Last Game

On Wednesday night, the Silverback Gorillas strolled in to Ecole Secondaire Lavoie trying to avenge a tough loss from the previous Sunday. We felt that we would blow this team out of the water and cruise to an easy victory from the moment that warm ups started. But then, this funny little thing happened, the game started and we were sloppy and actually played to their level. Our execution was poor and our man to man defense took several plays off in the game. The other team had some instances in which they went the length of the court for an easy lay up after we worked hard to get a basket. Some of the guys on the team have mentioned it but not everyone was paying attention but here goes: SBG is in a slump. The intensity goes on and off, the chemistry is not what it used to be, the killer instinct is lacking and our level of conditioning has severely dropped off. Add all of that up and you end up with a 57-50 win. The game was tied with 50 seconds left in the game when Hot Rod Pirate drilled a three that put us up and then led to the other team fouling and thus raising the points spread. SBG needs to get their ish back into order with the playoffs fast approaching. Luckily, this Sunday we will have practice which should allow us to try to get back some form of continuity. We’ll see how fruitful the results are…..

Bad Weekend

Why Can't I play?

At every level of basketball, whether it be little league, high school, college or the pros, certain guys always seem to think the coach has lost his mind and that they should be getting more playing time then the next guy. Usually, the situation boils down to a talented player getting benched in favor of a lesser talented player. That ever happen to you? Ever wonder why? More often then not, players think that the coach has it in for you and that he might end up writing a book about you saying that you’re “uncoachable”. Paging Phil Jackson. But does it ever occur to players that no matter how talented they are, maybe there is an actual reason for them riding the bench in favor of guys with less skills? Well today, I help break down the mystery.


A few years ago, Larry Hughes used to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was a starting guard on the team but could not understand for the life of him how come in crunch time in the playoffs he was glued to the bench watching Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic steal his minutes. At the time Hughes never complained about it, but once he got traded to the Bulls, he openly discussed his displeasure with the team’s system and his role with the Cavs team. Now don’t get me wrong, Larry Hughes is as talented as they come. He can handle the ball, defend both guard positions, get in transition and finish and shoot it some. So why was Larry riding the pine in crunch time? For one, he had (and still does) terrible shot selection which often allowed opponents to fast break on the Cavs, was a poor spot up shooter and at times hurt the team defensively. In contrast, Gibson was a great shooter who happened to defend point guards well and Pavlovic also had a questionable shot selection but made up for it with outstanding hustle and great team defense.


Another example is that of this year’s Laker team. Vladimir Radmanovic was perfect for the triangle offense. His size and shooting ability should have allowed him to flourish and put up decent numbers in L.A. Think of guys like Medvedenko, A.C. Green, Brian Shaw, Tyronn Lue and Robert Horry that looked great in the triangle offense. The thought was that Radman would fit in just as nicely. However, something weird happened along the way this year. Trevor Ariza started to eat at Radmanovic’s minutes; but why? The Serbian is a good shooter, good finisher, decent rebounder and average defender; whereas Ariza is an ok shooter, good ball handler for his size, decent rebounder, slightly above average defender and very good finisher. So why was Ariza getting burn while Radman was checking out the people in the crowd from the bench? Radmanovic has this thing where you are never sure if his head is in the game. He takes bad shots every now and then and at times seems allergic to defense, but he is still a talented NBA player; more talented then Trevor Ariza. The difference is that Ariza plays within his limits. He knows what he can do and what he cannot do, therefore he rarely ends up in bad situations and gives a whole lot of effort on defense. So who do you think Phil Jackson trusts the most out there on the court? He obviously goes with the guy that he knows what to expect from every night.

It’s something that we see fairly often in the NBA, guys with lesser names taking away from guys with bigger ones. I have already illustrated this with two detailed examples, but without getting in the specifics, there were other situations such as Damon Stoudemire and Greg Anthony with the Portland Trail Blazers, Quinton Ross and Corey Maggette with the Los Angeles Clippers, Bonzi Wells and Shane Battier with the Houston Rockets, Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa with the Phoenix Suns, Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Matt Bonner and Kurt Thomas from the San Antonio Spurs. Some of you might be wondering what point it is that I am trying to make and it is a legitimate question. Not to get all old school on you guys, but like Larry Brown, I am a firm believer of playing basketball “the right way”. The right way means respecting the coach’s decision regardless of the fact that you agree with it or not. While the player only sees his boat leaving the island, the head coach sees the island and the whole ocean. At times, leaving you on the bench is what is best for the team because you cost the team in certain situations. The next time you get benched in crunch time, don’t question your coach’s decision; instead embrace it for what is and look at the play of your teammates. Instead of reaching or trying to block a shot, sacrifice for the team and take a charge. Instead of whining about not getting a pass or a chance to shoot, get an offensive rebound, you’ll get a chance to shoot. If not individuals cannot adhere to such basic principles, the pleasures of team success will be lost in the achievement of individual goals.

