by Lang Whitaker
First of all, I need to say a brief word to our friends here at KING magazine. You may or may not have heard that KING magazine ceased to exist yesterday, yet another in a seemingly endless list of publications hit hard by the current economy (or lack of an economy). Regardless of what you may have felt about the content in KING, it always sucks to see a lot of good people suddenly out of work. Hang in there, KING folk.
Now, on to the NCAA Tournament. I know, I know, I’ve historically been against the NCAA Tournament. Someone recently asked me on Twitter who I was picking for the Final Four, and I said the Lakers, Spurs, Cavs and Celtics. That’s my Final Four. I understand the excitement of the games and the allure of cheering for your favorite schools, but I mostly watch college basketball as a scouting device. (If my college, the University of Georgia, had anything even loosely resembling a consistently competitive basketball program, I’d probably be more into college hoops. But they don’t, so I’m not.) And the NCAA Tournament is a great way to see most of the best NBA prospects in a short timeframe. I finally saw the guys who’ve been rumored to drafted high all year. I watched James Harden (unimpressed) and Dajuan Blair (Tractor Traylor II?) and BJ Mullens (who just declared for the Draft, which could be an epic fail on his part). All in all, I was really disappointed with the level of talent in college basketball, and I agree with the pundits who say the Draft will be down this year. The one guy I really liked? Toney Douglas from Florida State. He’s 6-2, can play the point, can shoot from the outside, can shoot off screens, can create his own shot, gets to the foul line, defends the ball (he was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year). “He’s my favorite non-Duke player in the country,” Coach K said after Duke beat FSU in in the ACC Tourney final. “I love that guy. I talk about him a lot to our guys. They’re probably mad at me. He’s as good as there is in college.”
And yet Douglas, for some reason, isn’t considered a top NBA prospect. NBADraft.net has him going mid-second round, DraftExpress has him ranked 67th out of all seniors, and Chad Ford doesn’t even have him in the Top 100 prospects.
Why? I have no idea. Either my eyes were lying to me or I’m a worse talent evaluator than I thought.
Anyway, with the economy the way it is and everything, I thought maybe we should give away some free stuff. Because who doesn’t like free stuff?
Our friends at Original Retro Brand have just come out with a very cool line of classic NCAA Tournament t-shirts, which not only have the classic Final Four logos on the front but a patch from the winning school on the sleeve (you can check that line out here). And with the Final Four about to tip-off this weekend, the guys at Original Retro Brand came to us with some shirts for a giveaway.
So, we have four shirts, one from each Final Four school (UNC, MSU, UConn and Villanova). In the comments section below, tell us which school’s shirt you’d want and then tell us why you should win that shirt. What makes you your school’s biggest fan?
We’ll pick four winners, one for each school. You’ve got until the games start on Friday night, at which point I’m turning off the comments. One t-shirt per person (so don’t enter multiple times or for multiple schools).
That’s it. Let’s go…
I think it’s called baiting and switching in the economic, textbooky type world. You have to do it sometimes if you’re a player like Flip Murray. You’re not tall, you don’t pass. You just think you’re the best player in the d*mn League. So you use your average attributes to your advantage. So you fool people in order to do what the best players have done since peach baskets were still en vogue: score.
Take a look at this video again. It’s not in slow motion. It’s just Flip with his “C’mon now, catch up” face, looking over his shoulder at his next victim. No, it wasn’t something like this, but this is pure mastery of the bait. This is more mature, if you will. Think about this as Flip putting a fat worm in the water. Lou Williams saw the tasty morsel and went for the bite. he got hooked. Game Over. Flip! Flip! Flip!
by Kye Stephenson
Both teams come into the game playoff-bound. The Hawks locked up their spot and, as long as the Sixers don’t completely implode, they’ll be joining Atlanta in the post-season. The Hawks are coming off a big win over the Lakers but have played consistently sub-par basketball away from Phillips Arena (or as SLAMonline editor Ryne puts it, “The Hawks are just as poor as the Jazz on the road!”). But it’s a new day and tonight could be a chance for them to make him eat his words. So, as former UFC referee Big John McCarthy would put it, “Let’s get it on!”
— As I descend upon the Sixers locker room I can hear the sounds of someone getting roasted, which seems to be the theme for pregame. In this instance, it happens to be the Sixer team doctor. Reggie Evans (sporting the Philadelphia Freeway beard) calls out to “doc” and indicates that he wants him to get him some gold fronts.
— Iguodala enters the trainer’s room next and the rambunctious behavior continues. Iguodala is recounting something I can’t quite make out but was obviously funny as he and Evans crack up.
— At the head of the Sixers locker room, a big white board displays each Hawks player and their points per game as well as a notable stat. For example: Maurice Evans — 7ppg/Corner 3pt. Josh Smith — 15ppg/Good blocks.
— Willie Green cruises by humming “Love Lockdown” by Kanye West. He then proceeds to tease a Sixers employee about his supposed fake tan.
— The Hawks/Lakers game-tape plays in the background. As well as Ray J’s VH1 reality show “For the Love of Ray J.” Interesting choice.
— I notice that painted on the doors leading out of the Sixers locker room – amidst the murals of Barkley, Chamberlain and Mo Cheeks – there is a Mike Krzyzewski quote, “Find a Way to Win.”
— Numerous players are hitting up the weight room. Both Hawks and Sixers players together.
— The ribbing continues as Royal Ivey teases the locker room attendant “Frankie,” saying he looks like a “Mafioso,” and stating “It’s always the little ones that come out of nowhere.” Reggie Evans joins in and asks Frankie, “Tell’em who they got to come see if someone messes with me?” Frankie responds sheepishly, “I guess me.”
— Question of the Night: Who would you least like to face in a one-on-one matchup?
Jason Smith (doesn’t think twice): “Dwight Howard.”
Donyell Marshall (due to his tenure in the League, it was tough for him to come up with a single player): “K.G., Duncan, or Pippen and Barkley from my earlier years.”
Louis Williams: “Kobe.”
Joe Johnson (seems appalled at even the thought of naming someone): “Doesn’t matter.”
Reggie Evans: “Chris Paul.”
— Mike Bibby is having fun trying to block every shot his teammates put up during warm-ups. He’s like a little dog nipping at their heels.
— Toward the end of the 1st quarter Thaddeus Young goes down. A collective gasp can be heard from Sixers fans around me. He’s carried off to the locker room. Apparently it’s a sprained ankle. The X-rays are negative, but he will not return.
