Thursday, May 28, 2009

L-Boogie Through L-Boogie

I don't make it much of a secret; I miss Lauryn Hill. If you want to know why, then ask me in the comments. To me, she's the greatest female musical talent in the history of mankind; and my favorite musician, regardless of gender. She's Erykah Badu and Jean Grae, Rah Digga and Janelle Monae, The Songstress and The Floacist—all in one supremely talented woman. But, for reasons that can only be speculated, her career is on halt; leaving her fans to wonder where she is and if she'll return to form. Right now, she's just a mythological goddess of music that supporters just frustratingly wonder, "What if?" Similarly, in the Basketball Realm, there's a players that elicits the same feelings whenever you see flashes of what lies within his inconsistent grasp. That player is Lamar Odom. More after the random picture...

Now, I don't "miss" Lamar Odom, nor does he resonate in my Basketball soul the way Ms. Hill does in my musical one. And I don't believe he's the greatest anything in Basketball, except that he most likely has the best handle of anyone over 6'9" in the history of the game. But whether or not you're a fan of Kobe and the Lake Show, you can't help but be frustrated with the fickleness with which he plays. He's streaky, in the sense that inconsistency is his career-long streak. From his beginning with the Clippers, to the brief stop in South Beach (the best part of his career), to right now in The City of Angels, Odom hasn't quite seemed to live up to the potential that his natural abilities suggest that he possesses. He literally can do everything on the court; and the only difference between him and Lebron is Lebron's ruthlessness.

It's this passivity that bothers those that know the depths of Odom's powers. For whatever reason, he prefers being the third option on a team that relies on his versatility. With all due respect to Kevin Garnett, 'Sheed, and Dirk, it's Lamar that is best naturally equipped to fully revolutionize the power forward position—if only he believed he could. I don't know if it's a genuine timidity from the pressures of being a key player; one can only guess. But my speculation is that Lamar Odom simply is willing to let others shine. It's a little deeper than Joe Johnson's unassuming personality. Reverend Joey will still average a solid twenty a game without the flash and flare of the elite players. Odom would rather contribute as an unknown soldier than receive credit for being the X-factor he is. When Pau was first given traded to LA, it was Odom who flourished, but it was Pau who received the praise for being the difference. He's a man that's been through a lot; and continues to be one of the more likable people in the Association. He's best friends with Ron Artest, and still maintains his sanity. That alone garners him respect.

So, seeing plays like the dunk on the Birdman in Game 5, like Chris Andersen was a bird in "Duck Hunt," will bring about feelings of frustrations and searches of answers to why Odom doesn't unleash his powers more often. But, like unexpectedly hearing "Ready or Not", appreciate it when it occurs; even if it's few and far between. Maybe sometime in the near future, both versions of L-Boogie can overcome whatever is holding them back and be the people that fans are longing for; and for me in regards to Lauryn, fell in love with.


Monday, May 18, 2009

This Is What It All Became

We've all heard the saying that, "One's man's trash is another man's treasure." Well, it seems that the Nuggets have found a leader in Billups that has provided them with calm and poise at the point guard position; and has created a masterpiece in the way that Kutiman made genius from YouTube clips. More analogy goodness after the random picture...

Now, this isn't to say that Denver's trade for AI wasn't a smart move because it was, in theory/on paper. Denver needed more of a scoring punch in the backcourt, and were willing to sacrifice Andre Miller's leadership to get it. Iverson and Melo wanted to coexist, and neither player's production really slipped while they were together; but the way The Answer plays doesn't really mesh with Melo's groove—or anyone else's, for that matter. They were still productive because they were that great. But the way Anthony plays, he needs a point guard. His throwback game is what I feel is holding him back from superstardom. He doesn't have the ferocity of Lebron, the cold ruthlessness of Kobe, or the acrobatics of Wade. His game is smooth, like the Mother of All Funk Chords. This is why of all the elite players, he scores the easiest (read: easiest, not most). Billups allows Anthony the freedom to operate in his comfort areas, and Lets Melo be Melo without concentrating on getting his teammates involved.

Denver's frontcourt is one of physical toughness that straddles the line of thuggery. Ask Dirk about the modern day mugging that reminded older Basketball heads of less ticky-tack fouls and more, "No Easy Buckets." K-Mart, Nene', and Birdman love to be on the receiving end of Billups' penetration for dunks. Since Chauncey is a willing distributor, the frontcourt loves to run the floor and hits the defensive glass with tenacity just to get the rock in the hands of their fearless leader. Their style of play is more like the "Wait For Me" Thru-You video, in which vocoder is treated today as this new trend when it's been around for awhile; yet forgotten for significantly lesser forms of musical entertainment. Physical play, or so-called "playoff fouls," are the remains of what used to be a time in which big men didn't allow players to roam the paint at will. We'll see if there's a sizable amount of intestinal fortitude inside Pau, Bynum, and Lamar; because K-Mart and the boys will certainly test it (end brieft playoff tangent). Denver's big men are perfect for George Karl and more importantly, for Billups.

