Archive for the 'Basketball' Category

Moving Day

Friends, in favor of greener pastures and shorter web addresses, I’ve dropped the pesky ‘.wordpress’ portion of my web address and moved to the sexy and slim new site of… http://samcassellisanalienandilovehim.com. Don’t worry though, you can still find all the same overly verbose and sporadically updated observations on the NBA, and all that good stuff, over thar. Hope to see you at the new digs.

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Game notes

So some serious shiznasty has gone down in the NBA world since the last time I posted, which will happen when you don’t post for 10 days. Naturally, we’ll have to get to those very interesting and compelling topics at a later date and time. Of current concern, however, is the Twolves quality win over a quality opponent, the Houston Rockets, a not-too-shabby 90-84 victory for the home team. A couple things of particular note:

– Those NBA refs are a wily bunch. Case in point: Yao Ming, the gentlest 7’5″ beast in the NBA, managed to pick up a technical after dunking over Eddie Griffin, who seems content to only get off the bench for 5 minutes every five games, allowing him just enough playing time to get dunked on by players like the league’s gentlest giant. Initially it seemed the technical was assessed for something Yao said to E-Grif after the dunk, implying that the refs are actually fluent in multiple languages and able to translate Yao’s Chinese-laden trash talk immediately upon its utterance. I mean, how else is one to explain the T? Ahhh but of course, there’s a different explanation to this. Via ESPN.com, we learn Yao received the rebuke “apparently for hanging too long on the rim.” But since Yao tests the laws of gravity with every single step he takes, somehow lifting a massive 89-inch frame off the ground for even long enough to take an actual step, it’s a modern scientific miracle that he can even dunk on a hoop. Well I’m on to you, refs, and so should you be international NBA players– them refs been practicing their foreignspeak.

– So when I moved into my new apartment with two new housemates/old friends, I suddenly became not the only person in possession of a TV at the locale I refer to as home. To be honest, we’ve actually got a surplus of television sets at the new place, with two TVs practically stacked on top of each other in the TV room and a third sitting idly in our “office.” And just so you don’t have to work too hard imagining such an elaborate arrangement, here are a few captures of our luxurious viewing room, with some help from professional male model J-Ban.

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The best thing about this setup? We’ll often have more than one NBA game on at one time in the evenings, and occasionally a Game Break highlight clip of the Twolves game I’m watching on one TV sceen will play on the other screen via an FSN broadcast of a different locale. Nothing like seeing on one screen a highlight reel of the game you’re actually watching on the other. Ahh yes, NBA League Pass and two TVs: a powerful trifecta if there ever was one. Surprisingly, watching the same game on two screens seems a bit excessive and redundant. Now someone explain that phenomenon to me.

– Lastly, but not in the least bit unimportant, the family has grown: I finally purchased a new pair of sneakers, breaking a year-plus shoe drought which had my whole footwear collection a bit down in the dumps. A confession: when my interest in sneakers first skyrocketed after the purchase of my gorgeous green and pastel-pink Nike Dunk Lows, I told myself that each new pair of sneakers I bought would be my favorite, better than the last. For a while that theory held up, particularly after the purchase of my brown and orange Adidas at that incredible little Adidas store in Cambridge, MA last Thanksgiving. While I don’t mean to be insulting my new Nike Dunk Low CL Jordan Retro 2’s, which are so simply beautiful, beautifully simple if you will, they definitely do not surpass the Tgiving Adidas. (On a side note, is there a more perfect shoe template than the Nike Dunk Lows?) While these shoes certainly satiate my sneaker appetite for the time being, if you think I’m not going to be looking for another all-star pair of shoes during my trip to NYC over New Years, well, you’ve got another thing coming friend. Here’s a picture of my killer new sneaks for your viewing please:

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Notice the fine detail on the shoe, such as my personal favorite touch, the imitation snake-leather design on the side of the shoe that crosses through the swoosh. Additional views (and perhaps more professional shots) can be seen here, here, and here. Needless to say though, I didn’t pay nearly as much as the unbelievable rates those sites have the shoes listed for.

