Russell Westbrook’s next step: the Tony Parker cut

Music: Otis Redding

It’s only natural to compare Russell Westbrook to Derrick Rose. Even in a league fully-stocked with superb athletes, the two fourth year guards are clearly on another plane of athleticism. But their styles of play are actually pretty distinct, which is perhaps a result of the different roles each player must fill for his team.

With the Bulls, everything necessarily flows through Rose. But Westbrook has a more complex responsibility. He must be able to whiten his knuckles with the pedal to the medal, then the next moment be willing to take a deep breath and hand the keys to one of his talented teammates.

Westbrook gets to the rim as well as almost anyone in the league. I say almost, because although Westbrook shot a staggering 40 percent of his field goals attempts at the rim last year (converting 60 percent of them), Tony Parker took 43 percent of his attempts in close, and made an even higher percentage of them than Westbrook.

Parker, who still has his burst, is something of a genius when it comes to curling in a layup with his off hand while at full stretch moving and away from the basket. He also has the benefit of playing in a San Antonio offense that affords him plenty of opportunities to find his way to the rim by catering to his strengths as a ball handler in transition, and a devastating cutter from off the ball in the half court.

The Thunder try to do the same for Westbrook, filling the lanes to aid his transition assaults by spreading the defense and by sending him plenty of pick and rolls in the half court. And when he gets space in the open court, Westbrook is every bit as difficult to

Continue reading…

HoopSpeak Network

How the NBA can profit from what’s left of the European economy

With the presumed ratification of the new CBA, the time for innovation has come and gone. But that doesn’t mean we can’t dream of ways the NBA could be a more profitable and awesome league. The spaces most ripe for economic growth are in media and international markets.

We don’t know exactly how it will happen, but because people must sit through the commercials, the value of broadcast rights for live sports is destined to grow. Whether you’re watching the game on your 60 inch 5-d TV with lifelike smells, or on a four-inch smartphone screen, you’re watching because knowing what happens when it happens matters.

HD has helped pro basketball become and increasingly telegenic sport, but the NBA also has a major leg up on other American pro sports because of its international appeal. The NFL and MLB do not have counterparts in a handful of other countries that can generate a major amount of viewership, interest, and revenue. Like soccer, basketball has the potential to be a truly global game. The NBA can speed this process, and stuff its coffers, by fostering the kind of global interaction that major soccer tournaments encourage.

Ask any international soccer fan where the best soccer in the world is, and the immediate response will be The UEFA Champions League (for the uninitiated: the Champions League is a 32 team tournament with the top club teams in Europe).

There’s no better way for the NBA to snatch the interest of the world’s basketball fans than by giving them a chance to see their favorite local teams compete against the best in the NBA. The Dream Team didn’t capture the hearts of little boys in Spain because Jordan and Magic were playing together, but because they were playing against their countrymen in

Continue reading…

It’s the little things in life…

Go with me on a journey, won’t you?

You hop in an old motorcar from the early 1900s.  You don’t really know where you’re going. You’re sliding all over the road, almost in a drunken manner that would surely get your license suspended after breathing inebriation into a Breathalyzer. You drive your car into a library with stacks on stacks on stacks of old literature and encyclopedias that explain the wonderment of a new world. Your friend, MacBadger, is on top of a ladder next to a wobbling stack of books. The books come crashing down through the fireplace, spreading glowing embers and ash everywhere. You avoid the broken fireplace and a subsequent falling suit of armor.

You crash through a set of double doors to get out of the disarrayed library and into a hallway. There is an enormous mess of chaos in this hallway, capped off by weasels hanging from chandeliers. You drive through the hallway, still fishtailing and completely out of control. You find yourself next driving through a dining room where a man called “Mr. Mole” is eating supper. You narrowly avoid barreling through him, and yet still manage to knock him down to the ground.

