Shaq? Will he or won't he? That's all I'm going to say about that (for now).
"We, the elite Linkstigators, have formed like Voltron, We could have used our powers for evil. It was quite tempting, actually. But instead, we have decided to bless the internets with the most slammin' blog (no pun intended). A blog which is dedicated mainly to the game of basketball, but also to diverse topics such as Mountain Dew Code Red, Democratic primaries, Guitar Hero 3 and post-structuralism. We are sponsored by Nabisco."
Cheryl will offer “A Sistah’s Point of View” (ASPOV) to this madness, because as you will read over the next few months, it will be needed. I see connections, like Haley Joel Osment sees dead people. Connections between modern sports, culture, politics, race and racialization, art and dance, religion and myth. I will try to point these out without being too esoteric or dogmatic (but if I am, sue me). But what you can always expect is that I will be open, honest, and often catty. (That was an awfully un-feminist thing to say, huh?)”
White Hot Eboy, or just plain E, is a polarizing figure. On the SLAM site, the place of his e-origin, Eboy seems to move between love for his regular foils to sheer unbridled hate for his detractors. Here in this blogventure, look for Eboy to speak on basketball in all forms, movies, tv, politics, sports in general and anything else that he can throw his opinion at. Besides, he's legally obligated to be truthful and forthright, so stay ready, an E-storm is brewing.
TADOne, or just plain TAD, is quite possibly the most sane member of this blog group, although, that is not saying much. My sarcasm, or just plain lack of empathy, has been known to reach epic levels of true disdain. Because of this, I have a love of binge drinking and mindless humor. Therapy is good.
I am a sensitive, delicate soul. I use sarcasm and cynicism as self-defense mechanisms, douchebag. I do this to protect my faberge-egg-like psyche. If only I could increase my self-confidence, maybe then I could achieve a moment of sincerity. But I can't. So instead I have to be content with writing sublime pieces which delve into the realms of basketball, football (American), football (real), literature, religion, The Legend of Zelda and Reese's Pieces. I may even occassionally shed some insight into the complexities of the human condition. No promises, though.
My turn-ons are non-smokers and world peace. My turn-offs include crystal meth and springtime.
You may (though most likely don't) know me as commenter H to the izzo from SLAMonline.I will no longer answer to that moniker-ever.I'm retiring only to return again,but this won't be no Linkin Park collaboration.My list of lifetime achievements include being the second most foreign member.The youngest member,the least educated member.I roughly rank as the 3rd most white member and am three time Vodka chugging champion in my district.I intend to prove that basketball opinion and having little else better to do are a dangerous mix.I am usually wrong and am possessed by the ghost of Charles Oakley's right fist.
Shaq? Will he or won't he? That's all I'm going to say about that (for now).
Do YOU Believe In Magic?
Written by Eboy
It’s that time again. Figured SKO needed something/someone to represent the NBA Finals coverage. So here we go. And just to note, last year, I correctly picked the Celtics over the Lakers in six games, so let’s see if I can continue my Finals predictions precedent.
This is an intriguing matchup, on par with the Finals that occurred last year. The Lakers have been on the tongues of sportswriters and bandwagon fans since the beginning of the season as the heavy favorites, almost by God’s will, to take the title this season. Another strong regular season and a fairly impressive playoff run culminated in the Lakers 30th Finals appearance. Pretty remarkable.
The Magic, on the other hand, basically laid in the shadows, biding their time behind the big two of the East and played their merry ole’ way into an NBA Finals berth. How’d they do it? Beating the defending champs AND the future King of the NBA? Must be Magic, I guess?
So on to the matchup. Let’s see......where to begin?
The legend against the porn star. An all-time great against a guy just one overblown timeout tirade away from a defibrillator and heart medication. Doesn’t seem like a fair fight, does it? Well.....neither did last year’s Finals coaching matchup. Phil Jackson has lost that air of invincibility (somewhere in 2004) and no longer just commands the respect he so deserves from his peers. It’s a thing. A thing that a guy like Stan Van Gundy can expose. Stan’s a classic, meticulous planner, an in-game specialist, the type of guy who will agonize over each blown assignment and missed call that affects his team. This has long been gone from the Phil Jackson model and as Doc Rivers showed last year, you can sneak a couple of games against this Lakers team for that reason alone. Stan will figure out a way to do it too. Don’t think he can’t coach at a championship level. He can and is. I watched him lead a not yet complete Miami Heat team to the brink of the Finals in 2005, and a few questionable decisions from his chalkboard caused the Heat (and his job) a shot at a second Finals appearance. This is not the same coach. And his team is easily the best coached squad that was left in the Conference Finals. Phil is a master, Stan is trying to be respected. There’s a hunger that Stan has that Phil has long lost. Phil could muster a miracle in the blink of an eye, Stan needs magic to form his.
I’d say the advantage belongs to............neither. This is pretty even. Phil will have a humorous press conference and insult the Van Gundy’s in one way or another at some point, so his mastermind tactics will still be there but Stan seems to have built a tolerance to criticism that would have ruined him before so this will be a great cat and mouse game.
The Star Matchups
Let’s start with the superstar matchup, Lebr........whoops!!! Dwight vs. Kobe. Good vs. Evil. The almost past against the present future. Nice, right? Well, there’s such a contrast in styles between the two leading men as there is between their respective teams, it should make for a great show. Dwight, the inside terror, Shaq redux (only skinnier) with a great presence on the defensive side of the ball and the ability to be game changing on the offensive end. It’s hard to see what the Lakers will do except bring late doubles once Dwight put’s it on the floor (where he can and has been exposed) to try and neutralize him. It can be done. Against the Lakers, there’s only one player on LA’s roster who can make this matchup favorable for the purple and yellow. Andrew Bynum will have to have the series of his young career to make this a fair fight. Has to. No other player on the Lakers roster can match young Dwight. He’ll terrorize the lane and play the right way on D. He’ll (maybe) hit free throws at a good clip. He might even knock someone on their ass. It’s how it will go. But........if Derek Fisher or Kobe can gamble enough times and hope Dwight tries to do things on his own, they can cause a ton of headaches for him as he makes his (somewhat) limited moves to the basket. It’s not going to be easy, but I think Stan will have Dwight prepared for this. I think.
As for Mambo, well, what else can you say? Dude has been rock solid this playoffs. Definitely not dominant though. He’s just not that guy anymore. Without his team firing on all cylinders, you can sometimes see a tiny piece of the mamba’s beady little head peek out, but it makes the Lakers that much more beatable. The team is balanced and constructed in a way that if Kobe is going for 35 to 40 a game, they tend to bog down and become predictable and easy to guard. Kobe will have to facilitate and do what needs to be done against a team that will employ tough matchups for him. Michael Pietrus, who played Lebron James exceptionally well last round, will get a ton of minutes trying to slow him but the strategy may be to let Kobe get his and let the other guys play spectator. If I’m Kobe and want to win that elusive 4th title, I’m trying to put up about 26 a game with about 7 assists and I’d be guaranteeing myself a really strong stake at taking the title. But this is Kobe and we know he bucks the trend from game to game so this is debatable.
Advantage.....neither. They both will do what they do and keep their teams in every game performing at a high level both on the offensive end and on the D side of the ball.
Let’s start with Trevor Ariza, Andrew Bynum, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Yes, these guys. Not Luke Walton....ever (I’ll get to Brown and Farmar shortly). It’s critical that at least three of these guys play strong EVERY GAME. EVERY GAME. It can be any combination of the three, but it has to be that way. Why? Because Kobe, moreso than Dwight, needs that space to operate at a solid pace, and anything less than three of them doing their thing is going to make it easier for the Magic to defend them (and Kobe moreover). Fisher's got be that deadeye shooter that won rings for this team, Bynum can’t sleepwalk but be the beast his ability can allow him to be, Odom can’t stay in a sugar coma but be the nightmare matchup that guys like Hedo and Rashard have been for their teams and Pau has to see the ball. A LOT. Must. If he doesn’t, and the Magic just let him play his little dink, turn and dunk/jump hook post game for 25 touches a game, they’ll be unscathed in that matchup with Pau getting about 18 a game. If he’s hitting for 25 and Kobe’s hitting for 25, this series could fall on deaf ears for Magic fans cheers. Trevor Ariza has to play his best series as well for the Lakers to have a chance as his D on Lewis/Hedo will be critical in the stopgate the Lakers will offer on D and he must hit his threes when they are there.
