Most of you have already noticed the new Basketbawful banner. I'd love to take credit for its wicked-awesomeness, but it's actually the work of loyal bawfulite Stephen Robbins. And to tell the truth, I made very few suggestions. Stephen simply used his own estimable talents along with what he knew about Basketbawful's rich and Ostertag-laden history to design a graphic that pretty accurately represents what this site's all about. Stephen: You rock.

What's that, you say? You wish Stephen could do something similar for your Web site, blog and/or bar mitzvah? Well, you're in luck. Stephen is a graphic designer for hire. Check out Stephen's Designs for more information. Feel free to tell him Basketbawful sent you.

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Broken Wall

Bad news for the Rockets. And I'm talking "You know, it's funny, these people, they go to sleep, they think everything's fine, everything's good, they wake up the next day and they're on fire!" bad. It turns out that Yao's broken foot isn't healing properly -- or at all actually -- which means the Great Wall will probably miss all of next season. Or maybe even (gulp!) forever.

The Rockets and Yao's reps are frightened over his future, and the concern is the most base of all: Does Yao Ming ever play again?

"The realization has hit them that this is grave," one NBA general manager said.

For now, the Rockets have privately told league peers it could be a full season before Yao might be able to return to basketball. Multiple league executives, officials close to Yao and two doctors with knowledge of the diagnoses are describing a troubling, re-fracture of his navicular bone. Three pins were inserted a year ago, but the foot cracked in the playoffs and isn’t healing.

"It sounds like he’s missing most of next season, if not the entire 82 games," one league executive who has had recent discussions with the Houston front office told Yahoo! Sports. "That's all that [the Rockets] will concede quietly, but they know it's probably much worse."

Houston general manager Daryl Morey refused comment on Monday and a team spokesman said the Rockets will not have further comment until Yao undergoes additional medical tests.

There's no reason for the Rockets to disclose the severity of the injury, nor the uncertainty over Yao’s future. Before the Rockets go public with a dire diagnosis, they plan to send him to three more specialists this week, a source said. For now, the Rockets have season tickets and sponsorships to sell. For now, the Rockets will publicly decry these doomsday revelations as premature, but this is the reality that they’re working under within the organization.
Poor Yao. His body just can't stand up to the rigors of NBA action. Kind of like how Pauly Shore's career couldn't stand up to an industry that requires actual talent. And assuming they don't waste another $40 million on re-signing Ron Artest, the Rockets will only have Knee-Mac left to lead them. So this seems as good a time as any for a Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen-inspired Optimus Prime facepalm.

Prime Facepalm
Jesus Christ. Tracy McGrady is as useless as
Wheelie, Blur and Rodimus Prime put together.

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While the Shaq and Vince trades had us wondering exactly what lengths teams will go just to save a buck, a new round of youngsters were selected to have their hopes for NBA stardom crushed in the next three to five years. Let's take a look...

Blake Griffin: There's no question that Blake Griffin is a great athlete and a big-time scorer in college. The big question would be is he capable of rising above the faces of failure, i.e. the Clippers frontcourt. Which actually isn't a sure thing. Kaman has size, Camby is a better defensive presence, and Zach Randolph is (gasp!) a more polished scorer. Also, with Oklahoma, playing D was optional for Griffin. How will he fare on that end in the pros? Can he one-up Zach's "non-existent" D with a "not a liability" of his own? If so, he's primed to be the Clip's most successful draft pick since, um... The Clippers Expect: A savior. Statbuster Expects: Carlos Boozer 2.0.

Hasheem Thabeet: If the NBA season is a war, Thabeet is a player you want by your side in a foxhole. Unless the only way out of said foxhole is making a 15-foot jumper. It's easy to forgive his non-existent offensive skills due to the fact he's 7'3", 265 lbs, and averaged over 4 blocks a night for UConn. And, as a bonus, Darko Milicic becomes immediately expendable. And by "immediately" I mean they traded him an hour later. The Grizzlies Expect: Dikembe Mutombo. Statbuster Expects: Tree Rollins.

James Harden: Late last season, Thabo Sefolosha was the Thunder's only best defender. Although OKC needs scoring and James Harden is unquestionably the more talented of the two, if Harden can't defend in the pros, he'll create as many problems as he solves. That's OK though...they'll have another shot at this whole lottery thing next year. The Thunder Expect: Brandon Roy. Statbuster Expects: A poor-man's Jeff Hornacek.

Tyreke Evans: I was really hoping we wouldn't see a boner tonight, especially this early. The King's already have a 20 ppg scorer at SG in Kevin Martin, and needed help at the point, AND Ricky Rubio was still available. Evans actually is a solid ball handler and passer, and could run the point in spot minutes. But a 220 lb guy with an assist/turnover ratio under 2 isn't someone you want defending opposing PGs or running the show for 40 minutes a night. Somewhere, Beno Udrih is giggling maniacally while de-listing his house on Realtor.com. The Kings Expect: To piss off a lot of fans. Statbuster Expects: Larry Hughes.

Ricky Rubio: Rubio brings a court vision that can't be taught. It's everything else that's suspect. With no fewer than 3 PGs on the books for next year, expect 15 minutes a night, a sub-.400 FG% and no fewer than 50 brilliant no-look passes to go ricocheting off the likes of Ryan Gomes and Brian Cardinal. The Wolves Expect: A poor-man's Pete Maravich. Statbuster Expects: Kenny Anderson.

Jonny Flynn: Apparently the Wolves hired the guy from Memento as their GM, as five minutes later, they draft a 2nd PG with their 6th pick. Flynn is more mature than Rubio, and less terrible than Sebastian Telfair, and should get the nod in the short term. However, neither Flynn or Rubio (or Telfair for that matter) are great shooters, so the Wolves' PGBC (point guard by committee) experiment will resemble some sort of masonry convention. The Wolves Expect: Mookie Blaylock. Statbuster Expects: 50 losses.

Stephen Curry: In drafting Curry and dealing Jamal Crawford, the Warriors' opening night backcourt will be comprised of a 6'3" shooting guard (Monta Ellis) and a point guard that doesn't pass (Curry). Which wouldn't work on any other team, but remember, this is Golden State. The laws of basketball fundamentals don't apply to them. The Warriors' Expect: Mike Bibby. Statbuster Expects: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (minus the Tourette's and the national anthem protest).

Jordan Hill: The fact that the Knicks drafted a PF sums up what the team thinks of Al Harrington and Eddy Curry (and the fact that David Lee will bolt via free agency). Hill will hopefully win over NY fans with hard work and defense, but, when Chris Duhon and Larry Hughes are logging 40 minutes a night, you'll wonder if another PF was the real need. The Knicks Expect: Chris Bosh. Statbuster Expects: Antonio Davis.

DeMar DeRozan: The word "project" popped up when the Raptors drafted DeRozan. Which means a player is big and/or athletic enough to use a lottery pick on despite the fact they have no discernible skills outside of being big and/or athletic. It's hard to ignore the fact that DeRozan basically had no stats (51 assists, 31 steals, six 3's in 1168 minutes) while there were still players on the board that could contribute immediately. The Raptors Expect: Another Vince Carter. Statbuster Expects: Harold Miner went to USC. I'm just sayin'.

Brandon Jennings: Jennings skipped college to enjoy one fairly horrendous year in Europe (38% FG, 6 PPG), but that wasn't enough to scare off Milwaukee from bringing him on as a project (Also see: DeRozan, DeMar). Jennings does have blinding quickness in his favor, but to run the point in the NBA he might need to shoot better and improve on a near 1:1 assist-turnover ratio. The Bucks Expect: Tony Parker, of course. Statbuster Expects: Keyon Dooling.

Terrence Williams: Williams is rare in that he does everything well except score. He was 1st among SGs in rebounds (8.6), 3rd in steals (2.3), 5th in assists (5.0), and 6th in blocks (0.8). Unfortunately, his jumper is somewhere in between streaky and non-existent (43% FG, 58% FT), although he did muster a 38% on 3s his senior year. Although, after watching Vince Carter the last few seasons, I doubt the fans will notice. The Nets Expect: Andre Iguodala. Statbuster Expects: Darrell Walker.

