The Daily Peep, Feb. 29

By now you’ve read Jonathan Abrams’ incredible oral history of The Malice at the Palace and George Dohrmann’s unbelievable expose of UCLA. But there’s lots more today. Let’s stay with SI — Lee Jenkins wrote a phenomenal piece on Kyrie Irving, the second great one on him in the past few days. This has very little to do with basketball, but wow: at Slate, Daniel Engber caught up with Dennis Rodman’s dad, Philander, on his tour of the Philippines. Dave McMenamin talks to Phil Jackson about The Flu Game. For your ears: Chris Ballard on Slate’s “Hang up and Listen” and Rob Mahoney on 48 Minutes of Hell’s “4-Down Podcast.” Kevin Pelton builds on Beckley and Henry Abbott’s work on late-game timeouts. Jay King of Celtics Town responds to Ethan’s TrueHoop piece on Rajon Rondo. Keith Smart on Jimmer Fredette’s difficult NBA transition. Lots of good stuff on Hardwood Paroxysm lately and I’m not saying this because I write there. Here is Danny Chau on Rasheed Wallace and conspiracy and Jared Dubin’s conversation with Seth Rosenthal and netw3rk about Jeremy Lin. Rembert Browne catches up with Penny Hardaway. Landry Fields is your new favorite singer:

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Boo the Clippers

Please excuse me while I remove my journo-blogger vintage sport coat and hat. Now just give me a second to change into my replica and not at all childish home-alternate Shawn Kemp jersey. It’s going to be difficult typing the rest of this with a foam finger on my hand, but bear with me—it’s fan time.

A caveat: this post has nothing to do with how good this team is, or can be. This post couldn’t care less about efficient scoring and can’t even spell utilitarenism. This post is about one thing: why I can’t stand the Clippers.

Let’s start back in December. Like everyone else on planet basketball, I was thrilled when Chris Paul was assigned by David Stern to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. Lob City, baby! A Slamstravaganza the likes of which we’ve never seen!

What could be better than the guard I find most aesthetically pleasing wielding implements as potent and dunky as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan? It was going to be magic, it was going to be the feel good story of the year. (We didn’t know who Jeremy Lin was, or if we did we didn’t care.) Chris Paul would be on national TV all year, Blake Griffin would take that next step forward under Paul’s wing (I even predicted Blake would get more MVP votes than Kevin Durant…) and The Gentleman Chauncey would round out a cast of guys we like to root for.

But like a big piece Double Bubble, the Clippers’ initial sweetness soon departed and for the past few weeks I’ve been trying to pretend that I enjoy the basketball version of chewing on a flavorless wad of gum that any second threatens to choke me on my own saliva.

It starts with you, Blake Griffin.

Here’s

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Down the stretch we rank! Week 8 Power Rankings


Image by Anthony Bain 

Well… that was SOME All-Star Weekend now, wasn’t it? There were dunks… and a couple of them were in the dunk contest even. There was a celebrity game that probably entertained more than the Rising Stars Game did. Guys showed skilled, Allan Houston showed he can still shoot, Jerry Stackhouse showed he’s still in the NBA, and Kevin Love won the 3-point contest because nobody could break his tie or something.

Now, we’re officially done with the first half of the 2011-12 season and should be looking forward to how this season is going to shape up in terms of where teams are headed. It doesn’t really do any good to rank teams in terms of where they are in the NBA because the top 16 teams aren’t necessarily the teams that will make the playoffs. Since we have to wait until Bill Simmons becomes the NBA commissioner to get that done, we’re now breaking up the rankings by conference as we head for the playoff race. Get excited!

Onto the rankings!  Continue reading “Down the stretch we rank! Week 8 Power Rankings” »

