Sunday, December 17, 2006

But Don’t We Pay Them To Be Jerks?

Filed under: Basketball,NBA — Tom Pittman @ 1:22 am

On the bright side, at least the brawl between the Nuggets and the Knicks has us talking about something other than Iverson.

I’m sure you have probably noticed that the NBA has been diseased for awhile now.

Nuggets Knicks hard foulThe NBA is infected with an increasing number of people whoare so repugnant that most of us would hate to have to deal with their egos and selfishness in our personal, everyday lives, but because we don’t have to, and because their physical gifts help our beloved teams, these goons are instead adored.

To be sure, there still are some classy people in the NBA who are both good players and good men, but like a cancer growing in an otherwise healthy body, the good players who aren’t also good people are weakening the league, and it is beginning to succumb.

I feel for David Stern on this one; it is a hard nut to crack.

Most businesses don’t want to hire arrogant, self-centered jerks and then lean on them to be nice, they would rather just hire nice people. Unfortunately for professional sports, they have to hire these donkeys, and then hire coaches who not only know the game, but who might also know ways to keep these “heroes” from poisoning their own teams.

But just as the cold tablet that makes our sniffles go away for a time does nothing to cure the actual virus making us sick, the symptomatic treatments the NBA has been applying, such as dress codes and cracking down on poor sportsmanship, are not curing the problem.

A Neanderthal with a tie is still a Neanderthal.

These players are not gentlemen. They are not sportsmen. They are not role models. They are in some cases the lesser element of society who we’ve made rich, pampered, and egotistical because they have athletic gifts. It takes desire, determination and diligence to be a good person — just as it does to be a good player. Unfortunately for their spouses, children, and fans, many players put much more work into being a good player than a good person.

Choirboy Steve Nash is verbally abusive to a rookie reporter, but he is okay in our book because he can pass. Dirk Nowitzki slaps towels to the floor out of the hands of ball boys and treats them like worms, but we cheer him because he is a 7 footer that can shoot 3 pointers. And if Carmelo Anthony can lead Team U.S.A. to an Olympic Gold Medal, how many of us Americans are willing to overlook the fact that after the brawling had subsided, Carmelo Anthony broke away to sucker punch Mandy Collins in the face? Hmm… Hey, Melo, whatever happened to “B MORE?!”

As fans, we’ve decided not see what jerks our favorite players are. So long as they play well for us, we’re fine with that. On the other hand, we have also reserved the right be appalled when we can’t help but see what jerks they are. Until then, we will cheer them, pay to see them, and pay to own their jerseys and sneakers, and beat up total strangers in blogs defending them. That being the case, why should they change?

The NBA is rotting from the inside out. We are all witnesses — and accomplices.


Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Hey, Whiners: Crying is not Passion!

Filed under: Basketball,NBA,News,Philosophy — Tom Pittman @ 8:12 pm

After the Pistons’ loss to Utah, Saunders paraded his ineptitude before the press as he whined about technical fouls.

“My comment is that we might as well play ‘PlayStation’ if we are going to take the emotion out of it,” Saunders said.

Boo hoo. Could someone bring poor Flip a clean diaper? Flip

Anyone who says T-ing up crybabies is taking the passion out of basketball needs to quit embarrassing himself and watch more college basketball — especially in March. Do those teams (whose league doesn’t tolerate whining) seem to lack passion?

Because I like the Pistons, I was pulling for Flip Saunders as their coach, but now I think I understand why the Minnesota Timberwolves choked in every playoffs but one when he coached them. I used to think that Kevin Garnett didn’t have the right players around him, but now I wonder if it isn’t because Flip Saunders lacks championship mettle.

As we all know (I hope), coaching plays a far bigger role in the playoffs than the regular season. Because a team plays the same team several times in a row in the playoffs, there is very in depth analysis and adjustments that need to be made to get by a team.

It takes much more than a good game plan to win though, it takes execution. And execution requires focus (through distraction) and mental toughness (through adversity), and clearly Flip Saunders and too many other NBA professionals have neither.

Thanks to our 65″ high definition television, the multiple angles the TV broadcasts often gives us, and a DVR that lets me skip back and step forward at excruciatingly slow motion, I can say with confidence that the refs certainly do miss calls, but they don’t miss as nearly many calls as get complained about by NBA players and coaches. Time after time reviews show coaches and players complaining about the right call.

However, speaking of the big picture, it doesn’t matter if a call was right or wrong though.