Gerald Henderson: The Bobcats are hoping Henderson will replace Raja Bell as their SG of the future, although I'm not convinced his offensive game will translate to the pros. While he has a great first step, he's a shade undersized (6'5"), and is only an OK ball handler. That along with meh 3-point range (34%) could work together to neuter his offensive game. While at Duke, he showed some solid defensive skills. So, in a worst-case scenario, he'll be a defensive role player, just like that Raja Bell guy he's replacing. That should be awesome. The Bobcats Expect: Latrell Sprewell. Statbuster Expects: Fred Jones.

Tyler Hansbrough: The Pacers came into the draft needing shot-blocking and a point guard to replace Jarrett Jack and/or T.J. Ford, and got neither. But Hansbrough should be a better defender than Troy Murphy, and is already better offensively than Jeff Foster. If Indiana signs one more white guy, they'll have to hire Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper to coach them to an improbable championship run via a series of inspirational montages. The Pacers Expect: Dave Cowens. Statbuster Expects: J.R. Reid.

The Steal of the Draft: DeJuan Blair, who was pegged to be a lottery pick in most mock drafts, fell to the Spurs at 37th. Some people pointed fingers at ACL injuries he had in high school. I'm pointing the finger at Mike Sweetney and Sean May. By whipping themselves into shape for the Draft, then immediately eating their way into irrelevance, they may have ruined the NBA for fat post players everywhere. Although that's probably what Blair will do too.

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Shaq and LeBron

Note: This post is the word of semi-regular contributor AnacondaHL. What follows is the unedited e-mail he sent me late last night.

Bawful, go ahead and cancel whatever you were going to post tomorrow, because do I have a story for you. To be honest, I didn't think there would be enough content for a post when this all started, but with the way things happened, well, you'll have to see for youself. I've got a buddy who moved to Las Vegas to work in a club, and I recieved a text message from him tonight. Said buddy is incredibly sports-unknowledgeable, but he can tell in an instant if you (male or female) are wearing anything from Express. I'm going to post the whole conversation un-edited, minus some comments in parenthesis by me, but you can feel free to edit it however necessary to protect the innocent *snicker*.

(21:40) Las Vegas: There a whole bunch of nba players coming into the club right now. I have no idea who they are u would appreciate this so much more

(21:44) AnacondaHL: The NBA draft is tomorrow holy crap that's hilarious. You are in for a busy next 30 hours

(21:50) LV: Its a private party for the players association. I'm talking to lots of tall people. And managers/owners/important folk. I wish u could switch brains with me cause I don't care about any of these people

(21:58) LV: Who is dr harry edwards?

(22:01) AHL: Never heard. Google says he works for the Golden State Warriors.

(22:16) LV: He asked me to send him a very tall 140 pound woman lol

(22:17) AHL: O. M. G. You need to document all of this so I can post it on BasketBawful.

(22:50) LV: Rashaw mckay?

(22:54) AHL: Uh, Rashad McCants maybe? He's an NBA player oh God please let it be Rashad McCants

(22:57) LV: It's a player. That's probably it that's just what my ears heard

(22:58) LV: Lots of people were recognizing him anyways

(23:02) AHL: Oh God please make sure. I'm emailing you a link to his website, including his poetry/rap.
(insert link here to us discussing it prior on this blog)

(23:05) LV: No data plan I can't use that. Somebody said to him "u were great in north carolina"

(23:08) AHL: OMG. STAY AROUND HIM SOMETHING HILARIOUS IS BOUND TO HAPPEN. REPORT BACK TO ME ANYTHING. GET HIM TO FREESTYLE.

(23:08) LV: There's another guy here too people were talking about. All star won a dunking comp dwight something. Or something dwight

(23:10) AHL: ...No. You are lying. It can't be Dwight Howard. It can't. You liar.

(23:11) LV: I'm not allowed inside I'm working lol. if I try to go in and openly socialize I'll be assassinated by my managers.

(23:12) LV: That's it. How could I be lying I don't even kniw his name. His manager or agent or something was telling he's a huge clown though
(At this point I punched myself in the face)

(23:19) AHL: Yea that's him. I'd send you an MMS, but I'd feel stupid since he's such a recognizable face and name. Ask the agent how much of a jerk Stan Van Gundy really is

(23:23) LV: He's inside now. Nobodies hanging around front with me anymore lol

(23:25) AHL: I want hourly updates on all the NBA groupies going in and out, who their with, 10 scale hotness rating, and percent chance they are prostitutes.

(23:27) LV: Very few women have gone in actually. I'm very surprised. Its all hotshots with admission badges. Although agent manager guy was telling me about the girls they have up in the suites

(23:29) AHL: YES THIS. More tall 140 pounders!

(23:36) LV: Lol I know one of the girls is an employee at tao. Scandalous, but expected

(23:47) LV: Some tall thick black woman just strolled in w/out creds. Nicely dressed and mannered tho
(me, scrambling to load up my computer)

(23:56) LV: Derek fisher? Richard lerner?

(00:00) AHL: Derek Fisher is on the Lakers, who just won the championship, beating the Magic, who's star is Dwight Howard. This is such a confusing list you're giving me

(00:02) LV: Apparently its a commitee. There are player reps here from all the teams

(00:04) AHL: Damn. I knew dreaming for a club confrontation between Vujacic and a thick woman was too good to be true. Ask who's here for the Suns!

(00:11) LV: Lol lemme see
(at this point, I've found this on Google)
(disappointed at finding a lack of thick women in the brochure)

(00:16) LV: My manager doesn't know

(00:25) AHL: Well at this point this event is probably old news on Twitter. F'in scrubs. Let me know if anything/anyone else happens. Plz don't get shot.

(00:30) LV: Lol

(00:31) (Shaq just got traded to the Cavs. Haha now you're stuck in Ohio!)

(00:31:03) (For Sasha Pavlovic and Ben Wallace. Fuck.)

(00:35) (And the Amare trade rumors begin again. Yay economy!)

[Author's note: you may link to the "Haha now you're stuck in Ohio" picture, and the Ben Wallace inflatable defender here in their respective places. I would, but I'm getting calls from funeral services throughout Phoenix, wanting a cost estimate on my crying myself to sleep.]

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Shaq and Bron
"...for Wallace and Pavlovic. Don't laugh, I think it could work."

I had plans for today. More Worsties. Maybe a post about fighting in pickup basketball. But I scrapped those plans when I heard about the Shaq-to-Cleveland trade. The deal might help Cleveland bust through their championship wall. Meanwhile, it means nothing short of utter and absolute destruction for the Phoenix Suns. In the short term, anyway.

Look, kiddies, the fact is this: Times have changed. The United States economy is sucking so hard that it could choke down Oliver Miller AND the World's Fattest Man in one huge gulp. Of course, the reality is NBA basketball never has been about winning. Well, it is sometimes, but only inasmuch as winning typically means making more money. That's just good business. But other times, and this is one of those times, good business means losing. Just ask the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks. And losing is what you can expect from the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns. And I mean a lot of it.

In return for the Big Brad Daughterneze, Phoenix is getting the decaying shell of Ben Wallace (which is the same as getting nothing), Sasha "The Invisible Man" Pavlovic (ditto), the 46th pick in Thursday's draft (double-ditto) and some cash (which is actually something). They'll also save money in salary and luxury tax (about $10 million, according to some reports). This was nothing more or less than a cost-cutting measure. They need to save greebacks, and they will...at the expense of winning basketball and the happiness of their fan base.

