Thursday, April 10, 2008

Miss Ya Babe - 14 Thongs (Yuck!) Ya Won’t See In The Money Season

I almost had it! Memphis screwed up my bracket! What a shame. I had Memphis over UCLA and Kansas over UNC in the semis (a terrific bull’s eye)... and hell yeah Tigers over Jayhawks in the championship game. Anyway, my bragging rights are unparalelled right now. If Memphis had won that effing ballgame... I would have been the second coming of Nostradamus. So what we have learned over the weekend? (A) Practice on your free-throws. (B) Don’t bet against me. Back to the NBA.

With the season nearing to its finish line, we’re already looking forward to the upcoming magnificient postseason. What I won’t be missing there? 14 things, that’s it. You too? Me neither. I don’t wanna toot my horn so much - don’t expect me to guess a pick between the crazy Nuggets and even crazier Warriors. They play each other on Thursday, a huge slugfest. Gosh, it’s time. I let you ride shotgun in NBA’s miserable clunker:

14 Heat’s D-League Squad

At 14-64, not only are Heat the worst group in the league, they simultaneously strarted that lousy college-champion-would-beat-nba’s-worst talk. Their current NBDL troops are just unwatchable, though. This quite sums Heat’s season up: Wade, Marion, Jason Williams, Mourning, Haslem, Banks and Dorell Wright (all inactive due to “injuries”) worked the phones during halftime of Wednesday night's game against Hornets. The players were enlisted to help sell season tickets. Wade is handed the phone, with a prospective buyer who asked to speak to Zo. Wade's response: *Man, Zo's busy. But this is D-Wade what can I do for you?* Can’t the life of Heat fans get any worse? One caller talked to Wade twice. But he wasn't Charles Barkley. Asked later whether it was Sir Charles, Wade said: *No, he's banned from calling my phone. He talked about us too much on the air this year.* Another caller asked Wade who he wanted Heat to select in the draft. Of course, Wade said he couldn't say it out loud because cameramen and reporters surrounded him. The fan proceeded to name several players, only to hear Wade respond, *No, no give me one more, no man!* Finally Wade said, *He's still in the tournament.* [Derrick Rose] After speaking to one caller Marion pulled the phone down and said, *He just asked me if we take food stamps for tickets.* Haslem looked in Zo's direction and said, *Why is he here? Ain't he retiring, man?* Wade made the statement of the night when said, *We can't entertain them on the court, so we've got to entertain them off the court.* Well, it CAN’T get worse.

