2011 NBA All-Deceptive Teams

My high school basketball coach, John Wiley, used to tell us that on the basketball court, “you should be lying constantly.” He wanted us to understand that by constantly feinting and faking, you can put your opponent out of position, gain an advantage and achieve success. Whether it’s getting open, getting to the basket or even something as fundamental as setting a screen, deceptive action is key to every aspect of the game.

Sometimes a deceptive move is a simple as a quick change of speed and change of direction (think Derrick Rose). Or deception can come in attention to detail: making sure a shot fake perfectly mimics one’s shooting motion, or raising a hand before both setting and slipping screens. That’s the kind of deception being rewarded in this post. Not Shane Battier’s deceptively important defense, or Kendrick Perkins deceptively low Adjusted Plus Minus.

In short, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about:

For the purposes of this award, I focused almost exclusively on offense. Thus, there are more well-rounded and important players who did not make this specific list (notably Deron Williams, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant). However these teams were named using an excessively scientific process; doubt the results at your own peril.

Without further ado, allow me to unveil the first ever NBA All-Deceptive Teams:

1st team

PG- Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

Rondo’s quickness of foot and mind allows him to control the game and his opponents like few other players. Though he’s not an explosive leaper, he manages to finish a high percentage of shots around the hoop because he uses fakes and footwork to create good angles. Articulating precisely what Rondo does is beyond my capacities, so suffice to say he gets the 1st Team honor ahead of some

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HoopSpeak Network

Basketball Culture 101: Eddie In Real Life

[Editor's Note: Zach Harper is eloquently guest lecturing for Graydon Gordian today because the mail system stole Graydon's copy of The Essence of the Game is Deception. Harper is the host of ESPN's Daily Dime Live and writes often and incisively for Hardwood Paroxysm, Cowbell Kingdom, A Wolf Among Wolves and Talkhoops.net. Here, Harper untangles the mystique of NBA life through the unlikely vehicle of the Whoopi Goldberg classic, Eddie.--Beckley]

Basketball isn’t played in a vacuum.

That’s a saying I like to drop on people when they’re trying to tell me you can’t take this player’s scoring away from their team or adding a high-scoring NBAer to another team will make that franchise the best scoring squad in the league.

What it would look like if basketball were played in a vacuum

For every action, move or injury in the NBA, there is an equal reaction, adjustment or fill-in. Nothing happens independent of other occurrences. Take Monta Ellis off of the Golden State Warriors and someone like Reggie Williams will step up his scoring while David Lee and Stephen Curry get more shots. Switch Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose, and the Bulls probably run a less guard-heavy scoring attack.

Life adjusts in the NBA.

But rarely does the NBA adjust to life. The NBA keeps chugging along at a full head of steam while those affected by the normal ups, downs and gyrations of life continue to try to keep up.

Nothing taught me this more than the movie Eddie starring Whoopi Goldberg. Eddie is probably considered a joke amongst you and your peers if you’ve ever seen it or heard of it. The premise is sort of absurdly brilliant or maybe it’s brilliantly absurd.

The protagonist, Edwina Franklin (played by Goldberg), is a super fan the likes

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Hs Weekly Exclusive!: Steve Nash’s Sunken Court-Ship

The following is a HoopSpeak Weekly exclusive!

Sources tell HoopSpeak that Steve Nash (36) is starting to unravel without his longtime pick and roll partner Amar’e Stoudemire (28) by his side. According to a friend close of the Canadian, Nash, who famously underwent a special diet in hopes that it would keep Stoudemire interested, says he feels “empty,” “abandoned,” and that he has “no one to pass to.”

Now, industry insiders are starting to wonder whether Nash will ever find someone who can give him a ring.

Image by Anthony Bain

Making matters worse for the aging megastar is that Stoudemire has happily moved on, hooking up repeatedly with Raymond “Ray” Felton (26) in plain view of thousands as the star of the popular Off Broadway revival, Knickerbockers.

