Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remove The Snake-Colored Glasses

The postseason has already started. And while this year's playoffs is adding to the evidence that point guard and not center is now Basketball's most important position, this post won't be about that. Actually, I'd like to spend a few words on an ever-growing hype I have. More after the random pic...

About six weeks into the regular season, it had become apparent to me that there is a new holder to the, "Best Basketball Player in the World" crown. I'm not changing my mind, nor am I going to restate any of the major points of why Lebron reigns supreme in this post. Just reread it. At the time, I was fine with those that held onto the idea that Kobe is still numero uno because The Mamba is still a devastating basketball Shogun. But if there's one rule that I have when debating sports (or anything) is that both parties must willing to hear the other side's arguments. In a perfect world, this would be the norm. But nope.

It seems that Lakers fans are having a tough time with the thought of Lebron or anyone being better at Basketball than their precious Mamba. I don't like to generalize, but every single LA supporter I've run into is the same way. I feel like Lakers fans are the NBA version of Patriots fans. It's not a stereotype, it's just based on the info that I've gathered since the turn of the year. I'm fine with respectful disagreements coupled with properly substantiated reasons and acceptance of opinions on the other side of the spectrum. However, the Laker fans that I've come across just can't seem to grasp this brand new concept. They can't see beyond Kobe's butterfly crown tattoo. Kobe fans, meet me after the random picture.

Look, I understand what you're going through. I know, you're not over it. It can be tough when something that has been so understood for so long come into question. But what you must realize is that Kobe being the best Basketballer was a temporary idea, and that it's shelf life has expired. What you fail to get is that when I and others say that Lebron is better, it does not mean that Kobe Bryant is terrible and overrated. Every sane hoops fan recognizes Kobe as the game's most cerebral and complete entity. Both of Kobe's fadewaways against Lebron this season are two of the best executed jumpers I've ever seen. Just because he isn't my overwhelmingly favorite player doesn't mean I relinquish my Basketball opinion for eternity. During my interactions with Kobe supporters, they seem to overlook Lebron's skill and use his physical imposition as a flaw. When this occurs, I begin to sense some distortion in the Laker fan, as if his precious Mamba's character has been insulted and he must defend his honor. I said Lebron was better; I didn't talk about Kobe's Mama.

So that is what it has come to. Showtime supporters need to check themselves just a little bit. All we are saying is that Kobe Bryant, in the rankings of people that play basketball worldwide, is #2. Until Lakers fans accept this, I can't talk about this topic anymore with them. I'll just direct them to the post. If you want to talk about Lebron/Kobe, you better like the T'Wolves or somebody. Laker fans, ya cut off.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Absolute Value of Zero: Expanded

Before I begin, a little feedback on me and some on my creative process in these posts. First, about me: even though none of my local sports area teams are my "favorites," I always would rather have them doing well than poorly. I also take pride in those players from the area that excel in sports since they arise from such an underrated sports talent pool. Second, about my creative process: Most of my posts are written sorta superficially in the sense that they're not as expanded as I could or would like to do. The reason is that I don't want to overload you readers with info, and I want to leave a little inquiry in your minds so that questions/comments may flood the comment section. So, in theory, there could be sequels to pretty much all of my posts.

The reason why I chose to expand on the Arenas theory is that I thought about a correlation between he and the FBP. In the initial post, I alluded to the fact that D.C. has a tough time gaining credibility, respect, or whatever you wanna call it, as a city. I cited the example of go-go music as a microcosm of Chocolate City's plight. D.C. is a city that is home to the most powerful man in the world and is a solid tourist spot, but isn't thought of as one of the U.S.'s elite cities.

