Friday, February 26, 2010

Franchise Player: Dwyane Wade

In the past week, I have started to write a series about the criteria that players have to meet to be recognized as franchise players. If you want the list of requirements that I came up with, click here. Now that you know the rules, let’s go check out our featured player of the day.

Back in 2003, teams were all lining up hoping to get the #1 NBA draft pick in what was known as the LeBron James, Carmelo and Darko draft. As crazy as it sounds today, scouts had made NBA general managers as well as the general public believe that Darko Milicic was the next coming of Dirk Nowitzki; except with shot blocking skills and a better post game. He was going to revolutionize NBA basketball (I know this post is not about Darko, but please indulge me for a few lines, we should be obliged to revisit the 2003 NBA Draft every year); or so we were told. Joe Dumars had a team that featured Chauncy Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace (in his prime no less). Looking at the roster he had, Dumars passed on Carmelo Anothony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for Darko. Just so we’re clear, up to that point, only Dirk Nowitzki , Manu Ginobili and Peja Stojakovic had been able to transition their game from Europe to the NBA and become stars. Wade and Anthony in the meantime had shined on the biggest collegiate stage possible as they dominated the NCAA tournament and both made Final Four appearances. And here we are seven years later, Darko has played for Detroit, Orlando, Memphis, New York and Minnesota while Wade and Melo are still where they started. Milicic has said himself that once this season ends, he’s packing his bags and heading back to Europe (I really hope for him his career pans out there, because that would just give me more stuff to write about for my own entertainment). On the other hand, the Miami Heat selected a 6’4 guard out of Marquette with the number five pick in the draft. Miami knew they were getting a solid combo guard, but did they truly know what they were getting?

The Heat drafted a guard with a wide array of skills in Dwyane Wade. Although he was not a good shooter when drafted, he compensated that by being a decent rebounder from the guard position and a good playmaker. However, what surprised people the most was his freakish athleticism and body control. From the moment he stepped into the league, Wade flew to the basket with reckless abandon but always positioned himself well enough to avoid contact before getting to the rim. Think about it, when’s the last time you saw Flash whistled for a charge? The former Marquette player was so good that when it came time for Shaquille O’Neal to be traded from the Lakers, he chose Miami as a destination because he saw in Wade the ability to help him win another title. Indeed, by his third season, Wade was an NBA champion. He tortured the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals with his prolific scoring and knack for getting fouled. People were quick to anoint him as the equal to Kobe Bryant (understandable, but a bit of an overreaction) and then whispers grew that he was Rated Next. I bet you’re wondering what Rated Next means. It’s a term I came up with for players that are mentioned as the possible successor to his Airness Michael Jordan. Quick note: Isn’t it funny how every time an athletic and high scoring two guard emerges in the NBA, he immediately becomes Rated Next? Look at the list: Harold Minor, Grant Hill (a small forward but still), Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Dwyane Wade, DeShawn Stevenson (yes, Stevenson was actually once compared to MJ, sad isn’t it?) and finally Darko Milicic. In the words of Triumph the Dog, I kid I kid. Darko was obviously never compared to Mike, but I couldn’t resist the urge of writing his name again. Considering that Wade was once mentioned in the same breath as the GOAT (Greatest Off All Time), does he make it in as a franchise player? Let’s break it down.

The Kobe Bryant Exception
So far in his NBA career, Dwyane Wade has missed the playoffs only once, and it happened in his third season.  That year, Wade missed 31 games as the Heat limped their way to 15 wins. Considering that Wade still played in 51 games, it doesn’t look good on his track record that his team only won 15 games. Nonetheless, he gets a pass accordingly to the Kobe Bryant Exception. Quick note: How do Lakers fans rationalize the fact that the Lakers missed the playoffs that year? I bet you it was a conspiracy spearheaded by the almighty David Stern.

The Kareem Standard
Dwyane Wade has accumulated a bit of hardware so far in his young career. Flash has been selected to participate in six All-Star games. In addition, Wade was named the 2006 NBA Finals MVP and was just recently crowed as “The Star of Stars” (David Stern’s favorite line on Al-Star Sunday) as he captured the 2010 NBA All-Star MVP award.

