Texas Sweep

Craig Sager: He's the reason I got out of bed on my day off to do a post. If you watched the Celtics/Mavericks game and looked closely enough during the Sager segments, you might have noticed that his handkerchief had a little, multi-colored tiger head on it. Fully exposed, in fact, so it's clear that Sager wanted it seen. I'll wait for you to stop shuddering. Okay. Now, I spent almost 20 minutes scouring the Internet for designer hankies with brightly-colored tiger faces on them and came up with nothing. Maybe it's because I spent 18 of those minutes actually searching for "Gwen Stefani in bikini," or maybe it's because Sager has one of those bubble-headed Area 51 aliens locked in his basement sewing space clothes for him to wear to work. The world may never know.

Of course, Sager's suits are a weekly source of discussion and entertainment for basketball fans who watch The NBA on TNT. Sager gets mentioned here every once in a while, like when Baron Davis laughed at Craig's ugly suit du Semaine, or when Steve Nash stole his hanky to give Amare Stoudemire a wipedown. A common question I get asked in e-mails and the comments section is, "Why does Sager wear those nasty suits?" I've never answered before because I always assumed the question was rhetorical. I mean, it's obvious, isn't it? Sager's zoot suits almost always get a cheap laugh and they are the only interesting thing about his sideline reports. Think about it. Can you think of one thing that Sager "the reporter" has ever said or done that was even remotely memorable? Okay, that time he pre-announced Reggie Miller's retirement, which caused Reggie to freak out on him, was pretty funny. But that's it. Getting made fun of by Kevin Garnett is the only reason we want to see Sager, isn't it?

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls played poorly -- 37 percent shooting, 18 percent in threes, 16 turnovers, and a 102-80 home blowout by the Spurs -- but that's nothing new. Not this season, anyway. The real problem, for me, was that the Bulls just kind of rolled over and died. Jim Boylan did what any other good lame-duck coach would do and blamed himself: "We just did not have our enthusiasm the way it needed to be. I have to be honest and say I did not have us ready to play. I will shoulder that responsibility." While it's nice and all that he was willing to literally take one for the team, and while I agree that a coach needs to be able to motivate his squad, I wouldn't be so quick to lay this turd pile at Boylan's feet. The Bulls haven't had much enthusiasm all year. That joy deficit got Scott Skiles fired, and it's going to doom Boylan too (I give it about a day or two after the regular season ends). At what point are the players going to choose to turn things around? After the game, Ben Gordan said, "We've been inconsistent all year. I can't say I'm surprised by the effort tonight." If that's not a player who's already planning his summer vacation, I don't know what is. And Gordan's attitude pretty much sums up everything you need to know about the 2007-08 Chicago Bulls: They know they suck, but they either can't or won't do anything to change it.

Ernie Johnson: He tried to make a big deal about the fact that, the last time the Lakers played in Utah, the Delta Center crowd -- yes, I refuse to call it the EnergySolutions Arena -- booed Derek Fisher, who had been last year's playoff hero. Johnson of course pulled the sympathy card and claimed that the only reason Fish had nulled his contract with the Jazz was because he wanted to move to a city where his daughter could get treatment for her eye cancer condition. He followed his explanation with a short video of Fisher saying how getting booed had felt very personal. How could those bastard Utah fans do such a thing?! Kudos to Charles Barkley for once again telling it like it is: Fisher could have gone a lot of places to ensure his daughter had adequate treatment, but the reality is he wanted to play for the Lakers. That means he was willing to forsake the Jazz for one of their bitterest rivals. What are the fans supposed to do? Send him a fruit basket?