You’ve got something on your face

So the NBA under David Stern is trying to remake its public image, trying to cut down on the thuggishruggishbone perception of the NBA, blah blah blah nothing new there. Some teams (or some coaches, rather) seem to be taking Stern’s directives a bit more seriously than others. Scott Skiles of the Chicago Bulls in particular. A little context first: Skiles is an excellent defensive coach, having coached the Bulls to the best team defense last year, and they’re certainly moving in a similar direction again this season. You would think that the Bulls’ biggest free-agent acquisition and four-time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace, would be all about Skiles’ style then. Funny what losing can do to a team.

Wallace has been a pretty unhappy camper with the Bulls and their 3-9 start (before last night’s victory over the, snicker, Knicks) and the rumors about Skiles and his starting center being at odds have already begun to circulate. So Wallace, never known for being all that reserved, took it upon himself to exercise some civil disobedience, streetball style. Skiles has this rule forbidding any player in a Bulls uni from wearing a headband. So when Wallace decided to openly defy Skiles’ said team ban one night after he played a season-low 20 minutes and recorded no points and no rebounds in a blowout loss to the 76ers, Wallace was pulled only 2 minutes and 2 seconds after tipoff. When Wallace removed the headband with about two and a half minutes left in the first quarter, Skiles promptly re-entered him into the game, and he played for nearly the rest of the half. When Wallace again slyly slipped the headband back on just before the start of the second half, Skiles again immediately benched him, with Skiles again reinserting him back into the lineup within a minute of the removal of the headband for a second time.

And this is where the Skiles-Stern connection comes in. See, David Stern last year decided to eliminate the brandishing of certain superfluous tights and other miscellaneous game equipment, but he has never issued any edicts against headbands. So maybe I’m reading too much into Skiles’ motives here, but how is one supposed to take such a ridiculous rule? Would Skiles have ever pushed for this kind of team rule, say, five years ago, before Stern took it upon himself to whiten up (excuse me, class up) the NBA? The Bulls have no bad reputation to shed like, say, the Portland Trailblazers, so that can’t be it. Some explanation, any explanation would be nice.

The Bulls’ starting point-guard, Kirk Hinrich, had this to say after the game: “We want to make sure everybody is on the same page. Hopefully we will be.” Listen, I’m all about team coordination. If a player on a team ever put on, say, their road jersey for a home game, well, that’s an NBA faux pas to say the least. If Ricky Davis ever decided to break out some yellow shoes to go along with the Wolves true blue-and-green, well let’s not even go there. But Wallace isn’t an idiot, and his red headband even matched the Bulls’ red-and-black home jerseys quite tastefully. Skiles contributed this valuable post-game input on whether he was worried about the growing rift between him and Wallace: “No, I don’t know why. I’m just not.” Something in me just doesn’t want to believe that crap.

Well here’s some commentary on the matter I can believe, the words spoken from Wallace himself: “Man, I don’t care about that. All I know is we got the win.” Wallace is a gamer, he made his point by wearing the headband AND his team still got the win. Of course, nobody knows now how any of this will play out. Maybe Ben Wallace will come out for the next game wearing, like, three headbands and some anklets, and a red-and-black protective facemask just for the hell of it (thank you very much, Rip Hamilton). Either way, I’m pretty certain the days of seeing Ben Wallace let it all hang out (as pictured below) are well over.

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The NBA can be such a prude sometimes.

 

 

 

Bruce Bowen, I’ve got my eyes on you

There was a little bit of a dust-up recently, a bit of a spat between two of the NBA’s top teams, the San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knickeldickels after Isiah Thomas said some mean-spirited things in the general vacinity of one of the Spurs players, which is a pretty big deal. See, a coach addressing a player on an opponent’s roster is generally a no-no. It’s sort of like getting scolded by a friend’s parent when you were little for doing something that was totally ok at your house but not at their’s. Basically, a head coach takes care of their own team and keeps out of the other team’s bidness. So when Isiah Thomas, that peanut of a brain behind the worst-run franchise in the NBA, threatens to break a Spurs player’s neck (maybe he just said foot) amidst a profanity-laden tirade, you know some nasty stuff is probably going down.

