Heard It Through the All-Star Grapevine

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 16, 2009 under xOther | 2 Comments to Read

  • All-Star Weekend?  Powerful weak.  Sunday’s game had a few nice moments, but it didn’t do enough to make up for the fact that Saturday was disappointment after disappointment.  Bah humbug.
  • One draft analysis that doesn’t reflect well on the Mavs’ draft ‘success.’
  • Last year’s Lakers were a solid team even before the Gasol trade.  Just how solid, you ask?  Try Mavericks solid.  From Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “The Mavs owner’s references were so specific, it caused me to reflect back: What was the Lakers’ situation a year ago? They were 28-16, a dozen games over .500. Not world-beaters, but good. Andrew Byrum had just gone down. There was talk of ‘Kobe’s window,’ of Bryant wanting the Lakers to do something dramatic “or else’’ … well, ‘or else’ there’d be another offseason of ‘or else.’ Which all sounds rather familiar to fans of the February 2009 Mavs. Then what happened? They took advantage of a budget-minded loser, the Grizzlies, and they acquired Gasol. Then what happened? They won the West and made it to the NBA Finals.”  Don’t get too excited, Mavs fans.  The win-loss records are comparable, but the point differential is not.  Not even close.
  • Kevin Arnovitz followed up on the roundtable’s ideas for All-Star reform.  Also – Kevin asked a smorgasbord of player types about their ‘nightmare defender.’  Who does Dirk Nowitzki hate to see matching up against him?  “There are a lot of good defenders in this league, but Shawn Marion.  He’s quick, he’s strong, he’s long enough to put real pressure on you.”
  • Dirk Nowitzki: force of nature (Not exactly an earthquake.  Maybe a lunar cycle?) and climbing the ranks of the elite power forwards.
  • The Mavs’ inconsistency has made us all cry.  That said, they’re within striking distance in a very competitive conference, and seem closer than ever to finally getting things together.  Let’s hope it’s not another mirage.  From Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: “Plus, knowing the Western Conference standings are so jumbled means the Mavericks are one decent winning streak from being in the driver’s seat for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. ‘I think if you look at the West, it’s wide-open,’ Nowitzki said. ‘Obviously, the Lakers look really good. Even with [Andrew] Bynum out, they’re going to be the favorites…But other than that, every team can beat everybody. That’s how tight it is. If we can just get Jet [Terry] back after the break sometime, and if our defense is solid, I think we can give everybody trouble.’”
  • Tim Cowlishaw still likes the Harris deal, doesn’t think the Mavs are in a bad place but thinks they should panic and trade for Shaq, doesn’t think said trade would be impactful enough to help them challenge the Lakers, and also recommends that the team trade for another player like Mike Miller or Stephen Jackson.  Yeah.
  • The Old People have made a 2009 installment of their All-Star raps in the spirit of this 1989 classic (found via FreeDarko).  It’s wicked cyber awesome.  For a taste, here’s Dirk: “Who’s the power forward who makes your heart go thump?/Who is it that said White men cant jump?/They were wrong, and Dirk is living proof/The man is a magician, watch him disappear, Poof!/Leaving nothing but a cloud of dust, and the ball in his clutches/Feet so fast MC Hammer can’t touch this/Basket after basket after basket after basket after basket/Dirk’s game is drastic/Father of the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation/Fighting poverty in third world nations/Like an All-Star.”

Heard It Through the Grapevine 2-4-09

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 4, 2009 under xOther | Be the First to Comment