Magic Johnson Provision
Nobody in the NBA is more reckless than Dwyane Wade. He sacrifices his body night in and night out with incredible drives to the hoop as he seeks to posterize defenders all the while drawing the foul. In addition, I can’t recall ever seeing a guard with the same fearlessness on defense; Wade refuses to allow easy baskets to his opponents, consequently he has been dunked on a few times. Nonetheless, that never stops him from attempting to swat the shot of a guard, forward or even center trying to get his dunk on. As a result, you never forget that Wade is on the floor; it's like Doug Collins likes to say, his fingerprints are always all over the game; be it scoring, rebounding, passing or defense.

Rarely do you get the chance to witness one single play that displays a player’s personality as well as his career. Let me take you down through memory lane. It’s game 5 of the 2006 NBA Finals with the series tied 2-2. The Heat are down 100-99 with 9.1 seconds left in overtime and they are inbounding the ball at midcourt. Dwyane Wade breaks free from his defender and catches the ball in the backcourt, he starts dribbling and sees Jason Terry and Devin Harris coming to double team him.

Instead of looking for the open man, Wade dribbles the ball up court on the right side of the court and keeps his dribble alive as he tries to shake free from (Avery Johnson is on that side of the court and is situated right next to Wade on the sidelines and is screaming and begging for a hard double team) from the double team. Wade has made it to the three point line and is staring at the basket from a 45 degree angle; he fakes as if he’s going to try and split the double team and then beats Devin Harris left, and drives towards the middle of the lane and gets fouled by Dirk Nowitzki. In the defining moment of his career;Wade ignored the defense as well as conventional wisdom and drew a foul. Knowing what was at stake, Wade took it upon himself to decide the game instead of leaving the team’s fate in the hands of a player that could not shoulder the pressure. After drawing the foul on Dirk Nowitzki, Wade turned into a cold blooded NBA version of Frank Lucas (portrayed by Denzel Washington in the movie American Gangster). He stepped up to the line and sank the Dallas Mavericks hopes of stealing game 5 with his two free throws. For better or worse, that will be (at least to me) the defining moment in Dwyane Wade’s career: he would not and could not shrink from the moment. There is a saying in sports: “good players take what the defense gives them; great players take what they want.” Which one do you think fits Wade?

The Karl Malone Rule
Dwyane Wade loses a huge amount of points in this category. As great as he is as a player, Wade’s attacks to the basket leave him vulnerable to vicious shots from big men. Consequently, Wade has been and will probably always be a player that faces multiple injuries. Since his rookie year in the league, Wade has played in 61, 77, 75, 51, 51, 79 and 55 games (this season). For those of you keeping score, that’s 449 games out of a possible 577 games. If we do the math, Flash has been active in 77.8% of the Miami Heat’s games during his career.

The Diesel Test
In case you’re wondering, I did change up the order in which I present the criteria in Wade’s case because one of the requirements had a direct impact on a second requirement. In this case, the requirement that we’re talking about is the answer to this question: would you blindly give Dwyane Wade a contract that averages out to $20 million annually? Several general managers would cough up the money in a heartbeat but I wouldn’t do it for two reasons:

Exhibit A: Injuries
The Marquette product misses on average 18 games per season and will continue to miss games as he gets older. As I mentioned earlier, Wade’s constant attacks to the basket (on offense and defense) will consistently lead to him getting injured and missing parts of a season at a time. In addition, unlike Shaquille O’Neal in his prime, Wade’s mere presence on the team does not make them a championship contender; but rather a team vying for a low playoff seed if he’s healthy to suit up for 82 games. Add the fact that he’s not available to play all the games, and his worth takes a dip.

Exhibit B: Tracy McGrady & Vince Carter
In no way am I saying that Dwyane Wade is the type of player that these guys are, but you have to look at the signs and wonder. Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady were once the marquee shooting guards of the NBA not named Kobe Bryant. T-Mac and V.C. were known for dunking on some of the biggest and meanest players ever (cue the Vince Carter clip when he dunks Alonzo Mourning at the end of the article……OK back to business). However, back then we saw the signs. Both players would occasionally battle a few nicks and bruises here and there and miss a few games but then be good to go and perform at a high level. However the injuries eventually caught up and it affected their psyches and their performances. McGrady was told to stay away from the Houston Rockets this season and was then shipped to New York where he performed well in his first game but then limped around the court in the following game. As it pertains to Vince Carter, well let’s just call him “Half Man, Half Missing” from now on. Vince Carter now lounges on the court and fires away ill advised shots from three point range. We now have such low expectations from Carter, that we were all amazed last Sunday when he flew in for a double pump dunk on Anderson Varejao (Vince Carter then did the “don’t mess with or else I’ll fake another injury” face).  And by the way, has anyone seen Vince Carter try to play defense this year? Every time Vince Carter is asked to guard someone and that someone ends up with the ball, he looks like Sidney Prescott when she found out that her boyfriend Billy Loomis was the killer in the movie Scream. Carter seems shocked, scared and betrayed at the idea that he was asked to guard someone. Seriously, check him out the next time he’s out there on defense; and imagine the offensive player using a voice synthesizer and saying : “Hello Sidney…”