The Daily Peep, Feb. 28

A long, good read on Antawn Jamison by Scott Sargent of Waiting For Next Year. (Via Matt Moore) Moore’s podcast with Greg Anthony. Rob Mahoney on the Thunder’s frontcourt flexibility on defense and their rebounding problem. Mahoney on Lamar Odom, away from his team at the moment, and I’m quoting this bit because it’s important: “This is life lingering in the back of a player’s mind, much as it has that pesky habit of doing. It’s not a distraction; basketball is the distraction, with reality as Odom’s far too haunting home. His cousin is gone. His father is ill. He’s a man with a lot going on between his ears, which is a far more healthy result than an overwhelming sense of numbness that might improve the performance of the player, but would ultimately be far more taxing on the man. Odom is dealing with things in the best ways that he knows how, and you’ll understand if he doesn’t apologize for how his personal trials might impact your favorite team.” Amen. What an amazing moment for everyone who was a part of this in Sacramento. Check out number seven in Britt Robson’s power rankings. Please. A nice feature on Avery Bradley and his development from Jessica Camerato. If you’re Kurt Rambis or Randy Wittman, don’t read Tim Allen of Canis Hoopus’ first answer in this Wolves Q&A at Clips Nation. Taking a close look at Sergio Llull’s game. Tweet

Andre Emmett and The System

Hunter Atkins’s NY Times piece on the fragile existence that is the 10-day NBA contract eloquently illuminates the desperate, stress-filled lives of those operating on the fringe of the NBA. Andre Emmett, the article’s protagonist, gives fans a name and a face with whom to identify and, perhaps, sympathize. But Emmett’s individual story also sheds light the rampant, broad dysfunction of the NBA’s development system.

Compare Emmett’s up and down journey with Jeremy Lin’s much shorter rise to the NBA. We now know that Lin, despite his struggles in other organizations, did in fact have the ability to produce at the NBA level. But though the outcomes differ, the real parallel here is that both players fell victim to the NBA’s default methodology of outsourcing player development. Despite the reality that many teams, (contenders or otherwise) struggle to field productive nine-man rotations, the NBA virtually forgoes any attempt to control the development of the athletes that could potentially fill roster spots 7-12.

In theory, the D-League presents a great a chance for young up-and-comers to hone their craft under the watchful eye of a parent club. In practice, it’s a much different story.  Only a few teams use it effectively (hint: two of them are at the top of the Western Conference) and some of those minor league franchises operate as general free-for-alls. Perhaps because of this, quite a few players spurn the slim opportunity for a call-up to make a better living playing, and developing, overseas.

Eurobasket sensation Bo McCalebb exemplifies the downside of talent development outsourcing. McCalebb was clearly not a player that could have helped an NBA club upon leaving New Orleans University. However, his time overseas developed his game to the point where quite a few NBA teams would have interest in adding him

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The Dream Nets Scenario

Chance is a huge element in any poker game, but metaphorical poker conveys no such sense. Poker-as-metaphor is about people reading each other, not about having such reads rendered irrelevant by sheer dumb luck. So when I say that Orlando is playing Dwight Howard poker, I mean it in both senses of the game. The Magic might read the situation correctly, understand that Howard will likely re-sign with them, and have all that washed away by bad luck in May. I’m talking specifically about Lottery Selection Night, an evening where ping pong balls could bounce against Orlando–a non lottery team.

If the Magic hold tight and don’t trade Dwight by the March 13th deadline, they are relying on being the best among free agent suitors. If the Nets luck into their (roughly, probably) one-in-ten shot at a number one pick, I doubt that Orlando is top suitor.

This opens the door for a Davis-Howard-Williams team. The Nets may be an ignominious fail pile today, but face cards can change your franchise at the speed of Wi-Fi.  To the casual NBA fan, Davis appears fuzzy, far off in the distance. This will not be the case by Summer, when draft hype elevates the undisputed number one pick to name brand status. In short, he will be a face card, one who lacks the power to simply leave the Nets on a whim.

As for those who can spurn the Nets on a whim: Well, do Deron and Dwight really have better options? Can Mark Cuban compete with this by flaunting Dirk Nowitzki at age 34? Provided BrookJersey clears some cap space (not a difficult task with 37 million in committed cash), they would present Dwight and Deron the most enticing proposition by a large margin. And the Nets could

