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Monday, July 04, 2011

Summer Signings, Round 1

In lieu of having any NBA transactions to talk about, we'll look at the world at large instead.




Of all the players to have finished last season on an NBA roster, six have already signed abroad. One of the first to go was Mustaka Shakur, who started the year with the New Orleans Hornets and ended it with the Washington Wizards. For whatever reason, the Wizards did not offer him a qualifying offer, seemingly moving on from Shakur's prolonged tryout. He thus moved to France to sign with Pau Orthez, the fallen giant who continue to rebuild.

Also signing in France was Hilton Armstrong, a somewhat forgettable inclusion in the Kirk Hinrich trade whose NBA days might now be numbered. In five years of trying, Armstrong has never demonstrated much NBA talent outside of having a long neck; given that he spent much of those five years in the New Orleans Hornets rotation, he can't lament not being given an opportunity.

When he signed with the Wizards, Armstrong said he wanted to be a starter. He may now be one, but it'll be in France.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

What Happened Prior to July 1st Other Than A Bunch Of Ultimately Unproductive CBA Negotiations

Even though a lockout is upon us, one which might last us through until the very end of existence in late 2012, there's still some bookkeeping to be done. July 1st is (or should be) the date on which one season ends and the next one begins, and thus June 30th is an important cut-off date for certain transactions.

Players with player or early termination options had to decide if they were coming back; the few players with team options awaited an uncertain future; players eligible for QO's had to see if they got them. We also had the added bonus of 2012/13 team options for rookie scale contracts being decided considerably earlier than usual - after all, when the usual end of October deadline comes around, the lockout may still be going on.

All the results are in now, however, and there follows a list of who did what before July 1st.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

2011 NBA Draft Diary

David Stern and Billy Hunter drive towards a cliff. Hand down, man down.

After one of the best seasons ever comes one of the worst drafts ever. With the NBA riding a wave of talent, a draft comes along that sees not a lot more talent being added. There's no getting around the fact that, relative to years past, the talent level of this draft is not very good.

There's also no getting around the fact that this is the last dollop of NBA we are going to see for a while. There's going to be a lockout starting in nine days time; after today, everything is into the realms of the unknown. That fact will make this draft the last NBA action in the foreseeable future. It also will make children cry. This is what they want. They want your children to cry.

The former of these things makes the draft a bit of a downer. But the latter of these things actually makes it more exciting. When you can only get one more taste of something before it is taken away from you forever, then you're going to enjoy that final thing. This is the reason behind Death Row last meals, and was also a key philosophical plot vehicle within the seminally dreadful movie, Thelma And Louise. With the impending stench of bureaucratic disappointment blowing gustily in our face, dammit, we're going out in style.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Power forwards

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


Enes Kanter - There is very little to know about Enes Kanter, for the man has played very little.

In the 2008-09 season, aged only 16, Kanter made some infrequent appearances in the Fenerbahce first time, appearing in spot minutes of 9 games. That summer, he appeared at the under-18 European Championships, and absolutely tore them up, averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds in only 28.4 minutes per game. This is especially impressive considering that, in one game, Kanter recorded only 2 points and 1 rebound. The previous summer, Kanter had averaged 22.9 points and 16.5 rebounds per game at the Under-16 championships, on yet more dangerously efficient shooting. And then came the whole Kentucky debacle.

Because of the Kentucky debacle, Kanter has played nothing but practice and at the high school level since those championships. He dominated in those championships as a man amongst boys, which is fine, but it does raise concerns about what he's like as a man amongst men. Without much to go on other than some tape, it is hard to answer. But the tapes are highly favourable.


By all accounts, he is really very good. I am not about to dispute that.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Small forwards

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


Derrick Williams's underarm hair.


Derrick Williams - From a barely recruited forgettable college prospect to one of of the best current NBA prospects in only two short years, Williams has had quite the stretch, And he has the potential for more.

Williams is a combo and/or positionless forward with good small forward size (6'8), a tweener's game, yet terrific athleticism. He is strong, big enough, runs the court, creates in the post, creates off the dribble, can shoot from mid-range, can shoot from three, has good hands, can pass (although he should do it more), rebounds in big numbers, defend the post, and defend the perimeter. He is unfathomably productive, averaging 19/8 in only 29 minutes, with a PER of 32.5 and a true shooting percentage of over 70%. He even shot 57% from three. Williams does a bit of everything to startling efficient levels, and nothing about his physical profile says that it won't translate.