— At the end of the 1st, Sixers dancers are brought out and each take a turn running across court, and with the help of a trampoline, attempting to dunk the basketball. Not surprisingly, the crowd was enthralled (at least the males).
— At the half, the Sixers have come out fresh and are handling the Hawks. It’s 51-37.
— For the entertainment of almost no one, a collection of 10-year-old girls take to the court for an impromptu game of pickup. They might be able to give some WNBA teams a run for their money.
— Near the end of the 3rd a member of the crowd is given 30 seconds to make four shots from the free throw line. His form isn’t too bad but he fails to make the shots in time. In true Philadelphia fashion, he gets booed mercilessly.
– It’s the beginning of the 4th, and the Hawks have pulled even. Josh Smith has been unconscious. He’s been devastating near the hoop (including a couple nasty jams) and shown a perimeter game to go with it. He looks like an All-Star. He’s also sporting a real slick pair of adidas kicks. Not sure on the model but they’re certainly the dopest on the court.
— The Sixers dominated most of the game until early in the fourth when the Hawks went on a run, however the Sixers kept making buckets when they needed them and getting every loose ball and important rebound. The Sixers played a real sound game. They capitalized on Hawks’ mistakes and dominated on the inside.
— Ryne’s prediction holds true. 98-85 Sixers. (Don’t mess with the master — Ed.)
— Despite the impressive performance from Josh Smith (33 points, including 3-3 from 3pt), Bibby and Joe Johnson had off-nights (7 and 11 points, respectively), and that proved to be significant. Even with Thaddeus Young leaving the game early, the Sixers kept everyone involved and got solid minutes from Marreese Speights (16 points) to go with the 52 combined points from Iguodala, Miller and Green.
— Being in the locker room and seeing the murals of past Sixers stars and then sitting and watching the big screen run through highlights of the team, as well as the numerous banners hanging in the rafters, it really sets home that this is a rather storied franchise. There is indeed a legacy in Philadelphia, and the current crop of players certainly showed some talent tonight and pulled out a solid win.
The Cavs just launched a LeBron-4-MVP website: LeBronisReallyReallyReallyReallyReallyReallyGood.com. Six “Really’s” total — One for each of LeBron’s NBA seasons. Check it out to see LeBron’s MVP profile (and to listen to some electronic funk).
by Vincent Thomas
For about two-thirds of my life, my happiest, most gleeful moment of every Mad March tournament happened either when my squad won the championship or when Duke lost. And, since I can only recall a handful of times “my squad” won (1990 UNLV, 1997 Arizona, 1999 UConn and 2003 ‘Cuse), most of my spring highlights centered around was seeing a red-face Coach K lead wet-cheek Dukies off the court with towels over their heads to hide the tears. I cannot overstate this enough: For most of my life I have thoroughly and utterly despised the Duke Blue Devils. When Will Blythe, author of the Duke-loathing book To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever, wrote a piece for Esquire entitled “Hating Coach K,” the deck read: “Mike Krzyzewski (aka, the Rat) is one of the all-time greats in his chosen field, but, hey, so was Mussolini” it actually took me a moment to register the sarcasm. No joke.
But something happened, this season. I felt no glee watching ‘Nova humiliate Duke. That 77-54 drubbing did nothing for me. I’m aware that much of the country still hates Duke, but I can honestly say that I couldn’t care less about the Blue Devils. I’ll never root for them and, given the option, I’ll pull for the opposing squad. But, win or lose, it won’t make a meaningful difference. Although Coach K still fields a roster full of high school All-Americans and they still win at a clip most programs envy, Duke is pretty much harmless these days. And for Duke, “harmless” is basically synonymous with “pathetic” and I don’t spend much time hating pathetic people/things.
At the height of their influence and relevancy, I really loathed Ja Rule’s music and George Bush’s presidency, etc. Now? I find Dubya somewhat comical and I’d rather listen to Ja than Akon, I can tell you that. I’m not a “kick ‘em while they’re down” kind of dude. After a while, I wished 50 Cent would have just let Ja live and cringed when the crowd on The Mall booed Bush at Obama’s inauguration. Initially, 50 did us all a favor and made Ja go crawl under a rock. The things is, after Rule was effectively made a laughingstock, Curtis kept his foot on the poor clown’s neck. Unnecessary. Bush was a pathetic, irrelevant, powerless figure for months when he walked out onto the Inauguration perch. The boos and “nah, nah, nah, nah. hey, hey, hey. goodbyyye!” was an extra pile-on — the country had already signaled their disgust with a landslide election for a candidate that was Bush’s antithesis. Relieved of any type of relevance and cachet, pathetic figures, like Ja, Bush and Duke, engender basic ambivalence. I say that so matter-of-factly now, just a few years removed from the abhorrent J.J. Redick Days. To go from a deep-seated disgust — where I wished the program and its players everything just short of ill-will — to this nonchalant apathy is remarkable.
My Duke Hate had its genesis in 1989. My Pops was a Georgetown fan because, like many of his cronies, he was enamored with John Thompson the Fearless and Defiant Black Leader and he was awed with the very essence of Hoya Paranoia. I was just a tad too young to really dig the Ewing/Floyd/Graham Hoyas, but by 1988 I was ready to root. Pops had hipped me to “this young boy from Virginia that they say is the next Ewing.” He was talking about Alonzo Mourning, of course. So, still in middle school, I picked up the Sports Illustrated college basketball preview. “Here Come The Hot Shots” was the title. It had Billy Owens dunking on the cover. That freshmen class featured ‘Zo, Owens, the great Chris Jackson … and Christian Laettner. Laettner was from my hometown. Well, not Buffalo proper — he grew up about 25 miles southwest in Angola, NY. He went to high school, however, at Nichols School. Nichols was a smarmy, elitist, private prep school for a bunch of schmucks that certainly were all Duke fans. Around that time, if you grew up in Buff, you were fans of Cliff Robinson (of UConn and Portland fame), Marcus Winfield (of UNLV dropout fame) and Ricthie Campbell (never made it to Syracuse, eventually involved in a drug shootout with the fuzz). Laettner was just some 6-11, prep school buster with floppy bangs. In fact, I was surprised he was even featured in a national magazine and didn’t know Duke from Drake. As the season went on, though, I grew into a pretty zealous G’Town fan and wanted nothing more than for them to get to the Final Four. It woulda happened, but those punks at Duke (Laettner, Danny Ferry, etc.) knocked my boys off in the Elite 8. Let the hate begin.
