ability above size. Always. I would keep rolling the best damn 6’7 and under team in the league unless and until a truly dominant big guy became available either through the draft, trade, or free agency. Why waste a pick (and money) on a big guy that you know damn well is not as talented and can help your team less than a swingman who has actual basketball skills? For example, I’d rather have DeMar DeRozan on my team than Hasheem Thabeet. Yes, I realize that Thabeet is a great shot blocker, but he’s a train wreck with the ball in his hands, whereas DeRozan has the talent and ability to develop into a super-duper star. Thabeet will never be a star, and it’s a virtual guarantee that he’s going to have some sort of weird injury directly related to being 7’3. I’d bet money on that if I could (and if I had any money to bet…).

Just for fun, here is a list of the teams in the playoffs and a list of the players who play vital roles determining the outcome for their team. For example, if Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon both have great games, then there is a more than likely chance that the Bulls are going to win. If they both have terrible games, then there is a more than likely chance that the Bulls are going to lose. If Brad Miller or Joakim Noah has a great or terrible game, then it’s doubtful that their performance will have much to do with the outcome of the game.

The playoff teams
Boston: Paul Pierce, Ray Allen Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett (not playing)
Chicago: Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon
Orlando: Dwight Howard (maybe), Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkolu, Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston
Philly: Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Sam Dalembert
Atlanta: Joe Johnson, Mike Bibby
Miami: Dwyane Wade
Detroit: Rip Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Rasheed Wallace
Cleveland: LeBron James, Mo Williams, Big Z
LA Lakers: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom
Utah: Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer
San Antonio: Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili (when playing)
Dallas: Dirk Nowitski, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry
Portland: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge
Houston: Yao Ming, Ron Artest (kind of)
Denver: Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony
New Orleans: Chris Paul, David West

Based on this self-serving list I’ve created here are the numbers:
Non-Bigs: 27
Bigs: 15 (and I included Rashard Lewis, Thaddeus Young, Dirk Nowitski, Lamar Odom, and David West in this group, even though they play more like guards than forwards)

What’s my point?

My point is that non-bigs determine the outcome of NBA playoff teams than bigs do. It’s a fact. Having a “dominant” big man does not determine success in the NBA. It’s pretty evident that Dwight Howard is the most gifted big out there right now. And where is that going to get Orlando? An appearance in the second round of the playoffs? Maybe the third? Maybe as Howard grows, he’ll lead his team out of “almost there” status. But, and be honest here, do you really see it? He’s awesome right now at what he does, but do you see him getting any better than he is? Do you see his game progressing to incorporate a great, consistent hook or jumper? I don’t. It’s not like he can’t get there, I just don’t know that he will get there. I do know this though, I’d choose LeBron, Kobe, CP3, and Wade over him.

This is my really, really, really roundabout way of telling you that I would absolutely draft Ricky Rubio over Blake Griffin in the upcoming draft and not feel the least bit bad about it. I’ve seen Rubio play (albeit in short stints) and the guy is fantastic. Also, since he’s a guard, he will be in a position to dominate the ball and make decisions. Griffin can’t do much except be explosive and finish around the rim, which is great, but he seems more like a complementary player than a star player. Rubio is a star and has been in the professional ranks for years. He won’t be phased in the least and will thrive in any system. I love the kid and can’t wait to see him play here.

NBA Playoffs

As much as I love the NBA playoffs, we can all agree that they stretch the games out too long. I mean, each team has only played four games and it’s been like two weeks. It’s no wonder the playoffs take two months to finish. I fully understand why the system is the way it is, the NBA and the TV corporations are attempting to maximize their dollars. I get that, but do we really need a best of seven series for every series? I loved the best of five format that we had in the first round (with the notable exception of the ’94 playoffs when the Sonics had the look of a championship-caliber team and lost to the goddamn Nuggets).

I doubt very seriously that they’ll revert to a five-game series in the first round, despite how much people would actually like it. People would love an NFL Playoffs vibe even more because any team can beat any other team if they’re both good on any night. The NCAA Tournament captures this as well, and that’s what makes it so special. The beauty of the postseason generally is the win-or-go-home mentality. It’s so much fun to watch these games because the finality ratchets up the intensity.