The current rumour state that Minnesota - a team who either place absolutely no value on holding their cards close to their chest, or who have laid the most intricate series of double bluffs in modern history - are threatening to take Enes Kanter at #2 instead of Williams, the assumed logical candidate. This is unless they can trade the pick, which they have been remarkably up front about doing. The latest rumour seems them trying (and maybe yet succeeding) to trade the #2 to Atlanta in exchange for Josh Smith. I can get on board with a trading of the pick (and, by proxy, Williams), but not necessarily in that deal.

Because Williams may yet become the equal of Josh Smith.

So stick with the younger, cheaper guy.

And stop making a playoff push when you've just won 17 games.

If a lack of quality veterans is the problem, it's the Lazar Hayward types that need to be changed.

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Shooting Guards

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


I want to see this afro grown out, Marshon. It has as much upside as you do.


Marshon Brooks - Brooks was the second highest scorer in the nation, although this was largely ignored until a 52 point outburst against Notre Dame (in a game that his Providence team still lost). That, the subsequent scrutiny, and the final workout cycle, has seem his stock continue to grow.

It is self-evident that Brooks is a highly talented scorer, although he is not flawless. Brooks's 24.6 points per game came on a very tidy 48.3% shooting, but the pace of play that the Friars played was a factor in that, and that pace also biases his 7.0 rebounds per game average. He's mainly a scorer from the mid-range area (mainly via pull-ups or turnaround jumpers) and the free throw line (due to his aggression), as even though he takes more than six three pointers per game, he is not especially good at them right now, hitting only 34% of them. Brooks can defend with the best of them when he wants to, as evidenced by his 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game averages, but he doesn't always want to, only sometimes applying himself in that end. And the common theme amongst all this is discipline - Brooks takes bad shots, makes bad decisions, doesn't always play hard, complains, and gives sometimes intermittent defensive effort.

Nevertheless, an apologist could blame that on the wider struggles and ill-discipline of the rest of his team, and the apologist may well be right. You could say that Brooks was emblematic of the team's chucking, defensively-disinterested ways, or you could say he was held back by them and a coaching staff that didn't instill enough discipline. Whichever it is, Marshon has enough size and athleticism for the pro game, and he has the best statline of the class. And the flaws behind the production don't disguise quite how much of it there is - in addition to the rebounding, defense and scoring efficiency, Brooks is the second leading scorer in the nation. From the Big East, no less. He's a talent.

[Brooks also has the occasional desire to post up from 23 feet away. Shades of Rodney Green. Like it.]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Point guards

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


You'd look happy if you were about to go first overall, too.


Kyrie Irving - Irving is this draft's most complete player, which is why he will inevitably be the first overall pick. His Duke career didn't last very long - Irving played the first eight games of the campaign, before suffering a broken foot that would normally have led to a medical redshirt. However, be it due to "heart," or an implicit acknowledgement that this was always going to be his only college season - or both - Irving came back ahead of schedule and made it back in time for the NCAA tournament.

Irving's season averages are not overwhelmingly dominating - 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.5 turnovers and 1.5 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. They are certainly impressive, though, and none is more impressive than his sheer efficiency. Irving shot 53% from the field, 90% from the line and 46% from three point range, and while much of his time was spent against non-conference opposition, it was against some damn good non-conference opposition.

In the 11 games Irving played as a Dukie, only four games were cakewalks; Hampton, Colgate, Oregon, and Miami Ohio. The rest of his games came against Princeton (a tournament team, if not on the level of others), Butler, Michigan State, Michigan, Arizona, Marquette and Kansas State. This meant matchups against decent-to-good defenders such as Shawn Vanzant, Shelvin Mack, Jacob Pullen, Darius Morris, Kalin Lucas, Keith Appling, Doug Davis and Momo Jones, amongst others. And yet in those seven games, Irving averaged 19.4 points, 4,7 assists and 1.6 steals on 51% shooting.

