And to think, winning the Slam Dunk Contest is probably only the second-biggest highlight of Nate Robinson’s season. Clearly, the first is his burgeoning friendship with Will Ferrell. What do you think of these two giving dap during games? (Note that is not Ed. sitting in the expensive seats.) Whoever writes the funniest caption will win a dope prize from our vault and see their name in Trash Talk next issue.
CB4? That’s not a nickname—that’s a Chris Rock movie. RuPaul? You know we love Shaq, but come on, that was foul and uncalled for. No, Chris Bosh needs a real nickname. Obviously it’s been a terrible season in Toronto, but we’re confused as to why it’s Chris’ fault. We’d like to aim our questions at one Bryan Colangelo, for starters. Anyway, Chris Bosh. Olympian. All-Star. Player in need of a good nickname.
Whoever has the best nickname will win a dope prize from the SLAM vault and get their name in Trash Talk next month.
Well, sort of: “Erik Spoelstra said after consulting with assistant coach Ron Rothstein and then meeting with Beasley before Saturday’s victory over the Washington Wizards, it was decided to maintain Beasley’s role as a sixth man…’The bench has been playing well, and we didn’t want to make two changes,’ Spoelstra said after Monday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. ‘He actually agreed.’ Beasley would not go that far, but said playing behind fill-in starter Yakhouba Diawara is not an issue. ‘He obviously knows more than me,’ the No. 2 pick in last June’s draft said. ‘It was respecting the elder.’”
by Cub Buenning
Our fair college basketball season has finally reached its conclusion with last night’s 89-72 victory by North Carolina over an overmatched Michigan State Spartan team. The Tarheels entered the season as the favorite, spent much of the season near the top of the nation’s pecking order (those silly polls), and finished by playing a beautiful last two months of the season. Impressive, late-season double-digit wins over the likes of Oklahoma, Gonzaga, Villanova, Duke (twice) and Michigan State bookended a great season for a team that was decimated with injuries but still managed to win the ACC regular season and procure a No. 1-seed in the Tournament.
As has become the norm with this team, Carolina won the national title on the “heels” of a full-team effort. Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough were great during their six-game jaunt to the title, but nothing would have been ultimately achieved if not for the supporting cast that surrounds Head Coach Roy Williams’ last two ACC Players of the Year.
In a sport (and event) where guard-play is often “pubbed” as the most important variable for ultimate success, it was Carolina’s ability to dominate the paint early on that proved to be the difference. Against an opponent like MSU, that will usually dictate play inside/on the backboards, the Tarheels not only drove from the perimeter with relative ease, but were able to pound the post and crash the offensive glass (Deon Thompson, especially) on their way to a lead that promptly swelled to 20 points only 10 minutes into the contest. Michigan State was unable to evoke the ghosts of 20 years ago as Kalin Lucas, Goran Suton and the rest of Tom Izzo’s crew continually settled for perimeter jumpers early in the shot-clock, rendering themselves a shell of the team that had shocked the basketball community by being in the final game in the first place.
From there, Wayne Ellington took over, finishing the half with 17 points and almost single-handedly squelching a late first-half Spartan run, keeping the Carolina advantage at a robust 21 going into intermission; a lead that would not be relinquished nor compromised.
Simply put, the Spartans were outclassed from the opening tip and assumed a fate similar to that endured by UNC’s previous five opponents.
Hats off to the North Carolina Tarheels, the 2009 National Champions!
The day in college basketball, however, was not solely focused on the national title game that went down in Detroit. Around the country, two major programs filled vacancies with young up-and-coming stars in the coaching ranks. For starters, now ex-Xavier boss Sean Miller finally accepted the seemingly ideal job at Arizona after other suitors (including himself just the day before) had turned down the opportunity. For a program that can boast an awesome fan base, a great arena, a national championship history, and access to the top players from Los Angeles, the west and the south, the Wildcat’s athletic department sure struggled to fill the void left by long-time head, Lute Olsen. (I have been more than vocal about current assistant, Mike Dunlap, who basically was the interim coach this year. I am more than curious to see which lucky school swoops him up.) Although, Miller tried to be loyal to his guys back at Xavier (they will be loaded next year), working at a major program in a town like Tucson has to be a better set-up than his old digs back in “The Natty.”
