Six Degrees…

February 19, 2009

shaqAs I pen this post, reports remain rampant of a potential trade between the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers, which would likely involve centers Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace. While both of these players have admittedly “lost a little” since their respective prime periods, they carry reputations that are hard-earned and well-deserved; and, for what it’s worth, they’re both exceptionally good basketball players.

What’s intriguing to me is not just the trade in itself — but rather the prospect of Shaquille O’Neal playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. This prospect is titillating for two reasons:

1. If one were to list the 3 greatest basketball players on the planet — right now — that list may very well include Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, and Dwyane Wade (remember: the guy’s been hurt). If the Shaq-to-Cleveland deal goes through, the Big Aristotle will have the rare distinction of playing center alongside (arguably) the 3 greatest players of a single generation. It’s hard to find any historical parallels here. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played with both the Big “O”, Oscar Robertson, and the legendary Magic Johnson. However, these partnerships happened amidst totally different eras.

In general, dynamic duos have remained together: think of Stockton and Malone, Jordan and Pippen, Bird and McHale. I mean — imagine Jordan leaving the Bulls and playing alongside Isaiah in Detroit, then soon after deciding to join the Blazers so he could run with the Glide. Such things just don’t happen.

2. Shaq and Kobe won 3 consecutive championships. When O’Neal left for Miami, people said he was washed up; yet he pushed young Dwyane Wade and the Heat to their first NBA title.

Now, Superman may be heading to a Cleveland team that has already been to the Finals, and which boasts an exceptional 41-11 record (with only a single home loss!). Could we possibly see the greatest center of the past 2 decades notch an NBA title with a 3rd different team? What’s more: will we get to see Shaquille O’Neal join what could legitimately become yet another Hall-of-Fame duo?

Interesting…


L-A-M-E

February 10, 2009

lame

I think you’ve probably all heard by now that the NBA is added a H-O-R-S-E competition to this year’s All-Star break, much to the delight of Bill Simmons and his roadies. I think H-O-R-S-E is a great idea for all the reasons people give like, it’d be really fun to watch the best of the best having a shot-for-shot competition and it’d be something different from the tired dunk, three-point, WNBA-thing routine.

But here’s what I have a major problem with: the sponsorship. Instead of scoring H-O-R-S-E the players will be scored with G-E-I-C-O. In case you couldn’t figure out who the sponsor for it is, it’s GEICO. Great, right? Just what we all needed. What’s particularly annoying is that it couldn’t even be the GEICO H-O-R-S-E competition or H-O-R-S-E brought to us by GEICO. They actually have to spell out the name of the sponsor.

In this age of corporate sponsors for everything from specific highlight segments on ESPN to college bowl games, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising to see a sponsor for a game of H-O-R-S-E. But the way they’re doing this is just lame. And while we’re talking about sponsors here, can LeBron James even take part after doing ads for State Farm insurance? How outrageous would that be if LeBron, the guy we’d all want to see in such a competition, couldn’t because of a competing insurance sponsorship.

Needless to say.


New Low for Marbury

January 23, 2009

marburyHe’s already been written off by several teams in his career, is currently being paid not to play for the Knicks and now this: Greek club Olympiacos (of Josh Childress fame) is reportedly no longer considering signing Stephon Marbury and instead is focusing in on Jannero Pargo. Yikes.

There isn’t a whole lot more to add to this story as it’s pretty self-explanatory. Marbury is awful, the end.


LA Gripe

December 26, 2008

Yesterday the Lakers ended the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak on Christmas Day at Staples Center. Big win for the Lakers and I guess a small measure of revenge for the NBA Finals loss back in June. But what kills me is that the Lakers continue to wear those awful white uniforms. Yesterday was a perfect opportunity to see a good, clean uni-match up between Boston’s classic green and LA’s classic yellow. Boston did their part and wore their very classy green and white looks. They could’ve worn the terrible green with black disasters they have but it was a nice treat to see the regular set. But the Lakers blew it and wore the dopey whites. I know all teams go through different phases with their uniforms and colors but this should’ve been a showcase of the two most classic clubs with the most classic unis.

Anyway, the good news is that the Celtics finally lost and we can now finally stop hearing so much about how they’re going to challenge the ’95-’96 Bulls‘ record of 72-10. Those Bulls were 42-3 at the All-Star break, probably the most amazing basketball statistic outside of Wilt Chamberlain‘s averaging of 50 points per game.


