Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Defense. They're simply smothering the other team. This was the first one that they really needed this type of performance, and they got it. Up by 1 at half, they shut down the Germans in the third quarter and iced the game. No gambling, just a rock solid man to man with great help defense, almost like they're funneling guys to the shot blockers. Essentially they look like Duke, only with good athletes and not overly unlikeable, Cobra Kai types. This is still reason #1 why they are going to win this thing.
If that's reason #1, then 1A is Carmelo. I've said all I can say about the guy already, but this exchange says about all you need to know about what he means to the team:
"The Germans were still within a point before Anthony followed a 3-pointer with a steal a dunk. Elton Brand's follow shot made it 51-43 with 6:41 remaining in the period.
Okulaja made a jumper, but Anthony drilled another 3, Dwyane Wade made a free throw, Johnson had a basket and Chris Bosh converted a three-point play on an alley-oop that extended the Americans' lead to 60-45 with 1:53 left in the quarter."
The Greeks, defending European champs, are up next. Up next on the blog will be a report on that game and a rant about a certain college football team playing it's home games in Eugene. Stay tuned.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
A few bits and pieces from around the league, bullet-style!
- Interesting pull-together from Chris Sheridan at ESPN right here. He's also covering Team USA, and interviews 21 basketball writers from around the world to get their take on Team USA and whether they'll win the gold. The consensus seems to be that they're certainly looking good, have a great chance to do so and the big test will be against Spain or Argentina (way to go out on a limb, guys). Still worth a read. It is an insider story so you'll need to have a name and password.
- Not sure if you noticed, but the New Orleans/Oklahoma Hornets gave GM Jeff Bower a 5-year extension this week. Kind of a bizarre move. Bower took over in October, meaning he didn't draft Chris Paul, although he did orchestrate the trades for Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic. The Chandler move was nice, but they drastically overpaid for Stojakovic, and you could make the same argument about the Bobby Jackson acquisition. Here's my thing with this move: why? Were other teams banging down the door to sign this guy away from the team? I doubt it. He'd already had one GM stint with New Orleans, this is currently his second shot. I have no problem with the contract length -- if you've got a good front office guy, lock him up -- but I just don't see what he's quite done to justify being considered that yet.
- ... And speaking of GM contracts, can we please just get this over and hand Kevin Pritchard the job? I have this inane fear that Steve Patterson is hoping to have the job himself, which is why it hasn't been given to Pritchard. Let's hope that's not the case.
- I still can't believe that Atlanta gave Al Harrington away for a non-lottery pick. So they'll give Joe Johnson "max" money but they won't pay Al Harrington $9 million per year (which is what he got from Indiana)? What on earth is going on? Billy Knight is seriously starting to give Isaiah a run for his money as "worst GM on the face of the earth". Nice that they're both in the same conference.
- ... And speaking of Indiana, I really like the way they've retooled that team. They've cut some of the fat and become more athletic, two things that any regular reader knows I am huge fans of. Harrington's addition lets them either put him at PF, slide O'Neal over to center and start Danny Granger or go bigger with Jeff Foster in the middle, O'Neal at PF and Harrington at SF. Not to mention that they've also added Marquis Daniels whom will certainly push Jamaal Tinsley for the starting PG position. And by "push", I mean "likely take over". Let's not forget that they've also got Crazy Stephen Jackson on their team. Can you imagine a Daniels-Jackson-Granger-Harrington foursome running the floor? YIKES. They've got a good coach, athleticism all over the floor, high-quality depth but a clear 8-man rotation, shooting, size ... say what you will about Larry Bird's GM skills, he's done a very nice rebound job with this team. I like Indiana to fight for a top-4 seed in the East next season ... and maybe even win the Central.
- Finally, reading recommendation -- and no it's not a book. If any of you aren't reading Paul Shirley on ESPN, you're missing some high-quality stuff. Read one or two of his diaries and you'll be hooked. You can find his most recent chat here, and a column archive here.