The same is true for Agent Zero. He is easily one of Basketball's deadliest offensive weapons, and you're kidding yourself if you refuse to believe that. He doesn't have the technical precision of Kobe, the effortlessness of Wade, or the God Hammer of Lebron; but his unpredictability is his source of strength and is just as effective as the anything in the respective arsenals of the new Big Triumvirate. Yet, Arenas doesn't seemed to be given the credit he deserves. I'm not saying he is top 5 in the Association right now, but top 15 or 20 is easily attainable when he's healthy.

Sure, part of it is due to his recent injuries. And part of it can be attributed to the fact that he hasn't led the Wizards to much postseason success, while Kobe, Lebron, and Wade have each been to the Finals as the unquestioned head of their respective franchises. However, there is more negativity towards Gil than necessary. For example, Wade's current season of 30-5-7 with over 2 steals is garnering him praise of being the definition of, "carrying a team on his shoulders." Arenas had that same statistical season three years ago, and simultaneously brought hope to a sports town whose hoops team once looked to Ike Austin and God Shammgod for production (*shudder*). Yet it's Gilbert that gets tagged with the selfish label. Sure, his quirkiness can be harnessed a bit, but no one can question that he has successfully coexisted with two other proven all-stars and he has the genuine respect and loyalty of his teammates that even eludes Kobe.

This third chapter of Arenas' career will be his most important to date. He is a man founded on proving doubters wrong and defying sizable odds. First, he proved he could play the point his way in Golden State. Then, he showed he can summon enough of his energy and flirt with Basketball deity—even if he isn't among the Anointed. Now, he must prove that he is more than a sideshow. He must reestablish that he can shake the very foundation of Basketball structure; but this time, he must do that and lead his Capital City army from The Verizon Center to the Larry O'Brien Trophy. For a man that called himself the FBP before Obama made it a reality, he certainly knows the nearly impossible when he sees it. If his heart is like the heart shown by the inhabitants of the DC Metro area, I like his chances. The absolute value of Agent Zero is New Math, and we're waiting to see if he can finish the equation.


Who Got The Vibe? It's The Tribe, Yall

(Note: Another title for my hip-hop heads, based on ESPN's John Anderson calling the Knicks, "The Quest." For more, go here. Shout out to Q-Tip, Phife, and Ali Shaheed. To the post...)

The playoffs are set to begin this weekend; so that means my Knicks' season is over. I had refrained on writing at length about them all year, but I feel I must do at the end. If you've been reading for awhile, you know this won't be one of those typical season wrap-up posts; with topics like, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Also, I won't do the typical Knicks fan-type thing and just find creative ways to say, "Wait 'til 2010!" in 500+ words. But, I may say something about this season that may shock you. It has nothing to do with Chris Duhon's success in the SSOL system; or how I'm begging they keep Al Harrington. It's that Mike D'Antoni is a genius, and it extends beyond the fastbreak offense.

More than bringing a bit of credibility to a once-proud franchise, he brought hope. Yes, hope. Whenever a new coach (I'm looking at you, Terry Porter), gets hired, the fanbase is all over him if the team doesn't produce immediate results. Yet, you don't hear too many Knicks fans detracting the Knicks team. Maybe that has a lot to do with where the team was; but this year's bunch is so much more aesthetically pleasing. They're not the 05-06 Suns, but they picked up their choreography by looking through the window. If anything, he proved that SSOL can work with pretty much anyone, as long as there are "point guards" that can get to the basket, about seven people that shoot threes, and David Lee. Like my man "Money" Mike Benjamin would say, SSOL is, "so easy a Blue Devil can do it."

But let's jump back to that "hope" aspect. Few people talk about just how horrific an experience it was to watch the Knicks of the previous three seasons. You won't find too many people talking about the past, word to Mark McGwire. Instead, you get those 16 or 17 thousand people that look to the Free Agent Spec-tac-u-lar next offseason, knowing that the D'Antoni/Walsh tandem will bring forth riches, notably a chalk-clapping titan. D'Antoni's ragtag Knicks have even made folks forget about Danilo, who most had given up for as a lost cause the day he was drafted. They figured he wasn't built for MSG, and the Big Apple would take a bite out of him. Can he play? I guess. But the consensus is that selecting Gallinari was a favor Mike D did for "El Gallo's" dad.

