By Basketbawful and Evil Ted
After enduring several years of constant "Where's KG going to end up?" speculation*, we finally have the definitive answer: The Boston Celtics.
* Sorry, Kobe. But not really.
This is a great move for the Celtics, even if it doesn't take them directly to the Promised Land. For the past five seasons, the team has been a laughingstock, mired in mediocrity (at best) and disgrace (at worst). They haven't appeared on national TV since Zeus knows when -- and rightfully so. Two blockbuster trades later and they're suddenly relevant for the first time since Larry Legend's final season* and a legitimate contender in the East. If Lebron and the Lebronettes were good enough to make it to the Finals last year, why not a potent Garnett / Paul Pierce / Ray Allen combination this year? There's no reason to think they won't do well in a conference where the other contenders -- Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Miami, and New Jersey -- pretty much stuck with the status quo**.
* Despite the fact that Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Dee Brown missed a combined 114 games, the 1991-92 Celtics still managed to win 51 games and capture the Atlantic Division title. They finished the season on a 15-1 tear -- even winning their final eight games without The Basketball Jesus -- and then went 5-1 in the playoffs before Bird returned from a late-season back injury and screwed up the team's chemistry. The Celtics ended up losing to the Cavaliers in a tough seven-game series that turned irrevocably in Game 4 when a rusty Bird missed not one but two game-winning shots. And thus ended the Bird Era.
** Except Miami, who got significantly worse; their best shooter (Jason Kapono) walked, they lost out on the Mo Williams Sweepstakes, and they and signed Smush Parker, a.k.a. "the worst point guard in the NBA." Pat Riley's failure is now complete.
If you think about it, the trade is nothing short of a miracle, not only because Ainge pulled it off with what he had to offer (the promise of Al Jefferson's future greatness), but also because he managed to hold on to both Pierce and the recently-acquired Allen. It flies in the face of all the "inside the box" thinking he'd become infamous for. All the talk of "potential" and "youth" has been going on too long with the Celtics, and it was way past time to shake things up. So rather than gamble on the Utah Jazz formula for success -- young, hard-nosed, character guys + tenacious defense + two or three plays run to perfection -- he's going the Miami Heat route: A core of hungry, All-Star veterans surrounded by a handful of decent role players. Garnett, Pierce, and Allen all have something to prove*, and here's hoping that together they can prove it. Garnett is the inside presence, Pierce is the slasher, Allen is the shooter...that combination could work out quite nicely. The C's still need some frontcourt depth and a steady point guard, but with a new Big Three in town, they don't necessarily need Tony Parker bringing the ball down court.
* Perhaps the most fascinating subplot in the trade is that Garnett finally gets to prove whether he can win when surrounded by a talented supporting cast. Is he a winner or just a numbers guy? Time to find out.
No, the Celtics won't be deep, but neither were the Celtics of the 80's*. With only five players on a court at once, basketball is a sport where one superstar player can make the difference -- just ask the Heat. No, Garnett, Pierce and Allen aren't Bird, Parish and McHale -- who, as Rick Pitino would point out, still aren't coming through that door -- but I'll be damned if this team won't be a thousand times more exciting to watch than they have been since, well, forever. No, the window isn't huge -- 3 or 4 years, tops -- but better a small window than the brick wall the Celtics have been banging their heads into since, well, forever.
* As noted, the 1986-87 Celtics quite possibly had the worst bench of all time. The 1987-88 Celtics weren't much better off. Go back and watch Game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, also known as Larry's duel with Dominque. Coach K.C. Jones was forced to play a group of white stiffs comprised of Brad Lohaus, Fred Roberts, Jim Paxson, and Mark Acres. Their best reserve, Reggie Lewis, was a rookie and played only three minutes. Ugly.
Maybe Danny isn't a genius. Maybe he's just taking advantage of his relationship to Kevin McHale. But I don't particularly care how he did it, just like I don't particularly care who Red Auerbach beat up in a dark alley when he traded for McHale and Parish*. Let the next chapter for the Celtics begin.
* Sorry, Joe Barry Carroll. But not really.
What it is: A stencil and ink set.
What it's supposed to do: Allow you to stencil your name, initials, or some other identifying label on your basketball in permenant ink.
What it actually does: The Ball Tattoo works exactly as advertised. It goes on in a couple of minutes and the resulting "tattoo" looks pretty stylish. It resists fading, too; I've been using the Ball Tattoo for about six months and there has been little or no visible change. Supposedly, you can't even file the ink off, although it's probably better not to try.