That's all for now. I'll turn it back over to Lochi for another hail of columns as Team USA strides to get back on track. Their next game against Germany is at 3:30am PST on Wednesday (the bracket by the way is right here for those interested) , and then it's on to the Final Four for a likely date versus Greece. Let's go, red white and blue!
This one was all about defense. Don't let the 113 points fool you, the way they played on the other end of the floor was what made this one particularly disturbing to everyone not wearing red, white, and blue. Throughout the last few international competitions, the US has played that overly aggressive man to man and gambled on every pass. Everyone wanted the steal, breakaway, dunk so they could get the ooohs and aaaaahs from the crowd. They would then get eaten alive by teams that would back pick and back door and never turned the ball over with lazy passes. This defense is the same aggressive man, but they don't gamble and they help defend very well. Howard is huge down low and I actually thought Bosh looked good swatting shots away. Bosh might be the first US player I've seen to knock the ball off the rim (legal in international competition). This defense is smothering both on the perimeter and at the rim. They still may be a little vulnerable to those Argentine pick plays, but as long as the guards keep funneling them to Howard or Bosh they should be fine. It's team defense that sets this team apart.
Offensively, I still don't think they have much of an offensive set, but it's getting better. Coach K seems to realize that the two biggest weapons are clearly Wade and Carmelo and they play accordingly. There isn't a player on earth that can stop Wade driving to the basket one on one, and he's been wreaking havoc out there. He either gets to the basket or dishes off to the open man. Carmelo scored 20 again, hit some 3's, mid range jumpers, got to the line, basically the same thing he's been doing all along. Best player in the tournament. Although the guy they see tomorrow night can argue that point.
Germany is up next. Or should I say Dirk is up next. They have nothing special after him and he could go for 50 and make it interesting, but I like our boys big again. I'd still feel better if they had Bruce Bowen to stick on Dirk but whatever.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
I'm running out of things to say about Carmelo Anthony. 35 points, and the first guy for Team USA in quite a while to sack up. He's not going to let this team lose. His game is perfect for this style of play, we've discussed this before, but more importantly he's taking control when it matters. He hit the dagger 3 at the end of the third quarter to push the lead to 7 and you could see the Italian team drop their heads as it went down.
Wade also played well when they needed him, he's kind of lost in the Melo love fest, but he's been very good. He had 26 points but most importantly he's been the one creating steals on the defensive end and leading to the fast break baskets. His D seems to always start the run. Wade knocks the ball away, next thing you know it's a 3 on 1 with LaBron, Wade, and Carmelo coming at some poor Euro backpedaling and thinking "I'm about to get dunked on...hard". Wade also has been huge on dribble penetration against the zones. Our guys have always struggled with that, but he's been a big factor in breaking it down.
Overall, this one gets a B+. A win over a pretty tough team, the first half was looking like a disaster, but Coach K deserves a lot of credit for realizing it was time to go with his star players and let them get it done. Team USA wins the pool, goes undefeated (unless they lose to Senegal, not happening), and will play either Australia, Brazil, or Lithuania in the first knockout game on Saturday night. Should be fun.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The Marcus Aldridge is going in for arthroscopic shoulder surgery, could be minor, could look like Kerry Wood in there. How very Blazer of them, as usual the front office has no idea what's going to happen. I kind of liked The Marcus when they first drafted him, kind of a more aggressive version of Channing Frye. The injury knock on him was that his knees might not hold up, now he's got shoulder problems to go along with it. Sooooooo you traded up to the #2 pick in the draft to take a younger version of Theo Ratliff. Well done. Look on the bright side, you haven't given him a 4 year contract worth 11 million per yet. It would really suck to be going into camp with a starting 5 of Jack, Roy, Morrison, Z-bo, and Joel. This makes me want to fight a wall. Let's move on.
