Thursday, May 27, 2010

Revolution 2-3

Wouldn't it be ironic if the Phoenix Suns, who we all thought were going to revolutionize the game with their patented "7 seconds or chuck" offensive strategy, instead do so on the opposite end of the court, with the first successful use of zone defense in the NBA Playoffs known to man. It has worked for two games so far. If it's effective for two more games in supplanting legends Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson, and the Triangle Offense, then it will surely spawn followers and possibly even usher in a new era into the NBA.

In order for this to happen, the zone must find a way to lead the Suns to a victory on the road at The Staples Center. Is this possible? I think so. People overreacted to the blowout from Game 1, while the Suns were in Game 2 until the very end. It is possible that the Lakers let all the talk of the series being over (and it was overwhelming) get their heads big. The time could be right for a home letdown. At this point in the Lakers-Thunder series (2-2), all the talk was that the series was up for grabs, while few people think that the Suns even have that chance in this series. This plays to the Suns favor. In order for a big upset to occur, you want a special blend between keeping your confidence high while having as few people as possible on your bandwagon.

So what has made the Suns use of the zone so effective? Well, in essence, the rare usage of it has confused the seasoned Lakers team. They just plain aren't used to seeing it. Suddenly, isolation plays called for Kobe are double covered, and Kung Pau's chicken isn't so spicy. This has led to the wrong people shooting the ball. The Lakers shot 27 more three pointers in the two road losses than in their two home wins, making precisely one more out of those 27. You must work the ball out of Kobe and Kung Pau's hands to find success against the Lakers, they are too good. Every shot Ron Artest or Lamar Odom takes is a win for the Suns defense. The problem with this strategy, is that role players always play better at home than on the road (aside from The Road Warrior, Derek Fisher). The other way a zone defense can backfire is offensive rebounding on the weak side. Penetration will draw a big man over, leaving a smaller player (or even worse, Amare Q'wang-Zilla) to block out a big guy. In fact, I'll go ahead and make that the key stat for Game 5 tonight, with my guess being that will be the Lakers adjustment.

The NBA should be ready to fully embrace this revolution. Don't they know it's gonna be....alright? These playoffs, even with The LeBron Game, have been a humongous disappointment. People don't care anymore. I am friends with an eclectic group of sports fans, and mostly I hear about how they wish they were more into it, but just aren't interested. Look, we all want to change the world, but shouldn't we be hanging on every last dribble with such a wide variety of superstars playing such a popular game? I'm not saying the Suns winning changes anything in actuality, but the NBA does need new blood injected into its veins. The last 26 years have seen only seven different teams win championships. People are bored with it. Look at the NFL, where 15 different teams have won the Super Bowl in the last 26 years. People like parity.

And if you are still unsure, just watch this...

You say you want a revolution? Well, you know...Go Suns!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2010 NBA Draft Bang or Bust

With the lottery just being completed, it got me in the mood to make premature, ridiculous prognostications in the absolute forms of Bang or Bust (No, not Bangbus, sickos). The lottery always gets me excited, but I found few teams to cheer for at the top of this list this year which made it a really easy choice to cheer for the 8-foot mongoloid/former WWF superstar/Russian billionaire playboy/owner of the Nets-Mikhail Prokhorov (pictured). He would make a great villain, but he may have missed his chance by not attacking David Stern or the frail, old lady owner of the Wizards after losing the number 1 pick. Oh well, we'll just have to settle for his blitzkrieg of Yi Jianlian later this year. Anyway, I'll be taking the poor man's approach to ranking the prospects for the 2010 NBA Draft by using somebody else's rankings! That man is Chad Ford of the Evil Empire, ESPN. I'll take his Top 20 prospects and rate them with the Bang or Bust system (Note: Enthusiasm counts. All capitals means extreme BANG or BUST, while lowercase equates more towards mediocrity). Keep in mind that I BANG'd Tyreke Evans last year, and have been BANG'n Kevin Durant since I first laid eyes on him. What? Oh, that's gross...

1. John Wall, PG, Kentucky- BANG! Love his instincts and his endgameability (new word alert). A lesser scoring version of Dwyane Wade. I'm gonna call him 'The Babyfaced Killah' because of his smoothnicity (!) and knack for making plays at the end of games.

2. Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State- BaNG- Love his ability and willingness to get to the rim (the reason I loved Tyreke last year). Don't think he will ever be the best player on a championship team, but could be the do-everything second fiddle. Think poor man's Scottie Pippen.

3. Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech- BUST- Didn't make enough noise to impress me last year. Maybe becomes something down the line. I predict nobody knows his name in 3 years.

4. Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse- BanG- Hard to separate him and Evan Turner. I'll take Turner by a nose though. Will be solid and will do everything. I think Wesley has more upside though, could see him blossoming into a stud.

5. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kentucky- buST- There's a method to his buSTness. I think he will put up good numbers but will eventually evolve into such a headcase that nobody will consider him worthy.

6. Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas- bust- Can't believe he didn't drop more after this past year. Predestined to average 12 points and 8 rebounds and get facialized excessively. A bust if taken this high, but I'd consider bang'n him if he slipped to the teens.

7. Al Farouq-Aminu, SF, Wake Forest- Bust- Name's a bang, game's a bust.

8. Ekpe Udoh, PF, Baylor- BANG- Could develop into a defensive monster if he stays motivated. The tan Cole Aldrich. I think he slides to a decent team which peaks his interest, and he develops into a top 5 player from this draft.

9. Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown- bang- Two ways to look at him. An unselfish big man with great passing skillz. Or a big man that lacks interior moves and doesn't assert himself. I'll go with somewhere in the middle.

10. Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina- BusT- Looked good alongside the conditioned THansbrough. He suffered from North Carolina cancelling their basketball season this year though.

11. Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky- BUST!- Thriving off of his high school reputation. He averaged 3 points a game last year.
12. Luke Babbitt, SF, Nevada- busT- Never heard of him so i hesitate to assign strong labels.
13. Avery Bradley, SG, Texas- bUsT- See what I did there with the UT? I don't get why anybody thinks this guy is good. I watched ten Texas games and don't remember him doing a thing.
14. Hassan Whiteside, C, Marshall- baNg- He looks fun.
15. Gordon Hayward, SF, Butler- bUst- Can ride the bench, but I think he will struggle with the upgrade in athleticism that comes with the leap.
16. Paul George, SF, Fresno State- BUsT- I dig his two first named approach, but never heard of the guy.
17. James Anderson, SG, Oklahoma State- BuSt- Not gonna be able to score like he did in college, and doesn't do enough else to make up for it.
18. Eric Bledsoe, PG, Kentucky- bANG- Seems like the underappreciated one of the Kentucky Kidz. Will be the second best of the gang.
19. Xavier Henry, SG, Unaffiliated- baNG- His non-caring attitude will go over a lot better in the NBA.
20. Damion James, SF, Texas- BANg- I'd take him Top 10. He will be a key addition to a playoff contender immediately.

Sleepers I like:
Quincy Pondexter, SF, Washington
Stanley Robinson, SF, Connecticut
Jordan Crawford, SG, Xavier
Jarvis Varnado, PF, Mississippi State
Denis Clemente, PG, Kansas State
Wayne Chism, PF, Tennessee
Devin Ebanks, SF, West Virginia

His Dirkness

Thursday, May 13, 2010

LeBron vs. The World

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics
Game 6, 2010 NBA Playoffs
The biggest NBA game in 20 years.

The fallout from this game will be much, much bigger than the game itself. This game could singlehandedly shape the league for the next 10 years. We will judge the game not only by who wins or loses, or the score, but by how Sir LeBron plays, and maybe more importantly, the way he carries himself.

All the talk is that The LeBron mailed it in on Tuesday for their Game 5 blowout defeat. I couldn't see the game due to a long, mysterious rampage through Lawrence, but have seen all the highlights and heard all the analysis. I don't think he Kobe'd it (def: n. Purposely playing bad, forcing your teammates to win the game on their own in an effort to upstage them and show their unworthiness, i.e. Lakers vs. Suns Game 7 in the 2007 NBA Playoffs- Kobe takes three shots and scores one point in the second half after scoring 23 in the first half. In a Game 7!) I believe DaBron to be more of the frontrunner type, without having faced much adversity in his professional life, which led to his mishandling of it.

My biggest beef with ZeBron is that he doesn't seem fully committed to winning, while he, and the media, act as if he is as accomplished as anybody in history. He prides himself on upstaging opponents while dancing on the sidelines before and during games. I see little reason why he should ever shoot jump shots, when he's nearly unstoppable when attacking the basket. His biggest comparison was Magic Johnson, because of his court vision, and ability to pass the ball, yet upon his arrival to the league, he's seemed more interested in scoring and dunking than righting the chemistry and confidence of his teammates. The worst part is that this leads to very boring play. I previously called him 'the most exciting boring superstar in sports' and did so because his teammates will just stand around and wait for him to do something. It's not good basketball. Borderline all-stars (Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison, Shaq's remaining parts) have joined him only to see their play decline. I don't fully blame him for this, but I do believe it is underdiscussed. This is what happens when unfair expectations are handed to teenagers.

If the LeBrons lose this game, I see little reason for him to return to the Cavs. The only reasoning would be his want to win a Championship for his hometown team. This game trumps all other games due to his pending free agency, and how every team is cheering for the Celtics to close the series, praying for a shot at LeBron (or the best consolation prize of all-time in D-Wade). People have been discussing what LeBron would do this offseason since he signed his last contract three years ago. It could all come down to this game. The funny part, after all of this derogatory chatter, is that he could come out and dominate tonight, win Game 7, and go on to win the NBA Championship this year. It's hard to imagine the Celtics rebounding for a Game 7 victory on the road if they lose tonight. It all comes down to this game.