It was the other major signing yesterday, however, that got my attention. Kudos to Memphis University in its inking of Josh Pastner as the incumbent to the now-Kentucky head John Calipari. Many around the basketball world might not be familiar with the young Pastner, but believe me, this is a hiring that will reverberate around the Mid-South for years. Not only does Pastner already have a year with his future Tiger players (Wesley Witherspoon, Roburt Sallie and Angel Garcia to name a few) as an assistant, but he will also provide the Memphis program inside access and probable signings from one of the nation’s largest and (as of late) most fertile recruiting grounds, in Houston, Texas. (Pastner’s father, Hal, basically started and runs AAU ball in the city and Josh has been involved with coaching since he was still a player himself on the older Houston Hoops’ teams.)
Yes, the kid is young (31 years old) but he is more than ready for his first head-coaching gig. Oddly enough, Pastner cut his collegiate teeth on the court and on the bench in Tucson at the aforementioned, U of Arizona before taking the assistant’s job at Memphis last summer. To be truthful, that university should have made Pastner some promises while Coach Olsen was struggling with his health/passion. The hire for Memphis will surely not bring the national splash and flair that a Bruce Pearl or Leonard Hamilton might have, but it will guarantee the Tigers’ continued national relevance from their perch high atop Conference-USA.
With the season now officially over, fear not! For those of you diehards of the college game (and those that want to know what they are talking about before/during/after the draft) Cub Scouts will continue during the off-season with breakdowns of potential draft selections, sit-downs with coaches and players and much, much more.
Check Cub Buenning’s scouting website for weekly player reports.
Sometimes, you just gotta have faith: “The record isn’t close to anything Larry Bird and Jim O’Brien desired. The playoffs? They’re not going to happen for these Indiana Pacers. They may be mathematically alive — barely — but coach O’Brien has been conceding for weeks now that the playoffs are a pipe dream beyond rational consideration. And yet … It has been a good season. A productive season. A season of significant growth. Seriously. What? You were expecting a snide comment? For the first time in a long time, there is the sense the Pacers are building toward something, that next year’s playoffs are easily within their grasp if only they add bodies, stay healthy and learn how to play a lick of defense.”
With operating losses for the year at close to $30 million, it’s not a pretty picture: “In a sign that the recession has already eaten away at the bottom line in sports, revenue for the New Jersey Nets’ operating company dipped sharply in fiscal 2009, the last five months of which coincided with the economy’s contraction. Many observers have suggested that because teams’ selling season for suites, season tickets and sponsorships finished before the economy cratered, sports would only begin to feel a bottom-line hurt as this year progressed. Revenue for Nets Sports & Entertainment, however, fell 8 percent in the 12-month period that ended Jan. 31. The financial results mark the first public snapshot of a Big Four sports club since the economy unraveled. The results are broken out in the annual financial filing of Forest City Enterprises, which owns 23 percent of the team.”
That’s the plan, anyway: “After today’s practice went well, Andrew Bynum said he plans to play Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies and April 14 against the Utah Jazz. Those are the Lakers’ final regular-season games. Bynum has said all along that he hoped to play in a couple of regular-season games before rejoining the active roster for the playoffs…’I just have to get my timing back,’ said Bynum, who did not travel with the team for Tuesday night’s game against the Kings in Sacramento. ‘Other than that, I’m ready to go.’”
by Marcel Mutoni
The inevitable took place yesterday, as Michael Jordan entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The GOAT wasn’t too excited, however, about dwelling on his past accomplishments. The man was too busy regretting the fact that he’s no longer an NBA player.
The Philly Inquirer has the quotes:
“This is kind of a love-hate thing for me,” Jordan said. “It’s a great compliment and great respect, but for me, I always wanted to be able to have you think that I could always go back and play the game of basketball. As long as you have that thought, you never know what can happen. You never know what my abilities can do.”
Is he talking comeback? “No, but I’d like for you to think that I am,” Jordan said. “So to me, the Hall of Fame is like, it’s over and done with. You can’t ever put a uniform back on. It’s the total end of your basketball career. It’s a great accomplishment and I know I don’t walk away from it, but I didn’t want to be up here so quickly.