The object of Thomas’ fury was of course none other than one of the dirtiest players currently playing the game, Bruce Bowen. Many know Bowen as a perenial All-Defense player who, despite having marginally more talent than your average Greg Buckner, manages to get tons of credit just because he’s played next to one of the best power forwards of all time for almost his entie career (and won some rings in the process). I’m convinced– Bowen has constructed the perfect NBA career. His quiet, workingman’s demeanor has earned him a good guy rep around the league, aided by his penchant for being a total fucking pest on the denfensive end and of course his incredible fortune to have spent the past six seasons in a starting lineup with Tim Duncan. The man was even invited to play for USA Basketball this past spring (nevermind that he was cut from the team by the end of the summer). Under that slick, bald veneer, however, lies a dirty, dirty cheater.

Back to the matters at hand: Isiah Thomas got all in a huff at Bowen because during a recent game, he alledges that Bowen slid his foot underneath Steve Francis while Franchise went up for a jump shot in an effort to take Stevie’s mind off his shot and affect his shot motion. The result? Francis went up for the shot like normal and when gravity acted upon that overhyped, over-the-hill little tweener of a player, causing him to bring all 191 pounds of his tiny frame down on an awkwardly-angled ankle which fell on top of Bowen’s foot, the ankle suffered a sprain and all of a sudden the Knicks are Franchise-less for the next three games (which Isiah Thomas somehow interprets as an actual threat to the Knicks’ chances for success– I know, crazy, right?). Regardless of Francis’ actual worth, when a player suffers a relatively needless injury, it is completely understandable that their head coach feels the need to stand up for them. So when Isiah Thomas thought Bruce Bowen attempted the same foot slide crap as Jamal Crawford went up for a shot in a rematch between the two teams a couple days later, the once-NBA legend went ballistic.

Now, I’m no Isiah Thomas backer. I mean frankly, the man bankrupted the CBA before embarking on two completely inept stints as a GM and coach with the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers, respectively– not to mention the current pathetic state of the Knicks. In short, the man’s just an idiot. But in this case, he helps illuminate a very valuable point: Bruce Bowen is a dirty, dirty cheater.

Nevermind the fact that some of the NBA’s best players, such as Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, and Vince Carter, have made similar accusations in the past. You can even forget the fact that Bowen considers kumite a useful and legal tactic in guarding certain ex-Twolves players. What can’t be ignored is the call Bowen recently got from Stu Jackson, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations (aka the rule police) in which Big Stu asked Bowen to watch yo-self in the future. Yep, that’s right, Bruce Bowen: you’re officially on notice. Now besides Rasheed Wallace, how many NBA players can claim they’ve got Stu Stu on their cell phone’s call log?  I mean, how many of the NBA’s “good guys” even receive warnings like this? For anything they do on the court? (Off court activities are exempt from this particular discussion.) How many players have elicited comments such as this from other head coaches in reference to their on-court defensive tactics:

“I’d beat the — out of somebody,” Thomas said Friday. “Really, I would — murder them. … There’s certain things you don’t do.”

Of course, if you still have any doubt about Bowen by this point, you can just watch the clip for yourself.

You are absolved

Sometimes you just really feel like you know someone really well. Like Elton Brand, for example. I knew there was a reason I picked Elton in the first round (seventh overall pick) of my fantasy league’s draft. I mean the guy’s a winner, plays hard and honest every single night, and averages 20.2/10.4/2.6 and 2 blocks a game. That’s exactly the kind of player one wants anchoring their team. So when Brand started the season a bit on the slow side (to the tune of just 15.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game… ok, the 2.3 blocks per game are still nice), I couldn’t help to be but a little bit down in the dumps, a little despondant, a bit disheartened. But more than anything, I was really just confused. But then, Brand reached out right to me in an effort to make amends, via that tramp of a sportswriter, Sam Smith:

Off to a slow scoring start at about 15 per game after playing for USA Basketball, Elton Brand continued to show his concern for the fans. Said Brand: “I feel bad for the fantasy GMs.”