With that said, as you can see, McGrady and Carter were once in the exact same shoes as Wade is right now: they were their team’s franchise player, they carried a huge load of their respective team’s responsibilities , but as injuries mounted up it became harder to build a team around them; hence they were both traded….Twice. Does this mean that history holds the same fate for Wade? Not at all. But even with an owner willing to get his Drake on (Money To Blow), I would be real nervous about signing Dwyane Wade to a contract of $100 million over six years.

In conclusion, Dwyane Wade is a terrific player, but he is not however according to my criteria a franchise player. I could end up being entirely wrong on this one, but I believe that Flash is an extremely gifted player that needs top shelf talent in order to win consistently in the NBA. He’s not a franchise player, but man he is as close as it gets…

Photo by: Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
From: ESPN

Sunday, February 21, 2010

McGrady's Garden Debut

Last night at the Garden, there was no Jay-Z performance, no Alicia Keys in the building and no Empire State of Mind to get things jumping. And yet, the Madison Square Garden had great energy last. The reason? Tracy McGrady. Keep in mind though, one game does not make a season; and I’m not delusional enough to make the statement that T-Mac is officially back. However, should Knicks fans be excited about the rest of the season? Well actually, if you’re a fan of NBA basketball at all, you should start tuning in to see the Knicks play.

McGrady hadn’t played all season, therefore he wasn’t in game shape and might not have been as explosive as he needed to be considering he is  still retuning from microfracture surgery. With that said, can T-Mac still play? Allow me to use an analogy: McGrady’s past year has been like Dr. Dre’s career. He might disappear for a while and you might not know just what he is doing, but no matter what, he can still produce classics regardless of whom he associates himself with. Tracy McGrady has always been a gifted and willing passer; so despite his lack of playing time in the past year and lack of familiarity with his new teammates, McGrady was still able to make some great passes against the Thunder. He only finished with five assists but was able to initiate offense because of his willingness to pass the ball to the guy that made the next pass that led to the assist. With that said, those of you that missed the game [probably aren’t too concerned with his passing, you guys probably want to know if T-Mac can still score at a high rate right?

Well last night McGrady got into a great rhythm against the Oklahoma City Thunder. I wanted to see the game because I was curious to see if he would be willing to attack the basket or just be happy standing around and firing jump shots. Check out the message I sent to my friend Supreme last night at halftime: “T-Mac (in 17 minutes) has 19 points, 3 assists on 7/12 field goal shooting at the half. He’s scored with drives, put backs, threes, free throws, post ups, reverse lay ins and mid range jumpers. I can’t yet tell if he’s explosive enough to dunk on people though.” Does that answer your question? McGrady was really good last night, but I still have two questions that cannot yet be answered:
1. Will McGrady attack the basket and will himself to the free throw line if his jumper is off?
2. As the remainder of the season unfolds, will his knee become bothersome? Last night, McGrady only jumped twice off one foot; the rest of the way he kept jumping with two feet to avoid putting too much weight and pressure on his knee.

With that said, does McGrady stil have game left? His line last night was 26 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 10-17 FGs and 5-7 FTs. And yet, the box score fails to capture one thing, check out the last message I sent to Supreme: “McGrady is on the bench with 6:50 left in the game. He gets up and goes to the scorers table and the Garden crowd immediately raises out of their seats and starts clapping as their star is set to go back in the game.” Knicks fans are some of the most knowledgeable and die hard fans out there; and they embraced McGrady as their own on his first night. If this was the equivalent of a date, you better believe that Knicks fans would have put out last night. Despite the loss, Knicks fans felt a bit better tonight about their team. Perhaps we should start paying attention…

Photo from: NBA.COM

New Poll: Rate The Deals

The trade deadline has come and gone and now the new faces are starting to be acclimated with their new squads.

