Monthly Archives: June 2012

Heat Win, Thunder Lose….Now What?

The NBA Finals are over and it’s been an entertaining month for all of us watching. But now I’m left asking one question – what’s next? I don’t mean ‘next’ literally, as in, what will I watch now that the Finals are over, but rather, what comes next for these two teams.

As much as many people hated them and cheered against them, the Heat proved that they are undoubtedly the NBA’s best team. All the pieces finally came together. LeBron got a look on his face in game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and began playing better than we’ve ever seen him. Chris Bosh returned from injury and proved to everyone that although awkward and at times, downright weird, he is a great player that adds a dimension to Miami’s team that they just can’t find elsewhere on their roster. Shane Battier and Mike Miller showed everyone that they can be valuable role players. And Dwyane Wade….well, I guess he proved that, as he’s been saying for two years, indeed, this isn’t his team anymore.

With LeBron playing at this level, Bosh complementing him nicely and Wade playing the role of Scottie Pippen, we have no reason to believe this team won’t be in contention for years to come (likely winning several more titles). ESPN’s Colin Cowherd also mentioned this morning that they shouldn’t have trouble bringing in solid, veteran role players. Those guys want to win a championship AND LeBron is such a good distributor that they know they’ll get their looks at the basket too.

The Thunder, it would seem, will also be in contention for years to come with a solid, young nucleus in place. But I have to ask, is their young nucleus, the right one? They have a lot of good, young players, but do these players mesh together? I think Sam Presti has to ask himself this question after watching the finals.

In game 4, Russell Westbrook played a great game. Everyone talked about how well he played. What those people failed to notice though, is what that game did to them in the greater scheme of things. Westbrook came out in game 5 looking to play the same way. The problem was he wasn’t playing the same way. He wasn’t on like he was in game 4. Yet he kept shooting and shooting and shooting. Ignoring open teammates, making dumb mental mistakes.

If anything, I think these Finals proved that while Westbrook is very good, he’s in it for himself. He wants to score points. He wants to be the guy. He doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Kevin Durant. Westbrook isn’t the guy though. He doesn’t have that in him. He’s too selfish.

If I’m Sam Presti, I have to ask myself, is this guy the point guard that can win us a title? Think long and hard about it, Sam. Would you be better off with a distributor and creator at point guard? A team player? I can’t help but think the Thunder would’ve been better off if they had Rajon Rondo at point guard against the Heat. Rondo keeps teams on their toes (yet often leaves them on their heels) with his unpredictable style. He finds extremely narrow passing lanes, makes his teammates better, yet can still score if teams start to overplay the passing lanes. Westbrook didn’t force the Heat to change their approach. They wanted to prevent Durant from getting the ball (which they did a good job of) and make others beat them. Once they saw Westbrook wasn’t going to pass the ball, they had him where they wanted him. He was getting double teamed and still wouldn’t pass.

Thinking back about the comment Colin Cowherd made about the Heat not having trouble bringing in veteran players, I can’t help but consider how it applies to the Thunder. People see that Westbrook is greedy. They know they won’t get their touches from him. Will they be able to bring in some of the free agents that they need?

Some people hate the Westbrook bashing (see: Jeff Van Gundy), but the player showed it was warranted. Prove me wrong, Russell. Show everyone that you can be a real point guard, a guy that distributes the ball and finds the open man. So far, you haven’t shown that.


I know, I know. More NBA. But c’mon, it’s like asking Jon Stewart to not cover politics. I was inspired by LeBron this morning. This is what The King said in response to Serge Ibaka’s comments about his defense:

“I don’t really care what he says, he’s stupid. Everyone says something to me every series then (the media) tries to get a quote. It’s stupid.”

This lead to a conversation with a friend of mine about  the stupidest NBA players. Our list started with Metta World Peace aka Ron Artest. Aaaand that’s where it ended. Seriously, we couldn’t think of anymore players. So here’s a top five list of Ron Ron’s stupidest comments/moments (excluding the Detroit Brawl) in no specific order:

1. Labor Day? @MettaWorldPeace: Happy labor day….Enjoy it” On Memorial Day, the Laker’s Forward wished everyone a Happy Labor Day. May… September… Yeah, Ron Ron needs to hire a Community Manager and an Executive Assistant to manage his social media and keep him aware of the calendar.