Jason Kidd: Is it just me, or does it feel like Kidd's scoring ability has gone way past the point of no return? I thought he'd get some better, easier looks in Dallas -- which he is -- and that he'd start knocking some of them down -- but he isn't. Kidd's latest ham-handed shooting performance saw him score 2 points on 1-for-8 shooting. And mind you, it was reported during the game that Kidd showed up three hours early to work on his shooting with Dallas assistant coach Mario Elie. I can only assume that extra practice helped him be 1-for-8 instead of 0-for-8. Since the trade, the Mavs' ball movement has been better but Kidd's inability to put the ball in the hoop is killing them. They traded one problem for another and, for now, it seems like they're just sort of dog-paddling in place. Which I guess is better than sinking altogether, but still...

Dirk Nowitzki: I'm not going to bust on Dirk for failing again in the clutch. Instead I'm going to rag on out how he did it. Dirk missed a layup with 21 seconds left that could have tied the game. The reason Herr Nowitzki missed is that, on the drive, he received a little nudge from Kevin Garnett. Instead of focusing on trying to complete the play, Dirk intentionally fell sideways a little in what I'm assuming was an attempt to get a whistle. This, of course, is the exact opposite of how he blew the game versus the Lakers, when he deftly avoided a flying Lamar Odom to put up a crazy, off-balance three. The two situations were different, and he handled each one incorrectly. If he would have let Odom fly into him on the shot attempt, he would have gotten the call. No question. But the refs won't call a bump foul on drives at the end of a tight game. They just won't. Which is why Dirk should have ignored the contact and concentrated on hitting the layup.

Rajon Rondo and Sam Cassell: Rondo had zero points on 0-for-7 shooting and committed 5 turnovers. He was benched in favor of Sam Cassell, who performed only marginally better by scoring 4 points on 1-for-9 shooting and having three of his shots fed back to him. Rondo's shooting touch comes and goes, but he usually makes up for his alligator arms with a little fiesty scrapping. However, there was neither fiest nor scrap from Rondo last night. And as for Sam-I-Am, well, it's clear that he's not 100 percent comfortable within Boston's system, and he's not used to being an off-the-bench roleplayer. He's forcing things offensively, although he's playing better than expected defensively (he got a clean block on Jerry Stackhouse that shocked the hell out of me). It's a concern. Not a full-fledged "Orlando Magic backcourt" level concern, but it's something for Doc Rivers to keep an eye on.

Paul Pierce: I'm not letting Pierce off the hook just because the Celtics won. With a little less than two minutes to go and the Celtics leading 88-87, Pierce bricked a couple freethrows that would have given Boston a three-point lead (I know, I'm a real math wiz). Dallas took the lead on their very next possession thanks to a couple Nowitzki freethrows. Of course, a few possessions later, Ray Allen hit the go-ahead three to put the C's on top, but if he hadn't hit it, Pierce would have been The Goat.

Utah Jazz: Not to take anything away from the Lakers, because they came out focused and ready, but the Jazz seemed to decided en masse not to play any defense until the second quarter, by which time they were already down 20. And last time I checked, spotting good teams a 20-point lead doesn't lead to many wins. The SportsCenter guys got a real kick out of Utah's tissue-paperesque D, showing clip after clip of Lakers strolling to the basket for uncontested layups and saying that the Jazz "could best be described as conscientious objectors on defense." It was weird. I always expect a little more toughness out of a Jerry Sloan team.

Update!! Reuters caption writers: This Worst of the Night nomination comes from Ben Q. Rock of the Third Quarter Collapse: "WotN: The guy at Reuters responsible for writing the caption to this picture. I understand that the '1' on Ronny Turiaf's uniform is obscured, but how does anyone mistake Turiaf for Derek Fisher? Especially when he's dunking authoritatively?"

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Blogger fatherscott said...
Have to half-disagree with you about Nowitzki...don't you think he knows all too well that you can get ticky-tack foul calls late in games when you drive to the basket? I mean, he did see Dwyane Wade do it about 15 times a couple years ago...

