Tag Archives: basketball

Angel Reece vs Jill Biden: the First Lady Fucked Up

I don’t know if anyone has been following the NCAA women’s championship kerfuffle with Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese. In short, both are fantastic players and both engage in a little of what we ballers call “smack.” Clark, Iowa’s superstar, likes to do the John Cena/you can’t see me gesture, and in the final the other day, LSU’s Reece did it to her as the game ended.

You can’t see me

And the whole world blew up at Reece’s behavior. Want to guess what the diff is between Clark and Reece?

But public and media double standards aren’t enough, so First Lady Jill Biden said she wants to invite both LSU and Iowa to the White House.

This is a big tradition, of course – the winners of big championships (NCAA football and hoops, NBA, NFL, etc.) get to go to the White House. But inviting second place? This is not done. Until now, because the FL apparently admires Iowa’s “sportsmanship.” (At the risk of being cynical: she may be aware that “moderate” white folks in Iowa vote.)

And now Reece (and at least one Dem legislator) have released the hounds. Reece called Biden a joke and said we’re not coming.

The WH PR machine is now on spin cycle, but let’s be honest: Dr. Biden fucked up. I don’t think she’s a bigot, but this makes clear how the subtle racism is still very real, even in the words and actions of declared and dedicated social justice types. (And subtle can be worse than overt, especially at the West Wing level.)

I doubt this has ever occurred to her. But in context, “sportsmanship” is code.

I hope this gets ironed out. But if Lisa Bluder, Iowa’s coach, is a Republican, she can make some hay by coming out today and loudly accepting the invite.

Why the Chicago Bulls should have traded Derrick Rose two years ago

Rose will never be the same, but even healthy he’s never going to win an NBA title.

Derrick Rose. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

My friend Otherwise is a Chicago Bulls fan. I’m a Denver Nuggets fan. So we commiserate sometimes.

Back in 2009, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose won the Rookie of the Year award. The next year he was an all-star. And in 2011 he become the youngest player in history to be named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

The following year he was fantastic again, right up until he blew his ACL. As he was rehabbing, I suggested to Otherwise that Chicago should trade him, then and there. Yes, he was hurt, but there was no reason to think he wouldn’t bounce back and at that moment in time I’m guessing league GMs would have lined up around the block to offer the sun, moon and stars for him. Heck, who could have known that he was going to rip up his knees every 15 minutes, right?

I had two reasons for proposing that the Bulls ship Rose out. Read more

The American Basketball Association: remembering the six best things about a true original

The ABA was an innovator that changed the face of modern basketball.

Some of the league’s new ideas survived and made their way into the game we see played today. Here are our six favorite ABA things, in no particular order.

1: The three-point shot. The ABA didn’t invent it – the idea had been around for some time, and Abe Saperstein’s ABL was the first league to implement it back in 1961 – but they knew a great idea when they saw it and were the league responsible for popularizing the rule that has utterly transformed the game over the past 40 years.

2: Three-to-make-two. When a team was in the bonus, fouled players got three free throw attempts, if needed, to make two baskets. This rule didn’t survive, but I bet Dwight Howard wishes it had. In fact, bringing it back might be a way of helping The League deal with its persistent Hack-a-Shaq problem. UPDATED: I have been informed that this was an old NBA rule that predated the ABA. So scratch item #2, and I guess it’s now the five best things about the ABA. Apologies.
Read more

NCAA Final Four: Kentucky vs. UConn reminds us how bad American sports are at deciding champions

US sports leagues reward inferior teams and routinely deny their best teams the championship.

Richard Allen Smith and I have argued from time to time about the merits of the BCS vs. the NCAA basketball tournament. Rich defends the BCS, while I point out its unfairness and corruption. He argues that the BCS does (did) a good job at getting the two best teams on the field for the final game, and that the single-elimination format of the Dance routinely allows inferior teams to win.

Whatever you may think about the BCS, it has to be said that Rich is right about March Madness. Tonight we’re going to see a “national championship” game featuring a team whose regular season performance merited them a seed in the 28-31 range playing a team whose record earned them an 8 seed – which is to say, they were somewhere in the early- to mid-30s. Read more

The NBA and the Miami Heat double-standard: the Stern Crime Family strikes again

Let’s review.

