Hoop Musings & Observations
Let's empty the proverbial notebook with some thoughts we've compiled over the last week or so in hoop world.
While most American sports fans were enraptured by the Tournament on Thursday, the biggest basketball story of the year was coming into focus over on TNT's doubleheader: we gonna have ourselves a Celtics-Lakers Finals, folks.
It's not just because John Hollinger's numbers are saying it is so, I saw it with mine own eyes. To see the Celtics fight off the Mavs to close out the Texas Triangle sweep followed by the Gasol-less Lakers breaking the Utah home winning streak in convincing fashion... well, I just think the C's have too much mental toughness for Detroit, and L.A. has too much talent (and teamwork) for the West.
As much as I'm a fairly neutral observer, and as much I dig the way the Spurs go about their business, and as much as I love watching guys like CP3 and Nashy and LeBron, I have to admit: Boston-L.A. come June would be a pretty damn cool thing.
Is it just me, or is that crazy professor in the high chair on the L.A. sideline actually going a little under the radar this year? I think Phil's done a quietly masterful job with the way he steered through the utter chaos of the early season, and orchestrated the gorgeous team basketball that his guys play when they are on.
II. KIDD REDUX
Speaking of Thursday's game... we think Johnny Ludden has been a fine addition to the Yahoo! crew, but we can't agree with this observation he made after the Celtics-Mavs game:
- [T]he Mavericks are limited with what they can run until [Kidd] gets more familiar with the offense.... Only time will cure that, and the Mavericks don't have much of it. A guess: They will look smarter next season for making this trade.
III. THE DONFATHER
I don't care how much of a colossal disaster Isiah has been, or how disagreeable a person he might be, it's still not cool for Donnie Walsh to be interviewing for a job which is not vacant, as appears to have been the case, and he shouldn't get a free pass for it.
Same goes to the "sources close to Jerry West" who were kindly suggesting to the New York papers that the Logo wouldn't mind being courted for said (occupied) job.
If you want to replace Isiah, then fire him and hire someone else. It's not a bad time to fire a GM, frankly, to give yourself plenty of time to prep for the draft. But don't do it like this. It smells like Dolan wants to try to humiliate Zeke into giving back some of his guaranteed money. What a terrible owner.
All that said, isn't is still fun to hear George Karl say the word "jerk"?
IV. BASKETBALL REIGNS IN THE NORTHWEST
Seattleites won't be able to claim East Coast bias much longer if the NY Times keeps publishing stories like the one it ran on Sunday about the increasing quality of ballplayers coming out of the Seattle area (Hat tip to "PurpleEagle"):
I must see it's been a blast to watch the level of talent in the high school hoop ranks in town over the past decade - with more coming straight ahead in the pipeline - and it's pretty cool to get a national spotlight.
V. CONGRATS TO WASH. U.
Since we prattled on about our alma mater winning the D3 National Championship last year, it's only fair that we offer hearty congratulations to Washington University of St. Louis for decisively denying our attempt to repeat in the national championship game on Saturday, to take home this year's D3 crown. At least we beat Brandeis. And Williams still sucks.
A special hat tip to Troy Ruths, Wash. U's 6-6 center who is deservedly the Division III Player of the Year, and was un-freaking-stoppable in the Final Four with 30 in the semis and 33 in the finals. Dude is an NCAA poster boy with a 4.0 GPA in computer science, to boot.
More on Wash U and Ruths:
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Bears bask in the afterglow
- D3Hoops.com: This time around, Ruths is a champion
Just trying to recognize game at all levels here at TPA, folks. Speaking of which, thanks to D3Hoops.com for their tireless coverage all season long, capped off by live online video of the Final Four.
VI. SIMMONS AS BUCKS GM
I gotta admit: part of me would love to see Bill Simmons get the Bucks G.M. job just to see how he fared when he compiled a team of college stars and NCAA Tournament heroes.