13 SuperSonics’ Rotten Ace Robert Swift

Here’s a pre-2007-training-camp column about Sonics promising ace-center Swift: ‘Swift back with more bulk and tattoos’ /Given all that Robert Swift has been through - the torn right knee ligament that caused him to miss the 2006-07 season, the broken nose in '05-06 and the sprained thumb as a rookie - it's understandable why the Sonics are taking a wait-and-see approach before committing any more millions into someone once tabbed as the center of the future. According to an NBA source, Swift's agent, Arn Tellem, had preliminary talks with the team about a long-term contract extension, but was essentially told Sonics want to see him play this season before brokering a deal. *I'm not thinking about that right now,* said Swift, who will earn $2.6 million in the fourth year of his rookie contract. *If I worry about that, then I'll have something else on my mind when I'm playing. I'm going to go out in the preseason just trying to get ready for the season. The business side of things will take care of itself if I go out and do what I'm supposed to do.* [Aaaaargh!!!] It can be argued that even if much-hyped rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green fulfill their promise, and if new coach P.J. Carlesimo discovers a dependable point guard and power forward, Seattle won't return to prominence until it solves its decades-old mystery at center. Taken 12th overall in the 2004 draft out of high school, Swift was supposed to develop into the next Jack Sikma [Aaaaaaaaargh!!!] under the guidance of Sikma. As an 18-year-old rookie, Swift was woefully underdeveloped and played in just 16 games. He made significant strides in his second year, averaging 6.4 points and 5.6 rebounds, and was slated to start last season before tearing his right ACL in the final exhibition game. Swift underwent surgery Nov. 22. *Robert is like Kevin, Jeff and perhaps like the team in that the expectations are there, but the timetable is not there,* Carlesimo said. *I expect Robert to be good, but I don't know whether that's going to be in November or January or next year. [PJ, take it easy, man] *He may not play like somebody who has been out of basketball for a year and hit the floor running, or he may very well do what usually happens with young players when they don't play for a year and they're coming back from major injury. You may have to go very slowly at the beginning. If he's ready to play, he's going to get big minutes right from the beginning. If he's not, then other guys are going to get a chance and later on Robert will catch up.* Carlesimo has plenty of options at center - including 7-footers Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene and two undersized options in last year's starter Nick Collison and newcomer Kurt Thomas. It seems Swift will begin training camp today with the starters, which is exactly where he was a year ago. But to see him now, he looks nothing like he did last season. A series of intertwining black tattoos cover large swaths of his body. He's forgotten how many tattoos he has, but knows he's spent 108 hours under the needle. Swift is wearing his shoulder-length red hair in a ponytail and has significantly bulked up in his upper body, adding about 40 pounds to his 7-1 frame during a nine-month rehabilitation, bringing him up to 280 pounds. *I'm certainly more comfortable with my body now than I ever was before,* he said. *It's an adjustment for me and for everybody else. I get a lot stares and comments, but I like it.* Should Swift improve upon his '05-06 statistics, then he could be in line for a multiyear deal with a starting salary between $6 million and $8 million. *We're certainly aware of the ability to do something contractually with both he and Delonte West by Oct. 31, and we'll explore those options if we feel like it's in the best interest of the player and the team,* GM Sam Presti said./ Well... Jesus H. Christ, Swift has played in 8 games this season, averaging a whopping 12,3 MPG. He’s rightfully a white Jerome James. The one positive fact is that Swift had 108 hours' worth of tattoos since last year.

12 Timberwolves’ Too-Young-Too-Unsteady-Players

Minnesota’s fans would rather be two hours in the blizzard than watch their “darlings’. No, Wolves don’t have bad guys. (Hmm, we can argue whether their fans’ DNA is anti-basketballish...) Well, if those good guys played with total effort in all games... In a loss against Charlotte, 119-121, veteran forward Greg Buckner showed what these ‘darlings’ lack: professionalism. Even for Al Jefferson, who scored 40. The nine-year veteran Buckner, who has been stuck to the bench since January, played 31 minutes, the most he's played since Nov. 9 against Lakers when he saw 37 minutes of action. Wolves fell behind 32-15 in the first quarter and coach Randy Wittman summoned Buckner to teach his young team a lesson in professionalism and preparedness. *I didn't feel like, at the start of the game, that we cared too much about playing,* Wittman said. So sixth man Rashad McCants committed two fouls in three first-quarter minutes and sat the rest of the night while Buckner played on and on and Wittman waited for star center Al Jefferson to rouse himself after halftime. Trailing by 13 points in the third quarter's final minute, Wolves revived themselves with a 34-27 burst in a fourth quarter when they pulled within a point with 13 seconds remaining but failed to score in two final possessions. Buckner played the entire fourth quarter and Jefferson supplied 29 of his 40 points - which tied a career high - after halftime. *Greg Buckner, he was the reason why we had the chance to win tonight,* Wittman said. *Nobody else. He hadn't played in a couple of months and he didn't mope. We called and he was ready to play. Our young guys should learn a lesson from that. We're not going to let guys go out and play with no effort or purpose.* After the game, Buckner said he wondered whether he was going to play another minute this season. *I didn't see this coming at all, said Buckner, who hadn't played since the last time these two teams played, on March 4. *Luckily, we weren't playing Phoenix. There's definitely a burning in my lungs in a game like that.* McCants sat and Kirk Snyder played only five minutes because Wittman said he wanted to ride Buckner's energy, which helped the Wolves rally from an 18-point, second-quarter deficit. *He played defense, he played hard,* Wittman said. *He shared the ball. He made plays. It wasn't anything more than that." When asked what McCants didn't do, Wittman said, *He knows. You can ask him.* McCants was one of the first players to leave Wolves' locker room after the game and did not speak with reporters. Wittman called Jefferson's first-quarter play when Bobcats center Nazr Mohammed scored nine points in eight minutes “going through the motions”. *He got embarrassed a little bit and then he woke up and played pretty hard. Twice in the final 1.4 seconds, Wolves had a chance to lead or tie. Randy Foye's pass off a pick-n-roll was behind Jefferson and went off his hands out of bounds. When Wolves had a last-gasp chance with .7 seconds left, Jefferson's jumper missed. *We should have scored on both of them,* Wittman said.*We just didn't finish the plays. That's how you win games like that, by making plays down the stretch.* Just add a pair of veterans and the bright days loom. Or maybe not.