I’m no different than most of you. A good portion of my Duke Hate stems from the fact that they beat some of favorite squads. Jealousy? Yeah, I guess you can call it that. Unlike the NBA, I jumped from team-to-team in college. UNLV popped up on my radar on Super Bowl Sunday in 1990 when Chris Jackson lit them up for, like, 158 points in about a 10-minute span in the first half. But I also remember Larry Johnson and his gold tooth and middle-part, the squad’s black kicks, Moses Scurry growling when he grabbed a board, the way the team huddled after free throws. This was like some new, Public Enemy kind of college squad. When they marched through the tourney and mangled Duke in the Finals, I was smitten. I loved how LJ bullied the Duke big men and how Greg Anthony and Anderson Hunt frisked Bobby Hurley into diarrhea fits? They say Hurley had a stomach virus, but I think Anthony-Hunt intimidated the dude in bubble-guts. What happened next year, though? Right. Undefeated right up until Duke upset my squad in the Final Four. Depressing and angering. And it got worse. They repeated the next year by beating my favorite college team of all-time, the Fab Five.
Throughout these years, a motif appeared that lasted for close to 20 years: Duke as the Angels and their Brash Opposition as Devils. Back when LJ and the Runnin’ Rebs and the Fab Five were villains and the incomparable Kenny Anderson was supposedly “all flash, no substance,” Duke was lionized. And, yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and admit it: I thought America’s love affair — from both the fans and the media — with Duke had a conspicuous racial component. “Come on preppy, hard-working white guys that play the game the right way! Beat those black guys!” I even convinced myself that Coach K recruited stereotypes to perpetuate an image of being an anti-”black black” program. A squad full of white dudes and a few whitewashed black guys. Brian Davis, Grant Hill (as an adult, I realize he’s not whitewashed, at all), Thomas Hill, Jay Cornball Williams. I mean, did Coach K even attempt to recruit a Chris Webber-type? Not like Webb would have ever went to that snark-factory to begin with, but I believed Coach K wouldn’t want him if he did, let alone Glen Robinson, Stephon Marbury or Jerry Stackhouse. Didn’t fit the Duke Mold. So I hated the Duke Mold.
Even as Duke’s physical makeup changed — from Elton Brand to Chris Carrawell to Corey Maggette to Carlos Boozer, Duke squads were becoming more diverse — and the rest of the country began hating Duke with me, knocking them off the consensus-public appeal pedestal; I still had this overwhelming feeling that this was an aristocratic institution; like Duke was a discriminating country club. As a teenager, I almost came to blows with my only friend or associate that had the audacity to be a Duke fan … from the hood. “You sellout,” I shouted. “What? You wanna throw Nelson Mandela back in prison, too?!” Crazy. But that’s how I was on it back then. If you rooted for Duke, you were like a pro-apartheid Afrikaan, to me.
Time changed things, though. First, the high school-to-pro and one-n-done trends made college basketball less and less relevant for us basketball fans most interested in the “best” basketball, which, we know, is played in the pros. Second, and maybe more importantly, Duke just didn’t hover over college ball in that hegemony role, anymore. And once J.J. Redick, the last true Duke Villain left — and got suitably humbled in the pros — Duke really ceased to incite. I remember being sick to my stomach in the summer of 2004 when news floated that Krzyzewski was being considered for the Lakers vacancy; but even Coach K had an endearing turn as the Redeem Team coach. “These dudes love Krzyzewski,” I kept thinking, last August. “So the man can’t be that bad.”
And now? I mean, can you really gin up authentic hate, rage, antipathy and rancor for that squad Duke trotted out? It was a mediocre starting lineup and bench full of lead-foot Opies. My younger brother and I scanned that bench and couldn’t stop laughing. It was like Krzyzewski was being a prankster or something. That’s when Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham walloped them into glum, sheepish submission. And I watched it all without even the slightest sense of vindication. That’s when I asked myself, “Do you still hate Duke?” I guess not.
Vincent Thomas is a columnist and feature writer for SLAM, a contributing commentator for ESPN and writes the weekly “From The Floor” column for NBA.com. You can email him your feedback at email@example.com or “follow” him on Twitter at twitter.com/vincecathomas.
Even ones that are hanging on to precious pieces of personal memorabilia: “The ball Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas used to score his 10,000th career point turned up in the hands of a local youngster who left with it after it was thrown into the seats at Quicken Loans Arena following a March 21 game against Atlanta. Ilgauskas, who hit the 10,000 mark early in the first quarter, was hoping to find the ball and keep it as a memento. There was even an outcry for its return by some local media outlets. The 8-year-old boy’s mother contacted the Cavs to say her son had the ball and wanted to return it. But the 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas, as gentle a giant as there is in the NBA, told the youngster to keep it as a souvenir. ‘I felt bad for him,’ Ilgauskas said. ‘He took an uncalled for beating for it in the last couple days. For me, it was more about the journey and not the ball. I want him to have peace with it. I don’t need the ball.’”
Dude is 38, bald, and Jewish. He’s also one of the most sought-after personal trainers by players in the L: “Though he doesn’t know who started it, Mr. Ravin’s nickname in NBA circles is ‘The Hoops Whisperer.’ Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony flies Mr. Ravin to Denver several times a season to help him with his ballhandling. Star New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul turns to him in the summers to sharpen his footwork and Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, who scored 15 points Saturday in his first game back from a knee injury, worked with Mr. Ravin throughout his rehabilitation. When Phoenix Suns guard Jason Richardson first met Mr. Ravin in Charlotte two years ago, he says, “I was, like, ‘This dude has no idea about basketball.’ He was a short guy, and when he asked if he could work me out I was like ‘Yeah, whatever.’ The 45-minute session later that evening turned out to be ‘the hardest workout I’ve ever had in my life,’ he says.”
Despite skepticism from the local press corps, Harrington believes he’ll be wearing a Knicks jersey for a while: “Harrington is signed through next season — an expiring contract that could be dealt this summer. Though the Knicks want to create cap space for the summer of 2010 to sign two players, Harrington claimed he’s been told by Walsh, who drafted him in Indiana, he has a future here. ‘I know Donnie wants me here long-term,’ Harrington said. ‘I’ve talked to him about that. I know Coach [Mike D'Antoni] likes what I do on the court. Two players can’t win by themselves. In order to be a championship team, you need a lot of good players. I feel like I’ll be a great complement to whomever they bring in.’ Unless Harrington signs for the minimum, he will have to show more next season. His puzzling campaign continued in Monday’s loss when he committed eight turnovers and got ejected. D’Antoni tellingly did not mention Harrington’s name Monday morning when he reviewed the positive ‘markers’ the club set. D’Antoni wishes Harrington would be a better ball mover and defender.”
by Marcel Mutoni
Lawrence Frank’s status as the longest-tenured coach in the East might soon change, to that of a guy looking for work. At least, that’s the impression his boss gave to the local media when asked about Frank’s job security.