And to think, ESPN's Chris Broussard said: "The Phoenix Suns are not going to give O'Neal away merely to save money." Sucker.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't the Shaq of the early 2000s we're talking about. He wasn't great. However, he certainly was good last season: 17.8 PPG (on a league-best 60.9 percent shooting), 8.4 RPG, 1.4 BPG and a PER of 22.3 (which put him ahead of guys like Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, Danny Granger, Devin Harris, Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Kevin Durant, Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, etc.) He came close to setting a career-high in free throw percentage (59.5 percent). Cav-a-Shaq was an All-Star and even made the All-NBA Third Team for the first time since 2005-06. I guess all those things make him one of the best players in the game.

And yet he wasn't making the Suns any better. Meanwhile, he was chewing up $20 million worth of cap space. When you can't win with someone AND you can't afford him, well, it's probably time to bid him adieu. Normally, a team will try to get actual basketball talent in return. One trade I heard bandied about was Shaq to the Bulls for a package that could have included Luol Deng (finally a small forward to replace Shawn Marion and spell Grant Hill), Kirk Hinrich (finally a backup point guard to give Steve Nash a blow), and maybe some draft picks and cash. That move might have restocked some shelves and allowed the Suns to run free again. Or maybe not. But what does it matter now? The deed is done. Steve Kerr's failure is now complete. Or it will be once he gets rid of Steve Nash and trades Amare for Tracy McGrady.

On the other end of the trade spectrum we have a Cavs team starring LeBron and LeBrawn. Think about it for a second: Cleveland added Shaq -- a Shaq who proved last season he still has some Power Thirst left in the tank -- to a team that won 66 games and has the league's reigning MVP. AND THEY GAVE UP NOTHING. Wallace and Pavlovic were D-U-N, done. And if Shaq doesn't work out, so what? His contract comes off the books next summer...and the Cavaliers will be waaaaaaay under the cap. (Right now, they're committed to only about $36 million in 2010-11.)

Look, there are plenty of reasons to suspect that Shaq will be a bust in Cleveland. But it's a worthwhile gamble for the Cavs. It's not like when the Suns traded for Shaq and had to give up one of their key players. The only thing we have to figure out now is who's championship piggybacking off who? Because let's face it: King "Check My $tats" James wants the world to bow to his basketball supremacy...and so does Shaq. The Big Cavalanche can play kissy-face with Kobe all he wants, but unless I know "jack" and "sh*t" about human psychology, he'd love to earn championship numero cinco while cock-blocking Mamba's quest for a fifth.

It'll be interesting to see how this trade works out for Cleveland, and what moves the Eastern Conference Elite (Celtics, Magic) will make to counter it, if any. (Due to salary constraints, all Danny Ainge will be able to do, I think, is to watch helplessly and maybe pee himself.) As for the Suns, well, watching them is going to become exceedingly depressing. But I'll take some comfort in knowing that Robert Sarver will be saving some money while Steve Kerr is (presumably) saving his job.

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Worsties
Brian Scalabrine: The Official Mascot of the 2008-09 NBA Worsties.

That's right: It's time for the NBA Worsties, a month-by-month recap of the best of the worst of the 2008-09 NBA season. Here's Part 1:

The Iverson-for-Billups trade: Under Joe Dumars' careful stewardship, the Detroit Pistons made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals six consecutive times from 2003 through 2008. They also reached the NBA Finals twice and beat the Shaq-Kobe-Mailman-Glove Lakers for the 2004 title. There were some knocks against this team, though, particularly when they fell apart in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 ECFs. The naysayers said they lacked a killer instinct, tended to coast and/or underestimate their opponents, and perhaps were "only" good enough to be one of the best teams in the league...but not The Best.

But Joe Dumars had the answer: Blow that sh*t up. On November 3, Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb were traded to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Allen Iverson. This is what I had to say at the time: "AI to Detroit for Chauncey Billups and 'Tony McDyess? Because the Pistons need a ME-ME-ME-FIRST!! scorer handling the rock? Bad trade. Baaaaaaaaad trade." As usual, I would turn out to be right about that. But more on that in the upcoming Worsties.

Shortly after the trade, it came out that Joe Dumars might have made the deal in hopes of clearing cap space for the Summer of 2010. I'm sorry, but if the plan really is to make a big run at Bosh, Wade or James in 2010, it's a flawed plan. I guarantee that Bosh and Wade are going to re-sign with their teams, and LeBron is either staying in Cleveland or bolting for New York. But hey, what do I know? At least we got a little high comedy early on.


Shawn Marion: Going into the season, things were looking up for the Matrix. He was healthy, and he was ready to play Robin to a healthy Dwyane Wade's Batman. Oh, and it was a contract year to boot. I'd be willing to bet Marion went pretty early in many fantasy basketball drafts. But the people who drafted him probably never really watched him play, or perhaps they simply didn't fully grasp his game. Or lack thereof. Without Steve Nash feeding him a steady diet of gimmies, Shawn's game regressed. In November, he averaged 11.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shot a crummy 18 percent from long distance. Mind you, this is the same guy who was genuinely disgusted to be the third option (behind Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire) and the highest paid player on some darn good Suns teams. Memo to Shawn: This is why Robert Sarver didn't want to throw bags of money at you. Speaking of disappointments...

Mike James, worst backup PG in the league: He was supposed to, in the words of Tommy Heinsohn, give Chris Paul a blow when Paul needed a blow. But the only thing that blew was James himself. Byron Scott lost faith in "The Amityville Scorer" almost immediately, and Mike ended up playing only six games for a total of 56 minutes in November. His averages for those six games were: 2.3 PPG, 1.2 APG, 33 percent shooting (6-for-18) and almost as many personal fouls (5) as total assists (7).

From CP3's primary backup to DNP-CD, just like that. Why? Well, coach Byron Scott provided a few hints last week: "In this offense, what [James] needs to do is really look to get everybody the ball. I don't know if he can do it or not. I think Mike has been programmed his whole career to be a score-first point guard. On this team, that's not what we really need right now. So he has to try and change his focus and do a better job running the team and getting guys involved. Obviously, the first seven games have not been the best for him."

Ouch. And here was James' response: "If I'm out there for two minutes or out there 20 minutes, I'm going to play my game. I'm just going to do what got my name and credibility in this league. I'm just going to be aggressive, make plays, score or pass. It's freedom of mind." At the time, I said: "With that attitude, Mike, it's going to be less 'freedom of mind' and more 'riding the pine.' Good luck handing out Gatorade during timeouts, Mike." Little did I know that James would soon be traded to the league's most pathetic team...

The Los Angeles Clippers: On the surface, it looked as though the Clippers actually made some good moves during the summer of 2008. They signed Baron drafted Eric Gordon, signed Baron Davis to a free agent contract, and traded a whole lot of nothing for Marcus Camby (the Clippers gave Denver the option to swap second round draft picks in the 2010 NBA Draft). But let's face it: They are who we thought they were. The Other L.A. Team finished went 3-11 in November, while scoring about 92 PPG and giving up close to 100. To make a bad situation terribly, terribly worse, on November 21 they traded Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas for...Zach Randolph. And it's really saying something when trading two players whose careers are basically over for a 20/10 guy is an awful trade for the team getting the 20/10 guy. Oh, and did I mention all this happened in the wake of Elgin Baylor's forced resignation and the promotion of Mike Dunleavy Sr. from coach to coach AND general manager. Worst. Franchise. Ever.

Starbury's newfound appreciation for Larry Brown: Even as Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni were doing all they could to banish Stephon Marbury forever, Marbury came to adore the coach he once despised. Stephon Marbury: "Looking back at the last two years, I kind of liked Larry Brown," Marbury said with a laugh. "I kind of liked Larry Brown. I'm like, 'Man, I wish this guy was here to drill me now.'" Who knew that Stephon liked to be drilled, let alone by Larry Brown. But looking past the rather obvious homoerotic overtones for a sec, just think about that statement. Considering the way Larry Brown got run out of New York, that would be like the villagers from Frankenstein saying, "I kind of liked the monster. Man, I wish that creature was here to strangle me to death right now!" Here's the rest of what Starbury had to say.