Blogger Josh L. said...
Basketbawful -

RE: Fisher. Actually, Barkley is wrong. I followed the story about Fisher's daughter pretty closely, and Fisher's daughter could go to only one of two places: Either New York or Los Angeles. They were the only two places that had special treatment centers to help with Tatum's eye. Isiah was not willing to let go of a roster spot to let Fisher on the team, so he kind of had no choice.

So yeah, it's pretty classless of the Jazz fans to boo him. And I'm a huge Jazz fan.

I am by no means a Laker fan, just correcting what Charles said.

Blogger Unknown said...
"WotN: The guy at Reuters responsible for writing the caption to this picture. I understand that the '1' on Ronny Turiaf's uniform is obscured, but how does anyone mistake Turiaf for Derek Fisher? Especially when he's dunking authoritatively?"

I dunno, I can see how he could be mistaken. I mean Ronny has that "THIS IS FOR RETINOBLASTOMA KIDS EVERYWHERE" look while dunking.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
OK, first of all, that Turiaf picture and caption is hilarious. Good work there, Reuters.

Second, you're right on about Jason Kidd. The guy is almost totally worthless for the Mavs in the halfcourt offense, especially the one Dallas runs (lots of isolations). A lot is being made about how the Mavs need to decide if they're a running team or a halfcourt team, but I think that's being overblown. In the playoffs every team is forced to become a halfcourt team, and if Kidd keeps this up he's going to be hurting the Mavs in a big way. They're a 1st round exit waiting to happen. IMO what they should have done last summer or this season was blown it up and traded Dirk. He strikes me as a guy who's not going to age well, given that his size is probably going to hinder him once his mobility really starts to go (the serious downside for a guy who is 7 feet tall but plays like a guard).

I'm still not totally convinced that the Jazz came out with no intensity last night. They were at home, going for a franchise record home win streak and were going against the NBA's villains, the LA Lakers. If they can't get up for that, they're gonna be in serious trouble in the playoffs this year and may be looking at a 1st round exit (especially considering they're probably gonna be playing the Spurs or Suns).

Maybe the Jazz really were just flat for some unknown reason though. I really can't decide if that was it or if the Lakers had this extra gear they shifted into. The Lakers had a chance to blow out the Mavs at home just a couple days ago (up 25 in the 2nd half), and yesterday they just flat out whupped up on the NBA's best home team in Utah. Are there just serious flaws in both the Mavs and Jazz's teams, or are the Lakers so good that they can dominate these teams despite missing Bynum and Gasol? The Lakers didn't look anywhere near as impressive against New Orleans and Houston, but they were actually competitive in both those games. Probably stating the obvious here, but I have a feeling the Lakers could be really, really scary in the playoffs if Bynum and Gasol are healthy and figure out a way to play well together.

That said, the team that looks really scary already is the Boston Celtics. They've got a few nagging injuries, which is to be expected given the age of their players, but they have a hell of a lot of talent overall, as well as young role players and playoff/championship tested veterans. The one flaw I see in them is maybe their ability to close out a close game, but IMO that's all hanging on how comfortable and healthy Cassell's gonna be. With him in there playing at the level he's shown he can compete at, him on the floor at the end of the game with their Big Three should make the Celtics one monster of a team down the stretches of games.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Oh, Dirk. I recall you saying that you wanted to be remembered as a winner and a great player when you retire, but you are also going to be remembered as one of the great un-clutch players in the league. I understand why Dallas goes to him in these situations, he is a scorer, but I feel that there is going to be a time in Avery's little cockroach looking head that tells him...this guy sucks when it counts. Im just waiting for that to happen, perhaps in the playoffs??

Go Suns!