2. “I don’t shake substitutes’ hands.” Dude, James Harden is the 6th Man of the Year Award winner. That mean’s he’s putting up numbers you couldn’t put up off the bench for the Lakers or when you were a starter.

3. He changed his name to Metta World Peace and actually responds to it.

4. He wore number 37 one season with the Lakers to honor the number of weeks Michael Jackson’s Thriller was number 1 on the charts. Okay, so maybe this wasn’t so stupid, given that MJ passed away that summer.  I can appreciate MWP honoring MJ, but seriously Ron Ron is weird.

5. A Gem for after the Lakers beat the Celtics in the 2009 – 2010 finals, “A voice came down and told me to shoot the ball,” he said. ” ‘Shoot the ball,’ he said. God told me to shoot the ball and I shot the ball.” He reminds me of GW when he announced his bid for Presidency.

I’m sure I could go on but, hopefully these five made you chuckle. I look forward to the offseason for more of MWP’s ridiculous tweets and appearances. I do hope the Lakers trade him. There may be an opportunity for LA to gain some depth. Clearly he’s no longer the defensive force he once was. But hey, who am I kidding? The old, tired, soft, and immature Laker squad will be back to fall short again next season. Yay, Mitch Kupchak!

Time to Step Down, David Stern

Disclaimer: On our Facebook page today, we said we would write about more than the NBA – and we will – but the NBA just keeps providing us with all these storylines to write about. So, yes, we have another post on the NBA. Apologies to non-NBA fans…

David Stern, I feel like the time has come for you to finally step down as commissioner of the NBA. Over the years we’ve seen your personality. You’re a curmudgeon. It’s what you are, you can’t help that. One can’t change their personality. At times we’ve even appreciated your curmudgeonly attitude, liked it to a degree. But the past few years, it’s reached the point where you just seem angry at the world – and above the world. Superior to all of us common folk. You don’t have time for fans; you certainly don’t have the time to bother yourself with answering media questions. You’re way too important to spend 5 minutes doing a radio interview.

Today, I think you reached the point where it became clear for all to see that you’ve passed your prime. Jim Rome interviewed you for his radio show. He asked you a question about the conspiracy theories that surround the NBA draft. He pushed just a little (which, by Rome standards, didn’t seem like a push at all, seemed more like casual conversation) – which is his job, by the way, and this ensued. It’s worth just going to that link and listening to the clip. You didn’t like Rome’s questioning, so you blurted out, “do you still beat your wife?” What? Seriously? I understand what you were trying to do. If you ask me a dumb question, I’m going to ask you one. But to ask that question? That crossed the line. But you weren’t done. Later in the interview, you essentially insinuated that Rome’s a hack. Not a legitimate journalist, but someone that progressed in their career by blowing things out of proportion and reporting on falsities and rumor. Stern ended the interview by saying he had to go talk with a reputable journalist. He had to go talk with Stephen A. Smith. Needless to say, by the end of the interview, Rome was pissed. And rightfully so. But he actually held it together pretty well. I was impressed.

What you said during that interview was completely inappropriate and uncalled for. You got petty and immature. You embarrassed yourself and by extension, the league and the owners. If one of your owners or players acted like that you would demand an apology from them. So where’s yours? I expect to hear of one soon.

David, part of your job as NBA commissioner is to be an ambassador of the league. During that interview, is that how you acted? You act like you’re above people, like you’re smarter than everyone else in the room and need to prove it. Guess what? The smartest person in the room never has to prove it. The one that has to prove it is the one who knows he’s not. Deep down I think you know the game is passing you by. You hear the media – of the big four commissioners of the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB – you’re no longer tops. They love Roger Goodell. Are you jealous? Angry? Bitter?

Don’t get me wrong. You’ve done a great job over the years, but after Jordan retired, for 10+ years your league struggled. You let some things get out of hand. Finally a new crop of young talent is saving you. It’s really your demeanor and ego though that’s killing you. You’re setting a bad standard for the league and serving as a poor mouthpiece. And because of those things, I stand by what I said earlier. I think it’s time for new blood to run the league.