  • We’ve talked about this so many times before, but these last few games really could be a turning point for the Mavericks’ season.  For realz this time.  The timing couldn’t be better; you want to start playing good basketball right around the All-Star break, giving the team plenty of time to run with it, figure things out, and gel.  Of course the converse could also be true, and this could just be a three-game dream before the team falls flat on its face again.  Jason Terry sums up the situation nicely, via David Moore of the Dallas Morning News: ” ‘You can do something and respond and go out there and play your butt off, or you can sit back on the bench and complain,’ Terry said. ‘If you’re going to sit on the bench and complain, we’re going to leave you right on the bench. ‘We’re halfway through the season. There ain’t no turning back and thinking about what could have been. We have to play well and we have to play well now.’ “
  • This article seems to suggest that Darrell Armstrong’s hiring was almost a direct result of the Celtics blowout.  Huh.  I always figured that D.A. joining up to coach the Mavs was inevitable, and didn’t really think twice about it at the time; since his days as a Maverick the rhetoric and anecdotes always talked about his leadership and informal coaching role.  It’s hard to isolate one thing that’s cause the Mavs to win three in a row, but Armstrong’s presence shouldn’t be ignored.  He knows most of this team and he knows their tendencies.  He’s a great motivator, and, at the least, he’s given the team a breath of fresh air.
  • This is old news by now, but after yesterday’s round table on All-Star Weekend reform, I thought it merited a follow-up: TNT will host a HORSE competition as a supplement to the weekend’s festivities.  Choose your competitors wisely, TNT.  If this thing blows up, we’ll never see it again.
  • For perhaps the first time in this middle-aged season, the Mavericks have some legitimate hope.  It’s a lot to say after a three game stretch, but I’m feeling it.  They’ve had plenty of bittersweet wins and so many in-game implosions.  For three games, the Mavs haven’t just been good, they’ve been dominant.  The shots are falling, everybody’s cutting to the basket, and defense is more than just a word on the whiteboard.  I’m cranking up the overreactionizer, and I’m putting it out there: things have changed.  And now, a slightly related quote from Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “But writing them off at any time during the first 47 games of the season makes no sense — not with 35 games still left. And look at what’s happened — Andrew Bynum out 8-12 weeks in Los Angeles with a knee injury and Chris Paul day-to-day with a groin injury. The opportunity is there for the Mavericks, and so are the challenges. They have back-to-back games against playoff-level teams beginning tonight in Dallas against the Blazers and then in Utah on Thursday. Right now, you could argue that the Mavericks are playing their best basketball of the year. Then again, if we’re being consistent, it’s only a small part of a long season. There is much more to prove.”
  • Don’t look now, but Dave Berri and the Wages of Wins crew have Jason Kidd ranked at 5th in the league in Wins Produced.  The next Maverick on the list is Erick Dampier, at 38, and Dirk, at 44.
  • A few days old, but worth a read — Stephen A. Smith defends the rumors of Chris Bosh’s discontent on his blog.  Chris Bosh has denied Stephen A.’s report, but I’m not sure he had another option.  No way to know for sure exactly what was said or wasn’t said behind closed doors, and it could be a long time before the truth comes to light.  So everybody, let’s put down our torches and pitchforks.
  • New York Knicks GM Donnie Walsh would like to take this time to remind you that nabbing a big 2010 free agent isn’t exactly a walk in the park, even for the best market in the country.  From Howard Beck of The New York Times: ” “Their own teams still have the advantages,” [Walsh] said. “It’s not an easy deal two years from now to just say, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s go get one of these guys.’ ” “

Scorer’s Table: All-Star Reform

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 3, 2009 under Commentary, xOther | 19 Comments to Read

One of the greatest advantages in getting so many basketball minds in one place with the TrueHoop Network is…well, getting so many basketball minds in one place.  It would be a shame not to take full advantage of the network’s capabilities, and so we had a round table of sorts to discuss potential All-Star Game reform.

Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: All-Star Weekend has been ‘broken’ for a long time.  The voting has become suspect, the dunk contest is driven by toys and ploys, and the game itself, while it has never really valued substance over spectacle, has devolved into botched alley-oop attempts and centers launching threes.  If that’s your cup of disgusting, decades-old tea, then awesome.  If not: trust me, you’re not alone.

First, let’s talk voting.  They say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  But if the system already picked Allen Iverson over more qualified guards, and was on the verge of voting Tracy McGrady over Chris Paul, Bruce Bowen over Amar’e Stoudemire or Dirk Nowitzki, and Yi Jianlian over Kevin Garnett, I’d say it’s as close to “broke” as I’d like to get.  We all understand the problems, but what’s the solution?

