The Sacramento Kings. Last year this team went 22-44 which was good enough to put them at a tie with the New Jersey Nets for 5th worst in the NBA. The firing of Paul Westphal did little to derail the bullet train of suck. This goes to show you that the OKC model of building teams isn’t always the best way to go. They hit on guys like Cousins and Isaiah Thomas. But Tyreke Evans is fading fast and The Jimmer is doing everything is his power to make Shawn Bradley and Rafael Araujo not look like the biggest failures to come out of BYU. They did manage to land Thomas Robinson out of Kansas, who in my opinion, looks as if he'll become a certified man-beast.

jimmer
Holy Crap! This was a lot easier back in the Mountain West Conference.


 On paper, this team should be pretty decent. They're young, athletic, and happen to be at least two deep at every position. So what’s the problem you ask? Well, one of the things Kings fans should be most excited about is Demarcus Cousins. Also, one of the things Kings fans should be most fearful of...is Demarcus Cousins. Simply put, he's the product of an unholy genetic splice of Rasheed Wallace and Zach Randolph. Think about it, he has every single good and bad quality of both players. He has fought a teammate, he's feuded with a coach, he shoots too many jumpers, and he's a league leader in techs. However, despite having the body of Erick Dampier, he can help carry the offensive load (18 ppg), he's a great rebounder (11 rpg), and has shown signs of being a decent defender (1.2 blocks and 1.5 steals) The talent is there. He just needs either a coach or a veteran player to put a boot square in his ass. If that doesn't work, tie him down and make him stare a picture of Andray Blatche for about five hours. "Hey Demarcus, if you don't pull your act together, this is what you will become."

cousins food
 I've heard of enabling, but this is ridiculous.


Another issue happens to be Tyreke Evans playing at small forward. In his first season he played at point guard, and while he did win rookie of the year, his mentality is to score first. So the obvious position for a 6-6 wing would be at shooting guard. Well thanks to Marcus Thornton and his 18.7 ppg, we now have Reke playing out of position. The drop off hasn’t been dramatic, he went from 20, 5.8, and 5.3 to 16.5 , 4.5, and 4.6. But still, that’s not the direction you want a young player like him going.


smart evans
Ok Tyreke, I know you're a guard, but this year we need you to slide over and play a little power forward...You down?

Last year, the Kings gave up the most points per game in the NBA. They had guys like Kobe and Durant getting boners at the mere thought of all those open lanes to the basket. With the roster mostly unchanged from a season ago, I expect this team to be right around what they were last year. Getting ran through by every offense in the NBA. Also, to say the Kings offense is inefficient would be an insult to every pee wee league basketball program in the nation. Perhaps Cousins will realize he's not a guard and will stay in the post. Perhaps Tyreke will just stop shooting three's. And perhaps The Jimmer will quit basketball and start up his rap career with his brother. But those things probably won't happen. If you enjoy long two's, ill advised threes, ridiculous passes, and piss poor defense, then you won't be disappointed by this team. The people of Sacramento should expect more of the same. Well, that is unless the Maloofs don't move the franchise to Anaheim, or Vegas, or Virginia Beach.
Well folks, I sit here beaming like a proud papa as I watch Jason and Paul churn out thoughtful, entertaining material, but the search continues ever onward for for more contributors...a few posts back, someone asked about Glenn, whose work I had posted some time back.

Realizing I had completely forgotten about Glenn, I sent him an e-mail of apology recently and asked him if he would like to send a new post. Graciously, Glenn did just that, and below is the result. I think Glenn may well have the stuff...constructive thoughts are welcome.

ET

 ******************************  

Chris Mullin Wins Finals MVP - In Irony

When it's not busy showing WNBA games or endless loops of the same off-season "analysis", NBA TV has been doing a fairly decent job of being a methadone clinic to my professional hoops addiction. Recently, I've been able to see Shaq murdering the Kings with 44, 21 and 7 blocks, and Reggie Miller spit on Spike Lee's heart. 2 X.

When games like this are on I can almost forget the pain of it not being October yet. That is until the commercials... In my cursed DVR-less condition, I wind up watching a lot of NBA TV ads. I say a lot, but in reality there are probably only about four of them.

There's the one about bleaching your sun deck which is really the least painful of the lot; the one for whatever home workout device is causing you to have to endure this month's onslaught of sweaty bare male torsos; about 5 straight minutes of looking at balding patterns as a disembodied voice explains that women like men better with a full head of their own hair; Montel's shining dome to drive that point home as he asks if you need money now (as he clearly does); and recently added to the fold is the one where Chris Mullin informs the viewership that "Defense wins championships".