11 Grizzlies’ @#$&, Moronic Front Office

Grizs’ management led by GM Chris Wallace + owner totally sank the ship, the biggest (but not the most important, negatively) gaffe being The Gasol Heist. It all leads to this state of emergency (When all players say infinitely this crap, there have to be something wrong, BIG TIME.): ‘Grizzlies build for future’ /For now, the hope is that the small victories will add up. Grizzlies aren't looking toward next season just yet, judging by their spirited play as the regular season winds down. Then again, Marc Iavaroni & Co. are playing for next year in that they're trying to manufacture improvements that can carry over. *I think we're still on a pace to become a pretty good team. I think it's going to take a while, a couple more practices,* swingman Rudy Gay said. *A lot of things just happened too late in the season.* Memphis was looking for just its second win since Dec. 19 against a team with a winning record Suns visited them Tuesday night. Their last victory against a winning team happened March 28 when Griz beat Lakers, 114-111, on the road. Griz entered the game with a winning percentage (.258) that was slightly better since the Gasol trade (.256 with Gasol on the floor) *We've been through a lot this year and it's great to see the guys still working hard together,* said Iavaroni, whose starting lineup of Gay, Mike Conley, Mike Miller, Hakim Warrick and Darko Milicic were 7-7. *I think it helps,* Miller said. *Every year is different. But with a young team you have to be able to see what's possible. We've got some guys who are growing up fast.* *What's in our favor is that we play these guys (in the tough West) all of the time,* Gay said. *We know these teams and we learn about ourselves when we face them. We know we can compete with them. It's just a matter of being consistent. Every win helps us for next year. It shows guys we can do different things and that we have something to build on.*/ Wait, you expect these young guys to be together forever? In Memphis? In Memphis, where almost all is screwed up by Grizs front office? And don’t get me started with they-have-a-bright-future-with-great-young-players argument. Come the end of their respective contracts, they will sign as far of Memphis as possible. Noone really wants to play there, thanks to you-know-who.

10 Knicks’ Players* And I.T. The Piston
(*This does not include M. Rose & D. Lee)

All has been written about Knicks. I can’t blog about ‘em, either. Here’s an awesome link about The Knicks Misery:

9 Clippers’ Sexappeal

Pretty sneaky - slipping Elton Brand into the game midway through the first quarter vs. Sonics a day before his scheduled return. EB's first bucket of the season comes on an awkward high S/R with Smush Parker. It’s not the side job we’re used to seeing from Brand, but a drag toward the hole, where Parker finds him before Francisco Elson can. Elton hits a clunky layup falling away - but it’s the most beautiful finish of the season. The second hoop - with only two seconds remaining in the 1st period - is decidedly more Eltonian: He finds a soft spot in the Seattle zone at the FT line, flashes up from the block, and hits the jumper. Brand was slated to play only about five minutes, but he goes 26 minutes: 19 points, 7-15 FG, 5-5 FT, 5 rebounds and a block in a win. How great is it to see Brand at 5:58 in the 4th quarter, setting up at his favorite spot at the left elbow where he shoots his face-up J over Nick Collison to stretch Clipper lead to 11? Or how about a few minutes before that, when he works the high S/R with Parker: He's able to elude Collison on the roll, receive the ball in stride down the lane, then glide for the layup and draw the foul? And do you remember what life is like when you have an actual power forward defending an opposing post player on a pick-and-roll? Elton is clearly rusty. And it’ll probably be a while before he’s able to get the kind of separation and space we’re accustomed to seeing when he bounces off a screen. And he’s not yet getting full elevation on his turnaround jumper, though he finally nailed it over Collison on his third attempt from the same spot off the mid-left post. Overall, though, any fears that the injury would be irreparable to his game have been quelled. Here’s the bad and bad news. EB is out of LAC after the season. Since he’s the only major Clipper who’s got a big time (b-ball) sexappeal, the future looks DARK. However, after all, we’re talkin’ Clips, not clits.

