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Mythology in the NBA [May. 14th, 2009|04:01 pm]
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I've been mulling over Rondo for a while now, and I don't think there's a good way to give his mythology any structure. Before this season, he was to me a curious role player - a rookie given the task of organizing the celtic's offense. Is his development a natural extension of who he is? Or is his current incarnation an artificial result of being pressed into spot duty around the Big Three? I'd say it's a bit of both, but the two factors meld into each other. He never threw pinpoint passes in his first seasons. His offensive rebounding is solely his, coming sometimes at the expense of his team. But what about the lack of a jumpshot, and how he can coolly rack up triple doubles regardless? Was he never expected to develop a jumpshot? Did he never think of it as necessary? Or is his lack of a jumpshot a blessing in disguise, forcing him to dominate the game with his darts towards the basket when he would otherwise settle for spot-up shots (a la Rose)?

If there exists a Battier <-> LEBRON spectrum of all-around NBA players ranging from role players to The King (a terrible model, admittedly), where would Rondo fit? He is certainly no longer a role player, but his roots and development as a role player cannot be forgotten. Rondo did not come into the league fully formed as an Odom-esque jack of all trades, nor was he a singularly talented guard who could score at will but lacked other skills. He showed flashes of brilliance early on, but nothing like the awe-inspiring/absurdist antics of Anthony Randolph. It is here and now that the "KG of point-guards" description feels the most accurate. Except that Rondo's myth coexists with those of three other legends, while KG forged his own legacy in the isolated wastelands of Minnesota.

His shooting informs as much about his game as his speed and length do. As noted on ESPN, statistically Rondo is akin to Nash, Kidd, and Calderon - hardwood classicists who rack up assists without shooting much, but can shoot when asked to*. Kidd's jumpshot is always suspect, but his past two seasons in Dallas has given him some redemption. Rondo, on the other hand, has no jumpshot to speak of. And this is where style, necessity, and identity begin to collide for Rondo. But this is a story for another day.


*I acknowledge that there are important differences between the three, and debate as to whether or not Nash is a traditional point guard or something more deviant, but those are separate issues altogether.

Edit: This post was inspired by some freedarko ramblings. Head over to www.freedarko.com for some delicious NBA insights.
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(no subject) [Apr. 20th, 2008|11:07 am]
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As Tim Duncan hits the three-pointer with 3 seconds left to force the second overtime, the only thought passing through my mind was: "God hates basketball fans."

Really, at this point, who wants the Spurs to win?
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Yet more basketball posts [Mar. 1st, 2008|01:33 pm]
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We like trades. They make the NBA exciting to watch, provide new storylines, and give us hope that the Spurs won't win the championship. I know that this evaluation of trades has come several weeks too late, but I'll try to stick closest to my initial reaction to the trades.

My first reaction to the Pau Gasol trade was like that of any other NBA fan: "ZOMG LAKERS GONNA WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP BEST TEAM EVARRRR!!" The Lakers have easily ascended to the NBA's elite with the addition of Pau Gasol. Not only did they acquire and allstar at the inconsistent power forward position, but they didn't give up any good players or young talent in the process. They are legitimately 12-deep, with Farmar, Walton, Vujacic, Turiaf, Ariza, Mihm, and Radman. Scary good, and all of the rotation players are playing with great confidence under Phil Jackson's offense. Any player in the Lakers starting line-up is capable of out-muscling their opponent on any given night, while their bench provides a perfect balance of shooting, playmaking, size, and athleticism. The addition of Gasol address some of the problems they've had in the past couple seasons. First, although Phil Jackson always liked big line-ups, the Lakers could never match up well against the bigger teams in the West. Kwame Brown was their best post-defender against the Duncans and Boozers, but he was a dud offensively. Playing Lamar Odom at power forward meant that the Lakers had to play small, and got killed from the lack of shot-blocking. Against the Dallas Mavericks, the Lakers did not have enough bodies to handle Nowitzki, Howard, Stackhouse, and Terry at the same time, but the additions of Pau and Ariza give the Lakers great matchups against the Mavericks. The signing of Ariza was especially important for the Lakers. Aside from  Maurice Evans, the Lakers had no wing-player help Kobe defend Josh Howards and Carmelo Anthonys of the West. With the exception of the diminutive Farmar, all of their white guys played defense that ranged from mediocre (Luke Walton) to nonexistant (Radmanovic). Ariza gives them an athletic perimeter presence off the bench.
The Lakers traditionally went big against teams like the Warriors and Suns, and they can now go even bigger. While the combined 21-foot frontcourt of Bynum, Gasol, and Odom gets a lot of publicity, the backup forwards are just as good. Chris Mihm is another hard-playing seven footer, while the Turiaf is a ball of energy sure to give players like Nowiztki and Al Harrington fits. Keep in mind that Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher are stronger than most of their counter-parts too. Also, Andrew Bynum is tall.
*Side note: This success of the Lakers is both wonderful and irritating. I love watching Phil Jackson's teams play; they are always so poised and play to their strengths. I hate Lakers fans, particularly those who aren't from LA. Lakers fans are a mindless mob of "me-too"-ism, their praise of Kobe Bryant is borderline fellatio, and as such it is entirely impossible to have an objective discussion about LA. The Lakers popularity overshadows some of the better play in smaller market teams (if there is any justice in the world, Chris Paul would be MVP this season, not Lebron or Kobe), and the idea of having the Celtics and Lakers back on top of their respective divisions (and for this turnaround to occur so rapidly) feels like some form of basketball hegemony.