Speaking of our old friend Z-bo, smooth move. The Fast and The Furious thing down Broadway at 3AM was entertaining to be sure, but this is a potential time bomb. At best he decided to throw a 2 man bachelor party with a couple hookers. That's quite an "at best" scenario isn't it? I'm not even going to get into the worst case scenario, I think we all know what that is.
The question becomes where do you go from here with him. I'm not sure where this leads, they may call up the Knicks and try to unload him and Miles for Frye and Jalen Rose, that would still work and would be a quality move on many levels. Despite this angry rant, I do like what I've seen out of Pritchard so far and if he is the one calling the shots over there and not Subterfuge Stevie then they may have a shot to get some value out of him. I've defended Z-bo in the past but I'm getting dangerously close to the end of my rope.
On a happier note to end things, Team USA looked fantastic in crushing Slovenia. Everyone looked good. They dominated on both ends of the floor, James, Wade, Melo, they all looked like the players we expected them to be. The first quarter was dicey, but I'm not going to complain about one bad stretch. Terrific performance, their best yet. That one gets an A.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Melo. The best player on the floor again. Easily the best player in the tournament so far as well. His versatility and aggressiveness on both ends of the floor are exactly what this team needs. His play is the main reason why I believe the US will win this thing.
Chris Paul. He was terrific last night. Dribble penetration, much more in control on the fast break, and finally took some open jumpers and knocked them down. When the US was building its lead, it was pretty much the Paul and Melo show.
Wade. Paul and Melo built the early lead but it was Wade that closed the show at the end of the first half and iced the game. He scored the last 11 points of the half and looked much better than he did in the first game. However, some of that might be due to the China guards being terrible.
Grading this game, I'd give them a B+. The second half they came out and mailed it in, allowing China to score the first 10 points, but that only pulled them within about 15 points and it was never really in doubt. Our boys take today off and play again tomorrow against Slovenia, a moderately dangerous team, should be a decent test.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
The US team is also going to have to think about altering it's offensive strategy. Carmelo Anthony might rival Dirk and Manu as the best players in the world at this type of game. He had 21 last night and was the difference maker out there. The offense needs to run through him, as it is right now, they don't really have much of a half court offense. All of their big runs are generated by steals and transition baskets. They still struggle with outside shooting at times, the first half was a brick fest last night. However there are signs of life, Heinrich and Paul are both very solid point guards, I'm fine with either one out there. Heinrich had 15 points and when they actually swung the ball against the zone he'd bury a 3. Paul had 11 points, 9 assists, and 5 steals. Labron and Wade were good, but I'm starting to wonder if the international game is going to be tough on them. Joe Johnson also needs to play a little more when they're going zone, he hit some dagger 3's last night and i don't see why they can't park him in the corner and have him gun against those 2-3 and matchup zones.
Defensively, I haven't made up my mind yet about this. I like the pressure man to man because they clearly need those big transition runs to be a powerhouse team. The problem will be that when they play teams like Argentina or Spain they're going to get back picked and back doored to death. Seeing Duke play about 1,000 times over the years, it seems unlikely that they will ever go to any kind of zone, but I don't know how anyone would score against one with those players out there. The Bruce Bowen cut could be the death of this team, not enough has been made of this, but it would have been nice to have him on Arroyo when he was going off last night. Battier's a nice player, but they need a lock down stopper, they had one and they cut him.
One final note, the refs are high, high comedy. They call random technical fouls on nobody, they'll blow the whistle and then huddle together and then go with "foul on the USA, 2 shots" and everyone will kind of look around like "who was it on?" only to get no response, it's just a monstrosity out there.
Reading ESPN it seems as if everyone is giving them a grade. Well, I'd give them a C. I'll have a review of the game against China coming up tomorrow, but that game is on at 3:30 in the AM so it would either be the drunkest review of a game ever, or I'll catch it on tivo tomorrow morning. Until then, USA USA USA!!!
