Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Roundball Ramblings – December 2012

Something may have to change in that Clippers backcourt.  We all know they are for real, but perhaps one piece away from being a LEGIT contender and threat to win the title.  Bledsoe doesn’t get enough minutes and he is referred to as “Mini-LeBron” in many circles.  Billups is older but brings intangibles, leadership and experience.  Crawford just flat out scores at will.  Willie Green is obviously the odd man out but he isn’t the most attractive trade bait.  I’m curious to see how this plays out…

D’Antoni’s stubbornness is alarming.  His system can’t work with that roster, and an almost 40 year-old PG coming off a leg injury isn’t the Messiah everyone thinks he is going to be.  Problem is, the Lakers simply cannot fire two coaches in the same season so unfortunately, Big Boy Pants is going to get traded.  Bank on it.  Pau deserves better than this, by the way.

Any time you find yourself bored at work, google "jail blazer stories" - you won't be disappointed.

Stephen Curry was on that nostalgic kick against the soon-to-be-once-again Hornets.   He pulled a Smitty on Jeff Taylor with the change-of-direction dribble fake AND later busted out the Mark Jackson shimmy after a 3.  I tip my cap Stephen...

The Warriors (those 14-7 Warriors!) are making a case to have two All-Stars this season:  Dell's son and a young James Caan meets Biff Tannen from Hill Valley, aka David Lee to be exact.


Every time Bynum is shown on the Sixers bench, he is either laughing or has the most ridiculous and goofy look on his face.  Sixers fans aren't laughing.  Tone it down.

Bynum Frederick Douglass
The Sixers borrowed Biff's time machine to sign Frederick Douglass to a one year deal.

The Knicks are good.  While I don't think this is a flash in the pan, there will be a drop-off in 3PT% at some point.  I don’t think they can win a championship playing this way.  Just as the Sun and Magic have proven in the last decade, this style offense can get you far, but not far enough.  Granted, they are playing tiiight D, so that does throw an interesting wrinkle into things.  Time will tell...

I am really excited to see what ATL does this off-season.  They are clearing cap space like a mug, have some great young (but veteran) talent, and NBA players love the city/love living there.

Jeremy Lin has a real shot to get voted in as an All-Star Game Starter.  This is not good.  This is a time where Stern actually needs to intervene.

Westbrook stuffed a Hibbert shot the other night that sent Roy crumbling to the floor.  Yep, that's the only guy on my fantasy team who was an All-Star last year, sent to the hardwood by a PG.

Went to a few Wizards games recently (saw both of their first two wins) and it should be noted that Chipotle burritos get thrown into the crowd regularly.  Ummmm… that is AWESOME.

If Andre Drummond keeps progressing (and it seems like he is going to), in two years, the Pistons will have the best big man duo for years to come as that would slide "The New Quiet Storm" Greg Monroe (credit: D-Scott) to the 4.  They also have an improving Brandon Knight and Kyle Singler, who evidently is The Missing Link.  In a couple years, watch out Eastern Conference…

Very excited to see the T-Wolves play as imagined once everyone is healthy and they have played together for a stretch.  Don’t know how long this’ll last with Love’s latest comments, though.

How does Mike Miller run when he walks like a 65 year old man?

I’m glad Amir Johnson apologized for his lunatic behavior, but he tried justifying it by saying how he always rubs the ball after free throws so he should have been allowed to do it again.  That “right” isn’t something you earn.  How about go earn that absurd contract which you have not done.

Amir Ref Fight
"You want the ball? Try getting a rebound!"

Rick Adelman is one of the best coaches ever, and does not get even close to his fair share of fanfare.  Check his resume'.  Just because he looks like Hitler doesn't mean he IS Hitler.

Rick Adolfman
Players were surprised when coach handed them the Mein Kampf playbook

I’m thirsty.  I need some Kamla Juice…

Kamla Juice
Drink it in.