The Spurs' slow start: Minus Manu Ginobili, the Spurs began the season 0-3. Two of those losses took place in San Antonio, where the Spurs have been nigh-invincible the last 10 years. It was the team's worst start since opening the 1973-74 ABA season at 0-4. For the sake of perspective, that was their first season in San Antonio after playing in Dallas as the Chaparrals. (The Spurs joined the NBA in 1976.) And here are some factoids from that third loss. Matt Bonner (zero points, 0-for-5 and 5 boards in 20 minutes) started at center last night. Michael Finley shot 1-for-3 and finished with 3 points. Ime Udoka was 0-for-4. George Hill was 3-for-7. Kurt Thomas played 12 minutes without scoring a single point (he was 0-for-1) or snaring a single rebound. The Fabulous Oberto returned to play 14 reboundless minutes. Frankly, if it wasn't for Roger Mason, the Spurs might have lost by 30 instead of "only" 17.

Steve Francis, fashion guru: Guess who showed up for a Rockets home loss to the Boston Celtics: Stevie Franchise, a guy who was only nominally on Houston's roster. From the game notes in the AP recap: "Houston guard Steve Francis, out with a knee injury, arrived at the arena wearing a red velvet sport jacket with 'Barack Obama' spelled on the back in sequins. Francis said he would try to attend Obama's presidential inauguration. 'Today is a transitional day in my career and everybody else's career,' he said before the game." The only transition his career made was from "showing up to random home games" to "never to be seen or heard from again." Nice jacket, though. I imagine it's what a pimp would have worn to the Democratic National Convention.

jacket

The Magic of Mike and Marv: These guys have a terrific on-air chemistry, but let's face it, they've been broadcasting together for decades. Sometimes they get board, sometimes they act like an old married couple, and sometimes...it's both. That's when this kind of stuff happens:

sunsnets

Marv Albert: It's time for our J&R Music and Computer World Upcoming Schedule. Following tonight, the Nets will finish up the home stands...that's, uh, very lovely. On friday night against Allen Iverson and the Detroit...what is that?

Mike Fratello: It's a car.

Marv: Oh, Motor City, oh I got it.

Mike: It's a car.

Marv: So clever. You think about this for long periods of time? And then at Miami on...at Indiana on Saturday, I'm sorry.

Mike: I didn’t want to throw you off.

Marv: I, I know.

Mike: Okay.

Marv: All right. Indiana, what do they get? What's that? That's very creative. What is that? Is that a building?

Mike: It's a building.

Marv: For Indianapolis?

Mike: It is.

Marv: And then at Miami on Monday night.

Mike: You know Miami gets, they get another, ohh yeahhh.

Marv: Oh very cute, yeah, all right and then back home for the Pacers next Wednesday. but frankly we've seen enough.

Mike: Okay.

Marv: The J&R Music and Computer World Upcoming Schedule. The Nets playing four games in five nights.

Mike: I was trying to think of how to draw a hurricane for Miami, not sure how to do that.

Marv: I'm sure you'll come up with something. Iittle box for the city of Indianapolis.
Brian Skinner's awful missed dunk: As Wild Yams said: "Here's a video of Brian Skinner from the Clippers blowing a wide-open dunk against the Lakers, which he then follows up by grabbing Derek Fisher in frustration or embarrassment." Well, in all fairness, Brian has a lot to be frustrated about. He was a Clipper, after all. Still, watching him blow a dunk when there isn't anybody within five feet of him is pretty funny, and it has the added benefit of making Yao Ming feel better about himself. So, you know, win-win.


Amare Stoudemire, flop master: Serious sad face material here. As Basketbawful reader Garron put it: "You are NOT allowed to have a major dunkage, go to the whole King Kong chest bump, then fly half the width of the court after a backup point guard touches you. 49 points was great for Amare. Flopping, is not." Agreed. But hey, let's face it, just think about all those years the Suns were humiliated by the Spurs. Amare learned from The Masters.


Chicago Bulls drama: One of the reasons the Bulls fell from grace last season was that many of the players had their own agendas and therefore tuned out Scott Skiles. And even after Skiles was canned (on Christmas eve), they didn't exactly kill themselves for interim head coach Jim Boylan. All that stuff was supposed to be ancient history...but it's not: Ben Gordon and Luol Deng are already making subtle criticisms to the press. "Starters have to get off to a good start; that's their responsibility," Gordon said after Sefolosha went scoreless and starting forward Tyrus Thomas had one point against the Cavaliers. "They have to step it up. Maybe Coach needs to mix something up a little bit." Translation: Coach needs to start me.

Deng, on the other hand, seems to think his slow start is the fault of the team's offense. "I still don't feel I'm playing how I want to play. We have to find sets that we're productive from and try to give teams different looks. We stayed with similar sets, especially in the fourth quarter. We have to switch it up a little bit." Translation: Coach needs to call more plays for me.

But Vinny D isn't changing for nobody, nohow: "No, no, no; they're the players, I'm the coach," Del Negro said. "The easiest thing is to look from the outside in and say we should do this or that. But when you go through it, it's a lot different. We're trying to put everybody in the most successful area we can. Sometimes it's not the system; sometimes it is. Sometimes it's the familiarity of everything."

Del Negro then put the onus right back on his players. "It's probably frustration talking. [Deng] got good looks [Wednesday], just like a few other guys. At times I thought we played pretty well moving the ball, but [we're] still shooting the ball too quick. Guys [are] a little bit unsure and thinking too much instead of playing. What happens is, sometimes [players] get a little bit out of sync and they start forcing things and try to do things they're not comfortable with. That hurts them even more. You just have to be patient and understand where you're going to get your shots."

It's always good to have everybody on the same page...

Brandon Roy's game-winning celebrations: I'm happy for the kid. I am. He hit a 30-foot bomb to give his team a two-point win over the Houston Rockets. But I don't want to see him posing like this unless he's in the middle of some kind of gamma ray-induced transformation.

Roy
"Bloargh!!

Elton Brand and the Philadelphia 76ers: Shortly after the Philadelphia 76ers signed Brand to that $80 million contract last summer, Elton said: "I'm prepared to do some big things this year." In November, those "big things" included scoring 16 PPG and watching his team -- a squad that was supposed to challenge Boston for Eastern Conference supremacy -- go 6-9 for the month. Fail.

Basketbawful History Break!! On November 9, the term suck differential -- officially coined by AnacondaHL -- officially enteres the Basketbawful lexicon. And there was much rejoicing.

Yao Ming, worst nine-foot tall dunker ever: Poor Yao. He spent a lot of time in the early part of the season either blowing dunks or getting them stuffed, somtimes in spectacular fashion.


This led to an early-season "Yao Watch." Here's one example of it: "I did a little box score review, and I discovered that Yao had four of his shots rejected this weekend (once by the Lakers and thrice by the Clippers). That brings Yao's season total of "blocks against" to 14 in seven games. That's right: The gigantic Yao is having his shot stuffed an average of two times a game. In addition, some research at 82games.com uncovered the following "stunning" revelations: Yao's effective field goal percentage on dunks is only 50 percent. Just as damning, if not more so, are the following stats: 22 percent of his "close" shots are getting blocked, 19 percent of his inside shots are getting stuffed, and 17 percent of his flush attempts are being returned to sender. Also, you can officially add Kobe to the list of things Yao can't dunk over or against."

Oh, and by the way, it didn't end with Kobe...


Dirk Nowitzki's Ass of Doom: The mad German made a four-year-old boy cry when he crashed into the tyke while trying to save a ball from going out of bounds. But no worries. Jason Terry -- who missed his first 11 shots and finished 3-for-15 -- ran across the court from the Mavericks' bench to give the brat his sweaty headband. I'm sure you'll be able to find it on eBay as early as right now. Anyway, here's the first shot of Dirk's ass-attack on the front-row youngster.

Dirk butt 1

Now take a look at his face. He's being absolutely traumatized by Dirk's butt. NBA action: It's FANNY-tastic!