This brings me to the most combustible, most head-scratching player this side of young Ron Artest: JR Smith. I believe that in JR Smith, Chauncey sees a younger version of himself. Remember, before he got to Detroit, Chauncey was a castaway from Boston, Minnesota, and Denver a first time. Billups was a spark plug off the bench, as long as he was focused on basketball. As I said last post, JR is already on his third team, and finds solace with these Nuggets. I think Billups has more of an influence on Smith than anyone has since JR's been in the Association, and can be pivotal in Smith's development. Observing Billups' current work ethic, as well as his ability to dominate without be demonstrative will hopefully rub off on JR and help him harness those flashes of devastating offensive force waiting to be fulfilled.

I know it's cliche' to say that one man has done so much for one team. But in this case, it seems to closely apply to Chauncey and his hometown Nuggets. He's brought credibility to a city still searching for the magic Dikembe had—oddly against Goerge Karl's Sonics way back when. Billups has molded Denver into a true contender for a few years to come. This is what they became.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Equation of an NBA Blue Devil: Distance from K

For those of you that know me, you know that I'm not too fond of University of Duke Men's Basketball; particularly the head coach, Mike Krzyzewski. I had been holding back on venting about Coach K and Duke because I try not to be too serious at FU; while providing quality sports hypotheses for you to rattle around in your minds...with a mixture of random pictures. But I must change the tone of this post in order to provide insight for those that may not know the basis of my dislike for the Blue Devils. Whether you're familiar with the story or not, after the picture, flashback about ten years ago...*insert wavy fade out/in with dream sequence music*

Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and William Avery—all stud underclassmen at Durham—decided to break free from Coach K's regime and head for the pros. Like most college coaches, Krzyzewski is the type has to give his younger players that proverbial blessing to leave; much like how USC's Pete Carroll chastised Mark Sanchez for leaving early. With those kind of coaches, there may be some concern for their player, and they may believe that said player isn't ready for the rigors of the professional level. But also, because coaches have abnormally large egos, they try to hold onto young phenoms so they can preserver their winning product for a few more years keep the bevy of talent rolling along smoothly. Even though Coach K didn't openly campaign against it, his recruiting trends since then have led to circumstantial evidence that supports my claim.

If you run down all the best players since then, you come up with Redick, Jay Williams/Dunleavy/Boozer, and now Kyle Singler. But let's focus on the Redick era. He played alongside DeMarcus Nelson. Nelson is the state of California's all-time high school leader in scoring. Yet, he was reduced to being mainly a defensive stopper while Redick was blessed with an enormous green light. I refuse to believe that someone whose reputation was that of a scorer can't score in the NCAA without some outside hinderance. For example, Tyrese Rice broke all of Redick's Virginia high school records, and he was able to produce at BC without much of a supporting cast. So based on this, I believe Coach K intentionally limits the role of some players (read: the Black ones) in hopes of keeping them around longer. That's why it took so long for Gerald Henderson to break out; and why Carlos Boozer is the best of that above triumverate (with the tragedy of Williams' motorcycle injury playing a role), despite being a second-round pick.

(End brief rant about Coach K. Save that for later.)

But let's get back to Boozer, Redick, Dahntay Jones, and the safest Black man in America, Shane Battier. It seems to me that the further an NBA player gets from Duke, the more admirable he becomes by someone not named Dick Vitale. Battier gets praise for being the ultimate winner, Jones is a pretty good defender, Redick has become serviceable as a shooter, and Boozer is a consistent 20 and 10 power forward. Anti-Duke fans seem to give former Blue Devils that succeed in the Association true respect. I know I do given the circumstances a lot of them have to overcome while playing for Coach K. Duhon is decent in the SSOL system, even though it looks like Mike D will have a new maestro to play with for a few years. Now, will someone please give DeMarcus Nelson some NBA minutes?


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Too Cool For School

In my last post, I had alluded to a future post about the difference between JR Smith and Gerald Green. Well, that future is now, and I'll explain that difference...after the random picture...