Inside the NBA- A RoundBall Perspective

NBA on TNT saturday night live

Inside the NBA: 

What it is, Why it’s the Best, and One MASSIVE Problem…

Pete Certo

Everyone knows that Inside the NBA on TNT is the best basketball show out there today.  It has been for years and the multiple Emmy Awards the show has garnered only reinforce this.  I give credit to ESPN who have been adjusting and trying to fine tune their studio show lineup to compete, but it just doesn't compare.  Inside the NBA does everything right and satisfies my NBA cravings with their seamless blend of humor, looseness, and legit basketball insight.  They all rag on each other, argue, tell stories, laugh a lot, and break down the game of basketball.  The segments like Kenny’s Pictures, random contests/bets, and Gone Fishin’ are always a good time.
For years, the core of the show has been Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley.  I want to break down each of them briefly with what they bring to the table.  But first, if someone asked me to describe the show in one sentence, what I would offer is “I wouldn't be surprised if they are all best friends outside of work.”  What more do you need to know?

Ernie Johnson TNTErnie Johnson NBA on TNTElevator Ernie TNT

Ernie Johnson is the man.  Plain and simple.  He is the anchor (pardon the pun); the rock; the glue that holds everything together.  He knows his stuff, is completely likable  sarcastic, and is able to mesh the personalities together while providing the proper leash length so the show doesn't stray too far from whatever the topic is.  Oh yeah, and he beat cancer as well.  There is a reason I own the Elevator Ernie Johnson shirt and so should you.  Most of the time I have to explain to the average person what the shirt means.  However, there is a basketball brotherhood out there, and I know the members who are hardcore fans when they comment on my shirt when I am out in public.  We know what’s up.  Respect.

Kenny Smith TNT analyst

Kenny Smith is an affable, cool guy.  He played in the league for many seasons and was a dynamic player.  He won two Championships in the mid 90’s on those famed Houston Rockets teams.  Let’s get this out of the way though:  He loves New York and his brother Vince.  A lot.  If you can get past that, it’s all good.  Anyway, Kenny knows his stuff and presents it in a manner that comes off friendly and informed with a tinge or arrogance, but that isn't a bad thing at all.  He’ll argue with Chuck when they disagree, but you can tell they genuinely enjoy the back and forth banter.

Then there is Sir Charles.  The Chuckster.  The Round Mound of Rebound and/or Sound depending on your preference.  He is the best all-around Analyst on TV today.  Everyone loves Chuck and it’s just hard not to.  For being one of the best NBA players ever as well as a pretty unique guy, he somehow comes off like an average Joe that you’d love to have a beer with.  Charles is hilarious, well-respected, self-deprecating, charming, silly, thoughtful and honest.  People like to knock him because of the way he talks or about his southern drawl, but the man knows his basketball.  He has a way of phrasing things in such a simple way that you almost take it for granted, but make no mistake about it:  The guy knows his basketball.  The show really goes as Chuck goes.  TNT would be wise to lock him up forever because he is the heart and soul of the show.  The man is beloved, and it is also a treat when he does color commentary during a game here and there.

I feel like everything you just read is nothing new to you if you regularly watch the show.  Glad we are on the same page.  Now, if you reference back to the title of the article, it mentions “One MASSIVE problem” and I think it is pretty clear where I am going with this…

Shaqtin a foolShaqtin a fool TNT

Shaq. Has. To. Go.
When I first heard last year that Shaq would be joining the guys, it sounded like a great idea and I was looking forward to it in a big way.  After having followed Shaq’s career since he joined the league in 1992 everyone knew he would end up in the Analyst chair.  It seemed as if he was destined to do it.  In all of his interviews he was charismatic, goofy, charming, funny, and ridiculous.  The fact that he has four rings also lends to his credibility just a bit.
And so it began.  Shaq’s initial appearances were underwhelming.  He didn't say much or offer anything of substance aside from cliches and he constantly looked at himself in the monitor.  All of this was to be expected though because like anything, there is an adjustment period to a new job.  It did nothing to discourage anything about his presence – although I won’t lie:  The whole looking at himself in the monitor thing totally distracted me and I began to actively watch for it.  In fact, he still does it, so take a gander…