This was an automatic, on the spot flagrant 2 and ejection.

But this – a blindside cheap shot, a two-handed shove and some subsequent manhandling of the ref – earned only a flagrant 1.

Note that LeBron flopped like a Portuguese midfielder while Hansbrough remained upright.

And this flying WWE-style flying elbow from Dwyane Wade was assessed a flagrant 1, but only after the league office reviewed it the next day.

Flagrant 1s earn the opposition a free throw and the ball. Flagrant 2s get the offender ejected. And if you’re the sort of conspiracy theorist who thinks the NBA is protecting its cash cow, the star-studded Miami Heat, well, there’s not much in this sequence to prove you wrong, is there?

(I guess the league might still take some extra action against Anderson, seeing as how he’s a role player and not a superstar. Of course, he’s an important role player and the Miami/Indiana series is still tight, so maybe not. We’ll see.)

[UPDATE: The league has apparently been embarrassed into suspending Anderson for a game.]

Some advice to the NBA league office. If you want your fans to stop seeing the hand of the Illuminati in every controversial call, if you want smart-asses like me to stop using phrases like “RICO investigation” and “Stern Crime Family,” you should stop, you know, acting like an organized crime family.

Just saying.

Hey, Chicago Bulls fans: I’m starting to worry about Derrick Rose

Starmelo is in the news today telling everybody to LEAVE DERRICK ROSE ALONE!

“I wish y’all would stop rushing Derrick back,” said Anthony, whose Knicks, winners of 13 straight, play the Bulls on Thursday night. “Please. He shouldn’t come back until he’s about 110 percent ready. I don’t think he should come back if he’s not ready to go out there and play. If he can’t compete at a high level, then what’s a couple more months going to do? What’s two more months going to do? I don’t think he should come back, and that’s just my opinion.

“I really don’t know where he’s at with his rehab and stuff like that, but I feel bad for him because I know he’s got to deal with that every day, he’s got to deal with that question. And nobody really knows on the outside what he’s really going through, what his body is going through. So until he’s 100 percent right, I would hope he would sit out.”

Anthony probably has a point, although he also has some vested interest in Rose not rushing back. Heck, sit out next season, too, just to be safe, you know?

But then we get to the thing I find myself pondering on: “A source told ESPNChicago.com in early March that Rose has been medically cleared to play but needs to regain his confidence in his left leg before he will return.”

Fact 1: Rose is medically cleared to play. For a month, and counting. Given how valuable Rose is to the team, I’m guessing the docs are being pretty conservative in their diagnosis, too.

Fact 2: Despite being physically okay, Rose is refusing to play.

I’m sensitive to the psychology here because, as the kids these days are fond of saying, “I been there.” In January of 1998 I destroyed my left knee playing hoops. It sounds, from all I can gather, like Rose’s injury was pretty similar to mine: torn ACL, torn meniscus. I promise you, he has my full and unconditional sympathy. I have never felt pain like that and the whole surgery and rehab process never stopped sucking.

But … Rose is reluctant, whereas I couldn’t get back to playing fast enough. Rose had surgery on May 12, 2012 – 11 months ago to the day. I was back playing baseball – with limited activity – in four months. I was back on the basketball court in six months.

I hear you laughing. You’re thinking “bitch, please – you ain’t never been Derrick Rose.” Which is true. At no point was I placing my knee under the kind of competitive stress that that Rose sees every trip down the floor.

On the other hand, I was 37 by the time I had surgery and was well past my physical prime, whereas Rose is a superhuman elite athlete in the heart of his healing peak years. So, to some extent, maybe we’re talking six of one, half dozen of the other?

I don’t know Derrick Rose, but I know why some are questioning him. He doesn’t want to come back until he’s 100%. He wants to be mentally confident. He has no interest in returning until he knows he can be a premier contributor to his team. I get all that and I respect it.