Phoenix Suns: There's too much to be said for the Shaq trade, and honestly not much can be decided until we see this team in the playoffs. All Shaq needs to do on this team is rebound and play defense, which should be easier for him in Phoenix than in Miami, where Pat Riley used him as a 320lb Shane Battier. Shaq should could see more or less foul trouble, depending on the opponents, but he really addresses the Suns issue of size. While he's no longer a force down low, he has great passing to either ignite a fast-break or pass to one of Phoenix's many three-point shooters. Shaq at center will take a lot of defensive and offensive pressure off of Stoudemire, allowing Amare to play the position that god intended him to play. There are more questions with this trade than answers, though, the first being the absence of Shawn Marion. As I've written before, Marion is one of the most underrated players in the league, playing on both ends of the court. For the Suns this year, Marion was their most versatile defender, guarding everyone from Tony Parker to Tim Duncan. The Suns had two great perimeter defenders in Bell and Marion, allowing Nash to coast defensively. When either player sat down, the other would take the lead defensive assignment. Also, Shawn Marion is athletic. Without Marion, the Suns are reduced to relying on Grant Hill and Leandro Barbosa to pick up difficult defensive assignments (think either of them can guard Carmelo Anthony?). While Marion was not a great 3pt shooter, he was a threat on the three-point line at the power forward position, which allowed Nash and Barbosa to penetrate into the lane with at most one additional defender giving help. Putting four players on the perimeter meant lots of 3pt shots, lots of driving lanes, lots of alley-oops, and a lot of Steve Nash dribbling shows (where he would drive underneath basket and come back out if he couldn't get a shot). Now that Shaq is there, Stoudemire and Shaq are going to clog the lane, preventing Nash from doing the thing that got him two MVPs - driving and dishing. Nash is not a great athlete; he gets to the paint from a series of fakes, the threat of the jump shot, and, most importantly, the threat of a pass. With Shaq standing underneath the basket, Nash will become much less effective. But really, all of the trade offs can be reduced to this: Marion - 38 minutes/game, 12 games missed in the past 8 seasons; Shaq - 28 minutes/game, metric fuckload of games missed in the past 8 seasons. First, someone on the Suns is going to have to play 10 more minutes per game, and it's going to be a combination of Grant Hill (who at his age surely suffers from diminishing returns per additional minute played), Boris Diaw (who suffers from no returns per minute played), and Brian Skinner (no comment necessary). If Shaq gets injured, then the Suns would really have no chance of winning a championship with their current roster. So basically, the Suns are putting their championship hopes on an injury prone 36 yr old fatass. Good luck with that. At least Steve Kerr proved that he has the cojones to be a GM.
*Post Script: What hurts more than the loss of Marion as a player is the loss of identity for the Phoenix Suns. They were the iconoclasts of a league where size and defense ruled supreme. They proved that they could play entertaining basketball and still win, coming within one Robert Horry cheap shot from winning the title. Now they've given up on their run and gun style, like an admission of defeat and conformity. It sucks.