But first, let's examine the similarities. They both are among the last of the preps-to-pro players before Draft Rule 19, and have played for or been a member of three teams in their brief careers (Smith was a Chicago Bull for about 38 minutes before he was dealt to the Nuggets). Green has yet to find steady footing, while Smith is a semi-combustible spark off Denver's bench. But Green and Smith possess the same tools in their respective games: Green was as good if not a better shooter than Smith out of high school; and we all know about both of their skyscraper-leaping hops. So why is Smith a demented, ceiling-touching version of Vinny "The Microwave" Johnson, while Green is Harold Minor 2k9? The answer is opportunity.

Even though both have the propensity to be knuckleheads, its Smith that was able to find solace with Denver and fellow castaways due to various knocks on character. Green has played for Doc Rivers, whomever replaced Flip in Minnesota, and Rick Carlisle—all three coaches that add a bit of disciplinarian to their coaching styles. I still maintain that all Green needs is consistent minutes, but I also believe that someone with Gerald's talent would easily start—or be the bench stalwart like Smith is--with a little practice work. It appears Smith is in a Manu-type role with the Nuggets, and merely comes off the bench so he can unleash his full fury without much deferring.

Not to sound so mainstream, but I think cases like Gerald Green are reasons why the NBA instituted the age rule, citing immaturity as Exhibit A. But if you look at it through their eyes, you'll see that aside from the financial reasons, you'll see what I feel is a major attibutor of their aspirations.

Basketball is a sport in which a hot prospect is condemned (through draft stock) by staying an amateur longer. Tyrus Thomas was a one-March Madness wonder, and was a lottery pick despite having limited skills. However, had he stayed in college and added some dimensions to his game, he'd be ppicked apart and lose millions, even though he'd be better. That's why the Travis Outlaws and CJ Miles' of the high school basketball world chose to enter the draft; and why Brandon Jennings and now Jeremy Tyler are pursuing the brief overseas option. It allows them to play against professionals, get paid, and still maintain a lofty prospect status. At its core, it's a win-win for them.

Aside from that, and to me more importantly, the better NBA players are all preps-to-pro or underclassmen. Three of the five first team all-NBAers never played in college; and before you say it's all about offense, four of the NBA's First Team all-Defense are also straight from high school. It makes sense for a player to leave early if he believes amateur status has nothing left to offer his game. Simply put, seniors, for the most part, aren't as good as underclassmen.

For example, if Tim Duncan is the best four-year college player in the NBA, who is second? In fact, name an NBA starting five of strictly four-year players. In another fact, I'll do it for you:

G: Andre Miller
G: Josh Howard
F: Danny Granger
F: David West
C: Tim Duncan

That's a respectable lineup with one lock Hall-of-Famer, two other all-stars, and a solid backcourt. However, let's look at the starting five for preps-to-pro players:

G: Kobe Bryant
G: Tracy McGrady
F: Lebron James
F: Kevin Garnett
C: Dwight Howard

The above five has a combined 37 all-star selections, with another 15 or so to be seen from Lebron and Howard; and Amar'e and Al Jefferson weren't even included. This is what Martell Webster, Gerald Green, JR Smith, and other prep players (and now one-and-done players) see when they take that early leap into professional Basketball. They've been groomed as next big things since middle school, and there's nothing that has happened to shake that confidence. Four-year players seem to have a ceiling placed on their abilities, while younger players are given more chances to recognize their potential (Kwame...). For Gerald Green's sake, I hope someone gives him a chance, or he forces someone to give him a chance.

Before I say, "Peace," I'm gonna give you the starting fives for the other draft classifications:


G: Derrick Rose
G: Jamal Crawford
F: Carmelo Anthony
F: Kevin Durant
C: Chris Bosh


G: Chris Paul
G: Allen Iverson
F: Andre Iguodala
F: Joe Johnson
C: Shaquille O'Neal

Three years:

G: Deron Williams
G: Dwayne Wade
F: Brandon Roy
F: Paul Pierce
C: Emeka Okafor


G: Tony Parker
G: Steve Nash
F: Andrei Kirilenko
F: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Yao Ming

If there are any debates or omissions on my part, feel free to leave them in the comments.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start

It's been a long time. I've been meaning to vent about a lot of the recent basketball stories: from Jeremy Tyler to Dirk's humble admission to Rafer and Ron-Ron taking it back to Queens. I could go on and on about Lebron or Billups or the difference between JR Smith and Gerald Green (that one is actually coming soon), but I have something different to share with you; and would like your feedback in the comments section. More after the random picture...