But if it were me, I’d have been back on the floor the second the physicians cleared me. I think that’s probably true of a lot of pro athletes. And while you don’t hear his fellow players calling him out, I guarantee you that a lot of them are questioning his courage in private. You’re medically cleared. Your body is ready. Your team needs you. And you’re sitting it out down the stretch because you want to make sure you’re 110%? Derrick, at 85% you’re still one of the best players in the league. Right now, you’re a difference maker.

And yet … he isn’t playing. He hears the whispers, he hears the veiled implications in the punditry, so he knows he’s being talked about. He knows people are questioning his courage, his commitment, his cojones.

I’m worried about Rose because I know what it’s like that first time you step on the floor. The first time out on the break. The first time you make a pivot in a crowded post. You cannot help being afraid. You can’t. Your body is ready to dance, but your mind remembers the pain of the injury and the months of instability as you rehab. You remember vividly being unable to do a single revolution on the exercise bike because the knee is still too swollen. You remember the first few nights after the surgery, when you have to sleep strapped into a machine that flexes your leg – 45% to -5% and back again. You remember how hard it is to sleep with that damned thing. You remember how something as simple as taking a shower or fetching a soda from the fridge becomes an ordeal. You remember being helpless.

I remember these things to this day and I promise you, Rose does, too. And right now, his fear is winning out over his desire to compete.

His fear is winning out at a time when many of his colleagues and who knows how many weekend warriors across the country would be battling their orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists demanding that they be allowed to play.

I don’t know what this means about Rose long-term. Maybe he’s back on the court and playing like the injury never happened a week fro now. Maybe he never again, ever, reacts in a way that would tell you he was ever hurt in the first place.

Maybe. But right now, he’s telling us something about who he is.

I’m the last guy in the world to advise someone coming back from injury to push it, to take chances. I don’t want you back until the experts say you’re ready. But once your body is ready, I can’t help noticing when the mind lags behind.

And I can’t help wondering what this means about your commitment down the road.

The All-NBA What-If Team

David “Skywalker” Thompson before he arrived in the NBA. Damn.

We sports fans love a good “what if?” debate, and there are millions of them. What if Portland had drafted Michael Jordan instead of Sam Bowie? What if Roman Abramovich had left José Mourinho alone instead of meddling? What if Barry “The Asterisk” Bonds hadn’t decided to become a walking pharmaceutical test facility? What if Don Shula had pulled Earl Morrall and put Johnny Unitas in the game earlier in Super Bowl III? What if the fucking refs had called the interference on that early Baltimore pick-six in their playoff win against the Broncos a few weeks back?

And my favorite: What if [insert player here] hadn’t gotten hurt?

The simple fact is that all of our major sports (and a lot of the minor ones, too) are littered with players who never realized their full potential due to injuries. For instance, I don’t know how many yards Gale Sayers would have finished his career with had he not blown his knee, but if they’d had the medical tech then that they do today it would have been many thousands more than the 4,956 he retired with.

Some of the greatest sports injury what ifs can be found in the NBA. In a parallel universe where a few injuries didn’t happen, the list of top five greatest players in history contains a couple names you don’t find on the corresponding list in this universe. So I decided to have a crack at naming the NBA’s all-time What-If Hall of Fame starting five.

Point Guard: Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway

Hardaway was the #3 pick in the 1993 draft and along with teammate Shaquille O’Neal led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in his second season. He was an All-NBA First Teamer in 1995 and 1996 and was named to the third team in 1997. He was also a four-time all-star (1995, 1996, 1997, 1998). But he blew his knee early in the 1997-98 season, and while he returned to play for another ten years he was never the same.

Shooting Guard: David Thompson

Put simply, David Thompson was the best player I ever saw. If not for injuries (and a self-inflicted coke problem later on) there is little doubt in my mind that he would today be regarded as the greatest player who ever lived. Let’s consider some of the highlights:

  • 4× NBA All-Star (1977–1979, 1983)
  • ABA All-Star (1976)
  • 2× All-NBA First Team (1977, 1978)
  • NBA All-Star Game MVP (1979)
  • ABA All-Star Game MVP (1976)
  • ABA Rookie of the Year (1976)
  • ABA All-Rookie First Team (1976)

Standing 6’4″, DT was one of the most remarkable pure athletes in basketball history. He had a flat-footed vertical of 44″ and did this show dunk he called “cradle the baby”: he’d wrap his arm around the ball, leap up above the rim and punch the ball down through the net with his other hand. Long-time basketball watchers will tell you that the 1976 ABA Slam-Dunk Contest, with Dr. J beating Thompson in the final (that was the one where Erving became the first person to dunk taking off at the free throw line) was the greatest dunk contest in hoop history. Thompson also pretty much invented the alley-oop, so you’re welcome LA Clippers.