Who it's for: Anybody who's paid good money for their basketball and wants to keep track of it. Sure, you could just write your name onto the ball with a felt-tip marker, but it'll look only as good as your crappy handwriting, and then it'll wear off in a couple weeks.
What it says about you: You understand that there are unscrupulous and clueless people everywhere, and discovering that somebody walked off with your $50 basketball while you were in a game is a bitter pill to swallow.
The specifications: Each Ball Tattoo kit contains one sheet of 45 one-inch tall stencil letters, masking strips, a tube of ink, and an applicator brush. The seller claims there's "enough ink to ID up to three balls," which might be a little deceptive. There's actually about 20 letters worth of ink in the tube, so choose your ball ID carefully, Amadeaus. The ink works on rubber, leather, and synthetic balls. Currently, only one font (Lasertac) and color (black) are available.
Cost and availability: $6.95 (plus S&H) at Fastencil.com.
A note of caution: One of the product's taglines is "Looks like silk screen. Works like Kryptonite!" I'm not exactly sure what that's supposed to mean, except that if Superman plays in your pickup league you might accidentally kill him.
Update: Reader eljpeman astutely pointed out that the subtitle on the graphic reads "The permanent ID for balls." For those of you with dirty minds, I'm pretty sure they're talking about basketballs and not, uhm, well, yeah.
File this one under the category of totally random NBA-related discoveries: Lebron's Lightning Lemonade. It's a flavor of Bubblicious bubble gum that (supposedly) tastes like rasberry lemonade. Each bright pink cube provides a burst of tongue-numbing flavorocity that lasts for almost a full minute, which might actually be some kind of bubble gum world's record. Unfortunately, like most chewing gums, Lebron's Lightning Lemonade degrades into a foul-tasting paste by the second or third minute of vigorous chewing. Still, I can guarantee you'll experience upwards of 30 to 45 seconds of tastebud-blasting ecstacy. But don't take my word for it -- just look at how happy it makes King James:
If you think that the fun ends when you finally spit out the now-viscous and gummy pulp, you couldn't be more wrong. By sending Bubblicious a completed request form, two proofs of purchase, and a $1 check or money order, you can (eventually) download a copy of Lebron James Voice-Activated Software. The LJVAS is a desktop widget that makes a Lebon "the point guard on your computer." And trust me, it's not nearly as exciting as it sounds.
By using Windows' voice-activation software, you can teach Computer Lebron to recognize your voice and respond to some simple verbal commands, like "open my email" or "take me to my favorite Web site." And like any good robotic servant, Computer King James will leap to action, opening and closing programs for you. As Jim Hanas put it, it's the NBA-equivalent of Clippy.
Software requirements: It's a widget that opens and closes basic computer programs. As long as you aren't using an abacus, you'll probably be okay.
Tips and tricks: In most cases, Lebron won't come out from wherever he's hiding unless you call for him -- I suggest teaching him to respond to the command "Lebron, get your kingly ass out here, now." But once a month for six whole months, Lebron will randomly wander onto your desktop to give you a basketball tip. I don't know what these tips are, but I'd guess he provides helpful advice like "Put your head down and charge aimlessly into a group of defenders" and "vary your form on every jumpshot...never shoot the same way twice."
Usefulness: At this point you're probably wondering whether getting the LBVAS is worth buying two packs of gum, filling out a form, writing a check, and stuffing an envelope. The answer to this question depends on your living situation. If you're a Lebron fanatic without arms or an active sense of shame, this minor software miracle might be for you. Otherwise, your computing experience will be just as rich, if not moreso, without Lebron's "help."
Labels: Tim Donaghy
I've been sitting on this one for a while. It's from the 10 Sense with...Tim Duncan interview that appeared in the February issue of Dime Magazine. Duncan was asked which starting five, out of anybody in the NBA, he'd choose to go to war with. His answer is pretty interesting:
"My ideal starting five? Honestly, the five that Adidas put together, you can't argue with that at all. KG, T-Mac, Gilbert, Chauncy and myself. You can't argue with that five compared to anyone else. As a sixth man, I might add Kobe. Or, shit, even put Manu in there with us."
Now, Tim Duncan is the greatest winner of the last decade and the co-most dominant player alongside Shaq (although it could be argued that Shaq hasn't been truly dominant since 2004-05). And it's not just the winning, but how he's won: Four titles in nine years, while his team has changed drastically around him. The fact is, he plays "team basketball" better than probably anyone in the league (which I think is why he's so dominant without really looking dominant).
