Saturday, June 9, 2007

Why people, myself included, don't like Bruce Bowen

Here is the link to Jemele Hill's article on Bowen. In the article she tries to break down, mostly by questioning Spur and Cavalier players, why Bowen is good and why people hate him. She keeps the article grounded in the info she gets from players. I wanted her to delve a little deeper and so I've resurrected my readerless blog in order to work my way through why I wish Bowen would become a high school teacher right now instead of, as he explains he would like to do, after he retires.

Bowen is a good person. He is into working in the community and contributing as best he can. No one ever knocks Bowen for not having a good heart. So what's the deal here? Why aren't people souped about having a good guy, when all we ever do is complain about all the nasty, naive, egotistical people in the NBA?

If we watched basketball to see people with the highest moral standards putz around with a ball, the Spurs would have a lineup of Kim Jae Dung, Muhammad Yunus, Jimmy Carter, John Hume and David Trimble, going up against the Cavs' Jodi Williams, Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo, José Ramos Horta, Yasser Arafat and Yitzak Rabin. Click the link if you like - those are all winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm guessing the basketball fans reading this (allow me to, just for a moment, delude myself into believing I have an audience) don't know who most of those people are. And although that's sad, it's also no surprise.

It's not a surprise because people like watching basketball, the game of basketball, played well. They are interested in seeing people who affect the game of basketball. Why do people get more souped about bball than life? Because it's easier to understand. There are rules that make the winners and losers clear. It's a real drag to try to figure out why so many bad things happen in the world. Too complicated, too frustrating.

Now let's take a minute and step back to break down why Bruce Bowen is in the NBA.

Here's an Eric Snow quote yanked from Hill's article:

"My man AI [Allen Iverson] used to call him 'Happy Feet,'" Snow said, "because he's always moving his feet. He's just irritating. He's always constantly moving, constantly has his hands on you. If there's ever a limit to what a defender can do, he'll always be to that limit."

So there's a skill. He is quick on his toes, is, perhaps because of physical gifts, able to move more quickly than most defenders, and more importantly, than most offensive players. He is also probably mentally talented. He has trained himself, learned the way his opponents move and is good at figuring out their next move and cutting them off before they make it. Man, that's pretty cool. This guy can do something that other people can't do. With a combination of some special physical skills and mental acuity, he plays some excellent defense. I like to see scoring, but I want to see players score by making amazing plays, not by running by lazy defenders for easy slams. I like to see players make amazing plays, be forced to be creative, to use their amazing talents to score. Bowen forces them to make amazing plays in order to score, and that's great. I'm happy, at least so far in this analysis, that Bowen is in the NBA. He makes me more interested in watching.

But Bowen does more than that - he takes advantage of the rules. He, as Snow explains, constantly has his hands on you. He will kick you, stick his feet under you. Anything to throw you off. Is that basketball? If referees were omniscient beings and could control every aspect of the game with exactitude, and I told you to tell these refs, program them to make the players play basketball as it should be played, would you tell these refs to allow Bowen to put his hands on players, trip, elbow, even jump kick other players? No, you wouldn't. You'd say those are extracurriculars, which until we found these omniscient refs, we had to deal with. My point here is that if the NBA was perfect, Bruce Bowen wouldn't have the talent to be in the game. Or he would at least be a much less useful player.

But wait, there have been other guys who make a good chunk of their living by taking advantage of the rules. Laimbeer and Rodman come to mind. Why don't we hate them like we hate Bowen (the players may have, but the fans didnt)? Well, unlike these excellent anti-heroes, Bowen shows no interest, no self-awareness about his sacreligious tactics, his antihero status. He doesn't laugh when he gets under your skin. He doesn't die his hair, get all tattooed, dress in drag, make controversial comments. He just goes out and in his even, long and expressionless face, does the same thing every night. He's robotic. How can I connect with or root for a player when, as far as i can tell, he has zero sense of humor? This used to be a knock on Duncan, but TD has learned to express himself more on the court, to chill out. Bowen is still as humorless as ever.

Furthermore, when you talk about Laimbeer, you're talking about a guy who led the league in rebounding and free throw percentage and was a force from the three point line. Rodman was perhaps the most dominant rebounder ever (18.7 rpg in 91-92, led the NBA in rebounding for 8 straight years). Bowen doesn't put up any stats, not even steals or blocks. He has been among the leaders in 3pt shooting a few times, but I can't count that since he only shoots from two spots. These other guys had other talents besides roughneck defense, which makes them easier to root for.

If Bowen isn't like Laimbeer or Rodman, who is he like? He's like Shaq! Now don't press click away just yet, read on for a bit and you'll get where I'm going. In the '90s, people thought Shaq took advantage of the rules, bowled over defenders, was successful more as a result of his size than his skill. He didn't play basketball the way it was meant to be played. He was no fun to watch. Over time, however, people have realized that Shaq's game has more nuance to it. He is a very good passer, a leader who inspires his teammates to play above themselves (just look at how he rallied a Wade-less Miami team above .500 in the latter half of this past season). Also, as Shaq has aged, he has lost some of his ability to dominate. He is still just as big, but he has lost some athleticism. By witnessing this, we fans have been forced to acknowledge that a lot more of Shaq's dominance had to do with athleticism and skill than with size. Bowen, in ten years as pro basketball player, is still the same one-dimensional schmo.

