Thursday, December 21, 2006

Longest Tenure on One Team

The recent Iverson deal got me thinking about which players have the longest tenure with only one team. Iverson had been with the Sixers since the '96-'97 season, which was tied for second with Kobe for longest tenure on one team. KG stil has the longest tenure with one team, but that streak seems to be in jeopardy with every passing game.

I have compiled a list of the ten players who currently have the longest tenure with one team. The first season of the player's tenure is in parentheses.

1) Garnett ('95-'96)--I am getting a feeling that he will not be leading this list for much longer. I think Minny is coming to the realization that they do not have the ability to put together a viable package to bring an impact player in return to surround KG. So, their best bet might be to finally move KG for cap relief & young prospects--Chicago definitely looks like the best trade partner.

2) Kobe ('96-'97)--Should be on top of this list as long as he wants.

3) Z. Ilgauksas ('97-'98)--Actually was drafted in '96, so maybe you can technically make the case he has longer tenure than Duncan.

4) Duncan ('97-'98)--Is not going anywhere for at least a few years.

5) A. Foyle ('97-'98)--Boy, I bet Chris Mullin wishes Adonal was not on this list. Problem is he might still be on this list for awhile because no one wants his putrid contract.

6) Nowitzki ('98-'99)--His recent extension should keep in the top 10 for awhile.

7) P. Pierce ('98-'99)--Even with his recent extension, you always get the sense that Pierce is not long for Boston.

8) Rashard Lewis ('98-'99)--Doesn't seem that long ago he was waiting out 31 picks in the '98 green room, but his contract is coming up & the uncertainty surrounding the Sonics does not help his long tenured status

9) S. Marion ('99-'00)--Should be on this list for long time, but totally up to Rob Sarver's willingness to except the wrath of luxury tax land. Marion has been rumored to be on the move before so to relieve financial pressure on the Suns. With the re-signing of Barbosa & Diaw, do not be surprised to see Marion dealt after the season.

10) Jeff Foster ('99-'00)--Might surprise you to be on this list, but has made himself valuable by fashioning a niche as a gritty role player in Indy.

*--Duncan & Foyle's first season was 97/98. For some reason I can't change it, no idea why. Something technically wrong.

Basketball Book Buying Spree

Bobby Legend, circa 1975
Bob "I am the G.O.A.T." Ryan, circa 1975.

Merry Christmas to me. I recently did something that I've been meaning to do for quite some time - I went to an online used book store (I chose Alibris; Abe Books is another good one) and went on a book-buying spree to expand my basketball library with some older/out-of-print selections.

A couple things sparked my binge:
1. I was flying out of the Milwaukee airport recently, had a little extra time and saw a sign in the distance for "Renaissance Books", walked in my shock and delight, it was a sizable used book store (I later read that it had 60,000 volumes). In an airport! What a treat! Apparently, it's a branch of a huge downtown used book store, and I was so thrilled to find it that I rewarded them with a purchase, as I bought Red Auerbach: An Autobiography (1977) in hardcover.

2. When I got home and did a little online research about the Red book, I ran into this outstanding resource on an exhaustive reference list of Celtics-related books over the years. As I skimmed the list, I must have found, conservatively, 20 titles which intrigued me. So it was time. And I was off. Here are the 15 books from Alibris that I ended up adding to my collection:

Celtics Pride: The Rebuilding of Boston's World Championship Basketball Team, Bob Ryan (1975)
I got that beauty-of-a-photo above from the back cover of this one. It's the story of how the C's recovered from Bill Russell's retirement (which was also the time Ryan took over as the beat reporter for the Globe, at age 23) and a couple down years to return to championship glory in 1974. I'm kind of interested to read Bobby Legend in his early days.

Boston Celtics: The History, Legends, and Images of America's Most Celebrated Team, Bob Ryan (1990)
A basic compendium of Celtics history. I figured that if the words were by Ryan, it was worth getting. And I figure that if you have C's history covered through, say, 1988, you pretty much have all of the glory covered, don't you think? I love The (M.F.) Truth, but beyond Larry's Game 5 vs. Indiana in '91, Rick Pitino's first game and the big playoff comeback vs. the Nets, there hasn't been too much to add in the intervening period....

Mr. Clutch: The Jerry West Story, Jerry West (1969)
One of the things that inspired me to think about building out my basketball library was this 2002 piece on by Eric Neel: "Sacred Hoops Books". The first paragraph reads, "In the summer of 1976, I carried a paperback copy of "Mr Clutch: The Jerry West Story" everywhere I went. I read it three times. It was a natural part of my basketball devotion, no different than my ball or my shoes or listening to Laker games on the radio." So I've always had this book in the back of my mind - something of a symbolic purchase although The Logo is of course a worthy subject.

The Last Loud Roar, Bob Cousy with Edward Linn (1964)
I bought this thinking it was a standard Cousy autobio, but it looks like it might be more interesting than that, as it focuses on the last two days of the Cooz's Celtic career in great detail, including a breakdown at Game 6 of the 1963 Finals, when Cooz famously dribbled out the clock on the C's fifth straight championship. It also appears to include reflections upon his career and life in the pros in general.

