Saturday, February 21, 2009

No Breaks Allowed, Part 7

The “No Breaks Allowed” posts are my way to write about all the stuff that happens around the League which finds a place in my peanut-sized gray mass (also known as my brain), and sometimes has to come out. And why are these posts numbered? I don’t know, but might as well keep it going.

All-Star thoughts

-I will never, ever forget about Shaq’s entrance with him and those jibba jabba dudes.

-What I am trying to forget though is the rest of the All-Star Weekend. Almost every event was somewhat disappointing. I checked the highlights of the D-League All-Star events the other day, and at least those guys have the balls (?) to actually try something creative while playing H-O-R-S-E, instead of changing it into a three-point shootout. Oh, and the D-League has James White. Can’t the Warriors sign this guy next season? I’m actually pondering if the “D” in D-League stands for “Don” instead of Development. We need him in the Dunk Contest in Dallas next year. Now if only some rich guy can arrange this. Mental note: e-mail Mark Cuban.

-The Finals MVP award will now be named after Bill Russell. Best idea the NBA had since…. Hm…. Well, the last good idea the League had was switching back to the good ol’ Spalding basketballs instead of using those toy store balls. If there were any other good ideas I left out in recent years, let me know in the comment section.

-The game itself on Sunday Night wasn’t all that bad. But like KG said to Craig Sager in an interview, it was weird to see the West play a zone defense a couple of times. At least let guys get into the paint for the first three quarters. I also saw the East grab Shaq by the arm twice in the third quarter when he had a wide open lane to go in for the dunk. That was a lame move by the defense.

-Speaking of Shaq: if he is still playing in 2012, averaging 3,6 point and 2,1 boards in about 10 minutes per game, I will still try to do my best to get him in the All-Star Game, maybe as a write-in vote or something. TNT should sign this guy already, even though he’s still playing, just to have his rights before he actually retires. You know, ABA style like they did back in the days with someone like Moses Malone. Get him before someone else can.

-Enough about Shaq, let’s give Kobe some attention. Funny that he said before the game that he wouldn’t play too many minutes, giving the young guys a chance. Noble statement, but in the end Kobe had 27 points, 4 boards, 4 assists and 4 steals in 27 minutes. You could see it in the opening minutes that he was completely focused, there was no doubt in his mind he would win the game, and the MVP award. You could just see it. And four quarters later, it happened. Maybe this doesn’t even surprise me anymore.

-If Kevin Durant made one point (or 46) during the All-Star Weekend it was that we can’t deny him anymore. Next year he must play on Sunday.

-One final note: the Dutch commentary during the All-Star Weekend was horrible as usual. Ronald van Dam, who was in the booth most of the weekend, saw Shaq sitting with a lady next to him. Van Dam: “Shaq with…. Is that Halle Berry? I didn’t know they were a couple?” Uhm, yeah, Ronald: did it ever occur to you that it might just be Shaq’s wife? Van Dam also wants to change the rules: if the East wins, they will have home court advantage in the Finals, if the West wins, then they will have it. His –air colleagues didn’t agree, but Van Dam didn’t give in. It almost makes those 82 games we like to call “regular season” a waste. Sigh. Another idea: he would like it if the fans could just vote who they want to see in the Dunk Contest every year. If the fans want to see Kobe in it, Kobe should just do it. They want LeBron? James has nothing to say about it, he should lace them up and dunk. According to Ronald: if you’re in the NBA, that’s part of the job. So then what? Vince Carter at age 32 still has to show up every year because fans have fond memories of 2000? Yao and Yi would be in it because, you know, China is big? Sigh. Way to ruin 58 years of All-Star history, you idiot. To all the people in U.S. complaining about Reggie Miller: you ain’t heard nothing yet.

Trade thoughts

-Vince Carter is still a Net. As a fan of the team, I’m really happy about that. I still have faith in Rod and Kiki. Post the obligatory “Vince will be gone this summer” below; I don’t care, because I’m happy with my team.