Rod Thorn attempted to be diplomatic, but his poker face failed him when discussing Lawrence Frank’s future (or lack thereof) in New Jersey. From the Star-Ledger:
“I can’t guarantee anyone will be here,” Thorn said Tuesday, when asked about Lawrence Frank’s job security. “It’s true. At the end of the year, we’ll assess what’s happened. We’ll have a full assessment, just like we did last year. But I would have said the same thing last year: I can’t guarantee anything or anyone on any level — player, coach or president — will be here.”
Thorn was reminded that he wasn’t asked about a player or the team president, and that he was leaving a very strong inference that Frank — the longest-tenured coach in the Eastern Conference — won’t be asked to return for the final year of his contract when the season ends in 15 days. He did not change his tone.
“All of us are part of what’s transpired this year, starting with myself, down through the players,” Thorn said. “As we do every year, when the season’s over, you look at the big picture, see where you could possibly make changes to get better, and you do what you have to do. There’s nothing to infer. We’re not finishing the way we’d like to finish. At the middle of the year, we were around .500, and since then we’ve struggled. We still have eight games, but we’re not finishing well. And this is what all organizations do, in virtually every area: Determine what went wrong, why it went wrong, how to get it better.”
With the Nets currenty 14 games below .500, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Couple that with the fact that the team can’t play defense to save its life - something Thorn is very keen on - and it becomes fairly obvious that change is needed in The Swamp.
Unfortunately for Lawrence Frank, that change likely includes him no longer being in the picture next season.
The injured ankle in on every Sixer fan’s mind this morning: “Late in the second quarter, Sixers officials distributed a release saying that x-rays were negative for a fracture, that Young would obviously not return (the obviously being my addition, not what they said), and that it was officially diagnosed as an ankle sprain. After the game, the Sixers officials said that Young would receive an MRI sometime on Wednesday to determine if there was any ligament damage. Officially, the Sixers listed him as ‘Day-to-Day.’ This is an educated guess, but I would be surprised if Young played again in the regular season. Why? Here’s Andre Miller’s quote after the game: ‘He’ll probably be out a couple of weeks. Hopefully, he’ll be back by the first game of the playoffs. He had to be helped off, he couldn’t put any weight on it. He needs to get that taken care of and not try to come back too early.’”
by Holly MacKenzie/ @stackmack
Big night, tired hands. Burning wrists, actually. Gotta try to keep this short.
THE MOST IMPORTANT NEWS: Shaun Livingston getting signed to a two-year deal with the Thunder. I just typed Hornets in there, think it’s because I’m watching the Kings/Hornets. Also cried at Vlade’s halftime ceremony. That stuff KILLS me. I love that they scheduled it with the Hornets in town so that Peja would be there.
So, yes. Livingston is on an NBA squad. I’m loving that all over town. You couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face yesterday. I know all of you SLAM people feel the same way and share my hopes for Shaun, that he gets a chance to live his dream.
Scot Pollard opened his speech by saying, “Vlade-Daad-e, he likes to party” Pollard’s pretty great. Chris Webber needs to be a public speaker or run for office or something where I can watch him and zone in. He’s an amazing speaker.
Funny story: After Z scored his 10,000th point, Delonte West was unaware of the milestone and kicked the game ball into the stands after the game. This kills me. Classic Delonte.
Sheed got called for his 16th technical last night for jawing with an official. He will now be suspended a game. Not good for the Pistons as they fight to remain in the 7th spot. It was fun seeing Sheed scream “That ball don’t lie” after Mo Williams missed the tech free throw, though.
I’d like Gerald Wallace on my team. That man is amazing.
Also, cool to see MJ on the sidelines cheering for his team. That has to feel good when you come to the bench and Jordan is on his feet. Fun watching him watch Kobe, too.
BETCATS, this is for you: Charlotte Bobcats took down the Lakers last night, 94-84. Second straight loss for the Lakers, and Charlotte looked good. Raja Bell forced Kobe into 28 shots for his 25 points, Pau did his best with 16/11/7 and Lamar added 20. Gerald Wallace was a beast with 21 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 blocked shots. Boris Diaw had 11 points and 12 assists and Raymond Felton added 16.
With the Bulls 107-105 loss to the Pacers, the Bobcats are only one game out of the eighth spot in the East. TJ Ford hit a jumper at the buzzer to give the Pacers the victory. The loss was the Bulls second straight road loss in a close game. Danny Granger had 31 points to lead the Pacers while Ford had 22 and 9 assists off of the bench. Derrick Rose had 25 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists for Chicago as Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas each added 20 in the loss.
Hawks fell to the Sixers, 98-85. Josh Smith had 33 for ATL in the loss and Flip Murray added 19 off of the bench. Andre Miller had 18 points and 10 asssts, Andre Igoudala scored 19 and Marreese Speights added 16 off of the bench.
Detroit held a lead for most of the first half against the Cavs in Cleveland, but Bron and Co. came roaring back as the Pistons scored only 29 points in the entire second half of the game to fall, 79-73. Bron had 25 points and 12 rebounds while Delonte West scored 12. The Pistons had 13 points from Rip Hamilton and 9 points/9 boards from Sheed.
Dallas took down Minny by 20, 108-88. Suns are now done like dinner. Dirk had 23 points and 12 rebounds… And so did Kevin Love. Love also had 3 assists.
On the same day that OKC adds SLAM-favorite Shaun Livingston to their roster (and had him sitting on the bench), the Thunder grabbed a huge victory over the Spurs, 96-95 when Michael Finley missed a jumper at the buzzer only seconds after hitting a three to keep the Spurs in it. Kevin Durant had 31 points, Russell Westbrook scored 16 to go with 10 assists and Jeff Green scored 16 as well. The Spurs were led by Tim Duncan’s 21 points and 12 boards as Manu Ginobili added 17.
The Nuggets held on for the 111-104 victory over the Knicks after giving up a 27-point lead. D’Antoni played only seven guys and they gave the Nuggets a run for their money. Nate Robinson scored 30 for the Knicks off of the bench as Al Harrington scored 23 and David Lee had 19 points and 12 boards. The Nugg’s were led by Melo’s 29 points while Nene had 18 points and 12 boards and JR Smith added 17 off of the bench.