An aside: Josh Childress of the playoff bound Atlanta Hawks is a statistically intriguing player. He plays off the bench as either a shooting guard or small forward, but averages a starters minutes. At over thirty minutes a game off the bench, he is not the typical offensive sparkplug player, taking only 8 shots per game. However, he is far from an offensive slouch, leading all guards and small forwards in shooting percentage at 58% by picking his spots, driving to the lane when appropriate, and making generally smart decisions. With a free-throw percentage of 82%, he's one of the most efficient scorers in the league at any position. He doesn't turn the ball over that much. Statistics aside, he's a capable rebounder and a great defender. Player's like Childress usually have a long career in the NBA, and will can play well on winning teams. I can't think of any team where Childress wouldn't be playing 25+ mintues a game.
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More NBA Musings [Jan. 26th, 2008|11:27 am]
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In a loss against Detroit, Dwight Howard only took 11 fg attempts, and while he was hacked constantly on his way to 16 free-throws, most of his shots came from transition, offensive rebounds, or dribble penetration by the guards. This suggests the following: The Orlando Magic guards need to learn how to make an entry pass, Dwight Howard - for all his speed and athleticism - has yet to develop a consistent post game a-la Duncan or Yao Ming, and Detroit plays some damn good defense. While it was frustrating watching the Orlando guards trying to make an entry pass to Howard for 20 seconds of the shot clock, only to then jack up a three point shot, It was equally frustrating watching Howard being unable to get in scoring position, because Howard's few moves depend on him being extremely close to the basket. I must credit Wallace, McDyess, and Detroit's half-zone defense for Howard's lack of offense, but right now Howard just doesn't look like a consistent low post option. I'll go as far as to say that Chris Kaman is a better post player than Howard on the offensive end. Howard did anchor the Magic defensively down the stretch.

Following up on the previous post, this game again proves how deadly a focused Pistons team can be. Chauncey Billups had another efficient game, Hamilton exploded on offense, McDyess was solid all around, and Rasheed Wallace proved once again that he is one of the smartest, most talented, and underachieving players in the league. Even with fouling out and getting a technical, Wallace frustrated Howard on both ends of the court with smart physical play, gave good help defense, and spurred the Pistons to a commanding lead. I have a strong feeling that the Pistons are going to win the championship this season.

Speaking about Chris Kaman, I can't figure out the Los Angeles Clippers. On paper, they have one of the most talented teams in the NBA. They are surprisingly one of the better defensive teams in the league, even without Elton Brand. While Kaman is having a breakout year, and Cuttino Mobley and Quinton Ross are decent defenders, I really couldn't see a team starting Sam Cassel and Tim Thomas as a good defensive team. The Clippers are, however, one of the worst offensive teams in the league - ranked 29th in offensive efficiency - which is also initially surprising. The Clippers are loaded with offensive talent, with capable scorers in Cassel, Thomas, Mobley, Kaman, Corey Maggette, and rookie Al Thornton. Their point-guard play seems to be the issue. With no reliable option behind an injured Sam Cassel, the Clippers have trouble running their sets, with Dan Dickau and Richie Frahm running the point at times. Brevin Knight gives them a good ball-handler, but Cassel is still going to get the lion's share of minutes at point guard. This seems to be a team loaded with too much offensive talent and not enough playmakers.
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Random Basketball Post [Jan. 16th, 2008|12:37 pm]
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In the 03-04 season, I predicted that the Pistons would win the championship because they could beat any team defensively in at least three out of five positions, while the midseason trade for Rasheed Wallace gave them another offensive option. They had a strong bench of veteran players who provided both offense and defense. The current Pistons team is much the same, except their strength has gone from defense to offense. With a change in coaching philosophy after Flip Saunders replaced Larry Brown, the Pistons can beat any team offensively in at least three out of five positions. The Pistons can still depend on their trademark defense to get them through games, but the interior defense has suffered without Ben Wallace. Instead, they have a team where every person in the starting lineup can shoot. We all know that Chancey Billups and Rip Hamilton can take over games. Tayshaun Prince can be a matchup nightmare on both ends of the court, and Antonio McDyess shoots 18-foot jumpshots better than any player in the league. Rasheed Wallace is a seven foot player who can post up and shoot threes, giving the Pistons an extremely versatile talent who can adapt to any of his teammates. In a league where playoffs are determined by a best of 7 series, the Pistons seem to have the personnel to match up against any team. Their bench this season is not as experienced as their championship team's, but it gives the Pistons some much needed athleticism and energy.