“I wanted to be up here when I was 70 years old, 80 years old. But I’m 45 and I still think I can play. You guys don’t know if I can or can’t, but at least I’ve got you thinking that way.”
I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief now that Jordan has finally realized that playing hoops at the pro level is no longer an option, and certainly something no one would want to see.
Thanks for the memories, Mike.
Naturally: “Everybody knows that President Obama is a hoops fan. He references Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur in his speech today to the Turkish Parliament. ‘The ties among our people have deepened as well, and more and more Americans of Turkish origin live and work and succeed within our borders,’ NBC First Read reports. ‘As a basketball fan, I’ve even noticed that Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur have got some pretty good game.’”
Tim sure thinks so: “With Alonzo Mourning’s Heat number retired, Tim Hardaway said, ‘I deserve to be up there’ too. Hardaway attributes his inability to get an NBA job to his 2007 ‘I don’t like gay people’ comment — despite his apologies. ‘I thought we were supposed to forgive and forget but it’s not happening.’”
by Marcel Mutoni
The San Antonio Spurs are going to be in the Playoffs this season, but can we really expect anything meaningful from them - without the services of one Manu Ginobili? Um, that was a rhetorical question, kids.
The Spurs are all but toast, and this is why. From the San Antonio Express-News:
Tests conducted Monday in San Antonio revealed a stress fracture in the right distal fibula, the lower portion of one of the three bones that form the ankle joint.
As a result, Ginobili will miss the remaining six games of the regular season, beginning with tonight’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, and all the playoffs.
To make matters worse, this aging, injury-riddled team will also be entering the postseason war with Tim Duncan’s health still a major concern. They’re currently the third seed in the West, with a half game cushion as division leaders.
We have the makings of one one long summer by the riverwalk.
by Jeff Fox
It’s finally time to put an end to the Madness, in a ridiculously cold and snowy Detroit. I know what you are thinking - “You’re Canadian - you should be used to this weather”. But it’s April - enough already.
As I mentioned in Saturday’s semi-final blog, most of the Michigan State faithful fled Ford Field before the end of the UNC-Villanova tilt, so by the time I hit the streets later that night the party was in full swing. With all the drunken, swaying green-clad fans in the streets it felt like being in a forest hit by a wind storm. I don’t expect the party to be as rowdy tonight for two reasons - I expect Carolina to win and it’s too damn cold.
There are two main storylines heading into tonight’s game. The first is that Carolina put a 35-point whipping on State in early December in this very same building. The second is that State is lifting the spirits of this depressed city and state. While I feel this second statement is being exagerated a bit, travelling around this city and seing how excited people are - plus reading in Sports Illustrated that the area is expected to earn $45 million from the Final Four - perhaps I’m wrong.
Just leaving for Ford Field now to grab some food (hopefully someone with the NCAA read my Saturday blog and have improved the vegetarian selections) and attend a press conference with a couple of guys named Magic and Bird. I think they used to be players or coaches or something.
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Michigan State
by Toney Blare
– Tonight is “Nola Night.” Lang favorite Trombone Shorty is on the stage outside the main gate. Speaking of Nola, I dj’d a street festival on Saturday. One of the acts covered “Family Affair.” And y’know the part where Sly sings, “One child grows up to be someone that just loves to learn/Another child grows up to be someone we just love to burn?” Yeah, well, that became “One child grows up to be…Trombone Shorty/Another child grows up to be…Ray Nagin.” Word.
– Media guide facts: 7-1 second-year Jazz reserve Kyrylo Fesenko enjoys “fantasy book and playing computer games…favorite foods: mashed potatoes, French-style meat, and chicken wings…wears size 18 shoes…is single.” Not for long!
– Great Point God rivalry meeting, blah, blah, blah, argue, argue, argue. One thing that cannot be argued: DWill is not fooling around when it comes to his hair. His knowledge of the hair game, his resilience and creativity put him above CP and in a class by himself.
– Julian Wright starts in place of Peja, who’s coming off the bench, and Hilton Armstrong is in for Tyson, who joins Posey in street clothes.
– Ronnie Brewer scores the first 6 Jazz points. He and Okur consistently make my list of players who I surprisingly like to watch in person. Besides this and their uniforms, they share no other discernible feature.