Eventually, he got more comfortable with the job, settled in, began to contribute more and things seemed to be looking up.  Then, something happened.  The real Shaq, whom we the audience don’t really know, started to come out and there were problems and turn-offs:
Turn-off #1:  The real Shaq apparently has an ego that is in contention for World’s Largest.  He is one of the best players ever – there is no question about that.  Everyone is aware of that, but he felt the need to constantly remind us how dominant he was.  28 and 15!  28 and 15!
Turn-off # 2:  He is never wrong, and cannot be argued with.  If one of the other panelists disagrees or has a different opinion, he immediately tunes them out, interrupts them over and over saying “No. Stop it.  Stop it.” until that person relents out of frustration.
Turn-off #3:  Shaq is a funny guy.  He has an outgoing, goofy personality and likes to laugh.  The problem is he is trying wayyy too hard to be funny.  He wants to be Charles, but Charles is already Charles, so it just isn't going to work.  He just needs to be himself, but for all we know, maybe that IS himself.  Maybe small doses of him through random interviews here and there might be better.
Turn-off #4:  He has perhaps the thinnest skin of any person in the media spotlight.  In such a high profile position people (like myself) are going to critique you.  It’s part of the job.  More importantly though as it was stated earlier, one of the great things about the show is how the guys all rag and tease one another.  It became clear very earlier on that Shaq does not like to be teased about anything as he redefines the word defensive.  It can turn vicious, cruel, and uncomfortable – which leads me to….
Turn-off #5:  The tension between Shaq and Charles is palpable.  I noticed it right away and it is the classic Alpha Dog Syndrome.  Simpletons might like to think that since they had a fight one time during a game years back, that the issues are rooted from that.  I say nay because these are grown men and not immature rivals in the 9th grade.   Two Alpha Dogs are butting heads.  Charles is already “The Guy” and Shaq thinks he is and should be “The Guy”.  As such, Shaq’s method of dealing with this situation is to attack Charles full-on.  He attempts to belittle him, embarrass him, brag about his accomplishments, and generally just try to be a bully.  Boy oh boy does it come off reeeally bad.  The body language of everyone on the panel screams “I am uncomfortable during this moment!”  Their faces can’t hide it either.  Charles just looks stunned most of the time when Shaq does this – not because he doesn’t have a comeback (because he does) – he looks stunned because he can’t believe his eyes what is happening.  That being said, it all makes for magnificent television. 
To Shaq’s credit, at the time of this writing he’s now in his second year and has gotten better.  As previously stated, Shaq is a funny guy.  He has some hilarious moments on the acclaimed “Open Court” episodes, and  “Shaqtin’ a Fool” is a fun segment I look forward to that always draws laughs even though the clips are what is ultimately where the humor comes from.  I also want to thank the Producers for coaching him because it has helped but it is not a substantial improvement.  The bottom line is he is bringing the show down and he has to go.
Now look - I get it.  It’s Shaq, and he has some clout and power in the basketball universe.  At the same time, TNT is a major cable television company running the show.  Losing Shaq wouldn't be a PR or ratings disaster.  Let him bolt to ESPN and join that improving, but ultimately JV squad.  Possessing major NBA clout from your playing days and related achievements doesn't necessarily translate to another job in the industry.  Magic Johnson was one of the best ever, eternally adored, and amazingly accomplished as a player.  Read that last sentence again and pay close attention to the words “as a player” because to be perfectly honest, he is a fairly underwhelming Analyst.  He’s average at best, and their show wouldn't suffer tremendously if he were to leave or be let go - but understand that he is much better than Shaq.
TNT does have an ace in the hole to counter what little damage (if any) would be done by Shaq leaving…

Chris Webber KingsChris Webber NBA TV

C-Webb.  He is the darling of all the up-and-coming Analysts looking for a shot at the big time with a full-time gig.  Anyone who knows of his glory days on NBATV when he shared the spotlight with GP knows how great he is, as well as the times he fills in on the show.  C-Webb is well-spoken, crazy funny, relate-able  he clearly knows his stuff, and is PASSIONATE.  When he gets into a topic, you can tell he really feels and means what he is saying which is uber-appealing.  One other unique quality that he has (unlike most Analysts not named Chuck) is he speaks his mind and the truth.  He doesn’t sugarcoat things and tells it like he was just hanging out with his friends talking shop.  It is beyond refreshing and brings a different element to the show.  The guy is a stud and is ready to be unleashed as a permanent member of the panel.