Keepin' It Real: A Turbulent Season at the Crossroads With the NBA, Larry Platt (1999)
Platt is a perceptive Philly writer who wrote the strangely underrated Allen Iverson bio, Only the Strong Survive, and I've been meaning to pick up Keepin' It Real ever since I read that one. He followed around five players at different stages of their careers - Charles Barkley, Matt Maloney, Jerry Stackhouse, Chris Webber and Vernon Maxwell - for the 1997-98 season.

Unstoppable: the Story of George Mikan, the First NBA Superstar, George Mikan with Joe Oberle (1997)
Living the Dream: My Life and Basketball, Hakeem Olajuwon with Peter Knobler (1995)
Part of my goal is to collect some combination of bio/autobio for each of the 30 or so most notable players in NBA history. Thus would explain these two purchases, additions to the many bios I already own. I find it interesting that the centers - Russell, Kareem, Wilt, even Shaq and Yao to a certain extent - have written some of the most genuinely interesting autobios - usually a fairly banal genre - in the sport.

I'm not expecting the Hakeem book to be of that caliber, but Dream's a Top 25-or-so guy and was a beautiful player to watch at his peak, and it was sitting there for $2.95 (as many of these were - generally in VG condition), so why not.

Season of the 76ers: the Story of Wilt Chamberlain and the 1967 NBA Champion Philadelphia 76ers, Wayne Lynch (2002)
Show Time: Inside the Lakers' Breakthrough Season, Pat Riley (1988)
The Franchise: Building a Winner With the World Champion Detroit Pistons, Basketball's Bad Boys, Cameron Stauth (1990)
In the Year of the Bull: Zen, Air and the Pursuit of Sacred and Profane Hoops, Rick Telander (1996)
Blood on the Horns: the Long, Strange Ride of Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, Roland Lazenby (1998)
Another part of my goal is to collect the stories of the most notable teams of NBA history. Thus would explain these purchases.

Show Time covers the 1986-87 season, which I consider to be the best Laker team ever. Strange that "co-writer" Byron Laursen (yeah, like Riles was pounding this out on WordPerfect back in the day) didn't get a actual credit beyond a note on the back book jacket.

The Franchise is one I hadn't heard of before. It's the 1988-89 Pistons - god, I hated that team, but the book sounds interesting: it appears to go into excruciating behind-the-scenes detail, with a focus on/access to GM Jack McCloskey.

In the Year of the Bull is the 1995-96 Bulls. The SI excerpt I read back in the day seemed to have too much MJ worship to be of interest me at the time (esp. after Sam Smith had done such a strong job of portraying MJ as a human being), but hey, I've softened over time, I guess - the club won 72 freaking games, why not worship the guy a little.

Shame on me for not getting Blood on the Horns, about the '97-98 Bulls, by "Rockin" Roland Lazenby, until now. I enjoyed the SI excerpt of this one (priceless brutal vignettes of MJ and Pip tormenting J Krause) and I read the Halberstam and I guess I was all '97-98 Bulled out. My bad.

I should also note that I was really tempted to buy The Pivotal Season b/c I wanted a book about the '71-72 Lakers, but I just couldn't bring myself to reward Charley "LeBron James will never be more than an average player" Rosen. Mr. Lazenby, could you please write the definitive '71-72 Lakers book? That team is, IMO, slightly overrated b/c the league was diluted by ABA defections at that time, but I'm basing that on a paper evaluation, as I was too young to have seen them. Still, they won 69 and had interesting characters at interesting pts in their respective careers, so they're worthy of the treatment.

And yes, I already own The Last Banner by Peter May ('85-86 Celtics) and Dynasty's End by Thomas Whalen (about the '68-69 Celtics - which I think just might be the best team story in league history), among others.

Skyline: One Season, One Team, One City, Tim Keown (1994)
When ESPN Mag writer Keown was an SF Chron scribe, he followed around an Oakland high school team for a year. I've heard good things about this one, seems like it's worthy of joining the high school hoops canon, which is of course headed up by the must-read The Last Shot.

Pro Basketball Prospectus: 2003 edition, John Hollinger (2003)
Filling out my collection of season annuals from Professor Hollinger, which he wrote from 2002-03 to 2005-06 (now carried online on I dunno, I guess life got busy in '03, so I was missing this one.

Manute: A Center in Two Worlds, Leigh Montville (1993)
I've never been a huge Montville fan, which is why I guess I've held off on buying this one, though I've heard it's an excellent portrait of one of the most unique people to ever play in the league. An overdue addition to my collection.

And there you have it. All that, for less than $100 total (though the shipping ran about 40-50 bucks b/c these were coming from multiple sources). I've got some reading to do.

One last shout-out for this one:
Bill Walton: On the Road with the Portland Trail Blazers, Jack Scott (1978)
Another book that I didn't realize existed but seems to have a ton of potential: Walton, at the height of his wacked-out powers, written by wacked-out '60s "athlete activist" Jack Scott. I found this on the shelves of Powell's Books on a recent visit to Portland, and I'm adding this mainly to have an excuse to point out that Powell's is not only one of my favorite places on Earth, but also hands-down the best bookstore in the U.S., and there will be absolutely no argument about this.