8 Bucks’ Non-existent Franchise Spirit

Without own general manager (Is Bill Simmons that weak sister for Bucks owner? I mean, they’ll come up with Spiderman that saves ‘em.) Larry Krystkowiak looks at it his last days: *Everybody is speculating about the coaches' future but it's not anything that I've given much thought to,* he said. *In the remaining games that we have, I'm just focusing on what I can control. And that's trying to get our team playing a little bit better.* (That team is a total mess, by the way. The players are heartless.) *Beyond that, just waking up and seeing if we can't get better today. Then wake up tomorrow and do it again. When the time comes to discuss all of that other stuff, then we'll cross that bridge.* That bridge might lead to unemployment-zone. Let’s go drink some beers, LK.

7 Bobcats’ Irrelevance

Bobcats and Emeka Okafor are No. 1 and 2 in having shots blocked by others. Okafor's shot was blocked 87 times, second only to the 100 times Al Jefferson has been rejected. Gerald Wallace led the NBA last season in having his shot blocked (114). Blocked shots aren’t the worst, surely, the worst is this - it’s quite puzzling when the biggest news of the whole season regarding Bobs is: ‘Bobcats' arena reportedly to be renamed Time Warner Cable Arena’. At least they got rid of a television contract that limited the team's reach. Another positive news: Bobcats rank 23rd out of 30 NBA teams this season with an average attendance of 14,631 per game. Hey, that’s encouraging! We can only hope (read: Bobs fans, if they do exist) that MJ is going to find a respected and successful coach in the offseason cuz the Sam Vincent Debacle stank to the joint. They have Sean May and ‘Stache Morrison back + another solid lottery prospect next season, so we’ll see...

6 Bulls’ Misery & All

Bulls’ hopelessness and embarrassment is at such a high level that their fans do hallucinate about potential culprits. (Andres Nocioni being a culprit? That gotta be joke.) Like in this Bulls blog: ‘It's all Noc's fault’ /I'm sure this will go over well here, but when I was thinking about Bulls today, it occurred to me that our major problems seemed to start with resigning Nocioni and our solutions probably start with getting rid of him. If they'd simply let Noc go to Memphis, or better yet, managed to get a future pick, they would have: Made finances less of an issue when it comes to re-signing Ben [Gordon] and Lou [Deng], and thus, even if they hadn't signed extensions, there wouldn't be quite the same context there is now (arguing about a rapidly diminishing fund pool when Noc is sitting there with more than he deserves). Our current players aren't morons. I think they saw the bad decisions of the past couple years themselves, saw the implications for themselves, and became distracted. At this point, you've got a situation that's feeding on itself. Everyone looks around and wonders if they're going to be here or even what their role is. That's understandable, but at the same time it has to be distracting, even for players that are pros who work hard. And resigning Nocioni was a big part of that. We paid him way too much and that's figured into everyone else's expectations of what they're worth (if "Noc is worth that much, I must be worth even more") and what's available to go around (everyone knows there's less). Moving him would have forced us to sink or swim with Thabo [Sefolosha] and Tyrus [Thomas]. The prevailing sentiment, I think, is that they would have gotten their feet under them quite a bit earlier, and we might have pulled out of our early season funk. Obviously no sure thing, but still... It would have left enough luxury tax maneuvering room to consider something like the Gasol trade. In short, more flexibility. In short, if we'd simply let Noc walk, or (better yet) managed something like wrangling a conditional pick or young player on a cheap contract (like Kyle Lowry) from Memphis when they wanted Noc, we'd likely be in a better position with respect to this past disaster of a season. Likewise, I think our solutions for the future begin with getting Nocioni off the books.../ Yep, fire Nocioni and Chicago Bulls basketball is back!! As easy as feather.