-Alvin Gentry is now the head coach of the Suns, and Phoenix had three straight victories scoring at least 140 points in each game. But happiness can’t last forever, because Amar’e Stoudemire will be out for the next two months. Should’ve kept those goggles, man. Let’s keep an eye on this team, because they’re down to three bigs now: Shaq, and Louis “Rock the Pony” Admunson. And Robin “The Other Brother” Lopez if he can get some minutes.

-About the Bulls-Kings trade: Does this means John Salmons will come off the bench? You know Salmons won’t be happy about that, and isn’t one to shy away about those things. It seems that it is always an upstream battle for Salmons. If I were Del Negro I would two things: 1) Get a haircut. 2) Start Salmons instead of Ben Gordon. Salmons is bigger, and definitely an upgrade defensively compared to Gordon. I know Brad Miller shed a tear or two talking about leaving Sacramento, which just shows that for some people, the NBA is not all about business. I hope he does well in Chicago, and regains some of his old form. When Miller was with the Bulls earlier in his career, I only remember him for one thing: he got lucky because the haymaker Shaq (as a Laker) once threw at him barely missed the back of his head. Nocioni could be a fan favorite in Sacramento, and a healthy Drew Gooden can certainly provide some scoring and rebounds, but this trade doesn’t make the Kings better. They needed to do something though, and there’s no other team in the NBA is more in need of a high draft pick than the Kings.

-About the Magic-Rockets trade: And the rich get richer. The Magic lost their starting point guard for the season, and what is their reaction? They trade for another starting point guard. You could argue that Rafer Alston isn’t exactly All-Star material; he’s certainly no slouch either. Smart move by Otis Smith, keeping his team competitive and didn’t have to give up too much for it. And although I had some doubts why Houston traded Alston, Aaron Brooks showed me Friday night against the Mavericks that he is running the show now (19 points, 6 boards, 8 assists and 2 steals).

-Larry Hughes wants minutes, but he’s now a member of the Knicks who have plenty of guards as it is. Wilson Chandler is actually starting at shooting guard, and you also have Q-Rich and Nate playing behind (or with) Chandler and Duhon. So where does that leave Hughes? I really don’t get it.

-Oh, and I like the Chris Wilcox trade. In his previous three seasons as a Sonic he averaged about 13,5 ppg and 7,5 rpg, and he could be effective in Mike D’Antoni’s system.

One final note:

-R.I.P. mr. Larry Miller. 64 is way too young….

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Half Nelson

I pride myself in being an NBA fan, not just a Nets fan. That’s why basketball message boards are sometimes even scarier than Madonna’s upper arms. It’s full of people typing so-called statements in capital letters, such as: “trade VC for Wally!” or “omgz the Raptors will win it all this year!1!1!!” Whatever they need to convince themselves, I suppose. I digress (as usual). My point is that I enjoy watching the up-tempo style of the Knicks as much as I like watching the complete basketball game played by the Spurs. Sometimes there’s an exciting game on and suddenly you remember why you’re a fan in the first place. For all those dreadful games where both teams shoot a combined 40% from the field, for all those 48-minute games that last 2,5 hours because the refs blow their whistle on every damn play, there’s a moment in the season which makes you stand up and cheer out loud in front of your television at 4 in the morning (remember, I’m Dutch, games which are aired at 10 pm ET in the U.S. – add six hours and you know at what time I’m watching it).