As for the Magic, lets see.....Hedo, Rashard, Skip, Pietrus Courtney Lee and Jameer? Well, let’s not get crazy, but I’ll say this. If the Magic can execute the same way against the Lakers (who are NOT as good as a defensive team as the Cavs were) than they did against the Cavs, this series could be over WAY before the expected date of finish. For real. Turkoglu and Lewis killed it last series and have the same motive in mind. Who’s Kobe guarding? Ariza? Pau? Lot’s of cross match problems (for both teams really) but the Magic have a bit more of a perimeter size advantage that will play heavy in their gameplan. Skip has a ton to prove at point and should win the very close battle with Fisher. If Jameer (really?) plays at all and plays at 70% of his ability that’s a win/win for the Magic off the bench. Neither Shannon Brown or Jordan Farmar can play him and even if he doesn’t get any time if he’s not ready, Anthony Johnson and Courtney Lee should prove to be the Lakers backups equals at the point/big guard. A big factor the Magic is the presence of Marcin Gortat off the bench. He is what the Lakers don’t have anywhere on their roster. A banger, a scrapper, a get your hands dirty guy that will be a huge problem for the Lakers. Plus he’s skilled. Remember I wrote this ‘cause he could be series changing.
Advantage: Magic (ever so slightly)
There’s a ton of personal motivation for both squads. Kobe to finally get over the “I am the man” hurdle of winning a title as the lead dog, Phil to finally catch Red Auerbach as the most title winning coach, and Stan Van Gundy trying to cement his place among the game’s great coaches. Don’t shortchange the confidence of Dwight either as all he heard was Lebron taking it to the Magic and his team being just a roadblock. They wound up derailing Ohio Line #23 so taking out Poison Mamba #24 wouldn’t be too far fetched either. Who’s dealing in spades? I like the Lakers if they can keep the team aura they had in Game Six against the Nuggets. They were efficient and pretty dominating for the first time in the playoffs. That could be a great sign for Lakers fans. The problem lies with their attitude. An attitude that has bit them in the ass before. They haven’t played an entire series with that fire and I don’t buy them turning it up another level here. Unless they play perfect ball in LA in Games 1 and 2, the 2-3-2 series format is going to bite them in that same ass. I say the Magic come out of the three game set in Orlando up 3-2 and closes it out in dramatic fashion in Game 6. Why? They’ve done it before this season. Twice as a matter of fact. And they won’t be in awe of the Lakers. Remember how the Cavs built up huge leads against them several times and the Magic would storm back and wrestle games away from them when it seemed like a blowout was inevitable? Yeah....so do I. Remember how they never seemed to get rattled in those situations? Yeah, I do too. Only Magic could make this happen for such a heavy underdog, but that’s played right into their hands throughout the entire playoffs. I know it’s the unpopular pick....but I live to be that guy so......
Magic in Six.
Since there's been nothing new on the site since...........here's a tribute to our "daddy". Been looking for a decent version on Youtube for the longest and finally found one. From NBA Superstars 3........The Reignman.
"Tin soldiers and Lebron’s coming,
They’re finally on their own.
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio."
Yes, people.....take that reworked song lyric as a playoff preview. Lebron and his Cavs will meet 4 different opponents on their way to the Cavs first ever title........and it’s not going to be pretty for the guys wearing different uniforms. This is coronation time for the king......and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
So let’s start from the beginning........1st Round matchups. We’ll start in the East......land of the king.
Man.....two seasons ago, this would have been one of the marquee matchups in the entire league......this season.....well, let’s just say that the Cavs just need to stay interested to not make it go any longer than 5. The Pistons are just so terribly.....ordinary now.....it’s shameful. Perhaps next season this matchup will live up to the billing. There will be a game where the Pistons will play well and look good doing it.....but that will only serve to fire up King James and put the nail in the coffin early.
Prediction: Cavs in 5.
Up until a few days ago, this seemed like it would be the “practice” series the Celts needed to get their games rounded into form for their title defense. With the potentially devastating news that Kevin Garnett will miss the entire playoffs due to his knee injury, the Celts will now have to gut out whatever playoff wins they’ll get. The Bulls have a interesting young squad.....but that youngness will still hold them back from getting by. They can probably push the Celts in every game.....but the Celts still have a great closer in Paul Pierce and they still have that championship pedigree so.....
Prediction: Celts in six
This could be a really interesting series. Orlando is saddled with injuries but the Sixers are inconsistent. The Magic should be able to get by with the greatness of Dwight Howard clogging the lane yet the Sixers can get on a roll for a few games and stretch this out. My gut feeling is that home court will be a huge determining factor in this series. If Orlando was healthy, I’d say Magic in 5.....but with the questions surrounding Hedo and the grit that the Sixers have shown at times I’ll say....
Prediction: Magic in 6 (barely)
Ahhhh.....now here’s a matchup close to my little red e-heart. The Heat after a season of misery last year......reloaded and put themselves in the position they are today. Respectable....and dangerous. Why? They’re slighted......and Dwyane is still overlooked.....regardless of the minor praise he received in the MVP race. Here’s the thing.......the best big game performer coming into this season’s playoffs wears #3 in Miami. He will not be denied by a middling Hawks squad....while pretty solid....just doesn’t have the defensive intensity to slow Dwayne enough to stop him from taking a game on his own....maybe even two. Two matchups stand out in my mind.....Joe Johnson trying to contain and get his against Dwyane and newly confident and superbly producing Michael “Thirty Harry” Beasley against Mo Evans & Marvin Williams. Why those two guys, you say?....well a little birdie has told me that the lineup of JO, Haslem, Beasley, Wade and Chalmers will start this series....but even if Moon stays in the SF spot and Beasley comes off the bench for 30 minutes a game....the Hawks don’t have a matchup for Beasley’s skillset and he can be the determining factor......even in his initial playoff performances. Joe will have to be superb and outduel Dwyane and I just don’t know if he’s got that in him with the run that Dwyane’s been on. It’s wont be easy but......
Prediction: Heat in six
Now let’s move to the wild.....well not so wild West.
Let’s start with the team that most of the world thinks won the title even before a game was played this season.
What should be a relative easy time for the Lakers.....will turn into a potential nightmare. The mind games Jerry Sloan has been playing are Phil Jackson level type shit and this is going to make for a really good series. The Jazz will fight hard and beat up on the Lakers for a couple of games....but.....the Lakers have a a lot more talent on their roster and that talent is going to win out in this series. It won’t be the most impressive of starts for the Lakers in their title quest....but it will be enough.....
Prediction: Lakers in six
This should be a great matchup......two teams that have a ton of potential who can put a scare into anyone in the West. I think this matchup could be won at the point position. Whoever runs things better between Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul.....might take their respective squad to the next level. A lot of interesting matchups......good balance in some places.....I think this might go down to seven. If it does.....and Game 7 sits in Denver.....I think Chauncey might just outduel Cp3 in a game for the ages.
Prediction: Nuggets in seven.
Another interesting matchup......with the potential for an odd end to it. The Mavs have been playing really well and seem to have the ship on a pretty straight course for a good playoff run and it seems like luck and age and injuries may have finally caught with El Spurs. Here’s a funny thing......I don’t think that will hold true. The Spurs....minus Manu are still dangerous and still play a system that is predicated and proven on winning. The Mavs can either be really good or mediocre and unless Dirk completley outplays The Robot and Jason Kidd can flash back to 1996 and play Tony Parker even.......the Spurs can take this series......with good contributions from Drew Gooden and Roger Mason Jr. Not sure where they’d go from there.....but let’s not bury them just yet.
Prediction: Spurs in seven
Last but not least is yet another soon to be classic rivalry that could be one of the interesting early round series this season. After the Heat series....I’m kind of looking forward to this one the most. I’d love to see the always slept on Blazers do something of substance in this post season.....but the Rockets have something about them that makes them worrisome. That something is Ron Artest. He could be dominant in the series.....and I’m not sure if Pryzbilla and Oden can slow Yao....but something about the Blazers....their youth....the leadership of B-Roy and a strong unity on that squad has me believing they could pull the mild “upset”. I know the Rockets will be doing their damndest to get out of the first round.....but I still can’t shake the feeling that the Blazers are on the cusp of something special.....
Prediction: Blazers in 7 (again with 7?)
I’ll be checking back with Semifinal predictions when the time’s near. You can kill me then with my missteps.
by Tariq al Haydar
- Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons
The Cavs are already up 2-0, before a game is played, because the Pistons are not stealing one at the Q. In fact, I don't see Games 1 and 2 as being remotely close. That Cleveland will advance is a foregone conclusion.
