Sunday, June 26, 2011

LeBron, NBA Draft and another plea for Beas

Glad to hear Jamaica was a blast. I know you guys fit right in.

I agree on Wade not getting his fair share of the blame for the Game 6 Finals loss. I disagree about the LeBron criticism. Knowing what we know about LeBron and his talent, it's hard for me to say he had a "damn good series". He averaged a 18-7-7 in the Finals. Far from terrible, but the 4 turnovers per game and shooting 60% from the FT line and only getting to the line 20 times during a 6 game series seem more telling. His lack of free throw attempts accurately show he wasn't getting to the line the way he normally does. If he's getting to the line 9 times a game like he did against Chicago, I think you can live with the 4 TOPG because it shows he's trying to make something happen. Around 3 FTPG and 4 TOPG tell he was on the perimeter and still turning the ball over. The Mavericks did play great team defense, but I remember at least two instances where LeBron James had JJ Barea guarding him. Once he passed off and the other he committed an offensive foul. I won't go with the "What Would Jordan Do?", but hell, what would Carmelo do in that situation? Is there any chance that Melo doesn't feel downright disrespected by Barea or Jason Terry guarding him one on one and deciding to make them pay? Not exploiting the Barea matchup or driving to the basket with a good look and then passing off to Juwan Howard are why I think LeBron is taking flack. He just didn't play his game. That can't happen in the Finals, especially from a guy of his talent. Dirk did struggle his way to 21 points on 27 shots, but I feel like he was playing his game. The shots just weren't falling. He wasn't forcing shots or taking shots he doesn't normally take. They just weren't falling. He kept shooting them and eventually they did. I feel like if LeBron had 21 points on 27 attempts, and most of the attempts were at the rim then he wouldn't get the quite criticism he has received. If he took 27 jumpers like Dirk, he would be rightfully criticized because that's not his game. I always feel like Kobe got flack for his 6-24 game because many of the shots were just terrible. Plus, it's all about getting the win. It's unfair but if Kobe lost that game he'd be killed, just like Dirk would have been.

Having said that (in my best Larry David voice), if Miami gets so much as an average series from LeBron, they sweep Dallas. The celebration of the Heat's failure seems a bit premature to me. I hear a lot of the "Trade Bosh" talks, but he didn't have that bad of a Finals and they don't win the Chicago series without him. The "LeBron-for-Dwight" rumors intrigue the hell out of me just because it makes some sense for both teams but I can't see it happening. The Heat have a lot of free agents, which I think is a good thing. Once they ditch the corpses of Bibby/Ilgauskas/Juwan Howard, get Miller healthy and some young legs in there, they could very well end up in the Finals again next season.

I'll be honest: I'm not a huge Brandon Knight fan. That guy is not a point guard and I'm not sure that he ever will be. He hit some huge shots for UK this season but he also shot us out of a number of games this year, including a 6-23 stinker in the Final Four. He's a decent enough passer, but he rarely made his teammates better. He does have the tools to be a good defender and seems like a good enough guy, but I wasn't all that sad to see him to declare for the NBA. I'm guessing this means Stuckey is on the move as he and Knight are very similar. I like the Singler pick for you though. He's a guy that does some of everything and he'll work hard for you. If he makes the team, you can do a lot worse than have him sitting at the end of the bench. I was pleased to see Orlando draft Liggins, but I can't see him making the team. Last year we took Stanley Robinson who was better on defense, but worse on offense than Liggins and he didn't make the squad. This year, with Otis Smith in "Win now or lose Dwight" mode, I doubt he'll save a spot for Liggins even though I do think can play in this league. I hope he gets a fair shot somewhere, if not Orlando.

It's that time of the year again where I have to beg somebody take a chance on Michael Beasley. With the addition of Derrick Williams, Minnesota will now have Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Williams, Wes Johnson and Martell Webster competing for minutes at the 3 or 4. Beasley just turned 22, averaged 19 a game this season and you can have him for 6 million this season. Like him after that? Extend him the qualifying offer and decide whether you want to match any offer he receives. Don't like him? Let him walk. The Cavaliers or your Pistons should kick the tires on him. I inquire if I'm the Nets or Hornets too, just because hooking Super Cool Beas up with a Chris Paul or Deron Williams could be great for his career. In 73 games this season, he went above twenty points 32 times! Give him a look! Hear me now, thank me later NBA.