Strangely, Powell's was also the scene of one of the moments I regret most as a basketball fan. I was browsing mild-manneredly at the magazine stand one day when I noticed that then-Blazers asst Bill Musselman was browsing just a few feet away from me. I really wanted to tell Muss that I thought his 1987-88 Albany Patroons team (48-6 with Micheal Ray Richardson, Sidney Lowe, Scotty Brooks, Tony Campbell, D-III legend Derrick Rowland and the immortal Eric Fernsten) was the greatest CBA team of all-time, and a joy to watch. But I choked, and decided not to bother him. He passed away of something called amyloidosis a couple months after (in the middle of Blazers' 2000 playoff run, actually, says Wikipedia). I wish I had spoke up. Alas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Iverson trade breakdown

No more refreshing every 20 minutes, Allen Iverson is finally on the move. AI was dealt to Denver for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, & two 2007 first-round picks (Denver's & Dallas'). The Nugs now have two 30-point scorers on the perimeter but are left without a true point on the entire roster. From Philly's point-o-view, I think they did a solid job by getting an above-average PG, back-up 4 with an expiring deal & 2 1st-round picks in a possible legendary draft. At least it is better than what Minnesota was supposedly offering. What follows is a little analysis of the deal:

-Will AI & Melo be able to co-exist? Both guys love to have the ball in their hands, alot. Both guys love to iso on the perimeter; Melo likes to work the baseline a little more. What's also interesting is George Karl's disike for "ballstoppers", and now he has two of the biggest culprits of "ballstopping" in the NBA on the wings together. Honestly, I really do not have a strong handle on how the pairing will turn out in the long run. I am just not sure at all. As easily as I could see them working off each other well, I could also easily see them not jelling well at all. That being said, I think this deal was worth the risk for the Nugs. But, The Nugs do need to pick up a true PG somewhere since they have none on their roster

-Denver is already one of the most explosive teams offensively, so will they be much better with AI? I do not think you'll see much difference in the regular season, but Iverson definitely can make a difference in the playoffs. The Nugs have been able to run up the score in the reg. season, but have fallen flat in the playoffs the last two years when forced into more of half-court game. In the playoffs, the opposing defense could send multiple guys at Melo all game long without any serious repercussions. Now with Iverson aboard, the Nugs will have two guys on the floor that often require double-teams and have the ability to really make the defense scramble. Although, now I would encourage opposing teams to throw a fair amount of zone at the Nugs.

-Do not quite agree with John Hollinger's take in his recent article. He is a little too optimistic for my tastes. He seems to be a little too sure that AI & Melo will work great together. Right now no one can be certain these two will co-exist seemlessly. And he fails to mention anything about Denver's defensive woes, which this deal does very little to resolve. Denver has not been too special on the defensive end, and I would not put Denver in the elite tier of Dallas, SA & Phoenix like Hollinger proposes.

-I would put Denver in the second tier of the West with the Rockets, Lakers & Jazz. Do I think the Nugs could possibly come out of the West? I would not be stunned, but right now they are not on the same level as the Spurs, Mavs & Suns. First, they have to prove that Melo & AI can flourish side-by-side. Even if that happens, they still need to improve their defense to be on equal footing as the Western heavys.

-Sixers' end of the deal: I thought Philly did a good job considering the circumstances. Hey, there was no way they were going to get fair market value, so they filled two of their biggest holes: PG & back-up PF. Andre Miller is a very underrated player & is having a very good year, and he gives Philly a legit starting PG they haven't had since Mo Cheeks' playing days. And now the Sixers do not have to worry about their PG spot for a few years. Joe Smith provides a solid back-up 4 (badly needed), plus his nearly $7 mil contract expires this year. On top of that they get 2 draft picks. Granted, those two picks should end up somewhere in the 20s, but this draft has the potential to be very deep. So the Sixers could either have three chances in a deep pool of talent or have leverage to move up in the draft.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Week in Review (Dec 11-17)

Players of the Week:

Ben Wallace
--Tough choice this week, but got to go with Big Ben for MVP-o-week with the Bulls going 4-0 this week. Ben was just an all-around force this week, check this: 10.3 ppg, 18.8 rpg, 5 apg, 2.8 bpg & 2 spg. How bout 10 pts, 27 rbs, 6 assts, & 3 blks vs. the Bucks. Or 15 pts, 20 boards, & 5 blks vs. the Sonics. This is what the Bulls were anticipating when they made the biggest transaction of the summer. Headband-gate seems pretty overblown now, just like it was at the time.

Yao--What I like best about Yao's play this year, there seems to be more fire & emotion from the big fella. He seemed to be displaying a little bit of a sneer during the 2OT clash with the Lakers, and just totally controlled the painted area on both ends. Especially looked to be a force on defense--he made a huge block on Walton where he seemed to be offended anyone would dare shoot at his basket. Yao dropped 35, 15, & 8 blks on the Lakers. 32.8 ppg, 12 rpg, 3.3 apg & 3.3 bpg for the week.