Like most NBA TV commercials, this one gives the impression that it is deliberately fucking with you. Chris Mullin? Defense? Championships? To the highly basketball literate crowd that would be interested in watching a Hornets game from the nineties this can only be perceived as unspeakably absurd. I'm sure I don't have to tell any of you that Chris Mullin never won a championship, or that the Warriors squad he's best known for was one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

All of this begs the question; why Chris Mullin? You'd think whoever made this is just completely ignorant of basketball as a sport, yet someone on the staff managed the incredible task of dredging up a Mullin block from the archives to lend a straight face to what he's saying. Maybe Mullin was just too embarrassed when he got the script to point out "Uh, fellas. I didn't win anything. And I didn't play much defense either...". (To be fair, Mullin was probably one of the better defenders on those Warriors, but that just goes to show how far gone they were.) Maybe it's just basic economics: they didn't wanna pay for a more expensive spokesman, he may have needed some cash now. Perhaps, he is just genuinely passionate about pertussis.

 Whatever the reasons for its existence, every time I hear his deadpan delivery of "Offense wins games, but defense wins championships" the irony gets rifer. One of these days it's gonna be too much to bear.
Poor Toronto. They went to the 2012 Steve Nash sweepstakes, and all they got were these two lousy t-shirts. At this point, whenever “O, Canada!” plays before NBA games, it should be sung (“O, Canada…”) the same way you’d say it if you were talking about your pothead cousin named Canada who keeps losing his job because he doesn’t show up to work on time.

At least Toronto is trying though, unlike this year’s crop of fellow bottom-feeders like Charlotte and Orlando. They have a young roster full of average to above-average NBA players (some with potential for good-ness), many of whom would make great 4th or 5th options on good NBA teams. If they could just find or develop a reliable first, second, and third option, then watch out NBA!

Last year’s Raptor’s team led the league in fouls, which could indicate a little bit of spunk.  It could also mean they were completely overmatched and had to rely on grabbing and hacking to slow the game down. The hack-a-everybody strategy seemed to work though, as defense was the team’s (relative) strength last year, a blatant middle-finger in the face of all those stereotypes about Toronto’s offense-only teams. 

The fact that the Raptor’s offense was one of the three worst in the league was the second middle-finger to those stereotypes.

Jonas_Valanciunas_2
Hey guys! I’m here the save the franchise. Who’s my homeroom teacher again?

There are plenty of issues we could talk about with this team.  We could highlight the fact that the two players who took the most shot attempts last year (DeRozan and Bargnani) shot below 43.6%.  We could talk about Bargnani’s injury-riddled inconsistency and Antoine Walker-esque three point shooting percentage.  We could lament over Jonas Valanciunas’ 11.6-minutes-a-game Olympic performance, which prompted articles that included the words “tamp down expectations” and “operating without know-how.” 

There’s also the fact that the team leader in steals AND blocks from last year (James Johnson) is gone, and that the team added a new co-point guard (Lowry) who is notoriously foul-tempered about sharing time at point guard (to be fair, though, Calderon’s expiring contract will likely be dealt at some point in the year). 

We could discuss all of that, but I think that Toronto’s been through enough.  For God’s sake, it’s only been a couple years since they lost the face of the franchise (by which I mean, of course, that Chris Bosh literally looks like a raptor).  So instead, here’s a pick-me-up for Toronto fans, a little bit of sunshine to illuminate your otherwise gloomy prospects for this year.

1) FamJuice. Kyle Lowry’s latest business venture, in partnership with an old AAU coach (those guys are never shady, right?) is a new brand of drinks designed to meet the need for “a high quality, flavorful, reasonably priced beverage.”  No doubt Kyle Lowry is giddy over the chance to expand his juice line into the international market.  Perhaps Toronto can be on the forefront of the juice revolution…the only question is, as the FamJuice marketing campaign asks, “Are you a gulper or a sipper?”

2) Quincy Acy. That’s the answer. The question is, “What do you call the child of Rick Ross and Kimbo Slice, if that child recently went on ‘Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition'?”

3) Ok, fine, here’s a legitimate reason for hope.  The team is young, has a couple of intriguing-potential guys (Bargnani, Valanciunas), and is in good shape as far as cap flexibility is concerned.  Other than Bargnani, no Raptors player is scheduled to make more than $10 million after this season.
 