John Krolik, Cavs the Blog: Make the process a little more Hobbesian. My idea: Take positions off the ballot, top-3 vote getters are guaranteed starting spots at their respective positions or as close as possible, and coaches decide the rest. This pretty much keeps the ridiculous picks like T-Mac, AI, or Yi from having a shot and allows the coaches to reserve the right to prevent a ridiculous starter snub for a guy like CP3 without secret intervention being necessary. It’s not perfect, but better than the current system. (Although I love that everyone thinks a situation with Chinese people voting is a disaster and needs to be stopped. How offensive is that?)

Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Love the idea, and I’ve got another: what if the players themselves voted to decide the starters?  I know it’s a game for the fans, but wouldn’t the players have the most insight into who does the most amazing things on the court, who makes the game fun, and who truly deserves it?  Of course it opens up an entirely new can of worms in bringing player politics into the equation, but maybe that’s half the fun.  Every player on a team roster as of “Voting Day” fills out a ballot for the starting five of each conference, with no nominations or predetermined options.  The possible deception and teammate betrayal are just an added bonus to what could shake up to be an interesting selection process.

For now the fans of the league are deluded into thinking they’re holding the real power, and that perception helps out the league image.  So don’t count on any significant change coming soon.

The Slam Dunk Contest is the primary evidence pointing to the ASW’s decline, and something needs to be done.  Dwight Howard’s getting everyone excited, but are a bunch of neat parlor tricks really what this event needs to spark a renaissance?  What else do you guys have in mind for the future of the Dunk Contest?

Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company: I think a high dunk competition would be great.  Keep raising the rim higher and higher and see who the last man standing is.  You could set up different groups such as 6’4″ and under, 6’4″ to 6’10″ and 6’10″ and above.

Wouldn’t you want to see if Yao Ming can dunk on a rim as high as Dwight Howard can or if Derrick Rose can throw down on a rim higher than Dwyane Wade?  You could also have the winners between the three groups battle it out.  How riveted would you be if LeBron James and Dwight Howard were going into the finals of the high dunk competition after both of them won their divisions by ramming one home on a 12 foot rim?

John Krolik, Cavs the Blog: This one is more a tweak and might already be what’s happening, but have the league tap a few guys who might be dunk contest guys, have the execs go back in like a month and see what the guys have come up with, then narrow it down from like the 10 guys they originally chose based on practice scuttlebutt to the 4 contestants. I don’t care about getting big names, I just want awesome dunks. And no more fan voting. I voted for Rudy because he was way cooler in the ad than the other two guys, and then I learn Joe Alexander promised to do two never-seen before dunks WITHOUT ANY PROPS. Not only would that have been great to see, but he would have instantly become “No-Prop Joe” on my website forever. Again, down with democracy.

M. Haubs, The Painted Area: One enduring difficulty with the dunk contest currently is that, at this point, it’s hard to top the dunks of the past. To alleviate that pressure, alternate between the “Artistic” competition and the “High Dunk” competition (very much agree that this would be fun) on an annual basis.  I think the every-other-year scarcity would help make both competitions more special.

To reform the “Artistic” competition itself, turn it into more of a figure-skating model (let me explain, please), where the competitors get a certain time period – 2 minutes or 4 minutes or whatever – to put together a program of dunks.

This encourages spectacular attempts because a single miss would be less penalized (and boring makes would be less useful), yet you couldn’t just miss 72 times and still win the competition like Nate Robinson.  Not sure if it should be one round or two rounds, just go from there. I think that bumping the prize money way up to $1M or so would boost interest, as well.

Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: I think for this year, I’d settle for Rudy Gay not being a major buzz-kill.  But I guess disappointment really is in the spirit of the weekend, whether it’s who blew the dunk contest, who got left off the All-Star rosters…or this year, who’s on the outside looking in on the Rookie Challenge.  Kevin Love’s got his jock strap in a bunch over the whole ordeal (and rightfully so), but why?  The game is promoted as a “rivalry,” and I love fast breaks as much as the next guy, but in truth I’ve never seen a Rookie-Sophomore game that really tickled my fancy.  The game is somewhat limited by its own arbitrary purpose; the sophomores are almost always going to win, unless they’re faced with a vastly superior draft class, in which they still sometimes win.  Yay.  Still, the event seems salvageable.  Maybe in another life or another form, but there is some redeeming value in the idea of a rookie event.  So where do we go from here?

Dan Feldman, Piston Powered: Get rid of the sophomores. Would you rather see Kevin Durant and Co. beat up up on some first-year players or get a chance to see Kevin Love, Marreese Speights, Eric Gordon, Mario Chalmers and Joe Alexander in extended action?

Mike Kurylo, Knickerblogger: I’d like to see the freshmen play the NBDL All Stars. It’s become apparent that the NBDL is a viable source of NBA level talent. I think this would be a competitive game, since each has something valuable to play for. The D-Leaguers will be fighting to show that they belong in the league, and they may have an extra chip on their shoulder playing millionaire rookies.

M. Haubs, The Painted Area: Wow, Rookie vs. D-League is a fantastic idea.  Absolutely no downside.  Huge increase in the game’s intensity.

Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Seems like a great way to turn nothing into something, and it’s a wonderful idea to integrate the under-appreciated D-Leaguers.

I refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Shooting Stars competition, so just about the only area due for a revamp is the Skills Challenge.  Although unlike the Rookie-Sophomore Game, I’m not entirely sure that the Skills Challenge has some kind of underlying purpose (“OMG, which point guard can run around cones the fastest and make a lay-up?!”).  Just for fun, though, what should be done to breathe life into the young event that has, quite tragically, already worn out its welcome?

Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company: I would like to see players other than guards participate in the skills challenge.  How fun would it be to watch Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge and Lamar Odom battle it out?  There could also be a big man division with players like Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Nene, Amare Stoudemire, Pau Gasol and Marcus Camby.

The last change to the competition format would be a pentathlon. There could be a skills challenge, three point shootout, trick shot shootout, race four lengths of the court with a basketball and then maybe the Mikan Drill (60 seconds to make as many layups as you can alternating hands with each shot).  Whoever wins would be given the title of The Most Complete Player in the NBA or Most Versatile Player in the NBA.  A financial bonus is this could be held at a second venue resulting in more ticket sales.

John Krolik, Cavs the Blog: The invitees will be Gerald Wallace, Anthony Randolph, Josh Smith, and Julian Wright. Set up challenges set to their talents. Watch as universe itself melts.

M. Haubs, The Painted Area: A “Fastest With the Ball” Competition – I think this is a huge improvement over the current Skills Competition in part because the time record would be much more tangible, and something that young fans could conceivably do to see how they compare to the pros. 3 heats of 3 players apiece – top 3 advance to the final.

Also love the idea of including big men – could have separate competitions by height: 6-4 and under, 6-5 to 6-9, and 6-10 and above.  Tell me you wouldn’t have wanted to see Shaq, Hakeem and the Admiral compete in this one in their primes.

Rob Mahoney, The Two Man Game: Personally, I’m ready to watch the universe melt.  John’s idea would absolutely rock my world and could produce some of the most entertaining, randomly derived events (Could they block two shots at the same time?  Who could steal it from Chris Paul first?  If all players were given a ball and a finite space, who would be the last man standing with an active dribble?  Could they block a shot launched out of a machine like a clay pigeon?).

At that point, though, the Skills Challenge would be the Skills Challenge in name only.  In essence, it’s an entirely new event.  So what else ya got?  What other events is All-Star Weekend lacking/what’s a new event that would be infinitely watchable and intriguing?  Or, taking it a step further, what is any new idea that you’d like to see the league take on for the Weekend?

Matt McHale, By the Horns: I like the idea of a pickup game where guys shoot up for teams (three-pointers instead of free throws, I’m thinking) and then letting them go at it. Not for the main event, but for a day-before distraction. Maybe do only 3-on-3 or 2-on-2 and have a mini-tournament with games to 9 (by 1s and 2s).