So, what Mike D did at MSG was a mini-miracle. He made New York fans forget about "Coney Island's Finest" and be able to make jokes about Zeke instead of taking the brunt of them. He also made these hardcore fans okay with waiting through rough times and actually wait for long-term results. Kudos, to you, sir. Kudos. Can't wait 'til 2010.


Thursday, April 9, 2009


(Editor's Note: If you need help with the title, go here. After reading, hopefully you'll catch the relation between title and post.)

After watching Nuggets-Lakers last night, I see some startling correlations between a team's offensive philosophy and they way that roster is constructed. What I mean is that the more chaotically uptempo a team plays, the more castaways that are present on that team.

The biggest example of this is the Nuggets. They look like the Association's answer to "The Longest Yard." Let's see. There's 'Melo—who seems to be sort of the Forgotten Man among the great class of 2003 as Wade and 'Bron ascend to Justice League status. J.R. Smith, who just can't seem to focus his absurd talent enough to be more than just a long-distance mercenary off the bench. They added the Birdman, the former drug addict looking for a fresh start among his semi-kinfolk. Even Nene' has been converted, and now rocks the cornrows. Perhaps the best example is Ronaldo Balkman, who is a Knicks throwaway and branded as a scrub because he was drafted by Zeke. But he is an energy guy in the second unit that heavily contributes on the defensive end for a team that plays little defense. At Denver's epicenter is Billups, a former outcast himself that found maturity in the D; and is now being brought in as the mentor who has traveled down that wayward path to stabilize the scatterbrained Nugs and teach them concentration and winning. Mainstream may be blinded by all the tattooed ink that they may not see that Nuggets are a damn good basketball team.

Another example is the Phoenix Suns under D'Antoni's influence. Those that have found oasis in the Desert include another throwaway Celtic, a Maestro without an orchestra, an allegedly immature high school monster, a small forward that can only function at the 4, Atlanta's tossed-out versatile Frenchman, Raja Bell, a man that found his ankles, Superman: Resurrected, and Matt Barnes. All these players had been thought of as expendable at one point; yet have become relevant again or have elevated his place in the Association by going through Phoenix. It also doesn't hurt to play in a style in which the goal is to attempt a shot in the first third of the shot clock.

I first began noticing the outcast/uptempo correlation by watching everyone's recent darling, the 2006-2007 Golden State Warriors. With Boom Dizzle as their brash flag bearer that Chris Paul made everyone loathe in the Big Easy, and Stack Jack as their Ride-or-Die Fearless Captain, they held the NBA captive with their Bay Area lawlessness—rather, their making of their own laws and giving the proverbial bird to "conventional" positions and just played ball. S-Jax is interesting because he's viewed by most as a convict in a headband; but in NBA circles he's very respected as a great teammate—even when he was in the Land of Bland that is the Spurs' locker room. This current band of Warriors may not have the same appeal as the one that toppled the Mavs, but Anthony Randolph is the individual definition of Basketball anarchy. Just throwing that out there.

But why does this outcast/uptempo correlation exist? It may be because those players mentioned don't play basketball in the traditional sense, therefore must reside on teams that don't play the purists' Way. In contrast, to me, the Spurs look like the kind of guys that crack observational jokes that are funny, but funny on an intellectual level. The Warriors look like the guys that will snap on anyone and everyone, and while they may not mean a word of it, no one would dare challenge them—either to the Dozens or the physical. While I love the fundamentals of Timmy, it's nice to see J.R. Smith pull from 30 feet. Both are a pleasure to watch.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Two Points Is...A Gift From the Heavens

Before I start, a word on Gerald Wallace. He is worth the price of admission. The man wreaks havoc like I've never seen in person. A dreadlocked bull in a China shop that is magnetized to contact, I fear he will either rip the rim off its hinges...or fall and not get back up. Onto the post...