And who knows? Maybe Lowry’s FamJuice is actually Michael Jordan’s special drink from Space Jam.  If that’s true, the sky’s the limit on the 2012-13 Raptors.  If it’s not, then winning 30 games is probably the limit.
I figured that I would stay with the So Cal theme from last week and discuss the other Los Angeles team. The Clippers extended Blake Griffin, they brought back Chauncey Billups, and they brought in Jamaal Crawford. They swapped out Nick "Swaggy P" Young for Grant Hill. And maybe, just maybe, Lamar Odom can crawl himself out of his funk. Yes, by all accounts, this was a very good off season for the Clips. But it’s funny, no matter how many improvements the Clippers make, the Lakers ALWAYS seem to 1 up them. With the arrival of Dwight Howard, The Lakers figuratively put their hand on the Clipper's head and ruffled their hair. The Lakers are the handsome, successful older brother with a PHD and the model wife. The Clippers are the fat sibling with an under bite and a bankruptcy. I feel bad for Billy Crystal and the rest of Clipper nation. They just can’t win. However, I'm impressed with the moves the Clippers have made. Donald Sterling has dusted off the old checkbook and seems to actually care about...winning. (Donald Sterling and winning in the same sentence. Wow, can't believe I just typed that...I feel weird.)


donaldsterling
 $5,000 in one month for Gatorade? Can't these guys just drink water?

 
Despite what Vinny Del Negro believes, Chris Paul cannot simply do it all by himself. One of the issues in the last year was that CP3 simply wore down. Now that Chauncey is back in the fold, things should be easier for him. For example, in March, they'll play the Mavericks on a Tuesday, and then they have to fly to New Orleans and play the Hornets the next night. In theory, Chris could take off the second night and let Billups slide over to the point. The added rest should help preserve CP3 for the playoffs. If I'm a Clipper fan I'm not overly concerned with Blake Griffin's torn meniscus. By all accounts he should be ready to go by training camp. The main downside to this is that Blake won't have the opportunity to improve his jump shot or his post game this summer. Which, with all his pump fakes, pivots, and body contortions, makes him literally resemble a fish out of water.


Blake shot
Size up. Pivot. Up and under. Double Pump Fake. Step through....Two Points 


I’m kind of disappointed in Mo Williams. Last season he was in the perfect role for him. The Clippers needed his scoring off the bench, and while he did provide that at times, he never fully embraced the job. Last summer I had him penciled in as the next 6th man of the year. Now that he's been shipped off to Utah, the Clippers will utilize Jamaal Crawford for this role. Crawford, a former 6th man of the year himself, will be more than happy to provide the needed scoring punch off the bench. With the departure of Nick Young, and the arrival of Grant Hill, the team’s perimeter defense and overall basketball IQ should see a dramatic spike.


Even with all these changes, if Deandre Jordan and Ryan Hollins can't catch and dunk from their spot on floor, the Clippers will get little to no offense from the center position. And while I am a fan of Caron Butler the person, I can't say the same for his game. A typical possession from him includes: Catch and hold the ball for 2-3 seconds, jab step, jab step, two dribbles towards the goal/baseline, pull up jumper. He's Carmelo without any of the good stuff. Del Negro has got figure how to score in the half court. If the Clippers come out of the gate struggling, he'll be out the door and look for Sterling to elect Chauncey Billups to the first player/coach role in the NBA since Dave Cowens. In short, the Los Angeles Clippers have made fantastic moves this off season, yet somehow, they will end up right where they were last season. Right in the middle of the playoff pack looking at a 4 or 5 seed.


Hey, So uh...Guys...What are we gonna do on this next play? Guys?
(NOTE: Now that most NBA rosters have taken shape for the upcoming year, Jason and I will be previewing a hand-picked selection of teams that stand out for their unique shades of terrible.)

I can picture Mike Dunlap (that’s because I just googled him…one minute ago I had absolutely no idea what he looked like), in full press conference mode four months from now after the Bobcats drop their tenth straight game.  A reporter asks him how he keeps his young team positive, especially when, you know, 49% of the team’s total salary is being spent on Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, and DeSagana Diop.

Dunlap stares down the reporter, and then erupts.

“Stephen Jackson’s not walking through that door, fans.  Gerald Wallace is not walking through that door, and Raymond Felton is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they're gonna be grey and old, or, in Felton’s case, they’ll look like they’ve eaten someone grey and old. What we are is young, exciting, hard-working and going to improve...As soon as you fans realize that those three guys are not coming through that door, the better this town will be for all of us.”


dunlap and walker
OMG…you’re that dude that makes those great instructional DVDs!  