While all that happens, who do you think came out on top this Febuary?

Let us know why in the comments!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kobe Bryant: Misunderstood?

Let’s get this out of the way right now. Kobe Bryant is perhaps the most socially awkward NBA superstar we have ever seen. Nobody seems to get Kobe. At times, he says and does things that leave you scratching your head. For instance, when the Lakers won the title last year, instead of going to the podium and being in the middle of all the guys and sharing his joy with them; the joy that he had waited for so long to once again regain, the joy that his teammates helped him obtain; Kobe instead chose to stay be the side of his family (wife and kids) and give them the championship trophy (Laker fans, you saw this happen and never said a thing about it, you just swept it under the rug).  Needless to say, they had no clue what to do with the trophy. Odd right? Well it gets better. Kobe Bryant once admitted that back in high school he would miss shots or turn the bal over purposely late in games,  in order to set himself up to shoot the game winning shot at the end.  It’s somewhat perplexing, but that’s what the great ones do, they play the game within the game. With that said, could Kobe Bryant still be somewhat misunderstood?

Cue in Lil’ Wayne’s Misunderstood:
I’m just a soul who’s intentions are good, oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood. Misunderstood, let me explain…..”

Kobe Bryant entered the NBA at the tender age of 18 and did not fit in. As a basketball player, Kobe already knew who he was, but as an individual, he was viewed as just a high school kid. While the players on the team had families to take care of, and adult things to do (like hitting clubs with celebrities, going to strip clubs and making it rain), Kobe Bryant’s singular focus was basketball. So he obviously had trouble fitting in at first; especially with a team that had a dominant personality such as Shaq. At the time, Shaquille O’Neal could do no wrong. He was the guy that rapped, did movies and was adored by the public. So when the Diesel spoke, people believed him.  He was like a family member in that sense; he inspired trust from the fans. As a result, when Shaq spoke negatively about Kobe Bryant, people listened. Fans saw the kid with a sick crossover (people forget it, but Kobe used to have a crossover almost as lethal as Iverson) that desperately kept trying to take his man one on one at the expense of his team’s offense. But they never heard of the endless amount of time he spent in the gym trying to perfect his craft. Instead, they looked at Kobe as a spoiled teenager that just wanted the world to bow down to his knees.

And then, something funny happened. Kobe Bryant grew into a very good basketball player. He then became an All-Star. But even then, people refused to give him credit. They were basically saying that Kobe was N’Sync while Shaq was Justin Timberlake; meaning that Kobe was riding off of the Diesel’s success. But when the Lakers could not get it done in the playoffs, Kobe and Shaq took the brunt of the blame. When Phil Jackson came to town, he gave Kobe guidelines, structure and showed him how to be the player he desired to be while still embracing the team concept. Once the team won their first title, Kobe Bryant’s fame grew as people saw him take his game to another level in the clutch. People started saying that Kobe was too cocky in the 2000 Finals; that he thought too highly of himself. But then again, how would you expect a 21 year old to react after shining bright on the biggest possible stage of his career?

Although Shaquille O’Neal will never acknowledge it, part of the rift that he and Kobe had probably stemmed from the fact that Shaq wanted and needed to be the guy. But by the second season, #24 wanted a bigger role on the team; he wanted to be featured more on offense. Mind you, Kobe Bryant should have continued to subjugate his game to accommodate his teammates; however he was not always able to do that night in and night out. Once Bryant got hot, he made sure to keep firing. Some nights though, he was like a young kid playing Duck Hunt on the Nintendo; he would just keep shooting hoping to hit one of the ducks but would miss miserably as the dog came out and started laughing at him (with the dog being Shaquille O’Neal). People criticized Bryant’s eagerness to shoot the ball, but they never applauded his ability to put his ego aside to once again fit in within the team structure. Let’s be real here folks, the Lakers do not win two more titles with Kobe and Shaq unless both agreed to play their respective roles on the team.