May 2007 made me feel what I just described. And I think over 90% of all basketball fans felt the same. The remaining 10% either lived in Texas or Germany. The Warriors were an overachieving crew from a state that’s untouchable like Elliot Ness, and it hit the Dallas Mavericks like slug to your chest. Rumors are that Avery Johnson still has trouble sleeping for more than fours hours a night, and while Dirk is still Dirk, the best shooting big man in the League, he will always be linked with the ultimate collapse during that playoff series, with Captain Jack giving him fits. The head coach of Golden State was the likeable and immensely successful coach Don Nelson. A man living by his own rules, whether they’re right or wrong, and never one to shy away from an interesting quote to amuse whoever is willing to hear it. But his status as the Oakland’s cuddly (intoxicated) teddy bear has worn off this season. To me, it almost looks like he doesn’t have the passion or the energy to do what he has to do seven months a year. The media always bashes on players when it looks like they aren’t caring anymore. You’ve got to play with a lot of heart and effort to win in the NBA, but the same rule applies for coaches. You can’t motivate your team when you have problems motivating yourself. You can’t do that job half-assed. Players expect their coaches to lead, to get a T when necessary to instigate some sort of fire, to come up with solutions in troubled times. That doesn’t mean I want to see coaches to stand along the sideline for the whole game, wild gesturing when someone messed up, screaming at everything that moves (I’m looking at you Vinny Del Negro), but at least don’t start off the season by saying that you don’t expect to make the playoffs. True, Monta Ellis was out, and Baron Davis has moved onto the Clippers, but it’s not like the Warriors had such a bad team and would be unable to steal some games during the season. Their roster has a lot of flaws, but also some tools to work with. How you handle those tools as a coach, that’s the main challenge, that’s why you make five million to figure it out.

Early in the season Don Nelson said he identified “one of my weaknesses”, meaning implementing some sort of defensive scheme into the Warriors plans, and let his assistant coaches Keith Smart and Sidney Moncrief handle that assignment during the course of the season. All great coaches in this League have (or had) great assistants who help them out when it comes to defense (Tom Thibodeau with Doc Rivers) or offense (Tex Winter advised Phil Jackson for years), that’s the way it works. “I’m not as tough anymore” was cited as reason of Nelson’s defensive liabilities as a coach, because he was “getting soft” as he got older. If that is his actual reason, could it actually be that that Nelson has lost some of his desire to lead this young Warriors bunch through a long 82-game schedule? Is it me or do we see Nellie walking less and less along the sidelines, hands on his hips, beer belly angrily aimed at a referee who just happened to make a call that the Don didn’t like? Why is it that Al Harrington was unhappy and not playing well with the run-and-gun style Warriors, but after being traded he has scored thirty or more points for the run-and-gun style New York Knicks multiple times? Why is it that Mike Dunleavy jr. turned out to be a very effective small forward after he was traded to the Pacers? We can blame it on a team’s system, but what that really the case? Why is it that early in the season when Brendan Wright was starting, and it was obvious to the world that they needed this guy’s length and athleticism next to Andris Biedrins, was reduced to a limited role for no apparent reason? Why is Anthony Randolph unhappy? The rookie from Louisiana State was supposed to be one of the most talented players in the Draft, but apparently he’s on a short leash, because rumors are that Nelson wanted Jason Thompson, but Chris Mullin still picked Randolph. We still can’t decide whether that’s right or wrong, because the guy hardly plays. Does the kid really have attitude or adjustment problems? Or is Nellie being childish in managing this situation? It’s not the first time that for a first-year player it’s Nelson’s way or the highway (remember Chris Webber?).

I’m still indifferent whether Don Nelson has lacked the skills to develop young players, or whether he’s better at it than I give him credit for? After all, there a lot of D-League guys who flourish in his system, and let’s not forget about rebounding machine Andris Biedrins. But realistically speaking: Biedrins is also a product of the system. That’s not a knock against his talent, but more often than not he plays with four shooting guards who are trigger-happy from every range imaginable. And since he’s the only dude in a Warriors jersey on the court over 6’7 most of the time, of course he’s going to get some boards.

The Warriors might regret signing Maggette to a 50 million dollar contract, they might regret not having their bearded point guard with more handles than your underground subway, but it’s not about making more deals. While too many coaches have been fired early into the season, for the Warriors’ sake the best thing that can happen to the team is that Don Nelson resigns this summer and leaves the organization. In a time where all we talk about is “change”, I wonder what Eddie Jordan can do with this team. But it’s not up to me, it’s Nellie’s world; he decides, he makes the rules.