Those types of press conferences happen in Boston, not in Charlotte, though.  Does anyone even care that the Bobcats were awful last year?  Historically awful?  Or that the only version of Bobcats glory that Dunlap can ever refer back to is the 2009-10 first-round playoff exit, which occurred in the “one year that players listen to Larry Brown” phase of the Larry Brown cycle? (Or, as it’s also known, “one year before players tune out Larry Brown.”)

You already know that the Bobcats own the worst winning percentage in a single season in NBA history.  But here’s a couple more stats to show you how bad last year was:

            1) Exactly ONE player on the team shot over 50% from the field.  That player was Derrick Brown.

2) Despite the apparent multitude of (offensive) rebounding opportunities, no Bobcats player averaged over 5.8 rebounds

3) The team’s field goal percentage was so bad (41.4) that having Brandon Jennings on their roster last year would have actually IMPROVED their percentage.

Things won’t be getting better anytime soon.  Just check out their roster for next year.  One of the few nice things you can say about it (besides mentioning MKG of course) is that Ramon Sessions is a great fit, since he is terrible in the playoffs and won’t have to worry about that type of pressure in Charlotte.  But maybe Bobcats fans can take solace in the fact that their leadership has a strategic plan.  It’s a two-step plan that goes like this: (1) Do everything short of throwing games to ensure an awful win-loss record (2) Pray to whatever god gave Tim Duncan to the Spurs and Kevin Durant to the Thunder.


sessions and haywood3
New Bobcats Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood step into the 
media-frenzied waters of Charlotte as reporters clamor for attention.

As Henry Abbott recently pointed out, this seems to be the default strategy of all former Thunder front office employees.  The Magic (run by former Presti-an Rob Hannigan) took a terrible trade for Howard because it makes more sense for them to be awful and hope for a franchise-changing draft pick than to swallow a max contract for Brook Lopez and lock themselves into first-round playoff exits (at best) for the next five years.  For the Bobcats and Magic, the 2012-13 marketing campaign is basically “Be the first to get on the 2020 bandwagon!”

To the Bobcats credit, they have found new and ingenious ways of setting up their team for failure.  Along with a middle-of-the-ACC-pack roster, they decided to hire Dunlap, whose previous gig was being an assistant at St. John’s.  Supposedly, Dunlap is a “coach’s coach” of sorts, a guy who is appreciated by those in the business, but unknown outside the coaching circles.  In other words, he’s great at developing talent, making instructional DVDs, and publishing coaching-related articles (including the 1987 gem “Basic Framework for Achieving Academic Eligibility for Your Players,” which North Carolina should have read.  Or maybe they did, and that’s the problem.)  He’s the perfect assistant coach, so of course he’s been given the head coaching job.  I can only assume he impressed Michael Jordan with his performance in one-on-one games against the other coaching candidates.

The cherry on top of this lottery-bound mess is the decision to allow the Democratic National Convention to take over the Bobcats home at exactly the same time that teams are beginning their training camps.  Instead of practicing in an NBA-appropriate facility, the Bobcats will spend the majority of September with two-hour-a-day access to the Johnson and Wales University gym.  To rephrase: an NBA franchise will be practicing for most of September in a gym belonging to a 2,500 student college.

Enjoy your rookie season, MKG.  It’ll get better in 2020.
Now that the major off season moves have been made, Paul and I will take a closer look into some of the more interesting (or potentially bawful) franchises. What better team to get things rolling with, than the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Dwightmare has finally come to an end. Well, except for fans of the Orlando Magic. By now I’m sure most of you are well aware of the moving parts involved, so I won’t get too deep into the specifics for this piece. But I will say this. This trade will ensure the Magic will continue to be used as a farm system for Hall of Fame Centers to be harvested by the Lakers. The Magic suck themselves into the number 1 pick. They draft Nerlens Noel. He grows into an All Star and the best center in the NBA. Once he hits his prime (and free agency) he’ll bolt for Los Angeles. There he’ll go on to win two or three championships. No one will be surprised except for Magic season ticket holders. The Magic might want to consider taking Shabazz Muhammad just to break the cycle. We just witnessed three teams have their way with Orlando. I don’t want to type what this trade looks like, but I’ll just say it rhymes with “rang gape”. (Too harsh?)



smug stern
Meanwhile, this guy chose to look the other way.


