Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kwames of the world, come home

Kwames of the world, come home

The other day, after noticing Lakers coach Phil Jackson's curious habit of referring to Kwame Brown only as "Kwame," I asked if any of my readers had actually met a guy named "Kwame," excluding any forward/centers that dispassionately suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers.

It turns out that nobody has. This didn't stop the readers from sending in several examples of various Kwame, spaced over the years.

The most popular choice was late-80's/early-90s rapper "Kwame," who apparently was tutored by Lionel Hampton, obsessed with polka dots, and dissed by Biggie Smalls. Interesting life. Here's one of his hits, intro'd by the inimitable Ralph McDaniels:

Then there's Kwame Harris, Jamaican-born offensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers. He doesn't have any videos.

Kwame Kilpatrick is the mayor of Detroit, and at 31, the youngest mayor in that city's history. He also apparently likes to party with Nick Lachey, and enjoys being interviewed by annoying weasels with stupid hats:

Bringing some class to the list is former Ghana President Kwame Nkrumah, who was voted Africa's Man of the Millennium in 2000 by the BBC and its listeners.

Rounding out the list is Kwame Brown. Er, make that, Kwame R. Brown. He's a politician.


How nutty is that? This is a man who could have very well dined in the same Chinese restaurant that Kwame "I loves the cake" Brown dined at while his Wizards were in the Verizon Center and fighting the Chicago Bulls in the 2005 playoffs.

So there you have it. Plenty of Kwames, for everyone. And, as always, these are the Daves I know.

Nets and Pacers, going nowhere, talking to each other
This is what happens when people don't listen, and decide that sustaining a run of mediocrity is the best possible way to keep their jobs.

Indiana Pacers boss Larry Bird, after watching his Pacers fall apart in 2004-05 and flame out in 2005-06, should have rebuilt the team in the summer of 2006.

He had Peja Stojakovic's hefty contract coming off his books, he had some assets (Jamaal Tinsley, pre-shootouts, Jermaine O'Neal, then-overrated) that could fetch expiring contracts and young talent, and he had the goodwill of the Pacer fandom, who wouldn't possibly blame him for the melee in Auburn Hills back in 2004, or the string of injuries that resulted.

This time last season, New Jersey Nets Rod Thorn should have looked at his aging Nets, stuck at .500 with little room to grow, and blown the thing up.

Should have dumped Jason Kidd on a desperate team looking to make one last push. Should have sent Vince Carter for a team looking for perimeter scoring and/or an expiring contract. Should have, if no suitors emerged for VC, passed on signing Carter last summer, or explored sign-and-trade options.

Now look at where the Nets are: 18-22, in the midst of a tough Western Conference road swing, and out of the playoffs today in spite of a 67 million dollar payroll. Vince is about to turn 31, Kidd's about to turn 35, and nobody expects much of them.

Now look at where the Pacers are: 19-23 with a 66 million dollar payroll that grows even larger next season, with little room to improve short of blowing everything up, which won't be easy to do now that the bloom is off the Jamaal.

So what do the Nets and Pacers decide to do? Talk about sustaining that near-.500 turn for even longer, making it look like they're working on improving, and potentially sending Jermaine O'Neal to the Nets for Carter, Jamaal Magliore, and Marcus Williams.

I don't know who leaked the deal, or which team (or agent, even) would stand to gain from this move hitting the press, because it confirms our worst fears about both teams: they really don't get it.

The Pacers would add Carter, who plays the same (wing) position as their only trio of talented youngsters (Danny Granger, Shawne Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr.)?

The Nets still think Jermaine O'Neal, career 46 percent shooter, is the team's low-post scoring option of the future? The guy has averaged 55 games a season over the last three, he's played 33 games this year (15 points, seven rebounds, 2.5 blocks) while talking about sitting the rest of the season out ... and he's the answer?

I know it's hard to sell dwindling crowds on the idea of a rebuilding process, but these GMs need to give their fans a little credit.