Kobe--Was sweet in the 2OT tilt vs. the Rockets--53, 10 rbs, 8 asst & 5/8 on 3pts. Then followed it up with going for 45, 10 assts, 8 rbs, & 7/11 from 3pt on Sunday, only to lose in OT to the Wiz, who were propelled by Arenas' 60 pts. 38.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 6.8 apg & 15/33 on 3pts. for the week.

Arenas--Seems to have found some consistency the last few weeks, I would say. Sunday: 60 pts, 8 rbs, 8 assts, 17/32 overall, 5/12 from 3pt. & only 3 TOs for Gil. And the best part was this was a road game, something that has been a huge bugaboo for Gil & the Wiz this season. Another thing was he just put his head down & looked to attack the rim alot, which he does as well as anyone. It's when he loiters outside too much & starts jacking up awful shots that gets him in trouble. He does seem to be throwing up way too many 3s. 40.3, 6.3 apg, 6 rpg, 3.6 tpg, & 48.7% overall for the week.

Nash--Nash just being Nash: 17, 10.8 apg, 4.5 rpg, 51% overall, 45% from 3pt. & the Suns go 4-0 this week.

A. Iguodala--Someone has to pick up the slack with Iverson moving on, & Iggy is the best option in Philly. Iggy put up 20.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4 apg, 2 spg, & 49% shooting for the week. Although, if he is going to be a #1 option, he has to work on repairing his shooting mechanics.

C. Billups--Does not seem to get much fanfare, but Chauncey is having another rock-solid all-star caliber season. 23.3, 8 apg, 2.3 spg, 52.3 % overall & 7/13 from 3pt for the week. Billups also adds good defensive play that sometimes goes overlooked.

Honor Mention: Pierce; A. Nocioni; B. Gordon; Dirk; Redd; J. O'Neal; E. Curry; R. Hamilton; Hinrich; A. Miller; Deron Williams; M. Miller; R. Lewis; Amare; T. Parker; Duncan; Boozer; Marion; C. Butler; S. May; C. Paul

Hot Teams:

--On a 5-game winning streak (4-0 this week). Might not have had the stiffest comp this week, but still managed to take care of business on the road & had one impressive win at home vs. the Nugs. Did a solid job defensively this week, as well

Blazers--How bout 4 in a row & 3-0 this week for the Blaze. Wins over the Grizz & Sixers are nothing special, and seeing how inept the Clips are on the road, probably an overrated undefeated week for Blazers. But I felt I had to throw them a bone, since they probably will not be in the Hot Teams section too often.

Raptors--Nice week for this band of hosers from the Great White North--3-1 without Bosh, including a big win down in Orlando. This deserves a toast with a couple of bottles of Elsinore & donuts, make sure they're jelly. Getting solid play from their new Euros, Bargnani & Garbajosa.

Spurs--Same old story, just keep rolling. Won their 4 games this week by an average of 16.5 ppg, and happen to lead the league in point differential. Looks like they're ready for the playoffs to start already.

Suns--Similar to the Spurs, just keep rolling. Undefeated this week, and in the midst of a 14-game winning streak. Toughest team to play & prepare against in the regular season.

Not so Hot Teams:

--0-4 this week. Granted, they played the Spurs, Jazz, & Rockets this week, but they got blasted by both the Spurs & Jazz at home. Then they continue their hapless ways on the road with a loss up in Portland. Had some glaring issues this week: 51.8% Def Fg%, turnover differential of +5.5 per game & 6/32 from 3pt. 3pt shooting has been a problem all season--they are dead last in 3pt%. Their defense has not been quite up to par this season, after having two underrated seasons under Dunleavy. If you want the best insight into the Clips & their early season struggles, just go over to the, Kevin can breakdown the Clips as well as anyone.

Sonics--In the midst of a 5-game road trip without the services of Ray Allen--0-4 this week. Had pretty much the same problems the Clips had--turned the ball over way too much & poor 3pt shooting (26.8%). Not good for a team who loves the long bomb.

Games of the Week:
Lakers @ Bulls (Tues)
--Two of the hotter teams right now square off in Chi.

Raptors @ Suns (Tues)--The Raps coming off a 3-1 week try to cut down the Suns' 14-game winning streak. Also, Bryan Colangelo returns to Phoenix, where you know he would love to stick it to his old employer.

Rockets @ Spurs (Fri)--Hopefully, T-Mac is back for this titanic Texas tilt. If so, best game of the week. Keep your fingers crossed for a game in the low 80s or 70s.

Magic @ Cavs (Sat)--Two of the top teams in the East, & two of the top board teams in the NBA.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Week in Review (Dec 4-Dec 10)

Hot Teams:

--10 in a row, 4-0 this week including a stolen win an epic reg. season game @ NJ. Shot 53% overall for the week & 45% from 3pt. Right now the Suns are leading the league in FG% (49%) & 3pt % (40.4), PPG--pretty much like last year. What's somewhat encouraging, the Suns are rebounding the ball better--they won the rebound battle in 3 of 4 games this week. But they are still getting outrebounded by 3.3 per game for the season. Great spread of production dispersed between Nash, Diaw, Marion, Barbosa, Amare, & Raja. Looking scary good, but we kind of expect this in the reg. season. The one question remains can they defend well enough in the playoffs? Right now the defense is not looking too good. But their defense does not have to be great, just mediocre with how deadly efficient their offense is.