Chris Webber analyst

What it all comes down to is I love this show.  The year before Shaq started, I clearly remember watching it regularly and loving it.  It actually made me feel good to watch it, I looked forward to it, and fully appreciated it.  Inside the NBA was honestly perfect in its format, makeup, and execution.  A glaring flaw exists now, but a solution also lies in wait.  Come on TNT.  Let’s take this show to new heights because otherwise, you’re just…..

Shaqtin a fool TNT

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Ladies and Gentlemen,

The New Orleans Pelicans

Pelicans NBA

This majestic, official Louisiana state bird could be the new team name as early as next season according to sources.  Owner Tom Benson has plans to change both the team name and color scheme, seeing how neither the team nor the city have any affinity with the Hornets brand.  Other names considered for the franchise include Krewe, Brass, and The Oil Stained Pelicans.  Too soon?

Ryan Anderson Pelicans
Ryan Anderson will pull duel roles next year as a three point specialist AND team mascot.

Heat Roster Breakdown

Wizards- Heat.  Nose bleed seats.  Never ideal, but that's what happens when the Heat come to town.  Normally, these seats go for $2 on Stubhub, but for this game, they started at above $30.  RGIII sat court side and the fans showed their appreciation.  You could also spot him from a mile away with his bright blue outfit.

D-Wade looks to be getting back to the D-Wade we are accustomed to.  Sitting so high up gives an interesting viewpoint in that you really get a sense of floor spacing and player movement.  D-Wade looked healthy and spry all night.  He slides all over the court and runs around like a jaguar - smooth, sleek and vicious.  It almost seems like he isn't trying.  I recall people always saying that was how T-Mac looked when played, and it is true, but they are out there working.  You can also get a real sense that he is strong.  He just absorbs contact and gets where he wants to.  Also, his pump fake is even more deceiving in person.  You know he is going to do it and it still tricks you.

James ended up with a triple-double, and it was a quiet triple-double.  I actually didn't even know this until I got home and put on NBA Gametime.  James had a very quiet first half which made me happy because he is the featured player on the fantasy team I'm playing this week and seemed to be struggling.  Then the second half started and all that happiness came crashing down.  It is compelling to watch him play because he is so much bigger than the other SFs, and the PFs can't bully him around.  And yet, he is faster than most players as well.  He did this baseline spin move where I would have sworn the Tasmanian Devil was playing.

After mentioning those two guys, it is worth noting the amazing types of varied reaction they get when they do ANYTHING.  People lose their minds when they get introduced and scream like the Beatles are in town - it also justifies them being called "The Heatles", seriously.  Whenever a fast break starts and the thoroughbreds get to the races, you can feel the entire arena tensing up and sitting forward in their seats, waiting for THAT play.  If either one of them contests a foul or even tries to talk to a Referee, the boos reverberate through the foundation of the building.  This is especially true for James.  Apparently, it is illegal for him to get within 10 feet of a Ref.

The Heatles
Coming to an arena near you!

Bosh played great.  His first half was efficient and dominant.  Jumpers, boards, put back, hustling.  He played real hard.  I expected him to end up with 40 pts, but he quieted down in the second half as James took over and crushed my happiness.

I've noticed on TV the past few years that Mike Miller runs better than he walks.  My opinion hasn't changed after seeing him in person.  Frankly, I don't understand how he is able to run based on his performance as a walker.  Credit to him because he is out there still doing it.

Rashard Lewis didn't really do anything except draw really odd sounds from the crowd.  It was this strange mix of chiding, shock, anger, heckling - yet with a slight tinge of "welcome back".  I have no way of describing it.  I guess not coming close at all to living up to one of the craziest contracts in history can do that.