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Now, onto the uprising that is the Seattle Seahawks. Frankly, I'm impressed that the co-author of this blog didn't complain that the refs hired Mike Shanahan to coach the Broncos 11 years ago, thus giving them the coach they needed to finally win a Super Bowl. Or that the refs drafted Terrell Davis, or that the refs traded down to avoid drafting Chris Paul. Or that the refs...you get the idea. Hey, did you know they have a new reality series this year on NBC where they follow around Seahawk fans all season long? It's called "The Sorest Loser".
Anyway, there is one cold hard fact that the Seahawk fans will have to live with as long as their team is in existence. They had to leave the AFC West to become a contender. They tucked their tail between their legs and bravely ran away.
At the risk of offending anyone else who may read this blog, and on a separate subject, Go Ducks.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Because the international game is played so differently, rather than break each player into the traditional five positions, we're going to go with "Guards" (bring the ball up and initiate the offense), "Wings" (players who play mainly on the perimeter and either catch and shoot or drive to the basket), and "Posts" (do I need to explain this one?).
Guards: Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Kirk Heinrich, Joe Johnson
Wings: Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Antawn Jamison, Bruce Bowen
Posts: Elton Brand, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Brad Miller, Shane Battier
Anyone who knows anything about international basketball will tell you that you need to have four guards on your roster. So all four of those guys aren't going anywhere. Looking at the list of wings and posts, Anthony, James, Brand, and Miller have proven themselves as necessary pieces to this team's success, so they aren't going anywhere. That leaves the final cut coming down to one of Jamison, Bowen, Bosh, Howard or Battier.
The first question to me is, do any of those players have skill sets that are already accounted for? In a nutshell, here are each player's strengths:
Jamison - inside/out scoring, rebounding
Bowen - three point shooting and defense
Bosh - rebounding, shotblocking, post scoring
Howard - rebounding, shotblocking, post scoring
Battier - rebounding, toughness, defense, post scoring
I think you've got to have Bruce Bowen on the roster, for two big reasons: 1. He is the best one-on-one (i'm sorry, i refuse to use the term "on-ball") defender on the team, and 2. He has a tremendous amount of experience playing against Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the two starts of France and Argentina; what will likely be USA's most competitive rivals (along with Germany). So Bowen stays. Jamison can shoot from outside and spread the floor, which will help out against the zone defenses that teams will inevitably be throwing at Team USA.
So we're down to Bosh, Howard and Battier. Three big men who have similar skill sets. I think that Team USA will have enough scoring -- both in the post and from the perimeter -- with the players we've already discussed, so the primary "needs" of the team would be defense and rebounding. Battier is a nice player, a very complete player, and a guy I'd love to have on the Blazers -- but he simply doesn't do those things as well as Chris Bosh or Dwight Howard does them; and the skills he does have are duplicated somewhat by Anthony and Elton Brand. They say that one of Team USA's biggest potential weaknesses would be a big-man who can score from outside and inside, and though Battier is better at muscling out of the paint than either of the other two, I really think that Howard and Bosh's height, leaping ability and long arms will be more effective and will win them the final spots. It's closer than you think, but that's my prediction for now.
My blog cohort on the other hand is a fan of the Denver Broncos. Yes, the same Denver Broncos who needed five chances (and four in our lifetime) to win their first super bowl. The ones who were led at quarterback for several years by a man who's teeth resemble that of a well-fed equine. The team who only received that player because he was a whiney, crying baby bitch just like Eli Manning and refused to play for the team that drafted him. The only team in the league that resides in a snowey area, yet their coach eminates an eery day-glo. His team, although probably not their conference favorite and probably more like a top-6 team than a top-3 team, is also among the league's upper echelon and with their cakewalk of a division will likely win many games and enter the playoffs.
Fortunately, our teams play in different conferences and rarely meet on the field any more. Granted, we were a vintage Jake Plummer performance away from meeting in the REAL granddaddy of them all, but fortunately it didn't happen (and if it would have, I'd probably have a different blog partner, to be frank). However, this year is different. On December 3, the two teams meet in a late-season squirmish which will likely have home-field-in-playoff implications for both teams. Fortunately for my cohort, this game takes place in Denver, which is not the easiest place to play in December. Nonetheless, it promises to be quite a battle.