5 Nets’ Underachievers

New Jersey’s (downright awful) spirit is epitomized by Vince Carter. *Now if we finish off on a positive note we'll be rolling into next year feeling good about what we can do. There are some things we have to do better, of course. But we have some pieces and if we get everybody healthy... it's just a mentality and the way we want to play. They built a way they want to play here. I just want to try and get back to that.* The sigh of the new, improved Carter on the horizon? Can we bet on him (and his teammates) playing up to his (their) par for 82 games? Maybe if Carter was healthy... Maybe if... Carter has shown he still can carry a team. Nets just need him to do it more consistently. [Aaargh!] All I can say I don’t want to watch those underachievers again next season. Do you bet on Carter-leadership?

4 Pacers’ What-if Time

Pacers kept their slim playoff hopes alive, beating Hawks. *I like playing meaningful games and this is as meaningful of a game that we have played all year,* coach Jim O'Brien said. *To a little bit of an extent, it's like the NCAA Tournament. It's one and done. You lose this game and the last four games you're like in the NIT. You don't want to be in the NIT.* (You don’t wanna be a Pacer, either.) Pacers will probably miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season, something they haven't done since Reggie Miller's first two seasons in 1987-88 and '88-89. *We've been watching what Hawks have been doing the last couple of weeks,* Jeff Foster said. *I think everybody was excited after we won in Milwaukee and we had real optimism Saturday, feeling like we were going to make the playoffs. But then Hawks beat Philly on Saturday and it kind of put a damper back on us. We're in a tough situation. We have to win out and have other teams help us.* So why, in the first place, are Pacers in this tough situation? What-if with injuries, what-if with schedule, what-if with everything. What they had to do was be in the first eight, no matter what. Anyway, Pacers can start buying airline tickets to tropical destinations, knowing their vacation starts April 17.

3 Kings’ Playoff Drought

A couple of years back a respected franchise and a perennial title contender with the best fans in the NBA. Arco Arena, the place where no seat is free, both regarding a cost and a fan. It looks the times have changed. Thanks to a never-ending playoff drought, the prices are not so high, one beat writer reported, although Kings fans disagree. ‘Attending a home game doesn't have to break the bank’ /I sat in Arco's upper reaches, where people watching and fan interaction rivaled the entertainment provided by the game between Kings and Timberwolves far below. My date and I paid just over $21 (tickets, two large beers and food) each for our Arco experience. It wasn't a deluxe package and it took some extra planning, but it was a night of NBA basketball. The key was purchasing $10 tickets - yes, they exist - for seats that in some cases are next to ones costing $25.50. Kings reserve 500 $10 tickets for each game. The night of the game, I left an hour before tipoff hoping to find a way to avoid paying Arco's $10 parking fee. That was easier than anticipated because of an empty parking lot. *I'm not against paying for parking, but it helps in this economy,* said one fan. *After seven years of paying for parking in Arco, someone told me about this. I thought I could save a little money. After 40 games, that adds up.* There were easily 30 cars around ours, although the lot still looked empty./ Once an over-expensive place to be, now it’s not more so. The brothers Maloofs had to down the prices because Kings are still not really good. Back in 2002, I thought Kings enthusiastic fans, if they had to, would have bought upper-zone tickets even for $100. Now they whine about $10 tickets. The franchise is down.

