Friday, May 8, 2009

Renardo Sidney

It’s nice to see teams use their heads every once and awhile. Renardo Sidney is a 6’10 hihg school senior forward from LA who recently had his scholarship offer from USC revoked after UCLA did the same. I read about him a few months ago in The New York Times Play Magazine and the singular thing that stuck out about him was that at age 18, he sucks his thumb and carries a woobie with him. Here’s the quote:

“I’ve been sucking my thumb since I was a kid,” he says. “Sometimes, I do it
just to do it. Like, when I’m mad.” He also travels with a lucky blanket. His
father — Renardo the elder — is seated across the table. He chuckles. “It’s a
sheet,” he clarifies.

I'm glad we cleared that up. Evidently he’s, quite literally, a Baby Huey type. He’s one of those kids who has a tremendous amount of baby fat on him to the extent that his face is almost completely round. Scouting reports and hyperbolic articles say that he has natural ability on the court, but reading deeper, the kid seemed to have a gigantic attitude problem and he’s not helped out by what seems to be an overly meddling dad who only enables his bad-attitude kid.

I had my biases against him and then I saw him play in the McDonald’s All-America game and my biases were cemented. I hated this kid’s game. He managed to look lazy in an all-star game, when everyone plays lazily. I didn’t understand why college coach would want him on their team, and now it appears that at least two, UCLA’s Ben Howland and USC’s Tim Floyd, do not. Their decisions make perfect sense to me. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to have a 6’10 270 kid on your team who will very likely frustrate you every minute of the day he’s on the court because he has the size and natural ability to be good but plays like a lazy, fat, spoiled, entitled, washed-up YMCA guy had some interesting insight on the kid the other day calling him “Antoine Walker in the later stages of his career.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. There is no player in the history of the NBA whose game I disliked more than Walker. His insistence of launching 3s to the complete detriment of his team was nauseating. His shimmy shake thing he did was worse. I hated his game in the early stages of his career, but he got much worse over time. The point is Sidney is like that now. At 19. No NBA team should touch him. He’s not worth the roster spot. He will not change his stripes, and if he does, it won’t be for five years or so, in other words, too far down the line for any GM or coach who lobbied to get him to reap the rewards because they will be fired by then. Teams should run away and not look back.

I don’t like hating on kids, but I love hoops, and this guy’s game is utterly detestable. I thought that having LeBron James being the gold standard in basketball these days that the trend would be kids would try and emulate his unselfish, all-around game. Maybe that is happening to some extent, but until some sycophantic members of the media stop deifying dudes like Sidney the LeBronization of the game is not complete.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Leftover NBA Thoughts

A few lingering thoughts from the extraordinarily entertaining Bulls / Celtics series:

Joakim Noah
People dislike this man and even derisively refer to him as a woman, I guess because he’s got long hair and wears it in a ponytail.

He is brash, he is exuberant, he has possibly one of the ugliest looking shots I’ve ever seen, he has the aforementioned ponytail, and he screams a lot, much to the annoyance of nearly everyone around him, probably even his teammates. If I rooted for the guy, I’d cringe every time he let out a primal scream after a putback dunk or a block. I’d want him to put a lid on it and just play, but that’s not him, and it’s frustrating and annoying. It is definitely easy to hate him.

But here’s why I don’t. He’s a great team player and he makes his team better. He is never going to be an elite or even functional scoring option on a good team because he has no post moves to speak of and he certainly cannot hit a jumper (from any distance) with any degree of consistency. But as a result, he does not do these things because he is very aware of his limitations, which makes him a smart player. He knows his role as a defensive role player, agitator, rebounder, and garbage point collector. In addition to being a savvy player, he also has the benefit of being 6’11, possessing boundless energy, and surprising quickness and agility, all of which makes him very effective. He’s a perfect player for this young Bulls team because they have several other scoring threats so his scoring is not necessary. In fact, if he had the ability to score, it may create discord amongst the team because he would think he needs more shots. He may develop offensively over time, but because he’s so unselfish now, their present team is better for it.

I’m not a fan of his, because I do not like the screaming, but I do appreciate his value and would be pleased to have him on my team, if I had one to root for, and I don’t.

Rajon Rondo
He’s got some interesting qualities. Every time I see him I think of the video game Street Fighter II because he reminds me of Dhalsim, the Indian dude with the crazy long arms and legs. Is Rondo just straight up African American or is there something else going on there? My friend, Chris, thinks that he looks like a good-looking Alien, not an ugly one like Sam Cassel. He’s on to something.

My wife thinks that his face is very feminine, which is also true and made me think of Jaye Davidson, the guy who played the chick in The Crying Game and the sun god Ra in Stargate that could have been super cool but instead was just kind of cool (I blame James Spader). He shares a lot of similarities with that androgynous person. However, I'm not saying that Rondo could slip on a dress and pass for an attractive female. He’s end up looking like ET when Drew Barrymore dolled him up. I find that I’m digging myself a hole here and I don’t mean to disparage Rondo’s looks, but he just looks a lot different than a lot of other brothers out there.