You finally take your old motorcar out of this building and back into the countryside. You can see meadows that fade off into the distance like one of those modern day infinity pools. You pass by friends’ homes instead of through them. Perhaps you’re sobering up a bit, but you’re still aggravating those you come into contact with. Policemen are furious with your driving. You’re antagonizing a farmer’s sheep as you cruise through the country. Tired of the ruralism of your surroundings, you take a sharp turn back into town, heading for the docks. Continue reading “It’s the little things in life…” »

Mystery Man & the Magic Man

If you haven’t already watched this Magic Johnson mix, watch it now. And if you’ve already watched this Magic Johnson mix, watch it again. Because Magic manipulated space and time with the panache of a dough-flipping pizzaiolo. Because this footage is evidence of basketball genius, a portal into history that reveals brilliance too incandescent for mere description. Seeing is the only understanding, here. Though your understanding is elevated for having these visual epiphanies set to Chick Hearn’s manic hosannahs. Hearn never quite captures what the hell Johnson’s doing, but the revved joy in Chick’s cadence testifies to just how special the indescribable is.

So thank you to NonPlayerZealot (NPZ is keeping his true identity hidden) for letting us see, understand, and relive. He’s the one who rescued so many of these Magic Johnson highlights from oblivion, he’s the one who worked so hard to orchestrate the best highlight mix I’ve seen. And despite the limitations of words, I do have questions for this anonymous mix maker:

ESS: You certainly curated an amazing digital museum with this Magic Johnson mix. Who are you and why did you do it?

NPZ: I’m just an average Laker fan from Southern Calif and I enjoy watching old NBA games, even during the regular season.  Though I enjoy all eras of Laker basketball, I consider Magic to be my “sports idol”.  I grew up watching that era of the Lakers and his personality was always endearing to me.  He was a very inclusive, friendly person who felt his job was to get everyone involved and his great passing and “2-steps-ahead” thinking were what made that visible to the fans.  He and Bird made sharing entertaining and other teams tried to mimic what LA and Boston were doing.  That was inherently good for the league.

Continue reading…

Why no one can save the NBA Owners from themselves

Accountability is a big theme in this lockout. The thing is, the owners are the ones with the (mostly closed) books, the ones doing all the accounting. They would like players to be accountable for league-wide rises in non-player costs, and for the number of rotten contracts lousing up locker rooms and lineups from Sacramento to New York. Owners are also acknowledging their own by forcing concessions on system issues designed to save owners (and the fans) from themselves.

But even guaranteed year-to-year profitability, robust revenue sharing and stricter controls on the way players can switch teams and be paid won’t save owners from themselves, or the greater system they enjoy—one that encourages political gamesmanship in NBA front offices. The goal for general managers, team presidents and others isn’t just to do your job well, but to please the owner.

Some owners, like Mark Cuban, seem to make running their teams into a full time job. Cuban is occasionally criticized for being such a public force, but try to think of another 4 billion dollar industry, outside of sports, in which the people who are in charge of the business are expected to be somewhat disengaged in the work of running it.

Of course NBA owners aren’t held to the standard of the CEOs of major corporations because NBA owners didn’t found their teams with funds from investors then work their way to the top through shrewd basketball decision-making and innovative marketing. They are owners because they have money, and whether inherited, stolen or earned fair and square, that money (except, ironically, in the case of Michael Jordan) had nothing to with basketball.

So owners run teams by proxy, hiring smart people who “know the game” then camping out in courtside seats. How many owners do you think

Continue reading…

Glad to see this CBA rejected

Love professional basketball. So I don’t cheer the suspension of it–not in the abstract. The thought of a hoopsless year is an injection of Liquid Plumbr to my spleen via the longest hypodermic.But ever so strangely, I love that the players sent an ominous disclaimer of interest, a letter that has us gnawing three-eyed rats in the post apocalyptic NBA nuclear winter (Party at my dung shanty, bring your own lizard jerky!). Much to my chagrin, I cheer a decision that rejects playing now in favor of possibly playing a year from now. So what gives? Am I a crazy person, prone to decertifying my own wants? Do I often gargle sand when thirsty?

It’s just that my love of basketball causes me to root for the sport itself, causes me to root against an owner proposal that would prevent America’s greatest game from claiming its rightful throne. If this player ploy can possibly stave off harmful changes to the NBA, I’m all for prolonging the nothing. Though “We want games now!” has discourse primacy over “But how will this change the league?,” I reject that pecking order. A lost year hurts, but a lost league can sap enthusiasm far into the horizon.