You may be wondering, "what exactly is the point of all of this?" Well I'll just come out and say it: you may sense a bit of tension around these parts as the NFL season moves briskly along. The tension hasn't started yet, and probably won't until around Thanksgiving. Now that the Seahawks are among the league's elite, two things have happened: 1. Its fans have become slightly insufferable, and 2. many people -- fans of other teams -- are threatened by this, and have difficulty comprehending it. My co-author of this blog happens to be one of those people. So consider yourself warned.
Oh, and by the way: GO SEAHAWKS.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Oh, and for some reason the web browser on the Mac that i'm writing this on (new job and hence new computer) won't allow me to bold or bullett or do any of those sexy things that you all love so much so you'll have to deal with plain text again, as if it were the blogs of 1998. (ugh)
1. Richardson-Miles Rumor: "Wow, a deal almost happened"
Yawn. I have a feeling we'll be hearing a new Miles rumor every month until he gets dealt this coming January or February. And contrary to my blog partner (and let me emphasize this again: blog partner; nothing more and nothing less), I do not think Miles will get dealt prior to the season. No, I don't live in Portland and No, I don't experience the hostility and negativity that everyone feels towards him -- of which I am a part of this group, do not mistake -- first hand. But here's the problem: Portland simply can't get anything for him right now. I see this Miles thing playing out one of three ways:
-He plays well for a few months this coming season, and Portland deals him for a nice part
-He plays like garbage, and Portland either sells him off at forty cents on the dollar or ends up releasing him
-He has nights where he plays well, and nights where he looks totally out of touch, and Portland deals him for a mediocre part
I think we all know what the likely scenario is: there is about a 60% chance that #3 happens. I'm sorry to say it but I think it has to be said.
2. The Atlanta Hawks: "Throwing up all over themselves for 20 years and counting!"
I love this deal, because it's so indicative of Atlanta's pure inadequacy. The Hawks are sending their best player -- Al Harrington -- along with their backup center to the Indiana Pacers for .... nothing. That's right, nothing. Well, nothing right now. They're getting Indiana's first round pick next season, which will likely be in the 16-20 range. To put that in perspective for you, here are some of the wonderful players who have gone in between 16 and 20 for the past three drafts: Joey Graham, Kirk Snyder, Dorrell Wright, Troy Bell, Zarko Cabarkapa, Dahntay Jones, Alexander Pavlovic. Wow. That's quite a haul for a guy who is as versatile and as good a scorer as Harrington. Congratulations, Hawks fans: your front office just made the second-dumbest move of the offseason for the third year in a row. Have fun with that.
3. Team USA
I'll admit it, I've fallen completely for the myopia. I am full-on rooting for this team and I fully expect them to win the whole shebang. Yes it's only the World Championships, but let's not forget that it was the World Championships that derailed this whole thing four years ago so we might as well use it to get back on track as well. Sure, the team will struggle a little bit with big men who can score both inside and out, but is there a team on the planet who wouldn't struggle with that? Nitpicking. We've got the best backcourt and the best wing players in the world. And can someone inform me exactly when Carmelo Anthony turned into a fantastic all-around multidimensional player? God damn. I haven't seen something go from "good" to "great" that fast since Jessica Alba. Oh, and by the way, as for this "groin strain" that Gilbert Arenas suffered which is holding him out from the next round? BULLSHIT. He's not hurt, he just doesn't want to suffer the indignity of being cut in favor of Kirk Heinrich. You heard it here first.