Nevertheless, he’s a wonderful point guard player who I’ve decided is better than Deron Williams right now even if Williams is much, much, much more of a threat with his jumper than Rondo is with his.

That’s not to say that I don’t love Williams’s game; I do, but Rondo looks like he has a sort of indestructibility, defensive prowess, and cocky, bad-assness to him, sort of like GP did back in the day. Taken a step further, GP had a compound-fracture level broken jumper when he started out in the league, just as Rondo does. Jumpers, like bones, can be mended over time (just look at Tony Parker). Attitude and drive are harder, if not impossible, to acquire. Rondo has these qualities already.

Just for fun, here is my top five list of young (meaning under 25) PGs in the league in descending order of my admiration:

  1. Chris Paul, age 24 (May 6, 1985) – despite a horrid performance by his team in the playoffs he is the best. He controls every single thing on the floor. His team was hurt and overmatched against a hungry, tougher team on a mission, who look to be on their way to the conference finals by the way. We’ll see what happens next year and if Byron Scott will be back. There has got to be a bunch of coaches who are more qualified than Scott, of course, if there is a buyout involved, then there are issues here because the ownership is notoriously cheap. I love Paul’s game and he remains at the top of the list for me.
  2. Derrick Rose, age 20 (October 4, 1988) – he’s got all of the ability in the world to be the best and he’s only 20. Like Rondo, his jumper is suspect, but it’s not broke. He just needs to spend a ton of time this offseason working on it. It will come. One nitpicky thing about him that will likely dissipate with age and experience is his eagerness to defer. As good of a ball handler he is, I’d prefer him to dominate the ball more than he does. I also understand that he’s got Ben Gordon on his team who lives to shoot and does so voluminously, and will probably bitch if he doesn’t get his looks. My point is, too often he’ll bring the ball up the court and pass it to Gordon or someone else and then disappear for the remainder of the possession. Look, I know that point guards are supposed to pass, but the pass that I just described doesn’t doing anything, except allow Gordon to dribble around and launch up a shot. I also understand that this may be what Vinny calls in from the sideline, whatever the reason, it shouldn’t happen with the frequency that we see it. Taking the ball out of Rose’s hands does nothing but benefit the defense. It lets them off of the hook. He should penetrate at least 70% of the time because by doing so he’ll get to the rim or he’ll find an open guy. Every time. In a few years, we’ll see this, he is only a rookie and a very young one at that. The bottom line is this: He’s great right now and will only get better.
  3. Rajon Rondo, age 23 (February 22, 1986) – he’s in the three spot solely based on what I’ve seen out of him during these playoffs. He’s been nothing short of fantastic, but his lack of any sort of offensive perimeter game limits him presently.
  4. Deron Williams, age 24 (June 26, 1984) – I’d love to have him on any team I root for. He’s got great size and strength and plays good defense. It’s just that his top-end is below what the other three have to offer.
  5. Russell Westbrook, age 20 (November 12, 1988) – I can only go on what I’ve read about him and what I saw of him at UCLA since I haven’t seen a single game of his. He was an explosive guy and a terrific defender at UCLA and it seems as though that has carried over to the NBA. As an aside, I just looked at their roster and Shaun Livingston is on their team. That poor dude. He was on his way to becoming a very good point guard in the league if he didn’t suffer that dry-heave inducing leg injury (link). That, and looking exactly like Wallace, doomed him. (images). Upon further review, his birthday isn’t helping matters either… September 11, 1985. On the bright side, he’s got two years to be a member of this exclusive list of mine, so there’s that. But really, is Livingston capable of making a comeback? And if so, will the Sonics have the skinniest 1 and 3 east of Serbia? Neither Durant nor Livingston was able to press 185 off of their chests at the NBA Pre-Draft Combine. I’m pulling for the guy to make it back simply because, in limited time, he looked like he had a great feel for the game. He also seemed like a good dude and the league could always use more legit PGs who can see the floor and make plays. Here’s hoping that he continues to round back into shape and not explode on impact.

Guys that didn’t make my list but whom I’ve heard good things about and will try to watch them even though it’s impossible because they are never on TV:

  1. DJ Augsustin, age 21 (November 10, 1987) – I remember him at Texas, and am surprised that he’s been able to do what he has in the NBA, of course he plays in Charlotte (for now) and that team will never be relevant because it’s very likely that their ownership and management don’t know what they’re doing. Plus, I hate the sanctimonious Larry Brown
  2. O.J. Mayo, age 21 (November 5, 1987) – I’m told that he’s a point guard. I don’t know how that is the case. When he was at USC he didn’t really play the point, but he did have the ball a lot. He’s also got Mike Conley on the team, whose strength is not shooting. If I cared about Memphis in the least I’d put more thought into this. Mayo just seems like he fits the trendy combo guard label than point guard, but does that really matter? All of those combo guards can all thank Chauncey for this, by the way.