We had a Joel Anthony sighting!  He is a finalist for "Player with the most unique running style".

In the end, the Heat lost.  Everyone in the building KNEW the Heat were going to come back at the end and win.  The Heat KNEW this is well as it has been their staple so far this season.  Well it didn't work out that way.  One thing that was eye-opening was the disparity in talent between the teams.  Miami didn't seem interested in being there and were clearly playing like it.  The Wizards had a double-digit lead for a while and Miami never was worried.  The interesting dichotomy was how HARD the Wizards were playing.  Every single play took work, focus, and execution.  Even with their double-digit lead, they never seemed safe.  At some point, Miami flicked the switch and the lead just evaporated, but they waited about two possessions too long to do this and it cost them.  Dangerous habit, but then again, it is the defending World Champions playing a team who has tallied one win through 15 games.  No one is worried.  Hats off to the Wizards though they earned the win.

LeBron block
The BULLETS escaped with win NUMBER TWO!!!

Blazers Roster Breakdown

The Blazers are not nearly as compelling to watch as the Spurs, but still have a solid team on the floor this season.

Aldridge is a BEAST.  He plays HARD.  He is a really big guy.  He is built kinda weird and looks slow and plodding but he moves deceptively well.  When he is backing guys down in the post, he is slamming into them.  He is a bruiser.  He also has a deft touch.  Every shot he took not looked good and he looked confident taking them.  Another odd thing I noticed is he really trusts his teammates' shooting abilities.  Many times after someone shot a 3, he would just immediately start running back on defense and be at half court as the ball hit the rim.  That's great you trust your teammates and all, but it also explains why his rebounding numbers aren't what they should be.  I would know as I had him last year on my fantasy team.

Lillard looks good.  He is real fast and tiny.  He makes some silly mistakes, but he is a rook so those poor decisions will improve in time.  He has a nice shot as well.  Definite all-star in the making.

Batum has potential to be great.  We know he is a good defender  and all his FGM are swishes.  However, the reason I said he has potential to be great is he does really dumb things with the ball.  He forces shots and takes really awkward ones.  It is perplexing.  It's almost like he just drives without thinking or having any plan of attack or contingency plan.  Then, he has to instantly create a shot at the last second which is impossible because he is so skinny and can't create separation through contact.  He must think he is like Melo, because he does that like one of the best.  He is also a toothpick and could give Tayshaun Prince a run for his money.  Wonder what Juan Carlos Navarro thinks of him.

Batum ball punch
Even Napoleon would be proud of this French attack on Spain

Wesley Matthews just plays it cool.  I like him (had him last year on my fantasy squad as well).  He seems like a cool guy, knows his role, and just does his thing.  Sweet, sweet shot.

Hickson had a monster game against the Wizards.  15 and 19!  Dunks and put-back slams.  He seems like a spaz but he gets it done.  From what I have read, he is a nut job, so I assume they are hoping Meyers Leonard has a light bulb moment.

Leonard looks like he is 12, but he is a big dude.  He showed some flashes of a developing and varied post game.  At one point, he got the ball at the foul line, drove the lane and elevated with an outstretched arm looking like he was going to Harrison Barnes someone hardcore and throw the hammer down, but then he just went soft and threw up some goofy flick shot.  I'll tell ya though man - when that move started, I, along with my entire section started going "Ohhhhh....." and prepared to jump up because it truly seemed like the dunk of the year was about to happen.  Everyone sensed it, and then nothing.

(Side note:  I was in the corner about eight rows behind the Portland bench and my entire section, save for a couple people at most, were all die-hard Blazers fans.  I don't know how that happened.)

I don't know anything about Will Barton, but he has some And1/Hot Sauce/Skip to my Lou moves.

Jared Jeffries is on the Blazers!  He also has a Chuck Liddell mohawk.  Some tool behind me all game loved yelling out "Yeah Jared Jeffries!"  and "You go Jared Jeffries!" and kept making Jared from Subway jokes.