4. The Latest Knicks Fiasco
Welcome, ladies and gentelmen, to our bi-monthy play-at-home game: How Bad Can The Knicks Fuck Up Their Team This Time? Our winner: $30 million for Jared Jeffries. Totally unbelievable. I suppose though that should be about right; if Jerome James is a $40 million player. Of course, Jeffries did average 6 points and 1 assist in 25 minutes per game last year, so it makes sense that you'd want to make a big commitment to those kind of numbers. Oh, and by the way, those stats actually declined from the year before, so clearly he's a player on the rise. And did I mention that he doesn't really have a position, either? He's actually listed as a "GF" on espn's website, making that a whopping 6 combo players on New York's roster by my count (the other 5 being Crawford, Francis, Frye, Richardson, J-Rose). Nice. Seriously, every time Isaiah makes a move, it's the new "dumbest move i've seen an NBA GM make". I think he currently holds the top 15 spots on that list.
5. Poor Bonzi Wells: Still Homeless
I know it's hard to believe, but Bonzi Wells can't seem to find a team willing to meet his unrealistic contract demands. (Insert joke about Knicks here). Supposedly the Nuggets are talking to the Kings about a sign-and-trade, but the problem is that the Nuggets don't want to give bonzi the five years and $50 million he's asking for. NO! You mean someone doesn't want to give 17% of their cap space to an underachieving a-hole who spits on other players and is disliked by the entire league? Shocking. Also, is it just me or are the Nuggets turning into the new Mavericks? It seems like every freakin' free agent or player demanding a trade gets linked to them.
6. Blazers' Ownership Situation
This is a tough one to figure out. With two straight years of cost-cutting-at-all-costs, piss-poor on court play and having it fed down our throats that Portland is losing money left and right, it's hard to be excited about the news that we won't be getting a new owner any time soon. And with the shenanigans going on up in Seattle along with Paul Allen's obvious ties to the region, it's scary to learn about his sudden lack of interest in selling the team following that news to the north. That said, I don't think we're in dire straits yet. All indications seemed to point out that the events of this year's draft (which I believe will constitute a turning point in Portland's fortunes; both on and off the court) were reinvigorating to Paul Allen. And who knows? Maybe he is back into it again, and is willing to spend a little cashola on the club now that we aren't chock full of dickheads. Or maybe he is eyeing a potential move up to Seattle. Who knows. I'm staying cautiously optimistic about the whole thing right now, and at this point I'll take that feeling.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
First off, let me say that I like this team much more than previous versions. They have a very solid starting 5 for international competition, a style that is very different than the NBA. A dominant post player can be neutralized fairly easily, part of it's the trapezoid lane that puts the low block out further from the basket, part of it is a very strict collapsing zone that a lot of international teams can go with, and part of it is the comical refs (they should have put Cuban in charge of the team instead of Colangelo just for the sheer comedy factor alone). Exhibit A is Tim Duncan, one of the greatest post players of all time, and a class guy, becoming so frustrated that he refused to play ever again. The starting 5 of Paul, Wade, Labron, Carmelo, and Brand is perfect for this style of play, assuming Carmelo's knee is fine. Carmelo is exactly the type of guy that dominates international competition, an athletic 4 that shoots the ball from the perimeter and would play 3 in the NBA. Ever notice all the European players that come over in the draft are 6'10" but project as 3's in the NBA, well this is why.
The tournament is going to be very interesting. They should cruise through their pool, nobody is really THAT dangerous, although considering they almost lost to Brazil yesterday, anything's possible. Then it comes down to whether or not Coach K plays to win when they get to the knockout stages. Comments like "we've got a lot of depth, nobody will play 40 minutes" scares me a bit. Very clearly they should be using Heinrich and Arenas, whoever is going better at the time as the backup point, Johnson as the 10-15 minute a night sniper, Bowen as the stopper, and then Brad Miller as the backup post player, but Wade, LaBron, and Carmelo should be playing heavy minutes. They're the 3 players that can dominate the dojo, they need to be on the floor as much as possible.
In the end, I think they win it all, but then again I also think we should be more dominant that we are. What can I say, I'm still the ugly American.