Is There Anything Less Likely to Work?

December 9, 2008

In a move that is not at all unprecedented, Kevin McHale fired the coach of the struggling Minnesota TimberWolves and replaced him with himself. McHale previously stepped in as coach of the T-Wolves in 2005 after firing Flip Saunders (I think they fired him) and actually did a half-way decent job. Of course that team still had Kevin Garnett.

McHale is a Minnesota icon. He’s from the state, he went to the University of Minnesota and he’s been the President and General Manager of the T-Wolves since 1995. But he’s running sort of a second act to Matt Millen’s terrible run as Detroit Lions President in that he’s made some truly terrible moves. The last of which was trading Garnett to his (McHale’s) former team, Boston.

Anyway, usually this doesn’t work. The only example I can think of where it did was Pat Riley‘s dubious decision to can Stan Van Gundy and take over the Miami Heat just before their run to the NBA Finals a few years ago. But usually, like in the case of Isiah Thomas, the guy who built the team takes over as coach and realizes they’re just as bad, if not worse, under his leadership than they were under another coach.

There is a silver-lining if you’re a T-Wolves fan (and really, who reading this is?) and that is that the owner actually forced McHale out of his President position. So he’s not running the team and coaching it, he’s now just on the bench. That makes him infinitely more expendable and far more likely to be out of a job by the summer. That is great news for Minnesota fans because they’ve actually got a handful of decent, young players. A change in direction of the franchise, something that has been more-or-less stagnant since I was in the fifth grade, would be a welcome change.


Portland Update

November 11, 2008

royNow that we’re about 10% of the way into the season, I thought it was time to update how the new-look Trail Blazers are doing. We all know Greg Oden has already missed all but four minutes of the season so let’s take a look at how the rest of the team is doing.

To this point, the Blazers are 4-3 and in second place in the Northwest Division and tied for fifth place in the Western Conference. It looks like an average start until you look at exactly where Portland lost.

The Blazers lost in their season-opening game at Los Angeles (Lakers). No shame in that. After beating the Spurs at home, Portland then lost at Phoenix and at Utah. With a 1-3 start, they turned things around with wins against Houston and Minnesota and finally at Orlando. Pretty tough to expect a young team like the Blazers to win games at LA, Phoenix and Utah on a regular basis. The win over Houston was a nice one and Orlando on the road was a good result as well.

Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are leading the team in scoring with 20.9 and 18.9 respectively. Newbie Rudy Fernandez is adding 14 more per game and giving the Blazers a nice ‘big three’ offensive attack. Roy is also adding 5.7 assists and Steve Blake is averaging 3.7 with only seven turnovers on the year. With Oden out of the lineup, Joel Pryzbilla is leading the team on 8.4 rebounds with Aldridge just behind, averaging 7.1.

None of those numbers are superb but in a tough league with a young team, they’re more than respectable. Playing six of their next seven games on the road could be a tough stretch this early in the season but if they can pull through that with a good record, they can be a pretty good shape through most of November.

Most of the national media is going to be focused on Oden and his progress coming back from his recent ankle injury but the Blazers would do well to ignore all that attention and just play ball. They were able to accomplish that most of last year, only fading at the end of the season and just missing the playoffs. This year they’ve got better players and more experience so going without Oden for a while again shouldn’t be too much of an issue, especially not mentally.


AI to Detroit??

November 3, 2008

aiIs this for real?

Apparently the Pistons are trading Chauncey Billups (always overrated in my book) and Antonio McDyess to the Nuggest for Allen Iverson. Clearly AI’s time in Denver has not produced the kind of results they were expecting in teaming him with Carmelo Anthony. But to give up on him now? Is there any real benefit to adding Billups?

I’m sure there are some contractual reasons why this trade is happening but it seems totally out of left field to me. But now the Pistons will have Iverson, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace in their starting lineup. Pretty tough to argue with that crew. And as good as Billups has been in previous years, Iverson definitely gives them a scoring dimension they simply haven’t had in their run over the past five or six years.

Does this put Detroit ahead of Cleveland and Boston? I’d say yes to Cleveland but no to Boston at this point, but we’ll see…