Those of us without multimillion dollar shoe deals have been taught by life that it isn’t always fair. When injustices happen, and they always will, the winners in life shake it off and persevere despite the setback, while the losers wear their excuses like bumper stickers on a totaled, junk yard Lexus.

Once upon a time people used to joke that the NBA stood for “No Babies Allowed.” Now it must stand for “Nancy Boy Actors.” And overpaid ones at that. These guys are far too used to the delicate handling society gives celebrities, to the point that they demand it on the hardwood as well. This disconnection with the real world is embarrassing them and the league.

The NBA’s crackdown on crybabies is LOOOONG overdue. Just like the hand checking rule when it was new, the teams that care most about winning will quickly adjust, while the others just end up showing the world their lack of championship mojo by resisting the new reality.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Why Steve Nash is NOT the NBA’s MVP

Filed under: Basketball,NBA — Tom Pittman @ 4:31 am

Thanks to Dish Network and NBA League Pass, I get to watch a LOT of basketball. The Suns and the Lakers are two of the teams I’ve tracked all season. Both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash tend to dominate the ball, with Kobe usually looking to score and Steve usually looking to pass.I like Steve Nash. Not only is Stevie one of my favorite players in the league, but he is one of my favorite people in all professional sports. How I wish more athletes had his character!

But tell me, what is the difference between most of a team’s points coming from one player (like Kobe Bryant), and most of a team’s assists coming from one player … like Steve Nash?

And tell me, what is harder to do: pass the ball to any one of 7 teammates who are all having a career best years? Or score against defenses that focus on you as the only player they regard as a real threat?Kobe dunks on Nash

And for all the good Nash does on one end of the floor, he pretty much gives half of it back with his token defense. Most offensive players use Nash like a rental car, although Nash really is a first class flopper.

Nevermind the debate about what refs did or didn’t call, and Nash losing the ball twice at critical times in Game 4 of the Suns’ first round series against the Lakers … before any of that happened, Laker Smush Parker shot his clutch 3 pointer over Steve Nash near the end of regulation like he wasn’t there. Had Nash defended Parker, the other two later incidents would not have mattered.

How can a player seriously be considered as THE most valuable player in the NBA who is only good on one end of the floor? That is not a valuable player, that is a valuable HALF a player!

You know what’s most valuable to championship basketball? Defense. Just look at the Pistons and the Spurs! One dimensional basketball couldn’t get Steve Nash’s Dallas Mavericks a championship, and it won’t get the Phoenix Suns one either.

Steve Nash is without question my favorite point guard in the league, but he is just not the league’s most valuable player.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Mark Cuban does a poor Gandhi impersonation

Filed under: Basketball — Tom Pittman @ 4:30 pm

In Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban’s latest blog, Some Thoughts on the NBA, he wrote, “I’m a purist. The rules is the rules. I don’t care if you call it on us. “That would be a little easier to believe if we hadn’t watched Cuban’s jubilation at and after the three point contest. Dirk Nowitski should not have even advanced to the second round much less won the three point shootout, had the officials done their job as Mark Cuban claims he wants them to.

Since we haven’t read that he has sent tapes to the league office about it, forgive us for concluding that the only time he wants officiating to be spot on is when it is to his advantage.

Of course, it would be blatantly self-serving Cuban to claim that the time really didn’t matter. If it doesn’t matter that the time ran out when Dirk’s last two points of the first round were still in his hand, then why even time the three point shootout at all? Why not just let them launch five racks of balls and see how they do? Obviously, the timer is a big part of the three point competition.

Despite the articulate overtures of noble purity, Mark Cuban’s actions — and inactions — speak so loudly that it can be hard to hear what he says.

Want to leave a noble legacy? Why not redirect the considerable intelligence and financial resources from reforming officiating and put it into something meaningful like reforming the injustices of our legal system?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that NBA officiating is in need of a LOT reforming, it is just too much of a stretch to believe Mark Cuban champions reform from a non-partisan position.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Could what is wrong with the Knicks be what is right with the Pistons?

Filed under: Basketball — Tom Pittman @ 4:34 pm

If you want to see a very thought provoking article on why the Pistons are so good and the Knicks are so bad, check out this aritcle on Thomas vs. Dumars. It takes the teams that former teammates Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars built, and discusses how each of their teams are created in the image of their creator.This article makes me think about the job Jerry West did for the Lakers and how the Grizzlies have done since he went there, and how the former Phoenix Suns GM, Bryan Colangelo, might affect Toronto.

Maybe what Kobe needs most in L.A. is Jerry Krause! 🙂


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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