On the night of Vlade’s jersey retiring, the Kings pushed the Hornets to the limit… And then the Hornets woke up. After Francisco Garcia scored on consecutive trips down the floor to tie the game at 108, he then blocked a layup attempt by Chris Paul and Beno Udrih hit a layup with 1.7 seconds remaining. While the Kings thought they were safe and had delivered a victory with Valde and the other former Kings in attendence, Peja got the last laugh as Rasual Butler hit a beaty three at the buzzer. David West scored 40 on the night to go with 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Chris Paul had 15 points 15 assists and 8 rebounds and Butler added 18. Andres Nocioni had 23 for the Kings while Garcia added 19 and Kevin Martin scored 20.
Protland killed the Jazz 125-104. BRoy had 25 and 11. Pryzbilla and Boozer and Sloan were all ejected. I didn’t see any of this game. Feel free to fill me in.
by Marcel Mutoni
Except for perhaps the most unreasonably optimistic of Pistons fans, anyone following the Allen Iverson situation in Detroit had to know that things would come to a boil, and that A.I. would eventually reveal how he truly felt about coming off the bench.
The pivotal moment happened last night, after Iverson clocked just 18 minutes in yet another Pistons loss to the Cavs.
The Detroit News has the quotes:
“How many minutes did I play,” Iverson said after he scored 11 with three turnovers in 18 minutes. “It seemed way, way, way less than that. Eighteen minutes? Come on, man. I can play 18 minutes with my eyes closed. It’s a bad feeling, man. I’m wondering what they rushed me to get back for? For that?
“It’s a bad time for me mentally.”
“I am just trying to get through it without starting a whole bunch of nonsense,” Iverson said, after initiating the conversation about his playing time. “I’m looking at the big picture. If I vent my frustration then it’s like, given who I am, I’ll be the one everybody points the finger at. I am just going to try to laugh to stop from crying.”
Two games into his new role, and the guy is already sounding like a manic depressive. Oh, and did I mention that there are less than 10 games left in the regular season?
The Zen Master took the Andrew Bynum “controversy” in stride: “I think there’s a lot being made out of that that is unnecessary,” Jackson said before Tuesday’s game against Charlotte. “This is a young guy. I don’t think Andrew is 22 yet, is he? He’s a 21-year-old guy. He’s been out of basketball 5 1/2-6 weeks. He’s got to have some energy and vent and have some fun. Now I don’t know if putting a girl on your shoulders…The fact that people are beating him up over that, I think that’s crazy. Andrew is doing fine and he’s going to be fine.”
PRODUCED, DIRECTED & EDITED BY: ERIC WOODYARD
Kobe Bryant may be the most loved/hated athlete of our generation. Trust me, I found this out with my coverage of him at the Palace of Auburn Hills when the Lakers stormed the Motor City. Instead of profiling him in a negative light, which it seems like everyone wants to read about, I profiled him as a living legend.
I paid homage to his greatness.
As a result, there were mixed feelings, which was expected. These are the same discussions that I have among my friends on Western Michigan University’s campus all of the time.
Despite my biases in the coverage (there were several), I also shot footage as well, intending to give viewers a visual account of my coverage. So if you’re not a Laker fan or an extreme Kobe buff, like myself, this video may offend you. Viewer discretion advised… — Eric Woodyard
by Gregory Dole
I made my case for Bargnani at the beginning of the year. I predicted big things. I wrote that I was shocked to see the newly-sculpted Italian show up for Raptors training camp at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He had obviously spent the summer weight-lifting. I said he would be great this season. Of course, I also thought the Raptors would be a great team. So I am one-for-two, which wouldn’t have served me well in Vegas.
I still feel proud of myself that I predicted big things for Bargnani. And I had hoped to draft him for my team in the Arvydas Sabonis fantasy basketball league, but apparently the team named Il Mago had even higher expectations for the guy and duly drafted him earlier than I thought the Italian should have gone. That is neither here nor there. What is of significance is that I went to the Raptors-Clippers game this past weekend to give the Roman a look-see. True to his enigmatic form, Bargnani did not suit up because of a foot problem. I should have done my research before showing up at the game.
In any case, I did get the chance to speak to the man who found Bargnani, Raptors Assistant General Manager Maurizio Gherardhini. It was he who took the young teen Bargnani from Rome to Treviso, Italy with plans of developing him into a star player in the Italian league. Of course, Gherardhini had been down this road before, investing time and money in NBA flame-outs such as Bostjan Nachbar and Nikoloz Tskitishzivili. That experience would have probably restrained him from predicting incredibly great things for Bargnani.
Jumping forward to the present day, anyone could make a reasonable argument that the kid named Il Mago deserved to be picked first overall. Before you jump on me and yell Brandon Roy, let’s go back to the 2006 Draft.
It wasn’t a great year for top-end talent or depth of talent. An interesting aside I heard later in that year was that very few 2006 second round picks received much guaranteed money and only a precious few received more than one-year deals. The Raptors were looking at Brandon Roy and his questionable knee, LaMarcus Aldridge and his non-existent physique, Adam Morrison and his non-existent physique, his non-existent athleticism and his general lightning-in-a-box personality, and perhaps the where-in-sam-hell-did-he-come-from Tyrus Thomas. You could throw Rudy Gay into that list but he was never going to be picked first overall. I remember vividly a top NBA scout telling me at the time that the word on the street was that Rudy Gay didn’t even really like basketball. That’s the kind of bad rap that kills a kid’s draft value more than even a drug habit. In fairness, I met Rudy before the draft and he came across as being a really nice human being. In fact, he seemed so nice that I remember thinking he mustn’t have a competitive bone in his body.
When you consider the time and place, Bargnani seemed like a decent gamble. He was some 20 years old, seven feet tall and 250 pounds. The scouting report said he was the next Dirk Nowitzki. That he had soft hands and good feet. That he ran the floor well, was a good shot blocker, had a quick release, could catch and shoot well, and had good one-on-one skills. In conclusion, he wasn’t too shabby of a prospect.
While attending the 2006 Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso, Italy, an NBA scout (with no association to the Raptors) remarked that Bargnani was a surefire prospect. He compared the Italian to Lamar Odom.
Today, Bargnani is good for 15 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 bpg and 1 apg. He shoots 41 percent from three, 82 percent from the free throw line and 45 percent from the floor. Those are solid numbers for a third-year player. He hasn’t crossed into the star player territory, but you can’t say that will never happen. He is a big man after all, and they peak later than guards.