Let's do another hypothetical here. Let's give every NBA player, in addition to all the skills they already have, the, "I'll do whatever I can get away with to stop my man" attitude. The NBA would be miserable to watch. Almost all the creativity and fantastic athletic feats that we love to watch in the NBA would be stifled. Steve Nash would spend most of the game on the floor holding his balls. NBA rosters would grow to the size of NFL rosters just so they could keep enough healthy bodies available. On the bright side, ratings would dip so low that the general public would finally have a better knowledge of Nobel Peace Prize winners than of professional basketball players.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Thoughts on Observation Deck

I'm working on grad school applications so time is limited. That's why I haven't done any picks in a while. Not that I was doing well anyway. When I have more time again I plan to go back and do an analysis on how I was doing with my picks on a team by team basis. Sort of a self-audit.

Dwyer's recent column

The Observation Deck makes some interesting observations and some misleading observations. We'll go over the more misleading and more interesting ones.

First Dwyer talks about how the paint is officiated today.

His premise is that, while the NBA did need to respond to the increase of players taking charges, their response only made the problem worse. They figured, well, if we make it illegal to take a charge right under the basket, then there will be fewer charging calls. What they didn't consider was that all those calls that used to be charging calls now became blocking calls. The problem of the game being slowed down remains. He argues that what the NBA should have done was allow, "contact [that] doesn't give a clear advantage to either the offense or defense..." That it should be a non-call.

There are two potential problems with this idea:

1) Although I don't see this being the case, the NBA might argue that it is too much to ask its referees to interpret when contact is or is not advantageous to a team, that the gray area would be huge and, although there would be fewer calls, the officiating would inevitably be very inconsistent. I understand this argument, but i am of the opinion that NBA officials are experts at gray area. I would guess that something like 2/3s of the calls made in any one game might be non-calls in another.

2) The second point here is more difficult to get around. NBA players make a hell of a lot of money and owners want their investments protected. If you make contact under the basket a little more legal, then these athletes that owners are paying millions are more likely to get knocked down in mid-flight. They are more likely to get hurt. Yes, in the 80s we had a lot of above the rim players, but today there are many many more, making much more $. THese guys have a lot further to fall. The top leapers in the NBA can get almost 4 feet in the air. If someone takes their legs out, the come down on their wrist (ala richard jefferson when he missed 49 games in 04-05), they are much more likely to get hurt. The NBA has a responsibility to protect its owners' investments.

In googling for some charging data I found another interesting article that covers the same idea. It's from 2003, but Dennis Hans' points are still relevant. Oh Keon Clark, you were such an explosive shot-blocker!

Hans feels the same way as Kelly. He is annoyed that the less difficult and less exciting play often has a higher reward. He's sick of watching the immobile Jason Collins. Good lord, so am I.

He proposes that the solution is to get rid of the semi-circle, so refs don't look at the call as black and white. Keep the circle in their minds, but tell them to focus more on "the precise position of the defender when the driver reaches the point of no return — that is, the point at which the driver cannot change his directional path even if he wants to."

He explains the point of no return as, "PRIOR to [a player's] second-to-last step... If you need to accelerate or change direction, you do that by altering how and where you place that second-to-last foot." This, I think, is a very good point. How often do you see a player get called for a charge, when it is obvious that there was no way he could have avoided it? How often is it that a defender slides into position after the offensive player has no way of stopping? You may call it good defense, but I call it a loophole in the rules. It's not good basketball. If a player lowers his shoulder, or puts his head down and barrels straight over a player who was just standing there waiting for him, charge, definitely. Otherwise, let's reward skilled play. Let's make the defenders make a play at blocking shots or, better yet, keeping players out of the paint.

Now I'm not advocating punishing a defender that guesses right. If I'm guarding a dude and I have a feeling he's about to make a move to his left, I jump to his left and he still runs right over me, that's a charge, but if I am making a move into the paint and between the time I take the step leading into jumping and the time I shoot, a defender jumps in front of me, that shouldn't be a charge.

The very important distinction between these two situations is that in the first one, the defender is able to anticipate what the offensive player is going to do before they take that action. In the second scenario the defender doesn't make his play until after the offensive player has no choice. There is no outwitting going on in the second scenario. Offensive players should be punished for poor decision-making. Defensive players should be rewarded for having the awareness to anticipate the offensive players' next decision, not just for being brave enough to take a big hit.

Tony Barone making a turnaround in Memphis?
You can't compare pre-Fratello and post-Fratello stats. The Grizz were just getting back into the flow of things with Pau back when Fratello was fired. Although I believe Fratello had to go and that Barone is wise to go up tempo and give young guys more PT, I don't think it will result in many more wins than Fratello's style would have, this year. The payoff with getting rid of Fratello is that you get the same number of wins, but your young players get more experience, and maybe next year you see some improvement in wins. Improvement that a Fratello coached team would not have seen.