Though Amar’e has acknowledged he sometimes misses playing with a point guard who can consistently score off the dribble, a representative from Stoudemire’s camp said the power forward “loves Raymond’s crisp bounce passes,” and that being in New York “just feels right.” Even after Felton tackily bricked three attempts in the waning moments of a nail biter against the Oklahoma City Thunder over last weekend, Amar’e said he’s “never been happier.”

Nash picking up the pieces

Meanwhile, Nash has seemed distraught and distracted. The slender guard has never been one for cleaning the glass, but there’s new chatter about how poorly he’s rebounded from Stoudemire’s departure, even making Derrick Rose cast-off Hakim Warrick (28) his new pick and roll partner. “Look, Hakim is a great guy, and he’s got some limited moves around the basket” said a source in Nash’s entourage, “but at the end of the day can, he step out and hit a fifteen footer? Can he support Steve in clutch situations the way STAT did?”

Despite his

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Cleveland: Thank LeBron for making you terrible

Redux?

(Ethan Sherwood Strauss is once again in the HoopSpeak lab, concocting new ways to defend LeBron James from criticism. Strauss does this because he likes how LeBron James plays basketball, and would rather not be disturbed while living vicariously.)

When LeBron left the Cavs, he took The Cavs with him. His departure has rendered that team a rotting smear of sun-blasted sewage. They’re more comically depressing than a packed clown car, found in a carbon monoxide-choked garage. I’m surprised the Ohio River hasn’t self immolated from shame.

And yet…

Cleveland’s ineptitude is a blessing. LeBron James gave the Cavs seven great years, and while seven more would have been ideal, there is a consolation prize. What I mean is: James is so good, that his exit hurt badly enough to give Cleveland an entrance–to a better lottery pick, a new life, quick relevance.

This is how NBA teams get great. It’s a quirk of the five man sport, but devastation is proportional to the tools with which you’re given to cope with it. In other facets of existence, an enormous loss is usually just an enormous loss. If Michael C. Hall leaves “Dexter,” Showtime is jobbed. But, if NBA rules applied, Showtime would be guaranteed the (cheap) rights to the world’s best emerging young actor. Then, the network could find new life building an inexpensive show around captivating talent.

My favorite team–the Golden State Warriors–suffer the stumpy vacillation that is mid-lotto mediocrity. It’s really a hell masquerading as a purgatory. Your team floats from a conference 10th seed, to a 12th, a 13th, and back to an 11th seed. No progress is made, no scintillating rookie talent validates your evenings out.

So, coming from a Warriors fan: How dare you Clevelanders whine about seven awesome years of

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Basketball Culture 101: The Ghost That Lingers

[Editor's Note: Bret LaGree has been at the helm of Hoopinion, one of the internet's most consistent sources of brilliant basketball writing, since 2004. For this first installment of Basketball 101, LaGree delves into the history of the NBA through its original star, George Mikan. Many of us younguns only know Mikan as the bespectacled goober who had a hand in the world's most boring drill. Here, LaGree reveals how Mikan's spectral presence still looms over us all, player, owner and fan alike. --Beckley]

Michael Schumacher’s 2007 biography of George Mikan, Mr. Basketball: George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers, and the Birth of the NBA, attempts both to represent Mikan as the league’s proto-superstar and to imply the degree to which the league has transformed from an unstable, regional, American league into a financially robust, worldwide phenomenon.

It’s easy to forget both how new the NBA is and how different the second half of its existence has been from its first. Easier, perhaps, when one’s conscious memory encompasses only that second half of the league’s existence. Befitting the NBA’s origin as a less popular alternative to college basketball, my earliest conscious memory of watching live basketball dates to Patrick Ewing repeatedly goaltending early in the 1982 NCAA Championship Game.

Though my conscious memory of the NBA consists only of the league after Magic and Bird began to make the league modern (and even then only consists of vague memories of getting to watch Kings games on a UHF channel when visiting my grandparents in Kansas City), spending three formative years in rural, Northeastern Kansas provided me with two important links to the first half of the league’s existence.