– One game it’s Lil Wayne, the next it’s Regis Philbin. It all fits in our 2009 America, it all fits.
– I’ve said before that CP3 is a good bit better than last year, but against DWill he seems to pull even more behind-the-back and stutter steps, as if making the argument for speed and slick over power.
–Boozer takes the ball off DWest twice, seems more villainous than ever. 23-14 Jazz.
– DWill and CP3 end up on the ground fighting for the ball. There’s a certain sibling quality in this rivalry, especially after Beijing, and CP3 is the littler, angrier brother. DWill never seems to take it as personal, and wins the ensuing jump ball.
– Utah shoots the lights out, leads 41-19 at the end of 1. I think I hear some boos, which is rare here. Deron has 7pts/8 dimes, CP3 has 5 and 4.
– The Hornets bench is phenomenally unreliable and should be factored into the comparison of the PG’s, as Utah subs in Milsap while DWest gets about 1 minute bouncing on an exercise ball before returning, and in general he and Chris get no rest or much help. And if you’re at a disadvantage on the boards, why put in Antonio Daniels and Devin Brown together out there, rather than, say, Ryan Bowen? Why? Is that supposed to be “going small?” Should be called “going redundant.” Or “Pargo goes to Russia.”
– Q: What do these things have in common: New Zealand. Fish & Chips. Fat Albert. “Semi-Pro.” A NY strip steak. A: Sean Marks. See, Byron knew that even before the jumbotron told the rest of the world, but figured he’d check the accuracy. It was OK, he guesses. Better than this lame 24 point deficit or making adjustments or whatever.
– Why not give Mo-Pete the minutes wasted by Devin Brown’s last look at the league? If there’s no one out there that can score anyway, why not have Ryan Bowen out there to be the fool who does your dirty work? As it is, he’s a castle in a corner in a medieval game. Jeez, I’m bored.
– Hey, they just sent Mo-Pete in!
– Rasual Butler drives and attempts a Jordanesque reverse scoop. Jordanesque is not his strong suit.
– Quarter ends 66-39 and a speaker falls off a dolly with a fitting thud.
– Music is provided by The Batiste Brothers band, which is led by Funky Meters drummer Russell Batiste and includes a keyboard guitar. Russell got himself a personalized No. 1 Tulane football jersey, ending any debate as to his genius.
– Wow, another DWill/CP3 jump ball won by the taller man. Does that add fuel to your fury, Ryne?
-One thing I think is important: watching these two, you see two players who completely run their teams. Regardless of the supporting cast, you can tell who’s in control, a quality that puts both of them in the conversation with Bron, Kobe, and DWade when it comes to value. Neither team would be anywhere near as good with a lesser man at the 1. The difference to me is, w/o Deron, there’d still be Jerry Sloan and his system. W/o CP3, the Hornets are hard to imagine. Not just how bad they’d be, but how they’d even go about being bad or putting the ball in the hoop. That doesn’t mean one player is better than the other, but it complicates comparisons.
– Speaking of comparisons, there’s probably one to be made with AK-47 and JuJu Wright. I don’t know what it is, but probably you could make one. Sometimes I wonder if JuJu has any basketball instincts at all, or if he is only a collection of jukes, crazy eyes, Magic passes, and limbs that will never be fully controlled. Since he didn’t get to play until Peja went down, we’re looking at the exact same player as he was last year at this time, and that’s not so good.
– Speaking of AK-47, probably only my fiancée and the girls I’ve cc’d around town over the years know as much about my sex life as every Linkstigator knows about AK-47’s. (And so passes another tired reference to that one public fact.)
– CP3 and DWill bang knees, with the smaller man ending up on the floor grimacing. When play resumes, you can tell they were both hurt but aren’t going to admit it. Close call for the future of a position.
– Chris hits a one-handed floater, then picks up his 4th foul on Deron’s lay-up.
– David West starts to heat up, has 10 for the quarter. Peja drops consecutive 3’s, cuts the lead to 83-72, everyone up on their feet.
– Sean Marks! He slips in for a dunk, blocks a shot, then bodies the hell out of Brevin Knight, picks up a foul. Hey Hey Hey! (Wow, does that not fit.)