TWolves--Really sneaking under the radar. Surprisingly over .500, & 3-0 this week with wins over the Rockets & the Jazz. Once again an underrated defensive team--only the Rockets have a better def. FG%, plus the Wolves have the 4th best Def. 3pt. %. Never understood why some people were putting Casey on the hot seat already considering their defense was underrated last year, as well. Although, their rebounding is still a problem, which is not surprising with their lack of frontcourt talent outside of KG. Their 3pt. shooting could be better as well (Mike James is their only solid deep shooter)--29.5% this week.

Lakers--Nice to have 15 out of your first 20 games at home. Definitely been helped by their early schedule, but I feel the Lakers are legit, unlike how I felt about the Warriors' semi-success due to an early favorable schedule. 3-1 this week, and closed it with a big win vs. the Spurs, where the defense looked impressive. But now things start to toughen with their next 8 of 10 on the road, including a rough week with a back2back in Texas (Hou & Dall) & back to Staples to play host to Houston on Fri.

Not so Hot Teams:

--For a squad where things were not looking so rosy before this week, things got a whole lot worst with Iverson's mutiny--0-3 this week One of the worst def. teams in the league once again. Mo Cheeks is just too low-key & nice to turn this team around defensively. 3rd worst rebounding team in the NBA, and the 2nd worst on the def. boards, which just magnifies the defensive issues. If this team does deal AI, they need to look to fill their gaping holes at PG & back-up PF. The rumored deal with the T-Wolves for Davis & Foye just does not excite me if I am Billy King. You're just adding 2 more wings to go along with Korver, Iggy, & Carney. Although, Davis' deal does expire next year, so if the TWolves throw some draft picks in, I might be more enticed.

Nets--0-3 this week, with two games they should have won. Most puzzling team in the NBA. Here's the thing--Jefferson, Kidd, Krstic, & Vince have all played well & the defense overall has been solid, believe it or not. The bench has not been great, but probably not as poor as last year--Marcus Williams has looked good. The one thing I notice, they get early leads and just can't seem to finish off teams. They play great defense for a half, but can't seem to string it together for an entire game. This team just does not seem to retain their focus for entire game. They really get nothing from their frontline besides Krstic. Collins is a very good post defender, but he provides basically nothing else, not even rebounds. And the Nets have very little on the bench. I guess Mikki Moore is ok, but they need a legit PF, hopefully Boone can get acclimated quickly, because they need him now. They looked great in the Suns game, and some of that had to do with going uptempo. I felt they needed to go more uptempo in my season preview, and still think Frank has not stressed this enough.

Players of the Week:

S. Nash
--MVP of the week. Sealed the deal with a legendary reg. season performance in double OT vs. Nets. Nash hit a desperation 3pt to send the game into overtime, and buried another big 3 in the 2nd OT to secure the lead. To go along with 6/7 on 3pts., Nash mixed in a variety of his patented scoop shots & running one-handers to utlimately end with 42 & 13 assts. Nash averaged 20ppg, 14apg, 10/17 3pt. & 57.4% for the week. Nash is shooting 53.3% for the season & a ridiculous 51.3% from 3pt.

Gil Arenas--If you read this blog enough you know I am not a huge fan of Gil's overall game. But I must give him props when deserved. Gil dropped 37.3 ppg on 51.5% this week. The best part was the combined 24/44 from the field in two road games. Gil's road shooting has been pitiful all season & has been a big reason for the Wizards' road ineptitude. Arenas was 18/37 from 3pt this week, but what is he doing chucking up that many shots. Still only 42.5% overall for the year, something that should not get much higher with Gil's customary shot selection still intact.

Ed Curry--Who'd thunk that Big Ed would ever show this kind of consistency for back2back weeks. Has he officially turned the corner, and can we expect 20 & 10 from him every nite? I still will not be sold until he keeps this production up until about the All-Star break, this guy brings too much baggage for me to feel confidence this run will continue. 28, 11.7 rrpg on 65% this week.

Josh Howard--The really bright spot of Josh's play is his 3pt. shooting--9/19 this week, 20/38 since returning from injury around Thanksgiving, & 48% for the year. His outside shooting has always been an adventure with that ugly form, his shot is still not pretty but it seems to be falling. If this continues, the Mavs could be even harder to stop at playoff time, since before this year you could always sag off Josh & help onto Dirk or JTerry.

K. Garnett--How bout this week: 24.3ppg, 12.3rpg, 4.3apg, 3bpg, & 2.3spg. KG led the way for the Wolves' undefeated week & big victories over Utah & Houston. If the Wolves are to get Iverson, with their strong defense, they have a shot to challenge for a division title.

S. Marion--Not a bad second banana to Nash this week: 24.8ppg, 9rpg, 2.3spg, 7/14 3pt. & 61.7%. Shawn was his usual all-around great self vs. the Nets with 33, 9, 3 asst, 3 stls & 3/6 from 3pt. No one dives to the basket like Marion; Nash does make this easier, though.