It's games like these that reinforce my growing belief that the Pistons are going to win the championship this season. Against a Raptors team that won 3 straight games, the Pistons executed well on both ends of the court to come away with a solid win. Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, and Jason Maxiell held Chris Bosh to 11 field goal attempts after he'd been averaging 39 points over the last two games. Chauncey Billups, supported by the Piston's team defense, forced usually unflappable Jose Calderon into committing three turnovers. Granted, considering that Bosh is playing aside Andrea Bargnani, the Pistons frontcourt were continually double-teaming Bosh. Billups and Hamilton proved again that the Pistons have the best backcourt in the NBA. Hamilton repeatedly confounded Raptors defenders by running off of screens on his way to 39 points on 16-22 shooting. But what was equally impressive was Chauncey Billups's 20 points on 5-9 shooting with 7-7 free-throws. He's a savvy and experienced point guard who knows when to passively let his teammates play and when to dominate the ball. In a sense, he's like a slow-down half-court version of Steve Nash, with better defense. Billups always plays under control with few turnovers, knows when and where to pass to his teammates, and often takes what the defense gives him. He doesn't shoot as well as Nash, but his offensive game is more diverse, and better suited for a slow-tempo half-court game where he can post-up smaller point guards. He averages on the season 17.4 ppg on just 11.4 shots, thanks in large to his impeccable free-throw shooting and his ability to get to the line. Billups's stats (and to an extent, the entire Pistons team's) are not as gaudy as some other point guards in the league, but that's because the Pistons play the fewest possessions per game out of any team in the league. When normalized for pace, the Detroit Pistons are one of the best offensive teams in the league.
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(no subject) [Aug. 17th, 2007|12:24 am]
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I hate Internet 2.0
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(no subject) [Mar. 11th, 2007|04:46 pm]
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Not enough sleep. Midterms. Unopened backpack. Not good. Stress.
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(no subject) [Mar. 4th, 2007|05:33 pm]
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[music |Iron Maiden - Hallowed Be Thy Name]

I don't write as much as I should. It's been almost a year since I wrote anything structured.



Humans are not created to be happy. It's a really freeing idea.



Identity is troubling. Discuss.
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Random Musings about the NBA [Jan. 22nd, 2007|07:07 pm]
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I haven't written anything about this NBA season so far, so here are some of my thoughts about the current NBA season (and yes Madhav, I mention the Jazz).

Western Conference

- After a horrible start (2-5, I believe) the Suns are back and have now gone on two 11+ game winning streaks, the second of which should continue as long as they are playing mediocre teams. That is not to say that Phoenix can't win big in the playoffs with a running game - they have proven that in the last two seasons. They figure to be much better this season with Amare Stoudemire and Kurt Thomas back in the line-up. Amare seems to be better than he was two year ago, especially since he's not getting the ball as much. He's certainly improved on his defense to the point where he can now energize his team with a huge block in the same way that he does on the offensive end with a dunk. And while neither Thomas nor Stoudemire are great at protecting the basket, they prevent a lot of the great western conference power-forwards from dominating the inside. With the continued development of Barbosa as a point guard, the improved play of Steve Nash, and a deep bench for the wing positions, the Suns are better suited for the playoffs than they were last season. However it is very likely that they still won't make it into the finals because ...

LJ cut, for your convenienceCollapse )
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Is it 2007 already? [Jan. 4th, 2007|10:48 pm]
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[music |Wu-Tang Clan - Triumph]

Upon reflection, this year went by so fast, especially the latter half. I'm gonna miss working.

Nothing like deadline induced stress to produce humor.
Office Quips:

Me: "We have a crapload of extra client kit foam."
Walid: "Hey Noel, we have a problem with the foam. We officially have a "crapload" of extra foam."
Marc: "Is that a metric crapload?"

(you're not going to get this one)
Mike: *pointing to Marc's large abdomen* "How's it hanging buddy?"
Marc: "It's not hanging. When you've got something good, you don't leave it hanging. You build a roof over it."

Mike: "Stupid Walid, I'm always covering your mistakes!"
Walid: "That wasn't my mistake! Right Robin?"
Me: *pause* "This is what I call being a team. It's Walid's job to mess things up, and Mike's job to fix things."

Noel: "See Walid, we're a team here; everyone has their place on a team. And your place is to take the blame."

Walid: "I was hoping to get through the day without getting shouted at."
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