Alright, back to the Lakers…On paper they look like the best team in the Western Conference and should have no problems advancing to the Finals. Simply having Dwight and Gasol in the post makes you unstoppable to most teams in the Association. Throw in Nash at point, Kobe and Metta on the wings, and Jamison doing his best Vinnie Johnson impersonation and this is easily a championship contender. It seems as if the Magic have thrown the perfect lob to the Lakers and now all they have to do is finish. However, a few of the things that could potentially derail this Laker train include, but are not limited to,

Dwight’s back being in worse shape than expected.

Nash’s back being in worse shape than expected.

Kobe continuing his quest to become T-Mac vol 2.

Mike Brown.

Let’s keep the defense on their toes. This time, I want you to hand it off to Dwight and let him throw the lob to Nash.


All of those things considered, I feel this is the best team in the West. I know that Nash will be 39 when the playoffs start, however, his job should be much easier. Rather than being one of the first scoring options like last season, he’ll likely be the 4th option this year depending on the lineup. And as for defense, Dwight will ensure that anyone who wonders into the paint will have to dramatically change their shot. Also, if Kobe continues his shooting barrage from last year (which I’m sure he will) they now have a center that’s more than happy to chase down all those misses. Where Bynum would mail in performances, I expect Howard to thrive under the big lights. I mean you could double team him, but that leaves Kobe, Pau, Nash or at times Metta. As much as I hate to say it…this starting five it almost too good.


dwight lakers
Ugh, I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.


 I’m hearing that Dwight may not be back in the lineup until January or February at the latest because of his back surgery. That could delay the impending doom that’s in place for rest of the league. With the recent signing of Antwan Jamison, the Lakers can start the season with Nash, Kobe, Metta, Jamison, and Gasol. Not the greatest of lineups, but still very solid. If I were a Laker fan, one of my concerns would be the bench. The Lakers managed to resign Jordan Hill who gave them solid contributions off the bench last year. They also picked up free agent Jodie Meeks on the cheap. Other than that, things are looking pretty thin until Dwight can make his way back. Last season the Lakers were ranked 13th in defensive efficiency. Nash and Jamison starting won’t improve those numbers. Because of this, I predict the Lakers will finish 2nd in the Conference with a final record of 58-24.

Last week I produced an in-depth exploration of racial and ethnic perceptions in the NBA (note: italics are my sarcasm font for this sentence), so I think it’s time to shift my focus elsewhere.  Today we’re going to examine the geopolitical dimensions of the NBA’s global infrastructure, and maybe use applied macroeconomic models as an interpretative framework to…

Actually, I’m not exactly sure what the word “geopolitical” means and I’m too lazy to google it right now.  However, we are going to do some mind-bending stuff here.  You are used to basketbawful being the place to read about “the very best of the worst” of professional basketball.  Today, we are flipping things upside down.  Today, we are going to look at the “worst of the best” of U.S. Olympic basketball.

Make no mistake, ever since the Dream Team’s 1992 obesity-promotion campaign, we’ve seen some questionable talent don the American jersey.  But really, the main reason we laugh at the thought of players like Christian Laettner getting included on the U.S. Olympic team is because the talent around Laettner was so good, it made him look bad.  Laettner wasn’t a god-awful player in his NBA career (yes, that’s a compliment).  But he definitely doesn’t belong on a team with the NBA’s elite.  Keep that in mind as we go through this list…all of these players were quality players for at least a few years.  It’s not like the USA was ever suiting up the likes of Tyronn Lue (presumably because our coaches never felt the need to add a player with the role of “guy-who-gets-stepped-over-after-a-jumper-is-splashed-right-in-his-mug.”)

With that said, here is my starting five of the “worst” U.S. Olympians.  I’ve based my decisions almost entirely on their NBA careers, with only minor consideration given to their actual Olympic performance.  As always, your comments and corrections are welcome.


Point Guard = Stephon Marbury (Member of 2004 bronze medal winning team)
marbury usa
Yo…are those the new Starburys??!!

Which was the more misinformed decision during the Bush presidency: to invade Iraq because of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, or to include and start both Marbury AND Allen Iverson on the 2004 U.S. team?  To Marbury’s credit, he did shoot a full five percentage points higher than Iverson in Athens (42% compared to 37%). However, with utterly no regard for defense (or practice), the Marbury-Iverson pair was a match made in advanced-metrics hell.