And he wouldn't want Kobe Bryant, the so-called "best player" in the league, in his starting five.
I don't know. Maybe it's not that big of an insult. After all, he left out a lot of other really good players, guys like Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Shaq, etc. And he was also plugging for Adidas, the company that pays him a lot of money to endorse their products.
But the fact that he relegated Kobe to the sixth man role, then casually replaced him with Manu Ginobili was like a backhanded insult. I mean, think about it: "I don't want you starting, but you can be sixth man. Oh, wait, no you can't...I'll take this other guy instead." Why would Tim say that? Well, maybe it has to do with one of his follow-up statements:
"I'd say 60-70 percent don't 'get it' -- players who play for the wrong reasons or teams playing the wrong way. It's those few teams that 'get it' that elevate themselves."
Maybe that's it. Maybe he, like many other people, thinks Kobe just doesn't "get it." Whatever the reason, I still got a good laugh out of it. Thanks, Tim.
I know what you're thinking, but the answer is no; the Pacers didn't manage to trade Jermaine O'Neal. The Nets didn't want him. And this isn't about how they signed Kareem Rush either, which was less of an upward move and more like a desperate and pathetic cry for help.
Their big move was an entirely different kind of desperate act. It turns out that the Pacers have hired two public relations and advertising firms. Why? Because the team sucks and their fans -- which now number somewhere in the high ones -- all hate them.
I guess that since Larry Bird can't halt his team's tragic downward spiral, he wants to add a little salt to the steaming bowl of crap soup he's serving the fans. Hey, that's American Spirit in action. I mean, you don't need to spend money or make changes if you can just convince your fanbase that a losing culture can be fun. That philosophy has worked for the Chicago Cubs for decades. Why not the Pacers?
I can't see it working, though. It's going to take more than a little extra PR to make the fans forget the brawls, suspensions, injuries, bad trades, strip club shootings, bar fights, and mascot assaults that have plagued the franchise for the past few years. But that doesn't mean there's no hope. Which is why I bring you...
The Basketbawful Public Relations Plan
Step 1: Create an identical clone or robot duplicate of Reggie Miller, then send him to destroy Kobe Bryant in a "Godzilla versus Mothra"-style battle. If Robo-Reggie wins, then everyone will love the Pacers again. If he doesn't, we're all screwed anyway.
Step 2: Give everyone in Indianapolis free tickets to one of Rik Smits' motocross races. Watching a 7'4" giant who couldn't rebound try to ride those little mopeds will make people laugh and bring joy to small children.
Step 3: Create a Pacers Greatest Games DVD set so the fans can relive happier times, like when the Pacers would lose in the NBA Finals or Eastern Conference Finals instead of not making the playoffs or getting knocked out in the first round. Wait. They did that already. And it was just a handful of Pacers/Knicks games with no special features. A true "must not" buy.
Step 4: Use the time machine we invented to save the NBA Finals to go back to 2002 and convince the Pacers not to trade for Ron Artest. If that fails, then assassinate Artest while he's on the toilet or something. Have you ever noticed that nobody ever thinks of that when they travel through time to change the past? I mean, couldn't the Terminator have killed Sarah Connor while she was in grade school? Or Bill and Ted could have used their time-travelling phone booth to gather stock tips from the future...you don't have to do history reports when you're rich. I'm just sayin'.
Step 5: Send out the Pacemates to provide "pleasurable company" to every male Pacers fan in the midwest, particularly if said fan lives in Chicago and is named "Basketbawful." I have to warn you that this one is pretty unlikely, but you can still request a Pacemates appearance at your home, school, or bar mitzvah. Wait a minute. On second thought, scratch this plan altogether. The Pacemates might be the ugliest dancers in the NBA. Seriously.
Labels: Word of the Day
If Kobe Bryant is the most polarizing figure of the new century, then Wilt Chamberlain was easily the most polarizing character of the last one. Depending on whom you talk to or what you read, Wilt was either a selfish loser or the best basketball player of all time. Some people claim he was self-centered, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing, and any other "self" you can think of. Others believe that he was a gentle, caring, philanthropic soul whose frequent trips down the Ego Superhighway were just amusing examples of "Wilt being Wilt."