I feel your pain, brother. I know all too well the frustrations of a manager being reluctant to sit a veteran player. It took Jonny Gomes hovering around .200 for a couple of months to finally get some burn for Chris Heisey. Even then, the Reds just don't look good. They've been hovering around .500 for some time now and are getting nothing out of LF or SS. I was a Janish advocate for a long time, but I now see why his bat kept him on the bench. Jay Bruce has gone ice cold. Cueto is still cooking though and Homer Bailey is about to come off the DL. We are only three games out, but are still in 4th place. I'm keeping hope alive.

Caught a Braves game last week and I was more than delighted to find that Jordan Schafers walk up song is "Seduction" by Eminem. What a strange, strange choice.

"Now batting....#1....Jorrrrrrr-dan Schaaaaaaa-fer!"
"Seduction.....seduce.......Ain't nobody who's as good at what I do"

Cut to Schafer taking a few hacks before shaking off the donut and stepping in the box. Killed me.

Reading some of your brother's blog right now. Pretty good stuff. I can't call it on Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax duking it out in 1963, but it is nice to see a game that I had forgotten all about like a few of Randy Johnson's gems. Switching sports, but keeping with statistical analysis, I thought this was a fascinating read. It takes some advanced statistics to see where the first seven seasons of Dwight Howard's career rank among some of the greats. Good read.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

NBA, MLB, and a new blog

Pardon my absence: I was out of the country for a while, and have been desperately trying to catch up on some work since I've gotten back.

I was in Jamaica for my 10th anniversary.  Big fun.  Beautiful place.

They had a TV there, but we were in and out of the room so much, I didn't get a chance to watch a whole lot of the games.  I was able to catch random moments of each of the games.  I caught the end of games 4 and 5, which were extremely exciting.  I watched game 6 up until about midway through the 3rd quarter.  The Mavs were up by 7, the Heat seemed to be unraveling and they called a timeout.  We ended up heading out to dinner at that moment.  It was later that night, as we were on the beach looking at starfish, that someone walked by talking about how the Mavs won.  Needless to say, while I wish I was able to see the entire game, I wasn't heartbroken over it (I had already decided that, were it a close ending, I was going to download it and watch it later).
Anyway, a big congrats to the Mavs on winning the title.  I said when it started that I was hoping for the Mavs to win in 7, but that I thought that was being optimistic.  Well, as it turns out, they didn't even need 7 games.

The narrative I kept hearing was how LeBron shrunk from the spotlight...that he shut down yet again.  I can see why people kept coming back to that.  He kept passing the ball.  He seemed to refuse to drive.  Here's what I saw: I saw LeBron missing some shots from the outside.  I saw the Mavs play some terrific team defense...the kind of defense that prevents wild drives to the hoop.  Now, suppose he kept jacking up outside shots and missing.  The story would be how LeBron shot them out of the series.  Suppose he forced the issue and drove anyway, and drove himself directly into some charges.  LeBron's reckless play led to turnovers which cost them the series.
In that last game, LeBron scored 21 (team high) on 9-15 shooting.  Wade (who, according to the narrative, played his heart out and left it all on the court and did everything in his power to win the game) scored 17 points on 6-16 shooting.  Nowitzki (the NBA champion, who willed his team to victory) scored 21 points on 9-27 shooting.
This is not to dump on Nowitzki...he deserved that championship.  It's just to point out some numbers.  Can you imagine what would've happened if it took LeBron 27 shots to get 21 points?  The same people who were praising LeBron for his style of play during the course of the playoffs (looking mainly to be a distributor) killed him for his performance in the finals loss.
Look.  I know LeBron brought this attention and scrutiny on himself with The Decision and the overblown pep rally.  But it all seems a little ridiculous to kill him for having a good game.  I guess we expect greatness every time the game is on the line.  I do think that he could afford to take over the game a little bit more (that's what I miss the most about Cleveland LeBron), but, from what I saw, he had a damn good series.

Either way, congrats to the Mavs.  They earned this.

A brief word about the draft.  I'm pretty excited about the Pistons draft tonight.  They took Brandon Knight (I think it'll take him a couple years to be a great point guard, but I have high hopes for him) and Vernon Macklin (he had a great season for Florida).  They also grabbed Singler, which I'm not a fan of.  Mainly because he's ugly as sin.  I don't think this draft will turn them around this year, but I think it's a good solid foundation for the future.
Your Magic took Liggins.  That's gotta make you happy.

Now we move onto the time of year where all we have it baseball.  Normally we'd have football news...but there's none of that.  Oh well.  We'll get a season eventually.