A point guard with adequate size, good speed, a 70% true shooting percentage and a 36.2 PER ticks every box. Irving handles, run the offense, defends well, takes only good shots, sets up, creates, scores in the clutch, shoots, drives and leads. He is miles and miles ahead of the curve, even if average size and physical tools supposedly limit his upside. (And they haven't for Chris Paul.) It matters not if he is better as a scorer than a passer - Irving reads the game like a point guard, and makes only good decisions. If there are any flaws, they have not been exposed yet.

But what will be exposed, allegedly, is Kyrie Irving exposed. Another year, another NBA genitals drama.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sham's unnecessarily great big draft board: Centres

(Listed in no order other than the order they were thought of.)


Any time you watch a game with Jonas Valanciunas in, randomly pause
the live action, and I guarantee he will be making this face.


Jonas Valanciunas - Valanciunas was a big minute player in the Euroleague aged only 18. You just don't do that in the Euroleague, unless you're Ricky Rubio.

Right now, he compares somewhat to Joel Przybilla if Joel Przybilla had any offensive finesse. Valanciunas runs the pick and roll to a Lithuanian standard, is smooth, polished, controlled, never rushed, and highly poised, with good touch around the basket and a very nice free throw stroke. He does not shoot jumpers yet, but he's such a quick learner and such a good foul shooter (89% in the Euroleague, 125-158 and 79% across all competitions) that it won't take long. He is an extremely good rebounder through size, smarts and effort, and he blocks shots with his great wingspan and aforementioned effort level.

More than likely, he will not stay Przybillay for long. This is in no small part because of his much higher offensive skillset. The free throw percentages already mentioned are a testament to that.

Nonetheless, there are still flaws. Valaciunas is finesse more than power, doesn't have a go-to move other than the pick-and-roll, and still has to beef up some. He was also consciously and constantly attacked by opposing Euroleague offenses, for he was the young and experienced one. And it is true that he struggled with that at times, giving up fouls on his pick-and-roll defense, and not always being in position. But it is also true that he improved noticeably during the season. Such is the common trend amongst Valanciunas's story - if there's something he can't do, he learns it incredibly quickly. I don't see what part of this fails to translate to the NBA. And thus I see a good quality NBA player in our midst.

It doesn't matter if you have to wait an extra year. It's worth it.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Chicago's Meticulously Crafted 2011 Offseason Plan That Relies An Awful Lot Upon Guesswork

Nothing cheers me up more than heavily contrived and extremely implausible hypothetical transactions for the Chicago Bulls.1 Taking a team's cap situation, and attempting to maximize the basketball assets that they can get from using it, is what I wish to spend my life doing. It is this love of salary cap manipulation and amateurish talent evaluation that has in the past produced seminal works such as the four team 16 player trade that intended to bring Carmelo Anthony to Chicago whilst getting Denver under the luxury tax in the process2, as well as last offseason's equally well-intended multi-faceted shake-up that sought only to avoid signing Joe Johnson, and which bizarrely predicted that the Bulls would end up with half of the previous season's Utah Jazz rotation, but not the half that they actually wound up with.

These are my hobbies.

Ironically, Joe Johnson would be a somewhat perfect fit for Chicago right now. But unfortunately, Joe Johnson still has five years and $107,333,589 remaining on his maximum salary contract given to him by the Hawks, whom he just led to 44 wins and an ultimately rather purposeless second round exit. When the 29 year old fourth best player at his position gets the fifth biggest contract in the history of the sport, consider yourselves outbid.3 It's a shame, in a way, for a player of Joe Johnson's type and talent level would now be an exact fit to the major problem Chicago faces.

Chicago isn't exactly a team awash with strife. They just made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, had the best regular season record in the league, won 62 games, won the Most Valuable Player award, won the Coach Of The Year award, and somehow managed to come both first and third in the Executive Of The Year award, the most recent first-and-third place finish since Hacksaw Jim Douglas in The Love Bug. This isn't a capped-out team that dribbled meekly to a limp 32 wins and a late lottery pick. This isn't Detroit. Indeed, you could make a case that, aside from Miami, this team has the brightest future in the league. It's either them or OKC.4

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Guide To NBA Player's Music

For a variety of reasons, basketball and music seem to have always had crossover appeal. [Pun acknowledged, but not condoned.] Be it due to the intrinsically linked cultures of the music of the streets and the game on the playgrounds - a partnership which, if I was 10 years older, I would probably find it funny to call "hip hoops" - basketball players moving into musical side projects has become so prevalent that it's now a cliché. Just as Common thinks he can pull off a decent replication of an extremely ball-dominant undersized scoring guard during each NBA All-Star Weekend, many ballers out there think they have rhythm.