Last week

Philly breaks down last weeks game

Shaq-Kobe debate

So on Wednesday, Money and I went to Quiznos where he got a turkey ranch sandwich (something like that) and I copped a large chicken carbonara sub (yup, black people love chicken) and he mentioned to me that he was working on piece about Kobe Bryant's legacy in the game. Money made the point that decades from now, when people discuss Kobe, they will look at his rap sheet (I'm not talking about his criminal record) and say that Shaq left a bigger imprint on the game. Dude surprised me more then Chris Brown surprised Rihanna (quick side note: my friend Marco said that Chris Brown's career is done with such a scandal; my answer was look at Kobe's rape case and R. Kelly's "thing", nuff said) with the statement. I will acknowledge that Shaquille O'Neal's dominance was jaw dropping and that his numbers alone without the aid of video footage would put him in the Hall of Fame. The Diesel terrorized defenses for years and actually put the fear of God into people. But am I willing to say that Shaq's impact on the game will be remembered longer then Kobe's? Hell nah! Shaquille O'Neal gave the NBA two truly dominant Hall of Fame seasons.

However, for the remainder of his career the Diesel has been average; keep in mind when I say average, I mean that in terms of the standard that Shaq set. Once we saw the best that he could give, everything else was sub par and that's undeniable. Look at Shaq's averages at his peak:

1999-2000 playoffs: 30.7 ppg, 15.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.39 bpg, 56.6 % fg

2000-2001 playoffs: 30.4 ppg, 15.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 3.0 bpg, 55.5 %fg

After those two years, O'Neal still put up numbers but not at the same clip and he also played fewer games. Shaq was known to take training camp off to nurse injuries and then play himself into shape as the season progressed. Taking that into consideration, you develop a greater appreciation of his dominance when looking at his career numbers. After his first title, Shaq started averaging about 60 games per season. And yet, look at what he has been able to accomplish:

14 and going on 15 All-Star appearances

1992-1993 rookie of the year

1999-2000 All-Star Game MVP

1999-2000 NBA MVP

1999-2000 Finals MVP

2000-2001 Finals MVP

2001-2002 Finals MVP

2003-2004 All-Star Game MVP

2nd in league history in career field percentage with 58.1%

4th in league history in free throw attempts with 10 688

7 times named to All-NBA first team

8th in league history in total field goals with 10 707

8th in league history in blocked shots with 2 586 blocks

9th in league history in defensive rebounding with 3 987 defensive rebounds

9th in league history in total points with 27 049 points

11th in league history in defensive rebounds with 8 339

12th in league history in points per game with 24.9 ppg

Amount NBA has paid Shaq up to this point in his career: $251,614,005.

And yet, I will still make the bold statement that Kobe will be remembered far longer for what he has done in comparison to Shaq. Bryant still has several years left in his career and might eventually accumulate gaudy career numbers like his former teammate. However, Kobe will distinguish himself with his sustained excellence. Kobe Bryant has been able to not only be great, but be consistently great for a long period of time. When the Lakers were on their way to winning their first title, it was Kobe that took over in overtime of Game 4 of the NBA Finals to lead the team to victory. When the 2000-2001 playoffs came around, Kobe put up back to back 40+ point games to eliminate the Spurs. I could name several instances in which Kobe came up huge in big games but that really would not do him justice. The best way to put it is this: by the time he retires, Kobe Bryant will have been the best offensive player the league has ever seen. I have seen him score in everyway possible (except at the bar, we know that's not his area of expertise); jump shots, fade aways, dunks, lay ups, floaters, up and unders, finger rolls, left handed hook shots, left handed bank shots, reverse lay ups, etc. Look at his current achievements:

10 and going on 11 All-Star appearances

2001-2002 All-Star Game MVP

2006-2007 All-Star Game MVP

2007-2008 NBA MVP

6 times named All-NBA first team

6 times named All-NBA defensive first team

19th in league history in free throws made with 5 945 free throws

26th in league history in total points with 23 057 points

9th in league history in points per game with 25.1 ppg

Amount NBA has paid Kobe up to this point in his career: $127,085,490

These accomplishments pale in comparison to Shaq's, but think of all the Kobe career highlights that he has had. And to prove a point, I decided to put on paper all of Kobe's career highlights I could remember without actually researching it (to prove my point about his imprint), so here goes:

  • 81 points in game;
  • 9 straight 40 point games;
  • 12 three pointers made in a game;
  • 61 points at MSG and breaking Bernard King's old scoring record;
  • the first guy to average 35 points per game since MJ did it about 20 years ago;
  • 42 point in a half against MJ in his last trip to Staples Center as a Wizards player;
  • 50 point duel against Antawn Jamison;
  • 55 points against the Grizzlies through 3 quarters;
  • outscoring the Mavericks 62-61 after three 3 quarters;
  • dropping a Curtis (50) on the Suns in the playoffs;
  • 42 points in Game 6 of the '04 Conference Finals against the vaulted Spurs defense after being in court and flying to L.A. a mere hour before the game.
Still not convinced of #24’s imprint on the game? The next time you go to the playground or watch a high school or college basketball game; watch the dude that takes a nice turnaround fade away jump shot; who comes to mind when you just think about the image? Is Kobe or Mike? I believe you just answered the ended the Kobe-Shaq debate of the day.