Specifically, I object to this: “Annual raises. The NBA proposed 6.5% for players with Bird rights — allowing a club to sign its free agents for more money and for more years than other clubs — and 3.5% for others, down from 10.5% and 8% in the last CBA but up from the offer on the table Wednesday.”

And this:

“Also, contract options will be banned for the highest-paid players (unless they agree to a nonguaranteed final year), further eroding their leverage.”

The deal includes a 12% reduction in the already absurdly low rookie wage

Continue reading…

NBA owners: it’s not about you, and never will be

All along we’ve heard that David Stern, more than anything, just wants a deal. Though hardline owners have at times stood in the way of rationality, it’s not hard to imagine Stern shaking his head sadly before donning his regretful toad expression and delivering ultimatums to the players union and media. This weekend Stern took to the airwaves and Twitterverse to convey one message: the owners have made their final deal, and now whether or not there is a season is in the players’ hands.

It’s fair to assume that the players know, despite the precedent of unenforced ultimatums, a significantly improved offer is unlikely to come further down the road, and that the ability to play 72 games lessens the financial impact of the lockout.

However there are two major impediments to the players taking this deal, one is that it’s just way less money than they used to make, a 12% decrease in their share of NBA BRI. That hurts, but the other issue, one that appears to be just as serious, is pride. The players have been in a defensive posture from the beginning, and swallowing a paycut hurts a lot more when it’s jammed down your throat along with new policies that curtail players’ ability to choose where they play, and artificially depreciate their value.

Somehow, the NBA has been successful in consistently extracting monetary concessions, but it has been far less tactful in its push to gain “systemic changes.”

David Stern’s PR blitz this weekend was especially repugnant, as he framed the impasse as, essentially, a consequence of players who don’t know what’s best for them being manipulated by evil agents: “I just think that the players aren’t getting the information, the true information from their agents, who are banding together, sort of the

Continue reading…

HoopSpeak Live: The Lost Episode

Every Thursday for the past 26 weeks, Beckley Mason, Ethan Sherwood Strauss, and Zach Harper have parked themselves in front of their webcams to talk basketball on HoopSpeak Live. This past week, they were going to do something slightly different: park themselves in front of their webcams and talk about things other than basketball.

It seems the Basketball Gods didn’t like this plan.

Around showtime, a Vokle server went down, preventing the show from airing live. This did not stop our hosts from having a chat, though. After interviewing Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones, Graydon Gordian of 48 Minutes Of Hell hopped on and things got silly. Here’s some of what went on when HSL was blacked out:


HoopSpeak Live: The Lost Trey Kerby Interview

Due to some technical problems, HoopSpeak Live Ep. 26 did not air today as planned. Still, the guys chatted with Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones, who was totally a chill bro about joining the show in the middle of TBJ’s No Season Required tour. Enjoy:

HoopSpeak Live airs every Thursday right here on You can follow the show with the #hoopspeaklive hashtag, and you can follow (Taco) Trey at @treykerby.


HoopSpeak Live 25: The Clips

Episode 25 of HoopSpeak Live featured the debut appearance of HoopSpeak U’s Zach “Zimofey Mozgov” Zimmerman. It also marked the return of John Krolik, who stopped by to discuss Scott Raab’s The Whore of Akron. Here are all the clips:

[Click here for a YouTube playlist.]

:00 – :08 – Intro + Take The Bacon [Sources! @NBA_Labour!]

:08 – :11 – Rumors From Ethan’s Head [Beckley will lead Occupy Oakland to cohesiveness when he visits.]

:11 – :23 – Person of Interest: Zach Zimmerman [Part 1, Part 2 - All things NCAA.]

:23 – :27 – League Average [The players' union is united on principle.]

:27 – :45 – Person of Interest: John Krolik [Part 1, Part 2 - Raab and LeBron.]

:45 – :49 – Ethan’s Noted + Video Question [Minimal jogging shoes, the start of the season, and an enormous beard.]

:49 – :53 – Dagger/Smash/Noted [Arron Afflalo, Shaq's book, and Avery Bradley.]

HoopSpeak Live airs every Thursday right here on You can follow the show with the #hoopspeaklive hashtag, and you can follow our guests at @Zach_Zimmerman and @johnkrolik.


Get Adobe Flash playerPlugin by wordpress themes