First, I collected (and still possess) a set of 1979-80 Topps NBA cards, the last set not to include Magic

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Reliving the Dream: The TrueHoop Network goes to college

And now for something completely different.

A couple months ago, I met a University of Michigan Professor of Comparative Literature named Santiago (Yago) Colas (behold the wonders of Twitter). This semester, Yago is teaching a course called Basketball Cultures, which I highlighted during my brief and exhilarating reign as TrueHoop’s stand-in Editor.

In my post, I noted that many us who love watching, playing and read about basketball would kill to take this course. Now, with some help from our TrueHoop Network comrades, HoopSpeak will be doing just that in a new feature called Basketball Culture 101.

Creative title, no?

Each Thursday, for the next three months, a guest writer from the TrueHoop Network will tackle, in essay form, one of the course materials from the Yago’s class. There will be no grades given, no credit awarded and no holds barred.

This week, the accomplished and eloquent Bret LaGree of Hoopinion will be kicking things off with a commentary on the chronologically appropriate Mr. Basketball: George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers, and the Birth of the NBA by Michael Schumacher.

I couldn’t be more excited about this project. Each writer will use a book or film relating to basketball culture as a jumping off point, but you can expect a diversity of approaches and voices that will reflect the myriad ways the very phrase “basketball culture” can be understood.

As Yago’s syllabus explains, the straightforward goals of his course are:

To expand our knowledge of the history and variety of the game’s manifestations To enhance our awareness of the nature and types of stories that spring up around the game To strengthen our ability to recognize and shape the stories we tell about the game as well as the uses to which we put those stories in daily life.

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John Wall, learning the ropes as an NBA point guard

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that John Wall is only a rookie. His buzz attracted national attention for three years preceding his professional debut, and now seems to have faded amid the point guard debate echo chamber and Blake Griffin’s megaphoned redshirt ROY campaign. But Wall’s inconsistent play over the Wizards’ holiday weekend homestand was an example of how the twenty year old point guard is still finding his way, and still deserves the hype.

On Saturday night, Wall looked hurt, tired, and disenchanted. It was frustrating to watch Wall allow himself to be contained by the Raptors’ notoriously penetrable defense. On pick and rolls, he was indecisive, and on his signature full court sprints to the hoop he struggled to finish, often appearing out of control. What’s worse, he gave Jose Calderon, a slightly above average point guard, free reign to drop 21 points and 15 assists by failing to pressure the ball away from Calderon’s comfort zones.

It was the kind of performance that rookies have when they’re on a bad team, playing against another bad team in a half empty arena. This was the Raptor’s second meeting with Wall (who did not play in the teams’ first meeting), and like most teams this season they sunk deep in the paint on pick and rolls to discourage Wall from driving. What was alarming wasn’t that this strategy kept Wall from getting inside, but that it seemed to prevent Wall from finding a rhythm in the rest of his game.

Mental exhaustion seemed to be the culprit in his eight point, nine assist, three turnover performance. It was all he could do to manage the game, he didn’t have the juice to dominate it.

As Calderon said afterward, “I think he’ s going to be a great

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“Mama There Goes That Meme!” Ep. 11: LeBron is Most Villainous Player

“Mama there goes that Meme!” is a HoopSpeak feature in which Beckley Mason and Ethan Sherwood Strauss, like curious extraterrestrials, probe, abuse, and ultimately learn from a popular media meme.

Ethan: We’re headed for a historical Hindenburg on the order of Karl Malone’s MVP! And nobody seems to care, nobody seems to question it. So far, LeBron James has been the League’s best player. Yes, I could cite Chris Paul, but damn if you didn’t convince me otherwise. And I’d put Dwyane Wade second on account of Dirk Nowitz-knees. Point differential says: The Heat are a vision realized. Advanced stats say: James and Wade are liquefying competition. I say: Where is the MVP buzz?

