NBA's West Side Story

After covering The New East a few weeks backs, I guess it’s only fair we cover the Western Conference now. Not much has changed and yet, some things are still different. Let’s have a quick look at the NBA’s West side story. To view the rest of this post, please click here to be redirected to Lucas Shapiro's Portfolio to see the post in its entirety.

Scottie Pip In

Around the time I was 16, I use to wear the jersey number 4 on my basketball team, but then I decided to make a temporary switch and wear #33. It was my way of wanting to be the next Scottie Pippen. I loved the way Pip would get the Bulls into their offense, his ability to defend multiple positions, his rebounding, his scoring and his knack for recognizing when to get out of Michael Jordan’s way. I loved his game and still do today.  After Michael’s second retirement, Pip went to Houston for a season and then moved on to Portland. I still remember watching his first game with the Trail Blazers, as they faced off against the Grizzlies in Vancouver, because I was curious to see if he would be able to adjust to playing with the likes of Steve Smith, Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire and Bonzi Wells. And you know what? Pippen was a the best player on the court that night and yet look at his stat line:
14 PTS, 4 RBS, 3 ASS, 1 BLK, 6-11 FGs.

That’s Pippen’s career in a nutshell: unremarkable numbers in a quite remarkable career. Pip took shots when he was open, played an excellent brand of defense and helped get the team into their offense. Scottie is like that dude that helps you plan the party, get the booze, find a DJ and then dances to a few songs in the background and lets everybody else enjoy a killer party. Those who followed his career can all testify to this.

And yet, for years some fans said that Scottie was merely riding Michael Jordan’s coattails. They failed to see what the Bulls star forward brought to the table because they were so in awe of Jordan’s performances. Let’s be real, it was far easier to notice #23 dunking on people, talking trash with opponents, shutting down premier perimeter scorers, reinventing himself and becoming a dominant low post player and a great ambassador for the game. Mind you, MJ was able to do all those things because he had a terrific partner in crime in Scottie Pippen. Indeed, Pippen always understood when to assert himself on the court, and when to just blend into the background and set the stage for Jordan. The 6’7 forward was good, but how good was he really?

The best way to describe Scottie Pippen is basically to compare him to an Iphone (I’m not even kidding). You need some scoring on the low block? There’s a Pippen app for that. You need someone to initiate your offense? There’s a Pippen app for that. You need someone to get the ball to the post? There’s a Pippen app for that. You need someone to get Steve Kerr a shot? There’s a Pippen app for that. You need someone to set the tone by driving aggressively to the hoop? There’s a Pippen app for that. The opposing team is trapping you full court, and you need someone to handle the ball against the pressure? Yup, you guessed it; there’s a Pippen app for that too.

We all agree that Pippen was perhaps the perfect player to play with Michael Jordan (ESPN’s J.A. Adande did a great job of breaking down why here), but the truth is that he was the perfect player to play alongside everybody. You never got the sense that he was forcing shots. On the contrary, Pippen understood when and where to pick his spots. His points always came within the flow of the offense unless the Bulls were in the midst of a scoring drought with his Airness on the bench. Scottie did it in a variety of ways: a few transitions baskets, at least one three point field goal per game to keep the defense honest, maybe one or two post ups, a few drives to the basket and a few free throws; all of which came without forcing the issue as evidenced by his 13.3 career field goal attempts (doesn’t that sound amazingly low?). Pippen was a brilliant offensive player because he understood his limitations better than most and also knew when it was time to let Jordan take over. Some might argue that it was easy to let Michael do his thing but any player with a shred of ego wants to shine on the grandest of stages; you can ask Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady about it. Pippen on the other hand was comfortable enough in his own role to understand that he would always come second or possibly even third depending on who was hot in any given game.