I'm more interested in finding out how the Pistons' offseason will turn out. Speaking of which, for all the talk about Allen Iverson's shortcomings, Rasheed Wallace has been the most disappointing Piston this year. And you know what, perhaps Chauncey Billups's presence would have helped a little, but this squad has looked lazy and disinterested for a couple of years.
Prediction: Cavs sweep.
- Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls
So KG is out. That means the Bulls will be able to run their sets. The Celtics lose their best pick and roll defender. Chicago run pick and rolls all day. Can the C's get by the Bulls? Of course. But I smell an upset. And I can't wait to see Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo get at each other.
As a side note, let me just declare to the world that I would love to watch Big Baby consume nourishment.
Prediction: Bulls in 6.
- Orlando Magic vs. Philadelphia 76ers
To me, the Sixers scream "small time". I just don't respect them at all. Sure, they have a veteran PG and Iguodala has been playing well. I guess Thaddeus Young has been impressive. Yawn.
The Orlando Magic have had a great season, but they lack testicular fortitude. And, of course, a team that lives on the three-point line is not to be trusted in the postseason. I await a time when Dwight Howard will demand the ball and go to work inside. Alas, that time is not upon us.
Still, they'll get by the Sixers with relative ease.
Prediction: Magic in 5.
- Atlanta Hawks vs. Miami Heat
This is the best first-round series in the East. It comes down to this: Does the better team or the superior player win?
Because it's obvious that Atlanta are a better team. Horford and Josh Smith inside, Joe Smith outside, and Mike Bibby running the show. That's not a great team, but it's vastly superior to Chris Quinn and co. I wonder how Jermaine O'Neal will do. Oh yeah, and the Hawks won the season series 3-1.
And yet, it is foolhardy to bet against Flash.
Prediction: Heat in 7.
Written by Eboy
Online Icon.......Facebook sex symbol.......SLAM Online Editor In Chief.....what doesn't this guy do? The long awaited second part of SKO's SLAM Interview Series turns it's attention to the new blood turning the SLAMonline experience into the way of the future that all other sports-minded websites should format copy in the future. From one-time commenter to Online EIC, Ryne Nelson is doing it big and were ready to hear just how he got it done.
SKO: What was the process of getting the nod to take over the SLAM site as OEIC?
RN: At the risk of sounding like a women’s life improvement author, let me just say this: Had I not traveled the highs and lows of my four University years, I wouldn’t know what I know about myself today and I wouldn’t be in the position that I am. I won’t get into most of the college experience. I will, however, fast forward to where most of you at SKO got to know me: January 2008.
It began with me sitting on my couch, staring at the wall. I spent my last winter break at home, shackled in an unhealthy obsession with my fantasy basketball team. I made more trades in that month than I had in the past five years. I read some comic books—a side interest I picked up a year earlier while working the weekend graveyard shift at a sandwich joint during the school year—listened to some podcasts, hung out with friends, caught some Bulls games, shoveled the driveway a record number of times, and churned through the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. It was a good break overall—I felt I had learned a few things, stayed busy—but I traveled back through the frozen winter crop fields to Champaign, IL with a guilty feeling of over-consumption. I felt as I had too often in my recent past—that I took more than I gave back. I feared that I was becoming defined by what I read and watched and saw and found than what I could produce. To top it off, this was in my final semester, and I knew people who work produce something of value to society.
I knew I could do this—be that person who created content that people like myself were always actively pursuing—it was just a matter of figuring out what content I could produce better than everyone else. My options were endless—I had the entire Internet available to me.
I had an old basketball blog, deftly called The InkSpot. It was my public writing portfolio during the summer of 2005 when I was trying as hard as I could to become an NBA columnist. By the time 2008 rolled around, the blog was dead for all intents and purposes, but I decided I would bring it back to life as I began to once again produce content. I was writing daily about articles and quotes I found in the news—very similar to what Marcel Mutoni and all the other great bloggers out there do. I haven’t deleted any of it, so you can go back through the archives and check it out. I definitely was rusty on the writing after taking several years away from the blog.
I was one poor college kid, so poor, in fact that I didn’t own a television. This was a huge blessing in disguise because it made me look to the internet and podcasting and… online streaming video for entertainment. A former editor told me about a site called BallHype, which was extremely valuable to me at the time because it completely reshaped the way I thought about the online ‘buzz’ factor.
You can be the best blog writer in the word, and no one will ever consistently link to your work. It will be a rare occasion that all the major sports blogs will do so. The only way to build a large readership is to consistently produce good work for a long time, like Bethlehem Shoals and the rest of the FreeDarko crew. I didn’t have that time, though. I learned this quick and started to break it down in my head. It all went something like this:
What the Internets care about in basketball:
1) What players do and say off the court.
2) What players do on the court.
Just those two things. Like most bloggers, I was sitting on my couch—I didn’t have access to the players, so I wasn’t going to breaking news any time soon. I could get in-touch via email with beat writers, which made me one degree apart from these players, but they weren’t going to give me scoops—it’s in a reporter’s contract to report news only through their publication. Running interviews with reporters and columnists wasn’t going to work because, let’s face it, these guys are most just vessels through which news spreads about NBA players. Only the freakish athletes themselves are of interest. So that left me with this:
What could I produce (remember, it’s all about being able to produce unique content) about players that I had access to (from my couch)?
Well, I didn’t have the locker room, but I could have the broadcasts if I worked hard enough. What players can do on the court happen to be what people care about the most.
My biggest challenge was finding the games on my computer. I didn’t have $100+ to fork over for League Pass, so I searched through the message boards to find streams. It was the Golden Age of digital NBA broadcasts because those with League Pass could share the streams with anyone. I soon learned were I could find these links to the live streams and soon learned the etiquette of how to ask for and use these streams. I felt a lot like a helpless dog asking my master for food, “Heat/Sonics, please… Does anyone have a stream for the Rockets/Magic?” But once I got the streams, I could watch more than one at a time. As I progressed, I trained my eye for what might make a funny or dramatic clip to upload to YouTube. I made sure not to waste time capturing highlights because that’s not what people wanted to talk about the next day anyway.
I’m proud to say that in just three months, my YouTube channel hadover 2,400 subscribers and several 1 million+ viewed videos. When I wasn’t at class or watching games, I made relevant comments on message boards—RealGM, NikeTalk, InsideHoops, Basketball Forum—and the large basketball blogs—SLAMonline, FanHouse, Ball Don’t Lie. I used Digg, StumbleUpon and Twitter to expand my audience. Twitter, at the time, was a top-three traffic source for me because I spent time to find people who were interested in basketball and made sure to @reply everyone. This was a time well before any athlete or celebrity was tweeting, so it was much more enjoyable to me. Twitter was just a new distraction for tech geeks, but it was a good use of my time. The 24-year-old male Digg demographic always ate up my videos—my captures hit the front page with ease about four times a week during the height of everything.
I watched every game of NBA basketball for several months, and it was wild. My love for the game was renewed. My blog was grew by the day. I was huge on BallHype, my ultimate barometer for success. I was known for something—something that no one else did. I gained momentum to the point where I believed that my YouTube channel could be more popular than the NBA’s Channel in a few seasons. I figured they’d have no choice but to notice me… as they needed to reevaluate their cookie cutter upload policy.
When I was about to graduate, I reached out to Lang to see if he knew anyone who was interested in a guy with good community management skills who also knew the game pretty well. Sam Rubenstein was looking to pass on the torch, and the rest is history.
During those months before my graduation, I made so many great connections and had so many great conversations, I felt like it was one of the best times of my life. But I had to completely turn my world on its head to do so. I no longer went out on the weekends—I was always watching basketball. I became known for video capturing, not my writing or reporting, which is how I thought I’d make it for many years. I became a leader in online streaming video and discovered it was one of my true callings. Of course, I couldn’t do it forever. For one thing, I couldn’t make a living off it as I owned none of the rights to the videos. I had a rapidly growing audience, and countless advertisers wanted to place ads on my site, but I always turned them down. Producing video is one thing—I was appreciative that the NBA and its partners allowed fans to essentially break copyright and upload clips on the ‘Net—but earning money from a product that wasn’t mine was wrong. In addition, the League changed its streams this season such that doing what I did last season would be virtually impossible. Who even knows if I have the bradwidth to watch multiple games simultaneously like before? Without getting into the nitty gritty details, let’s just say the NBA made it very, very difficult to capture video from a live stream, which isn’t a smart move, since they’re only losing free advertising on YouTube.