Contrast that with the win-four-times-or-go-home mentality of the NBA playoffs. Not quite as exciting is it? Of course elimination games are fun and game sevens are incredible to watch, but we just have to wait so damn long to get there. I suppose they’re worth the wait though. Also, the best team usually will prevail in a seven-game series, which is somewhat satisfying. It’s pretty uncommon for an inferior team to beat a clearly superior team in a seven-game series. It’s just too hard to hide weaknesses and unless certain players on an inferior team are just treeing for an entire series, that team is typically going to lose. There are exceptions, of course, but the better team usually prevails, not that it matters in the least, unless you have rooting interest, in which case then it definitely matters.

While I’m complaining about the length of these playoffs, I’ve definitely been interested. Since I work for a living and have a wife who would threaten, and probably follow through with, murder if I watched every single game that’s on TV, I have to pick and choose which games to watch, and even then, it’s hard. Plus, it’s nice outside now and it makes it very difficult to justify sitting inside when it’s 70 degrees and sunny. That’s what happens when you live in the Seattle area, I spend at least half of my time bitching about the weather, so when it’s finally tolerable to be outside, I must go outside, games be damned. But that’s what DVR is for, if I’m willing to stay up until 3:00 a.m. to pound out all of the games.

Back to the subject, there are only two of these series that I’ve dubbed appointment TV. Chicago v. Boston and Houston v. Portland.

Chicago and Boston
I’m heavily intrigued by the Bulls and Derrick Rose and their mighty rise from freaking nowhere, so I’m enthralled by that series. I’m somewhat invested in the Blazers solely because of Brandon Roy, and tangentially interested in the Rockets because of Aaron Brooks; Seattle ballplayers, both of them. I guess, for the same reason, I should care about Atlanta (Marvin Williams), Detroit (Rodney Stuckey), and Dallas (Jason Terry), but I don’t, at least not as much because those other three series just aren’t as interesting. Houston and Portland, beyond the Seattle connection, is a very interesting matchup because Houston hasn’t gotten out of the first round in forever and Portland is making its first trip back in forever. Both teams are talented and could do some damage to LA. The series has produced some very close games, but sadly, it looks like Houston is going to take this, and that’s a damn shame considering how good Portland has looked at times. That said, if not for Ron Artest attempting to shoot his team out of the playoffs, Houston would have beaten Portland by at least 10 the other night, instead of winning a close one down the stretch.

Chicago and Boston, on the other hand, has been an otherworldly series. Taking a step back, it looked like Chicago was headed this way a few years ago when they made the playoffs and looked good. They had a young, talented team that was hungry and making noise. But then they got greedy, trade rumors were swirling, they started to hate their coach (more), and eventually fell on their face. Then they ass backward into Rose and everything changed.

Rose, simply put, is amazing. I fawn over him. He will be legitimately discussed as the best player in the league within five years, easily. I doubt that he (or anyone else) will ever dethrone LeBron while he’s in his prime (that would be NOW until about 9 or 10 years from now), but Kobe Bryant (who is probably too old for this discussion) Rose, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy, Deron Williams, and maybe Carmelo Anthony will be contenders for ‘Bron’s crown. Of course, Ricky Rubio, John Wall, and some other young bucks may storm the castle too. We just don’t know if they’ll get hit by the cauldron of oil or make it through the gate yet.

Orlando and Philly
The other games don’t interest me as much. Orlando and Philly has some intrigue, but I don’t care about either team. I like Orlando a little bit because Rashard Lewis plays for them and he was always a decent guy here in Seattle. Dwight Howard is fun to watch because he’s looks so strangely huge amongst huge people. Plus, he’s abundantly talented, but ultimately flawed because he really can’t be counted on yet. I’d love to see him put it all together and become a 35 point scorer. He could easily do that if he shot 75% from the free throw line, but somehow I doubt he’ll ever approach that mark. Philly is kind of interesting, but ultimately how can I even dedicate any time to a team that has killed itself with that horrible Elton Brand signing? They’re doomed for years and it was their own damn fault. Why bail out the Clippers like that? I do like Thaddeus Young, though. The kid seems like a very solid player and I will forever like Andre Igudola for the singular reason that he nearly decapitated himself in a dunk contest. So I like some individuals on those teams, but neither one has a legit shot at winning the title or even pushing a team very much (no, Orlando has no shot) so I’m uninterested ultimately.