There's a reason nobody is coming out to see the Pacers, or Nets. And it has little to do with Jamaal Tinsley's glock or Jason Kidd's happy hands: these fans know mediocrity. They know these have little chance of making a championship run, and have no easy chance at rebuilding with youngsters. And they don't want to witness the unraveling of two teams winning 45 percent of their games.

But Bird and Thorn don't want to hear it. Not when there's a Jamaal Magliore to sign. Mags in '08, straight to the top!

Behind the boxscore, where violence is (sometimes) the answer

Here is a picture of Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, wearing a three-button polo shirt with a tie strung through it, slapping his son:

Beyond that, here are the four late games that we didn't cover in yesterday's liveblog.

Los Angeles Lakers 116, Denver 99

The Nuggets took the night off defensively, again, forcing Charles Barkley to comment about how the Nugs can't play defense to save their lives, while leaving others to wonder just why it is that I call Denver a good defensive team.

Pretty simple, really: they're usually awesome on defense, sometimes the Nugs are crap, and things even out.

The team is currently 8th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, giving up about 105 points per 100 possessions in a game. We normalize offensive and defensive stats to 100 possessions to account for pace, because teams like the Nuggets shouldn't be punished with per-game defensive stats merely because they take (and make) a lot of jumpers with 19 seconds left on the shot clock.

The answer here lies in the games that a lot of fans don't see, the contests that aren't on national TV, and they explain why the Nugs are even 8th in the NBA; down from second in defensive efficiency earlier in the season. The Celtics lead the NBA in giving up 97.2 points per 100 possessions, but Boston is a pretty freaky exception, so compare Denver's D to the more down-to-earth Rockets; who are second in allowing 103.5 points per 100.

Look at these defensive gems from Denver:

*January 6th, giving up 97 per 100 against Philadelphia.
*January 3rd, 86.5 per 100 against San Antonio.
*November 4th, 94 per 100 against New Orleans.
*January 17th, 104 per 100 against Utah.
*December 2nd, 87.3 per 100 against Miami.
*December 30th, 101 per 100 against Golden State.
*November 20th, 88 per 100 against Chicago.
*November 9th, 92 per 100 against Washington.
*November 17th, 90 per 100 against New York.
*November 23rd, 84 points per 100 against Minnesota.
*December 20th, 97.4 points per 100 against Houston.
*October 31st, 94.5 points per 100 against Seattle.

That's a whole host of games that counter the times when they completely drop the ball, like when Denver allowed 118 points per 100 against the Lakers last night.

This is easily the most inconsistent defensive team in the NBA. It's not even close. They go from dominant, to downright sieve-like.

On the Laker end, it was a great night for this rascally batch of millionaires. Kobe Bryant was obviously having the time of his life last night, Derek Fisher was on (as usually happens when he puts arc on his shots), and the youngsters keep getting better and better.

One play, with five minutes left to go in the game, stood out for me. The Nuggets had put in Yakhouba Diawara to frustrate Kobe, get physical with him and chase Bryant off the post. And Kobe was a little unnerved with Diawara's D, complaining to the refs and staying away from the ball for a few possessions.

And yet, with five minutes to go, Bryant had Diawara caught, the Nugget defender was overplaying, and the stage was set for Kobe to swing both ways and stick a fadeaway jumper in his face.

Instead, Kobe picked up his dribble, and threw an entry pass into cutting Laker forward Ronny Turiaf. That's big. That's that "trust" word that Reggie Miller kept annoying you with last night. Turiaf missed, and Kobe didn't seem to care. The Lakers won't be sliding too much in Andrew Bynum's absence.

Cleveland 96, Miami 90

This was a surprisingly entertaining one, Miami's more or less toast at this point, but Dwyane Wade is playing some Dwyane Wade'ish basketball, and Heat center Mark Blount shocked NBA junkies by contributing eight points and six (!) rebounds in 20 minutes last night.

Wade was great, he was able to get to the rim whenever he wanted, and dropped 30 points in the second half alone. His Cavalier counterpart, LeBron James, wasn't as hot (11-26 shooting, five assists, five turnovers and only three rebounds), but he also missed a series of chippies in the lane that he usually finishes. Cleveland's rebounders did the trick in the fourth quarter, tipping in a batch of misses as the Cavs hung on.