A lot of things in my life now seem to have come full circle. What’s funny is I tried to tell everyone that I was either going to be an NBA writer or broadcaster during the summer leading up to college. People tried to convince me to go into a math-related field (I scored a perfect 36 on my ACT Math; missed one question—an algebra question!—on my SAT Math and never received any grade other than an A in math class), but I knew I couldn’t live a life of numbers. I knew I liked to lead, and I loved basketball. I had my many years as a fantasy basketball commissioner to thank for that. Despite all the changes, twists and turns during the following four years, despite how much I convinced myself that I wanted a different career, it’s deeply ironic that when it mattered most, I gravitated back to what I cared most about: basketball. I also started writing like a madman in 2005, produced basketball videos in 2008 and once again find myself back into writing and editing stories about basketball in 2009. There couldn’t be a more perfect bookend to wrap around the chronicles of my collegiate experience.
See, now I’ve lost half the readers after just the first question. But you hit me with the loaded joint to start it all off—I guarantee if you saved this for the end, you’d get all this condensed into about two sentences. Yes, I’m that good at editing by now!
SKO: What are the future plans for the site since you are a master of technology?
RN: It’s not really the technology, it’s the content. What it all comes down to is being remarkable at something and having unique ideas. If you’re producing the right content, technology will work for you. So I don’t worry about the technology until I can discover something to be the linchpin of the site, something that every big sports blog will feel obliged to link to and every basketball fan will visit us daily for.
Right now, the site is very good at producing feature stories, opinion columns and, in general, being a great place to discuss the current NBA happenings with other dedicated hoops fans. This means SLAMonline can be around for a long time, but to take things to the next level, there needs to be a buzz coming from the site. It needs something huge. Something that can only be found on SLAMonline. We can’t break news like ESPN, and we ultimately cannot rely on posting highlight videos or the most opinion columns.
What it comes down to is finding something that only we can produce that everyone wants. I’ve put a lot of thought into what this may be, but the thoughts have too often been littered with “can’t.” Maybe I need to take a month’s sabbatical to meditate and eat vegetarian in order to find out what that may be. The last time I did that I conned half my fantasy league and created a videocapping website. Some people say “can’t” shouldn’t be a part of the successful person’s vocabulary. I’m not afraid of it—the word “can’t” has always been my motivation.
SKO: Do you view things in the media at a different perspective now that you are actually an insider to it?
RN: Yes, I do look at certain things in the media differently now.
When I met writers, the magical reverence disappears away. Writers on popular website are celebrities to a certain extent. When you get a chance to meet them, you find they’re very nice people who happen to be painfully normal. To give you a picture of how most of the NBA media looks like, picture Joe the Plumber and mix in a little more average. I have trouble imagining the last time most of my colleagues played basketball. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, because there’s a big difference between covering basketball and being able to play basketball. The only physically astonishing media are select sideline reporters and ex-players. So when I read someone’s article, I now picture the writer as someone like you or me, not some larger-than-life personality.
That covers looks, but I also found that having a “voice and face for print” will soon become a reporter’s career death knell as more media shifts toward the television and streaming video. Reporters need to be able to do it all—look good on camera, sound good on radio, write well. He needs to have confidence and experience. The gap between a reporter and a blogger or commenter or simply a basketball fan isn’t as wide as you’d imagine. Reporters are like everyone else, just with a boost of daring and a shake of ego.
SKO: Being an Illinois graduate, what do you think of the Illini's chances in the NCAA Tourney?
RN: I wish I could have this sort of mulligan with the rest of my bracket. Sorry for my procrastination!
SKO: Since you are a Bulls fan, where do you see them in 2 years?
RN: I normally don’t look that far ahead with the Bulls, but since that will be in the aftermath of the Summer of 2010, it’ll be sort of fun to make some bold predictions. I’ll need to bookmark this and see how many of these things are correct in 2011. Alright, on March 21, 2011, the Chicago Bulls, at the very best…
-Will not be coached by Vinny Del Negro.
-Will have its first All-Star since Jordan.
-Will have a record of 38-31.
-Will be on that edge of being a Contender.
-Will no longer have Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller.
Why will the Bulls be better? For one, they can’t get worse. I believe the prospect of playing with Derrick Rose will attract an All-Star forward free agent. I think they’re in prime position to draft a steal in June (an impact player is likely to fall to mid-first round in this enigmatic Draft). Without many faces of the past, the Bulls finally will not have too much talent for their own good. The team will belong to Rose and an All-Star forward yet to be named. If they can somehow trade for Andrew Bogut and get a coach who knows what he’s doing, they’ll be on their way to building a solid team.
And, yes, like every fan, I’m probably way too optimistic.
SKO: Do you ever get tired of people calling you "Ryan" instead of "Ryne"? And is “Rynocerous” a term of endearment?
RN: I’ve heard someone call me almost any name that that begins with an “R,” including Renee, Rin, Rynee, and most commonly Ryan. But I’ve never heard Rynocerous until I started commenting on SLAMonline over a year ago. First off, I don’t remember exactly who dubbed me this nickname (if someone finds the exact post, I would nominate him for induction into the SLAMonline Hall of Fame, which isn’t a bad idea, eh?)(Ed Note: This nickname was originally coined by yours truly), but I actually think it’s incredibly inventive. I, at the time, didn’t like it—I actually told everyone they call me anything but that name, and that’s why it stuck. Quickly, I didn’t mind the nickname, and even sooner, I began to appreciate it. The fact that I had a nickname meant I was accepted. It means a lot to have respect from some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable basketball minds out there. It means even more that everyone is sticking around while I’m learning the ropes of this Online Editor thing.
SKO: With what looks like the death of newspapers, where do you see the future of online sports blogs?
RN: Sports blogs are a good thing. News is a good thing. We’re coming to a time where one can’t exist without the other. I’ve given a lot of thought into this over the past year or so, and there are a couple ways I can see this playing out. It’s all as bad as some people consider, though.
Physical newspapers will be gone within 25 years. That’s inevitable. I think the papers with the strongest legacy and circulation will be among the first to commit to an online-only product. Every day newspapers print another issue, they’re wasting money. News is free and news is now instant. Newspapers are neither of those things.
Newspapers will die, but I believe newsgathering will remain online. There will always be a need for information and real people who can report it. Reporting will survive and thrive as soon as a new online revenue paradigm is realized. A way to look at this in a positive sense is that only the best reporters will survive. Blogs merely take reporter’s work, link to the stories, comment about the news, and recommend people read the actual article if they want more information.
In the immediate future, we’ll continue to see increases in opinion writing. In today’s internet culture, why would a fledgling writer go “through the ropes,” reporting on men’s volleyball for three years for their school newspaper before they gain seniority enough to finally cover the men’s basketball team? Why would they take that route when they could write an opinion column online and get NBA game credentials with essentially the snap of a finger?
People are smart—if they can bypass the old hierarchical stepladder, they will. So I see the internet breeding younger writers who can write a controversial column, but lacking in journalistic grounding. He’ll never meet the players. He’ll know nothing about them besides the 35 minutes per game that they play every game, and that’s if they’re watching. So many great basketball beat writers turned to ESPN and are now mostly writing columns or power rankings. The closest they do to reporting is texting in “news” to their editor, who then relays the information online and on the Bottom Line. This is what young writers have to strive for if they want to work in basketball.
Blogs have a future because you get the commenter culture and all the news, but even those are becoming watered down. They’re full of Photoshoped photos and caption contests—things that have very little to do with reporting. People will care about a solid news report, but they seem to care more about what people are saying about the news. So these “funny” (and ultimately and unashamedly shallow) blogs will be tremendously popular, and people will bookmark them rather than the local news site… because you’re just connected more with a blog.
And who blogs? Certainly not someone who needs locker room access. Young writers will focus on their RSS reader instead of players and their stories. All the while, they’re sitting alone in front of a screen for nearly all of their waking hours. It’s “earning your stripes” 2.0—the more time you spend online, blogging, the better your chances of getting paid for it. The only problem is hardly anyone has turned blogging into a full-time job. It’s not easy and it’s only going to get more difficult as niches are carved out and divided online. So it’s a Catch 22—there are a lot of people who write about basketball, but there are only two basketball bloggers who do it full time. Beat writing jobs are just as scarce with the demise of newspapers. So people turn to the internet, keeping all their fingers and toes crossed that one day, they’ll be lucky enough to find work. For some, it will work. Many others will find they put their eggs into a basket that very well may have the bottom cut out of it.
There has to be a happy medium. Whether it’s encompassing all of these elements or just picking and choosing which elements you want to focus on, something needs to be done, and it needs to be done now. People don’t have time to visit numerous basketball sites every day. They’ll go to the sites that do it best, and as newspapers and magazines gradually transition to the web-only, it’ll be a question of how well they’ve been able to grow their site, and whether they have something unique that people will have interest in. If not, the entire brand will die.