San Antonio and Dallas
San Antonio and Dallas couldn’t bore me more. There is no chance I’ll watch any part of that series. I’m dog tired of San Antonio and have been for years, I’d really prefer it if both of these teams would just exit out of the playoffs after this series is over, sort of like an instant double elimination, but without having to lose twice… wait, that doesn’t make any sense. Maybe it’s a single elimination spread over two teams simultaneously. Whatever. I just don’t want to see either one advance, despite Jason Terry’s excellence.

Atlanta and Miami
Atlanta and Miami presents two young teams who may be on their way to better things, but probably not. I haven’t seen anything but the highlights of this series and I doubt they’ll make it into the regular rotation. I am interested to see how Michael Beasely plays, since I haven’t seen one minute of him this year, but I suspect I’ll be underwhelemed. Is it just me, or do people get way, way, way to proud of big guys? How could he ever have been considered by any team over Derrick Rose? He had a rep for being a lazy, immature dude prior to the draft, but he could score and rebound. Rose had a rep for being emotionally invested in the outcomes of games, being massively unselfish, and possessing unspeakable talent and played maybe the most important position on the team, depending on the offense a team runs. This isn’t revisionist history. He’s always been the better player. Whatever, I’m just saying that teams and the media over-emphasize “big” guys. A point I’ll get to in a separate post.

I guess I was talking about the Atlanta/Miami series. I’m somewhat interested in this Hawks team because they seem to be properly constructed with some really good young players and they finally have a point guard who can do some things for them in Nougat All-Star Mike Bibby. I just can’t get into them. Hopefully they’ll advance and I’ll get to check them out in the next round.

Denver and New Orleans
Before I say anything here, I’ve got to start with the following number: 58. It’s amazing that a team with Chris Paul, David West, James Posey, and Tyson Chandler would lose by fifty eight points. Those guys are legitimately good players who are extremely prideful, it’s striking to me that they’d roll over like that. At home. To a Denver team that is good, but certainly not whip-your-ass-on-an-historic level good. I’ve read that there are issues (to put it mildly) with Byron Scott as a coach. Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski, wrote about it today. ESPN’s Bill Simmons has written about it earlier this year after watching Scott and Paul’s interaction (if it can be called that) live at a Clippers game. I don’t understand how, as a coach at the highest level of sport, Byron Scott could be unprepared and pay little attention to detail. Is it that difficult to do? Do you not have various scouts and assistant coaches informing you of things or do you simply choose not to listen? The whole thing confuses me. Why not be prepared even if you don’t manically control every part of the game (like Larry Brown or Avery Johnson), at least have an answer for things if whatever gameplan that you’ve cooked up isn’t working. How the hell is a player supposed to respect a coach who doesn’t put in the time to help his team perform to the best of its ability, especially when the players are busting their asses? If Byron Scott is truly the way that he’s portrayed, then how in the hell is he still the coach of a team like New Orleans with the best point guard in the game? I’m glad I’m not a New Orleans fan (although, as I’ve stated in the past I will gladly, if not gleefully, accept their team as the new Sonics).

As for the series itself, aside from the last game, it didn’t really look like New Orleans had a shot. Denver has been playing too well and Chauncey Billups has been rubbing New Orleans players’ faces in their own feces, and then swatting them with a rolled up magazine all series. He’s been unstoppable. He was great in Detroit, but he’s been incredible for Denver. He’s been hitting his shots, which had been a missing ingredient in his game in the post-championship years in Detroit. Plus, there is the whole hometown thing going for him. I love seeing guys get a chance to play where they grew up, there’s just something cool about that.

Another thing that Denver has working for it is their cumulative ink. I defy you to find me a team who sports more tats than these Nuggets. It’s not just the amount of tats they have, but the shocking amount of surface area that these tats cover. J.R. Smith is literally wearing long sleeves, Kenyon Martin has been tagged by a “writer” from the Bronx, and the Birdman looks like an entire grade school pelted him with Easter eggs and Fun Dip.