Well you know what Elton, I certainly wouldn’t fault you for devoting your free time this summer to USA Basketball. No, talking smack about our national team is something that is below this particular writer. Well friend, I just can’t fault you for your performance as of yet this season either. It’s obvious this is eating you up as much as me, and the season is still rather young (unless you’re the Memphis Grizzlies, whose season got old and died sometime in training camp). And really, it’s just nice that we’re both committed to this relationship; that is after all the key to long term success. And Elton? Don’t take things so hard. I mean, you’d think that seeing Sam Cassell almost every day over the next 6+ months would signal to you how comic life can really be.

Things to Watch

Ya know, tonight’s going to be a good night. I can just feel it. It is some variety of holiday, after all, which means there will be lots of cute little kids walking around, all dudded up in their Kevin Federline or Kirstie Alley costumes. And of course, I won’t answer the door for a single one of them because I will choose to spend my time doing much more valuable things, such as watching five straight hours of actual, regular-season NBA games on this, the most hallowed and excellent First Night of the 2006-07 NBA Regular Season.

Lordie, let me tell you, it has been a looooong offseason, as every NBA offseason is a long one. For the most part, the Sports Gods That Be have created a really ingenious annual sports schedule. As we’ve already discussed, the NBA regular season is finally starting tonight. And after the NFL season ends in February, the larger sportsnation focuses entirely on the NBA—which is of course glorious and amazing, and how it should be year-round. But then in the spring, MLB starts back up again, which is all fine and good, and that carries us through the end of the NBA season and through the rest of the summer until the fall, when the NFL season resumes again. Pretty seamless, eh? Well, with the Minnesota Twins’ unexpected and amazingly tragic flameout in the first round of the playoffs, this has officially been the longest and most difficult sports month of the year. I mean, ESPN Classic just doesn’t play enough NBA games, and when they do, they seem to CONSISTENLY SKIP OVER THE TIMBERWOLVES’ 2004 PLAYOFFS RUN. Sorry, as you can see, it’s been a very long October.

With that in mind, there are going to be a couple of things that set this NBA season apart from any other. The NBA usually enacts some sort of small rule changes every season, but this year there’s really some provocative stuff going down. (I should clarify: these alterations allegedly aren’t so much a result of new “rules” as they are of new “emphases” of rules already in existence.) Nevertheless, these new emphases (heheh, feces) could have as much impact on the visual product of the game as last year’s drastic rule changes, the Age Cap and the Dress Code:

1. Zero tolerance on post-whistle foul complaining. Does this picture look familiar to you?

How about this one?

Or this one?

Well you’ll never see anything like them again. In a move that some peoples’ favorite NBA star has compared to a Fidel Castro, dictactor-like move, the NBA is no longer allowing excessive copmlaining from players after being whistled for a foul. David Stern justifies such an emphasis because he thinks this phenomenon is slowing the game down “by engaging in an enterprise that is not productive.” Thankfully, mercifully he adds: “at least in the perception of the fans.” FYI, Mr. Commissioner, googling for those Rasheed Wallace pics is the most productive thing I’ve done all day. I appreciate the altruistic notion, but such an emphasis in the rules seems to directly contrast the inherent appeal of the NBA game.

In case you haven’t noticed, athletes in other sports are often physically obscured by their equipment and elaborate padding or helmets. The NBA on the other hand leaves less to the imagination than any other sport. It is no coincidence then that fans can get closer to players at an NBA game than in any other pro sport. I’ve always thought the NBA’s ability to showcase a player’s individual personality while on the court was a distinct strength, and if putting up with some extra bitching and moaning is the price, so be it. Stern has targeted post-whistle complaining for years, coming up with new and unique ways to punish players for such complaining, which in the past included an elaborate points system and the threat of game suspensions. Now, if a player complains excessively after being whistled, they will be quickly hit with a technical or even a fine. The new ‘Sheed Wallace Rule (name given by Rasheed Wallace) will undoubtedly have a large impact on the immediate visual product of the NBA game.