2 Trail Blazers’ Bad Timing

The first half of the season, Blazers were kind of miracle. The second half, they were just an afterthought. Really a bad timing, ‘cos this certainly puts a damper on T-Blazers season. Their second-half-season woes were epitomized by Greg Oden attempt to play some ball, obviously against the orders from the coaching staff. Hey, Greg, act like a pro! Be responsible! ‘Greg Oden Plays Basketball’ /[One blogger] I've got some exciting... and somewhat disturbing news. I just got home ... I played in a pickup game with Greg Oden. He played two games and obviously he dominated. The good news, Greg looks great. He had at least 8-10 dunks. A couple of them were coast to coast, one was a putback, and the rest were all low-post two handers. He also blocked a number of shots. Basically he looks like the Greg of old. Honestly, I was a little concerned when his friends convinced him to play. Images of Greg hurting himself in a meaningless pickup game swirled through my head, but I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't thrilled to play with him. Anyway, just thought you guys would like to hear about it./ *I know he is excited to be moving again, but as I talked to him about it, he said 'Coach, I promise I wasn't running hard...'. And I was like - 'I really don't care',* coach Nate' McMillan said. *The thing is, we were surprised. So we let him know that he doesn't need to be there. We have plenty of workout equipment and gym space at our facility. Young guys,* McMillan said shaking his head, *don't know their value. That's part of growing up and maturing. In a couple of years he will understand how stupid that was. I understand it, because I've done it. You are a pro, you want to walk into a building like that and feel good about yourself, you know, play with some guys. You don't move hard, you know, just shoot some jump shots ... yeah, I've done it. But we just have to remind him, especially in his situation, where he is coming off an injury. That... that, you just can't do that.'* Otherwise, Blazers days look SUNNY.

1 Either Warriors’ Or Nuggets’ Pipe Dream

While these two are one of the most exciting teams in the league, winning a championship with their strategy is impossible. Be it Denver or GS in the playoffs, I doesn’t really care. Neither will win it all. One crazy team in the playoffs is just enough. However, their today’s game gonna be interesting, though. Here’s some up to date news:
‘Nuggets, Warriors still tied after both teams win’ /The showdown is set. Nuggets and Warriors both took care of business Tuesday night. They meet Thursday in Golden State, with the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff berth likely on the line. Nuggets and Warriors are both 47-31. Denver already has won the season tiebreaker, meaning Golden State must finish at least one game ahead to beat out the Nuggets. Overall, the news Tuesday for the Nuggets wasn't ideal. Utah won at New Orleans to clinch its second straight Northwest Division title. And Dallas (49-29) beat Seattle at home to maintain a two-game lead over Nuggets and Warriors for the No. 7 spot. Carmelo Anthony has averaged 40.3 the past three games. *We took it upon ourselves to play solid defense,* Camby said. *Giving up 150 points to a Seattle team (in Sunday's 151-147 double-overtime loss) didn't sit too well for us. It definitely didn't sit too well with me. I didn't sleep too well the past two nights.* *If you ain't excited about playing this type of game Thursday and the one Saturday, then you don't like playing basketball,* said Anthony, also speaking of game at Utah. Anthony called Thursday a "must win", which means Utah game could be diminished if the Nuggets don't win. Before the game, Karl was asked if he could believe his team is on the verge of winning 50 games and fighting just to make the playoffs. *We'd have taken 46-31, coach George Karl said of if that record had been offered to Nuggets before the season.*We'd have bought that.* The NBA record for most wins without reaching the playoffs is 49-33 by Phoenix in 1971-72. Nuggets and Warriors are two shy, with one in line to stay home. *It's a big game,* Camby said. *That's why it's on TV (TNT) and at 5 o'clock (Pacific).*/ My prediction: GSW goes in, lose 1-4 in the first round vs. NOH.

p.s.: *I feel great,* said Tim Duncan after Spurs defeated Portland on Sunday despite producing their second-lowest point total of the season less than 48 hours after producing the lowest point total in franchise history. *We may win the championship. We may not. And life will go on, either way. But we'll give it our best shot, and so are the other seven teams that are going to be in the playoffs, and all of them are just as good as we are. I don't think there's anybody that has anything over anybody else. I honestly don't. It's just going to be who can play the best over a seven-game series, and usually, the best team wins. Almost always, the best team will win a seven-game series and that will tell the tale.*

Posted by Foreigner in CS - Apr 10 2008 8:15PM

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