Ariza vs. Jared Jeffries
I don't see why Dwyer feels it apt to compare Jared Jeffries to Trevor Ariza. Isiah Thomas did not trade Ariza for Jeffries. At the behest of his coach, who I believe, at the time, had more support than Thomas from owner James Dolan, Isiah Thomas traded for Steve Francis. Yes, he could have had Ariza for less $ than he gave Jeffries, but its not like the Knicks were the only team to pay a player worse than Ariza more $. I don't really know if Ariza is a better player than Jeffries right now. They both can't shoot, they both play good defense. Ariza is can jump a lot higher and is an excellent dunker, but his offensive game is even more unpolished than Jeffries'. Ariza has no handle, is awkward around the rim when he can't dunk, has no perimeter shot at all (Jeffries is a poor shooter, but can at least make the occasional jump shot). Dwyer says that Ariza has been a solid contributor in Orlando, but the Magic were 3-6 when Hedo Turkoglu (hardly an all-star) was out and Ariza played extra minutes.

Sean May is underappreciated
You bet he is. I agree 100%. The main reason he is underappreciated is because he's been hurt so much. He's a smart player, something the new NBA puts a premium on, not just in it's guards, but in bigs too.

Free Mo-Pete!
Fred Jones isn't overrated. We all know he sucks. Sam Mitchell is the only one who thinks he is good. This guy is a moron. I can't believe his team continues to win. The only thing that frustrates me more in the NBA is that KG is still on Minnesota. Morris Peterson is good. He is good defensively, he is an excellent perimeter shooter. I don't see why Sam Mitchell would choose to play tough with him, if that's even the reason why he's coming off the bench. Anyway, he's on 3 of my 4 fantasy teams so the Raptors need to use him or lose him.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Picks Recap 12/27, Bobcats' Future, Wild Knicks Game


1) I will institute the policy of using paragraphs in my picks and pick recaps!

2) I will not talk about games that bored me or teams about whom I feel I have adequately vociferated (shout out to Walt Clyde Frazier) my opinions.

I know things have been changing a lot over here lately, what with me bolding my winning picks, using a picture. Well, I'll just have to hope that my vast readership is able to adapt well to change and is equipped with a scroll wheel.

Stat of the night: New York beats Detroit despite the fact that Detroit had 36 more field goal attempts.


My rights:

Washington beats Charlotte: Gerald Wallace had a monster game (40 points, 14 rebounds, 6 steals, 4 blocks) and kept Charlotte in this game. Many people have questioned whether Wallace's big concussion-inducing fall early in the season had permanently affected his all out style of play, making him less aggressively pursue shot blocks (last year he averaged 2.1 bpg, this year only .6). After 9 straight games without a block, and 19 straight with no more than 1 block in a game, Wallace has shown signs that the scar wasn't permanent. He's blocked a shot in each of his last 6 games and had multiple blocks in 3 of those games. When he stays healthy, Wallace is a big time player. If he had put up the same #s he did last year on a good team, he probably would have made the all-star team.

It's too bad that Bobcats ownership isn't committed to winning, because they have a nice young group and are only a piece or two away from being a competitive team. Not only are they below the cap, but their total salary is lower than the league minimum. Their total salary is about 9 million lower than the next lowest team. They could easily have played the role of facilitator in the Iverson trade, and had their choice of role players with middle salaries, without giving up a thing (Maggette, Troy Murphy, I'm sure if they had investigated there would have been even more options).

Word is that they are losing money (they recently laid off employees and dropped ownership of the WNBA's Sting) and they believe the best way to not lose money is to be tightwads. No doubt, particularly in a small market, it's important to spend your $ carefully, and I'm no expert on building a financially robust NBA franchise, but if I turn to the rest of the NBA for evidence, refusing to even give your team an opportunity to be successful is not the key to winning over fans or being a profitable team. There are plenty of other small market teams, but the only team below the salary cap (different from the luxury tax threshold) is the Atlanta Hawks, and that is only because their ownership situation is in disarray. You can't tell me that Charlotte is a unique city in terms of what the best strategy for making money off of an NBA team is. Hell, all you have to do is look back to when the Hornets were in Charlotte. They had big stars in Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson, Vlade Divac, Glenn Rice. When they were winning, Charlotte was hopping with crazy Hornets fans. It wasn't until George Shinn traded away LJ, Mourning and all the rest of their popular guys that the fans turned away.

So far Charlotte's strategy has been to draft local products and to draft guys that they think have fan appeal. Coincidentally, Charlotte came into the league at a time when Euro hype was at an all time high, and the "go to college" rule wasn't in effect yet, so many solid college players were overlooked, and Charlotte stole Sean May with the 13th pick. They also lucked out with the underrated Brevin Knight. Knight came to the Bobcats after bouncing around with 4 different teams the previous year. In his last 6 years as a pro he had averaged 53 1/2 games per season. In his previous four seasons, his highest ppg was 7 and his highest assist/game was 5.9. In his first two years in Charlotte he is averaging 11 points and 9 assists. Last year was the first time he'd averaged over 30mpg since his second season. This guy came out of nowhere and was a real gift. Not only that, they stole a gem from Sac in the expansion draft in G. Wallace , and got a solid backup big in Primoz Brezec from Indy.

They already screwed up by drafting Morrison, a guy that was way overhyped and who I don't have a hard time imagining fighting to stay in the league when his rookie contract is up. This was a weak draft so they didn't miss too much, but Roy, Foye or Gay would have been much better selections. And don't tell me Charlotte didn't know this. They chose morrison in another ploy to try to get fans to the games. I even have sneaking suspicion that adding Michael Jordan as an advisor, or whatever he is, was just another ploy to try to generate interest in this team. He doesn't seem to be doing anything.

