Saturday, January 19, 2008

Boo the Right Thing

The chances of people agreeing with me on the following are as big as Pat Riley firing himself: slight to none. A thing happening throughout the League is something I can’t grasp: booing your own team. I agree what Kobe Bryant said the other day: they should stay home. The three objects of non-affection:

Booing the team / management: I can understand that being a fan of the Knicks is as much fun as seeing reruns of Full House. Your eyes must hurt from all those sloppy plays, knucklehead plays, and big men being non-factors in the game. But tell me this: does it really help to boo for 2,5 hours? Don’t you think that the payers aren’t embarrassed enough? Well, some of them are, some of them don’t care, I suppose. But look at the bright spots in the team: Jamal Crawford seems to Batman in Gotham City, having no fear and pulling off some spectacular plays lately. Nate Robinson is less of a dumbass on the court, and looks like he’s maturing. And let’s not forget about David Lee: every single team in the NBA needs a David Lee. He might not give you 20 point per game, but he gives you 110% per game. Cheer them on. I understand fans get disappointed in management, the way they handle things, but booing them is not the answer. It doesn’t help the players on the court, if that’s what you think. Yes, you paid 60 bucks to get in, but you want to enjoy yourself right? If that is a way of having fun on a night out, you’re a sad person (one exception can be made: booing Bulls management after the broke up the team after the ’98 season. Yes, it was their fault, never forget).

Booing one of your own players: the Kwame treatment Thursday night that led Kobe to the aforementioned quote, was ridiculous. We should all know by now: Kwame Brown will never be a great player. Duh. But he missed a lot of games, and he let’s the small things affect his play. So 18.000 people booing the guy will not bring the best out of him. Yes, he played awful against the Suns, but booing him because of that is not a motivational tool. Especially to guys like him. And look at Mike Dunleavy, The Warriors fan hated that guy. Well, he certainly proved them wrong being with the Pacers right now. Nope, he won’t be a superstar in this League, but he’s playing very decent right now. It’s all about being given the opportunity, and playing in the right system.

Booing a former player: Maybe some exceptions can be made here, but Jazz fans booing Derek Fisher when he came to play with the Lakers this season? Classy move Jazz fans. Did the guy ever did something bad to you? Is it because in Salt Lake City his daughter could be helped too? Even if that is the case, Fisher did not deserve to be booed. What did you think? That he used his daughter’s eye cancer to get out of Utah? Are you nuts? Didn’t that guy flew cross-country coming from the hospital where his daughter was treated, to arrive at halftime during a playoff game, and making the most important shots in that game? Booing him several months later is unacceptable. Same thing with Grant Hill. He played against the Orlando Magic with his Suns, and the fans let him have it. So the guy has practically been inured for six years, wants to finish his career on a high note, is one of the most classiest players in the history of the game, and gets called out for it by so-called fans. They probably feel that he owes them, after he hardly played during his years with the team. Maybe they are partly right, but it’s not like Hill screwed them. It’s not like he didn’t want to play, he tried and tried, but was just very unfortunate. If a contract is up, it’s up. Remember: it’s a business, and it’s not Grant’s fault that he wants to win a championship in the winter of his career. And he’ll probably have a better chance with the Suns than with the Magic right now.

I’m not saying to not boo at all. If opposing players are shooting free throws, you boo them. Of course. When you’re a fan of the Chicago Bulls and you have to play the Washington Wizards, and you know Gilbert Arenas is going for the game-winning shot, you try to distract him (although it won’t work, but okay). A ref making the wrong call? Boo him! But acting like a moron, being disrespectful to the game and supportive to your team, is something that this Dutch guy doesn’t understand. If I had the chance to attend Nets home games, sure, I would be disappointed quite often. But I will always support my favourite team. Either you are a fan, or you’re not.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Don't Take Hill for Granted

I always loved those NBA tapes back in day, although I didn’t have a lot. But I did have a Grant Hill video, and between all those highlights was one of his first plays in his career: an alley-oop which was almost impossible to finish. The pass was way off, but he still caught it with his left hand, his body was turning in the air but somehow he still managed to flush it through.