Have a look at his numbers over the first few years of his career.

1975–76 Denver (ABA) 26.0 6.3 3.7 1.6 1.2 .515
1976–77 Denver 25.9 4.1 4.1 1.4 0.6 .507
1977–78 Denver 27.2 4.9 4.5 1.2 1.2 .521
1978–79 Denver 24.0 3.6 3.0 0.9 1.1 .512
1979–80 Denver 21.5 4.5 3.2 1.0 1.0 .468
1980–81 Denver 25.5 3.7 3.0 0.7 0.8 .506
1981–82 Denver 14.9 2.4 1.9 0.6 0.5 .486
1982–83 Seattle 15.9 3.6 3.0 0.6 0.4 .481
1983–84 Seattle 12.6 2.3 0.7 0.5 0.7 .539

He began having injury issues after the 1978 season, and even with them he continued to post great numbers through 1980-81.

I guess there’s one other factor to consider – DT never played in a big media market, and that always helps the legend. Had he done everything in his career in LA or New York or Boston there would be a lot less chatter about Michael Jordan being the best ever.

Thompson is in the Hall of Fame. And despite that honor, still stands as the most underrated player in pro basketball history. He was that good.

Small Forward: Grant Hill

My friends in the Offsides Sports Community had a lot of ideas about this one, including Bernard King and Elgin Baylor. The argument there is that as great as their careers were, they could have been even better (a version of the argument I make about Thompson, in essence).

Still, guys who could have had greater careers strike me as less compelling than a guy who, thanks to injuries, barely managed to be a shadow of what he could have been. Hill is the only Hall of Fame level talent ever produced by Duke’s legendary Mike Krzyzewski. Before injuries set in late int he 2000 season we saw serious superstar potential. Hill was named to seven All-Star Games, but look at his stats and notice what happened after 1999-2000.

1994–95 Detroit 70 69 38.3 .477 .148 .732 6.4 5.0 1.8 .9 19.9
1995–96 Detroit 80 80 40.8 .462 .192 .751 9.8 6.9 1.2 .6 20.2
1996–97 Detroit 80 80 39.3 .496 .303 .711 9.0 7.3 1.8 .6 21.4
1997–98 Detroit 81 81 40.7 .452 .143 .740 7.7 6.8 1.8 .6 21.1
1998–99 Detroit 50 50 37.0 .479 .000 .752 7.1 6.0 1.6 .5 21.1
1999–00 Detroit 74 74 37.5 .489 .347 .795 6.6 5.2 1.4 .6 25.8
2000–01 Orlando 4 4 33.3 .442 1.000 .615 6.3 6.3 1.2 .5 13.8
2001–02 Orlando 14 14 36.6 .426 .000 .863 8.9 4.6 .6 .3 16.8
2002–03 Orlando 29 29 29.1 .492 .250 .819 7.1 4.2 1.0 .4 14.5
2004–05 Orlando 67 67 34.9 .509 .231 .821 4.7 3.3 1.5 .4 19.7
2005–06 Orlando 21 17 29.2 .490 .250 .765 3.8 2.3 1.1 .3 15.1
2006–07 Orlando 65 64 30.9 .518 .167 .765 3.6 2.1 .9 .4 14.4
2007–08 Phoenix 70 68 31.7 .503 .317 .867 5.0 2.9 .9 .8 13.1
2008–09 Phoenix 82 68 29.8 .523 .316 .808 4.9 2.3 1.1 .7 12.0
2009–10 Phoenix 81 81 30.0 .478 .438 .817 5.5 2.4 .7 .4 11.3
2010–11 Phoenix 80 80 30.1 .484 .395 .829 4.2 2.5 .8 .4 13.2
2011–12 Phoenix 49 46 28.1 .446 .264 .761 3.5 2.2 .8 .6 10.2
Career 997 972 34.4 .484 .315 .770 6.1 4.2 1.2 .6 17.1
All-Star 6 6 22.2 .571 .500 .545 2.5 3.2 1.2 .2 10.5

Hill is still playing and I don’t know if his career will get him into the Hall of Fame. Time will tell.