What am I getting at here? Opportunity is knocking for Charlotte. These guys are in a situation where if they go out and spend 20 million next summer, upgrade their bench and their shooting guard spot, move felton so we can stop pretending Knight isn't the leader of this team, stop playing morrison 35mpg, and they, still well below the luxury tax, are probably a dangerous 4 or 5 seed in the east.

Fans will show up then.

Cleveland beats Atlanta: (see? I'm not gonna talk about this one)

New York beats Detroit in Triple OT: I didn't catch the Phoenix/Nets game so for me this was by far the most exciting game I've watched all year. There were about 5 different instances where I was sure the game was over:
1) New York up 3 with 9 seconds left in regulation (Delfino hits a 3)
2) Detroit up 3 with 25 remaining in the first overtime (Billups fouls Marbury on a 3).
3) Marbury fouls out with 2:06 left in the second OT and the knicks down 3
4) Detroit up 4 with 18 seconds left in the second OT, then by 1 with Billups going to the line for tw FTs (billups missed 1 of 2, Frye makes a buzzer beater to tie).
5) New York up 6 with 13 seconds left in the 3rd OT (this time I was right).

This game could easily have ended up in a 4th overtime if Hamilton hadn't been dead tired. He was 0-4 in the third OT.

What made this game veer a little away from the historic and towards the absurd was the number of EASY opportunities the teams, particularly Detroit, screwed up in this game:

1) The Knicks had a foul to give on Detroit's possession of regulation. They had ample opportunity to give it and make Detroit try to get a 3 with even less time. No one did.
2) Even if he Knicks chose not to foul, why wasn't David Lee up on Delfino? The pistons needed a three. There was no need for him to step away.
3) Billups blatantly fouls Marbury on a 28 foot three point attempt, then goes down the court and instead of getting hte ball to the red hot rip hamilton, decides to take a 28 footer of his own, even though he had been cold all night. Billups clearly wanted to make up for his blunder on the previous play by being a hero. I thought the Pistons were ego-less.
4) Mohammed caught Billups' missed three and missed an easy layup.
5) Detroit missed two dunks in this game and Mohammed missed countless chip ins and layups off of offensive rebounds. There were sequences where the Pistons got 3 straight offensive rebounds and still failed to convert.

Despite the mistakes, this game was still really exciting. It was close the whole way - no team led by more than 5 after the halftime until the Knicks went up 6 in the 3rd OT. The Knicks are one game behind the Raps for first in the Atlantic, but they have to go on a West coast trip, so I don't know that they'll be taking the lead for a bit.

One last thing to note is that the Knicks beat Phoenix last year in triple-OT and went on to win six straight games.

Milwaukee beats Memphis: Bucks are good.

Chicago beats Miami: Wade goes down. Doesn't sound too bad (X-Rays negative). he stayed in at first, then left for precautionary reasons. The Bulls are confirming that their recent hot streak was something of a mirage. They have lost to the T-wolves, Knicks, and now only managed a 6 point win against the heat. They were playing against guys who would ride the pine on any healthy and competitive team. They were also playing the team that they beat by 40 on opening night. Go figure.

Portland beats New Orleans: I'm shedding a tear for the poor hornets.

Sacramento beats Philadelphia: Andre Miller is already frustrated. Why else would he attempt 19 shots. DOn't worry Andre, Larry Brown should be wise enough to advise his team to move you.

My wrongs:

Minnesota loses to Toronto: Couldn't minny have scored 1 more point so they woulda covered? Toronto's tough at home. Mo-Pete gets a DNP? This is killing my fantasy teams too. We have confirmation, what I conceded could be true appears to be the reality over in Toronto: TJ Ford is good.

"But Max, why weren't the more talented Bucks more successful when Ford was with them?"

"Brain, if you weren't such a moron you would understand that the dude had just missed 108 straight games with a bruised spinal cord. Why don't you do your job and think."

"But he showed no signs of being held back by the injury last year and he didn't impress too much his rookie season."

"Hmm your right. Maybe just Brian Colangelo's presence as a GM makes point guards like five times as good as they used to be."

"Now you're thinking, Max."

Blah. Minny sucks. Trade Garnett.

Lakers beat Orlando: There's a reason I rated my confidence in my pick as 1/5. I didn't trust that Kobe wouldn't get his act together. He actually didn't play all that well, but Orlando really sucks. Where has their mojo gone? Hedo played.

Houston whoops New Jersey: I am at that point where I am pretty much ready to count the Nets out. A team that is ready for a turnaround doesn't mail in a game against a team missing it's best player, especially when they are coming off a hard loss. No, they channel that frustration and abuse the Rockets. The Nets played tired, but the Rockets were the ones who should have - T-Mac hadn't played in weeks, and Bonzi is still out of shape. The Rockets, outside of Battier, played a bad game. They turned the ball over 24 times. Yet they still blew out the Nets. I think the Nets would have lost to a CBA team last night (especially if that CBA team featured Matt Barnes).

Clips swat Boston: Wally and Perkins were back. Didn't matter. Al Jefferson falling back to earth? Brand has to shoot 11/15 just to get to 25 points? Clips still are in trouble.

