Every good team in the NBA has an identity. Some teams are known by the offense they run. Phoenix under D’Antoni was known for playing uptempo small ball. The Lakers are known for the triangle offense. Jerry Sloan has been running pick and rolls ever since Stockton and Malone. Rick Adelman has used his version of the Princeton Offense successfully in Houston. You get the picture. Some teams on the other hand aren’t known for the offense they run but rather are known for their defense. Case in point: the Detroit Pistons of the last five to six years. Now, when one looks at this team the question becomes what type of identity should they try to create for themselves. Judging by the personnel of the team I believe that this team should model themselves after the Detroit Pistons. Here is why: the Pistons do not have a superstar who is capable of taking over a game with his scoring. No one on the team is a threat to score 50 on any given night. That’s OK because all five starters might score 20. The same can be said for the Bobcats. Jason Richardson is a nice offensive player but he is by no means a prolific scorer. The Bobcats could potentially have the same scoring balance that Detroit has. Secondly, this team has good length on the defensive end. Gerald Wallace is already a good defender ala Tayshaun Prince. Okafor is solid and the guards are athletic enough to become very good defenders with the right coaching and motivation. Which brings me to the point I’m really trying to make which is that Larry Brown is the right guy for this team. Suppose this team tried to model themselves after Phoenix. I don’t think that would work because, well, Okafor and Felton are not Amare Stoudamire and Steve Nash. We saw with the Memphis Grizzlies last year that you have to have the right personnel to play that style. OK, what about the Princeton Offense? It’s worked to varing degrees under Adelman, Eddie Jordan and Byron Scott but from what I understand you need bigs who are good at hitting open cutters and let’s face it passing and reading defenses aren’t Okafor’s strengths. What kind of offense this team will run remains to be seen but my point is that this team’s identity should be it’s defense. It’s the old cliche “defense wins championships”. We saw that last year with Boston. This team is young enough to be molded into a defensive nightmare for opposing teams and Brown is the perfect teacher for the job. He’s done it so many times before. Sure there are other guys out there that are known for their defensive emphasis such as Tom Thibadou but at the end of the day LB has taken teams like the Bobcats and turned them into winners. Thibadou is a high risk-high reward kind of guy and this franchise can’t afford to take high risks right now. I don’t know if everything I’m saying here is what MJ and Higgins were thinking when they hired LB but hiring him could turn out to be the best move MJ ever made.
viewers readers to the first edition of As the Forum Turns. The goal of this series is to find the best, most enlightening or simpy the most absurd discussions that are happening in NBA fan forums. If you run across a good thread that you would like me to add to this series, then hit me up.
We’ll start off todays episode with WTFDetroit. They are discussing if its time to ship off Chauncey Billups and hand over the starting PG spot to Rodney Stuckey.
At this point I believe the three guard rotation is the pistons best asset and shouldn’t be broken up. Everyone else is expendable but that’s the core you build around.
WTFDetroit is also discussing the merits of Chickopedia.com and wondering how the internet survived so long without it.
PacersDigest is trying to answer the question What is Pacers Basketball?
I’ve been thinking about this very issue since about a month before the season ended, and 2Cleva’s right. I remember my Pacers of the 80′s and 90′s being a pretty solid, fundamental basketball team that relied on a motion offense. We had screeners and cutters and slasher. There was a pretty strong 3-pronged offense that put Rik Smits, Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson all on the map. If you doubled up on Rik, he’d kick the ball out to Reggie who’d drain the 3. If you defended Reggie well enough, he’d get the ball back in Jax’ hands where he’d either get inside the lanes for the score or he’d find somebody else to do it. And Rik…what can I say. When the guy’s feet weren’t killing him he had some of the smoothest post moves I’d ever saw. And then there was toughness!
Here at BobcatsPlanet we have been discussing the merits of drafting Anthony Randolph, The demerits of Sean May eating Krispy-Kreme donuts, and witnessing the hilarity of Matt Carroll in MC Hammer parachute pants.
Please cut out all of this Rasheed Wallace to Charlotte speculation. All over the web people are in favor of this deal going down.
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer is giddy with excitement over the possibility.
If I were the Bobcats, I’d at least consider giving up the ninth pick, a couple of players and some salary-cap space to make that happen.
Bobcats Baseline is in favor of making the deal and perhaps grooming Sheed as the next head coach.
I agree with Bonnell that it would be a good move. Wallace brings passion and intelligence to the game and could even be groomed by Brown to be the Bobcats head coach one day.
GWIII over at MVN starts out on the fence about this deal
I’m leaning toward “let’s do it and see what happens.” If it fails, you blow it all up and start over. If it works, you’re in the playoffs, which was your goal all along.
But in the end he regains his sanity
Hold on a second.