Kobe--A gimpy ankle can't slow him down--Kobe's 34 & 8 rebs leads LA past the Spurs today. Kobe averaged 27ppg, 4rpg, 2.7spg, 9/19 3pt, & 51.7% for the week. Sort of scary considering his hops are still subpar.

Jarrett Jack--Emerging as a solid PG with little fanfare. Right now is Portland's second option with Brandon Roy on the shelf and responded with a great week--19ppg, 7apg & 4rpg, including a 30 pts, 10 assts nite @ Milwaukee. Uses his size well on both ends of the floor.

Honor Mention: Dirk; D. Howard; Jamison; Redd; Bron; Diaw; Amare; Yao; McGrady; Joe Johnson; Wade; Z. Randolph; Baron; Ruben Patterson; L. Walton; Billups

Games of the Week:

Suns @ Magic (Mon)
--Let's see if the Suns can keep their hot East Coast swing alive vs. the best team in the East. Orlando has one of the better defensive units around & surely will be tested. Dwight vs. Amare is a very intriguing matchup.

Mavs @ Jazz (Mon)--Second big contest on Monday vs. two of the better rebounding teams in the NBA.

Lakers @ Rockets (Tues)--Will see how the Lakers fare away from the friendly confines of Staples after enjoying 15 homes games so far. Always love to see the Kobe-TMac matchup.

Lakers @ Mavs (Wed)--Tough back2back for LA.

Rockets @ Lakers (Fri)--2nd meeting of the week between these squads, this time in LA.

Scouting the Love

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to watch UCLA recruit Kevin Love, considered to be the No. 2 high-school player in the country (behind O.J. Mayo) by most, as his Lake Oswego (Ore.) Lakers (from the Portland area) were in the Seattle area to take on Franklin H.S. in a matchup of last year's state champions from Oregon and Washington state.

I always try to see prep players who are considered to have pro potential when I can, and I must say that Love is one of the most unique young players I've seen. I find it hard to classify him, frankly.

Love had 36 points, 19 rebounds and I-wish-I-knew-how-many assists as Lake Oswego held off Franklin 69-62 in a game of wildly contrasting styles. Franklin is deep and athletic and well-coached, and they play tough pressure defense - often full-court.

Lake Oswego, somewhat amazingly for a team ranked No. 11 in the U.S. by, really had very mediocre athletes surrounding Love (with the exception of point guard Ernie Spada, who did a great job handling the pressure, and also knocked down some big shots). Their offense consisted of two things:

1. Going inside to K-Love.
Love is listed at 6-10/255 and man, it is a rugged 255. The kid's arms and upper body are as massive as you're going to see on any H.S. player who's not an offensive tackle moonlighting on a winter sport. Franklin did a nice job taking charges/flopping to draw some fouls, but mostly, Love was just too sound with his footwork and post moves inside, including a beauty of a spin move in the second half.

2. Fast breaks due entirely to K-Love outlet passes. Many observers have commented that Love throws outlet passes better than anyone since Wes Unseld. I'm too young to be qualified to make an Unseld comparison, but let me just say that these passes were an absolute thing to behold.

Love would get the rebound, turn, scan the court like a QB and fire a pass 40...50...60 feet downcourt to a teammate to set up a fast break. And he did it over and over and over again. I've really never seen anything like it. The kid was also a good passer in the halfcourt - he found one backdoor cutter along the baseline with a gorgeous bounce pass that he threw from near halfcourt.

He also has a nice touch on the foul line - and I've read that he can hit the three, although he didn't shoot any on Sat. Just an utterly fundamentally sound kid, and a really great teammate, too - you couldn't have blamed him if he'd gotten down on his teammates after they failed to finish on some of his outlet passes, and otherwise had trouble competing with Franklin, but he just kept encouraging his guys all game, and I think that his encouragement helped his guys keep their poise against Franklin's withering D, and ultimately helped win them the game.

All that said, I was really underwhelmed by Love's athleticism, and wonder if it's going to prevent him from being an impact player on the NBA level. Yes, he finished a nice reverse alley-oop, and yes he made some nice moves out on the floor (a testament to his ballhandling fundamentals as much as anything), but there's just a certain explosiveness, quickness and agility that he lacks currently.

In my mind, it's going to be all about his coach. I could see him succeeding if he's used similar to the way Karl Malone was in Utah's heyday - on the high post where he can use his passing and shooting ability, and his big body to play some PnR. And of course, he's going to need a coach who can take advantage of those beautiful outlet passes.

But, if he's used as a standard big, I think he's going to have trouble being more than a journeyman. I talked to a friend after the game who described him as a "classic, Mike Montgomery-era Stanford kind of player" and I'd have to agree. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, though, K-Love's headed to Westwood.

One last note - it's quite a year for Oregon (pronounced ore-GUN, not ore-GONE, you East Coasters) hoops as Love is rated No. 2 in the country and Kyle Singler (Duke) from Medford, Ore. is rated No. 5.

See below for more reading on Love. [Also FYI, Love is this year's high school diarist in SLAM.]