The Realests compiled some of Simmons' greatest draft hits last year and a personal favorite of mine was the recent suggestion that the Blazers should trade LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez and a No. 1 for Mike Conley, Mike Miller and a no. 2.
Listen, we certainly don't get em all right here at The Painted Area. My amusement with Simmons stems mainly from how he portrays himself as the omniscient arbiter of all things basketball, working on a higher level than the rest of us... and then his player evaluation skills fall into the basic traps which snare every casual fan: overestimate college stars (increasingly dangerous in the talent-stripped NCAA game) and underestimate guys he hasn't seen, whether they are international or (before the age-limit increase) high schoolers.
Read Draft Express, people.
VII. WEAK DRAFT: WHERE WOULD RUDY GO?
Speaking of the draft, 2008 certainly seems to be shaping up as a fairly weak draft class (see Draft Express link above for a 2008 mock). After the clear-cut top 2 of Beasley and Rose, it seems like there are a lot of undersized two guards and big men with significant question marks (though I do think there is good PG depth with Rose, Augustin, Lawson), plus it's not much of a year for international players. Even Beasley and Rose, whom I like a lot, do not necessarily strike me as perennial All-Stars.
So I got to wondering about the Blazers' additions of Greg Oden and (presumably) Rudy Fernandez, and where they would slot in, in this year's draft. Oden would still be a clear No. 1 pick, even though Beasley has had a Durant-like college season.
That didn't surprise me, but then when I thought about Rudy, it was more of a "holy crap!" moment, as I realized that he would probably be around the No. 4 or 5 pick in this year's draft.
He was only picked No. 24 last year, but that was in part because of contract issues (he would not be available until 2008-09 and is still a mild question mark because European teams can vastly outbid his NBA rookie deal) - he probably would have gone in the late lottery based on talent.
Of course, that was a much deeper draft, and since then, Rudy has established himself as clearly the best player in the Spanish ACB (the best domestic league other than the NBA), a higher level of competition than NCAA basketball, and he's still only 23 (as of Apr. 5). I can't imagine too many others than Oden, Beasley and Rose going ahead of him this year, though the age difference might give guys like Bayless, Mayo or B. Lopez an edge.
So, as we see it, Portland is conceivably adding a guy who could go No. 1 and a guy who could go No. 5ish, in addition to what will likely be the No. 13 pick. Look out 2010s, here comes Lakers v. Blazers.
VIII. LAST-SECOND PET PEEVE
Let me turn into cranky guy for a minute with this pet peeve, in Hubie-style second person: if you are taking the ball out under your own basket, trailing by a bucket with 3 seconds or less, will you please throw the ball the length of the court!
It's the old story, if you inbound the ball in your backcourt, you will end up with a wild heave that has almost no shot of going in.
If you throw it deep, you just have to make the catch and then there is a decent chance you will end up with a good look. That is a common thread in buzzer-beaters by Laettner, George, Drew: they all had good looks!
It just seems like the odds are incomparably higher to throw it deep and hope for a catch in shooting range, as opposed to throwing it short and hoping for a 50+-footer to fall. Drives me nuts.
IX. AS THE STANDINGS TURN
Today's installment of "Ain't That Western Conference Crazy?!"....
Here are the Western Conference standings as of this hour:
1. LAL 49-22
2. NOH 47-21
3. HOU 48-23
4. UTH 46-25
5. PHO 47-23
Now, earlier this evening, the Pistons beat the Suns in OT, and then the Lakers held off the Warriors in OT. If Phoenix could have held on to a 5-point lead late in regulation, and if Golden State had done the same with a 4-point edge in OT, and you flip those results, here's what you've got:
1. NOH 47-21
2. PHO 48-22
3. HOU 48-23
4. UTH 46-25
5. LAL 48-23
I'm guessing that you could play this little game every night for the rest of the season, but it just seemed rather striking that the results of two narrow games on a Monday night were the difference between 1 and 5 for the Lakers and 2 and 5 for the Suns.