2. Traveling crackdown. In the NBA, there’s this rule, maybe you’ve heard of it, called traveling. It stipulates that a “player who receives the ball while he is progressing or upon completion of a dribble, may use a two-count rhythm in coming to a stop, passing or shooting the ball.” In the past, the official enforcement of traveling has been rather lax because allowing a player like, oh say, LeBron James an extra step or two can result in some pretty amazing shit. This new emphasis doesn’t necessarily stand opposed to the inherent strengths of the game of basketball like the ‘Sheed Wallace Rule, but if actually enforced it does oppose some tried and true concepts that the NBA has been following for years. Essentially it goes like this: some NBA players are very athletic, and capable of doing very athletic things. When NBA players do athletic things, people want to see it. To see these acts of athleticism, people have to watch the NBA. When people watch the NBA, the popularity of the NBA grows. My personal prediction: even if NBA refs actually start cracking down on traveling this season, in five years or so, once David Stern has deemed that the NBA has watered down its thug image enough, we’ll pretend like we never even knew of such an emphasis. The people just love them some dunking too much.

 

 

“I Live For […] Stuff”

I like basketball. A lot. I will soon be purchasing NBA League Pass with my housemate (which will enable me to watch as many as– well, as many NBA games are being played on any given night) and that makes me happier than some sort of youngish-type, excitable kid in some type of store that may or may not have candy. But really the store does have candy, and actually, there’s a lot of it.

Ah, but times in the NBA, they are a’ changing (as some have been wont to say); actually, the times have already changed. The NBA is currently undergoing some major cosmetic changes, Tara Reid-caliber changes in fact. Unfortunately, for the NBA (well, really for Ms. Reid too—I mean, did you see those pictures?), in the modern-day American, ADD-culture, books are often read quite solely and transparently by their covers, and there’s little more to the NBA game than what its movers and shapers [read: David Stern] intend to be seen on the surface. And on the surface it’s painfully clear that more than in any other major professional sport, the rules and regulations of the NBA are pushing it in a new cultural direction.


Here’s the deal: back in the mid-90s when I first started watching the NBA, back when my hero, Kevin Garnett, became the first player in decades to make The Jump from high school to the pros, back when MJ and the Bulls dominated the league, and back when NBA Jam was the coolest video game ever (ok, maybe it still is), the NBA thrived on an urbanization and playground-ification (named after the playground style of game the NBA sought to emulate) of its game and game culture. Shaq broke backboards, Charles Barkley talked non-stop (and non-sensical) trash, and a punk like JR Rider won an NBA Slam Dunk contest with the aptly-titled “East Bay Funk Dunk.” All that funk paid off: according to an ESPN study in 1996, basketball was twice as popular as football among 12-17 year old(s). The fact that I turned twelve in 1996 is not important (nor is it coincidental); the NBA and American basketball culture was growing. But after the turn of the century it became clear that shit was hitting the fan. American NBA players suddenly couldn’t beat some stumpy scrubs in international play. And in turn Ron Artest and Ben Wallace started beating each other, and then some fans at a game in Detroit (ok, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal and Anthony Johnson were there too), and ever since the NBA has been on a steady but undeniable popularity bender.


These days, when official rule changes occur in most sports leagues, it usually happens for practical reasons, i.e. for the sake of safety (see: the outlawed horse-collar tackle in the NFL), to update a inane aspect of the game (see: the use of the batter’s box in baseball), or because a game just doesn’t work (see: all the crazy, insignificant shit that happened in the NHL before last season). But ever the culturally and commercially-aware commissioner, David Stern (what Bud Selig would be like if he wasn’t a total jackass, or was Jewish [read: not a total jackass]) took rapid measures and made drastic rule changes to subvert the falling image and identity of the NBA. Sure, the NBA has had its share of nit-picky technical changes over the past couple seasons, but as evidenced by last year’s age cap (no more high school players) and dress code (no more anything but “business casual attire” when not on the court), its major institutional changes have all occurred on a cultural level. This blog is devoted to keeping a pulse on the finger of the NBA as it moves forward with its newest changes in an effort to tone down its streets cred and lean back the Lean Back-style of the mid-90s. Oh, and occasionally I’ll probably just talk about the Timberwolves too.