Dirk butt 2

LeBron James cold start: Before he hit 4-for-7 from downtown against the Bulls on November 8, James was 1-for-19 from beyond the arc. After his hot game, he was 5-for-26 (19 percent). And according to 82games.com (at the time), LeBron's effective field goal percentage on jump shots was 17.9 percent. Did the terrorists taken his jumper hostage? How much did they want for it? I'm sure Nike ended up covering the ransom. Or...did they...?

Joey Graham: Normally, lacktion figures like Joey don't make it into the Worsties, but he gets special mention for both going by "Joey" and receiving a Code Red from Super Mario West!


The Washington Wizards' slow start: They dropped about $160 million on Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison during the summer of '08. Then, when the season started, knee surgery had reduced Agent Zero to just plain zero, and the Wizards began a season of epic suck. One winless weekend included a home loss to the Knicks and an embarrassing blowout in Orlando. Those two losses dropped them to 0-5, and Jamison wasn't happy about it. "Anytime you lose like that you definitely don't approve of it. But it's extra disappointing when you are in the position we're in, and for us not to come out with the energy and focus that we needed for this game. We're 0-5 and we need people to play basketball." It's funny you said that, Mr. "I just signed a $50 million contract extension over the summer." The team report said: "Jamison seemed disinterested during the late stages of a blowout loss, something that was evident when he did not join a team huddle during a timeout in the third quarter." Nice team leadership, Antawn.

Kevin Garnett, hardwood bastard: Who knew that finally winning an NBA championship would transform KG into a Batman villain.


Sasha Vujacic's chest bump fail: So awesome you'll pee.


The Suns-Rockets Brawl: It was a catfight in Houston. And here's Slasher 14 with the call: "T-Mac set a screen on Nash where Nash appeared to hurt his shoulder. Next time down the floor Rafer Alston went to set a screen on Matt Barnes, who just pushed him out of the way. Alston ran over after Barnes and a scuffle broke out. When it looked like everything had been cleared up, Nash, who was running over to try and break the fight up, appeared to slip and fell into Alston. McGrady saw this and probably thought he was after Alston, so McGrady pushes an off-balance Nash to the floor. Then Shaq comes in and clears T-Mac out of the way and then gives Yao a push for good measure. It's kind of funny watching Yao fall over: He falls at about half the speed of a normal sized person. Maybe the laws of gravity have a different affect on Yao, which is why he is having trouble dunking this year?" Slasher's right about Yao. Watch and laugh at his slow-motion fall. It kind of reminds me of Bela Lugosi's slow, stumbling Frankenstein monster in Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man.


Reggie Evans: Mercilessly owned. By Andrea Bargnani. I can think of few things more humiliating than being in Bargnani's poster.


Joey Crawford, pure officiating evil: Joey strikes again! The ref with the infamously itchy whistle-finger hit Kenyon Martin with a flagrant 2 foul, which meant an automatic ejection. Good call? Bad call? Ridiculous call? I'll let you be the judge.


Martin was understandably indignant after the game. "It's basketball, man -- it's a contact sport. It's not bowling or table tennis." No, it's certainly not. Fans can actually stay awake through most NBA games (assuming the Spurs aren't involved). What made the call even more ridiculous is that Dahntay Jones and LeBron got into a shoving match earlier in the game...and nothing was called. Not even a tech. Ah, NBA officiating: A model of inconsistency.

Boobie Gibson's super haircut: Gibson unveiled his latest masterpiece of hair-cuttery: A Superman-style symbol with a big "B" in it. He explained the hieroglyph thusly: "I talked to my Dad the other night and he said he hadn't seen my smile in a long time. I guess I was being 'Daniel' out there on the court, so I got the 'Boobie' symbol to remind me that I need to be out there having fun and enjoying the game again." Hey, who cares if you look like an idiot as long as you're having fun! I don't have a picture, unfortunately, but here's one of his previous hair-stravaganza: Bat-Boobie.

gibson-batman

Kenyon Martin's lip tattoo: The tat's an homage to his hottie girlfriend Trina...but my question is this: Why choose such a fruity tribute? He might as well have gotten a tattoo of a penis or Richard Simmons. But who knows? Maybe Trina made him get it to keep all the NBA groupies away, because I'm pretty sure he'll be getting the John Amaechi treatment from now on.

Kmart

Shaq the Detroyer: He was called for a flagrant 2 foul and ejected after nearly killing Rodney Stuckey. The Big Excuser tried to explain it away (see below), but seriously, this foul would have gotten Shaq charged with attempted manslaughter in some states. (But remember, you can't have "manslaughter" without "laughter"!) Actually, this play kind of reminds me of the Kevin McHale / Kurt Rambis clothesline, only if McHale was a giant gorilla and Rambis was a frail midget.


Jerry Sloan's venomous tongue: Considering they were without Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Matt Harpring, the Jazz put up a pretty good fight on the road against a surging Cavs team. But Jerry Sloan got pretty riled up over his team's "defense" on LeBron James, who scored 16 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter. "We didn't even get close enough to guard him at times. You have to compete against the guy. If you say, 'I'm not going to touch him,' you'll be saying that 20 years from now. You might as well get an autograph and go home." Wicked. When asked if his players backed down a little bit in guarding James, Sloan said: "A little bit? It was like we were afraid to even touch him." You know, Jerry's been around for such a long time. I wish he would just open up and tell us what he really thinks.

Basketbawful FUN-tastic extra!! Fun with Names: Starring Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

George Karl, President of the Allen Iverson Fan Club: Karl had some rather unflattering thing to say about the recently-departed Allen Iverson: "There are less bad plays, more solid plays. I think the wasteful, cheap possessions that we used to have 10 to 15 a game, they don't exist very much anymore. We have contested-shot charts, bad-shot charts and cheap defensive possessions. I would say that when A.I. was here, we had most games in the teens of contested, tough shots, sometimes in the 20s. And I don't think we've had a double-digit one since (Billups has) been here." And more: "I don't think there's any question coaching a team for many minutes, without a passing and point guard mentality, is frustrating for a coach. Sometimes I saw something, but I couldn't get it done on the court because I didn't have a playmaker out there."

The Return of Knee-Mac: You'd better sit down for this, because it's going to be quite the shocker: On November 17, T-Mac left a game against the Thunder in the opening minute of the second half after hurting his left knee, which was sliced open during the summer to have "loose bodies" removed. And, even more shockingly, he didn't return.

Said McGimpy: "Tonight I went back to square one, even before surgery, is how my knee is feeling right now. I want to play, man. I want to play. Just to get off to this start, for me personally this is a bad start. To have to play your way through an injury that I've never had before and a surgery that was my first surgery is very frustrating. My game is really based on athleticism, and that's something that I don't have right now. I've never had any relief because I've just been trying to work my way into playing shape and strengthen my leg. I've never been 100 percent. I've just been trying to play, hoping that playing on it will take me over the edge and I don't have any more pain. It hasn't worked in my favor. It's sharp pain. It almost just seems like I never had surgery. I'm feeling the same pain."

I went ahead and checked with science, and science says this event shocked -17 people, which is an unofficial world's record.

A comically stupid Nuggets fan: Our buddy Ben Q. Rock of The Third Quarter Collapse provided the following write-in: "It's pretty ridiculous for a guy to hold a sign saying 'Iverson Who?' while wearing an Iverson jersey. It's like, dude, just check your own clothing if you've forgotten who the guy is. God." And here's the idiot in question:

AI who

The Sacramento Kings: On November 18, they made it official: The Kings are worse than the Memphis Grizzlies. They let the teddy bears shoot 54 percent (62 from beyond the arc) and outrebound them 46-33...a solid effort on the Fail Scale (I give it a 7.6). Rookie forward Jason Thompson, who had two of his shots blocked (a game high!), said: "Some of the stuff [the Grizzlies] were doing, it happened so fast that we weren't reading our coverages, and guys were missing assignments." When the Grizzlies are moving faster than your senses can accurately perceive, you really need to have those senses checked by a licensed medical practitioner. They did hold O.J. Mayo to only 11 points, though. Sometimes it's the little victories that count, even though they aren't real victories. Oh, and a special callout goes to Quincy Douby, who went 0-for-9 off of Sactown's bench.