In order to get 34 year old Rasheed Wallace, the Bobcats will have to give up a 25 year old Emeka Okafor and perhaps a 26 year old Gerald Wallace.
Here’s the other thing; Wallace is a leader?
A leader doesn’t accumulate technical fouls like candy, essentially quit on his team in the conference finals. Rasheed Wallace doesn’t WANT to lead a team. That’s why he was so great in Detroit; the leaders of this team were clearly Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton. ‘Sheed wants to be the number 3 option, so the pressure is off him. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I have a tough time attributing this to a leader.
Rasheed Wallace is an underachieving 34 year old jump shooting power forward with a massive contract that has a long history of not playing hard all of the time. There is no logical reason to give up the #9 draft pick or Gerald Wallace or Jason Richardson or any of the other crazy deals for ‘Sheed who would basically be a one year rental.
If someone can give me a reason why adding Rasheed makes sense, I’d like to hear it.
To understand the Celtics’ impact, simply compare this season and last season. Ostensibly, both had several common features: both had heated MVP races culminating in first-time winners (Dirk & Kobe), both had solid if unspectacular Rookies of the Year (Roy and Durant), both had highly competitive Western Conference Playoff races (5 50+ win teams last year, 8 this year), and both had teams blatantly tanking for purposes of draft positioning (Celtics & Bucks last year, Heat & Grizzlies this year).
The differences between 06-07 and 07-08, as far as I can tell, are pretty minor. Definitely this year had more blockbuster trades (and the impact was magnified because two of them involved…Boston!), but last year did see Iverson getting shipped off to Denver. Last year was marred by the Nuggets-Knicks “brawl” (or “minor altercation,” as it was known to us non-ignorant NBA fans) and a sketchy All-Star Game. This year also had the “feel-good story” of the New Orleans Hornets, but I’d argue that Golden State’s finish last year was—if not in the neighborhood—at least a suburb of comparability. In both years, the playoffs were a mixed bag.
But the biggest difference between this year and last year is the Celtics. It’s probably because they bring a large, disproportionately vocal fan base, full of old-time (Bob Ryan) and younger (Bill Simmons) tastemakers alike. Thus, their concerns end up being everyone’s concerns. For instance, when the team tanked last year, all of a sudden the league as a whole had a problem with tanking. This year? Tanking was no big deal, even though it was—if anything—more blatant (two words: “Patrick Riley”).
So here’s the interesting part. The final season of The Sopranos drew more fans than ever, and a big part of it had to do with the escalating body count. But the last episode left roughly half the audience alienated, the general complaint being that it lacked an “ending.” I firmly believe that by “ending,” most people meant “some sort of bloody shootout, preferably involving Tony dying in a pinwheeling spray of blood and diner food.” In other words, it was a great last season until the end, when no violence = fan frustration.
Meanwhile, this year’s NBA has seen the Celtics rise to the best record, hence viewership and casual interest have correspondingly escalated, and the season has been universally heralded as one of the best in recent memory. But how will it end? The “dream match-up,” of course, is the Celtics-Lakers, while anything else is going to be like watching Meadow spend 5 minutes parking a car.
Full disclosure: I’m a diehard loyalist of both the NBA and The Sopranos. I’ve never not loved the NBA, even when it’s supposedly going through a “down” year. For example, I was one of a handful of people in the country absolutely mesmerized by the virtuoso shooting prowess of Chris Gatling in 1995. Similarly, I have and will continue to defend every Sopranos episode ever, including the final one (to all those who complained about the last episode, I ask you this: what more did you deranged sickos want? Phil Leotardo got his head run over by a car, for goodness’ sake, was that not enough? And just who precisely was supposed to kill Tony at the end?—he made his peace with everyone, including the Feds. You all are depraved.) So I’ll be happy either way, whether the Celtics make it or not. I enjoy the Spurs, and it’s not like the Pistons and Lakers have no history of their own.
Random epilogue: speaking of violence, if you’re ever bored, I’ve got a fun activity for you to try at home: watch a really violent movie with Closed-Captioning on. This past weekend, I DVR’d the utterly degenerate and quasi-fascist film 300, but because my wife was trying to work in the other room, all the screaming and axe-on-flesh noises were distracting her. So I turned the sound down and enabled the Closed-Captioning function, and the results were downright comical. In fact, I couldn’t resist copying down one of the scenes word-for-word. Looking over it, it’s hard to say if this is the dialogue from a movie or the minutes from the President’s latest Cabinet meeting. Check it out:
(Distorted grunts and yells)
(Heavy, thudding footsteps, growling)
“Go Show the Spartans what we can do!”
NARRRATOR: “They shout and curse, stabbing wildly, more brawlers than warriors. They make a wondrous mess of things. Brave amateurs, they do their part.”