I'm currently not happy about my Tigers.  They're streaky, which is to be expected.  We have a lot of good, young players, but Leyland's loyalty to his old guys is going to kill this season.  Danny Worth seemed like a solid player, but he was recently demoted to make room for the return of Brandon Inge, who was hitting .211 with 1 HR and 12 RBI in 52 games (he was only hitting .190 in AAA).  They're also giving regular playing time to Ordonez (who I love...but who is declining in skill.  He has no defensive range, and is hitting .178 this season with hardly any power).  He continues to play Raburn, even though he's not hitting for average, not much power, and is a below-average defender.  And I have a sneaking suspicion that Carlos Guillen will be rejoining the team soon.  I'm hoping that Leyland comes to his senses and realizes that he should stick with his young guys.  For now, in spite of all of these problems, they're only 1 game out of first.  The thing is, they're not a bad team now...but I think they could be a really good team with a couple changes.
By the way, if you ever get a chance to see Al Albuquerque pitch, do it.  That kid is unreal.  Killer fastball.  Nasty slider.  Amazing stuff.

Speaking of baseball...
My brother started a blog this past week, where he looks at different statistics in baseball.  This week he looked at the top pitching match-ups by decade, and then of all-time.  It's some pretty technical stuff, but I really like it.  I hope he keeps it up.  Check it out here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ich Bin ein Champion

I can't sleep. I'm a lot happier than I thought I would be about Dallas winning the championship. I'm ecstatic that everything I wrote in my last post is moot, because Dirk has a championship. I thought it couldn't get any better.

Then this happened:

Then Dan Gilbert sent this out:

"Congrats to Mark C.&entire Mavs org. Mavs NEVER stopped & now entire franchise gets rings. Old Lesson for all:There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE."

Then this, in reference to the Post Decision party that Bosh, Wade and LeBron had:


Then this:

My goodness. What a series. You have to be happy for Miami.

Dirk took his lumps on and off the court and seemed to be a broken man. Today, he is your Finals MVP.

Jason Kidd, the best PG I've ever seen, ran into the juggernaut that was the Shaq-Kobe Lakers and lost two Finals. Tonight, he's a champ. Might I add that during this postseason run, 38 year old Kidd played admirable defense on Brandon Roy, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade AND LeBron James.

Shawn Marion played with some great Phoenix teams but wanted to go to a worse team for a bigger role. He took his medicine, bounced around a couple of teams and ended up in Dallas. They don't win this title without him.

Jason Terry, who just might think he's the best player in the NBA, hit big shot after big shot in this elimination game.

I've always enjoyed DeShawn Stevenson. He's always been a little out of his mind, but he played hard for his couple of seasons in Orlando. Then he went and got Abe Lincoln tattooed on his throat. What's not to love?
NBA champion, Brian Cardinal. Peja took his lumps on some great Sacramento teams. Chandler seems like a decent guy that knows his role and has fit in on every team he's been on. Barea is great to watch, even if he shoots any shot over 15 foot like a woman. Caron Butler and Corey Brewer didn't even get to play much. I've always liked Cuban, as well. He gets a lot of flack for running his mouth, but I imagine I would be the same way if I hit it big and bought a NBA team. Rick Carlisle seemed to get bad break after bad break. He took your Pistons to the Conference Finals, and then was ousted for Larry Brown. He had a great team derailed by the Ron Artest brawl at the Palace. He landed on his feet with Dallas and got himself a ring. Congratulations to your 2010-11 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks. I am thrilled.

I do wonder about LeBron though. During the Boston/Chicago series, he appeared to be the LeBron everyone thought he would be. There was no ceiling for him. He was scoring at will, hitting the boards, getting open looks for everyone else and playing dynamite defense. The LeBron I saw for the majority of the Finals was completely different. He deferred to a fault. He had an open drive to the basket late in Game 6 and passed off to Juwan Howard. This may be the cruelest thing I've ever said about anyone, but I see a lot of Vince Carter in LeBron. When asked about coming up short in this series, LeBron replied with, "Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't." Guys like a Jamal Crawford can easily shoot you out of a game, but they go down shooting. Vince Carter just stops shooting. I guess it's a "They can't say I failed if I don't shoot. I didn't miss the game winning shot because I didn't take it." I get that vibe from LeBron and it's not a good one. I also wonder if Wade will have what it takes to criticize a friend. It's one thing to yell at Michael Beasley or Mario Chalmers. It can't be easy to yell at not only your best friend, but someone who just may be better than you at your job. Very interested to see how this plays out.

I don't know where he goes from here. For most of his previous playoff defeats, the blame was never solely on him. This time it will be, fair or not. I think LeBron thought that joining forces with Wade and Bosh was the remedy. It wasn't. Not this year at least, but is this the loss that will get LeBron in the gym to learn a post game? I don't know that it is. Since his rookie year, what has LeBron added to his game? What's his go to move? Where's his favorite spot on the court? That jumper is still streaky, he's always boarded/passed well and his defense improved as a result of his commitment on that end more so than anything else. In the post Finals press conference, he suggested that people criticizing him doesn't bother him because at the end of the day they have to go back to their lives and personal problems, and he gets to live his life the way he wants. Nothing wrong with that answer, but it just seemed peculiar given the circumstances.