There have been dozens of these instances throughout history. The following list attempts to exhaustively cover them all, ranging from those who are actually quite good, to those that would have trouble rhyming "Mercedes" with "ladies", even if they were run down by a Mercedes full of ladies, all of whom were waving rhyming dictionaries only containing the words "Mercedes" and "ladies."

Monday, May 09, 2011

LeBron Using The Word "Retarded" Was A Subnormally Birdbrained Thing To Do

At a training seminar that I once attended, a portion of the afternoon was devoted to a discussion of bad words. In one of the hottest days on record, a dozen of us gathered in a cramped five foot tall training room, sat around an overhead projector and a laptop whose audio output was speculative at best, and then, via the medium of Powerpoint, ran through a list of words that were unacceptable to use in our workplace. None of which was patronising in any way.

Of course, the reason for such a discussion was because of the line of work in question. We were attending said seminar as a mandatory part of our training to become support workers for the learning disabled. Inevitably, in that line of work, training for sensitivity towards the learning disabled is essential. We had to go. (You know, just so that we knew not to call them names. Just in case one of us was going to take the hitherto untested insult-comic approach to the job. Seemingly, companies must plan for that ridiculous eventuality.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Where Are They Now, 2011: Bookkeeping The Retired Guys

A lot of "where are they now" posts on other websites tend to deal mainly in answering a different question altogether; namely, "what did these players used to do?" Since it is assumed that that is known by anyone seeking to ask the original question - else it wouldn't have been asked - such matters are not dealt with on this website. Instead, we deal with the question that was actually asked; where are these players now?


Tariq Abdul-Wahad - Abdul Wahad part-owns France's first black TV channel, Telesud.


Shareef Abdur-Rahim - Reef was an assistant coach with the Kings for two seasons, before being moved up to assistant general manager this season. By proxy, if not by choice, he has a role in the Kings's uncertain future.


Cory Alexander - Last time we checked in on Alexander, he was working as an announcer for Virginia games. He still is, but not entirely by design. That link is to a very lengthy breakdown of Alexander's post-retirement life; long story short, he's lost all his money, and he's suing Bank of America for it back.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The Eurocup Final Four

The NBA playoffs are basically upon us, and with the brackets now determined, it's high time to get some betting done. If you don't pick a Bulls/Spurs finals, you're a brave man.

However, the onset of these playoffs is far from the only thing happening in basketball right now. After all, this is the crescendo of may league's seasons, not just the NBA's. This is particularly true in the cases of the intercontinental European leagues; the Euroleague, which has already been covered, and the Eurocup, which is about to be.

Continuing a series of posts that take fleeting glances at every worthwhile current player in the world today - the loose theme of which is 'Why spend all that time watching it all just to never write about any of it?' - there follows a look at the compelling protagonists of the final four teams in this Eurocup season. Teams list in no order other than alphabetical.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rockets sign Marqus Blakely to a multi-year contract

The Houston Rockets exited the trade deadline with a full roster, but the subsequent buyout of Jared Jeffries opened up the 15th spot. Houston initially used this flexibility to sign multi-time Rocket Mike Harris to a 10 day contract, and later opted to offer him a second one when the first one expired last week. However, they will not sign him for the remainder of the season.

Instead, with the spot opening up upon the expiration of Harris's contract yesterday, the Rockets have used it to call up Marqus Blakely from the Iowa Energy of the D-League.

Blakely, a combo forward from Vermont, began the season with the L.A. Clippers, with whom he had also played in summer league. He appeared in two preseason games with the team, and upon being waived, he went to the D-league, assigned to the Bakersfield Jam. Once there, Blakely averaged 13.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 0.6 blocks, before being traded by the Jam in late January to the Iowa Energy in exchange for a 2011 first round pick. With the Energy, Blakely has averaged 17.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, shooting 70% from the floor. His 15 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks in 28 minutes led the Energy to victory in their first playoff game last week, a 103-96 win over the Utah Flash.