So what will happen? I see LeBron coming out as aggressive as ever, taking it to the basket hard each possession, and getting the calls to encourage him to continue to do so. Everything from this game will be heavily analyzed, including the refs, the fans, Bron's supporting cast, and lets not forget that the Celtics are actually playing in this game. I smell a Cavalier 7 point halftime lead. I smell LeBron going off for 37 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. I smell Bron's teammates not able to rise to the occassion. I smell the Celtics laying it all on the line in front of a crazy atmosphere. I smell a Celtics comeback victory. And I smell, no, the whole room reeks, of LeBron wearing a Knicks jersey come next year, sitting atop the throne of LeBronx, with Cavs fans relegated to the memories of how quickly he went from LeBron to LeGone.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

The NBA Playoffs are heating up!

Holy Goran Dragic, Batman! The Phoenix Suns posted the most impressive playoff effort of the season in last night's victory over their arch nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs. The game was on the road. The four-time champion Spurs were desperate for a victory, trailing 2-0 in the series. On top of that, the Spurs played well, the Suns just played better. And on top of that topping, due to their newfound toughness, I never thought they were out of the game, despite trailing by as many as 18 points. This is why I have stopped running alongside the Suns' bandwagon, and I made the leap on board successfully. After all, it's what Dirk would've wanted.

So where has this newfound toughness come from? I would say it's the right mix of veterans following the right leader, all of whom have encountered adversity, and feed off each other's desire to win. The best argument for this may have been addressed during last night's game, when the commentator claimed that none of the Suns' individual players were known as good defenders, yet they've been playing great defense as a whole. This tells me two things. The coach, Alvin Gentry, has done a great job of getting his players to buy into the idea that they will never achieve their ultimate goal without playing defense. Second, good defense usually comes down to effort and a will to win, which I believe starts with Steve Nash and runs through their entire roster. Plain and simple, they want it more than the other teams.

Steve Nash has experienced many playoff heartbreaks throughout his career. He's seen his best teammate, Amar'e Stoudemire (Matt P-Chang), get injured and derail their chances in 2006. In 2007, an altercation, started by the Spurs nonetheless, saw Amar'e-Shang and Boris Diaw get suspended for taking three steps off the bench after seeing their leader, Steve Nash, get bodychecked into the press table. Those suspensions came for the pivotal Game 5 at home with the series all square, which they lost, followed by a road loss in Game 6 to lose the series. Not to mention that Tim Donaghy refereed a controversial Game 3 in that series. Yea, the guy that bet on games, remember him? The NBA doesn't. The heartbreak from 2008 came fairly, and from a usual suspect, but in an unusual way. Seconds away from a Game 1 victory on the road, Tim Duncan hit a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime, a game the Spurs eventually won, and the Suns never recovered from. This is the type of adversity that builds character, toughness, and a do-whatever-it-takes-to-win type of attitude.

You'll notice a good majority of that heartbreak took place against the Spurs, the opponent they find themselves up 3-0 on now. Finally getting over the hump that is the Spurs will give them loads of confidence and a "this is our year" feeling in the locker room. It's reminiscent of the Dallas Mavericks in 2006, who were propelled to a Championship (wait, they lost?) after getting over their own hump of beating the Spurs in the conference semifinals. I see a similar path for these Suns. I like the way they matchup against the Lakers. The Lakers' biggest weakness is their second unit, which happens to be the Suns' strength. They will kill them in that aspect. Also, Derek Fisher is a great matchup with Nash. Nash won't have to kill himself on the defensive end, and should be able to penetrate on him with ease. You could argue that the two biggest weaknesses for the Lakers are the two biggest strengths for the Suns. Add in that they can throw the wily Grant Hill and the scrappy Jared Dudley at Kobe, and I believe that could lead to some frustrations.

So lets all get board with the Suns now. All the other teams are boring and you know it. LeBron is the most exciting boring superstar of all time. Nobody with half a brain could cheer for the Lakers. The Magic? They had their chance. The Suns have led the league in scoring five years in a row. They got Grant "Squeaky" Hill, out of the first round for the first time in his career. They got the least talked about superstar in the league, Amar'e-Qwang Stoudemire. I guarantee you'll like Jared Dudley. Jason Richardson's swish-3's are the prettiest shot in the league. They got something called a Goran Dragic carving up the Spurs in their biggest quarter of the season. And they got Steve Nash, how could anyone not root for him? Dirk does. I do. And yes, you will. And if I haven't convinced you yet, maybe this picture will...

His Nashness