Side note: although it has nothing to do with basketball, another positive beacon was that they finally, FINALLY replaced the huge billboard ad for The Kingdom on the building adjacent to my apartment. Although the replacement was an ad for the 8 millionth energy drink concoction with some sort of “nuclear”-sounding name, it’s still an improvement. That stupid movie ad had been up there so long (“On September 28th, Trust No One”) that I thought I was doomed to a lifetime of looking at Jennifer Garner dressed ridiculously in Special Forces gear (yet with long, flowing hair).
Anyway, it's 72 hours later, and I’m completely broken. Darkness imprisoning me, all that I see: absolute horror. Who even cares how the Miami game is going to turn out? At this point, the only thing worse than losing would be winning. We have no chance at anything this year, so we might as well go for a draft pick. And yet, the draft doesn’t guarantee any salvation either, because it's not particularly top heavy with talent. I’ve been “playing” ESPN.com’s draft lottery a lot lately (they ought to come up with a cell phone version of this thing, a la Tetris and Solitaire, so I could do it on the subway), and the overwhelming majority of the time we end up with the 8th pick and Brook Lopez is our selection. And guess what the scouting report on him is? “Great big guy who can’t rebound.” Well, we already have two of those, and they’re called “Ryan Hollins” and “Jermareo Davidson.”
As for these last two games, I’m trying to decide where this Memphis-Indiana combo lands if we were to build a Top Ten 2008 Losses list. Before you even build such a list, you have to decide what hurts you more: close losses to good teams that rip your heart out and show it to you before you die (e.g., the Ray Allen Massacre game), blowout losses to good teams that grimly reveal how truly far away you are from relevance (e.g., that Pistons loss where they shot and made a million 3-pointers, that Golden State loss by 500 points, the recent Dallas loss), or blowout losses to bad teams that make you question how a fair and just God could ever allow such evil to befall you.
But these two losses to Memphis and Indiana have got to be 1-2 on the list, because they were not only miserable and humiliating, they also effectively killed the season. Memphis is essentially a scab team at this point, and Indiana ought to change their name to the “Milk Cartons”—anybody seen Jamaal Tinsley or Jermaine O’Neal lately? I was about to say Ike Diogu too(remember when he was the “wild card” of the Dunleavey/Hudson-Jackson/Harrington deal?), but he actually had a cameo last night. Indiana’s also a team bombarded by scandals and off-court drama involving Tinsley, O’Neal, most of the management, Shawne Williams, and David Harrison (who gets my vote for "Best Real-But-Fake-Looking Hair" Award—doesn’t he look like a cast member of Semi-Pro?). Also, their coach looks like the comic strip character Dilbert’s boss—not that that’s really relevant. Add it all up and these losses were truly disgraceful season-enders.
In Memphis we only scored 80 points, or roughly one point for every fan in attendance. I think there were actually fewer people at this game than those who saw that “Secret Game” between Duke and the NC College for Negroes in the 1940s. This was exactly the type of game that Jason Richardson should dominate, and instead he put up 8 points, and then blamed the road-heavy schedule. I’m sorry, but could someone please explain to me what exactly is “tiring” about being on the road? It’s not like Sam Vincent is making the team travel by canoe. If you’re a player, you pretty much have to just sit on a bus, sit on a private airplane, sit on another bus, and sit in your hotel room and order room service. During every one of these activities, you could also be asleep or doing nothing more aerobic than changing your DVD from Season 4 of CSI: Miami to a bootlegged copy of 10,000 B.C. You’re arguably less active on the road than when you’re at home and being pestered by children, baby-mommas, and entourages. I just don’t by the “on-the-road” excuse for a second.
If anything, it might be the cumulative fatigue of not having a reliable bench. How else to explain Raymond Felton failing to keep up with Flip Murray in Indiana? Felton’s logging almost 38 minutes a game this year–up 3 minutes from his career average–and it’s taking his toll (please keep this in mind, Rod Higgins, when it’s our pick in the draft and Russell Westbrook is still available). Meanwhile, Emeka Okafor’s minutes have increased as well, plus he hasn’t missed nearly as many games to injury. I expected him to deliver like Halle Berry in these last two games, and instead he put up a grand total of 10 points and 9 boards.
Getting schooled by the likes of Murray, Juan Carlos Navarro (21 points), Hakim Warrick (19 points), Darko Milicic (double-double), Troy Murphy (double-double), and Shawne Williams (16 points and a posterizing dunk on Jared Dudley) are bad indicators. So are allowing 18 offensive boards to the Grizzlies and nearly 50% shooting to a Pacers team playing without Danny Granger. They’re alarms akin to triple-digit oil prices and $2-a-share Bear-Stearns buyouts. Blaming all this poor performance on long road trips is like blaming the bad economy on tax breaks that might expire in two years. Without a more reliable bench, rebounders, and point guards, we’re not fundamentally sound, nor should we be optimistic about our future.