I'm continuing to expand on why Basketball is about individual harmonies combined for one team goal. Last post, I used the Sam Young Grizzle Fake as a substantiation of how something so fundamental in the sport can be taken and embedded into one's Hoops Soul. Today, I'll outline something that is the inverse of that. More after the random picture...

At the beginning of the year, the fine folks over at FreeDarko linked to this insane clip of a HS team successfully connecting on the double-lob alley-oop. As Shoals wrote, it appears that there is some purpose to the passes because of how insane the timing is from start to finish. Like Sam's fake, this also is a microcosm of the fundamental makeup of the Realm of Basketball. It's always expanding, forever changing its parameters as its inhabitants discover and unlock new tendencies. There was a time, a time a little before mine, in which the alley-oop was only reserved for wide-open fast breaks; and because of that, was frowned upon by those who once played on peach baskets—the Bobby Knights of the world. Then, the implementation of the backside, backdoor lob came into existence as coaches began seeing the need to run offense above the rim. The latest (I can't say "new" because it's been around here for awhile) is the use of the pick-and-roll oop as a method of keeping big men interested in defense and rebounding.

As I'm sure you know, the leaders of this kind of oop are Chris Paul-to-Tyson Chandler and Jameer Hedo-to-Howard. But what has struck me as a little strange is the lack of illumination of some of the names of those that have been on the business end of the oop. For example, Chris Paul has no hesitation running this play for Sean Marks (okay, that wasn't an "oop," but I've seen it). Erick Dampier has rolled to the basket knowing a pass for him was on the way. Again, Chris Paul has thrown oop passes to Sean Marks. If that doesn't strike you as amazing, then I'll have to explain it a little more.

In Shoals' post, he expanded on the future of the alley-oop involving the backboard in a coordinated, super-McGrady-off-the-glass way. I'd like to examine two other aspects of the alley-oop's evolution. First, it's interesting to me just how the oop has become a resource. As I stated earlier, there was a time not too long ago that it was viewed as showboating and completely unnecessary. But as the game continues to discover more possibilities above the rim, the oop—especially the pick-and-lob to the big man—has been a way to get a cheap bucket. Even notorious antithesis of fun Coach K has dialed up a few baseline out-of-bounds tosses for his thoroughbred Gerald Henderson (finally). The alley-oop's foundation is that the recipient can out jump any defender. Just throw it up there.

Second, I've seen the alley-oop as a play that can only be done if a both the passer and dunker possess a certain flair in their respective games. What I mean is that there should never be such an occurrence as a, "boring alley-oop." That's why I think it too so long for true seven-footers to get involved in it. Only the ones with a bit of agility, rebelliousness, and pure swag, if you will, could properly execute a nice oop. Shaq was the blueprint, and ferocious dunkers like Howard and Chandler are the ones that add that necessary element of funk to it. Even Howard pauses in the air once he catches the pass to give it that extra emphasis that does the oop proper justice. Think about the Warriors of Oop—Wallace, Iguodala, and now Rudy F and Jamario Moon—all wingmen. The reason I believe swingmen get the most lobs is because they look the best doing it. They have the absurd hops and coordination, so it doesn't look like something from the bland mind of Tim Duncan. But they have enough height so it's a little more difficult for defenders to disrupt the catch. The Bobby Knights of the Basketball Universe would say, "two points is two points." But if that was the case, then the alley-oop wouldn't carry as much momentum as it does. It's awaken slumbering wing players and capped 14-2 runs in the third quarter. It's the reasoning behind the Blazers throwing lobs for Roy and Fernandez and not Joel Pryzbilla.

So the next time you see Josh Smith come down from the Heavens with a thunderous slam from a well-timed lob, remember that this sort of play was once banned and viewed as unimportant.