Last night: 7-4
Overall: 42-40 (woo hoo, I've covered an NBA season's worth of games! Hopefully I've also predicted the Knicks' record!)
Pick of the night: 2-1

Picks for 12/27

Washington -5 at Charlotte----- Confidence factor: 4 Sean May was supposed to be out for 1-2 weeks with his ankle sprain. It's been 8 days. He hasn't exactly been a trooper in terms of coming back early from injuries though, so I'd count him out. No word that Knight will be back, and since he didn't play last night, I'll assume he's out. Washington, winners of 5 out of 6 and 8 of 10, is the easy pick here.

Cleveland -5 1/2 at Atlanta----- Confidence factor: 2 Josh Smith is out indefinitely for Atlanta after having hernia surgery. Lue and Claxton both missed last game and although the AP preview claims they should play, I will believe Claxton is playing when I see him on the floor. Cleveland is having trouble on the road, but the only player that Cleveland has to think much about on defense is Joe Johnson. As long as Cleveland doesn't absolutely bomb on this game they should come away with a W. Josh Smith has missed 6 games in his 3 year career (impressive eh?), and the only one Atlanta won was in November '04, the 7th game of Smith's rookie season. The closest of the other 5 was a 7 point loss two games after that win. Even though I hate to pick an underperforming team, I have to go Cleveland.

Minnesota +2 at Toronto----- Confidence factor: 4 Is my disdain for what Minnesota's imprisonment of KG biasing my judgement? They blew a 24 point lead last game, but still won and beat the cover by a point. Okay, I'll give Minnesota some credit. This team is playing defense. Foye looks good. Every time they find him minutes he puts up decent numbers, including a game winner the other night against Chicago. One storyline to watch here is it is Mike James' first game back in Toronto. Is he one of those guys who loves to stick it to old teams? Last year with Toronto he put up 19 and 30 against Houston. Not really noteworthy, although he had his career year in Toronto, not Houston. I think I'll pick Minnesota for perhaps the first time this year? I still believe that it is a travesty that KG is stuck on this team. One more time folks,



Lakers +2 at Orlando----- Confidence factor: 1 Kobe was sick last game. That's why he let Wade torch him on the first ABC game of the year. I see no reason why he won't still be sick one night later. The magic have had serious trouble scoring and the Lakers have a dominating history against Orlando. Of course the lakers have a dominating history in general. Then again, the lakers haven't exactly proven that they can be successful without Odom (3-4 so far). I'll take Orlando.

Houston +6 1/2 at New Jersey----- Confidence factor: 3 T-Mac comes back just in time for a back to back. Hopefully that doesn't trigger his back going back to the back it was two weeks ago. That would be a short comeback. Are things finally truly coming apart for the Nets? This is now their second heartbreaking (backbreaking?) loss of the season to a premiere team. That nets didn't wig out on the officials in that first loss. They did not hesitate to do so after losing to detroit (Kidd even criticized an official by name). There will be fines. As much as I'd like to just write the Nets off, I think they've gone about as low as a team with this kind of talent can go. I think they will start their turnaround tonight. That being said, 6 1/2 points??? I know Houston has no Yao, but T-Mac is playing and they only lost by 5 to Indiana. Bonzi is playing more minutes every game. Both Bonzi and T-Mac have reason to be tired on the second night of a back to back, and the Nets are discovering that Josh Boone can be a contributor. I go with the Nets to cover, despite the fact taht I find the spread rather large.

Detroit -5 1/2 at New York----- Confidence factor: 3 Knicks get Jared Jeffries back tonight and have had 2 days to rest their weary bones. Detroit is on the second night of a back to back. They were at home in Detroit last night. Detroit does match up pretty well with New York and the Knicks have a tough time against disciplined teams, but I think that they will come out and play competitive basketball. They may not win, but I think they'll cover.

Milwaukee +1 at Memphis----- Confidence factor: 3 Well games start soon, so I'm going to have to rush through these last 5 games. Bucks are hot. It's funny, the bucks have two second round picks and an undrafted guy starting at the 1, 2 and 3, and they might be the most prolific scoring backcourt trio in the league. Memphis, even with Gasol doing his thing, lacks the cohesion to stop these guys from going off.

Miami +5 1/2 at Chicago----- **PICK OF THE NIGHT** Confidence factor: 4 Wade has had a day to recovery from his performance on christmas. Chicago is on the second night of a back to back. It don't matter. The bulls annihilated the heat on opening night. They gave miami a real hard time last year in the playoffs. Hinrich has done an excellent job defending wade. The bulls also have Duhon and sepholosha to throw at him. Go Chicago here.

New Orleans +8 at Portland----- Confidence factor: 2 Paul is out 2 games. Portland has been very consistent this year and I think it's about time Roy puts his name out on ESPN with a big game, and jumps ahead of.... hmmm.... well, jumps ahead in the ROY race. New Orleans players must be feeling exasperated.

Philadelphia +8 at Sacramento----- Confidence factor: 3 Does the Artest trade controversy fuel sac's fire? Does it matter? Philly seems intent on losing as much as they can this season, and so they should. They aren't going anywhere and this draft is deep. Rodney Carney is not a good player now. I understand he put up some points in last game, but most of them came after the game was out of hand. Carney doesn't do the little things. Why do you think Craphead Barnes went off? No one was covering him.