When I look back, I always wonder: if it weren’t for the injuries, would Grant Hill have been the best player in the NBA? Looking back on his final season with Detroit, he was scoring almost 26 a game, grabbing more than 6 boards and handing out over 5 assists. All that while shooting 49% from the field, and 80% from the line. Okay, he wasn’t a good three-point shooter, but who cares? He did every other thing right, and during that season, he might have been the best player not named Shaquille O’Neal. At the end of the season the Pistons’ record was a mediocre 42-40, but it didn’t help that other than the high-scoring Jerry Stackhouse, the rest of the team didn’t do much. And for the next years to come, Hill didn’t do much either, besides rehabbing his ankle he fucked up during his last games as a Piston.

So after the abysmal years with the Orlando Magic, trying to come back after ankle-injuries, a sports hernia and other freak injuries, one of the classiest players of the League went on to sign with the Suns, a team who could use some veteran leadership (besides Nash, of course). But the thing what’s been hampering the Suns the last couple of years, is still holding them back this season too: A lack of defense, and a pretty thin bench. Although Boris Diaw is still trying to find out where it all went wrong, because most of the season he’s nowhere near the player he was two years ago. That leaves the Suns with only one decent backup, and that’s Leandro Barbosa.
Kurt Thomas is grabbing a whole lotta boards in Seattle, and the Suns could’ve used his inside defense. People always talk about how Stoudemire played so dominant against Tim Duncan a few years in back in the playoffs. But who’s gonna stop Duncan getting buckets? And who will give the 35-year old Hill a breather? Barbosa? Okay, but who’s gonna back up Nash? Banks is alright, but not a guard I will put my money on in the playoffs. If I had any money, that is.

While Hill probably doesn’t do too much dunking nowadays (although he did have a nice “poster” on Diop in December), he is essential to the success of the Phoenix Suns. Call me crazy, but for all the faults the Suns have, the lack of depth, chemistry issues, no defense, I’m still positive they will go deep into the playoffs. I’m pretty sure that no team wants to face them either. And Grant Hill? He wants to face them all.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Another31Days – December, Western Conference

1. San Antonio Spurs (21-8): Even dealing with injuries, the Spurs still manage the lead the West. In Ime Udoka they got a small forward for the future. Not that Bruce Bowen will ever retire. When Kobe is 78 years old, bald, has a long beard and is walking with a cane in Rome enjoying the Piazza of St. Peter’s, Bowen will still harass him every single minute. And will still look like he’s 30-something.

2. Phoenix Suns (22-9): Still no defense in the middle (not counting Skinner), but damn Grant Hill is still the man. And the other Suns are playing pretty well too.

3. Dallas Mavericks (20-11): Good coach, good shooters, good defense, superstar on the team, deep bench but not convincing anyone right now. They were unbeatable last season (well, during the regular season anyway), and this year they seem vulnerable. Dirk Nowitzki has his lowest scoring season since ’99-’00, and in only his rookie season his shooting percentage from three-point range was lower than this year. He is the reigning MVP, and must act like it to get his team back to the elite status they once had. I said once, because it seems like it was quite a while ago.

4. Denver Nuggets (18-12): It’s always easy to point out what the Nuggets don’t have, but let’s see what they do have: a proven guard capable of scoring 30 points on any given night, one of the best small forwards in the game, and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. That should add some wins in 2008.

5. New Orleans Hornets (20-11): Chris Paul was named Player of the Month. He can do it all. Had a couple of 40 point games in December, and still managed to dish out nine assists in both games. He is to the Hornets what Kidd is to the Nets, and Nash to the Suns. Impressive.

6. Los Angeles Lakers (19-11): Yes, Kobe is the greatest player in the world. Yes, Bynum is probably the most improved player in the NBA, but the Lakers are playing so good, gotta give credit to Phil Jackson. You would think this team had to battle for an eight playoff spot at the end of the season, but if they keep playing like this, they might end up in the top 4.

7. Golden State Warriors (18-11): I’ll say it again: they’re the most fun team to watch in the entire League. The interesting thing is that although Stephen Jackson isn’t shooting very well the last couple of games, he is still the best player on the team not named Baron Davis. Speaking of the latter, now with Troy Hudson out (hope he’ll recover), they need a backup point guard. Pietrus for Jason Williams?