Speaking of the Birdman, just because you were once down-and-out as a drug-addled idiot does not mean you must continue to look the part. He’s the latter day Rodman, right down to the hustle and annoyance factors. How soon until he dons a wedding gown to marry himself? Although, he’s so militantly ugly that I doubt he has the stomach to even masturbate, let alone be his own bride.




Los Angeles and Utah
I’m beginning to wonder if anyone, even Cleveland, is going to beat this Lakers team. They are pissing on Utah, and while Utah is an eight seed, they’re not a garden-variety eight seed. They have talented players with great size, a good coach, and a great home court advantage. But this Lakers team is frightening. It’s insane that they can legitimately roll out a lineup like this:

  • Center: Bynum: 7’0
  • Power Forward: Gasol: 7’0
  • Small Forward: Ariza: 6’7
  • Shooting Guard: Bryant: 6’7
  • Point Guard: Odom: 6’10
That’s preposterous. Not only is this lineup huge, but it's highly skilled. Odom is more than capable of bringing the ball up and setting up the offense just as Ariza and Kobe are capable of guarding smaller players. This eliminates the Lakers’s weakness at the PG spot and pretty much guarantees that they’ll get nearly every rebound. If the Lakers lose more than twice the rest of the way in the Western Conference I’ll be surprised.

I don’t have much to say about Utah except that I don’t understand why you’d live there unless you love skiing and are Mormon. Why else would you bother? But I will say this, they’ve made a great uniform switch over the years. Their present gear is pretty awesome. Good job there, guys.

Detroit and Cleveland
Everytime I watch LeBron play I feel like Anton Ego, the restaurant critic in “Ratatouille,” when he takes his first bite of the dish of the same name at the end of the movie.
LeBron is so mesmerizing it makes me weep and transports me to a time where basketball is pure and beautiful to watch. He’s the most gifted and perfect basketball creation. I am amazed that this team has been able to do so much when it trots out a starting five with a center who is not a post presence, a power forward who is absolutely no threat offensively (to the point where, if left completely alone at 15 feet will frantically look around for someone to pass to), LeBron, an undersized, streaky, and sort of diseased-looking guy with a neck-tat, and Mo Williams. That’s not an imposing team. Not even close and they won 67 games. In order for us, the basketball watching world, to fully experience the Holy LeBron Experience, he needs to have more awesome guys around him. I don’t know if he’ll leave Cleveland (I hope he doesn’t, because I’m sentimental and I know a guy from Cleveland), but I do hope that they continue to bring in guys that can play.

I didn’t catch much, if any, of this series, but Detroit simply had no chance. It will be interesting to see what they do next year now that they have money to spend after shedding ‘Sheed and Iverson. By the way, what the hell is going to happen to Iverson next year? Obviously someone will sign him, but who? No team with a young nucleus is going to sign him because he won’t be worth it and will stifle the growth of any young player. Look, I love A.I. and it’s fun watching him play, but he’s not and never has been the best example. He could probably work in a place like Houston because sometimes that squad gets bogged down and has trouble scoring, something A.I. has never had a problem with. I can’t see him co-existing with McGrady, but isn’t McGrady all but finished?

Anyway, as much as I’d like to see the NBA playoffs changed, I’ll still watch what’s on and the games will get a lot more interesting once the pretenders get weeded out.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Failing Franchise [Tag]

Why is Tim Ruskell so scared of the franchise tag? This Leroy Hill thing has me flustered. I love the guy. He’s as sure a tackler as there is in the game and he drops bombs on ballcarriers. He’s instinctive and makes plays. It defies reason to let this guy, at 27 years old at the beginning of the season, potentially walk away for nothing (or what would amount to a compensatory pick in next year’s draft).

