Thursday, February 9, 2006

Even billionaires (like Mark Cuban) can’t afford enemies

Filed under: Basketball — Tom Pittman @ 4:27 pm

Cuban, unless he wises up, is going to be one of those guys who the whole league loves to see down when he is down.

The Dallas Mavericks are playing excellent ball, and what is more they are fun to watch play. Coach Avery Johnson finally brought a little D to the “Big D.”

Too bad their owner, Mark Cuban, who I normally really like a lot, has opted to act like such a jerk during the streak. It takes away from the enjoyment of the Mav’s success.

“I own Phil Jackson,” crowed Cuban in his blog. “Not literally of course. That thrill belongs to the smartest businesswoman in professional sports, Jeannie Buss. Figuratively however, the coach formerly known as the Zen Master must now be considered my bucket boy.”

Nothing makes a would-be winner more low-class like taunting and crowing. Just as Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Larry Brown aren’t atop the league anymore, the Mavs will someday be rebuilding as well. The difference is that Jackson, Riley and Brown were more or less gracious winners. Cuban, unless he wises up, is going to be one of those guys who the whole league loves to see down when he is down.

Hey, Mark, why not show a little graciousness and class? If they can afford it, certainly you can too.

I’ve lived long enough now to realize that friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.



Sunday, February 5, 2006

Boxscore Bloggers

Filed under: Basketball — Tom Pittman @ 10:58 pm

You gotta love all these BOXSCORE BLOGGERS and their “expert” opinions. Analyzing a basketball game from a statistical box score and highlight clips is like saying you know a girl because you’ve read her measurements and saw her dating video. Can you say s-h-a-l-l-o-w?

I’m not saying that box score bloggers shouldn’t write; I’ve spotted things of value from many of their blogs. And I’m certainly not saying that stats and highlights don’t have their value because they do. But too many boxscore bloggers are like cement: all mixed up and permanently set. Don’t let that be you.

Say the world’s foremost authority on vision were to lecture at a university near you. You attend the lecture, take copious notes and he just blows you away with what he knows. After the lecture you go to shake his hand and thank him, and discover to your astonishment that the lecturer is blind and has been since birth. How much does he REALLY know about sight?

I don’t care how smart you think you are (or that you slept in a Holiday Inn last night), if you haven’t seen the game, admit your limitations — both to yourself and to your readers. You have analyzed data, that is all, not the game. That is an important difference. A medical chart isn’t the patient, it is just data that can help you understand the patient. Before you can definitively diagnose the patient’s condition, ultimately, you have to see the patient.

Case in point: Kobe Bryant’s 81 point game against the Toronto Raptors. If you cannot get your hands on a recording of this game, then at least watch a Lakers game to see how they play together.

Boxscore Bloggers have been looking at the shot attempts and calling Kobe a ball hog.

Watch the game, however, and you see that nearly every possession has multiple Laker fingerprints on the ball. Also, when you watch the game you see that the other Lakers are LOOKING for Kobe and they get him the ball. Why are the Lakers deferring to Kobe for the shots? Because they want to win the game! You do the math:

— Lamar Odom: 1 out of 7
— Kawame Brown: 1 out of 5
— Devean George: 0 out of 4
— Sasha Vujacic: 1 out of 5
— Luke Walton: 0 out of 1

If you want to win a game, where should the shots come from? The 5 guys shooting a combined 13.6 percent? Or the guy shooting 61 percent?

Teams admit all the time that their strategy against the Lakers is to stifle the supporting cast and make Kobe beat them. The Raptors forced the Lakers to make Kobe beat them, and after the Lakers struggled for most of the game, well, Kobe decided to do just that.

Watching the game though, no one could get the impression that Kobe was a selfish player “determined to get his shots.” In fact, the whole history making thing really snuck up on you.

Down by an embarrassing 18 points in the third quarter at home to the team with the third worst record in the NBA, Kobe got frustrated and decided to take over. Two thirds of his shots came in the second half. All of his points were needed to win the game, and it is CERTAIN the Lakers would not have won if Kobe hadn’t played.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that I haven’t seen Kobe on other occasions play very selfishly, force shots, etc. This isn’t really a commentary on Kobe Bryant: this is a commentary on how box scores don’t really tell the whole story.

The bottom line is if a girl’s measurements and her dating video is all you need to go off of, that is your prerogative. However, don’t be angry at us when we read your blogs, groan, and think of you as shallow.

I’d rather have Kobe for a teammate than Shaq

Filed under: Basketball,NBA — Tom Pittman @ 6:19 pm

I don’t know if we are all too young to remember or too old to have reliable memories, but before Kobe was the player we all loved to hate, there was another young player who scored most of his team’s points, didn’t get along with his all-star teammate, dismantled a championship-caliber team, and got his coach dismissed in the process: Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq and Kobe

Shaq didn’t get along with Penny Hardaway in Orlando then went to Los Angeles to not get along with Kobe Bryant. (Can you say, “Common Denominator?”) In so doing, Shaq ditched a team that had just won their division twice in a row, been to the Eastern Conference Finals twice in a row, and had been to the NBA Finals. Why? According to Shaq himself, he bolted for Hollywood to help his rap and movie career. (Can you say, “Ron Artest?”) Soon after, coach Brian Hill was let go and the Magic have never been the same since.

But look at the bright side, Orlando Magic fans: you may have lost a championship contending team for the next 12 years at least, but at you’ll have “Kazaam” and “Blue Chips” on DVD forever.

When Shaq joined the league, he seemed more into breaking backboards than anything else. He was definitely more about fun than winning. We all were grateful when he “developed” a jump hook from six feet out. When you add that to his other move: bump the defender out of the way with your massive body and dunk, his two-dimensional offensive repertoire was enough to make him unstoppable, so he stopped developing new shots. That’s too bad; I’ve coached many 14 year old kids that shoot free throws better than this “professional” basketball player.

Because of Shaq’s unwillingness to work on his game and grow as a player, you can’t even have him in the game at crunch time ’cause “Hack a Shaq” is so effective it is a league wide strategy in close games. A superstar you can’t count on in close games?! Contrast that to Kobe Bryant at the end of close games. Kobe is the one guy you most want in the game and with the ball in the closing moments when the game is on the line.

I admired Shaq a great deal for deferring to Phil Jackson when Jackson took over the Lakers, but I credit Shaq’s momentary maturity to Phil’s ability to get egomaniacs to play together. I say momentary maturity because it took Pat Riley and Bill Russell double teaming Shaq to get him to set aside his animosity (publicly at least) with Kobe. Again, many 14 year olds know better and you would hope a professional would act, well, professionally.

That’s not to say that Kobe doesn’t have his downside, but it’s not like this site needs more “ink” exposing Kobe’s faults. It is done ad nauseam.

By the way, I don’t buy the “Kobe dismantled the Lakers” hype anyway. Of the two superstars, Shaq has lost more than most people care to admit (especially Shaq), and Kobe had yet to peak. Re-signing Kobe was the right first priority for the Lakers at that time; it’s a shame Shaq wasn’t mature enough to defer to Kobe as Kobe did to Shaq when Shaq was at the top of his game.

But even if it was true that Kobe dismantled the Lakers, at least Kobe stuck around to deal with the fallout. Shaq left plenty of scorched earth in Orlando and left for Hollywood. Then Shaq ran again for greener pastures when the going got tough in Los Angeles.

Shaq is a big kid, and like most kids, he doesn’t want to work and he wants things HIS way. Even now, you get the sense that Shaq rather lose games than lose weight.

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