The Tyranny of Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson’s 50 point rookie game was on Hardwood Classics Monday night, prompting livetweets by LeBron James and Kendall Marshall. There is some irony in two players, renowned for their unselfish ways, praising the efforts of an unapologetic gunner.

You can’t fault their taste much, though. Young Iverson was a transfixing presence, all the more so when catapulted 15 years into the NBA TV present. He has close-cut hair, a face so clean-shaven that it beams a sheen through the pixelated pre-HD fog. Iverson does have some facial hair, if you could even call it that. A few follicles are playing a game of red rover above his lip, connecting to form a tenuous mustache. His old minimalist look is jarring because we associate Iverson with a specific, stylized iconography. To see Rookie Allen is to see George Carlin with a brylcreem sidepart on the The Ed Sullivan Show.

Though so young, though so relatively short, he’s an unsolvable problem for these Cavs defenders. Iverson’s elastic limb swings the dribble far outside his body, priming it like a wrecking ball.

From here, Iverson can step towards a defender and violently whip the rock back across himself in the crossover move he made famous. He’s gone, off in the other direction, tossing two points in with one of those crab claw scoop layups.

But from here, Iverson can also begin the crossover, only to abruptly interrupt it in favor of pushing the ball forward, past his man. That moment of hesitation–when A.I. pulls the ball back to start what is either a crossover or power dribble–is a defender’s choice, masquerading as a pause. I would liken Iverson’s crossover/power dribble combo to Trevor Hoffman’s old fastball/changeup mix. Two completely different scenarios appear wholly similar, and the opposition has an eye

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HoopSpeak Network

Summer viewing: Slippin’ screens

The video above was put edited by Iona College assistant Zak Boisvert and is essentially a compilation of great screening-slipping sets. “Slipping a screen” is a ball screen read in which the screener flashes to the basket before he even sets the screen.

Unlike the “roll” in a pick-and-roll, in which the screener’s goal is to bodily dislodge the dribbler’s defender then head to the rim, a slip preys on the defense’s anticipation of a ball screen.

As the the help defender slides into position to hedge on the ball handler his man dives to the rim before the on-ball defender has time to complete the switch.

A few things to note here:

Watch how many of these screeners approach the ball handler not from the basket, but from the side. This forces the hedging defender into a more awkward position and makes it easier to slip quickly. Also important: how many of these slippers/screeners receive a screen themselves before they approach the ball handler. Again, the idea is to put the help defense in the worst possible position even before the pick-and-roll is initiated. Many NBA teams with great pick-and-roll attacks, like the Miami Heat, set a screen for the screener to start the play. There are a couple of high post-to-high post screens in this compilation. I wonder if the Lakers will try that out of the Princeton offense.

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Lakers are the best team on Laker

Ya, the Lakers are the best team on paper. Just look at all those big names! Or is Miami dominating the ink canvas? The Heat won last year’s title with their famous big three, so that’s probably the best team on paper, right? Combine the young star power of Ibaka, Westbrook, Harden, Durant…hey, that might be the best team on paper. On paper. On paper.

Paper–a substance we rarely use to convey anything about this sport–is oft referenced in conveying something about this sport. I just don’t quite know what that something is.

Recently, Chris Bosh created headlines by saying the following on electromagnetic radio waves:

“The Lakers, I think, right now, I mean on paper, they probably have the best team in the West and probably the league right now.”

Bosh further modified with: “On paper. I’m saying on paper.”

Either Chris means that Los Angeles has the best team, or that it just seems like they do. He could also mean that it seems like they do because that judgment was rendered via the suspicious practice of looking at paper. As in, you shouldn’t trust the fool’s superficial reading of anything on paper. For all I know, Bosh could be saying, “Ya, this carney game looks winnable to the naked eye. It’s a carney game, you idiot.”