Power Forward: Maurice Stokes

I’m tempted to go with a twin towers lineup and play Ralph Sampson at the four, just like the Rockets did. But it’s just about impossible to ignore the tragedy of Maurice Stokes, whose story goes way beyond “career cut short by injury.” Wikipedia sums it up for us:

Playing for the National Basketball Association’s Rochester Royals (which became the Cincinnati Royals in 1957) from 1955 to 1958, Stokes grabbed 38 rebounds in a single game during his rookie season, averaged 16.3 rebounds per game overall, and was named NBA Rookie of the Year. The next season, he set a league record for most rebounds in a single season with 1,256 (17.4 per game). He played in the All-Star Game all three seasons of his tragically short career, and was named to the All-NBA second team three times. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in September 2004.

On March 12, 1958, in the last game of the regular 1957–58 NBA season, in Minneapolis, Stokes drove to the basket, drew contact, fell to the floor, struck his head and lost consciousness. He was revived with smelling salts and returned to the game. Three days later, after a 12-point, 15-rebound performance in an opening-round playoff game at Detroit against the Pistons, he became ill on the team’s flight back to Cincinnati; “I feel like I’m going to die,” he told a teammate. He later suffered a seizure, fell into a coma and was left permanently paralyzed. In the end, he was diagnosed with posttraumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor-control center.”

I think we have our power forward. And one of the saddest sports stories you’re likely to encounter. Ever.

Center: Bill Walton

Again, let’s turn to the concise Wikipedia entry for a nice summary:

He signed with the Trail Blazers but his first two seasons were marred by injury (at different times he broke his nose, foot, wrist and leg) and the Blazers missed the playoffs both years. It was not until the 1976–77 season that he was healthy enough to play 65 games and, spurred by new head coach Jack Ramsay, the Trail Blazers became the Cinderella team of the NBA. Walton led the NBA in both rebounds per game and blocked shots per game that season, and he was selected to the NBA All-Star Game, but did not participate due to an injury. Walton was named to the NBA’s First All-Defensive Team and the All-NBA Second Team for his regular season accomplishments. In the postseason, Walton led Portland to a sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals (arguably holding his own against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the series)[10] and went on to help the Trail Blazers to the NBA title over the favored Philadelphia 76ers despite losing the first two games of the series. Walton was named the Finals MVP.

The following year, the Blazers won 50 of their first 60 games before Walton suffered a broken foot in what turned out to be the first in a string of foot and ankle injuries that cut short his career. He nonetheless won the league MVP that season (1978) and the Sporting News NBA MVP, as well. He played in his only All-Star Game in 1978 and was named to both the NBA’s First All-Defensive Team and the All-NBA First Team. Walton returned to action for the playoffs, but was reinjured in the second game of a series against the Seattle SuperSonics. Without Walton to lead them, Portland lost the series to Seattle in six games.

Walton soldiered on, finally calling it a day after ten seasons. A close look at his cumulative stats reveals what a remarkable player he was, even beat up and playing on busted wheels. Have a look at those per 36 minute numbers, for instance. There is a very credible argument to be made that had he remained healthy, Walton might have gone down as the greatest center to ever play the game and, along with Thompson, one of the five best at any position in history.

What if, huh?


Special thanks to my peeps in the Offsides Sports Community, who had all kinds of recommendations and insights here.

Image Credit: Today’s ACC Headlines

It’s true. I’m now pulling for LeBron.

I used to be a LeBron fan. Then came The Decision, which annoyed me mightily. It wasn’t that he left Cleveland – he should have left Cleveland – it was the whole spectacle of how he did it. As I explained when it happened, that ESPN special was the moral equivalent of buying time on national TV to break up with your girlfriend. It was as self-absorbed and cruel as it was unnecessary.