Flopping and Flailing, the NBA’s Problem with Charging and Blocking

Earlier today we got a request on our Facebook page (that’s right, we have a Facebook page, and  we actually have some original conversations over there instead of just syndicating our blog posts to it) for some perspective on an article from SB Nation about flopping in basketball written by professional basketball player Dan Grunfeld. Grunfeld’s piece is titled, Why NBA Players Flop, And What The League Can Do About It. He essentially says that players flop because they’re able to get away with it. As far as what the league can do about it, he provides a number of options ranging from assessing technical fouls to permitting coaches to issue challenges to post game league reviews resulting in fines.

I look at ‘flopping’ somewhat differently. Yes, it’s done in basketball, but I don’t think it’s the pandemic that some make it out to be (I’m looking at you, Jeff Van Gundy). It definitely doesn’t even begin to approach the problem that soccer has with flopping. Those guys are just ridiculous. I feel like about 75% of the time there’s a charging or blocking foul in basketball it’s a legitimate play. Two competitive people getting after it and contact was made where someone fell down. I’m not saying there aren’t flops. There definitely are, but let’s not exaggerate (again, looking at you, Jeff Van Gundy).

Getting back to Grunfeld’s question – why do NBA players flop – I think it’s because they have to. Referees now favor the offensive player so much that the offensive charge is one of the few advantages they have left to play. Think about it. Traveling is so prevalent now that sometimes I feel like over the course of a game players take more steps holding the ball than they do dribbling it. Used to be that refs allowed two steps on a drive to the basket. Now it seems like they allow four or more. Double dribble. Players turn the ball over in their hands every time they dribble the ball now. It’s rarely called, but frequently occurs.

Most important to this particular topic, think about a player driving to the basket. Players are throwing their bodies into the lane and the defenders in their way. Just flailing their bodies, throwing the ball up and counting on getting a blocking foul called. Continuation calls make it even worse. Offensive players do it because they know they get the benefit of the call more often than not. Referees are much more inclined to call a blocking foul than a charge. I’ve seen this so many times this year in the playoffs that I can’t even count that high. Wade, LeBron, Westbrook, Pierce and more. They’re all doing it. So yeah, sometimes a defender will ‘flop’ to try and draw a foul. Why aren’t we criticizing those out of control players the same way we are those that flop? Seems a bit like a double standard to me. Dwyane Wade throwing his body into Brandon Bass and tossing the ball up behind his head is a smart play, but if Shane Battier slides in front of a driving, out of control Paul Pierce people think it’s a dirty or underhanded play? That’s just as smart of a play as Wade’s.

Look at the actual definition of charging and the sentiment behind the rule. It was instituted to keep offensive players in control. The NBA has a breakdown of charging and blocking rules here. You’ll notice there’s no mention of the defender needing to have both feet planted on the ground to draw a charge – a common misconception among fans, players, coaches and media. In this post based on information heard from the NBA’s director of officiating programs and development, it’s stated that referees actually watch a defender’s torso. So a defender actually can be moving when drawing a charge – as long as the torso is in a set defensive position. Before you ask, yes, that is possible.

To eliminate flopping, I think the NBA also needs to crack down on offensive players that are flailing and out of control. Why should someone get rewarded for blindly and wildly charging the lane? Better yet, why should a defender get penalized for attempting to defend that type of poor basketball play? If referees show they won’t allow this abuse of the rules, then defenders won’t feel the need to flop either.

Of course, the NBA would never allow this because it could cut down on the number of tomahawk jam ending drives down the lane. So we’ll have to deal with flailing. And flopping.

‘The Look’ and the Expectations It’s Set

Two days ago we witnessed one of the greatest playoff performances of all time. LeBron James single handedly beat the Boston Celtics. They couldn’t stop him. They couldn’t even contain him. He was able to do whatever he wanted and the most impressive part of the performance is that Boston was playing good defense. They were on him. Hands in his face, bodying him, staying with him step for step. And he was still burning them.