Blakely's contract with the Rockets will run for the remainder of the season and through 2013, as does the contract of Marcus Cousin, signed by the Rockets yesterday. Additionally, as was not the case with Cousin, Blakely has not been assigned to Houston's self-owned D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Yet.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The NBA Prospects Of The Unsigned NBA Draft Picks

If your team drafts a player, and yet never signs him, the chances are that they'll still own his draft rights.

The presence of those draft rights means that that player can sign only with the right-holding NBA team, and not with any others. Such draft rights can also be traded, either to a recipient team who values the player and thus gives something of value for them, or as arbitrary filler obliging the NBA's rule that all partners in a trade must trade something outbound, however menial. In theory, there exists multiple uses for these draft rights.

In practice, however, they are often of no use whatsoever. They exist as technicalities, relevant only on a whimsical level, interesting only to the insanely boring. Luckily, I am such a person.

A longer breakdown of the usage of otherwise redundant rights in trades can be found if you scroll down here (a link also containing a much shorter-handed version of this list). An incredibly long breakdown of the whereabouts of the players concerned follows this amusing picture of Ronnie Brewer.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The Euroleague Final Eight

In terms of the calibre of non-international competitive basketball, the Euroleague is second in the world only to the NBA. That is to say, of all the leagues in the world not to excessively overuse snippets of Busta Rhymes songs, or turn nightly to the tortured genius of Kiss Cam, the Euroleague is the best. If you love basketball, you'll love watching the Euroleague. If you love basketball and yet have never watched the Euroleague, you haven't tried hard enough.

The first two group stages have been complete, and now the eight strongest teams enter a playoff-style format or head-to-head series. Ergo, continuing a series of posts that take fleeting glances at every worthwhile current player in the world today - the loose theme of which is 'Why spend all that time watching it all just to never write about any of it?' - there follows a look at the compelling protagonists of the final eight teams in this Euroleague season. Teams list in no order other than alphabetical.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The 2010/11 NCAA Tournament, Part 3: Southeastern Region

There is no better event in the American sports calendar than the NCAA Tournament. None. Zilch. Zero. And it's not even especially close.

All the games running concurrently, and the one game knockout format, make for captivating evenings of hours and hours of entertainment. This is particularly true of the first round, where action jumps from game to game, and Greg Gumbel struggles to keep up with all the information he's getting in his ear. It's like the FA Cup, except it's better.

Much, much better.

And I like the FA Cup.

Since this post is long enough already, the intro ends here, and there follows a preview (often in the form of a recap) of all 68 of the teams taking part in this, the 2011 NCAA Tournament. In this post: the 17 teams in the Southeast region. Use the following links to skip to relevant parts.

Arkansas-Little Rock - Belmont - Butler - BYU - Florida - Gonzaga - Kansas State - Michigan State - Old Dominion - Pittsburgh - St. John's - UCLA - UC Santa Barbara - UNC Asheville - Utah State - Wisconsin - Wofford

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The 2010/11 NCAA Tournament, Part 2: Eastern Region

There is no better event in the American sports calendar than the NCAA Tournament. None. Zilch. Zero. And it's not even especially close.

All the games running concurrently, and the one game knockout format, make for captivating evenings of hours and hours of entertainment. This is particularly true of the first round, where action jumps from game to game, and Greg Gumbel struggles to keep up with all the information he's getting in his ear. It's like the FA Cup, except it's better.

Much, much better.

And I like the FA Cup.

Since this post is long enough already, the intro ends here, and there follows a preview (often in the form of a recap) of all 68 of the teams taking part in this, the 2011 NCAA Tournament. In this post: the 18 teams in the Eastern region. Use the following links to skip to relevant parts.

Alabama State - Clemson - George Mason - Georgia - Indiana State - Kentucky - Long Island - Marquette - North Carolina - Ohio State - Princeton - Syracuse - Texas-San Antonio - UAB - Villanova - Washington - West Virginia - Xavier

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

An Unnecessarily Exhaustive Guide To The 2010/11 NCAA Tournament, Part 1: Southwestern Region

There is no better event in the American sports calendar than the NCAA Tournament. None. Zilch. Zero. And it's not even especially close.

All the games running concurrently, and the one game knockout format, make for captivating evenings of hours and hours of entertainment. This is particularly true of the first round, where action jumps from game to game, and Greg Gumbel struggles to keep up with all the information he's getting in his ear. It's like the FA Cup, except it's better.