– Quarter ends 87-76. DWill 17/10, CP3 16/12. Will the Hornets bench keep it close?
– Not so fast, Byron says. CP and D-West come out to start the quarter, I guess to keep the momentum. Then Chris picks up his 5th. Oh well.
– Utah can’t miss.
– Not sure, but I think the Honeybees have their own photographer. A very enthusiastic one, too.
– Posey is coaching the hell out of this team, but the bench doesn’t get it. Brewer cruises in for a lay-up when Hilton decides not to turn around in the paint. I mean, one man is enough to guard, jeez.
– Speaking of guards, how fresh was it when Obama shook hands with the guard at 10 Downing Street? And how weird is it seeing mealy-faced Gordon Brown up there in Tony Blair’s old spot? Tony would’ve loved New Camelot.
– Utah is doubling D-West when he gets the ball, and he looks tired. Chris is wearing out, too, loses the ball twice to Deron, whose FT’s stretch the lead to 21 with less than 4 to go. Without any help from the other 10 Hornets, it’s been a bit of an anti-climax. Or, I guess a definitive victory after only 4 years of this rivalry.
– But, like, to make sure, reallllly sure the 2 All-Stars aren’t tired enough with the playoffs coming up in 10 days, Byron figures he might as well leave them in until there’s 2 minutes left and the deficit is 20. You never know.
– Man, I would love to know what AK-47 is telling Brevin Knight on the bench. Brevin doesn’t think it’s all that funny, but AK-47 insists, it is funny as hell if the little man would just listen.
– Final: 108-94 Jazz. Not really that close. DWill 21/11, with all his starters in double figures. CP3 19/12 without his center, 6th man, or a coach.
Photo by Atiba Jefferson
Originally published in SLAM 84
Allen Iverson, at times known equally for his image as his incredible game on the court, posed in a suit in accordance with the newly implemented dress code. AI made it look good in only a way that he could—sporting baggy slacks and a chain to supplement the collared shirt that David Stern deemed to be oh so important for the league’s image. — Adam Fleischer
by Chris O’Leary
It’s the dream that everyone has had at some point in their sneaker-loving lives. Whether it’s in admiration of a something that makes the leap from footwear to art, or if it’s scowl-inducing disgust at something that actually made it out of the planning stages, we’ve all wanted to be a sneaker designer. If you’re a high school student with the dream, Jordan Brand has opened up a window for you.
JB recently announced the launch of Future Sole—a nationwide footwear design contest for American high school aged (14–19) kids who have hopes of a career in footwear design. Hopefuls can log onto the Future Sole site and download a template to design a Jordan Brand or NikeWomen sportswear shoe. The contest is open through till July 1, or when 1000 entries are received, whichever comes first.
A team of Jordan Brand and Nike designers will choose six semi-finalists in each category. The designs then go to the Future Sole site, where you can visit and vote for your favorite designs to pick the top-two finalists in each category. The panel of JB/Nike judges will reconvene in October to select a winner from each category. Both winners will win a trip to Nike’s world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. They’ll get their custom sneaks, $5000 in computer equipment and a $500 Nike Employee Store shopping spree.
Check the Future Sole site for full details. In the meantime, you can fine-tune your designing skills on NikeID. I’ve been meaning to plug the hell out of the ID Hyperdunks for a minute, so this is the perfect opportunity to do that. Good luck to everyone who’s eligible to enter.
I’ve included the pics of the winning entries from the 2008 Future Sole contest (thanks Nike!) below so you can get a feel of what you’ll be up against this year.
Sorry Illinois fans, at least the winters will be nicer for MJ Jr. at UCF: “He made his decision based on two criteria,” said Tyrone Slaughter, Jordan’s coach at Whitney Young High in the Chicago area. “One was the ability to go in and make an immediate impact. He wanted to go in and have an opportunity to play right away at the collegiate level. Secondly, if it was a place that he went to on a visit that would immediately appeal to him. He immediately felt comfortable during his visit to UCF.”
by Ryne Nelson
Strictly looking at individual bodies of work this season, Will Bynum has been the Pistons’ second-best guard. It took a Rip Hamilton ejection and an injury to Allen Iverson, but when Bynum got on the court against the Bobcats, he showed just how valuable he’s been.