After a slow start, Bargnani has had a great 2009, averaging 19.2 ppg and 44.5 percent from three. Those are great numbers. His rebounding isn’t great, but if you ever watch the Raptors, you see that his rebounds come on defense because he isn’t a post player on offense. As such, Bargnani loses rebounds to his great rebounding teammate Chris Bosh (and now Shawn Marion).
You can now add recent signing Pops Mensah-Bonsu to the list of Raptors that can rebound. He has got to be one of the best athletes among post players in the League. Every time he goes to rebound, he nearly decapitates his head on the rim. Every time. Against the Clippers on Sunday, a team which features rebounding king Marcus Camby, Pops could not be stopped. Why the league slept on him is anyone’s guess. There aren’t many tall athletes like him wandering the earth.
In short, there are only so many rebounds, and good teammates aren’t exactly going to fight each other for rebounds. Not that I am apologizing for Bargnani’s 5.4 rebs per in 2009. I just want to bring some perspective to blind analysis of his stats lines and the cliched “but he can’t rebound” criticism laid on the Italian.
On the other side of North America, Brandon Roy has become an NBA All-Star player. He has cemented himself as the best of the ‘06 NBA Draft class. His numbers are great: 23 ppg, 4.7 rpg and 5.1 apg. Of course, Roy didn’t have to adjust much when he moved a few hours south to work in Portland. He also didn’t have the stigma of being the number one pick. He enjoyed some anonymity coming into the League as the sixth pick, playing in a city off the beaten trail, and on a team in rebuilding mode. It was a good situation. He could make mistakes, play big minutes and jack shots to his heart’s content. In essence, he got a ton of “reps” in to accelerate the learning process that new players have to go through. Point being, Brandon Roy is a great player in a great situation. Will he get much better? You could argue that he is as good as he will get.
When comparing Bargnani to Roy, it is obvious that Roy is better right now. Will he be an effective player in five years time? Will the knee problems that plagued him in the past rear their ugly head? When he loses a step, will he be effective? He is a guard after all. It has been difficult to watch Iverson’s game go south this year. Guards get old quickly.
On the other hand, big men with shooting skills can play until they just about drop dead. Come on down Robert Horry! More seriously, how sad is it to not see Horry in uniform this year? Bargnani is a year and a few months younger than Roy. He had to adjust to a new culture and language. He had to find his role alongside All-Star Chris Bosh. His first year was probably a wash. And yet Bargnani has always been a much better outside shooter than Roy.
The end-all argument is that the Italian could still turn into Dirk. By the numbers, Dirk wasn’t nearly as good from outside (he shot 38 percent from three in his third year for example) as our man in Toronto. The German just had way more shot attempts and ended up with a better scoring average. In any case, it’s no great jump to suggest that Bargnani could still become a Dirk clone. If that day comes, there will be no discussion about who is better. At that stage, a Roy versus Bargnani argument becomes a Cadillac versus a Lambo argument. Cadillacs are great but they don’t compare.
Now I am not saying that Bargnani is better than Roy. I am just saying there is a reasonable chance that when the two are in the twilight of their careers, Bargnani might just come out on top.
I should also add that Toronto needs to get international players. Chipper Jones’ most recent comments, following his stay in Toronto during the World Baseball Classic, show how Toronto teams have to be more careful than other teams when selecting personnel. It appears as though some American-bred athletes are still lukewarm in their feelings about playing in the city. Rather than debate the merits of this line of thinking, there are probably some people in the Raptors organization that would rather avoid the situation entirely. Instead, they might rather focus on drafting anyone but Americans. If the choice were between equally-talented players, one from Europe and the other from the USA, why run the risk of the American bemoaning the short supply of Yoo-hoo in Canada or the lack of American history on the curriculum at their kid’s school?
A friend of a friend of mine ran into Jose Calderon on the street in Toronto some weeks back. This friend of a friend, and I swear to God this story is true, said to Calderon, “I am a huge Raptors fan and I would be honored if you let me buy you a drink.” The Spaniard accepted the invite and they went into a nearby pub. As an aside, going for a pint with your team’s point guard that you bumped into on the street is exceptionally cool. From what Calderon told this friend of a friend, he is very happy in Toronto. Maybe it was the alcohol talking but I’d suggest that European, Asian and African players enjoy life in the cosmopolitan Toronto as much as or more than they would in Memphis, Sacramento or most other US cities. These cultural factors are yet more reasons for why Bargnani was a good pick for the Toronto Raptors. At the very least, I would suggest that if an Italian complained about the polenta or pasta in Toronto, it would be the same complaint he would make in Dallas or Miami.
Enough of my dime store analysis. I spoke with Assistant GM Gherardhini and he had some interesting comments on his Italian protege. If you think I am happy to see Bargnani play well, all because of some inconsequential predictions I made in October, then wait to you see how the Raptors management feels about the player’s development.
SLAM: What do you attribute Andrea’s success to this year?
Maurizio Gherardhini: I think Andrea, the way he has been playing of the last three months, it was the way we dreamed of him playing. It is a somehow different way of playing compared to the way he started to the season this year. I think it all has to do with more confidence. He plays with more ease on the court. As he grows as a player, he grows in his knowledge of opponents and what works and what doesn’t work against a particular player. His personal scouting of opponents has gotten much better. He also feels the confidence that the team is giving him to play his game. He now has the green light from his teammates to do certain things. The game becomes much easier in this situation.
Coach Jay Triano has been very good with him as well. Andrea has had the chance to work over the past summer with Gordon Hebert and his strength coach. He has put on muscle and will continue to put on muscle and gain strength so that he can become a better post player and battle for rebounds in the post. Clearly that is the part of his game that he needs to work on. If you look at the way he plays facing the rim, shooting and putting the ball on the floor, we are talking about one of the best young players in the League. He has also shown that he is a consistent shot blocker and the more he gains in strength, the more he will be able to maintain his position and get his hand up to alter and block shooters.
SLAM: Will he become a decent defensive player?
MG: Andrea has a nose for shot blocking. He has always had good timing, even when he was much younger. He just needs to get stronger physically to be able to stop an opponent in the post. He has areas where he needs more time but he is still just 23 years old. He is getting older, more mature. He has a better knowledge of everything and that is when a player improves his game. He will get better defensively as he gets stronger and more knowledgeable about the game and the League.
SLAM: It seemed as though he had developed a following of people in the media and among the fans who doubted his ability. Did that doubt creep into his own opinion of himself?