SLAM Magazine did phenomenally well because it is and was the only publication of its kind. Is SLAMonline the only basketball website of its kind? Do people visit it because it’s the best at what it does? Or… is its traffic due in large part to the magazine’s success? At some point SLAMonline needs to make a name for itself, or it will be an endangered species. Which leads us nicely to…
SKO: Does SLAM in print form run the risk of not existing soon and do you foresee the day that SLAM will just be an all-encompassing website?
Like all magazines, SLAM Magazine will reach a day when it is no longer profitable. It still seems that advertisers and marketers would still rather be in print than online—although stats show more eyeballs check out the website every month than the magazine. Magazines are different than newspapers because they generally look deeper—they run longer features, have original photo shoots. Magazines have things that we might read if we’re stuck on a train, cab or plane. But when people have internet access everywhere—which is almost true now—the focus will almost entirely shift to “quick news, all the time.” Even a long opinion piece on SLAMonline will dangerously stretch the attention span of a busy commuter. Maybe it will get even more diluted into mobile applications.
This isn’t to say people won’t be interested in reading long-form features and opinion, they’re just not going to pay for it. I see people all gravitating to a common site—when I was in J School, professors warned of the conglomeration of newspapers and the death of local news. The same will happen online. One, maybe too, sites will be the source for all breaking sports news and the best opinion. It’s going to be one hell of a tough act to ball against the big boys, and it already is.
SKO: Do you believe that the blogs dilute and therefore weaken the level of sports coverage today?
RN: I think it’s the opposite. Without blogs, do you think there would be half as much coverage? I, for one, follow basketball much closer than I ever have due in large part to the proliferation of blogs. I read many more opinions and hard news reports. People find the important news for me, and help to keep me informed. I can’t complain about that. The opinions of bloggers may be completely skewed and uninformed, but there’s no questioning the value that news gathers have.
If anyone, the media itself is diluting the level of coverage. It stuck with its traditional ways and didn’t evolve quickly enough into the new space. If newspapers can no longer support their writers and beat reporters, it’s the newspaper’s fault, not the blogs. In my view, blogs and bloggers actually support sports coverage and will eventually act as a chief supporter of quality reporting, regardless of where it comes from.
SKO: Working for SLAM, is there ever a struggle with the content versus demographic issue?
RN: This is the toughest question for me, possibly because I haven’t given much thought to this yet. For the most part, I always thought the content SLAM provides is on par with what our demographic is looking for. We’re writing for college-age males, as is most in sports media. Basketball has culture. As long as we stay true to that culture and accurately portray it, we feel we’re delivering what our readers want. Attitude and staying true to the game allowed SLAM to separate itself from the pack from the very beginning. If you miss the old SLAM, as some readers say, then you probably miss the old game of basketball.
Our readers pride themselves on being true to the game and they deserve a publication that doesn’t settle for anything less. We hope we’ve delivered the truth consistently for the past 15+ years.
SKO: Make a case for Deron again, it all seems so plausible on paper?
Deron Williams is a winner. His determination to win is unparalleled by any point guard in the game today. He’s durable. His knowledge of the game is unrivaled. He can guard big or small opponents. He’s deadly from the outside as well as when he slashes to the rim. Most of all, he’s ruthlessly pursuing a championship—his drive is probably overlooked because of players like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. Deron Williams has the same killer look in his eyes whenever it gets to a close-game situation. He keeps his calm and makes big plays when it counts. He’s realistic when things don’t work out and keeps a very level head.
Deron Williams is the type of leader every franchise hopes to draft. There are a lot of players with great talent, but the legends have an intangible motivation and leadership quality. When he walks by, folks take notice. His stats will never match with the greatest statistical seasons of all time, but I think it’s fair to say that no statistical equation can ever accurately determine a player’s value. Yeah, it’s a nice part of sports to be able to compare Chris Paul to Isiah Thomas and LeBron James to Michael Jordan, but box scores don’t paint a complete picture. Deron’s intangible leadership and toughness is why I think the Jazz traded up to pick at No. 3 in 2005. This is why Jerry Sloan, the ultimate tough guy and winner, wanted a leader like Deron Williams over a statistical monster and wizard with the basketball in Chris Paul.
If he hasn’t already, Deron Williams will earn your trust—trust that he’ll make the right play down the stretch, trust that he’ll represent a team well, trust that he won’t lapse on defense, trust that he will never back down, trust that he’ll never lose confidence in himself and, most importantly… his team. You’ll trust that Deron Williams will win a championship and when he has one, he’ll want more.
Oh, and you have to trust him even more because he attended the best University on earth!
SKO: Who, in your opinion, has the biggest impact on the game of basketball today?
RN: Michael Jordan. Just because he’s not playing doesn’t mean that his impact isn’t as powerful. As big of “superstars” as they are, when Kobe or LeBron say something, would it resonate half as powerfully as is if Michael said it? Not now, not ever.
SKO: With having more access than you've ever had and basketball being your dayjob, does this make you more or less of a fan of the sport and it’s players?
RN: I’m blessed to be able to work in basketball, and I hope to continue to do so for the rest of my life. That said, I have not become more or less of a fan of the sport or its players since coming on for SLAM. Sure, my perspective drastically changed, and I’m sure it will only continue to evolve over the years, but when you’re hooked on a game, it’s impossible for anything to alter that love.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing to a certain extent over the years. The way you view the game might be different that it was 10 or 20 years ago, but there’s still that deep passion for the game inside of you. That’s what keeps your motor going. That’s what draws you to the arena, to the broadcasts, to the blogs and websites.
I know I’ll always be the same fan of the game because, despite all the changes that have occurred to me as a person, my passion for that game has been one of the few things that remain unwaveringly constant. It’s a comfort and a guiding force.
SKO: You are now second in what SKO hopes will be a series of interviews with the SLAM fam....the first being Ryan Jones. Any sense of dread following such a literary champion?
RN: Yes, and I’d like to say that dread forced me to take so long to complete this interview. But… If there’s one thing I’ve learned from working with so many brilliant writers, it’s that comparison is unfair. When you can truly say you’ve done the best of your ability, that dread of “living up” to expectations is forgotten.
by Tariq al Haydar
It goes without saying that dog-fighting is a crime. Michael Vick was guilty of it.
Now, he's nearing the end of his prison sentence. But there is still a stigma attached to him.
I recognize the crime, but I don't like the stigma. After all, NFL players have been involved in setting up cocaine deals, entangled in murder cases, just to name two greater transgressions... but no player I can remember has ever had as much stigma attached to him as Michael Vick.
Roger Goodell recently stated that "I think it's clear he's paid a price, but to a large extent he's going to have to demonstrate to the larger community -- not just to the NFL community and to me -- that he has remorse for what he did and that he recognizes mistakes that he made."
To me, it seems like Goodell is just scared of negative PR. I mean, he admits that the man paid a price. And I thought Vick DID exhibit remorse during that press conference he gave before he went to prison. So I guess what I'm saying is this: Let the man earn a living again and stop demonizing him. I believe he should be given a clean slate. If he screws up again, then by all means, punish him. But don't make it even more humiliating for a man to get on with his life. Don't obliterate every iota of the man's dignity because you're worried about your image. The right thing to do is this: Reinstate Michael Vick and give him a chance to redeem himself.
Written by Eboy
*****This is the first part of what I hope will stretch into a 3 to 4 part series of posts. It’s turning into a larger undertaking than I first envisioned. I hope this will stir some intelligent discussion between our hugely diverse group of readers. Thanks.****
I’ve had this piece in mind for the better part of two years now. I was going to make this an introductory joint to my old singular blog....but never got around to working on the intricacies of how flammable the content of this piece might turn into. So I decided, on a whim, to put it down for SKO. It’s a topic many of us can relate to, I’m sure, both black, white, whatever. Race issues always seem to be the ones that get everyone in their defensive stances. I hope this reads right to the SKO audience. It will come in a few parts as my memory is dissected and gives me some time to get things right....so there’s no misgivings with anyone that reads it.
Part of the reason I felt like it was time to get this out there revolved around the last two years....seeing the goodness of so many of the SLAM family of commenters in written form from their own fantastic minds and compassion for certain issues that arise that I figured now, that our little commenting family has grown to have families of our own (SKO, Hibachi, B.Long, etc.) this would be a good as time as any to get it out there. While this is in no means meant to be disparaging in any way to any group(s) of people, I’ll expect backlash in some form for putting it down.