This was a LeBron I don’t think we’ve ever seen. He’s always been a great player, but we’ve never seen him as this unstoppable force. When he stepped foot on the court Thursday he was different. He had a different look to him – ‘The Look.’ The look on his face, which didn’t leave until about midway through the fourth quarter, was sullen, removed and pouty. (Side note: will we see this from him more? Will it rise to the level of The Manning Face?) I’ve seen some describe LeBron’s look Thursday night as emotionless. I didn’t see it as that. To me, it seemed more like an act. “I’m going to have this look on my face the whole game as a statement.” It struck me that way because you could see him make an effort to keep the look on his face. He’d drive the lane and get fouled, face contorting, as always players typically do in that situation. As soon as the whistle blew, you could see him consciously make the effort to put that look back on his face. To me, it didn’t seem emotionless, it seemed more pouty.

I don’t know if that was LeBron’s effort to look intense or if it was the result of being beaten down for the past two days by fans and media (didn’t help him that after Kevin Durant closed out San Antonio some were now saying he jumped past LeBron as best in the league and has undoubtedly been the best player in the playoffs). But either way, it didn’t strike me as genuine. Some players have an intense look to them that is transparent and honest. You can tell that they’re intense in all facets of their lives – Michael Jordan had that, Kobe has that, even Kevin Garnett has that look. LeBron never has. He’s a little more happy go lucky. Not to say he doesn’t take the game seriously – he does – but he likes to have fun while he’s playing. He’s never had that stone cold vibe to him like Michael or Kobe. And that’s fine. Everyone is their own man and succeeds in his own way. Magic Johnson didn’t strike me as being a stone cold killer either and he succeeded without it.

Now, if ‘the look’ was the result of two days of intense criticism and scrutiny, that seems more plausible than the sudden emergence of high intensity, but as I mentioned earlier, it was visible that there was effort to keep ‘the look.’ If it was a beaten down LeBron, he never would’ve come out of that mode and there were moments you could see he did.

Moving beyond the look on LeBron’s face, there was something more important about his performance Thursday night: now we’ve seen he can do it… After that game, I was asking, “where has this been before?” The guy’s always been great, but not dominating at such a high level. What happened? He destroyed one of the NBA’s best defensive teams. The rest of his team was flat and offered little help. Wade has been stymied and frustrated by Boston’s double teams the whole series and he didn’t have a good game. Bosh might as well have not been there. The cast of supporting players filled their roles, but did nothing spectacular. LeBron forced a game 7, the Heat didn’t.

He had some great games in Cleveland, some really great games. He led a cast of misfits to the NBA Finals, but I don’t recall seeing anything like Thursday night from him before. I’m trying to keep perspective and not get caught up in the moment, but I don’t ever recall being as impressed with LeBron as I was Thursday night. Had we seen this side of him before, we could be looking at him as the greatest player ever right now. Should he have broken out ‘the look’ before? Has he been coasting, somewhat wasting this insane amount of talent that emerged Thursday night which we haven’t seen anything like since Jordan? The answer is of course no, LeBron is no coaster, he exerts tons of effort, but after such an astonishing performance, I know there were people asking that.

Heading into tonight’s game 7 I have to wonder what we’ll see from LeBron. He’s now shown us he has it in him to just completely and utterly dominate a game. That also means we’re now going to expect it since we know he can do it. So tonight will we see the return of ‘the look’? Can LeBron give us those performances consistently? Or did ‘the look’ set such astronomical expectations that he can only disappoint? After all, most people have now already put the Heat in the Finals against the Thunder. We’ll see tonight. I, for one, don’t envy the position LeBron is in…

Another Update – Top 10 Coaches in NBA History

Last week I wrote a post giving my thoughts on what a revised NBA Top 50 team would look like. A less publicized distinction that was also part of the NBA’s 50 anniversary celebration was the naming of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA history. I, for one, had no idea that this award was given back in 1996. As a side note, the NBA also recognized the Top 10 Teams in league history.