Much, much better.

And I like the FA Cup.

Since this post is long enough already, the intro ends here, and there follows a preview (often in the form of a recap) of all 68 of the teams taking part in this, the 2011 NCAA Tournament. In this post: the 17 teams in the Southwest region. Use the following links to skip to relevant parts.

Akron - Boston University - Florida State - Georgetown - Illinois - Louisville - Kansas - Morehead State - Notre Dame - Purdue - Richmond - St Peter's - Texas A&M - UNLV - USC - Vanderbilt - VCU

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chinese Basketball Association Imports, 2010/11, Again

Yi Jianlian, Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi. Not in picture: Sun Yue. Also not in picture: Benjamin Disraeli.

The Chinese Basketball Association and its compelling protagonists have a particular level of focus on this website, for reasons which, if you don't already know them, are about to become extremely obvious.

Fringe NBA players like playing in China; the exposure isn't huge and the standard isn't great, but the CBA pays very well, and it is unashamed in copying the NBA model of basketball not much imitated around the globe. They've changed their style to match up to the NBA game; games are 48 minutes long (like the NBA, and unlike basically every other league in the world), and there's about three of them a week (unlike most other domestic leagues, which have 1). This teams playing lots of games with less emphasis on practice is a lure to players; after all, as that great philosopher of our time Nate Dogg once said, "playas play on, play on, keep playing on." Words to live by.

(As an aside, did you know Nate Dogg has been hospitalised for the best part of three years after a series of strokes? Me neither.)

Each CBA team is allowed to have two import players at any one time, and these players are almost always American. Better still, these players are also almost always players that you've heard of, with a great deal of ex-NBA pedigree on there. Perhaps it is now obvious why the league is attractive.

There follows a selection of Chinese Basketball Association statistics. All statistics and standings taken from March 12th, 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Jersey......Toronto.......London.


Antiphon

With apologies to their combined 34-87 record, the Toronto Raptors and the New Jersey Nets had not played an interesting game all season heading into last weekend. It was known in advance that the two teams would struggle this season, and any optimism to the contrary has been roundly denounced. Both teams are building for the future, and rightly so. But it comes at the expense of the present.

Right now, they suck.

At this point in any season, there are many meaningless doldrums games. With the trade deadline passed, almost all player movement cemented, and the title contenders obvious, most teams now know who they are. Many of the games in March and April are frankly rather boring - if the teams concerned are not putting forth their best effort to win, you're invariably going to reciprocate with a half arsed level of interest. In light of everything that has transpired this season, the Raptors and Nets can both equate to this.

However, these particular doldrums games had a resonance and magnitude not afforded to their counterparts. These games were played in London, England, at the O2 Arena. And that single caveat brought a hitherto unprecedented level of excitement to what would otherwise be two of the most arbitrary games of the season.

(The ambitious accompanying television ad campaign pitched this games as "crucial games leading up to the NBA playoffs," bringing "all the fun and excitement of the NBA." It was a slightly generous pitch, but as we'll see later, not entirely fictional. Apart from the bit about "crucial".)

If nothing else, half of it was faintly true. Entertaining if not especially high standard of game could have happened; after all, the half-game difference between their respective records showed the two teams to be evenly matched. Furthermore, the arrival of Deron Williams brought some star recognition to a game that badly needed it. And when the NBA's tenth worst defense met its second worst, offense was sure to follow.

More importantly, this is the first NBA game that mattered, however faintly, in the history of Europe. This game presented an opportunity for people from Europe to go to their first ever NBA game. And as a person from Europe, that's exactly what I did.

Twice.

(Just.)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Rookie Retrospective

Jordan Crawford had to deal with being traded in his rookie year, part of Washington's bountiful haul for an aging Kirk Hinrich, who then got injured anyway. Once he got to Washington, Crawford found the freedom amongst the rubble to play a lot of minutes and, essentially, to freelance on offense. And Crawford is good at freelancing on offense, so this suited him, as demonstrated in his 16.3 points per game. This would have second only to team mate John Wall (16.4) in true rookie (i.e. not Blake Griffin) points per game had his 4.2 ppg average in 16 games with Atlanta not dragged him down; as it is, his aggregate average of 11.4 ppg sees him settling for third. (Additionally, per Hoopdata.com, Crawford tied for fifth with Andrea Bargnani for the most shots taken per game from 10-15 feet away at 2.7. No one ever really shoots from 10 to 15 feet; a step further in and you're at the basket, while a step further back gets you a jumper without a help defender. But there are a few exceptions, and the top three of Elton Brand (4.0), Dirk Nowitzki (3.6) and Kobe Bryant (3.2) are ahead of the pack by quite a long way.)