Boston +7 1/2 at Los Angeles----- Confidence factor: 3

Clippers suck!

. Whew, that felt nice. Boston is very very young at this point, but they have a a couple of wise youngsters who should steady them enough against these clippers. Delonte West and Ryan Gomes are two guys whose influence on a team goes deeper than what you find in a box score.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

picks recap 12/26

My rights:

Washington beats Memphis: Wiz cover. Arenas has a nice game. Doesn't get to 50 points but is quite efficient. Wiz's entire "big three" played well.

Bucks beat the Spurs: Ginobili and Barry were out which makes this game a little less surprising. I'm not sure that Barry mattered, but Ginobili would have been some help. Redd did his thing. Like I said, he likes to abuse the Spurs and Pistons.

Utah beats Clippers: Clips are looking at acquiring Ron Artest. He'll never be a long term solution, but things can't get any worse than they are now. Maybe Billy Crystal can tell me what is happening at these Clipper games.

Seattle beats New Orleans: Ray Allen shot an extremely rare 4/8 from the free throw line. Fortunately he shot just fine on his other shots, including a big late 3 pointer with the shot clock running down and the Hornets making a late rally. The real story here is Chris Paul, who went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter. He's young and I don't think it was too bad, so I'm guessing he won't be out too long, but this team is sorry. Look for another favorite bench warmer of mine, Jannero Pargo, to get big minutes. Wow man, I don't know if I've ever seen a team as depleted as the Hornets are.

Denver beats Boston: Three guys had double digit rebounds for Denver: Nene, Najera and Evans. These guys are all bruisers - just the kind of enforcers you need to protect, rebound, set screens for AI and Carmelo. This win wasn't that impressive. The Nuggets won't be fantastic until they get their brawlers back, but I think this team could do some damage. Think '99 Knicks - the Knicks had Camby as well, and they had a bruiser in Kurt Thomas at PF. Sprewell and Houston did all the scoring. The Knicks didn't need a big post man because Sprewell and Houston were both dangerous scorers out of the post. They had Larry Johnson too, but he was not the focal point of their offense, and a big part of his value came from his willingness to play tough D and be the 3rd option on offense. The Knicks finished in the 8th seed in the lockout shortened season, and shocked the world by knocking out the #1 seed Miami heat and making a run all the way to the finals. I could see a similar scenario playing out here, with Denver finishing in the 6-8 seed range, and playing Dallas, San Antonio or Phoenix. Phoenix is tough, but I think the Nuggets could knock out the Spurs or Mavs (or both).

Look, that's a two-armed hug! Latrell Sprewell had no problem getting along with Allan Houston. Can Carmelo and AI replicate their success?

My wrongs:

Pistons beat New Jersey: Detroit didn't cover. They were up big early, nets came back, up big again in the 3rd and the Nets came back. The Nets can sense their season slipping away here. They lashed out at the officials after VC didn't get a foul call on his last second attempt. Even Rasheed admitted that in almost any other situation that woulda been a foul. I watched the replay and it was definitely a foul, but I've seen worse fouls go uncalled. Either way, a game isn't lost or won on one play, and the Nets had their fair share of favorable calls. Watch out for Josh Boone - Frank is realizing what I've been saying here. Boone played a career high 30 minutes and finished with 6 points and 12 rebounds. Also noteworthy is that Rasheed Wallace went nuts in the 1st quarter, scoring 16 of his 21 points, all before Boone came in. Why? Because Boone can move!

Minnesota beats Chicago: Chicago came back from a 24 point 3rd quarter deficit to tie this game with 7 seconds left. Randy Foye then came down and made a 6 footer with about 2 seconds left, and Nocioni missed for the Bulls in their final attempt. On a side note, let's get one thing straight: Luol Deng is not a future all-star. Okay, maybe he'll make the all-star team once or twice, but he is not that great of a player. He knows what his strengths are and plays to them, and he plays hard, but he doesn't do anything exceptionally well and he isn't that physically gifted. In fact, for a starting small forward he's a little slow. He's a good defender, but he is about as close to Scottie Pippen as Ben Gordon is to Jordan. The fact that he's a clean cut, and apparently good person -- An under control player who knows his role, doesn't make him any better of a basketball player. KG should have taken it easy on his future team. This loss may hurt their playoff seed.

Phoenix blows out Portland: Portland couldn't keep up. Phoenix jumped ahead early and Portland never got close.

Golden State blows out Philly: God, somebody get Matt Barnes back to the CBA. Not only did he destroy Philly, preventing them from any chance at covering, but he is on two of the teams I am facing in my fantasy basketball league. Seven three pointers and 89% fgs is a real pain in the ass to come back against. Baron Davis also had a nice game, and Rodney Carney scored a career high 25 points on 12/22 shooting. He also had a career high 8 rebounds, something that he had been doing very little of until last night.

My ????s:

Dallas beats Charlotte: Dallas won by 13 and that's what the spread was. Morrison shot 50%. Someone send him some sugar-free cookies so he can celebrate. I think this team could break the record for fewest wins in a season if they didn't have Knight or May.