Marbury may have been an exciting player but he was not a winning player. He was traded three times (four if you count draft night), he had a career 43.3 FG%, his career offensive production per 100 possessions was lower (108) than his defensive points allowed (110), and (not counting his bench-riding role on the Celtics) he never made it to the second round of the playoffs.  His 35.5 FG% during the playoffs may have had something to do with that. 


Shooting Guard = Allan Houston (Member of 2000 gold medal winning team)
houston usa
This is the only evidence in existence that Houston ever attempted a shot inside 10 feet. 


Allan Houston was a glorified Kyle Korver.  He had one elite skill (shooting, in case you were wondering), and he translated that into two all-star appearances and earnings of nearly $120 million.  Aside from shooting, Houston was merely an average player and weak defender.  He was the only Olympian to have a career Player Efficiency Rating (14.9) below the league average of 15. In win shares per 48 minutes, another advanced statistic, Houston had a career average (.094) below the league average (.100).

It’s only fitting that two overrated offensively-oriented players like Houston and Marbury got to spend two years together with Isaiah Thomas’ Knicks, and make tens of millions of dollars doing it (technically, they only played together for a small part of those two years…but just let me have this for the sake of symmetry.)


Small Forward = Tayshaun Prince (Member of 2008 gold medal winning team)
Tayshaun Prince
Hard to tell from this angle, but there are only 2.3 inches of space 
between those two defenders.

Prince is a good defender (although he’s declined recently in that arena) and is decent  in almost every other component of the game.  He was actually a perfect fit for the 2008 team. With Wade, Lebron, Kobe, and the rest of the superstars needing plenty of shots, Prince could be the guy who knew his place, stood in the corner, and shot only when passed to. 

Still, Prince is as ever-so-slightly-above-average as you can get in a player who has made it to the highest level of competitive basketball.  His career Player Efficiency Rating, right at the league average of 15, is a testament to that fact.  Plus, he’s the only NBA player who I could take down to the low block.  My shot would get swatted once I got to the block, but the point is, I would make it there. 

If the U.S. Olympic team is supposed to be the best of the best, Prince doesn’t deserve even a tryout.  But, if the Olympic team needs that one guy about whom every team member can say, “Hey, at least my biceps are bigger than THAT guy’s,” Prince is perfect.  He helps builds camaraderie, knows his place, and will probably spend all night exchanging pleasantries with the ugliest girl at the club when the team goes out. 

*Insert record-scratching/rewinding sound here*


Small Forward = Richard Jefferson (Member of 2004 bronze medal winning team)
jefferson usa
Jefferson just looked at the scoreboard and saw his name 
inserted into the “Worst Olympians” lineup.

As soon as I got done writing that nice little reflection on Prince, I realized I was being an idiot.  Richard Jefferson is worse than Prince.  Jefferson’s PER may be slightly higher, but that’s only because of his years getting inflated stats while running the break with J-Kidd.  I’d much rather have Prince on my real team than Jefferson, which means that I’d much rather have Jefferson on this team.


Power Forward = Christian Laettner (Member of 1992 gold medal winning team)
christian-laettner-team-usa
This is what basketball would look like if Hitler would have won World War II.

The spot for worst power forward was surprisingly competitive.  Vin Baker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Lamar Odom could all make a claim.  But rightly or wrongly, Laettner has become the poster child for out-of-their-league Olympians. 

His NBA career was up-and-down, riddled with injuries, and mostly devoid of defense.  He ended up with career averages of 12.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 0.8 blocks, while shooting 48% from the field.  His one all-star appearance (with the Hawks) was followed up the next year with Laettner losing his starting job to Alan Henderson.  Surprisingly, he ended up with a solid PER of 16.9, which is either proof that Laettner wasn’t that bad, or John Hollinger isn’t that good (I’ll opt for the former).

Even if Laettner was the worst Olympic power forward, he did play a vital role on the 1992 squad.  If not for his 45% shooting percentage, Michael Jordan would have had the worst shooting percentage on the team (45.1%).  So there’s that.  Also, based on this recent story regarding mismanaged finances, Laettner was probably a whipping boy in all of the high-stakes cards games that you can be sure Barkley and Jordan took part in.  If you feel bad that the big, bad NBA superstars were taking advantage of the young rookie, just remember: he went to Duke.


Center = Emeka Okafor (Member of 2004 bronze medal winning team)
emeka okafor
I don’t know how nervous Okafor was for this picture, but I can 
guarantee more sweat accumulated in his jersey from this photo 
than from any game action in Athens.