Quentin Richardson, super tough guy: After the Knicks-Celtics game -- which Boston won 110-101 -- Quentin Richardson said: "I'm just real curious to see what those guys will be saying if we weren't in a basketball league and didn't have referees. I mean, it wouldn't be the same story. I mean, they are the world champions and rah, rah, rah, but the tough part I don't factor. I come from a neighborhood where you can say what you want to say, but until you do something, it don't mean nothing." Seriously. Put the dumb pills down, Quentin.

A few more if Q's choice words: "I think a few of those guys know they can’t just say anything to us.... Some of those guys are happy to get a ring, but you ain't been in the league long enough to talk to people like that. I don't have a lot of respect for that. Like I said, I'd be curious to hear what they have to say in a different setting. I'd be very curious to see that." I'm sorry, but really, when did Quentin Richardson become a "tough guy"? Did I miss something? Does he suddenly think he's all manly and stuff because he plays in New York?

Andray Blatche: Bulletproof (real nickname) released a foul wind on the Washington bench...from which there was NO ESCAPE. People in Chicago are always doing that on the elevator. Just FYI. You can see stills of the entire odorous incident as it went down at Truth About It.

Blatch

Man versus Machine: Poor Sasha Vujacic. First Trevor Ariza almost kills him with a chest bump. Then he got all up in his face. Rough season for the Machine. (The spat is at the end of the video.)


LeBron James, ego-machine: On the one hand, the King tried to say all the right things. To wit: "We hear it every day, we see it every day on TV about 2010 all the time, we still go out and take care of business. We don't worry about what's going on. Me the leader, I can't let that faze me because I'm leading these guys onto something that we want to accomplish, and that's win an NBA championship."

But on the other hand, he also made comments suggesting that he's looking ahead just as much as anybody else. "If you guys want to go to sleep right now and not wake up until July 1, 2010, then go ahead because it's going to be a big day. July 1, 2010 is going to be a very, very big day."

He also let the NBA world know that he'll be willing to listen to anybody with the money to pursue him. "It's not just New York and Brooklyn. It's not just a two-team race." Presumably, his own team will be allowed to join in the LeBron Lottery...but that's quite a bit different than saying "I'm a Cavalier for life." I'm sure that's got to make the people of Cleveland feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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Italy

On July 9, Evil Ted and I will depart for Italy, a.k.a., Europe's Boot. No, this isn't a guys trip. If it was, trust me, we'd be going somewhere like Amsterdam. No, our company has decided we're important enough to send to Pisa for two weeks of extensive training. What kind of training? ARMY TRAINING, SIR!!

Just kidding. We'll actually be honing our technical writing skills. Assuming the boredom of said training doesn't finish us off, Mortal Kombat-style.

We'd love to get some pickup ball in while we're there, but...we have no idea where to go, or even if they play pickup in the Boot. Sadly, the almighty Google has failed us. So if you or anyone you know has played at or heard of pickup courts in Pisa or, hell, anywhere else in Italy, let us know.

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Life-sized Kobe Bobble

Here's an item you'll never, ever, ever see on my annual Christmas List: A life-sized Kobe Bryant bobblehead doll. I am not making this up. For a mere $13,000. That's actually cheaper than the Shaq, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming life-sizers they came out with a few years ago. Those babies were $27,000 each. I guess the economy is even affecting the life-sized bobblehead market.

Anyway, the Kobe-doll is available for pre-order and will be shipped out in September. I wonder if you can order one that's fitted with a custom t-shirt...

[Hat tip: Deadspin, via Chris.]

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Oliver Miller

First it was Greg Ostertag, and now this: Oliver Miller wants to make a comeback. In an article that was appropriately titled "Fat chance? Humbled Oliver Miller eyes the NBA again," Miller admitted that he has a burning desire...only this time, it has nothing to do with cheese fries or random foodstuffs covered in delicious frosting and/or gravy. Well, mostly nothing.

Said Miller: "I miss [playing in the NBA] a lot. But I hate watching. I can't watch it. The first thing you hear them talk about is the lack of a big man. Here I am a big man and I'm unemployed."

Yeah, well, there are reasons for that. Miller -- who's weight had ballooned to 415 pounds before he started watching what he eats and acting as (don't laugh...actually go ahead and laugh) his own personal trainer -- is 39 years old and a slim 330 pounds. Oh, and he hasn't set foot on an NBA court since May 31, 2004, when he submitted a 5-minute, 4-foul performance against the Lakers. (He also had 1 block, 1 turnover and 1 missed shot.)

This is the same guy who was released by the Harlem Globtrotters for having "no appreciation for what it takes mentally and physically to be a Harlem Globetrotter." If Miller isn't qualified to spin a basketball on his finger or maybe headbutt it into a hoop, he's probably not ready for NBA action. (Even if he did win an ABA title with the Arkansas RimRockers in 2005.) But don't tell him that.

"I am better than ever," Miller said. "I am in better shape than I was when I was last in the league. I am moving around quicker. I feel a lot better. I can give you 25 good minutes and a double-double. And I am a whole lot better mentally, maturity wise. ... What motivates me is that people don’t believe me," Miller said. "I love challenges. My challenge right now is to lose more weight and get back in. I ain't trying to look like Dwight Howard. I know what I need to do. I would just like to get back in the game."

Good luck with that, guy.

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Since I'm busy putting together material for this year's edition of The Worsties, why not tide yourself over with a few NBA blooper reels? They have zero calories and freshen your breath while you watch. (You know, assuming you're also chewing gum or sucking on a breath mint.)


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Check out this post that ran on TMZ today. Alternate title: "LeBron gets totally owned."

MVL

Oh snap! Not too surprising, is it? This is pretty much the kind of pompous assery you'd expect from a man who speaks in third person and doesn't shake hands when he loses. The money shot, of course, is the direct comparison dis: "For the record -- you won't see Kobe Bryant wearing a shirt with his individual accomplishments plastered on the front of it during his championship parade today -- he's gonna let the trophy do the talking." (Note the wording "his championship parade." Because it's for him and not the entire team, right?) Uh, yeah. There's just one problem with that slam. Take a look at the shirt Mamba was sporting during said parade:

Four Rings

Whaaa...?! Let's take a closer look at that "I'm so team-first" t-shirt.

Four Rings 2

Why, I do declare! That looks like a puppet hand with four rings. Oh, and you'll notice in the parade pic that Kobe's holding up four fingers. Huh. I guess he wasn't content to "let the trophy do the talking" after all. Kobe wants -- perhaps even needs -- the world to know he has not one, not two, not three, but FOUR championship rings...one for each finger of his puppet's hand. Impressive. Most Impressive. But it's still all about him.

And please, please, pretty please don't try to use the "he's celebrating a team accomplishment" defense. That would fall somewhere between the Chewbacca defense and the Twinkie defense. The fact is, if the shirt was meant to celebrate a team achievement, it would have had 12 hands, or caricatures of him and his teammates, or whatever. No, this was Kobe saying, "I've got four rings," not "We have four rings," or "Phil and I have four rings together." I mean, when Phil held up his 10 fingers after the Lakers won, do you really think he was saying, "Me and Michael, Scottie, Shaq, Kobe, Jud Buechler, etc. have won 10 rings together."? Hardly.

Plus, let's take a peek at the official description of this t-shirt: "In celebration of Kobe Bryant's achievements during the 2009 NBA Finals, his 4th NBA Championship Title, and his first ever NBA Finals MVP Award, Nike created a limited selection of graphic t-shirts, including the 4 Rings Tee seen above." That doesn't exactly scream "team achievement," does it? In fact, I don't see the word "team" or any of his teammates names mentioned or even alluded to there. As always, I'm just sayin'.

Thanks to Wild Yams, Buck Nasty and chris, all of whom were all over this issue in the comments.