I've let it be known over on Money Mike's "Points Off Turnovers!" that Allen Iverson is my favorite all-time player. Even though his titan-slaying crossover on His Airness is his most monumental move in his journey through the Path of Basketball, it's his second-most profound move that confirmed the way I now see Basketball. I'm talking about the one that happened on the court and not the one in the media room that inspired an amazing J-Live/DJ Jazzy Jeff joint. The crossover-step-back corner jumper over Tyronn Lue in the '01 Finals demonstrated that a man, regardless of what was thrown his way, could impose his individual style on another and succeed. In addition to that affirmation, AI's anti-establishment style was further validation to me that a man carves his own destiny and can wield the power to move mountains. I know that sounds like a lot for a jumper in a game that ultimately meant nothing but keeping those Lakers from going undefeated in the playoffs, but I can now recognize those feelings now that I'm older. That one jumper from an unadulterated scorer inspired a shooter to find new ways to play angles to be able to release over taller players. And it was the foundation for the Fundamentally UnSound opinions that you read every...whenever I have time to post.

I couldn't be initially inspired by anything else; not because I'm not enamored with taller players, but rather because AI is someone that resonated with my Basketball soul. Isiah Thomas was a little before I really started watching, and Jason Terry doesn't possess the destructive willpower like Iverson. While Terry's one of my favorite players to watch, he isn't a shatterer of worlds; and that's what AI's jumper appeared to do to Mr. Lue. Iverson had to be the one to confirm my vision of the sport to me because he was the first player that I viewed differently. Even God Jordan to me was someone that was superhuman through tenacity; and didn't have blatant individualism through rebellion. Jordan was un-eff-witable because he was amazing; AI was all that with the candor of the best of hip-hop verses (Shout-out to Inspectah Deck).

That move was nearly a decade ago, yet I get special feelings for it whenever I see it. See, there are some things that will stay with you, whether consciously or subconsciously, that will shape the way you view tings, situations, events, and moments in life. They are things from your younger years that will bring back the entusiasm of youth once you have thought of them. They can be from anything, and not just necessarily related to your particular passion. For whatever reason, you can't forget them if you tried. They are the Konami Code for video game heads, something that designers of a few web sites have included on their pages after so many years.

So I'm asking you, Basketball fan, what moment in time is the cornerstone for how you see Hoops? Even if you don't look on Basketball with the analytical scope as I do, there is still something—some moment—that you can recall that will fill your Basketball mind with content. And I'd love to know what it is.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Unexpected Magic

While we're running out of superlatives for the way we feel while watching the Bulls and Celtics play what seems to be a never-ending game on one-ups-manship, there is a underlying factor that this series has created. And it's a variable that David Stern is very thankful for. More after the random picture...

I would like for you to drift back into the Basketball mental state that you were in before the postseason started. You may have been wondering if the Rockets were really better without McGrady; whether Chauncey would bring some stability to the unfocused Nuggets; whether it was really over for Detroit, Dallas, and San Antonio. But really, in your hoops heart of hearts, you were just praying that there was a way to skip to the NBA Finals--to the matchup of the Superhuman versus the Supernatural. You wished that there were no injuries, while hoping the elites in the playoffs would give you something to talk about around the water cooler.

Well, that did happen to an extent. Billups showed that he still deserves to be placed among elite floor generals. Miami and Atlanta are in the most boring 7-game series in history. Portland and Philly (and Orlando, to some degree) showed that they're still one year and one piece away from being thoroughly respected. Dwyane Wade is still a superhero. But even with all that, this first round would be nothing without Bulls/Celts. This is the diversion Big Commish was looking for--somthing to grab ahold of the people and bring more eyes to the TV screen.

Because of the glaring flaws of each team, the series was allowed to be more than just The Champs vs. The Baby Bulls. Throw in the unpredictability of the plays--and Chicago's inability to get the memo about Ray Allen and screens in crunch time--and you have speechless Basketball fans after six games anxiously waiting what the seventh will unfold. Instead of sitting with our heads in our hands waiting for the Kobe/Lebron promo, we're awaiting what tricks Rondo will have up his sleeve. We're wondering if Rose/Rondo is the CP3/D-Will of the East, at least until Devin Harris gets into the posteason, and that D-Rose's block was the drawing of first blood. We look forward to the possibility of Ray playing like Jesus, whether or not his last name is Shuttlesworth; and if Paul Pierce can bring the Truth to John Salmons to create some space at the free throw line. We're pulled in like a new audience in front of an experienced magician that hasn't seen his close-up illusions before.

Shot after shot, defensive stop after defensive stop, and whatever possessed Joakim Noah in the third overtime, the Bulls and the Celtics have temporarily provided misdirection; averting our eyes from June and into the first round. And David Stern is all smiles for it.