8. Portland Trail Blazers (18-13): At the end of November I thought they were really disappointing. They were 5-12, but there were enough quality players on the roster to win a couple of games. And that’s what they did, winning 13 in a row, before losing on the final day of December. A hard-fought game against the Jazz, so it could be worse. Brandon Roy is the next star in this League, same can be said for Aldridge, and even Travis Outlaw is a beast off the bench. 2008 will be a great basketball year for Portland (and look at the left of the picture, who is that cheering and laughing with the rest of the team? Yup, their future man in the middle, gotta love that guy).

9. Utah Jazz (17-16): Just one game over .500? That’s not enough. Enter Kyle Korver, the man who will turn this franchise around. In all seriousness: if the playoffs would start right now, they wouldn’t be in it. Having Boozer, Williams and Kirilenko on your roster, with Sloan as a coach, the Jazz are capable of doing more.

10. Houston Rockers (15-16): Surprisingly enough Tracy McGrady is injured. Wow. Even more surprising is that there are rumors that he is unhappy with the Rockets. Weird. Maybe it should be the other way around. His numbers are down, he’s injured again, his team is under .500, so maybe he is missing a sense of urgency, or leadership, or confidence. Whatever he is missing, I hope he will find it soon, because things ain’t working in Houston.

11. Sacramento Kings (11-18): Brad Miller was once an all-star center, Ron Artest has a problem with his elbow, and talks a lot about playing for the Knicks, Kenny Thomas is wondering why he hardly is playing anymore, the coolest player in the League (Mikki Moore) was fined for criticizing his coaches in the media, things aren’t looking to bright in Sacramento. Good news? Yes. Reggie Miller Revisited is coming back in a few weeks, but let’s call him Kevin Martin, and Mike Bibby is practicing. Expect trades within now and a month or so.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (10-19): 2007-2008, the lost season. I hope Elton Brand will come back at 100%, because they need him more than ever. Kaman for president.

13. Seattle Supersonics (9-22): Uh-oh, their two leading scorers, Durant and Wilcox, are down with injuries. It’s time to play Where’s Wally?

14. Memphis Grizzlies (8-22): Trade deadline within a month, what will happen? I read rumors about Gasol, Miller and Stoudamire all being traded, but what will really happen? They might have a potential star in Rudy Gay though. He’s a high-flyer.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-26): It’s a cold, cold winter in Minnesota. Ice cold. I hope the young Wolves will get hot and start winning some games. Four wins out of thirty is awful.

Another31Days – December, Eastern Conference

Okay okay, I’ll admit it. I’m slacking a little bit. Hardly wrote anything in December. Why? Not sure. Busy at work. Or it could just be because I’m lazy. I’ve got tons of stuff I can write about here, but I just need to get started. Once I do get started, everything will work out. Yes sir, I’m an ├╝berslacker, and if that wasn’t a word it is now. A new month, a new year, and a lot of basketball left to be played, so let’s take a final look at December, who’s on the rise, who’s fallin’ like Alicia, and who found the Keys to success?

Records and standings are through January 1

1. Boston Celtics (26-3): Pierce is dominating on the offense, KG is concentrating on defense and everything else, and the always classy Ray Allen was knocked down by Lamar Odom in a desperate attempt to stop these dominating Celtics. Needless to say: the Lakers lost.

2. Detroit Pistons (24-7): The defense, the winning streak, the swagger, the inside jokes; the music is back in Motown. They won nine in a row, their bench full of youngsters ready to jump in when Flip Saunders gives his starters a break, this team is deep. Breaking news: Chauncey Billups dunked in the win against the Bucks!

3. Orlando Magic (22-11): They cooled off a bit in December, and missing Rashard Lewis wasn’t helping. Also the mediocre play from Jameer Nelson hurt the team. Injuries? Could be, but now he’s been coming off the bench playing behind Carlos Arroyo, and that seems to be working well. And Dwight Howard? I said last month that he’s the best big man in the NBA, although he might not be offensively that gifted, I don’t care. He works with what he has, and there’s always room left for improvement. But most of all: he’s dominating.