Coming straight outta Connecticut, Okafor took the “Christian Laettner Memorial” spot on the U.S. team (a spot now occupied by Anthony Davis).  He had the honor of joining Club Trillion, posting a rare two-trillion against Australia.  His feat would be more impressive if Amare Stoudemire hadn’t done the same thing against Puerto Rico that year.

Okafor has had a fine NBA career, making his mark as a solid low post defender and very good rebounder.  Unfortunately, his offensive game is about as smooth as Tyler the Creator’s voice.  You can’t fault his self-awareness, though: Okafor’s shot attempts per game declined every single season for his first eight years in the league. 

First off the bench:
Vin Baker
Lamar Odom
Shareef Abdur-Rahim

Greatness was a birthright for OJ Mayo. He began his basketball career by playing for the varsity squad at Rose Hill Christian High School where he averaged 23.1 points per game...He was also in the seventh grade. After moving to Cincinnati to live with his grandfather, OJ went on to earn the title Mr. Basketball of Ohio. He appeared on several magazine covers and Dime Magazine even crowned him "The Next Lebron". He later moved on to Huntington High School in West Virginia were he along with Patrick Patterson would lead the team to the State Championship. After signing his letter of intent to USC, Mayo scored a 29 on his ACT. OJ Mayo won high school.

mayo lebron
Next Lebron? So he’s gonna start balding at 23?
 Side Note: That’s right, another Lebron bald joke. Deal with it. 

After leaving USC in a wake of fire and destruction, Mayo was selected 3rd in the NBA draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. OJ plus some rag tag spares were then traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love featuring some more rag tag spares. In his rookie season, OJ started every game playing 38 minutes a contest. He averaged 18.5 ppg 3.8 rebounds, 3.2 assist and shot 38% from three. He was the runner up to Derrick Rose in Rookie of the Year voting. By the end of the season it appeared that David Khan had been outsmarted...yet again. Ovinton J'Anthony followed his strong rookie campaign with averages of 17.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assist. His career was off to a great start. Perhaps not "Next Lebron" great, but still very good.

July 12, 2010: The Memphis Grizzlies sign Shooting Guard Tony Allen.

The arrival of Tony Allen meant the Grizzlies would be getting the NBA equivalent of a honey badger in their back court. Allen’s defense on the perimeter added an element that was sorely lacking from the Grizzlies. By Mayo’s third season he had lost his starting job. Lionel Hollins envisioned Mayo as a Jason Terry like 6th man who would come off the bench and be instant offense. However, it was obvious that he struggled with this new role. His shooting percentage saw a decline from 45% down to a dismal 40%. Future Bron was now only scoring 11.6 ppg. Fun fact: In the 2010-2011 season OJ Mayo went scoreless 4 times. Also, he scored 6 points or less 18 times. None of which can top the embarrassment of having your ass kicked by the guy taking your minutes. That’s what happened in January of 2011. While on the team plane, Allen apparently ordered Mayo to pay his debt from a card game, but Mayo refused. Mayo then began to berate Allen. And then Allen did what any bad ass would do in that situation. Kick the shit out of the shit talker.

Starting job taken: check

Minutes taken: check

Ass kicked and I’ll assume passed out on the floor and pockets rummaged through: check

(That last bit probably didn’t happen but the mental image is hilarious)


mayo allen
 
If this were the TV show Oz, Allen would be Schillinger and Mayo would be Beecher


Last season Mayo was thoroughly relegated to 6th man duty. After starting 17 games the previous season, he started zero games this go around. He managed to improve his scoring from 11.6 to 12.3 points per game. The Grizzles went 41-25 in the lockout shortened season and where matched up against the Clippers in the Playoffs. There is no way to sugar coat it. OJ Mayo was downright atrocious. After shooting 31% for 6 games, Mayo went 1-11 in game 7. SMFH. 1-11 equals 9% from the floor. NINE PERCENT. With that, Mayo punched his ticket out of town. The Grizzlies declined to sign him to an offer sheet and Mayo became an unrestricted free agent


oj suck
  Must. Not. Suck…ARRGGHHH!!