- Seattle Times: Lake Oswego's Love too tough for Franklin
(Game story)

- Seattle Times: No stopping power of Love
(Game preview)

- Oregonian: All they need is Love
(Love profile from signing day)

- Love tops initial ESPN 150 rankings
(Scouting report by ex-NBA coach John Carroll is definitely worth a read)

- Draft Express: Thoughts on the Star Prospects of Day Two
(Scouting reports from this summer on this year's top 4 H.S. seniors, including Love)

- The Official Kevin Love MySpace Page
(I have no idea if this is real or not but either way it's quite entertaining)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hoops DVR Watch

Here's a look at some basketball for which you might want to set your DVR in the next week or so:

It's Larry Bird's 50th birthday, and NBA TV is pulling out all the stops.

The lineup looks like this:
9 a.m. ET: Celtics vs. San Diego Clippers (1980) - A game from January of his rookie year.
11 a.m. ET: Over Time - The NBA TV show is devoted to Larry Lege.
11:30 a.m. ET: 1988 Three-Point Shootout - Bird's third consecutive win.
Noon ET: Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend - The home video.
1 p.m. ET: Celtics vs. Hawks (1985) - his 60-point game.
3 p.m. ET: 1981 Celtics highlights
4 p.m. ET: 1984 Celtics highlights
5 p.m. ET: Over Time - Repeat of 11 a.m. show.
5:30 p.m. ET: Larry Bird: Through the Years
6:30 p.m. ET: The Legend at 50: Larry Bird's 50 Greatest Moments - new show
7:30 p.m. ET: Bird & Walton - new show, as Walton interviews his ex-teammate - potential to be the greatest interview in the history of Western civilization.
8 p.m. ET: 1986 Celtics highlights
9 p.m. ET: 1987 Celtics highlights
10 p.m. ET: Retirement ceremony
11:30 p.m. ET: Vintage NBA - Reggie Miller talks about LB
12:30 a.m. ET: 1988 Three-Point Shootout - Bird's third consecutive win.
1 a.m. ET: The Legend at 50: Larry Bird's 50 Greatest Moments - new show

I'm interested in seeing the new shows, but beyond that, I'm not sure why we can't just see more classic games instead of 42 different documentaries - how about Game 6 of the '86 Finals or Game 7 of the '87 ECF???

To that end, please note that ESPN Classic is showing Game 4 of the 1984 Celtics-Lakers Finals at 5 p.m. ET - one of the true all-time classic games in NBA history.

Also on Thursday, TNT has Detroit-Dallas in the early game - possible Finals preview because, you know, someone's gotta win the East....

8 p.m. ET: Detroit at Orlando [League Pass] - nice East matchup, though DET is on the 2nd of a Florida b2b
10:30 p.m. ET: Miami at Denver [ESPN] - nice Wade v Melo matchup

1 p.m. ET: Euroleague: CSKA Moscow v FC Barcelona - NBA TV shows a Euroleague game each week on Wed. and then reruns it on Sat. Games are usually a couple weeks old, but it's still good to catch up with old U.S. college stars and Euro prospects in the best basketball league outside the U.S. This one is a nice matchup between two of last year's Final Four.
2:30 p.m. ET: College: (6) Texas A&M at (1) UCLA [CBS]
11 p.m. ET: College: (8) Washington at (18) Gonzaga [Fox Sports Net]

6 p.m. ET: Nice back-to-back movies on ESPN Classic with One on One at 6 ET and White Men Can't Jump at 8 ET.
8 p.m. ET: LSU vs. Texas [ESPN] - get a look at UT frosh Kevin Durant, who increasingly looks like the No. 2 overall pick in next year's draft.
9:30 p.m. ET: San Antonio at L.A. Lakers [NBA TV] - tasty treat to end the weekend.

9 p.m. ET: Dallas at Utah [League Pass] - another early test for the Jazz.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Week in Review (Nov 27-Dec 3)

Hot Teams:

--Just keep chugging along. Best team in the league right now. 12 wins in a row, 3-0 this week. Good week even with Dirk having a somewhat subpar set of games. Dampier continues to play solid, which is a great sign for the Mavs. Pounded their opponents on the glass--avg. rebound margin of +10.3 per. Also, shot the 3-ball extremely well this week--46.3%

Bulls--Righted the ship a little this week (3-0). Home victories vs. the Knicks & the Wiz, and a nice road win vs. the Hornets. Like the Mavs, owned the glass this week (+8 rb margin). The defense is starting to stabilize itself after a spotty beginning, and the Bulls continue to force a ton of TOs this week--18.3 per. Chicago is one of the best teams in the NBA at forcing TOs and they have the best TOs margin in the NBA, which has helped their overall defense, with their Def Fg% being higher than usual.

Magic--Even though they got blasted today by the Clips, have to give them props for winning 3 games out West, especially the decisive win in Salt Lake. I was a little skeptical of the Magic going into this week, even though their overall team stats were impressive. But they proved alot to me by totally controlling the Jazz on the road. Their defense is legit with Dwight, Darko, & Battie patrolling the paint. I wasn't sure their defense was up to snuff in the pre-season because I thought they had sketchy perimeter defenders. Therfore, I felt there would be too much pressure put on the bigs to cover up mistakes, but I guess it does not matter. Still near the top of the key stat catergories of FG%, Def FG%, & rebounding. But they have to keep an eye on the TOs.