We have seen over the course of the years an evolution in the way that teams defend now. Indeed, if you have to guard say Tony Parker, you get a player in the mold of Lindsey Hunter or Marcus Banks to try and match his quickness. If the job is to guard Kevin Durant, you ask Ron Artest to chase him around and bump him on every play and stay in his face. If your opponent is Rip Hamilton or Ray Allen, you sign someone to shadow them and that won’t mind running through screens, basically a player in the mold of Bruce Bowen. And lastly, if you have a big player like Dirk Nowitzki that likes to float around the perimeter, you would hope to be able to get someone like Shawn Marion to guard him because of his discipline, attention to detail, size (to avoid getting backed down in the post), speed, length as well as jumping ability to contest shots. 

But back in the 1990’s, the Bulls didn’t need to sign any type of defensive specialist because they had perhaps the most destructive perimeter defender in league history in Scottie Pippen. Pip was what I like to call a bucket of cold water. You see a player getting hot, you put Pip on him and that’s it. Case closed. I have two playoff instances that perfectly illustrate this:

I. 1996 Eastern Conference Finals
Chicago entered the Eastern Conference Finals in a rematch with the Orlando Magic who had eliminated the Bulls the previous year as Michael Jordan came back from retirement. The Magic were being touted by many to be the new dominant team of the Eastern Conference; and thus the Bulls’ biggest threat. In Game 1, Penny Hardaway went nuts against Chicago as he went on to score 38 points on 15-21 field goal shooting. Then Bulls head coach Phil Jackson (yes, the same one that just celebrated his 11th title this past June) made an adjustment and assigned Pippen to guard Hardaway sporadically for the rest of the series. The result? The guy that was slated to be the next Magic Johnson struggled. Look at Hardaway’s numbers for the remainder of the series (Games 2 to 4):
21.3 PPG, 23-60 FGs, 38.3 FG%

Just like that, the Bulls swept the Magic and were back in the Finals.

II. 1998 Eastern Conference Finals
Entering the Eastern Conference Finals, Pacers point guard Mark Jackson had just finished abusing Knicks guards Charlie Ward and Chris Child in the second round of the playoffs. Then Pacers head coach Larry Bird, had Jackson post them up and have him dissect the Knicks defense from the low block. Look at Jackson’s numbers in the Conference Semi-Finals Vs. New York:
10.2 PPG, 9.6 APG, 1.2 TPG, 57.9 FG%

Phil Jackson did not want his Bulls defense to get sliced up the same way so he decided to stick Pippen on Jackson. One of the best point guards of all time suddenly turned into Eric Snow. Look at Mark Jackson’s numbers from the ’98 Eastern Conference Finals:
10.9 PPG, 5.9 APG, 3.4 TPG, 42.9 FG%

That’s what I call a bucket of cold water. Pippen just shut down whoever was placed in front of him. Also, there is no way to measure just how great of a team defender that he was. The former Central Arkansas player had a knack for completely disrupting his opponents’ offense because he always understood where each play was going. He anticipated brilliantly, helped close off passing lanes and then recover in time to guard his man. If there is ever an old Bulls game on television, I would strongly suggest you watch it, just so you can see what Pippen did day in and day out.

Let’s take a quick look at what Pippen accomplished during his 17 year career:
-Six time NBA champion
-Seven All-Star Game selections
-1993-94 All-Star Game MVP
- Three All-NBA 1st team selections (1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96)
-Two All-NBA 2nd team selections (1991-92, 1996-97)
-Two All-NBA 3rd team selection (1992-93, 1997-98)
-Eight NBA All-Defense 1st team selections (1991-92, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99)
- Two NBA All-Defense 2nd team selections (1990-91, 1999-00)
-86th all time in blocks
-80th all time in total rebounds
-63rd all time in three point field goals made
-52nd all time in points
-45th all time in defensive rebounds
-26th all time in assists
-13th all time in steals per game
-6th all time in steals

When you look at Scottie Pippen’s list of achievements during the course of his NBA career, there are two things that stand out: the six championship rings and the All-Defensive honors. None of his stats truly blow you away, however he does show up in the top 100 of all time in every major basketball stat (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks); which is a testament to his longevity and also his ability to do it all. Much like others before him, Pippen is player of great stature because of how he mastered the game.