Start with Friday against the Nets. Coming off of several days’ rest and playing a slothful team languishing under the girth of their own bloated contracts, I wanted and expected victory. But as much as I relished the thought of obliterating NJ, I was also gritting my teeth at the thought of this game, because Nets games are like dentist appointments: even if they go well, they’re still painful and uncomfortable. The Nets tend to have a contagious ugliness with their bogged down, turnover-prone style. In fact, I actually refused to watch Pao Gasol’s debut with the Lakers earlier in the week—even though I wanted to—because it was against New Jersey.
What I expected in our game was what I got—except the lack of hustle and nonchalance was entirely on OUR part. The Nets led practically wire-to-wire, assisted each other all over the place, out-rebounded us, and—here’s a new “out-“ one for you—out-hearted us en route to an easy and embarrassing victory. Jason Kidd demanded a double-team like he demands trades, racking up a triple-double, completely controlling the game, and enabling his teammates to pile up the offense. Down low, Sean Williams gave us more fits than his old Boston College guidance counselors. The stats don’t completely reflect it, because he only played 20 minutes, but he (and Josh Boone) was more disruptive than a loud fart in a business meeting, holding Emeka Okafor and Nazr Mohammed to just 15 points on the strength of 3 blocks and shutdown defense. The Nets were intense and efficient in a way you don’t expect from them–or anything else from New Jersey for that matter.
For reasons that later became clear, Gerald Wallace looked uncharacteristically tentative. He still put up some good numbers overall, but he shot a low percentage (6-17) because he wasn’t driving. Apparently his interviewing skills are still injured too, because he said afterward, “We have the rope around our necks. Can we leave ourselves hanging?” Hmm. That’s either really deep or really nonsensical. Coach Sam Vincent was a little bit easier to follow, saying he “was not happy with the effort” and that for a team desperately trying to make the playoffs, we in no way resembled a group “dying of thirst.” Actually, if Sam meant that in the literal sense, we DID resemble a group dying of thirst. It was just a terrible, terrible game.
As unspeakable as things were on Friday, they were downright mute on Sunday against Detroit. At the start of the game, I was actually relieved slightly to hear that Gerald Wallace was injured. If you recall the last time we played Detroit, we didn’t have Raymond Felton and almost won. So when I didn’t see Wallace on the court for the tip-off, I was worried for a second that Coach Vincent was trying some sort of misguided strategy of holding out a key player to rally the guys. Turns out Crash is going to rest for a week. And that was the last bit of good news for the evening, because the Pistons proceeded to completely overwhelm us.
I’ve come up with a new term for these sorts of blowouts: “straight-to-video” games. You know how that’s industry code-speak for a terrible movie? It works here too. Not that I ever rent them, but I imagine most people only get movies that went straight-to-video so they can fast-forward them right to the sex and/or violent scenes. That’s similar to what I did with this game, which was tailor-made for DVR-ing. And by the way, god bless the DVR! Last year at this time, when I was too cheap (read: “broke”) to pay for a DVR, I’d actually have to watch a burning building like this game in agonizing real time. Now I can sit in my chair, watch the Pistons drill 3-pointer after 3-pointer for the first several minutes (at the start of the game, it almost looked like Detroit had a bet going, in which they’d try to win by shooting nothing but 3-pointers), get every possible rebound, force us into 7 turnovers in about 7 minutes, build up an absurd 27-7 lead, bring in their scrubs just about as fast as I’ve ever seen any team do it, and I can then fast-forward ahead to see if we ever make it close and/or start a brawl.
To our credit, we actually did cut the deficit to around 15 points or so on numerous occasions. I suppose this brings me to my second bit of good news: at least our starters weren’t routed by Detroit’s second unit—that would’ve been really demoralizing. After the terrible start, Coach Vincent called in the cavalry, which unfortunately consists of Othella Harrington, Matt Carroll, and Earl Boykins. But in their second iteration, our starters began narrowing the gap, after which the Pistons starters—clearly annoyed about having to come back in—dropped the hammer for good.
The Pistons, who average 16 3-point attempts a game, knocked down 12 of 24 against us. After nearly every make, the camera would cut to Primoz Brezec holding up 3 fingers on each hand in an eerily Nixonian pose. I’m happy for Primoz, who seems to have found a role on Detroit similar to Christian Laettner’s on the ’92 Dream Team. I was less happy with the 11 steals and 16 turnovers, and I was decidedly unhappy with all of the open shots we gave up. Even the Pistons broadcasters were starting to get annoyed with how poorly we played defensively—I kept waiting for Greg Kelser to slam down his headset and scream that Sam Vinecnt was a disgrace to MSU Spartans everywhere.
Next up is the Lakers—and to think I didn’t want to see a game between them and the Nets…