The first season of Pape Sy's career is over, and it was not a good one. Sy was signed by the Hawks to a multi-year minimum salary contract with only the first year guaranteed, yet he played only three games for the team, scoring 7 points in 21 minutes. He actually appeared in more playoff games than regular season ones, getting garbage time minutes in all four of Atlanta's losses to Chicago. He spent 23 games on assignment with the Utah Flash, yet he averaged a seriously disappointing 8.0 points and 3.4 rebounds on 42% shooting, hitting only 15% from three. And while he was slightly better than this defensively, he didn't exactly wow there. Sy was a startling draft pick because no one except Rick Sund ever previously thought he had NBA talent. They still don't.

After waiting sufficiently long that any signing would not push them into the luxury tax, the Hawks filled their 15th and final spot a couple of days before the end of the season when they signed Magnum Rolle from the D-League. After being de facto drafted by the Pacers, Rolle lost out on a roster spot to the 15 incumbent guaranteed contracts, and then missed much of the year due to injury. Not playing between November and March with a knee injury, Rolle totalled only 15 games for the Maine Red Claws, averaging 14.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game, and he has yet to appear on the Hawks's inactive list. Nevertheless, Rolle both started and finished the season in the NBA. That's an achievement. Next year's aim is to stay in it throughout.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tax Payers, Trade Kickers, And Other Deadline Day Bookkeeping

He looks happy. And why shouldn't he.

That was one of the most interesting trade deadline weeks you'll ever see.

Fourteen trades, one kind of funny near trade, 50 players traded, 3 players signed, 4 players waived, 16 draft picks traded, 1 rights to swap traded, and two absolute Stone Cold Stunners of trades that no one expected. And these weren't trades like Sam Cassell and cash for a 2016 top 55 protected second rounder, either. These were trades that changed teams significantly, and altered the landscape of the entire NBA.

(Well, except for the Marquis Daniels one.)

Superstars Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were dispatched from teams they didn't want to stay with. Shane Battier and Mo Williams were dispatched from teams they didn't want to leave. Draft busts Brandan Wright and Hasheem Thabeet were shipped for minimal returns; recently drafted rookies Derrick Favors and Jordan Crawford were shipped before even completing a season. And while my T.J. Ford for Dan Gadzuric idea never got done, Gadzuric did move to the New Jersey Nets, where he can grab as many rebounds as Brook Lopez in a third of the minutes.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Mike Hall Wants You To Know That Things Are Different In Europe

Do a Google image search for "mike hall." The third and fourteenth results are hilarious.

Former George Washington forward Mike Hall has played the majority of his professional career in Italy. After going undrafted in 2006, Hall caught on with the Washington Wizards for training camp, and joined the D-League upon being released, angling for a midseason call-up. The strategy worked; the Wizards called up Hall to a ten day contract in late February 2007, retained him for a second one, and then signed him for the remainder of the season. This eventually became an 8 month stay; the team extended Hall a qualifying offer the following summer, which he accepted, and was eventually the team's last cut in 2007 preseason. Hall played only 2 games and 13 minutes with the Wizards, and has not returned to the NBA since that time, yet his lengthy try-out showed him one side of the coin.

In the four years hence, Hall has been witnessing the other. After spending the whole 2007-08 season in the D-League, angling for another call-up that never came, Hall left for Italy in the summer of 2008, and spent two full seasons with perennial Serie A contender and Euroleague team AJ Milano. Hall left Milano this summer, but stayed in Italy and moved a few hundred miles south to Teramo, where he joined a rebuilding Banca Tercas team. He was released in December, however, and returned to American shores to play for the D-League's Dakota Wizards.