Not so hot teams:

--After their unlikely 3-0 start, Philly is 2-11. 0-3 this week, while shooting an average of 39% from the floor & giving up an avg. of 53.2% overall; that is not a good recipe for success. The Sixers are now rounding into as poor of a defensive team as last year, and are near the bottom of Def Fg% for the season. On top of this, Webber is toast and looks incapable of scoring 20 pts in game ever again.

Blazers--Not a good week to go 0-3 at home when they have 6-game road trip starting. Blazers have lost 5 straight, and are one of the worst defensive teams in the league, which was made clear this week--the Blazers allowed an avg. of 50.9% from the floor. Not much was expected of the Blazers this year, so I guess this is not that surprising.

Players of the Week (Some obvious, some not so):

Dwight Howard
--Helped Orlando to a 3-1 week (all on road) and a huge road win vs. the Jazz that showed the NBA that the Magic are indeed legit. 20 ppg, 13rpg, & 3 bpg on a blistering 68% in 4 games this week. His 21 & 16 neutralized Boozer in Salt Lake. Just one of the most imposing physical presences in the NBA. Right now he dominates with his body, it will be scary to think if/when he refines his skill set more.

Joe Johnson--Has been playing like an all-star all season. Joe threw up 33ppg, 6apg, 5rpg and shot 13/31 from 3pt & 56% overall. Joe has been averaging 28ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.1 apg for the season. On top of that, he is shooting 50.6% overall & 40% from 3pt (great numbers for a perimeter player). He seems to have stepped up & taken the #1 scoring role in Atlanta with aplomb.

Kobe--You knew we were in store for an explosion sometime before the New Year's. Kobe dropped the science on the Jazz on Thursday nite with 52 points and a silly 3rd quarter of 30 pts. Kobe was in one of his zones where he was making any kind of shot he wanted. Kobe avg. 32 ppg, 5 apg, & 4 rpg this week. Even with these numbers, Kobe still does not seem to have all his hops back after knee surgery and there is some debate if he will ever get it all back.

Boozer--The Booz Crooz just keeps on rolling. Once again on the weekly list even with 2 losses this week--when you avg. 23.5ppg, 10rpg, 3.3apg & 60.6% shooting, it's hard to leave you off. Still my pick for the MVP (so far), but Dirk, Dwight, Duncan, Melo & Kobe are gaining fast.

A. Bargnani--Pretty solid week for the #1 pick--12.5 ppg & double figure points in all 4 games this week. Right now the bulk of his offense comes from his sweet perimeter jumper on catch & shoot situations. Can be a nice pick & pop guy for years to come, but needs to work on his shooting off the dribble if he wants to be the next Dirk. He tried to create his shot a few times vs. the Knicks, was not pretty.

Ed Curry--Is this the turning point for Ed? Who knows. Big Ed laid down 24.8 ppg on 60% & 8.3 rpg this week. Has scored over 20 for 6 games straight. Was a beast on the low block vs. the Raps, where he showcased his nimble feet & could not be stopped. Encouraging that he's actually making more of an effort to rebound. Maybe Isiah has gotten thru to him.

Hakim Warrick--Someone who is flying under the radar but needs to be in consideration for Most Improved Player with KMart, Biedrins & M. Ellis. 21.3ppg, 4rpg & 55.8% from the floor this week--is shooting 51.6% this year, up from 44.3% last year. Still should be a little bit better rebounder with his length & hops. Good sign for the Grizzlies because they need to find someone who can consistently score more than 15 per anywhere they can.

Caron Butler--Been the best player on the Wiz so far. With Arenas being highly erratic & jacking up his usual array of awful shots, Caron has been steady--22 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.6apg & 50% this week. Only taking 14 shot attempts per game for the year, while the "point guard" is chucking up nearly 20 shots per.

A. Nocioni--Has come on strong the last couple weeks. 21.7ppg, 5.3 rpg, 10/17 from 3pt. & 51% overall this week. Really has regained his 3pt stroke lately (25/53) after starting the first 2 weeks shooting 4/16. And has been bringing his patented spastic energy on both ends of the floor.

Honor Mention: Duncan; LeBron; Randolph; Wade; Iverson; Bosh; T. Prince; Dampier; Melo; Vince; S. May; J. O'Neal; KG; Amare; Marion; Nash; Raja Bell; Redd; L. Odom; TJ Ford: J-Kidd; R. Lewis

Games of the Week:

Pistons @ Mavs (Thur)
--Could be a preview of the Finals. Two of the hottest teams in the NBA.

Pistons @ Magic (Fri)--Tough back2back road game for the Pistons. Battle of the 2 best East Conf. teams right now.

Nugs @ Mavs (Sat)--Let's see if the Nugs can bring their high-flying act on the road vs. a real challenge.

Spurs @ Lakers (Sun)--Last game of the week, and should not disappoint.