A Path to Greatness: Orlando Magic

Earlier this week, me and my man Money got into this debate about the NBA championship contenders. I argued that there was no top5; just a top 4 composed of (in no particular order) the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Money argued that the Orlando Magic should be part of that group considering their current record and their performances against teams like the Lakers and Cavaliers in nationally televised games. I argued that no team so heavily reliant on three point shooting could contend for NBA title. So with that, this week I break down the Orlando Magic.



When I first argued against the Magic, the thing that came to mind for me was that they reminded me too much of the 2004-2005 & 2006-2007 Phoenix Suns. That Suns team had the best point guard in the league, the most feared finisher in the paint of the league and the best three point shooting team of the league. However, every time Phoenix faced a superior defensive team (the San Antonio Spurs in this case) in the playoffs, they faltered late in those games because they could not get the stops they needed down the stretch and the three point shooters never got the open looks they were accustomed to getting during the regular season or earlier rounds of the playoffs. The Spurs did to the Suns what the Celtics did to Kobe in last year's Finals; they punked them. And when I look at the Magic, they remind me of a finesse team like that Suns team; except they do not have another elite player on the their roster besides Dwight Howard. Essentially, the Orlando Magic will have very good and even possibly great regular seasons but will falter in the playoffs because their style is not conducive to winning in the postseason. The NBA playoffs are about defense and getting the tough baskets when you absolutely need them when things break down in the fourth quarter. In a seven game series, you have been over scouted; therefore teams know exactly which plays you are going to run and each and everyone of the player tendencies. So the team getting the easiest baskets eventually wins out. Easy baskets means points in the paint off of post ups and drives as well as free throws. Therefore, a team that relies heavily on three point shooting will struggle against good defensive units in the playoffs. Don't believe me? Look at the NBA finalists of this decade; their reliance on three point field goals never equates to a quarter or more of their points per game:

3pt shooting of NBA Finalists of this decade

TEAM

MADE 3PT FGS

ATT. 3PT FGS

3PT FGS/GAME

ATT. 3PT FGS/GAME

PPG

% OF PTS*

2007-2008 Lakers

662

1751

8

21

108.6

23

2007-2008 Celtics

596

1564

7

19

100.5

21

2006-2007 Spurs

595

1561

7

19

98.5

21

2006-2007 Cavs

494

1404

6

17

96.8

19

2005-2006 Heat

497

1441

6

18

99.9

18

2005-2006 Mavs

416

1113

5

13

99.1

15

2004-2005 Spurs

507

1395

6

17

96.2

19

2004-2005 Pistons

363

1053

4

13

93.3

13

2003-2004 Pistons

333

968

4

12

90.1

13

2003-2004 Lakers

365

1115

5

14

98.2

15

2002-2003 Spurs

449

1270

5

15

95.8

16

2002-2003 Nets

346

1041

4

13

95.4

13

2001-2002 Lakers

510

1439

6

18

101.3

18

2001-2002 Nets

403

1194

5

15

96.2

16

2000-2001 Lakers

439

1275

5

16

100.8

12

1999-2000 Lakers

344

1047

4

13

100.8

12

1999-2000 Pacers

583

1487

7

18

101.3

21

2006-2007 Suns

694

1764

9

22

110.4

25

2004-2005 Suns

796

2026

10

25

110.1

27

2008-2009 Magic**

521

1307

10

26

102.8

29

All stats except for Magic are for full regular season

*% of pts represents the percentage points that comes directly from 3 pt fgs

** Orlando Magic has played 50 games up to this point in the season



Normally, I'd write a long and detailed paragraph to further illustrate my point, but I mean; do I really need to add anything? Keep in mind as well, the Orlando Magic lost Jameer Nelson to injury, therefore the chances of coming out of the East have taken another hit. Perhaps in the near future they might become an elite team to be reckoned with, but now ladies and gents. They rely too much on three point shooting to be able to contend for an NBA title. We have seen this story unfold before recently with the Phoenix Suns; and if memory serves me correctly (which it does), that did not finish well now did it? Let's just say I have more faith in Suge Knight watching Notorious and then holding a press conference admitting he had Biggie and Pac killed then seeing the Magic in the NBA Finals.