But back to the Top 10 Coaches list. The men that made that list:

Red Auerbach, Chuck Daly, Bill Fitch, Red Holzman, Phil Jackson, John Kundla, Don Nelson, Jack Ramsey, Pat Riley and Lenny Wilkins

I read that list and the thought that came to mind was, “What the hell?” Bill Fitch has a career winning percentage under .500. He’s lost more games than he’s won! Don Nelson has never won an NBA title. He’s won a lot of games, but he’s also lost a lot… Same goes for Lenny Wilkins, but Lenny’s at least won an NBA title.

I initially wanted to look at this list of the top 10 coaches in league history as of 1996 and consider updating it with coaches that weren’t yet coaching in ’96. Guys like Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers. But as I reviewed the list and thought about it more, I realized I didn’t even agree with the original list. Bill Fitch? Bill Fitch! So instead I decided to revise the list by considering coaches that were eligible to be named to that original list, coaches like Jerry Sloan and K.C. Jones, as well as new coaches that weren’t head coaches as of 1996.

Much like I did with the NBA Top 50 team, I’ll compare current coaches named as one of the Top 10 with potential new coaches that could receive the recognition. The difference with this coaching analysis is that I’ll compare all of the top 10 current coaches with those ‘new’ coaches that I think are eligible to be considered for a spot among the top 10.  The new ones I’m considering are Gregg Popovich, K.C. Jones, Jerry Sloan, Billy Cunningham, Doc Rivers, Tom Heinsohn and Larry Brown.

I decided to compare these 16 coaches against each other using wins, career winning percentage, playoff winning percentage and championships as the basis of the analysis. For coaches that were named to the original team in 1996 and were currently coaching, I’m using their updated stats through the end of the 2012 regular season.

Red Auerbach – 938 wins, .662 winning percentage, .589 playoff winning percentage, 9 NBA Championships

Larry Brown – 1,327 wins, .568 winning percentage, .511 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Billy Cunningham – 454 wins, .698 winning percentage, .629 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Chuck Daly – 638 wins, .593 winning percentage, .595 playoff winning percentage, 2 NBA Championships

Bill Fitch – 944 wins, .460 winning percentage, .505 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Tom Heinsohn – 427 wins, .619 winning percentage, .588 playoff winning percentage, 2 NBA Championships

Red Holzman – 696 wins, .535 winning percentage, .547 playoff winning percentage, 2 NBA Championships

Phil Jackson – 1,155 wins, .704 career winning percentage, .688 playoff winning percentage, 11 NBA Championships

K.C. Jones – 552 wins, .643 career winning percentage, .570 playoff winning percentage, 2 NBA Championships

John Kundla – 423 wins, .583 career winning percentage, .632 playoff winning percentage, 4 NBA Championships

Don Nelson – 1,335 wins, .557 career winning percentage, .452 playoff winning percentage, 0 NBA Championships

Gregg Popovich – 847 wins, .680 career winning percentage, .611 playoff winning percentage, 4 NBA Championships

Jack Ramsey – 864 wins, .525 career winning percentage, .431 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Pat Riley – 1,210 wins, .636 career winning percentage, .606 playoff winning percentage, 5 NBA Championships

Doc Rivers – 546 wins, .558 career winning percentage, .545 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

Jerry Sloan – 1,221 wins, .603 career winning percentage, .485 playoff winning percentage, 0 NBA Championships

Lenny Wilkins – 1,332 wins, .536 career winning percentage, .449 playoff winning percentage, 1 NBA Championship

After comparing all these coaches, I have to say, this decision was much easier than the Top 50 players decision. I decided on the first nine pretty quickly and then it came down to Red Holzman vs. Jerry Sloan. Ultimately I decided on Jerry Sloan because he’s had such consistent success over such a long period of time.

The argument could be made that some of these coaches owe all of their success to the supreme talent they’ve had on their teams. And that argument has actually been made against coaches like Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach. I don’t buy that. There are a lot of coaches that have had a ton of talent, but haven’t been able to win consistently or an NBA Championship. It’s more difficult than it looks. Just ask Erik Spoelstra.

Anyway, the 10 coaches I think are the best in NBA history are Red Auerbach, Billy Cunningham, Chuck Daly, Tom Heinsohn, Phil Jackson, K.C. Jones, John Kundla, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley and Jerry Sloan.