Update! To be clear, I don't have a problem with Kobe's shirt. Or LeBron's, for that matter. People wear things that celebrate their achievements. If someone earns honor cords when they graduate from college, they wear them. Many college grads prominently display their diplomas. When people finish marathons, they usually put on the medal or t-shirt they get at the finish line. I once bought my grandpa a "World's Best Grandpa!" coffee mug, and guess what? He drank out of it! It's really not that big of a deal. I wrote this post because I was amused by three things in order: 1) TMZ using Kobe's "selflessness" to mock LeBron, 2) Kobe immediately doing exactly what TMZ said "for the record" he wouldn't do, and 3) the auto-Kobe defense that his puppet hand shirt was a celebration of team rather than self...which is ridiculous.

Update, Part 2! As Jundi noted, TMZ owned up to their goof.

Update, Part 3! From Wild Yams: "For what it's worth, the announcing crew who covered the parade yesterday for Fox Sports West (including Rick Fox and Norm Nixon) were saying that when the players all gathered in Staples Center before coming out to board the buses, there were corporate sponsors down there giving them shirts to wear for the parade (just like the NBA passes out shirts and hats at the championship celebration). That's why Kobe had a white shirt on under the puppet hand one, it's why Fisher had the same shirt Kobe did, and it's why every other Laker was either wearing a Nike/KB24 "Carpe Diem" champagne cork shirt or a 2009 Champions "caricature" shirt."

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McFail

It's official: McHale's 1.5-decade reign of consistent bawfulness -- which was occasionally interrupted by periods of solid mediocrity -- is finally and mercifully over. Why? Said McHale: [Timberwolves new president of basketball operations David Kahn] didn't really give me any reasons other than the fact he wanted to make a change." Reality check: The change Kahn wants is to go from "not winning" to "winning," Kevin. I'm just sayin'.

The kicker? Kevin Love broke the news via Twitter. Classy.

In those 15 years of McFailure, the Timberwolves amassed a 568-630 record, suffered eight non-winning seasons (which included four 20-win campaigns and two 30-winners) and lost in the first round of the playoffs seven times in a row. Did I mention he had one of the NBA's all-time greats for 12 of those seasons? Yeah.

Other highlights include: Trading Ray Allen for Stephon Marbury; a secret agreement with Joe Smith that cost the franchise Smith, three first round draft picks and $3.5 million; drafting one of the great all-time busts in Ndubi Ebim (which was Minny's first first-rounder after the Smith debacle); offering Latrell Sprewell a three-year, $21 million contract extension (which, fortunately for McHale, Spree turned down, stating that "Why would I want to help them win a title? They're not doing anything for me. I'm at risk. I have a lot of risk here. I got my family to feed."); trading Sam Cassell AND a first-round lottery pick to the Los Angeles Clippers for Marko Jaric; selecting Brandon Roy with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft and then trading him for Randy Foye, whom the Portland Trail Blazers selected seventh (Roy went on to win Rookie of the Year while Foye missed most of the season due to injury); signing Mike "Contract Year" James to a four-year contract; and, of course, giving his old team the gift of Kevin Garnett (and an instant championship).

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I love these old school shoe commercials. Seriously, I can't get enough of 'em. All-time greats, laughable production values, not-so-special effects and acting that's so lifeless and wooden it would embarrass those LeBron and Kobe puppets. The best part of this commercial: The slightly creepy forced group laugh at the end. (That's the exact same laugh, by the way, that my college roommate used to have when I walked in on him with an Adam & Eve catalogue.) Second-best part: Larry's delayed reaction after Dr. J takes his shoe. (If only they'd had Larry say "Aw, schucks!" or "Gee willikers!"...)

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Phil Jackson Face

Note: This post was nominated by Basketbawful reader kobefearslebron.

Phil Jackson Face (fil jak'-suhn fas) noun. A facial expression that simultaneously conveys both supreme annoyance and resigned acceptance.

Usage example: Every time Evil Ted sends one of his patented no-look passes sailing out of bounds, I make the Phil Jackson Face.

Word history: The term was semi-coined by Bill Simmons in his article Take a retro look at Game 2 and then more fully explained in Kobe '09: Change we can believe in? I say "semi-coined" because Simmons actually called it The "Should I point out to him that MJ would have absolutely passed there?" Face. Here's the excerpt:

My favorite image of the 2009 Finals was Phil's face after Kobe went one-on-four at the end of Game 2, something I jokingly called The "Should I point out to him that MJ would have absolutely passed there?" Face in my column.

You know what his reaction reminded me of? Being married. Spend enough time with a person and you accept their strengths and weaknesses for what they are. For instance, I am messy. I leave clothes on the floor. I will make coffee in the morning, mistakenly leave a little coffee on the counter and not clean it up. I'm just selfishly absentminded about little things like that. My wife stopped complaining about it around three years ago. When I do those things now, she just makes the Phil Jackson Face. Crap. I'm stuck with him. It's not even worth getting into it. The plusses outweigh the minuses. Let's move forward. Jackson never made that face with his first wife (Jordan); with his second wife (Kobe), he makes it every so often. You could say they're an imperfect match, and if you want to keep the domestic analogy going, they even legally separated in 2004 after a couple of unhappy years. Now they might go on like this indefinitely.
Word trivia: My buddy Mister P is the absolute master of the Phil Jackson Face, so much so that I'd rename it the "Mister P Face" if he was famous (outside of our pickup league, anyway). Even more than Evil Ted (who is a hardwood bastard in his own right), Mister P simply CANNOT stand playing on a team with one or more crummy players. When a lousy shooter forces up a hotly contested 20-footer (hereafter referred to as a "Kobe") instead of passing to a wide open Mister P -- and, sadly, this happens a lot -- he'll turn, give me an extended Phil Jackson Face (usually with a slight head tilt thrown in for good measure), and then trudge slowly down court. (As you probably already know if you play pickup ball, defensive apathy kicks in almost immediately for players who don't receive passes on open looks.)

As alluded to in the usage example, I make this face at least once a night when teamed up with Evil Ted. He has this move in which he drives hard, jumps in the air, and then throws a two-handed behind-the-head pass that occasionally looks brilliant but usually results in a turnover or a teammate scrambling madly to prevent the turnover. Of course, I know how this maneuver became part of ET's repertoire: Larry Bird did it all the time, and it's prominently featured in a passing montage during Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend. Keep in mind that the degree of difficulty of passes featured in a Larry Bird highlight film is pretty high. There probably should be a disclaimer that says: "Do not attempt these moves, mortal fool!"

There's also a time during almost every pickup game when my features get frozen in the Phil Jackson Face...and that's game point. Everybody wants to be the hero, especially if it's a close game. It's almost as if the ball is carrying a virus that's 100 percent contagious, and that virus fills its victim's mind with one all-consuming thought: MUST SHOOT. And, of course, the opposing team usually picks up their defensive intensity, which means that the "good" looks get further and further away from the hoop, until guys start chucking it up from near midcourt. ("BUT I WAS OPEN!") Strategies that worked all game will be carelessly abandoned at game point for one-on-one drives into traffic, leaning half-hooks, turn-around jumpers from impossible distances, and any other bad shot you want to name/describe. But you know it's going to happen, so most of the time the Phil Jackson Face is all you can do.

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Our fearless lacktion reporter Chris sent me the link to this hyper-awesome Mike Dunleavy Twitter page. However, I must warn you: It's not real...it's BETTER than real. (Kind of like how the infamous El Guapo was MORE than famous.)

Here's a sampling:

Dumbleavy Tweet 1

Dumbleavy Tweet 3

Dumbleavy Tweet 2

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Tag playing hockey
The NBA's most awkward white guy ever now has
razor-sharp foot blades and a stick. We're all screwed.

There are certain mysteries of life that will always puzzle me. Why doesn't McDonald's sell hotdogs? Why do people say "heads up" when you should duck? How did Edward Scissorhands wipe his butt? And how did Greg Ostertag manage to last in the NBA for 11 seasons and make almost $50 million? No, really. He did it.