 
This past July, Mayo signed a 2 year 8.5 million dollar contract with the Dallas Mavericks. The second year being a player option. The way this contract is set up tells me that OJ sees himself as a player who is worth much more that what he’s currently playing for. With what is basically a 1 year deal, he gives himself a chance to sign a large contract next summer. The Mavs need for a reliable second option in the wake of Jason Terry’s departure, gives Mayo the opportunity to shine in the starting role he once thrived in. So far as the number 3 pick, OJ has been a bit of a failure. I however feel it may be a little too early to label him a bust. Mayo is at a bit of a crossroads in his career. Going into his fifth season he hasn’t been able to establish what he may become as a professional. This upcoming season could potentially make or break his legacy.
Hi all,

Now that we've established Jason as reasonably regular contributor, it's time to try to take some of the weight off his shoulders and try out a new guy.

Below is the first submission of a fellow who we shall know as "Paul." And no, he's not the Seth-Rogen-voiced alien from that Simon Pegg movie. He's waaaaay deeper than that - in fact, he and I both agree that the subject matter for this piece is a bit heavy, but it's summertime, and we're experimenting. I've asked Paul to start the gears-grinding on his next item, and we'll see how things develop. In the meantime, constructive criticism and / or thoughtful praise welcome.

ET

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Timberwolves and Whiteness

Minnesota.

What image just popped into your head? If it was lakes, Twins, malls, Vikings, Timberwolves, Golden Gophers, or Michelle Bachmann, then try again. The correct answer is “snow.” I need snow to be the answer because it fits with my main point, which is that it snows a lot in Minnesota, snow is usually white, and so is the new Minnesota Timberwolves team.

Now that most NBA free agents have signed and the dust has begun to settle on the roster make-up of next year’s NBA, it has become clear that the 2012-13 Timberwolves will set the record for the most minutes of on-court white-outs since the 1950s. I have no statistics to back that up (partly because the NBA didn’t start keeping that stat until 1961) but I’m pretty sure it’s true. At the very least, the Timberwolves’ new look will be a topic of discussion. Just google “Minnesota Timberwolves whitest team” and you’ll see message boards already lighting up. I assume that in six months, Minnesota will outpace Duke in getting referred to as “scrappy,” “gym rats,” or “great shooters.” Metta World Peace might even request a trade to Minnesota so he can call himself “Obama!”

  lakers
The publication of this picture caused the cultural revolution of the 1960s

Technically, the Timberwolves are actually one of the most diverse and multiethnic teams in the league. Their vanilla comes in many different varieties, including Spanish (Rubio) Montenegrin (Pekovic) Russian (Kirilenko and Shved) U.S.-Commonwealth-of-Puerto Rican (Barea) and American (Love, Budinger, Ridnour, Hummel). But here in the United States, we view our NBA ethnicity the way we like our coffee: mostly black with a little cream and absolutely nothing else allowed. Not even the influx of international players has eliminated our basic two-color system.

There are important discussions to be had here. I mean, have you ever found it strange that if a person has racially mixed parents (one of them white), they are never, ever referred to as “white”? (I’m going to pretend for the sake of that last point that I don’t remember Jay-Z’s line, “My president is black, in fact, he’s half-white”). Our system of ethnic construction is still based on the old racist European colonial model of white as “pure” and everything else as a deviation. We could have an intelligent discussion about that. We could try to understand the history and culture behind our ethnic classifications, and attempt to be more nuanced about them. Or we could just kind of ignore it. After all, if NBA fans were to discuss that stuff, we would be taking away from the college professors who need something to lecture on while their students check Twitter and Facebook. And besides, Hanes underwear isn’t going to sell itself. It’s easier to be like Mike, oblivious to the racial connotations of even the most sacred of facial hair atrocities.

 hitler stache
 Only MJ could get away with the Hitler-stache

So in keeping with the status quo of thinking in purely black and white terms, and throwing in an oh-so-timely Olympic angle to boot, I’ll ask you another question. Since the time of those McDonald’s “gold medal meal” commercials which U.S. Olympic basketball team has had the most white players?

Yup. The original 1992 Dream Team had twice as many white players (4) than the total number of white players in all the U.S. Olympic teams since. I’m sure there is a race card to be played somewhere in that information, and I’d prefer if it could be used against Kobe Bryant in some way. Something like this: did Kobe say the 2012 team could beat the Dream Team because he’s a black supremacist?

On the flip side of the racism coin, if you are a white supremacist who is disappointed that the 2012 U.S. team has only one white player, then I suggest that you purchase NBA League Pass next year or move into the Timberwolves television market. Your eyes are going to tell you it’s the 1950s all over again…even though what you’ll actually be watching is a striking example of modern diversity and globalization. (Breaking News: Guess where Greg Stiemsma is going to play next year)