Cue in Joe Budden’s Forgive Me:
I’m only human, ain’t meant to be worshipped,
I’m only human I ain’t perfect,
[…] Ever so tender,
Seems the things y’all never forget,
I never remember…”

By the summer of 2003, the enigma that was Kobe Byrant became even more complex. It was always said (and visible) that Kobe Bryant was somewhat socially inept. He lived for basketball and nothing else. He literally was and still is today the most addicted player to the game; no matter how much of it he has, it’s just never enough. However, after years of not truly knowing who the Black Mamba was, he let us in into his life, but not the way he hoped it would happen. Kobe Bryant was being accused of sexual assault in Eagle, Colorado and if that wasn’t bad enough, word leaked out that Kobe violated the ultimate guy rule: he spoke out on the alleged indiscretions of another man. The man in this case was his teammate: Shaquille O’Neal. Regardless of what would happen by the end of that season, it was painfully obvious that one of them had to go. They could no longer coexist. Once again, the Diesel came out looking like the good guy (rightfully so) and Kobe’s image took a huge hit. Even today, some people just cannot bring themselves to cheer for Kobe Bryant. The man went through the fire and was vilified in opposing NBA arenas. At present time, whenever the Lakers play in Denver, he gets a fair share of boos from the fans. I cannot and will not speculate on whether any law was in fact broken that night in Colorado; but what I can say is that we have all made our fair share of mistakes in our lives; but we do not have to own up to them in front of the world. And yet, despite all the pressure, all the drama (self-inflicted) and all the hatred that he generated; Kobe Bryant never gave up. He persevered, fixed the image and made it back to the top of the world. We marvel at individuals such as Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and LeBron James that have been able to come straight out of high school and avoid negative publicity; but we forget that professional athletes are still people. Whether it’s infidelity, bad judgment (you know the usual suspects: drinking, drugs, driving under the influence), how many people hit the age of 25 with a squeaky clean life? This is not a “Forgive Kobe” piece; rather I would just like for all of us to take the time and put ourselves in the man's shoes for five minutes. If you look at the path he has chosen, he has had his share of bad decisions; but then again those decisions led to him being named the player of the decade. Funny how things work out huh?  

Cue in Kanye West from Run This Town:
“You trippin’ when you ain’t sippin
Have a refill
You feelin’ like you run it huh
Now you know how we feel”

I just wanted to incorporate one last thing in this piece that I thought might be of interest to fans of basketball. Every NBA superstar is typically a great player but tends to have a hole in his game that prevents him from being the undisputed top dog. Let’s just have a quick look at some of the superstars of this past decade (in no specific order):
Shaquille O’Neal: Huge liability at free throw line; consequently did not get the ball in crunch time.
Kevin Garnett: Did not want the responsibility of being the man in the fourth quarter.
Amare Stoudemire: Viewed help defense as a disease.
Steve Nash: Kenny Smith right now could get past Steve Nash for a lay up.
Karl Malone: Much like David Copperfield, he knew how to disappear in front of the cameras in big moments.
Chris Webber: When people talk about that epic seven game series between Lakers and Kings, people talk about Mike Bibby. Know why? Webber wanted no part of the ball in the fourth quarter.
Tracy McGrady: Could not carry his team late in games.
Vince Carter: Did not want all the responsibilities that came along with being a franchise player.
Allen Iverson: Could not coexist adequately with his teammates on the court.

Can anyone tell me what hole Kobe has his in game in the 2010 season? As it stands right now, not many NBA players can hold their weight against the Mamba. Perhaps it’s time people realize he will never be the character that they want him to be, but that they recognize just how amazing of a player that he is.

Tupac comes back from the dead to close it up for us with Ambitions As A Rider:

“I won’t deny it,
I’m a straight rider
You don’t wanna @#$% with me
Got the police bustin’ at me,
But they can’t do nuttin to a G”

Photo by: Chris Covatta/Getty Images
From: ESPN

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Orlando Magic (35-17) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (42-11)

It seems as though every decade we are treated to a few physical specimens that just seem to defy the logic (no I’m not talking about Dirk Diggler’s elephant trunk, get your mind out of the gutter) of what a basketball player should look like. For instance, the 1980’s gave us an incredible 6’9 point guard by the name of Magic Johnson; the 1990’s gave us a brute and yet skilled 6’4 power forward by the name of Charles Barkley and the 2000’s gave us a mammoth 300 lbs. and 7’1 center with amazing quickness and agility by the name of Shaquille O’Neal. So what physical specimens do we have to look forward to in the next decade? Glad you asked……

Several people seem to think that we have already seen earlier versions of Dwight Howard. Some see a little bit of Shaq in him because of his size, strength, agility and his ability to finish at the rim; while others see some shades of Ben Wallace in him because of his willingness to be a great defensive anchor despite being an undersized center. Indeed, Shaquille O’Neal at his most devastating was a great offensive force that occasionally blocked his opponents’ path to the basket. Ben Wallace on the other hand refused to give his adversaries an inch when protecting his basket but his offensive contributions were very limited. Mix both of those guys together, and you have Dwight Howard. Put it in perspective, the thought of seeing a Shaq clone that actually cares on defense has to be somewhat terrifying.