We'll have more on Miami later today.

Orlando 102, Detroit 100

We only saw the fourth quarter of this, liveblogger's gotta eat, and Detroit hacked way too much in that final frame. Orlando hung in there by getting to the line in the quarter, overcoming 12 turnovers from its starters, before putting the Pistons away on a banked-in Rashard Lewis leaner at the buzzer.

Memphis 104, Chicago 90

I don't like taking credit away from the Grizzlies, they played a nice game, but Chicago wanted nothing to do with this one.

Flush with their defeat of the Pistons on Saturday, the Bulls matched insipid shot selection with a pathetic showing on defense (the Bulls are now 15th in defensive efficiency on the season, down from numero uno in 2006-07) to lose to a rebuilding team.

The Knicks are smarter than you, and they'd like you to leave
More nastiness from MSG, where some security goons (I'm sure they're nice guys initially, but they turn into "goons" when they decide to work for James Dolan) went all out during the Celtics/Knicks tilt on Monday in their approach to rid the Garden of anyone who dared heckle Jared Jeffries.

(Jared Jeffries, if you don't know, is the guy that Isiah Thomas gave his mid-level exception - five years, 30 million bucks -- to back in 2006. He's an average, if overrated, defender who averaged just nine points and seven rebounds in a pro-rated 36 minutes of action the year before coming to New York, while shooting 59 percent from the free throw line. His horrible stats this season are right in line with what he was doing in Washington before Isiah signed him. Not a great basketball player.)

Newsday's Ken Berger was among several sportswriters who were off the press table yesterday, waiting to interview several New York Giants players who deigned to watch the Knicks lose another one, when this went down:

"As we headed back toward the tunnel to continue watching the game, two other reporters and I noticed security guards arguing with a fan in a Yankees cap. The fan evidently was being ejected for unruly behavior and was quite vocal in proclaiming that all he said was, "Get Jeffries off the court."

A couple of ushers began escorting the man toward the exit, and we reporters followed, hoping to do what reporters do - interview a member of the public.

Several ushers began shouting at us to stop, telling us we weren't allowed back there. (Even though we were in an area where celebrity interviews are conducted all the time during Knicks games.) Ozzie Jones of Brooklyn - hardly a celebrity - was about 50 yards away but was able to shout his cell phone number to one of the writers despite the best efforts of the Garden gulag to shout over him."

Berger goes on to write what we all assume, that the security guards in question are just doing as instructed, and that it can't be easy to have to throw a code red-level security force at every guy from Brooklyn that doesn't like Isiah Thomas' rotation choices.

Meanwhile, James Dolan is a delusional, egomaniacal twit if he thinks that these heavy-handed tactics aren't going to leak out to the press, eventually.

Oh, wait. James Dolan is a delusional, egomaniacal twit. I forgot. My bad. �

The 10-man rotation, starring Yao Ming's rediscovered passing touch
A look around the league and the web that covers it. It's also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren't always listed in order of importance. That's for you, dear reader, to figure out.