Indy beats Houston: I should have finalized my pick in more certain terms. The spread ended up being 3 1/2 but I didn't realize that until it was two late, and my pick of Indy by 4 and later my update of maybe taking off a point or two, left this pick to ambiguous. T-Mac returned, started slow (1-7), finished 7/22 with 7 turnovers. Bonzi contributed 11 points and 6 rebounds in a season high 32 minutes. He's the key if this team wants to get through these injuries and still be in the playoff hunt.

Last night: 5-4-2(???)

Overall: 35-36 (we're dropping those two odd games)

Pick of the night: 1-1

It Takes None


Wade beats no one: It wasn't Kobe vs. Wade, it was Wade vs. no one. If I see Ronny Turiaf's picture under "top performers" in the Yahoo box score, that means that LA didn't come to play. I said Wade would have to outperform Kobe to have a shot at winning. I can't find the exact quote but Wade said something like, "That was the best all around game I've had." Reports say that Kobe had a "touch of the flu." Whatever. He didn't get up for the game at all. Phil Jackson suggested to his team at halftime that maybe he should stay in the locker room and watch A Christmas Carol while the team went back out to play. They all should have just stayed in the locker room. They could have recruited some fans to come in and play the second half. That would have been entertaining at least.

Last night's record: 0-1

Overall: 30-32


Memphis +7 1/2 at Washington----- Confidence factor: 3 It seems that lately in every recap of a wiz win or preview of a wiz game, we get an Eddie Jordan quote that goes something like this: "He wants to show he's going to be one of the greatest of all time." Jordan is trying to motivate Arenas to go nuts, put up 50 again. He's so streaky and the streaks are so psychological that Jordan can't help but try. I would love to see Arenas coached by Phil Jackson, just to here what kind of crazy things Jackson would say and to to try to get Arenas to go off. Arenas seems to have a bad game every 6-10 games. He had a bad one just 3 games ago at Denver (10/30 fgs). I see him playing well enough to cover.

Houston at Indiana (No spread available)----- Confidence factor: NA T-Mac should be back tonight. Dike should log big minutes again and if T-Mac doesn't play, expect the scoring load to fall on Luther Head. Historically, McGrady has played pretty well in his 1st game back off injury. I will pick Indiana by 4 which if they ever release a spread, will probably have me picking Houston. UPDATE: It looks like O'Neal is sitting out with the flu. I think Indy still wins this one, maybe knock off a point or two.

New Jersey +7 at Detroit----- Confidence factor: 2 Welcome to the post-Krstic world. Please, Krstic is not that great of a player. If the nets felt that they could make a run before he got hurt, they should still do fine after. They need to play more Moore and Josh Boone needs to have a boon in his minutes. These guys can't replace Krstic, but they bring a different element to the game. I don't think Frank will become desperate enough to open his mind to this reality after just one loss, so House will probably start again. That means VC gets to guard Nazr Mohammed. Detroit's front line isn't as intimidating as it once was, but they should still get the job done against a reeling NJ team.

Chicago +1 at Minnesota----- Confidence factor: 4 I don't have time for this. Trade KG.

Milwaukee +9 at San Antonio----- Confidence factor: 4 Did San Antonio release enough of its rage over losing to Houston when they whooped the Hornets? I think so. The Bucks have always given the Spurs and Pistons trouble. Well, that is to say, Michael Redd has. The Spurs seem to sleep at predictable times. They don't play hard against bad teams unless something else is motivating them (IE a recent bad loss). After having some Christmas jollity, I don't see the Spurs coming out with the intensity it will take to shut down Redd and the Bucks.

Charlotte +13 at Dallas----- Confidence factor: 4 The fantasy dude over at is saying that Knight is going to be out until after new years. In his report, published today, he also conflicts the reports that McGrady will play, so I don't know how up to date this guy is. He doesn't cite any sources, and the preview for this game says that the Bobcats are "hopeful" that Knight will play. I'm sick of getting burned by picking the Bobcats only to see that Knight sat out and 'Cats were blown out, So I go with Dallas.

Clippers +7 1/2 at Utah----- Confidence factor: 5 **PICK OF THE NIGHT** Cassell says he's going to have to sit for a while. Utah had some precarious moments on their recent road trip, losing to NY and Charlotte and scraping out 4th quarter comebacks against Atlanta and Memphis. They will rejoice and relax after being home and enjoying some Christmas pot roast and get back to their dominating ways against the Clips.

Portland +12 1/2 at Phoenix----- Confidence factor: 1 This is a tough pick. It's hard to say how Phoenix will respond to Arenas single handedly ending their win streak. Either way, they've played a lot of mediocre teams close, so even though their last game against Portland was a blowout, I'll take portland to cover.

New Orleans +6 at Seattle----- Confidence factor: 2 Only six points? Does Ray Allen play his second consecutive big game after returning from injury? As much as I'd like to take New Orleans here, just because they're playing a team with only a bit more talent, I think Allen has been aching to get back and has a big game tonight.

Philadelphia +6 at Golden State----- Confidence factor: 2 Ellis is hurt. Hard to get a read on the new Sixers. Wins against Boston without Pierce and Wally, and New York without almost 1/2 their team for a week, don't say much to me. I like that Iguodala is getting more shots here and I think this team will win more than they would have with just a mopey AI. The ball is going to move. Golden State is coming off of a weak performance. J-Rich is sort of back, but is clearly far from 100%. Gotta go with Philly here.