This week, Hall left the D-League to return to Europe, joining struggling Turkish team Erdemir as a replacement for former UNLV forward Dalron Johnson, who moved to Israeli side Maccabi Ashdod. His brief American recrudescence gave way to the need and/or desire for better paid work; the relative comforts and security of the NBA D-League have their place, but they also just don't pay well.

However, his decision to return to Europe must have been a conflicted one.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rajon Rondo's biggest assist of the year

Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo is the current league leader in assists, with a whopping 13.4 per game. He is likely to remain the league's assist leader for the indefinite future. Two time MVP Steve Nash is second on this season's list, yet he is a considerable distance behind Rondo, averaging 10.8 assists per game. This gap will not be overcome.

To put it into some context, assume for a moment that Nash and Rondo both play every game remaining in their respective regular seasons, and that Nash assumes his 10.8apg pace throughout. If Nash passes for exactly 10.8 apg over Phoenix's remaining 43 games, Rondo need average only 9.3 assists per game for the remainder of the season to stay ahead of him. That's still a lot, but not for Rondo.

(As an aside, when was the last time had 10 times more assists than fouls? Because that's where Steve Nash is at right now.)

Rondo's 13.4 apg average, should it sustain, would be the 8th highest total of all time. Only 7 times has it been bettered - 5 of those times by all time assist leader John Stockton - and never by more than 1.1apg. It is perhaps therefore understandable that Rondo, notorious over-passer than he is, is unashamedly going for the record. On a team filled with scorers other than him, and in such proximity to the record, he might as well. He has both the talent and the mindset.

However, he still needs huge assists from others.

Monday, January 10, 2011

15 More Ten Day Contract Candidates (Because Apparently 101 Wasn't Enough After All)

Newest Phoenix Sun, Zabian Dowdell.

A mere 48 hours after the Top 101 Ten Day Contract Candidates list was completed, the Phoenix Suns went and signed somebody that wasn't on it. Clearly, 20 would not have been enough.

With the second signed ten day contract of the season - the Clippers used the first to re-sign Jarron Collins - Phoenix called up guard Zabian Dowdell from the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League, re-signing a player they had only recently cut in training camp.

Dowdell did not make the initial list, perhaps in part due to an oversight, but because his numbers thus far this season had not been overwhelming. Playing on the incredibly deep 66ers roster, Dowds averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.8 turnovers in 29 minutes per game, shooting 41% from the field and 31% from three, with 261 points on 230 shots. The assist to turnover ratio was nice, and the defense as present as ever, yet Dowdell's individual scoring ability has not been there. Nevertheless, Phoenix now gives a regular season look to this long-coveted player for them, who should fit in nicely with an up-tempo game, and defend better than the Nash/Dragic point guard combo (which, while awesome, only impacts one end).

In a bit to avoid another such occurence, here are some more names for the call-up list. Players who can be removed from the original list, however briefly, include Collins, Damien Wilkins (re-signed with Atlanta), Patrick Beverley (signed in Russia with Spartak St Petersburg) and J.R. Giddens (signed in Spain with Valencia). New players again listed in no order but alphabetical.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Top 101 NBA Ten-Day Contract Candidates (When 20 Would Probably Have Been Enough)

As of today, January 5th, NBA teams are able to start signing players to 10 day contracts. Up until now, players signed mid-season had to be signed to contracts lasting at least until the end of the season; as of Wednesday, however, you need sign them for no longer than 10 days, either as emergency cover or an extended tryout. This system is widely used every year, and sometimes leads to beautiful stories, such as the successes enjoyed by players such as Reggie Williams, C.J. Watson and Anthony Tolliver (all 10 day contract signees at one part), or the record breaking NBA career of JamesOn Curry (whose NBA career, despite technically being two years long, has resulted in 4 total seconds of playing time earned while on a 10 day contract with the Clippers last year).

Players signed to ten day contracts tend to be young prospects, and tend to be signed by teams destined for the lottery, either by accident, destiny or design. That said, the occasional veteran will sign one or two ten day contracts with a team, thereby enjoying something of a comeback. This has been the case for players such as Alvin Williams, Doug Christie and Darius Miles in the past, and is particularly good news for Antonio Daniels.

There follows a subjective yet comprehensive list of possible if highly unlikely ten day contract candidates, crafted from a combination of the current free agents list, as well as current D-League players (who, more often than not, are the recipients). Listed in no order other than alphabetical.




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