It’s as though society is resigned to rewarding lesser talent out of “moral” obligation. Amar’e? Well apart from not featuring defense, rebounding, and playing on a top ten team, he’s the perfect choice. I could make a case for Stoudemire, but like a drunken text–it would be lower case, sloppily conveyed out of wee hour mania. Derrick Rose had to melt icy veins to make inroads towards my heart, and he’s bound to ascend higher than a Mt. Everest kangaroo. But, is Rose tangibly better than Dwight Howard? Kevin Durant?

All I know is, the smoldering heap that was Cleveland is validation enough for LeBron’s talents, and Wade’s soaring like he’s got talons for feet. Shouldn’t these guys be one and two for MVP? And if not, what does that say about this increasingly mysterious annual prize?

Beckley: Woah, Ethan, take a breath. We’re less than half way through the season, and the NBA’s fandom still needs time to heal. From what, I’m not sure, but we need it.

Phase One of this recovery process, Pure Outrage, is nearly passed as windbags half-heartily

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Hassan Whiteside’s D-League Blues

Joey Whelan is a HoopSpeak guest writer. He covers the D-League Dakota Wizards for KFYR-TV in Bismark and has contributed to SLAMonline and D-League Digest.

Despite its decade-long existence the D-League remains a consistently inconsistent entity, bridging the gap between forward thinking and outdated practices. While some franchises have embraced the practice of developing young, inexperienced talent in the fashion that the D-League was intended for, others (here’s looking at you Larry Bird) believe it squanders valuable time that is better spent learning the life of the NBA.

Then there are cases like Kings rookie Hassan Whiteside, a tantalizing talent in a 7-foot frame whose personal experiences while on D-League assignment (one that ended last week) only served to perpetuate the negative stigma attached to the league while providing further evidence that some teams simply don’t understand how to maximize the use of their affiliate teams.

A 21-year-old rookie out of Marshall, Whiteside’s athletic package, potential as a face up big man and prodigious shot blocking enticed Sacramento to draft him 33rd overall. Yet with less than five years of formal basketball experience, many expected an extended developmental process. So it was unsurprising that the Kings assigned the rookie to their D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns on November 29th. However, the next five weeks proved perplexing.

In 14 games in the D-League, the first-rounder started just three times and averaged only 10 minutes of playing time despite being injury-free for the duration of his assignment. Whiteside appeared for more than 15 minutes only once and over his final nine D-League games he averaged an insignificant seven minutes of playing time. For a player desperately in need of game-type scenarios to develop his skills and confidence it would seem as though his assignment served no significant purpose and ultimately could stand

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LeBron James: Hate Hater

(Ethan Sherwood Strauss is once again in the HoopSpeak lab, concocting new ways to defend LeBron James from criticism. Strauss does this because he likes how LeBron James plays basketball, and would rather not be disturbed while living vicariously through his favorite Heatle.)

LeBron’s Tweet: Crazy. Karma is a b****..Gets you every time. Its not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!

Totally. Justified.

And–courtesy of Dan Gilbert–here’s why: “The self-declared former ‘King’ will be taking the ‘curse’ with him down south. And until he does ‘right’ by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.”

When I started writing about sports and politics, I didn’t sign up for emailed death threats. Didn’t expect my Mom to read countless article comments about how pathetic her son is. I’m smalltime, so this is merely a toenail-dip in our nation’s ocean of misplaced rage.

I can’t imagine what it’s like for LeBron James to swim against a bile tsunami–and for what? Because he over-celebrated a career upgrade? His transgression certainly signified more to Dan Gilbert, who had no qualms fanning the hate sea like an aggrieved Poseidon. From afar, many laughed at Dan in Reeling Life, but his serious intent was to gain support among the locally unhinged. Lacking LeBron’s rights, Gilbert seemed keen on owning the backlash.

In December, like-minded Cavs fans jeered LeBron up close. Throngs chanted his mother’s rumored sexual proclivities, and one sign holder proudly mocked James’s fatherless childhood. This is deeply personal invective that goes far beyond the “boo.” Granted the King reaps stardom’s spoils, but why should anybody–no matter how rich–tolerate this crap? Why should anyone grin and bear messages like:

“Your mother is unclean. You have no father. You betrayed

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