In the 4th quarter, he was all buckets passing Jerry Stackhouse and Isiah Thomas en route to becoming the Pistons’ record holder for points in a quarter. Twenty-six points in the 4th. Pistons beat reporter A. Sherrod Blakely had this to say on WGHN-AM about the performance:
“As great a scorer as Allen’s been throughout his career, bottom line, if you look at the body of work for this season, in Detroit, Will Bynum’s played better. And Will Bynum, if you’re basing it on how he’s performed, Will Bynum should get some minutes even when Allen returns.”
With the hype around Rodney Stuckey leading into the season, Stuckey’s inconsistent play as starter has disappointed fans this season. But at least he’s playing, unlike Iverson. Will Bynum’s stepped in perfectly as the do-everything backup in every situation he’s been asked to play in. Could Bynum’s permenant place in Detroit’s record book be wake up call for Coach Michael Curry?
Sure, Bynum hasn’t played 60 games this season yet, so it’d be premature to anoint him as the next anything in Detroit. But Bynum does have one thing going for him: he’s just about the only exciting player on the Pistons roster right now.
Then again, everyone looks good when you score 81 points by halftime. From the Morning News blog: “He’s playing with a lot of emotion. A little too much emotion after what he thought should have been an and one, getting T’d up for showing up the ref. But you can’t complain about Josh Howard’s game today. He has 18 points on 8-14 shooting despite playing on an ankle that will require postseason surgery and a wrist that might need to be operated on, too.”
Talk about a change of heart. The former Xavier head coach allegedly accepted a seven-year deal worth about $18 million with a $1 million dollar signing bonus. Why the Wildcats targeted USC coach Tim Floyd before Miller doesn’t make sense, but ‘Zona got the best possible hire in the end.
by Ryne Nelson
There’s a blueprint for getting busted for drunk driving, and Zach Randolph followed it to the tee this morning. As TMZ reports, Randolph was…
1) Driving early in the morning. Check ( 2:25 a.m.).
2) In a flashy vehicle. Check (Bentley).
3) Unable to stay in one lane. Check.
5) Failing field sobriety tests. Check.
6) Reeking of alcohol. Game over.
Police spotted Randolph on the on the 405 Freeway after yesterday’s loss to the Lakers, and sent him to jail with a $5,000 bail.
Waiting for June’s Draft can get wearisome, so the young cats (and Mike James) are doing what they can to keep occupied. Notice the homage to the team’s favorite decade, the 80s, with the goggles, afros and the alwasy funkadelic sprinkler dance. (H/T FanHouse)
by Ryne Nelson
Is it the NBA’s goal to play in 100 percent organic cotton jerseys, have players lace up in sneakers made from trash, and shoot recycled Spaldings? Would players be willing to trade their gas-guzzling H2 hummers for Acuras? Not yet and probably not ever, but teams and players are at least sending the right message about the environment this week.
Mutoni gave us some quick details before, but you might be interested in some more info about the League’s first Green Week April 2-10:
“To further encourage fans to reuse and recycle during NBA Green Week, the NBA Store in New York City will host “Recycling Dreams,” a footwear drive to collect gently worn athletic shoes. Customers who bring in shoes will receive a 20 percent discount on their purchase of new athletic shoes. All donated footwear will go to Hoops 4 Hope, a global not-for-profit organization that supports youth development throughout southern Africa with programs that teach life skills through the game of basketball. In addition, the NBA Store, NBAStore.com, Dick’s Sporting Goods and select team retailers will feature the 100 percent organic cotton adidas shooting shirts, recycled Spalding basketballs, and Team Bean reusable shopping bags made from recycled materials, in addition to more environmentally friendly items, giving fans the opportunity to ‘buy green.’”
In truth, donating your old sneaks for an NBA Store discount is a fresh idea, but carbon credits and reusable shopping bags have questionable affects. Spreading the green message is really what counts, and the NBA has launched a pretty successful inaugural campaign. The League launched NBA Green, featuring everything from tips for fans to interviews with NBA players.
Oh, and if you happen to like the organic cotton shirt DWade is modeling at Heat home games, be sure to support the cause by purchasing a $25 Green Week t-shirt!