Try not to forget though.....I got all your backs in this discussion.....’cause I’ve been through all of this firsthand and I know the misconception thing can be really game changing in ball and in life. Every now and again I turn my back on my cantankerous alter ego Eboy and try to be the grounded man I am in real life. This is one of those times. This is written by Cliff T.
How many of you can remember the first time you played a game of basketball? An actual, semi-organized one that required more than you and three of your buddies shooting at some semi-rusted goal in some tucked away playground, far away from scrutiny? I’m sure most of you remember it clear as day. So do I..
The first time I shook the dew off my wings and hit a competitive game was when I was 11.....on a scalding hot New Jersey Saturday afternoon in a park in my hometown of Jersey City. A blacktopped court.....basically smoldering, was full that early afternoon in 1981. Full meaning, on that one whole court, there were about 30 kids (ranging from my age to 17-18) all waiting for a run. I had played with buddies, fu*ked around on my own for a while, but never felt sure enough to try and embarrass myself in that type of environment. I was on the cusp of really putting in the effort to try and get good at the game and I figured “what’s the worst that could happen?” After waiting for about a half an hour to get on with the 3rd group of cats waiting...it was time. I was sh*t scared. The other 4 kids I was running with were older than me and there looked like there may have been one kid on the winning squad that could have been my age. Did I forget to mention, I was the only white kid at the court. Yup.....it was me, about 8 Puerto Rican kids and the rest of the players were black. Yes....it was the inner city for your boy back in the day. And needless to say....I was the worst player there. Not to say I didn’t try my damndest....but it didn’t matter. These cats could dribble, shoot, trap and steal...basically whatever they wanted...and I was taking a beating the few times I touched the ball. The thing that stuck with me more than the stolen passes, the blocked shot (I only put it up once) and the strips were the insults that came with them. “Whiteboy’s sorry” “Steal that sh*t from whiteboy” “You better not let whiteboy do something”. I never felt so transparent. Literally. Growing up around these kids never seemed to be as disheartening as it did that afternoon. The Puerto Rican kids were right in on it too. I know gringo was spoken a few times. My squad lost....I did nothing of note and said to myself “I ain’t doing that again”. I couldn’t understand the ignorance of these cats. I didn’t live in a bubble. I had relatives, friends, etc. that spoke with slurs as an everyday occurrence, but here? In my newfound love of basketball? Why? What was the problem here? I just said to myself, “work harder....be better....don’t let that sh*t get you”.
That kind of held true for about a year or so. It took me a while to get my game to raise a level, and playing with some of my older cousins a few miles away that actually had some swag about them. So by the time I got back in the business of trying to see if I improved at all....that whole year went by in a flash and I was tepid at making the same mistakes again. But I had a little bit more belief in my ability to do something positive instead of embarrassing the white race, so I went back. Again. To the scene of the faux-murder. I was still the only white kid in the mix....not much changed in the neighborhood from ‘81 to ‘82 and while this day was not quite as sweltering.....the sweat I was producing was similar to being in a jacuzzi on full steam. I felt the eyes on me from the time I came through the chainlink. I knew this was potentially an abortion waiting to be executed.....but I had to try. Somehow I got lucky and was going to be teamed up with a couple of big dudes, older than me.....and ready to go out an win a game. I was along for the ride. I didn’t touch the ball....once.....and barely made a ripple on the defensive end....but it was the experience of playing ball and winning.....probably about 5 games in a row....that made me go from liking the game to falling in love with it.
I noticed that while being on the winning side of things, the insults that were in full display a year ago all but seemed to have disappeared. I couldn’t understand why.....until much later in my life.....but playing with dudes that were a) respected b) talented and c) looked like they had their beat down game right....seemed to temper the storm. After my squad finally lost a game....I decided to ride out and enjoy the day for what it was, a good experience on a basketball court without the derisevness that accompanied my previous outing. As I left...a couple of the kids I played with said “hey, good run”. I just looked over and nodded, too afraid to risk my day of acceptance by saying some dumb shit. I was confident enough to know that I could play with kids in my age group now and not be the laughing stock of the court....so things were looking up.
My basketball addiction was full-blown after that. I was now looking for runs all over my area of Hudson County, NJ. That area of Jersey, just on the other side of the Hudson River from NYC was a tough area to live and a tougher area to play ball in. Lots of great players in all styles and substances. I took my game to the various courts in that area for the next few years.....trying to get my game to the point where I could have some form of a high school career. It was during this time that I saw the ignorance of my own people in full effect. Earlier in this piece I referenced some of my cousins who played ball a few miles away. I spent a bunch of time playing ball where they played at. It was there were their ignorance reared its ugly head. I saw it firsthand on a day when we were playing with their neighborhood group.....mostly white kids...a few Korean kids...and 1 or 2 Spanish ones. Everyone was getting along....playing....no differences....until two black kids rode up on their bikes.....looking to get in to the game we were running. As if on cue....on of my cousins buddies said “these niggers ain’t getting in” and to my complete disgust.....my oldest cousin said “yeah, fuck those niggers”. Now, after what I had gone through a couple of years earlier....I was sick. My cousin....older than me....someone who I admired to a point.....was showing his complete failing as a human being at this point. They spoke low enough that the kids couldn’t hear them....but with the exception of one other kid....the rest of them seemed eager to follow suit. I didn’t want to sound like a bitch at the time....so I kept my mouth quiet (plus I was only about 14 and I really didn’t have the swag to back sh*t up at that point) and times were much, much different then. The whole politically correct thing we see today as commonplace was about as common as a Jordan Rookie card showing up in your mail today. Needless to say.....the tone of that day was ruined, at least for me. I wound up leaving after the game I was in.....headed back home....riding my bike to my house....still shook. It wasn’t the words as much as the steady agreement of the entire group. I mean, hearing the N-word was an everyday thing in that area. I never spoke it.......well, because it never was something I had to use in my life to prove my stupidity or some false bravado. Plus....in Jersey....Italians at that time were in some way still looked upon as their own racial stereotype insult group that was hurtful in it’s own way so using some other derogatory term for someone else was pure bullsh*t. But somehow being called a “stupid guinea” or a “dumb wop” didn’t carry the same type of sting.
If I only knew then what I know today. All I could think to myself was “how come this type of sh*t exists?.” My mom and dad didn’t have this type of hatred/stupidity towards all the different races/religions that were around us in our very mixed neighborhoods. If it “starts at home” I never had that stigma attached to my direct family. It wasn’t like that, and I wasn’t molded in the image that apparently people of my own bloodline had been polluted with. Years later I would think to myself.....or in conversation with friends that were liked minded....”when will the mistakes and the hate of those that fu*ked things up so badly in the past go away so that people in my generation can get past it and we can try and be unified as a people”. Nice idea, right? You know what? Today.....going on two generations later......it’s still not that way.
I still had run into my “whiteboy” hate in other parts of the county during my game development.....but being a bit better basketball wise than I was in my original introduction to that hate/resentment/ignorance that I faced....seemed to work in my favor. If I wasn’t “the sorry whiteboy” I didn’t seem to be bothered as much. I still got it in some heated spots....but it wasn’t AS commonplace. But I always knew that I wasn’t fully accepted in the runs I frequented, just as I saw that the same guys that had that grudge toward me weren’t accepted on the flip. It was just a huge disappointment. And by the time I hit high school....I began to grasp the differences and embrace my insulters instead of putting my head down and walking away in a cloud of shame, anger or self-pity. It was time to get ME right so they would take me for who I was instead of who I represented. Unfortunately, with greater self confidence came more heated confrontations. Those are stories for part two.
by Tariq al Haydar
Back in December 2007, when the New England Patriots had just completed their undefeated regular season, I turned to my friend, the Ant and said: "The New York Giants are a stupid team."
"Why?" he asked.
"I just don't trust them. In fact, I'll bet you 2000 riyals that the New York Giants will not win the Super Bowl."
I'm blessed. The Ant didn't take my bet.
And speaking of improbable Super Bowl scenarios, remember when we all thought the Arizona Cardinals would play in Super Bowl 43? Yeah, me neither.
Conversely, we all know that the Lakers will make it to the NBA Finals, unless the Spurs manage to pull off a massive upset in the West. And we know either the Celtics or the Cavs will be there as well.
I was watching some show on NBA TV last night. I wasn't really watching, but a statement caught my attention:
"I think we can all agree that the Portland Trail Blazers are true contenders."
And then four panelists nodded and muttered, "Absolutely."
Really? Portland is a contender?
Yeah, they may win a series. They may even somehow manage to get to the WCF, but I will be shocked if they get to the Finals. And all those other teams that look like they're in such good shape right now... your Orlando Magics and Denver Nuggets...Does anybody really give them a shot?