Mind you, this decade not only brings us Dwight Howard, but it also gives us another freak of nature in the name of LeBron James. James is a 6’8 and 250 lbs. small forward. And yet, sometimes he plays like Magic (sets up offense, distributes ball and gets teammates involved) and sometimes he takes over and scores almost at will like Mike; except a bigger and more physical version. I was having this talk with a friend earlier today, if LeBron James were a prison inmate, he would probably be the biggest, toughest and most intimidating inmate in the prison; but he would also be the guy that sold cigarettes to people, just because he could do it all. Dwight Howard on the other hand would be the correctional officer that no one would mess with. Want me to push this analogy further? Ron Artest would probably be the shower guy (as evidenced by the story of the Lakers losing Game 6 in Boston and Ron Ron approaching Kobe in the showers), Steve Nash would be the cafeteria chef (you know, because he’s always feeding people) and David Stern would be the warden. So tonight, in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, we have the inmate that no one wants to test (LeBron) going up against the correctional officer that strikes fear into the inmates (Howard). What happens tonight?

The Orlando Magic are the defending Eastern Conference champions and have had the Cavaliers number for the past few years. But this year is different. The biggest obstacle that the Cavs faced last year was their inability to defend both Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. LeBron James would cover one of them while the other got off and then he would switch to the hot one to cool him off but have the previously cold one heat up. This year, the Magic are a different team because Hedo Turkoglu is no longer around and he has been replaced by Vince Carter. Vince is still a good scorer but he does not present the same mismatch that Turkoglu presented because of his size.

Hedo Turkoglu’s best contributions to the Magic came in the form of his rebounding, clutch scoring and his play making ability. He made shots down the stretch and facilitated ball movement which in turn meant that every player got a decent amount of touches. Look at Turk’s averages against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals:
In wins: 13.3 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 8.5 APG, 27.7 FG%
In losses: 25.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 54.3 FG%

What the numbers demonstrate is that when Turkoglu shot the ball well, he became a bit more focused on his offense and therefore did not help others get shots and also failed to attack the boards. With that said, Turk has moved on and his spot now goes to Vince Carter. How does he fit into the picture?

Let’s not kid ourselves people, Vince Carter has become a shell of his former self. He doesn’t attack the basket like he once did and has become a less than average perimeter shooter because of his questionable shot selection. Earlier this week Vince put up 48 points and it might have convinced a few people that better days were ahead, but that was fools gold. Vince Carter simply got hot from the field and started jacking up shots. Carter only went to the free throw line four times in the game. Four times! VC basically stayed away from the basket and shot jump shots, and it so happened that they went in. He will be back to normal soon enough though: settling for long jumpers, wincing in pain after every fall and acting like his shoulder is bothering him after every missed shot; we see you Vince. And tonight when he plays in Cleveland, it’s very likely that he will come out aggressive. In their first meeting back in November, Dwight Howard got into early foul trouble which meant that Vince had to assume a large part of the scoring burden. He did that rather well as he chipped in 29 points, five rebounds and one assist. However, his ball stopping habits (he catches the ball, looks at defense, waits for defense to slide into position and then shoots or drives the ball all the while putting a halt to the motion offense) prevented the Magic from getting into initiating their offense properly. Indeed, Orlando finished the game with a mere nine assists. I’m not expecting the same type of production but I can see Vince having a decent game; and that might be enough tonight against a banged up Cavs squad.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been playing great basketball as of late. Their 12 game winning streak has them at the top of the league’s standings. However, the injuries to both Mo Williams and Delonte West have to affect them at some point. The Cavs have been able to get scoring from players such as Shaquille O’Neal, J.J. Hickson and Jawad Williams during the winning streak, but those guys won’t be enough against the Magic frontline. Luckily for the Magic, their frontcourt matches up extremely well with the Cavaliers’. Rashard Lewis, Mickel Pietrus and Dwight Howard will shut them down and force LeBron to have to win the game alone. King James is capable of doing such a feat, but not without at least some type of help from his teammates. The Cavs starting backcourt is usually a strength but the absence of Mo Williams’ scoring will be too much to overcome tonight at the Quicken Loans Arena. Pick: Magic win 101-98.