Because they were unable to get a long-term deal done, they did the reasonable and responsible thing; they franchised him. Now Ruskell says that they removed the tag because things weren’t progressing. He cited that Hill didn’t show up for voluntary workouts as one of the reasons for removing the tag. That doesn’t even begin to make sense. Since when do franchise players ever take part in voluntary workouts or even mini-camp and most (if not all of) training camp? However, like all GMs in the league, Ruskell is not being 100% truthful with his statements. It’s impossible that he believes that because Hill did not report to volunteer camp that they need to go in another direction. It’s clear that he’d like Hill here, but ONLY at the right price. I get the sense that if Hill asks for a dollar over, then they won’t pay it and be fine with him leaving. I don’t agree with that philosophy and they are misreading Hill’s talent and what he means to this team.

It’s pretty clear that there are other things at work here. The two sides must be so far apart in negotiations rendering it nearly impossible that a deal will get done. As we all know, it’s all about guaranteed money in NFL contracts so that must be the sticking point. The reported contact that he turned down was six years at $36M. I haven’t seen the signing bonus or any other guaranteed amount assigned to that contract, but it must not be that high. I’m guessing that the guaranteed amount was somewhere in the neighborhood of $10M and Hill told them to put that figure in a diaper, where it belongs. He’s probably thinking that he’s worth at least $25M that amount, maybe more, and he’ll definitely get it elsewhere, if given the chance. Well, removing the franchise tag gives him that chance, and it’s a dumbass move.

We’ve seen this movie before with Steve Hutchinson and I didn’t like it then. I don’t like this now. Hill may not be as important to the defense as Hutchinson was to the offense, but it’s pretty close. It wouldn’t make sense to break the bank for Hill, but that’s not what the issue is here. I didn’t want them to overspend, but I did want them to keep Hill, and the franchise tag accomplishes that.

It’s hard to understand Ruskell’s willingness to give away every bit of leverage that he had. If the franchise tag causes ill will, who cares? At least Hill would still be guaranteed to be on the roster. He’s not going to sit out a season if he stands to lose $8.3M. He was on his first contract as a third-round pick; he hadn’t had his big (relatively) payday yet. He’s not going to turn that down, we’re not talking about a first round pick who made tons of money before earning it. We’re talking about a guy who is hungry to play well because of his pride (I guess) and because he wants to get paid. He’d be playing for next year’s deal with another team or the long-term deal he was seeking with the Seahawks. At the very least, he’d be franchised again and make close to $9M the next year.


If he walks, I will be furious and so will anyone else who follows this team. Yes, I want Ken Lucas back here, but not at the price of losing Hill.

I like some of the things Ruskell has done since he’s been here. He’s drafted some good players in Tatupu, Hill, Mebane, Carlson… but there have been some huge misses and I’m concerned that he’s blowing it a little. I still have faith, but it will be rocked if Hill bolts.

The optimist in me says that Hill wants to stay in Seattle because he sees that he’ll have a good opportunity to blow up in a new defensive scheme. From all accounts he likes being here and has reiterated that several times. Optimism says that he’ll stay. The pessimist (or more accurately, the realist) in me says that he’s gone and that he’ll sign elsewhere for the money that he’s seeking. I can’t blame the guy for doing so. He is now an unrestricted free agent and he wants to get paid. He’s earned that payday and if a team doesn’t swoop in and offer him a decent offer, I’d be shocked. Of course, Seattle screwed him a little by waiting until after the draft to remove the tag, but still. He’s a prized commodity and a team like Kansas City should sprint to get to him.

Another bizarre thing that Ruskell said was that they wouldn’t have done this if they hadn’t drafted Aaron Curry. Essentially he’s saying that they are comfortable if Hill leaves. If that was the case, then why didn’t they go after another LB in the draft? I’m very confused that they picked up Nick Reed. What good is a 6’1 245 lb DE in the NFL unless his name is Dwight Freeney? He’s a 4.71 40 guy (not a 4.38 40 guy, like Freeney) I could see if the Hawks ran a 3-4 defense and wanted to line the guy up as an outside LB in that scheme, but won’t he just get his ass kicked against NFL tackles since he’s undersized and not overly fast? Plus, I don’t know if I can get behind a guy who wore a longish t-shirt under his jersey.










I suppose they didn’t see any other player of value at that level, but I don’t see how this guy gets on the field. I’d love to be wrong about this.



 
My Zimbio
Top Stories