Sidenote: I am really going to miss the Mark Jackson-Jeff Van Gundy- Mike Breen trio. Not sure how Jackson got a head coaching job with no coaching experience, but I do wish him well. My favorite memory of those three has to be JVG mistakenly calling Vince Carter "Tim Duncan". Van Gundy beat himself up over that for the rest of the game. Jackson claimed he didn't normally care about what Van Gundy did in his private time, but now he demands around the clock drug testing on announcers. Late in the game, Van Gundy comes out of nowhere to apologize to Duncan for a "tragic error and honest mistake". Good times.

I'm watching Hannah Storm interview Mark Cuban live on SportsCenter and he said, "The key was that our fans punked the shit out of Miami fans."

I'm going to bed. It's not getting better than that.

Correction. It's not getting better than THAT.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dirk's Legacy

It shouldn't diminish his legacy...but you know it will. Dirk stayed with the team that drafted him, in hopes of winning a ring. If he doesn't, he'll be criticized. LeBron took less money to play with a team that could get him a ring...and he's still criticized. We want you to win a ring, but you'll do it on our terms. And if you don't do it at all? We'll remind you about it anytime we can. I hate that. I'm a little less optimistic than you in the Mavs chance of winning this series. I think they had a good shot to steal Game 1 and couldn't do it. They have to win Game 2, or it could be over because I don't see them winning all three in Dallas. Still, that's the way athletes are defined. Robert Horry, while extraordinarily clutch during the playoffs, was for the most part an average player. Hell, if he gets drafted one spot earlier he goes to the Hawks, not the Rockets. He doesn't starts his career with Hakeem in his prime. Maybe he never works his way over to the Lakers/Spurs to collect those rings. But he did, and he is remembered as a winner for it. Nobody remembers the 11th pick in the NBA draft averaging 7 ppg for his career or him throwing a towel at a coach Phoenix. Just the rings.

In hopes of a reverse jinx, let's say Dirk loses this series against Miami. He will have lost Finals appearances in one of the most controversially officiated series in recent memory and one where three of the best players in the league teamed up in their prime. Neither of those things had anything to do with Dirk's play, yet he will be judged as a classic, "He was great but..." guy.
Check out his playoff numbers. Dirk is averaging 26 ppg and 10 rpg in his playoff career. He's had a great run this season, averaging 28 ppg-7 rpg. Last year he did 27-8. The year before? 27-10. The year before that? 27-12. If this was a guy that consistently underperformed in the playoffs, maybe the "He's great, but he couldn't win the big one" talks would be more fitting. Not the case. Yet he will still be mentioned among the Barkley/Ewing/Malone's of the world. Win or lose, Dirk is one of the best I've ever seen. I can't call it on the Bird comparisons because I never saw Bird. I can tell you that Dirk is unlike any other player I've seen. Kevin Durant should be watching Nowitzki tapes as we speak. There is no gameplan for him. He abuses smaller players in the post. He's quick enough to go around bigger guys. He's crafty enough to get his shot off against more athletic guys. Truly one of a kind. That's what I'll remember about him.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dirk vs. LeBron

I have a quick NBA Finals related question:
I am by no means saying that the Heat are going to win (I'm going with the Mavs 7...but that might just be wishful thinking), but, if they do, that means LeBron gets a ring, while Dirk stays ringless.
Now, say Dirk never makes it back to the Finals (which isn't a stretch, considering the ages/talent level/injury proneness of some of his teammates).  He retires somewhere down the line, never having won a ring.
When people talk about legacy, what is Dirk's?  "A great player, but he couldn't win the big one."  But that's too easy.  That doesn't tell the whole story.
Now, look at LeBron.  His career is legitimate now that he's won a ring.  But again, that's too easy.
LeBron left Cleveland to play with Wade and Bosh.  Dirk stayed in Dallas and is playing with Kidd and Terry.  Looking at the superstar power, there's no question: the Heat are stacked.  If the Mavs lose to the Heat, is this just another letdown for Dirk?  Will his career always have that question mark...that "Yeah, but he never won a championship"?

For the record, I don't think it should.  LeBron fled Cleveland for a shot at a dynasty...and he looks like he found it.  But that shouldn't suddenly diminish Dirk...should it?

What's your take on this?  If the Mavs lose, where is Nowitzki?