Guys that I’m interested in, but probably only because they are from the Seattle area and don’t have the special gifts that the top five have but I’m going to mention them anyway because I am intrigued by them and they are still young and this is my site and I’ll do what I want.

  1. Aaron Brooks, age 24 (January 14, 1985) – He’s incredibly quick, but small, and has a great jumper. I see no reason why he shouldn’t be Jason Terry for years to come (yes, I made that reference because they both are from the same high school in Seattle, but you have to admit, it works).
  2. Rodney Stuckey, age 23 (April 21, 1986) – Not overly impressive, but he’ll get better. He’s physically gifted and has great size. I’m very intrigued by his potential. People ought to settle down with the Dwyane Wade comparisons. Just because he resembles him physically doesn’t mean he’s the same player. He has attributes, but Wade is super duper special. Stuckey can also thank Chauncey (for the combo guard thing and also for the leaving Detroit thing).

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Derby

I watched the ponies run this weekend with some good friends over beers and pizza. Someone asked this hypothetical question: “Would you rather go to the Kentucky Derby or the Indy 500?” Since none of us are fans of racing, equine or automobile, we all understood that the venue’s atmosphere would be the only thing to consider. More specifically, we were interested in the talent-level and attire of the spectators. At least for me, this question is best posed to the single, early-to-mid twenties me as opposed to the married, about to have a kid, mid-thirties me.

That being said, we all picked the Derby.

As NBC scanned the crowd, we saw a lot of dresses and big hats. The really disappointing aspect of the Derby, at least this year, was the weather. As we all know, hot, sunny weather (and scores of Mint Juleps) brings out the weaponry. Because of the rain, it seemed, to me anyway, that the crowd held back a bit. Don’t get me wrong, we still saw some things that still enticed us to go, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel letdown.

Maybe we’ll get together during the Indy 500 to see what there is to see there. As I said on Saturday, I’d expect to see a lot of Daisy Duke-esque jean shorts with the insides of the front pockets visibly sticking out. Tube tops and half shirts would also rule the day. Hmmm. Why did we all choose the Derby again? I guess that’s not fair because I’m told the infield in both places sport the same cast of characters. I suppose the difference I’m speaking about are in the actual seats (or luxury boxes in Kentucky).

There’s another element at work here that goes hand-in-hand with the talent issue that may increase or decrease your level of viewing enjoyment. That element is the talent’s date, otherwise known as husband or boyfriend of the talent. Answer me this, of these two profiles who are you more afraid of?

  1. Drunk guy (off of Busch Light), age 22-35, crappy manual labor job, wearing 501s and an Urlacher jersey, sunburned, mad at the world, jealous of everyone.

  2. Drunk guy (off of life and Mint Juleps), age 40-50, mutual fund manager (they still get paid, a lot), wearing a seersucker suit, spa-treatment skin, pleased with himself and his place in the world, apathetic (at best) toward everyone.

I’d fear No. 1 simply because he’s got absolutely nothing to lose by picking a fight with you for looking in the direction of his “special lady.” No. 2 would probably be so distracted by the scent of his own cash that he wouldn’t even notice if you switched hats with his date. Also, it’s likely that you could simply give No. 2 two for flinching, of course, he may have bodyguards, which changes things, but only slightly. Edge to the Derby, yet again.

Incidentally, I demand to know why NBC didn’t find out the reason behind Michael Jordan’s suit and why didn’t we get a full body shot on TV. We saw that preposterous jacket and tie, but we never got to see the suit in its full shoulder to feet glory. That thing looked like it came from Leroy’s Menswear on 3rd and Pike in Seattle.

One last thing about the race, which was interesting, but maybe due more to the jockey than the actual race itself. First, are all jockeys cocky? I don’t know who Calvin Borel was pointing at, but I’d like to think he was doing the equivalent of a Deion Sanders high stepping to the end zone. If so, god bless Calvin Borel because that was awesome. There’s nothing like a 4’10 guy telling other 4’10 guys that they can’t touch this.

Speaking of Borel, does he or does he not look like Gollum? My buddy Kevin and I thought of that at the same time on Saturday. I vote yes, but with a few caveats. Gollum may have been taller. Gollum clearly has upper teeth, whereas it’s unclear if Borel has any. I could understand Gollum a little more clearly than I can understand Borel; his animated Cajun twang was nearly indecipherable. One last thing, Chris noted that in addition to Gollum, he looks like the late Jim Varney of Earnest Goes to __ fame. By the way, take a look at how many of those Earnest movies were made That’s a startling amount of films for something so preposterous. One last thing about the broadcast, aside from the Olympic gymnastics, Bob Costas must love covering horseracing. These are the only times when he completely dwarf his interview subjects.

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