So -- evil or good, hero or villain -- which was the "true" Wilt? Honestly, I think he was all of those things. Indisputably great and monumentally self-absorbed, Wilt wanted not a little, but a lot...of everything: To win and to break records, to be The Man without having to take responsibility for tough losses, to love and be loved without the burden of committment. He was a walking, talking, high-scoring paradox.
In some ways, Wilt was almost unknowable. He was shy, secretive, and tended to compartmentalize the various and sundry aspects of his life. But I think that knowing and understanding Wilt Chamberlain -- or, at least, trying to -- is important. He's one of those rare figures that helped define, or redefine, the game of basketball. The NBA created the goaltending rule because of him. They widened the key in part because of Wilt's dominance under the basket. The rule that you can't cross the line on a freethrow until the ball hits the rim was instituted because the league was afraid Wilt would just try to dunk his foul shots (which he was fully capable of doing).
I've read countless books about Wilt, from his autobiographies to novels like The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball. There are many subtle layers to the man, and you really need to take from multiple sources if you want to get a broad sense of who he was (as well as who he wanted you to think he was). One of the more recent sources is among the best: Wilt: Larger Than Life.
If you're looking for in-depth descriptions of his various in-game accomplishments, then this book isn't for you. Many of his basketball feats are merely summarized and some have been omitted altogether (although, to be fair, Wilt's records would fill an entire book on their own). The author, Robert Cherry, clearly was much more interested in painting a portrait of Wilt the human being than Wilt the basketball superstar. The book fills in a lot of the gaps regarding where Wilt came from and what he was doing with himself when he wasn't dunking on people. There are countless interviews and first-hand accounts of his life, and not only from former players, rivals, and coaches. There are also a great many quotes from the people who knew him in his every day life: lawyers, agents, doctors, family, friends, his lovers, people who hung out and played vollyball with him on the beach, and some of the fortunate many who met him only once for the briefest of moments.
All in all, the book shows Wilt as a person who just wanted to live his life and be happy. He just happened to be over seven feet tall, filthy rich, and incredibly famous. If all you ever knew of Wilt was what he did as a basketball player, you might be interested to discover that he donated time and money to various womens' athletic teams. You might even be touched by the story of how he befriended former teammate Paul Arizin's granddaughter, who was dying of a terminal illness. And you might be surprised at how difficult and lonely the last few months of his life were.
The only criticism I have is that Cherry was, at times, a little too generous to Wilt, tending to gloss over his less appealing character traits while slightly over-emphasizing the better ones. There also were times it seemed as though he was trying to make excuses for Wilt (particularly when discussing how Wilt took only two shots during the second half of Game 7 of the 1968 Eastern Conference Finals). I can forgive these faults, however, because there have been many, many things written that highlight Wilt's dark side. This book was a refreshing change, and an enlightening look at one of the most important men to ever put a ball through a hoop.
I know it's hard to believe today, but before he became a limping human interest story, Grant Hill was one of the best basketball players in the world. He was a two-time NCAA champion (at Duke), NBA co-rookie of the year (with Jason Kidd), an Olympic gold medallist (on Dream Team II), a perennial All-Star (for the Detroit Pistons), and a charter member of the "Next Jordan" Club (alongside Harold Minor, Penny Hardaway, Jerry Stackhouse, and whoever else you want to name).
In August of 2000, Hill’s hard work, dedication, and all-around good guyness was rewarded in the form of a 7-year, $93 million contract courtesy of the Orlando Magic. There he would be teamed with up-and-coming superstar Tracy McGrady, and everybody anticipated the Magic becoming a league powerhouse almost overnight.
But as we all know, that didn’t happen. Thanks to a wide variety of debilitating ankle injuries, Hill played in only 200 games (and missed 374) over his seven years with the Magic. The bulk of those games came in the last three years; he played in only 47 games (out of 328) during his first four seasons in Orlando (otherwise known as the "Tracy McGrady is on his own" Era).
The injuries were grueling, and the surgeries were even moreso. In fact, after one surgery in March of 2003, he developed a staph infection and nearly died. As low points go, "almost dead" ranks just slightly ahead of "actually dead."
Hill made a comeback of sorts over the last three years, playing 67 games in 2004-05 (and averaging a surprising 19.7 PPG) and 65 games last season (averaging a solid 14.4 PPG). There were plenty of teary-eyed tributes and inspirational stories about how he bravely fought through terrible adversity to play the game he loves. As moving as those featurettes usually were, it probably should have been pointed out that he wasn't exactly saving kittens from a burning building, or helping old ladies across the street. But whatever.
