Monday, March 29, 2010

March Madness Thoughts

No, I'm not dead and this blog is still (theoretically) alive. In the past week and a half, I was traveling, then working on a long, rambling post that I'm still not done with, then getting sick, then being way too busy, and trying to find time to watch some of the tournament in between all of that (and having an alleged life away from the internet). I should have the aforesaid long, rambling essay up by Wednesday, and regular posting after that.

Anyway, while I was watching the Kentucky-West Virginia game, one of the announcers mentioned that when WVU guard Joe Mazzulla was asked who Kentucky reminded him of, he answered "Golden State". After watching that game, I could see why. Loads of talent (which is what the announcers took him to mean) and no idea how to play cohesively. Even though any NBA team should waltz through this tourney, I think Golden State would have the "best" chance of losing to a college team if such a matchup took place, due to apathy, lack of defense, and crappy big men.

Another Tournament's funny going to Draft Express and seeing Givony shoot down people who see some 6'1 shooting guard put up 25 against some sixth seed or something and think "1st Round Pick". If anything, I have the opposite problem. I'm watching these games thinking "There is no way Devin Ebanks is an NBA player" or "If Cole Aldrich can't stop Jordan Eglseder's midrange game, is he really much more than Erick Dampier with better footwork*"?

*To be fair, that's still a good player.

Anyway, my point is that the only player I've seen this month that may be undertouted (in the random assortment of games I've seen) was a 6'8 center from a mid-major that lost its conference championship game and didn't make the tournament. I'm convinced that if he were two inches taller, Kenneth Faried would be a lottery pick. I know it's Morehead State, but he's a rebounding monster (which translates very well), seemed to have NBA-level athleticism from what I saw, and I think he has the defensive chops to guard most NBA power forwards. His offensive game is very raw (he showed some good instincts but his ballhandling and perimeter game are sorely lacking) and there is a chance that he'll simply be overpowered in the NBA, but I think he'll be remembered as one of the steals of the draft (assuming he comes out).

Also, if I had a time machine, I would seriously consider kidnapping Jimmer Fredette and forcing him to play in the ABA. I don't know if he can make it in the NBA as anything other than Craig Hodges 2.0, but damn, he would have been fun raining threes, beating slower players down the floor, and flashing those acrobatic finishes in the ABA. Can you imagine Fredette running point for the 76 Nuggets (David Thompson-Dan Issel-Bobby Jones)? Oh well.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Shallow Thought Of The Day, Vol VI

Since February 1, Vince Carter is shooting .515/.489/.826 (in 22 games). He is averaging 19 points a game with 3.4 assists and only 1.4 turnovers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All-Lucky Bastards Team

Context matters. It is easier to look good as a role player on a good team than as a focal point on a bad team. Just ask Courtney Lee. But "context" goes beyond that; whether you play with a great point guard, whether you have good coaching, and whether you are a good "fit" for your team. With that in mind, this is the All-Lucky Bastards Team, for those players who ended up in the perfect situations. That is not to say that these players weren't good-they were-but they were placed in a setting that maximized their talents.

C: Arnie Risen. Who? One of pro basketball's earliest stars, the 6'9 center played for the Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics from 1949 through 1958. In the pre shot clock era, averaging 16 points a game (which he did three times) was considered impressive, and he was a very good rebounder, which was enough to get him elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998. Why was he lucky? As will become a theme, Risen played with the best point guard of his era (Bob Davies) on a team with the best backcourt of its era (Davies-Wanzer then Cousy-Sharman). In the days when the center was the most important player on the team and guards settled for chucking twenty five footers most of the time, having skilled guards that could break down a defense undoubtedly helped Risen. As well, Risen (like most of the players of his era) was fortunate to play when he did, dodging the Russell-Wilt "leap" in competition by being a part of the Celtics when Russell was drafted and retiring before the other outstanding centers of the sixties entered the league. His late career move to Boston undoubtedly helped his HOF chances, giving him three championships (with two franchises).

PF: Tom Heinsohn. Heinsohn was a power forward with a pretty, if inefficient, outside shot that he could get off against anybody at anytime. He wasn't great at rebounding or playing defense, so it would be nice if he landed on a team with a big man who could cover him in those areas, while tipping some of his misses back in. And it wouldn't hurt if said big man couldn't create his own shot, so the team would genuinely need Heinsohn to create shots. And, as long as we're asking, it wouldn't hurt for Heinsohn to play with the best passer in the history of the game (up until that point) and the best coaching staff in the game. The luckiest bastards of the lucky bastards, Heinsohn spent his whole career with an all time great team that used his skill set perfectly.