Chris Bosh wasn’t the only one to connect Lakers to paper like an origami boat, or Los Angeles to paper like William Randolph Hearst. Kevin Durant reiterated Bosh’s wood pulp vagaries:

“People outside, fans, media, of course they are going to say [the Lakers are the favorites] because on paper they have the best lineup in the league. But you still got to play the games. We respect everybody. We are going to go through the league respecting everybody

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Looking forward to the Lakers

AS A RULE, any conversation between NBA geeks eventually finds its way, seemingly on its own, to one of three players: Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, or Kobe Bryant. It’s only a matter of time.

Westbrook, Rondo and Bryant fascinate because they all have robust identities as players and yet are always able to surprise us with their performances. Each identity is defined and known, yet, like any great character, that identity is not without conflict. The thing that makes each great — Westbrook’s speed and aggression, Rondo’s intelligence and unorthodox skillset, Kobe Bryant’s passion for points — is also what gets blame when they fail.

When Westbrook stumbles, it’s because he was trying to run too fast. When Rajon Rondo disappears, it seems a puzzling, conscious choice. Kobe Bryant will shoot his team into a game then shoot them right back out again.

None of them play by the rules of convention: even their failures are thrilling.

Bryant may not be the best player in the NBA or even the best player at his position, but he’s spent about a decade as the NBA’s most spectacular performance artist. Who else misses a few tough shots then responds by shooting an even crazier shot to get back on track? What guard demands to be a go-to lowpost option on a team with multiple dominant 7-footers? Who thumbs his nose at the basketball gods like Kobe?

The specific scenarios and performances that only Bryant can create are what I call Kobe moments. Think back to that terrible first half against lowly Australia in the Olympic quarterfinals. Bryant repeatedly lost the ball on offense, couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with his shot.

Kobe’s response to one of the worst halves in his Olympic career? Shoot a hell of a lot

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HoopSpeak Live 62: Advices

With Zach off to Sacramento to save the Kings, Beckley and Ethan celebrated Kobe Bryant’s birthday and discussed the Spurs being underrated yet again, the Hawks’ trustworthiness and #NBARank, among other things. Then they were joined by Dr. David J. Leonard, an associate professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University. He discussed race and the NBA, as he does in his book After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness. Watch the whole show:

Here’s how it breaks down:

:00 – :05 – On Virginia Beach and Small Markets

:05 – :09 – Kobe, the most interesting man in basketball.

:09 – :16 – Princeton and offenses and the Princeton Offense

:16 – :19 – Some Love for the Hawks

:19 – :22 – VDN and the Clips

:22 – :30 – All About #NBARank

:30 – :32 – CP3 and Rubio

:32 – :37 – SpursSpeakLive

:37 – 1:05 – Person of Interest: Dr. David J. Leonard [LeBron's shoes, the white Wolves, etc.]

Aaaand the page Beckley wants you to visit at the end of the show? Right here.

Note: You can find the audio-only version of HoopSpeak Live on iTunes. If you subscribe and/or write us a review, I promise that Ben will not hit you with his car.

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

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HoopSpeak Live 62: David J. Leonard

Today’s guest:

David J. Leonard, author of After Artest: The NBA and the Assault on Blackness and associate professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University.

To submit text questions or hang out in the chat: just click “join event” and fire away!

To video chat with us and our guests: Find a spot without too much background noise, sign in, fire up the web cam, and be sure to have your headphones (to eliminate echo)!

If you’re having trouble viewing HoopSpeak Live here, try it on Vokle’s site.

 

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HoopSpeak Live 61 – Two Dudes, One Screen

HoopSpeak Live is back, with Beckley & Ethan & Zach & Zach & Myles. Topics discussed include the new Lakers, the new Nuggets, Andrew Bynum as a No. 1 option, Kobe Bryant vs. Argentina, Isiah Thomas vs. Kevin Johnson and more. Also, you get to meet Ethan’s new puppy. Watch the whole show:

Here’s how it breaks down:

:00 – :08 – Laker talk [Are they versatile? Injury prone? Favorites?]