4. Atlanta Hawks (15-13): Fourth? Are you kidding me? Last month I had doubts if they could be better, and they were in eleventh place. Guess I was wrong, or is it because the rest of the East is disappointing? Why can’t the Hawks convince me that they are a good team? Why am I hating? If they’ll reach the playoffs, I’m convinced.

5. Toronto Raptors (17-15): T.J. Ford is still out, and pondering whether or not if it’s a healthy (mentally and physically) decision to come back at all. Bosh is getting back at all-star level, but no Jorge, T.J. is something that they will miss this season. Andrea: step up!

6. Washington Wizards (15-14): Caron Butler is one of my favorite players in the League. He and Antawn Jamison (hopefully both All-Stars in February) are not letting this team slip to the bottom of the Southeast Division without Gilbert Arenas. Antonio Daniels missed a couple of weeks, so the team was left without a point guard. Insert Roger Mason, another problem solved. Eddie Jordan is a smart, smart man.

7. Indiana Pacers (15-17): Should he stay or should he go now? Jermaine is still there, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. I like Granger, Dunleavy, and Tinsley must prove he can play the rest of the season without off-court trouble. If he can keep playing like we’ve seen earlier, the Pacers could be in the playoffs at the end of the season. Something I certainly didn’t expect.

8. New Jersey Nets (14-16): Ladies and gentlemen, your rollercoaster Nets! My favorite team is utterly disappointing one week, and then the next week they are actually playing like they have something to prove. Josh Boone and Sean Williams are finally starters, and it has paid off. More rebounds per game, some scoring from the inside and a renewed energy was found in Kidd, Carter and Jefferson, who still is scoring like a mad man. Won four of five to end 2007. Keep it up in ’08.

9. Philadelphia 76’ers (14-17): Newly hired Ed Stefanski already did one smart thing, and that’s something he didn’t do. He kept Andre Miller, and that makes a lot of sense. Everybody talks about Miller being traded to whoever needs him the most, but Stefanski said that Miller is a good point guard, a glue guy, and one of the reasons the Sixers actually win a game here and there. He and Iggy should be in Philly for the rest of the season.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-17): If MVP trophies would be handed out to players with the best stats, LeBron would win it right now. But the team just isn’t good enough, and anyone who thought they were because they made the Finals, is wrong. Andy is back? So what? Hughes in unhappy, Damon Jones is bitching like he actually makes a difference on a team (and he doesn’t), and they keep on losing. I hope they don’t fire Mike Brown, because it’s not he who started this, its management failing to do anything noteworthy during the off-season. And since Andre Miller is staying put and the Cavs don’t have much to offer trade-wise anyway, this season is doomed.

11. Chicago Bulls (11-18): Pax axed Skiles. Ben Gordon is coming off the bench and scoring 30 a game? So now he’s able to hit shots? I’m confused, although that has been the case all season when I’m watching this team. A couple of wins don’t convince me that they’re back on track.

12. Charlotte Bobcats (11-18): Gerald Wallace had a monstrous game against Indiana, willing his team to win, scoring 36 points, along with 8 boards 4 assists and 4 steals. What a way to end the year; hope the Bobcats can carry this over to 2008.

13. Milwaukee Bucks (11-19): I would like to thank Charlie Bell who makes me look like an ass. I wrote a blog about him some time ago and really thought this guy deserved to play. In Milwaukee, or wherever. Bell wanted to go to Miami, but that didn’t happen. Now I don’t know if he’s unhappy, or if there is something else that is wrong, but he’s not producing. I thought more of the Bucks this season. Apparently I was wrong.

14. New York (8-21): I copy pasted one word from last month’s take on this team: embarrassing.

15. Miami Heat (8-23): It’s not Shaq’s fault. It annoys the hell out of me that everybody is hating on O’Neal. Is there a solution to all the problems the Heat have? Well, besides the obvious (adding a decent point guard), Pat Riley should leave ASAP. Let a younger guy (not named Skiles) try to get this team some wins.