Sasha Pavlovic just looks cool.  Such an odd thing to say, but I've always thought that about him while seeing him on TV, and in-person, it is just reinforced.  He has a great NBA body and pulls off the super-high black socks very well.  He just doesn't do anything of consequence.

Coach Stotts is a really tall guy.  The players seem to listen to him attentively on the bench, so that's a good thing.  He also walks out absurdly far to the other end of the court when walking the sidelines.

Portland appears to have a solid young core around Aldridge, complimented with some shooters and slashers.  They are a few years away from being serious contenders, but if Lillard, Leonard, and Batum continue to develop, this team could compete for a title sooner than later.  

Extra points for another solid alternate jersey this season.  Rip City continues their run of solid NBA uniforms without straying from their original red, black, and white color scheme.  This guy would be proud.  

Bill Walton FunnyBill Walton Beard

Spurs Roster Breakdown

After having watched the Spurs in person last week, it is amazing when you stop and think about the way they play.  They are incredibly fun to watch.  Granted it was against a Wizards team that looked lost most of the night, but they are a team that takes advantage of every opportunity. The Spurs move the ball better than any team in the league because every player on their roster is a great passer.  It becomes so appealing to watch and  should be appreciated by basketball purists worldwide.

Parker is still really quick, cuts all the time, and is always moving.  He can get to the basket WHENEVER he wants.

Ginobili is so creative and just fascinating to see in person.  He does things you don't expect and just moves in a certain way that looks very threatening to defenses and is still very athletic.  I don't know if you saw the highlights of the game against the Wizards, but he stole the ball and did this absurd fake-out move at the basket.  You have to see it.  The video doesn't do it justice, but the whole arena went wild when he did it.

Manu Ginobili Cowboy
Come at me, bro.

Whenever Duncan got the ball, everything on defense just stopped and no one knew what to do.  He doesn't look like he is trying hard at all, but he can still do so much.  I was amazed.  They run this play where Ginobili flares to the wing, passes to Duncan who is at the high-post/elbow and he stands there pretending to think about shooting the long J (the whole defense just watches him).  Meanwhile, Ginobili just did a wraparound cut thru the lane back out to the corner basically where he just came from and is wide-open for the jumper.  So simple, and gorgeous to watch.  I feel like a nerd, but I couldn't stop thinking about that play.

They have this guy DeColo on the bench who got some time last night.  I hadn't heard of him before last night, but watching him play, right away I thought he was the next Manu.  I just googled him and all everyone says is he is Mini-Manu.  BTW - "Mini-Manu" is kinda hard to type.

Tiago Splitter is really tall in person.  He played well last night and played hard.  He is starting to really come into his own.  He likes to mix it up with some 'bos, too.  As the BG behind me exclaimed at one point "Yoooo - Splitter dirrrty!"

On the flip side, DeJuan Blair is much smaller in person.  I've read that about him, but it shocks you a bit that he is whatever his height actually is.  He plays hard as well.

Diaw still has some moves in his bag of tricks.  He is surprisingly nimble despite his dougheyness.

The Red Rocket Matt Bonner was being eyeballed by me during warm-ups, and he just doesn't miss shots.  His shot looks like a mechanical process.  He got a lot of time last night as well and just kept hitting shots.  The crowd would go crazy for him.  He may be the best shooter in the league.

I haven't even talked about Gary Neal, Patty Mills, Danny Green - AND both Kawhi Leonard AND Stephen Jackson are injured.  That's quite a roster.  I never really liked watching San Antonio play on TV, but I am going to catch them whenever I can from now on.  I suggest you do the same.  The Lakers cannot beat them in a 7 game series.  The Clippers probably can't.  The Grizzlies and Thunder are legit and pose problems, but I think people are sleeping on the Spurs again.  Should be fun...

(Roster Breakdown is a continuing series Roundball will be bringing the readers of any teams we see live this season.  A true analysis and evaluation of talent can ONLY be made live, and nothing but the best will be brought to our reading audience.)