Coincidentally, the NBA is home to several legends that have dominated the game of basketball. The very best ones are all part of an exclusive and prestigious painting that tells the story the NBA from start to finish. Scottie Pippen’s accomplishments as well as his impact on the game of basketball have forced a collection of painters to include him into the masterpiece; its name: the Hall of Fame. Much like he was during his NBA career with the teams he played for, Pippen is a perfect fit for this painting….Nuff said.

Questions or Comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can send me an email by clicking here. You can also find me on Twitter, under the name ShyneIV.

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The Power Of The Ex

A few weeks back, my friend Douglas started seeing this chick on the regular and basically started a booty call relationship with her. Although there wasn’t any commitment, they started to get attached to one another. For those of you that have already read my Booty Call Guidelines, Douglas was her franchise player and she was his as well. But then something funny happened about two weeks ago: her ex-boyfriend popped up. Douglas realized that he was spending less time with her and that gifts were no longer coming in as they had prior to the return of her former squeeze. She had progressively begun to downgrade him from franchise player to superstar with another possible downgrade looming. Douglas understood what was happening; so he met up with her and flashed her the peace sign (slang for dumped her). He did not want to have to figuratively battle her ex-boyfriend. He opted to cut his losses and get out while the lady was stuck reevaluating how she truly felt about her former flame. Douglas understood what some of us struggle to grasp: sometimes it’s just too tough to compete with the power of the ex.

Unless your former boyfriend/girlfriend cheated on you or abused you physically and/or mentally, you still hold some fond memories of your former lover. A lot of people will convince themselves that once they have left a relationship, there is no going back and there are no such things as unresolved feelings; but the truth is that no one immediately gets over a person with whom they spent a fair share of their life with. Consequently, your former flame does indeed have some type of power over you. Don’t believe me? If you broke up with him/her less than a month ago; you probably think that you can still get your ex to sleep with you again. There is a sense of familiarity that a new person cannot provide while you (yes, you the person reading this) on the other hand, possess the confidence in your abilities to adequately push the proper buttons to get things moving once again with your ex.

Hell, how often have you heard stories about people in new relationships that creep with their exes? Happens more often than we care to admit. So what is it that Douglas feared when the old dude popped up?

No matter how good your chemistry with a person is, it cannot beat out love. So if the person you’re seeing is in love with somebody else, you will come in second. Furthermore, there is a decent chance that you will get kicked to the curb afterwards; which might not be that bad if you didn’t develop any attachment or feelings, but if you did, that might sting for a while.

You ex might have put you through some hardships and what not, but they were still initially picked for a reason. That person understood how to treat you right, make you happy and also made you believe that they might potentially be the one. So is it really that much of a stretch for us to think that your ex could seduce you just by bringing up good old memories?

If you have been with the same individual for a long time, you eventually view that person as your benchmark.  So after breaking up with that person, you try to find someone who has similar qualities to those of your former lover, but minus the flaws.  This might become tricky if the new person does not measure up with the old one. Indeed, for those of you that have seen My Best Friend’s Girl, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Dane Cook plays the role of a dude that gets paid to take out guys’ ex-girlfriends and act like a complete douche with them just so the women realize that there are men that are far worse than their exes. Indeed, the movie demonstrates that when women break up with guys, it is because they need to move on to a better man. However, Cook’s character makes them realize that such a thing might not be in the cards for them. When you apply this to real life, an ex who creeps back up into the picture places the new person into one of two categories:
-Better than the ex
-Worse than the ex.

If you end up being better than the ex, more power to you. But what if you are worse? Your phone could potentially stop ringing.