Photo by: AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack

From: ESPN

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Check Out Celtics Late Night Show

Tonight the Celtics Late Night Show will be on at 11 PM Eastern. This will be the first show that streams from the beautiful new show site. Guests include Julian Benbow from the Boston Globe and I will have my weekly segment on the show as well (and some callers and other segments).

Check it out and support this show! It's nicely done and continues to get better.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Robert Horry: Hall of Fame worthy?

I was talking to my friend Supreme last week and he mentioned that he got into a debate with his friend Shawn. It would seem that Shawn was arguing that Big Shot Bobby (Robert Horry) should be in the Hall of Fame for his contributions and clutch performances to seven championship teams. I once agreed with that line of thinking a few years back but my stance has progressively changed. My main problem with putting Horry in the Hall of Fame is this: we’re saying that he is on the same level as players such as Wilt, Russel, Bird, Magic, Kareem, Dr. J, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, Jerry West, Charles Barkley, Oscar Robertson, Kevin McHale, James Worthy, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Scottie Pippen and obviously the GOAT (short for Greatest Of All Time). But on the other hand, Big Shot Bobby has more titles then #23. So does Shawn have a valid point? Glad you asked. Let’s break it down and find out.

What are your memories of Robert Horry’s playing days with the Phoenix Suns? People forget that Horry was once traded to Phoenix. During his time there, he was a decent player but did not provide that team with much. On the other hand, he did win rings with the Houston Rockets, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs. Here’s a quick look at Big Shot’s clutch performances (compiled by Wikipedia):

-May 22, 1995 Western Conference Finals Game 1 Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs
Horry nailed a jumper with 6.5 seconds left to give Houston a 94–93 win over San Antonio in front of over 35,000 at the Alamodome.[11]
-June 11, 1995 NBA Finals Game 3 Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets
With Houston up by one with 14 seconds left and the shot clock winding down, Hakeem Olajuwon kicked a pass out to Horry, who launched a three over Orlando's Horace Grant, propelling the Rockets to a 106–103 victory and a 3–0 series lead on the way to a sweep and back-to-back NBA titles.[12]
-May 6, 1997 Western Conference Semifinals Game 2 Los Angeles Lakers at Utah Jazz
Horry drained all seven of his three-point shots. However, this proved to be not enough as the Lakers lost Game 2 103–101 and ultimately the series 4–1.[12]
With the series tied at 1–1, the Sixers were within one point with under a minute to play and with Shaquille O'Neal on the bench having fouled out for the Lakers. Brian Shaw found Horry in the corner and he drilled the three with 47.1 seconds left to give the Lakers what proved to be an insurmountable four-point lead. The Sixers never recovered.[12]
-April 28, 2002 Western Conference First Round Game 3 Los Angeles Lakers at Portland Trail Blazers
Down by two with 10.2 seconds left, Kobe Bryant drove on Ruben Patterson and kicked the ball to Horry, who hit a game-winning three.[12]
-May 26, 2002 Western Conference Finals Game 4 Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Lakers
The Kings led 99–97 with two seconds left when center Vlade Divac knocked the ball out of the paint after Shaquille O'Neal missed a putback layup. The ball came to Horry, who launched a game-winning three-pointer as time expired to give the Lakers a 100–99 victory. Instead of going back to Sacramento down 1-3, the shot tied the series at 2-2 and allowed the Lakers to defeat the Kings in 7 games on their way to a third straight championship.[12]
Horry inbounded the ball to Manu GinĂ³bili who was cornered by two Pistons defenders. Ginobili returned the ball to Horry on the left wing, who then hit a three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left to give the San Antonio Spurs a 96–95 victory and a 3–2 series lead heading into Game 6. Horry scored 21 points in fourth quarter and overtime to carry the struggling Spurs. [12]
-April 30, 2007 Western Conference First Round Game 4 San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets
The Spurs led by one with 30 seconds left when Horry hit a game-securing three-point shot, handing the Spurs their fifth straight playoff victory in Denver.