:08 – :12 – Who will be awful? [Will the Bobcats be just as bad as they were last year?]

:12 – :18 – Take The Bacon [Wolves vs. Warriors]

:18 – :33 – Person of Interest: Zach Lowe [Bynum, Denver, smallball, Mark Jackson]

:33 – :36 – Rumors From Ethan’s Head [Nuggets > Lakers?]

:36 – :39 – KirkSeriousFace asks about O.J. Mayo

:39 – :57 – Person of Interest: Myles Brown [Wolves' whiteness, Isiah/KG, Kobe, Kim/Kanye]

:57 – :59 – PuppySpeakLive

Note: You can find the audio-only version of HoopSpeak Live on iTunes. If you subscribe and/or write us a review, I promise that Ben will not hit you with his car.

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

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HoopSpeak Live 61: Zach Lowe and Myles Brown

Today’s guests:

Zach Lowe of  Sports Illustrated’s The Point Forward

Myles Brown of A Wolf Among Wolves, SLAM and Complex

To submit text questions or hang out in the chat: just click “join event” and fire away!

To video chat with us and our guests: Find a spot without too much background noise, sign in, fire up the web cam, and be sure to have your headphones (to eliminate echo)!

If you’re having trouble viewing HoopSpeak Live here, try it on Vokle’s site.

 

 

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How the Olympics grabbed me, even if I knew better

[Note: Greg Panos writes and edits the Mount Dikembe NBA blog, so check it out. This is his first HoopSpeak guest post -- Ed.]

Seeing a 65-year-old man jump in the air, especially in celebration, is always ridiculous. Really, from the American perspective, so is the entire Olympic basketball tournament. But in both instances, I had no choice but to give in to the drama — when Coach K leapt in the air after Chris Paul’s clinching layup in the gold medal game, I double fist-pumped like a chucklehead; all through the tournament, in fact, I thought about strategy and yelled at the bro across the gym about the winning play Kevin Love just made.

The Olympic tournament kidnaps our discerning minds and convinces us we’re not watching a foregone conclusion. My Stockholm Syndrome compelled me to read every piece of press about the American team’s strengths and weaknesses — I thought for more than three seconds that a lack of size might be an issue for Team USA. Team USA, the same team comprising LeBron James and Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. I got revved up for the Space-Time Exhibition, also known as the game between the Dream Team and the 2012 team, a contest that seemed so real that for a few minutes I thought it was scheduled for sometime next month.

The truth is there’s nothing less dramatic than Team USA games in the Olympics. Everything we love about it is complete artifice, utter spectacle, or wholly based on the suspension of disbelief. Why else would we still bring up the 2004 “debacle” if we weren’t so starved for true drama? What’s the statute of limitations on that redemption story? Even the actual games become undramatic. The other teams fouled American ballhandlers just across halfcourt

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Kanterbury Tales: The story of Andre Iguodala

 

The Canterbury Tales were beautifully woven short stories written by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 1300s. They are narratives designed to discuss religion, philosophy and various topics. The Kanterbury Tales are whatever I can come up with off the top of my head when someone asks me in the Daily Dime Live chat to tell them a tale about a specific player. There is no rhyme or reason to them.

Some may be completely factual and some may be folklore designed to teach lessons of morality to the youth over centuries of time. There is no way to distinguish what is correct and what is fiction. It is irrational and boastful to assume one could ever truly figure out what is made up by one’s mind and what is made up by real events that have been passed on over generations.

With that said, I give you the tale of Andre Iguodala, face-eater of the skies.

Why do we look up to the sky so much?

For centuries, the answer to this question has been about man’s fascination with flying. Our envy of birds and contraptions that can make a human being soar has always grown, especially as our world and technology has evolved.

But that’s not the reason we look up to the sky. We’re looking for another gift – one like we were once given.  Continue reading “Kanterbury Tales: The story of Andre Iguodala” »

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