When was the last time a real Cinderella team made it all the way to the NBA Finals?
Let's look at the Finalists this decade:
2000- Lakers v Pacers
2001- Lakers v Sixers
2002- Lakers v Nets
2003- Spurs v Nets
2004- Lakers v Pistons
2005- Spurs v Pistons
2006- Mavs v Heat
2007- Spurs v Cavs
2008- Lakers v Celtics
Since the turn of the century, the only team whose presence in the Finals was even mildly surprising was the Cleveland Cavs in 2007. Cleveland had already taken the Pistons, the team they beat in the conference finals, to seven games the previous season. And in 2007, they won 50 games and were the #2 seed in the East.
Point being, we already know who will play in the 2009 NBA Finals. And that's kinda sad.
But then again, there's something comforting in knowing that the strongest teams will inevitably collide. I'd like nothing more than to see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in the Finals. And that's probably how it's going to play out.
The problem is that it's more difficult to get excited about earlier rounds. A potential series between, say, the Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz would pit two pretty good, well-balanced teams against each other. And yet, as you watch, you already know that both teams are doomed.
Enjoy the Playoffs, kids! :)
And yet, there is one team that gives me hope:
The 1999 New York Knicks!
I read an interesting article in today’s Detroit Free Press by the love-him-or-hate-him personality of one Drew Sharp. By most accounts, I believe Drew to be a tool of a writer and compare his writing style to that of a scorned lover or jealous boyfriend or girlfriend. To summarize, Mr. Sharp looks for negativity in his subjects and picks at it like a scab. Despite my critical assessment of his journalism, he does make some good points in his latest article on the Detroit Pistons fall from grace and where exactly blame should go.
I’ve decided to take out excerpts from his article and expound upon them my personal thoughts, while also adding in a few places I think blame should be pointed to. What is in italics is what Sharp said. My comments in bold proceed his thoughts.
1)The Darko Disaster in the 2003 draft cost them that transitional star. This is hardly a breaking news alert. Many dismissed this inevitability as irrelevant as the Pistons advanced to six straight Eastern Conference finals, but they could only outrun that mistake for so long before it eventually bit them in the back pocket. It's wasted breath arguing whom they should've taken instead. The bottom line is that an already good team cannot blow the No. 2 pick overall in what will go down as the deepest draft talent pool this decade in the NBA. But the Pistons did precisely that. Not much to argue with this. Dumars pretty much blew the chance at a once-in-a-lifetime talent by drafting Darko. Joe has basically said so himself. The problem I have is that people forget just how talented Darko was and that pretty much any scout was on his bandwagon. The only other player the Pistons even considered targeting was Carmelo Anthony, but he also played the same position as Tayshaun Prince, so they never really considered him. Chris Bosh was still looked at as a raw prospect and only Pat Riley took the Dwyane Wade hype seriously. Another thing to consider: the Darko trade to Orlando after the team had finally given up on him turned into Rodney Stuckey. Not too shabby.
2)Davidson couldn't keep his ego in check regarding Larry Brown. The Pistons knew Brown was a drama queen requiring exceptionally high maintenance when they hired him, but the normally reclusive Davidson made his distaste for Brown's dramatics public after he broomed him for Flip Saunders following the Pistons' Game 7 defeat in the 2005 NBA Finals. Davidson could've found a way to coexist with Brown, but he believed his players were more important than the person coaching them. That move effectively gave the players free run of the asylum, enabling their insurrections and pretty much excusing them from accountability. From that point on, when things went wrong -- it's primarily the coach's fault. Again, Drew makes a great point. The thing with Larry Brown was blown way out of proportion in my opinion. Yes, Larry interviewed for another position with a rival team while the Pistons were in the thick of a playoff run, but what exactly did the Pistons expect when they hired him? They knew Brown always had a wandering eye and the team wasn’t exactly proper in the way they dismissed Rick Carlisle once they new Brown was available. Owner Bill Davidson and Joe Dumars should have swallowed hard and forged ahead with Brown. If he would have eventually left on his own, then so be it. Once the players knew the control they wielded, it was the beginning of the end.
3)They never recovered defensively and emotionally from the loss of Ben Wallace following the 2006 season. The Pistons made the right move in not matching Chicago's outrageous four-year, $60-million free-agent contract. Wallace's energetic playing style had eroded, and he lost a battle for the soul of the team with Chauncey Billups. But since he left, the Pistons haven't found a comparable center who could move Rasheed Wallace to his more comfortable power forward position. Nazr Mohammed and Kwame Brown were both failed experiments. And perhaps more important, they haven't played good weak-side defense since Big Ben departed, explaining why opposing teams have penetrated the lane with impunity the past three seasons. Yes and no. I believe that Billups was always the leader of that team with his words, while Ben led with his play on the court. Ben was all-out hustle and the players respected that about him. Once he lost a step, Dumars was intent on not breaking the bank for a player that made the team play 4 on 5 on the offensive end. The problem with Rasheed was not of him playing the center position after Ben left, but that Ben kept Sheed in check. Larry Brown leaving was also paramount to Rasheed not buying in completely. The Pistons defensive numbers never got worse and actually improved some when Ben left. The downward spiral for the defense started when Chauncey was traded.
Which bring me to my extra points. While Dumars didn’t underestimate Chauncey’s effect on the game playing-wise, he did underestimate his leadership in the locker room and on the court. The Pistons traded away their main voice in a year they were harkening a new era with a new head coach. As much as I love Rodney Stuckey, he is not a leader yet. Neither is Rasheed, Rip, Tay, or McDyess. Iverson, incidentally, has only done well with a strong head coaching presence at the helm (Thompson, Brown, Karl). The Pistons problems don’t lie with talent, but with leadership. As much as I like Michael Curry the person, his coaching and leadership skills leave much to be desired.
Written by Eboy
This past Saturday I had two sport in-person viewing options presented to me. I had tickets for a Florida Panthers game in the evening from one of my co-workers or was offered a ticket to the Heat game and had to make a decision Saturday morning. After being offered the Heat ticket while on the phone with my friend, about 2 seconds afterwards, I asked my buddy what time we were going to meet up to take the ride to the AAA and leave the ice in the Panthers arena in a puddle of saddened sorrow.
We headed out about 1:00p and stopped at this place, http://www.primantibros.com/. An institute in Pittsburgh, PA (where my buddy is from) we usually stop there each time down for some good food and pretty fine waitresses. After having a great pizza, the road trip continued. Once we got in the arena....I realized that my buddy had good seats (not great) center court, 2nd row, upper level.
My ode to Moose
National Anthem is performed by Keon Dooling's daughter.....again. I've been to 4 games so far in 2009 and she's been on the mic for each game. Not sure if she signed a 10 day and then got extended....but I've never seen someone sing so often for one team. Seats are a great spot for game viewing....not too great for people watching though. We are surrounded by:
1)a couple that had to be in their 80's who seemed like they died by the second quarter.
2)a seriously fine MILF who brought along her 5 pre-teen children and seemed to be hoping that someone with money would rescue her from her life's fate of being that chick that used to be the sh*t and now is just literally in..... the sh*t.
3)a guy with his 8 or 9 year old kid who fell asleep in the third quarter and the kid seemed to be too afraid to try and wake him up. My buddy and I felt bad for him and picked him up a hot dog and a Coke and when the dad finally woke up with about 2 minutes to go in the 4th....he saw the empty hot dog wrapper and the soda at his sons seat and said "did you have money....did you go yourself?" The kid looked nervous and said "no, those guys got it for me" pointing at me and my friend. I think we both felt like pedophiles....but we felt bad for the kid. Sue me and try to stay awake, fat man, so your son won't have to rely on strangers to keep them nourished....your pre diabetes symptoms were in full effect for all of section 325 to see, Rip Van Blimple.
On to the game, for the first 24 minutes....people watching should have been the catch of the day. Poor shooting.....tons of turnovers and really a lack of focus from both teams made both of the potential playoff teams hopes of competing in a playoff atmosphere seem really overblown.
Once the first half debacle ended.....the second half actually got competitive. Andre Miller was really good for the Sixers. His off the dribble game was working to perfection and he made pretty easy work of Mario Chalmers from the tip. The rest of the Sixers are young, rangy, athletic and full of potential. The potential of the future Heat squad was on full display for about 5 minutes in the latter part of the 4th quarter. There was a nice run with JO, UD, Wade, Chalmers and Jamario Moon???? Yeah....there was some good chemistry between D-Wade and Jamario off baseline cuts for alley-oops, something that never came to fruition in Shawn Marion's time as a member of the Heat.