Boston +6 1/2 at Denver----- AI will have to carry Denver on offense here. Big time. Denver will again be without their defensive anchor, Marcus Camby. Denver still has defensive stopper Yakhouba Diawara and a big man to cover al jefferson in Nene. But again they have no one who can shoot the ball except for their little guy. I think a general lack of leadership (certainly none coming from the bench) will leave Boston disorganized on both sides of the floor. Their one strength is that they have little guys who can cover the perimeter, but I don't think anyone will be stopping AI in these first few honeymooning weeks.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

12/23 disasterous picks recap, Christmas game


Kobe Bryant -1 at Dwayne Wade----- Confidence factor: 3 Yes, it's Kobe vs. Wade, not the Lakers vs. the Heat. "It takes 5" you say? Is that you, KG, Gilbert, Paul Pierce, whoever else Adidas is paying? Are you insinuating that I'm a fool for labeling this Kobe vs Wade? Well you are also insinuating that the NBA is a fool, because that's how they are advertising this game. You know why? Because that's why people will watch it. It's the more interesting storyline here when both of these teams are missing their 2nd best players, one of them has yet to beat a .500+ team, and the other is playing well, but is probably playing to the top of it's potential. I know if I bother to watch this game I won't be anxiously watching to see if Jason Kapono can set a new career high. I'll be watching to see how these guys go at each other. And in the end, D-Wade will definitely have to outperform Kobe to get this win. The Lakers have shown that they have some other players outside of Kobe. There's no way that I can pick against the Lakers here. Kobe is more of a killer than Wade and I can't see him not getting up for this game.


Last night was a disaster for me in terms of picks. There were also some bad injuries.

My wrongs:

Minny beats Indy: Minny held Indiana to 21 points in the second half and KG dominated the poor man's version of himself, Jermaine O'Neal. This was an ugly one. Both teams shot under 40% and below 65% from the FT line. I'm glad I didn't watch.

Philly dismantles NY: This is an easy one to evaluate. The knicks were dead tired. Philly played decently well but you could see about 1/2 way into the second quarter that the Knicks were french toast. There was a lot of dribbling off of feet, fumbled passes, rebounds slipping out of hands, etc.

Miami beats Golden State: I went with the wild card and the wild card didn't get wild. Baron goes for only 10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Monta Ellis is our first injury, although it looked like Miami was going to win even before Ellis went down. Here's how AP describes Ellis' injury:

[Ellis] remained face down on the court for three minutes, tapping the toes of his sneakers on the court and grimacing in agony. [He] was eventually rolled over onto his back, while being tended to by members of both teams' medical staffs, then was helped off the court as he clutched his side.

Utah beats Memphis (doesn't cover): What can I say, Utah again started slow against a shit team. They came back but fell a point short of covering. Carlos Boozer sure has been turning the ball over a lot. TO's in last 6 games: 5, 3, 3, 7, 4, 5. That's an average of 4.5 TOs. Before these last six games he was averaging only 2 TOs. From watching him play a couple times this season it seems like the points he gets in the halfcourt come off of post fadeaways or turn and shoots, and particularly against new york, the zone defense allowed a second defender to come from the blindside and strip him.

New Jersey loses to Milwaukee: The Nets made a little comeback in the end but fell way short. Bucks played a decent game, but nothing to write to Herb Kohl about. The nets decided to move Carter to PF, matching him up against Brian Skinner, and bring Eddie House into the starting lineup. The move hardly paid dividends early, but house did play a role in their comeback try (did I mention it fell way short?). Josh Boone played about 5 times as many minutes as he has in the past, and was productive (2 points, 2 blocks, a steal and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes). I sincerely hope lawrence frank realizes that unless Boone grows up quickly, the Nets are going to be an easy out if they are fortunate enough to even make the playoffs. If Frank refuses to play him and Moore, the Nets will join Minnesota and the Clippers on my list of teams that are clueless and annoying. Oh yeah, and Vince Carter didn't score until more than halfway through the 3rd quarter!! This guy is supposed to be playing hard. It's a contract year. Oh and word arrived before this game that Krstic is done for the season with a torn ACL.

Clippers beat Houston: Yao is out at least 6 weeks with a fractured knee (sounds painful). He only played 5 minutes and yet the Clips still just pulled this one out.

Chicago wallops Charlotte: Charlotte sucks without brevin Knight. They are still sucky with him, but at least competitive. He doesn't play and the Bulls treat Charlotte like they treated Miami in the first game of the season.

Seattle beats Toronto: Ray-Ray shot 5/6 from three. This game was a 3 point game heading into the 4th quarter, but seattle was just on last night. They shot 51% from the field and 91% from the line. Toronto couldn't keep up.

My rights:

Detroit beats Atlanta: About as much as you could expect with both Claxton and Lue out for Atlanta.

Cleveland beats Orlando (orlando covers): This game turned out exactly as I expected. I suppose the law of averages forces me to be right now and then.

San Antonio destroys New Orleans: I feel bad for the Hornets. Unlike many bad teams, the hornets play to their potential. They don't have young guys who can come out and surprise you with 25 on any given night. They just had no chance for a San Antonio team looking to throttle someone after getting whooped by their nextdoor neighbors.

Last night: 3-8

Overall: 30-31

Pick of the night: 0-1