So the man knows how to make big shots. However, does that make him Hall of Fame worthy? When inducting players into the Hall, the voters usually look at how what you did during your era and your contributions to winning. For instance, James Worthy was one of the marquee small forwards of the 80’s and contributed to multiple Lakers championships; therefore he was granted access to the Hall. So what’s the one obstacle in this case for Big Shot’s case? He’s never really even been one of the top four players on his own team. The guys that make it into the Hall, are guys that were incredibly good and one of the top players at their position in the league. Let’s sift through Horry’s career. Look at the top fours on his championship teams.

Houston Rockets:
Hakeem Olajuwon
Clyde Drexler (one year)
Vernon Maxwell
Kenny Smith
Otis Thorpe

Los Angeles Lakers
Shaquille O’Neal
Kobe Bryant
Glen Rice (one year)
Derek Fisher
Ron Harper

San Antonio Spurs
Tim Duncan
Manu Ginobili
Tony Parker
Michael Finley

See, Big Shot Bobby doesn’t make the cut on any of his own teams. I would have a tough time giving a player HOF status if he wasn’t one of the truly best players of his generation. That being said, I still have not convinced myself completely. Let’s look deeper.

If chosen, giving access to Robert Horry to the prestigious Hall of Fame causes one big problem: it sets a precedent. Think about these names: Bill Cartwright, John Paxson, Vernon Maxwell, Sam Cassel, Kenny Smith, Luc Longley, Steve Kerr, A.C. Green, Ron Harper, Derek Fisher and Glen Rice. Are any of these players worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame? The players currently in the Hall would probably answer with a song from the South: “Bitch n*gga you can neva eva, neva eva, neva eva get on my level”. And by giving a spot to Big Shot, we would have to consider the possibility of the previously mentioned players making the Hall as well. You see, to me (I repeat, to me, as in my own interpretation) the Hall of Fame is about the best players to have ever lived. When I look at players such as Dominique Wilkins, Scottie Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon and Magic Johnson to name a few, I know I am looking at some of the greatest talents that have ever lived. These guys could do it all, and did it at a high level for a sustained amount of time in big pressure situations; whereas Robert Horry had some spurts of success. Still not convinced, let me use the comparison that Bill Simmons from ESPN used. If you were to make a Hall of Fame of the best rappers ever; we would probably have the likes of Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Outkast, Eminem, Rakim, LL Cool J, the whole Wu-Tang Clan and another list of names attached to that list. My question to you: does Nate Dogg make the cut? Hell no, right? Because Nate Dogg is a guy that you line up with other great rappers and just ask him to do a chorus or a few good sounds like Oohs and Ahhs. I can’t tell you what solo hit songs Nate Dogg has recorded because I have no clue. But off the top of my head, I know of hits such as:
-Oh No by Talib Kweli
-21 Questions by 50 Cent
-Area Codes by Ludacris
-Bitch please by Dr. Dre
-Regulate by Warren G
-Xxplosive by Dr. Dre
-F*ck You by Dr. Dre

All of those songs have one thing in common; Nate Dogg’s name preceded by “ft” (short for featuring). Much like Nate Dogg, Robert Horry is a good complimentary role player; nothing more, nothing less. He has been fortunate enough to play with three bonafide Hall of Fame centers (Olajuwon, O’Neal, Duncan) who have put him in a position to take those shots without fearing failure. Do remember, Big Shot was open in those moments in most instances because his man was double teaming someone. In addition, Horry would never have been pegged as the goat had he missed a big shot; because that is reserved for the stars. For instance, back in 2003, in game 5 at San Antonio, Robert Horry missed a wide open three that would have resulted in the Lakers taking a 3-2 lead in the series. Instead, the Lakers lost and were eventually eliminated, but those moments never get much air time. That’s the beauty of being Big Shot Bob, your heroics are remembered but your blunders are tucked away where no one can remember them.

But in conclusion, the whole debate can be summed up with one question: are you comfortable mentioning Robert Horry in the same breath as Wilt, Hakeem, Shaq and Mike? Because putting him in the HOF puts him in conversations with those players. From my standpoint, I don’t feel comfortable putting him there.

Photo by: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
From: ESPN