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The Daily Peep, Feb. 27

The details you’re looking for on the Kings’ arena deal. From a 5-on-5, Ethan on Durant: “If you think he still depends on others for shots, take note: Only 45 percent of his buckets have been assisted this year. Last season, he was at 62 percent.” Wishing the best of luck to Armon Johnson, who was cut by the Blazers today. Here’s a re-post of an AWESOME interview with him from last March. Dude has personality. Rooting for him. There’s a good chance you’ll enjoy the D-League Dunk Contest more than that thing we watched on Saturday night. A nice profile of Wesley Matthews focusing on the influence of his mother. For the record, he does not like to be called Wes. From Chris Tomasson’s piece on Ryan Anderson, Stan Van Gundy: “When I evaluated the season last year, one of the mistakes I had thought I had made was not playing him enough.” A midseason roundtable at Hardwood Paroxysm, where Matt Moore argues that we need to lose the All-Star Game entirely. David Roth at the Classical, on Allen Iverson and hip-hop and Topps basketball cards. Larry Sanders on guarding Dwight Howard. Some numbers proving what we already know: Chris Paul is the best point guard in the league. Reason to believe the Lakers are about to go on a run. Finally, here’s a baby polar bear rolling around! Tweet

Preemptive foresight

Winning a title in the NBA has to be a really weird experience.

You prepare for it your entire life (unless you’re Andray Blatche of course) with years of training, fine-tuning, and mentally soaking up the ups and downs of what works for you and your peers and what doesn’t. You’re a sponge for everything good. This guy uses this move and it works. This team communicates this way and they’re successful. You’re also constantly trying to expunge everything that doesn’t work. This set doesn’t work against this type of defense, and this matchup isn’t advantageous to our team so we need to cover it.

As soon as the blood, sweat and fears have turned themselves into winning 16 playoff games in one postseason, everything changes while staying exactly the same. Immediately, you get thrust into the discussion of whether or not your team matters on an all-time orchidometer of sorts. There is little time to sit back and celebrate. You now have to start figuring out how to defend your title and how to tweak a roster that just proved to be the best in the league over the course of nine months. You work so hard to be able to celebrate and revel in your own accomplishment, only to have it pushed aside as something that needs to happen again to immediately validate it.

When the San Antonio Spurs won the 2003 championship, there were concerns over how they could make their team better, even as the run was happening. Much like with concerns in their 1999 title run, the point guard on the roster wasn’t supposed to be good enough to take the Spurs to the promise land. Tony Parker was just 20 years old and in his second NBA season. He was lightning quick, couldn’t shooter a jumper to save his baguette, and didn’t exactly run the team like a traditional point guard.

Parker had a lot of potential and was good enough to start for Gregg Popovich in all 82 games that season. He played the second most minutes on the team behind Duncan. But with David Robinson retiring after the season and no real long-term commitments coming up outside of Duncan, the Spurs were in place to add a big-time free agent if they wanted to. And Jason Kidd was about to be the biggest free agent on the market. Continue reading “Preemptive foresight” »

The Weekly Bain, Feb 25

A break from Linsanity: Here are some other things that might have happened. Make it to the end and enjoy some bonus .gifs:

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And per the Jayhawks’ win over Missouri, there’s this:

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Reward the Bobcats

Let’s talk about justice. Not in some universal, karmic sense, but simply as it pertains to NBA basketball.

The quality of work a GM puts in should, at some level, approximate subsequent results. It’s inane, but without this concept, sports become infuriating. Research the stuffing out of Ginobili, win some titles. Max Rashard Lewis, cease all such ambitions immediately. This is the hope.

The NBA, of course, is no ordinary sport. A mere five players are on the court at once, and so any supremely talented individual will, by definition, affect the game far more than he would elsewhere. Acquisition of such prodigious players is accomplished via two primary routes – draft them or pick them off as they leave their first contracts for free agency. It’s again quite simple, and our original tenet of “do smart things; reap rewards” certainly still holds up.

It’s when we venture further down the NBA totem pole that things become murky. The presence of superstar players is severely limited (at this snapshot in time, let us say LeBron, Wade, Durant, Paul, Howard, Love, and Rose. Seven.). More importantly, without one of these players, it’s infinitely more difficult to build a complete “team” as you might find in another sport. Don’t have one of those six to seven top guys? Get one or content yourself with lesser goals.

It’s at this juncture we turn to the Charlotte Bobcats. For a terrible, small-market team there’s no option but the draft. Indeed, it’s the way most every small market team has pulled its way up into contention in the modern NBA. The draft lottery, of course, flips NBA justice on its head. At this level, there’s no reward for marginal, or indeed substantial, improvement. Rebuilding in professional basketball is highly binary in this sense. A

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