Blogger Wild Yams said...
I have an interesting hypothetical question regarding Derek Fisher and his situation: if you're in the camp who thinks, like Barkley, that Fisher could have gone anywhere to get good treatment for his daughter, would it have been unethical for the Lakers to have traded him this year (or would it be unethical for them to trade him this summer)? I saw one speculative report that Fisher and Odom could be offered to the Wizards for Gilbert Arenas this summer, so it made me wonder if something like that happened if it would make the Lakers look like an awful organization, trading away a guy who came to them specifically for the doctors in their city; but after all this reaction to Fisher's situation, that he coulda gone anywhere and the real reason he left is cause he didn't want to be on the Jazz, does this mean people wouldn't care if the Lakers traded him?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'm from the Dallas area, and I can respect the Basketbawful post about Dirk. The thing about how Dirk saw Dwyane Wade getting the calls a couple years ago was that Dirk was trying to get those same calls all along. Evey time the end of the game rolls around, he stops shooting and instead goes to the basket. But whereas most players going to the basket try to get the ball in the whole, he just tries to make a good show for a foul. So he flings the ball out of bounds and flails his arms around. He NEVER tries to finish strong. That's why I hate the mavs so much. As I said, I'm from Dallas, so I have plenty of experience watching this. But because of this, I could never really be a die-hard mavs fan.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"Isiah was not willing to let go of a roster spot to let Fisher on the team, so he kind of had no choice."

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. hah.

"Second, you're right on about Jason Kidd."


Anonymous Anonymous said...
kobe better watch himself next time he comes back to SLC

Blogger Shrugz said...
well you're probably watching NCAA right now lol anyways
Sager's suits are like Steve Smith's yelling
just plain old ugly

Blogger AKahan said...
I just typed in Craig Sager's name into YouTube and this video came up with Kevin Garnett making fun of Craig's suit and thought you might enjoy it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...
I just feel Pierce always suck at crunchtime

Blogger Magicman said...
"And mind you, it was reported during the game that Kidd showed up three hours early to work on his shooting with Dallas assistant coach Mario Elie."

Are you kidding me? Mario Elie? I loved Mario when he was playing, but his "Kiss of Death" aside, the man wasn't exactly known for his stroke. Maro was a "defensive stopper," which is hoop-speak for "couldn't hit the basket with a 10-foot stepladder and a bombsight." C'mon... Mario Elie?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I cheered when Barkley spoke up...when are people going to look more into this and realize Fisher used his situation to get back to L.A. Within a week of getting released by his contract from the Jazz he was in L.A.. He obviously had phone calls and this planned out well before coming out and asking to be released. Thats great, Jazz fans are happy his daughter is getting treatment, but come on, he pulled a fast one on everyone including the media and everyone is treating Jazz fans like there awful for booing.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Josh.I Quote: "I followed the story about Fisher's daughter pretty closely, and Fisher's daughter could go to only one of two places: Either New York or Los Angeles."

Wrong. There were about five NBA cities that Fisher specifically mentioned in the conference when he was released. And immediately after signed with the Lakers.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
But the refs won't call a bump foul on drives at the end of a tight game.

You mean...

But the refs won't call a bump foul on drives at the end of a tight game, unless you are Dywane Wade.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"But the refs won't call a bump foul on drives at the end of a tight game. They just won't."

I'm going to jump on the bandwagon and point out: "unless you are Dwyane Wade in the 2006 NBA Finals." Dirk must still throw tantrums about the total unfairness of it all. I know I would.

Which is not to say that Dirk's going about things in the right way.

As for Fisher, a lot of major medical centers treat Retinoblastoma. It's not a particularly crazy and rare cancer (I'm a professor in a Cancer Center. So while I don't know the deep scoop about Retinoblastoma in particular, I know a little bit about this issue). I don't know offhand whether Utah has great treatment for Rb, but many people don't know that U of Utah has excellent biomedical research facilities and faculty, so I'd be very surprised if they didn't.

My guess would be that there's a doc at UCLA Medical Center who is one of the country's experts on Rb, so Fish is probably looking for the BEST care. Who can blame him? But let's avoid the preposterous "No Rb treatment elsewhere" claims. This ain't a third world country folks, especially if you have ample money, and Fish does. The country is littered with excellent cancer centers, and I'd be surprised if any of them couldn't provide good care for Rb.