Despite all the inspiration, I'm sure the Magic organization was glad that Hill's behemoth contract expired this summer. However, I'm also sure they felt as though they deserved first dibs on his continued services, and on the cheap. After all, hadn't they been patient and diligent in his care? They never tried to rush him back, or force him to play through injuries. As far as I'm aware, they never tried to buy him out or ask him to restructure his contract to ease their salary cap burdens (which were significant). Sure, they appealed to the league for injury exceptions, but by all accounts they treated Hill as well as any organization would have, under the circumstances (which were grim).
Hill didn't give the Magic a chance, though. Instead, he immediately bolted for the Phoenix Suns in what we must assume is one last, desperate gamble for a championship. On the one hand, it's hard to begrudge him that opportunity after all he's suffered through. But on the other hand, Hill really should have rewarded some of the loyalty the Magic have shown him over the last seven years. What happened to Mr. Good Guy? I mean, it's hard to argue that he left Detroit for the money back in 2000, and it's even harder to argue that he's leaving the Magic for a shot at glory. You expect that kind of behavior from most NBA players, but Hill was supposed to be above that sort of thing, a character guy, a Sportsmanship Award winner.
Well, the Magic fans are pissed. Just read some of those comments. I haven't seen a fanbase this bitter and potentially dangerous since, well, since the Celtics "lost" the NBA draft. The sense of betrayal is so strong that many of the fans are openly wishing for Hill to break his ankles (among other things). Most of them think he robbed the Magic and gave very little in return, and it's hard to blame them for feeling that way. I mean, you'll notice that Hill never offered to alter his contract in the team's favor, or pull a Derek Fisher and just set them free of it. No, he expected every dime of that $93 million. And then, as soon as he got the chance, he split.
It's a shame. I always had a lot of respect for Grant Hill. And while I understand that the NBA is, unfortunately, an "every man for himself" business, I frankly still feel that he owed the Magic a little better than that.
Labels: Word of the Day
So it looks like Vince Carter has conned the New Jersey (or maybe-soon-to-be-Brooklyn) Nets into breaking the bank and signing him to a 4-year, $61.8 million contract.
If $15+ million a year sounds like a lot money to dole out for a 30-year-old swingman who has a history of tanking on his own teams, you're probably right. But in a sense, the Nets are justified in their decision to resign Carter even though the deal is going to send them soaring wildly over the salary cap. See, Vince very quietly put together a career year last season.
Seriously. Most of his stats went up every-so-slightly. Points, rebounds, and assists were all up. In fact, he posted career-highs in rebounds and assists. It was only the second time in his career -- and the first time since the 1999-2000 season -- that he played in all 82 games. He matched his career high in minutes played. He attempted more shots than he had since the 2000-01 season. He had his second-best-ever year in freethrow attempts, and set a career-high in three-point shot attempts. Finally, he had his third-best field goal percentage year, and his best overall shooting season since 2002-03.
Of all these numbers, the games, minutes played, free-throw attempts, and rebounding numbers are all the most telling. Playing through all the little nicks and scrapes of the NBA season, crashing the boards, taking it strong to the hoop, those are signs of increased effort. Effort from a player, it should be noted, whose heart and desire has been regularly -- and justifiably -- questioned on and off over the years.
So is it just an amazing coincidence that this is the best overall effort Vince has put forth since, well, the last time he was eligible for a new contract (after the 2000-01 season)? Suuuuure, it is. This last season was a textbook example of the Contract Year Phenomenon in action. He was playing for the money, plain and simple. I promise you that most of his numbers are going to drop next season, particularly games played, rebounds, freethrow attempts, and field goal percentage…because when those numbers drop, it's usually a telltale sign that a player has lost focus (assuming he's not injured).
It's also worth noting that, despite Carter's gunning (or maybe because of it), the Nets didn't do much in the way of winning last season. The team spent most of the season below .500 and didn't claw there way there until the final day of a regular season that saw them go 41-41. Mind you, this happened in the horrific Eastern Conference, where it has been proven you can make it to the NBA Finals with one fantastic player and a bunch of scrubs. The Nets had three (or maybe 2.5) fantastic players and spent months spinning their wheels. That's significant, I think. So unless I'm way wrong here, and that's medically impossible, the Nets are going to regret offering up this contract in a couple years.
Labels: NBA Draft