Here's my ode to Shawn Marion
Coming down the home stretch, the Heat executed better and Dwyane made the MVP plays he's made all season. The crowd was feeling it......even with a 1/4 of the arena empty....and that's how every game this season (except the Lakers one I attended)has been. People still really aren't believing in the team yet....so there's still a bit of uncertainty about putting out the cash to make the trip to the arena....and right now it's warranted uncertainty. Jermaine looked good at moments on Saturday (let's not talk about Sunday's "battle" with DaHowitzer...ugh)and if he can put together a full game of strong play...like he had going early on...the Heat's offense should begin to free from the shackles of D-Wade's always doubled, dribble drive game.
The Sixers can't really be considered any kind of a threat either. They're too reliant on the outside shot and missing a bona fide post presence in Elton Brand is way too much for a team like them to live and die from the perimeter on, especially without the threat of a true potent deep ball shooter.
Luckily this night ended with a Heat win. Sunday was not so cheery. After the game we wound up here.
This would make any night better.
Here's some observations I made in-game that kind of made laugh:
One sequence during the 3rd quarter...Reggie Evans and Michael Beasley got into a little war of words/pushing and shoving match for a quick minute. I'm not sure if it showed up on the Heat telecast locally, but I've noticed that among Beasley's penchant for talking comical trash....he has a little bit of fire that I hope turns inferno-like in a couple of years. Beas was talking all kinds of sh*t in a very undemonstrative way...which really pissed Wedgie off. Good work by the kid.
I think Louis Williams missed his calling for playing ball for the And 1 tour. He was a dribbling machine during halftime while everyone else was shooting around. His handle was phenomenal, btw.
Chris Quinn is still really bug eyed, really slow and really not ready for back up point guard duties. While he can make shots.....his lack of D is really putting me back on the Decapitate Chris Quinn bandwagon.
I'm convinced that Mario Chalmers is from the same acting school as Derek Fisher. A simple forearm bump sends him flying like he was shot in a gangwar in Little Haiti over some bad 4 day old grio. He doesn't get the calls yet....but I have a feeling he will in due time.
Let's just say, if they were there, the game could have gone into a vortex of perpetual airballs and I could have gave a sh*t.
by Tariq al Haydar
OK, let me start this with a confession: I do not watch as much basketball as some would imagine. First off, I don't get as much TV coverage as I like over here in the 0119661. Yeah, that's Saudi Arabia. I guess I shouldn't have used area codes to identify my spot. That was dumb. Sorry. So anyway, yeah, we only get two games a week on ESPN, plus a game a day on NBA TV, which I just subscribed to the other day. So as much as I wanted to, I couldn't watch any of the Laker-Celtics or Laker-Cavs games. But I do read a lot about the NBA, and so, along with the relatively few games I've actually watched, what I've read and what I've seen over the past few months have marinated in my head to produce the following disjointed impression of the Eastern Conference:
1- Cleveland Cavs:
I was really hoping the Cavs would do something before the trade deadline. I wasn't totally sold on the proposed Shaq trade, because it's such a huge contract, plus the guy's 37. But what about a guy like Tyson Chandler? Wally World straight up for Tyson? Think that would have made Bron happy?
In any case, I still like Cleveland to win the East, especially since KG's injury gives them the inside track on the #1 seed. And I would love to see LeBron v Kobe in the Finals. Mo Williams has been what Boobie was supposed to be. Big Z is a very intelligent post player, albeit an intelligent post player with bad knees. And Delonte West is back!
2- Boston Celtics:
The C's were 3-9 away from home in last year's playoffs. They couldn't win a single away game against the lowly Hawks or the Cavs. So unless they manage to get home-court advantage, I don't see them getting past LeBron. I'm sure they'll pick up some free agent off of waivers and that will certainly help, but they're just too thin, too old and too inconsistent away from home. They're still formidable, of course. I'm just explaining why I like Cleveland to win the East and not Boston.
3- Orlando Magic:
People are saying that Orlando can't get past Boston or Cleveland in a seven-game series, but I think they have a puncher's chance. I love their starting five with Rafer in there. Hedo should have been an all-star by now. And Dwight Howard is a beast. The only problem I have with this team is Rashard Lewis. And it's not that I don't like him as a player, it's just that I like him as a 3, not a 4. Opposing big men will abuse him in the playoffs. If the Magic had a reliable power forward who would allow Rashard to switch to the small forward position, they'd be REALLY dangerous. As it stands, they should win a series and cause some problems for one of the big two but fall short in the end.
Now, if they somehow manage to get the 2 seed...
4- Atlanta Hawks:
I honestly don't know that much about the Hawks. I mean, Joe Johnson is there of course, and Josh Smith is one of my favorite players, but I get the feeling that they're bound to fade in the playoffs. But I'm ignorant, so... moving on...
5- Miami Heat:
I saw Miami play against Philly and Orlando. I have to say that although the results haven't been great since trading for Jermaine O'Neal (they lost to Orlando and before that to the Wolves), still I like how the Heat look. JO was really good against the Sixers, and if he can play like that more often, I think Miami can make some noise in the playoffs. I also like the combination of Dwyane Wade and Jamario Moon.
6- Detroit Pistons:
I can't understand this team. They've looked disinterested for a couple of years, but I thought the Iverson trade was going to take them back into contention. I was wrong.
7,8- Philadelphia 76ers & Milwaukee Bucks:
I honestly don't care. The 7 and 8 seeds will inevitably get blown out by Boston and Cleveland. Meh.
Written by Eboy
So here we are....closing in on the last 1/4 of the season....and the MVP race is going to be a major story as the season winds down......SKO needs something new in the mix too, so here we go!!!!
Let's stay straightforward shall we,
1. Lebron James
2. Dwyane Wade
3. Dwight Howard
4. Kobe Bryant
5. Chris Paul
This is an interesting race.....but not quite as close as some would make it out to be. Here's why:
Lebron has just been........tremendous. He's made the Cavs into a rock solid group that plays efficient offense and lockdown D night in and night out. He has carried over his otherworldly Olympic play and has lead the (sometimes injury prone)Cavs to the 2nd best record in the league up until this point of the season. Can't hate how he's done it either.....28.4, 7.5, 7......MVP worthy, no doubt! He's beastlike night in and night out and even on his less than spectacular nights he'll still throw up 20, 9 & 9. Time for change starts this season. The Blueprint is finally in the construction phase and we can just sit back and watch the formation with admiration until the project is complete.
My man, D-Wade.....yeah....he's f*cking good too! Am I being a bit of a homer putting him 2nd? Probably, but 28.5, 5, 7......that
s airtight, and the Heat are respectable after being horrible just a season ago. He's been that guy every night for the Heat and he's showing no signs of letting up. It's great to see him healthy...so I keep my fingers crossed that the McDavid pads stays strong in all the right spots. Plus, the future is getting brighter for the squad and it may be enough to lock up dude for the long haul and to keep his game in the MIA. Finally getting some help in the Jermaine O'Neal pickup is promising....but don't get it twisted, the Heat shine bright or fizzle-out on #3's game.
DaHowitzer.....has been the bedrock that the Magic needed and Orlando is now in the conversation as legit contender because of it. The reason for it? The play of Dwight....rebounding....scoring....blocking shots....dude is doing it all for them. And the Magic seem to have the number of some of the best teams in the league. They're legit 'cause of the 21st century Superman. Losing his point guard for an extended period may shine the MVP light on him just a little more too. And now with the acquisition of Rafaer Alston to fill the void.....the Magic could still pose huge problems for the rest of the league's elite.
The Defenseless Mamba has been his normal self this season. Solid....sometimes spectacular.....and if the 61 point effort in the Garden was any sign of the future...he might be able to catapult a couple of spots in this race. But for half the season, he hasn't been as valuable as those first names mentioned. The last part of the season may play out much differently though but losing the one piece which may have put the Lakers in the drivers seat for the title may just be too much for Team No-D to overcome. HOWEVA......the rebirth of Lamar Odom has been unexpected and Gasol continues his strong play from night to night....so they still have a solid lock on the West's top spot and if Kobe plays within the system....they'll be tough against anyone.
CP3....best point guard in the game and while his team has been less than spectacular, Chris is always just that....spectacular. He needs to be his absolute best night in and night out for his team to challenge any of the West's top squads. Trading Tyson Chandler and then getting him back a day later was pretty uninspiring as well, but might be the best thing for the Hornets in the long run. If his squad can somehow put it together for a strong finish and get hot at the right time....they could be a wild card, but in the meantime.....enjoy this dude. He's in a class by himself.