So I’ve enjoyed his life on the griddle. Flaming out in the Finals last year. Enduring relentless pressure about his tendency to disappear in crunch time. And on and on. It’s been a stress-packed couple of years for King James. In other words, karma. Read more

Rivieras and Siberias and why players can’t wait to get the hell out of most NBA cities

I’d like to offer up a theory. Tell me what you think.

I’ve written some lately about the NBA, which despite all its flaws is still my favorite North American professional sports league. (My favorite pro league anywhere, of course, is the English Premiership, the greatest soccer league in the world.) In particular, I’ve pondered The League’s structural issues vis a vis its big vs. small markets, and let’s be clear in understanding that the new labor deal did not fix those problems. It merely swept them under the rug for a few years where they can fester, multiply and grow really big teeth. Read more

Can the NBA be saved? A modest proposal….

I predicted months ago that there would be no 2011-12 NBA season. I hoped I was wrong (still do), but there were some fundamental structural issues that I felt were going to be hard to address in the collective bargaining process. While all hope isn’t yet completely dead, it looks very, very bad – so bad that at this stage I’m already beginning to wonder if there’s going to be a 2012-13 season. I’m wondering if the NBA as we know it is done.

Actually, the crux of the issue lies with the fact that, unlike most labor cycles, this one doesn’t feature two sides at odds. Read more

LeBron James: welcome to the Punk Hall of Fame

Let’s say you’re a guy and you’ve been involved with a woman. Long-term, committed, exclusive relationship. Several years together. You loved her dearly through the years and she’s simply gaga over you, for reasons none of your friends fully understand. But now, now you’ve realized that it isn’t going to work any longer. Maybe you have different priorities. Maybe you want kids and she doesn’t. Maybe the fire has died in the bedroom. Maybe you’ve grown apart and your life together just doesn’t satisfy you anymore.

Whatever the reason, you realize that the relationship has to end. For better or worse you have a right to be happy and she shouldn’t have to live with a guy who sees her as something he’s settling for. You have all kinds of misgivings, but you’ve thought about it long and hard and, while it’s going to hurt like hell, it’s the right thing to do.

Now you have to figure out the best way to break up. You know that face-to-face is what she deserves. But a telephone call would be easier on you, providing you with some distance from the pain. An e-mail would be easier still. And you know that sometimes kids even break up with a text message.

Finally, you figure out what to do. “Honey, flip on Lifetime at 9pm Eastern. I have something I want to tell you.” Read more

1974: Terps and Pack for all the marbles

Some folks on one of my sports lists have wandered into a discussion about memorable games. So as long as we’re talking about greatest games and stuff, I figured they needed to be reminded about the greatest hoops game ever played. Hell, maybe the greatest game ever payed in any sport anywhere.

The 1974 ACC Tournament final between Maryland and NC State featured the two best teams in the country at a time when the tournament by god meant something – the winner went to the NCAAs and the loser went to the NIT. Or, in this case, said screw it and stayed home. David Thompson, Tom Burleson and Monte Towe for State, John Lucas, Len Elmore and Tom McMillen for Maryland. 103-100, in overtime. Epic. Squared. Read more

Roy Williams Needs to Drink a Nice, Tall Glass of Shut the Hell Up Juice

It’s the end of the world as we know it, apparently.

UNC hoops coach wonders: ‘How can you go any lower?’

North Carolina coach Roy Williams can’t fathom what else could go wrong for the unranked and struggling Tar Heels after Virginia handed UNC its worst home loss since 2003 on Sunday.

“How can you go any lower?” Williams asked after the game, according to The Charlotte Observer. “Be honest: How can it be any worse than it is right now?” Read more

The uneasy truth behind Tim Donaghy’s allegations

Disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who was convicted of two charges related to betting on NBA games (some of which he worked as an official), is out of prison, pimping a new book and telling his story to 60 Minutes and ESPN. What he’s saying, and who’s backing him up, has to be giving NBA Commish David Stern a king-hell case of the nightsweats.

We’ll stipulate up front that the witness has a credibility issue. Read more

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