C: The X's and O's of Basketball. "The Year of the Yao" is on IFC right now, and I'm being reminded of just how nice a passer Yao Ming was before Jeff Van Gundy entered his life. Now, Ming's passing skills may have been overrated (Bill Simmons once called him "the next Bill Walton" to Amare Stoudemire's Moses Malone), but it is nice to see him passing a bit more (even if the assists don't follow) in 2007-08. The minds behind the X's and O's of Basketball have the breakdown, and it's worth your time. Hat-tip to Ben Couch at NBA.com.
PF: NBA.com. Sticking at the NBA's ever-growing official site, we present a sterling (if week-old) breakdown of just how the Portland Trail Blazers turned it all around.
SF: Hardwood Paroxysm. 20 players that need new homes, RFN.
SG: The Rake. Britt Robson returns with thoughts on the last three Timberwolves games, only two of which were losses! Henry Abbott already quoted my favorite passage, but it's worth another look: "During the telecast, Wolves color commentator Jim Petersen said that over the past six weeks [Ryan] Gomes has been Minnesota's second-best player. Okay, sure, but for the last month, since December 21, he's been the best player, period, on the team: Nearly as valuable as Al Jefferson in terms of offensive flow and synergy, and better on defense."
PG: Str8hoops: Dozens of nicknames for dozens of NBA players. Some of which, I'd never heard of before. It's because they were just created, for the sake of this list.
6th: LA Daily News. The Greatly Anticipated and Hopefully Impending Sam Cassell Trade Or Buyout seems more and more or less and less likely by the day, depending on who you ask. I'm still thinking buyout before trade, mainly because it will be hard to find a matching expiring contract to send Los Angeles' way.
7th: Newark Star-Ledger. Dave D'Alessandro is talking trades.
8th: Thank You Isiah. While one poster has had it with the Bulls, another has had it with the people covering the Bulls.
9th: From Deep. Michael Grange talks about Martin Luther King Jr. with Raptors coach Sam Mitchell.
10th: RealGM.com. The Official Draw Things On Ben Wallace Thread.

YouTube of the day: Kobe's bucket

Kobe Bryant enjoyed one of his most satisfying games of the season against the Nuggets on Monday night, and in describing his outlook on the Laker win to Cheryl Miller post-game, he used a curious phrase.

That's right. "Passion bucket."

Now, a quick Google search reveals that it was some odd phrase that UCLA college football coach Rick Neuheisel created while guesting on the Dan Patrick show, and where it goes from here is anyone's guess.

Honestly, I wouldn't mind the phrase dying a quick death, but that's mainly because my passion bucket isn't overflowing for passion buckets in general.�

YouTube of the day: and today's word is "fined"

I love this older Nike commercial, featuring David Robinson and Charles Barkley, and produced at a time when society as a whole tended to have a much better sense of humor about ... well, everything. After all, Wings was at its peak back then. �

I think any regular viewers of TNT's Inside the NBA would agree with Robinson's last statement. Burn.

Robinson's toy boats are the coolest. After all, he's "The Admiral," so he's got to spend his time sitting around a tin washtub playing with little aircraft carriers.

Dunk contest participants announced, we give it an "8"

The names have been announced, none of them were very surprising; and while we're stopping short of calling the list uninspiring, the best the NBA can say is that it didn't make any obvious mistakes.

Ladies and gentleman, your 2008 Slam Dunk Contest participants are,

Gerald Green,

Jamario Moon,

Dwight Howard,

and Rudy Gay.

There's no doubt that these guys can jump, they probably own the best one and two-foot hops in the game, but as it's been since the dunk contest's re-inception in February of 2000, we're worried about the creative element in play. That is to say, "all the good dunks have been used up, what are these kids going to bring?"

And, to be fair, the "creative element" hasn't really done much for dunk contest voters over the last few years. The most creative dunks of the last few years -- Amare Stoudemire's exploits with Steve Nash, Andre Iguodala's lob off the back of the backboard (the frontboard?), and Dwight Howard's sticker dunk from last year - have all come in losing efforts.

So put me down as someone who is willing to be surprised. I think Dwight Howard wants this thing, I think Jamario Moon may have been a little overrated, I think Gerald Green will mope when things don't go his way, and I think Rudy Gay is the best dunker in the game.

Now it's on you: who has the upper hand, going in? Who wins this thing?

Message board madness: Juwan Howard doesn't do pictures

Maybe this is too obscure, I know it's pretty lame, but it cracks me up.

Juwan Howard, journeyman power forward with the smooth turnaround jumper, doesn't want to smoothly turn around and let you take his picture.

(Somehow, I just made this even lamer.)

Anyway, head over to ClutchFans.net, a Houston Rockets site and message board, for this wonderful thread.

In it, you'll find some nice lighting, an undersized power forward, a happy man in a brown shirt with his hands in his pockets, the back of Erick Dampier's head, and a wide array of single malts.

Somewhere, and this is just a guess, Teddy Pendergrass was playing.

That's more of a hope than a guess; but girl, I hope that someday, we can all hope together.�


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