SF: James Worthy. If there was ever a perfect fit between player and system, it was James Worthy and Showtime. With his speed, athleticism, and dunks, Worthy was deadly in transition. (Being fed the ball by Magic Johnson didn't hurt, either.) He wasn't as good creating shots in the half court and wasn't a great defensive player, but those (relative) weaknesses didn't matter on those Lakers. "Big Game James" was a very good player no matter what, but how would he be remembered if he was forced to be the #1 option on a conventional team? Luckily, we never had to find out.

SG: Bill Bradley. Really more of a three, but he played shooting guard some of the time. Bradley was a great college player, which wasn't "luck", but he was drafted by the Knicks, and spent his prime playing on the Frazier-Reed team that won two championships. Bradley fit in very well with those Knicks. He was a decent scorer, especially as a third or fourth option, but his real contributions came as a passer, defender, and "glue guy" for a well publicized great team. His academic credentials and college stardom cemented his reputation as a "heady" player, which combined with his college stats, got him into the Hall of Fame in 1983. What would have happened if he hadn't been drafted by an excellent team? It's tough to know, but glue guys on bad teams aren't celebrated nearly as much.

PG: Tony Parker. Parker is a very good player that fell into a great situation. A very fast shoot first point guard without a good outside shot, Parker landed on an excellent team that needed him to shoot, had stars that didn't mind having a shoot first point guard, surrounded him with good three point shooters that he could kick the ball to (Ginobili, Barry, Bowen, etc), and could cover for his defensive shortcomings. All of these factors, plus a great coaching staff that helped Parker acclimate quickly when he came over from Europe at 19, allowed Parker to do what he does best-get into the lane and score-without his limitations slowing him down. The result? Three championships.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Historical Doppelgangers

It's time to play...Name Those Players! Both players are 7 foot "true" centers who were drafted in the top ten.

Player 12532.516.
Player 22531.717.

Player 1? Andrew Bogut's 2009-10 season, which has been a "breakout" season for him.
Player 2? Robert Parish's 1978-79 season, which was the closest match (among centers aged 24-26) that I could find for Bogut's 2009-10. Parish would peak two years later, in 1981 for Boston, and famously play for a very, very long time. I do not expect Bogut to play for as long as Parish, but it has to be encouraging for the Bucks that he is playing at the same level as the Hall of Famer at this point in his career.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Ballad Of Alex Groza

There was a man from Martins Ferry
A basketball team he could carry
With the shots he put up
For Coach Adolph Rupp
But of gamblers he should have been wary

There was a team from Kentucky
That for a time was quite lucky
With Groza and Beard
Everywhere were they feared
Back to back gonfalon, ducky

On the horizon danger was lurking
Scoundrels and thieves had been working
To give games away
Trading pride for pay
In the final seconds not “Dirking”

There was a league called the NBA
Where Groza and Beard went to play
Second in scoring
Percentages soaring
Better than Mikan or Schayes, I say

But the scandal came tumbling down
And the news spread all over town
Like Mountain Landis
Mo was merciless
And to exile Groza was bound

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Centers Don't Fear The Ramsay

The Portland Trailblazers' difficulties with keeping their big men healthy in the 70s and 80s has not gone undocumented, so I'll spare you the 857th recap of the Walton/Bowie disaster. What I hadn't realized before was that almost no center stayed healthy and good beyond his years playing for Jack Ramsay. This goes from the cases like Darrall Imhoff and Tom Owens*-journeymen who spent what would be the end of their career playing for Ramsay's teams to Steve Stipanovich, who retired at age 27 with a mysterious knee injury after missing 7 games in his entire 5 year career. It includes Bob Rule, who was injured when Ramsay's Sixers picked him up, and it includes Bob McAdoo, who averaged 78 games during 4 years for Ramsay, and reached that total only once again.
*Who has a weird career arc-he was a decent young center in the ABA, went to Houston and barely played after the merger, peaked at the age of 29 with the Blazers, and was washed up a few years later.

In the final tally, we have centers who were injured or declined precipitously A.R. (after Ramsay): Bob McAdoo, Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Steve Stipanovich, Bob Rule, Tom Owens, Darrall Imhoff.
Centers who were fine A.R.: Mychal Thompson (who declined statistically, but stayed healthy and was a key part of some pretty good Lakers teams.

The Curse of...Any sports coincidence must be the result of some sort of curse, so...Ramsay became the Sixers coach the year after they traded Wilt to the Lakers and thereafter (almost) no center was the same after leaving Ramsay. So can we say that Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Bob McAdoo, Steve Stipanovich, etc fell victim to the Curse Of Wilt?