Back in late May, my cousin Philly got married to his longtime girlfriend in a beautiful ceremony . At the reception, his parents danced to some Kompas (it’s the dance form associated with Haitian music) and it was a beautiful display of chemistry. I got the feeling that had the lights gone out, they still would have continued to dance and match each other move for move. They knew and completed each others movements flawlessly. You can chalk that down to spending 30 years of your life with the same person and you would be right; but you still need for both parties to display great chemistry for this to happen. And if you had great chemistry with your ex, it doesn’t just go away because of a break up. The ability to be mentally and physically intertwined with one another is a rare occurrence that may take a long time to dissipate.

Magic Trick
Heath Ledger as the JokerImage via Wikipedia
In the movie The Dark Knight, there’s a scene in which the Joker (played by Heath Ledger) enters a room filled with the biggest and toughest gangsters of Gotham City. As he enters the area, he places a pencil on the table and says: “let me show you a magic trick”. As the pencil is placed vertically on the table, one of the gangster’s bodyguards walks towards the Joker and our colorful villain grabs the goon by the back of the head and slams his face into the pencil on the table and says: “ta-dah”. You see, unlike the scene previously described, relationships do not always end with a sense of closure. Consequently, we sometimes feel the need to interact with our former partner just to put the finishing touches on the break up.

However, when break ups occur, there’s usually one party that still believes that things could have worked out and thus still has some type of hope of fixing things. As individuals, we cannot always gauge if the person we are seeing was the one that still wanted for things to work out or if they ever got that sense of closure. As a result, we may at times get  a bit nervous whenever the ex pops up.

The One
You all know what I mean. We all have that one person that got away. The one person that made you walk on cloud nine and drove you crazy. The one person that perhaps had some flaws but was great to you. This person would take you out Saturday, show you off to their friends on Sunday, take you back home, give you the best sex of your life on Monday, massage your back on Tuesday while watching your favorite television show with you, take you and your parents out to eat on Wednesday and let you decide what to do on Thursday and Friday. Even though we rarely want to admit it, the one can at times play Jedi mind tricks on us and convince us to do things we would not normally agree to.

In a nutshell, these are some of the reasons why exes are viewed as potentially dangerous to a new relationship. Keep in mind, I didn’t even touch on the fact that your former partner might actually want you back; which can complicate things even further. Indeed, they might attempt to get back with you for the sake of love or simply because they enjoy the challenge that comes from taking you away from the new person that you’re currently seeing.

As you can see, there are various reasons for which people might be tempted to actually spend some time with their ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. So although our pride rarely allows for us to admit that we might possibly want to go back to our previous partner (not necessarily for a relationship), the fact is that that your most recent ex might hold some type of temporary hold on you. Indeed, that hold might last weeks, months or even years after the relationship concludes; and in essence, it’s the reason why some people prefer not to compete with an individual capable of swaying their person of interest. That my friends, is called the power of the ex. 

Questions or Comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can send me an email by clicking here. You can also find me on Twitter, under the name ShyneIV.

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The New East

NBA free agency has not yet concluded but the biggest moves have already taken place; and most of them have had a huge impact on the landscape of the Eastern Conference. Certain franchises were able to acquire enough talent to dramatically alter their teams as well as their expectations, while some other teams lost key players which might ultimately doom them for a few years. It’s like watching a sitcom for a few years and then watching the key actors leave the show in favor of another one. Seriously, imagine Charlie Harper (played by Charlie Sheen) leaving his Malibu house in Two & A Half Men to move to a New York apartment to bang chicks with Barney Stinson (portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris) on How I Met Your Mother. There’s no possible way for Two & A Half Men to recover from that right? Well in a nutshell, that’s the life of an NBA general manager. Click here to read the remainder of this post...


Wassup folks, I made my first ever exclusive appearance on a podcast.I got grilled a bit by Chad from the Here We Geaux blog. We covered a a variety of topics that included Kobe Bryant, the Miami Heat, the NFL (Saints) and comic books. So just click here to download the episode. Or you can  just click on the play button below to hear podcast.