MG: I think it is good for him to get the feeling that the fans and the media are no longer doubting his abilities. Those doubts are no longer there. He is showing that he could have been the number one in the draft or one of the top young players in the game today. So that is a good feeling for him as well.
SLAM: Does his success vindicate the gamble that the organization took when they drafted him, because you and your colleagues have received criticism for your decision to draft him first overall.
MG: Well it shows that what all of us at the Raptors were thinking made sense. That Bryan Colangelo’s unexpected decision to go with an Italian seven-footer made a lot of sense. And now Andrea is proving Bryan right and obviously we are happy that this has happened.
SLAM: How much of this experience with Andrea shows how difficult it is to evaluate a young player with a significant amount of time?
MG: It will always be like this. There is always risk. There are areas that are unknown when you select a player. You hope that everything clicks in the way you have been studying the player. But sometimes it doesn’t always work that way. It takes time. It takes time for a big man to mature and develop into a player. It is something that we need to be patient with young players and let them grow into the type of player they can be. You need to understand the way they are. You need to accept their mistakes. If you adopt that approach, the maturation process is much quicker and much more rewarding and that is what has happened with Andrea.
Even as the Raptors wrap up a sorry season that had been filled with expectation, it is safe to say that things are looking up. My fearless prediction? Next year the Raptors will be a force!
As for Bargnani, perhaps the Nowitzki comparisons are too extreme. Recalling my time in Treviso, that NBA scout said Bargnani was Lamar Odom. He was quite confident of the comparison. Both players have been called enigmatic and aloof. Both are big guys who can shoot the ball and put the ball on the floor. Both seem to possess a tonne of talent and yet both succeed in underwhelming.
I came across a Lamar Odom quote the other day that struck me as oddly familiar. After he scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a road win against the Cavs on February 8th, 2009, Odom said “I never play the game for stats. It’s all about winning.”
At the Raptors training camp in October, I asked Bargnani what sort of stats he wanted to put up this season. He couldn’t answer the question. All he could say was, “I want to win games by playing my best. I just want to help my team win.” It didn’t seem forced. Try as I might to rephrase the question, Bargnani just couldn’t talk about individual statistics.
My 2010 prediction for Bargnani? He will fulfill that NBA scout’s prediction and become the Italian Lamar Odom.
The bar is set. I am already looking forward to bragging about my prediction again next season.
Trying to avert one of sports’ all-time worst injuries isn’t easy, but Livingston is making progress. He’ll be in uniform for the Thunder’s remaining nine games: “The Oklahoma City Thunder announced Tuesday that it has signed point guard Shaun Livingston, the former No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, to a multiyear contract.”
A little Sole Searching fun-fact: when these shoes originally dropped in 2000, I picked up the white/black patent models for a whopping 250 Cdn bucks. And I went half a size up, based solely on the fear that if I didn’t buy the shoes right then and there at that moment, they’d pass me by. It’d be the white/concord Jordan XI all over again. Six months later I saw the shoes on sale for under $150. Broke. My. Heart.
You know the significance of this shoe, and so does Fred Weiss.
The original boing dunk got me thinking about some of the great ads that the Swoosh put together for VC and the BB4 back in the day. Check those out here.
And just for good measure, this VC Hooptown ad that I’d somehow never seen:
The anticipation continues to build as Lance will delay his decision a little longer. The New York prep star originally planned on announcing his college committment this morning before the McDonald’s All-American game.
Words by Justin Walsh
“I’m standing on a stage
Of fear and self-doubt
It’s a hollow play
But they’ll clap anyway”
That’s how it must feel, your blood like seeds from the tree of life. Your father, Michael Jeffrey Jordan. Your father, legend to the hardwood, coated in shine, laden with sweat, speckled with blood. Your father, the savior to our souls, our dreams have been wrought with the release over Ehlo. You play a bad game, possibly a dreadful one. You garner claps, you’re serenaded with the love of a father’s acts and therein lies the fork in the road — you can either ride the coattails of a father so mythical, act a shadow to his steps… Or you can forge a different path, shrug off the clichés and do work.
“With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am goin’
With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’
I can see where I am”
“Who am I?” One might ask in his position. We start with the basics. His airness was a murderous righty. Right hand dominance? Sod that, let’s give the world a lefty. Coming out of high school Air Jordan was a tremendous athlete, raw in fundamentals, but his wrists were coated with callous upon callous from a long relationship with the rims he met each day, his calves were simply the base for his perverse way of treating opponents — Shock & Awe. We wont bother with what’s already been done — let’s go the Will Ferrell route a la Step Brothers: “…Here to f*ck sh*t up.” Marcus’ game is nuanced with a grinding curl from a simple pick, a quick hesitation dribble and he’s gone to the rim — a high leaner off the glass, two points. He adds to his repertoire with moves, jumpers and footwork like a family setting up a game of Jenga. Soon enough, a defender will make a wrong move, pull the wrong block, and the entire game will come crashing down on the defender like an avalanche to a snowboarder. It was bound to happen, it was inevitable. The analysts simply leaned back in their fold outs, seated directly behind the table with all the computers and the score man and waited for for all hell to break loose.
“Fill up the gates but block the flow
Tilt back the head before they blow
Sit back again enjoy the show
My life’s a movie now”
His life is fodder for celluloid, calories for the bottomless pit of hunger so aptly named keyboards. He’s the son of Michael Jordan for god’s sake. It must be like a tedious cake walk in circles for him, marching to the beat of a record he’s probably heard ten too many times, hoping to win himself something, longing not to have to go back to his pops to do it for him with his wallet. It’s known that it used to bother him, probably similar to a kid poking you with a stick over and over again, waiting for confirmation that you’re still alive. But long ago he went through the five stages of being the son of the G.O.A.T. and accepted that it’s probably not realistic to think he would make it to the level that his father got to in this beautiful, ironic game. Hellbent on making it on his own accord, he went to work. He has faced many bumps along the way, similar to his older brother Jeffrey’s — Jeff had problems getting recruited, later became a walk on freshman on the team at Illinois. Marcus has had more offers (Toledo, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Butler, Davidson, Marquette and a few others), but recruiting analysts for the major names (Rivals, Scout, ESPN) are hesitant to bring praise to the young lefty. Their rationale is admirable, albeit unfair: nobody wants to over-hype the G.O.A.T’s offspring and set him up for failure.