Not that I'm complaining. Greg was one of the primary inspirations for the creation of this blog. In fact, during Basketbawful's first couple years of existence, Ostertag acted (without his knowledge) as our official mascot. I was truly brokenhearted when he retired. Fortunately, every once in a while I get a little scrap of 'Taggy goodness to feed on...and this is one of those times.

An anonymous commenter turned me on to the following Arizona Republic article: Ostertag digs hockey, longs for NBA. Here are some highlights:

1. Greg really does dig hockey: "On most Wednesday nights, Greg Ostertag can be found in the Ice Den in Scottsdale, playing forward in a no-checking, men's hockey league. 'I had a hat trick,' he said of a recent game. 'I go out and play hard. We try to win.'" In related news, he also breaths hard and tries to live.

2. He has hatched little Ostertaglings: 'Tag currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his wife Heidi and their three children -- Cody, 15, Bailey, 12, and Shelby, 9. Think about that for a second: This means that Heide has had sex with Greg at least three times...MAYBE MORE. Nightmare fuel, right?

3. Ostertag bakes! HE BAKES!! "[Ostertag] spends most of his time playing golf (he's a 3-handicap) on Scottsdale's best courses, playing hockey, making cakes for any occasion and watching his son Cody, a 6-5 sophomore, play basketball at Scottsdale Christian Academy. While watching his son play in a recent summer-league game, Ostertag shuffles through his cell phone to display a slide show of his cakes -- a Cardinals-Steelers Super Bowl cake, a wedding cake, his daughter Shelby's swim cake. 'Just learning how to make the icing, color the icing, the shapes, how to draw, that's the hard part,' Ostertag said. 'I just get an idea in my head and go from there. My handwriting isn't that great.' ... Ostertag gained his love for baking from watching his mother make cakes when he was a child. 'Just from watching her, I learned how to do it,' Ostertag said. 'I've made some for my kids for their birthdays. I made a couple for my mom for her birthdays.' He doesn't sell them. It's just a passion." I swear I didn't make that last part up.

4. Greg wants to make an NBA comeback...and thinks he can: "Ostertag, 36, gets his kicks on the ice and in the kitchen and longs for the game that provided a life of luxury. 'I know I can still play,' said Ostertag, whose wife is from the Valley. 'It's just a matter of getting back into shape. I can still play. I can put in 10 or 15 minutes a game, get some rebounds and block some shots. Young teams aren't going to pick me up,' Ostertag said. 'A veteran team looking for somebody to give them 10-15 minutes, go in there and bang with other guys, that would be the team.'" Memo to Danny Ainge: Greg Ostertag is awaiting your call.

5. People still talk trash to him...even his 15-year-old son and his son's coach: "[Ostertag] says his only basketball comes during open gyms at Scottsdale Christian, mostly helping high school players develop low-post techniques. [Scottsdale Christian coach Bob Fredericks] said that Cody has some of his father's athletic mean streak in him. 'I'm actually looking forward to being a little bit better than he was,' Cody said. 'If he makes a comeback, I want to teach him some of the moves I'm teaching his son,' Fredericks said." Ouch.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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Sad Rafer

The Orlando Magic: In the second round, they defeated the defending NBA champions (minus their best player). In the Eastern Conference Finals, they overcame the MVP and the so-called best team in the league (who, unfortunately for the people of Cleveland, were "coached" by Mike Brown and his pickup league offense). Thus the Magicians made it to the Finals...where they gave us this:


Oddly enough, this series -- which the Lakers won 4-1 -- could have gone the full seven games...if Orlando hadn't choked away Games 2 and 4. And last night's lackluster effort sure made it seem like that Game 4 heartbreaker killed Orlando's team spirit. The Magic put up a decent fight for all of 12 minutes, then died a quiet, whimpering death the rest of the way. During the second and third quarters, the Gargamels scored only 33 points (13-for-39) and committed 10 turnovers. The final period was a formality.

Orlando shot 41 percent for the game. They missed 19 of their 27 three-point attempts. They were battered on the boards 47-36 (including 13-6 on the offensive glass). Dwight Howard had a good game...for Jamaal Magloire (11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 3 turnovers, 5 fouls). Hedo Turkoglu (12 points, 4-for-8, 5 fouls) spent his 42 minutes of PT locked in a Trevor Ariza-shaped straightjacket. Rashard Lewis (6-for-19 from the field, 3-for-12 from downtown) re-opened the debateon whether he was really worth that $118 million contract he signed back in 2007. The starting backcourt of Rafer Alston and Courtney Lee (10-for-25, 1-for-8 from behind the arc) were firing blanks. Mickael Pietrus (4 points and 1 rebound in 14 minutes) and Jameer Nelson (5 points and 4 assists in 12 minutes) were non-factors. Freaking J.J. Redick (8 points, 3-for-3 from the field, 2-for-2 on threes, and 3 assists in 10 minutes off the bench) might have been Orlando's best player.

Nobody expected the Magic to win, of course. Not after they failed to come through in either of those overtime losses. But I would have figured they'd fight tooth and nail to avoid the embarrassment of giving up the title on their home court. So, once again, I figured wrong. Play them off, Keyboard Cat...


Stan Van Gundy: After that tough loss/choke job in Game 4, Stan said: "The guys are in a good frame of mind. We are not mentally weak. We are ready to play and I think we will play a hell of a game." Then he tried to inspire his players with a story about American cyclist Greg LeMond's come-from-behind win in the 1989 Tour de France. "People started to write him off. And at the end of a stage he looked beaten and he and his wife were talking and when he left and they asked his wife what he said and he said to her, 'I'll just make the story all that much better when I come back and win it.'" Then he preached belief. "You've got to start first with the belief you can win the championship. If you don't think you can go to Los Angeles and win the championship then even though you're saying one game at a time it is pretty easy to let go if things aren't going well. I tell them it is no different than the approach we've had all year. Our goal from the beginning has been to win the championship but then you approach your job one day, one game, one possession at a time."

Well, that worked. I bet he lives in a van down by the river, too.

Kobe Bryant, quote machine: On finally winning a title without Shaq: "I just don't have to hear that criticism, that idiotic criticism anymore. That's the biggest thing. I don't have to hear that stuff anymore. It was annoying. It was like Chinese water torture, just keep dropping a drop of water on your temple. It was just annoying. I would cringe every time. I was just like, it's a challenge I'm just going to have to accept because there's no way I'm going to argue it. You can say it until you're blue in the face and rationalize it until you're blue in the face, but it's not going anywhere until you do something about it. I think we as a team answered the call because they understood the challenge that I had, and we all embraced it."

Shaq: Anybody else notice Shaq's congratulatory Tweet to Kobe last night? Dan B. did:

Shaq twitter

On the one hand, it's pretty damn funny. But on the other hand, it's also classic Shaq: Even when it's not about him, it's all about him. To him, anyway. The Big Me-Me-Me also took time away from his busy schedule -- which currently includes trying to force a trade to the Crabs -- to mock both Adam Morrison and Sun Yue.

The Machine: This entry actually doubles as Chris's last lacktion report of the year: "Sasha Vujacic celebrated the Lakers' fourth championship this decade with a one-brick +1 suck differential in 4:42, the last lacktator of the 2009 postseason!" Speaking of Sasha...

The world we live in: We already lived in a world where Antoine Walker is an NBA champion. And now...

Sasha the champ

Lakers fans: Great Caesar's ghost. Will the Lakers ever be able to win a championship without the people of Los Angeles acting like they've been infected with the "Rage virus" from 28 Days Later? Just want you want: Thousands of people playing rabies victim. Let's take a look at some of the carnage.

Lakers fans 7
"Let's light shit on fire! Fire rocks!"

Lakers fans 3
This is gonna get bad...

Lakers fans 1
Yup, it's bad...

Lakers fans 2
Getting worse...

Lakers fans 5
MUST SMASH BILLBOARD! RAARGH!!

Lakers fans 8
"A cop car! Get it!!"

Lakers fans 4
Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do...

Lakers fans 6
And, of course, the looting.

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