“I don’t believe that anything is wrong
Close my eyes and I will be strong
By tomorrow I will have moved on
I don’t believe that anything is wrong”
Marcus isn’t the outcome of nepotism, he isn’t the product of a mass marketed hype machine, clothed in the rags and riches of outside interests. He wears the shoe of his surname, the shirt of his surname, and so on and so forth. Must be like two people tugging at opposite limbs, slowly tearing ligaments and dislocating joints — on one hand he’s embraced that he’s the son of the Omega of hoops. On the other hand, he strives to make a name for himself, if at all possible. Marcus or bust, if you will.
“Tick tock the clock is getting faster
Can’t sit back
And watch the world move backwards
He’s got to be moving forwards
He’s got to be moving faster”
At Whitney Young, Marcus made his name. He led his team to the state final this year. He did him, and by the end of the game, Waukegan was defeated, 69-66. Marcus Jordan fashioned himself some points, 19 in all, ending his HS basketball career with a title; somewhat reminiscent of another Jordan’s career ending title for the Bulls (Those Wizards’ years were a bad dream, we’ve since been awakened to find ourselves in the 90’s still), as a clutch performer. Marcus didn’t sink a jumper to end it. He sunk four shots from 15 feet, all worth 1 point apiece, in the final 0:26 of the game. Just like everything else in his life, the same, but different. And when the buzzer was sound, the title a lock… Among the fans clapping, screaming and chanting, was a 6-6 statuesque figure with rings clamped on his fingers, tears rolling down his face with pride for his son. The reporters asked Michael about it afterward — “Crying?” Jordan said, “I’m not crying. Not for me, anyway.”
“A rendezvous for the new revolutionist
This new revolution is
Whatever it is”
Just like the lyrics said, a rendezvous for the revolutionist. This revolution is whatever it is. Marcus is his own destiny, whatever it is.
Note: all lyrics from various songs by The Arcade Fire.
Hungry for that elusive Playoff series win: “For Anthony, winning a playoff series is one of the few things not on his resume. Even more troubling, the Nuggets are a pathetic 4-20 in the playoffs during Anthony’s tenure, although he did miss one loss as a rookie in 2004 due to a knee injury. ‘Any great player is based upon what they do in the playoffs,’ Anthony said. ‘As far as being a great basketball player, scoring and just being a top player in the league, playoff success is the only thing I’m missing. (Winning a series is) very important to me. That’s my goal. That’s what I want to achieve. My time will come.’ Anthony believes there’s a very good chance it will come this season. ‘I’m starving,’ said Anthony, who believes the Nuggets can beat any team in a playoff series. ‘I can taste it. It’s right there. We have a big opportunity I think we can make some noise with this team right here, and I think this is the year we can do it. We got a better team. We got guys who know what it takes…We’re just a totally better team than we had in the past.’”
If Sergio Rodriguez doesn’t get more playing time soon, it might be a bit hard for his coach to travel around Spain in the future: “Journalist friend Quique Peinado from Marca - Spain’s largest newspaper - checked in last week to inform that the newspaper’s website ran a poll asking readers to vote whether Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan doesn’t play Sergio Rodriguez because he has something personal against him. The results … 80 percent voted ‘Yes’. ‘Nate is not the most popular guy in Spain,’ Peinado writes. I asked Sergio about the poll. He laughed loudly. ‘Ah yes, that is the largest paper,’ Sergio said proudly. ‘The poll … I don’t feel that way. Everybody … everybody has feelings. I don’t think he has anything against me.’”
The kid, according to his former coach, just couldn’t handle the pressure: “I was happy Adam got to leave because he was never comfortable here. You were hoping it would be a new lease on life for him. I still think it can be,” said Brown of the Feb. 7 trade that dealt Morrison to the Los Angeles Lakers. Brown said the other factors — the glut at shooting guard and small forward and Morrison’s recovery from a knee injury that cost him the previous season — were secondary to how expectations rattled Morrison. “As the season progressed, I sensed (his frustration). You’d hear some things in the crowd and see him react. So I had some talks with him and that’s when I realized (how unhappy he was.) He said all along he’s never felt comfortable here. He told me everybody had high expectations. When you’re the third pick in the draft, that’s just the way it is — it’s not going to change. Hopefully with a year under him (elsewhere) he’ll fill his potential.”
The Suns’ rookie big man learns that more toughness is expected of him: “Put somebody on their (expletive) back,” O’Neal said he told Lopez. “Don’t let anybody oopsy-doopsy layup on you and be laughing at you. Have you ever seen me get dunked on? No, because I put (expletive) on their backs. Period. If you’re going to be a big man, be a big man. Don’t be out there (expletive) around. Lay somebody on their (expletive) back. Period. Wilt (Chamberlain) told me that. Bill Russell told me that. Hakeem (Olajuwon) told me that. All the great big men told me that…That’s what I’m trying to teach him, instead of just being out there like a loose tree blowing in the wind. Do something…He’s got to toughen up, step up. He’s got some big shoes to fill because after I’m done, it’s his turn.”
by Marcel Mutoni
As Kevin Garnett misses yet another game (he’s expected to sit out the 15th contest out of the last 19 tomorrow night against Charlotte), people in Boston are growing increasingly nervous about his health (and the team’s chances) with the Playoffs nearing.
According to GM Danny Ainge, there’s nothing to worry about - the team is just being cautious with their big man - but that doesn’t stop some from dreaming up some doomsday scenarios for the men in green and white.
From the Boston Herald:
Garnett is almost 33 and already has played 5,000 more minutes than Larry Bird did before Bird’s body gave out. And with Garnett we’re not talking about Artis Gilmore minutes, either. We’re talking about a Steve Prefontaine pace: Just go ’til you drop. Pierce, 31, and Allen, 33, aren’t much different. There never was any question about the hearts of these champions; it’s the knees and ankles and lower backs that eventually would derail them. Happens to the best.
Meanwhile, the Cavs already have won 60 games and are coasting to the best record in the NBA. They are 35-1 at home. Their leader is 24 years old and about to win his first MVP. He’s tossing in underhanded, 75-foot shots for Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes.” His smiling face is on all the magazines. It’s LeBron’s time now, which puts in the Celtics in an interesting position as they head into the playoffs.
They’re underdogs now. Long shots to even get out of the East. You can almost hear Garnett now: No one respects us, no one thinks we can do it, no one gives us any credit at all. He has a new rallying cry, which is good because he needs one. Winning without a healthy Kevin Garnett is not possible. Not in the playoffs. Not a chance.
So, there’s that.
The injuries and physical breakdowns are precisely what everyone feared when this Celtic team was assembled, and with the postseason just around the corner, it’s not hard to understand why hoops fans in New England are having a tough time sleeping.