I think Bill Simmons has suggested games of H-O-R-S-E and (I think it was him) one-on-one. Basically, more opportunities for the All-Stars to compete and interact outside of the game itself, but not in unnatural ways like the skills competition, which doesn’t include all the players anyway.

John Krolik, Cavs the Blog: One-on-One and HORSE are no-brainers. Give LBJ and Kobe like 3 million each. It’d be worth it. CP3 vs. Deron, Amare vs. KG, easy.

M. Haubs, The Painted Area: I think that H-O-R-S-E and 1-on-1 might be more tedious in reality than they might seem.

A Halfcourt Challenge: As described by Bill Simmons a few years ago: “Two teammate have two minutes to make as many half-court shots as possible. None of them can launch one until the previous shot has hit the rim. Highest total wins.”

Brett LaGree, Hoopinion: Half-court shot contest. Each All-Star gets 1 entry. He can either shoot himself or back someone to shoot on his behalf. Massive amounts of gambling ensue.

Anything that really achieves that last step would make for better viewing than a judged competition.

Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: 100% on board with that last notion.

Here’s an idea I wrote about some time ago:

“Strap a cordless microphone on every player, start each player with $20,000 cash, and let them make whatever bets they want with each other. $5,000 I can hit a half-court shot before you. $10k says the judges will like my tomahawk jam more than yours. $20,000 says I can shoot 50% from the free throw line blind-folded. That kind of thing. To keep everyone from talking at once, I guess they should be paired up, which would require some kind of elimination tournament. If they had this, it would be the must-see event of All-Star weekend. It’s like poker meets basketball.”

Dan Feldman, Piston Powered: An old-timer’s game. I’m not talking about a bunch of guys standing out of the way so Julius Erving can try to dunk. I want to see some guys who aren’t that far from their retirement and are still competitive enough to want to win.  This may mean former All-Stars like Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Karl Malone, Dennis Rodman, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwan, Glen Rice, Scottie Pippen, Rik Smits, Antoine Walker, Mitch Richmond, Nick Van Exel, Terrell Brandon  or Alonzo Mourning. Or this might mean role players who are still in shape, like P.J. Brown, Robert Horry, Kevin Willis, Toni Kukoc, Jon Barry or Clifford Robinson. A good mix of the two groups would provide the best game.

Also, a Two-on-two tournament between players from each state and country (that has two player represented in the NBA). Games would be short, probably to seven. This could bring some March Madness-type Cinderella stories to the weekend. And think of the potential for jersey sales. Here’s a look at what teams might look like:

Alabama: Ben Wallace and Gerald Wallace
Alaska: Carlos Boozer and Mario Chalmers
Arkansas: Joe Johnson and Derek Fisher
California: Ray Allen and Tayshaun Prince
Connecticut: Ryan Gomes and Marcus Camby
Delaware: Joey Graham and Steven Graham
Washington D.C.: Delonte West and Kevin Durant
Florida: Amar’e Stoudemire and Vince Carter
Georgia: Dwight Howard and Josh Smith
Illinois: Dwyaye Wade and Andre Iguodala
Indiana: Greg Oden and Zach Randolph
Iowa: Nick Collison and Patrick O’Bryant
Kansas: Earl Watson and Maurice Evans
Kentucky: Rajon Rondo and Greg Buckner
Louisiana: Danny Granger and Paul Millsap
Maryland: Jeff Green and Rudy Gay
Massachusetts: Demetris Nichols and Courtney Sims
Michigan: Jason Richardson and Kenyon Martin
Minnesota: Joel Przybilla and Devean George
Mississippi: Al Jefferson and Mo Williams
Missouri: David Lee and Larry Hughes
Nevada: C.J. Watson and Ricky Davis
New Jersey: Shaquille O’Neal and David West
New York: Carmelo Anthony and Elton Brand
North Carolina: Chris Paul and Josh Howard
Ohio: Lebron James and Kevin Martin
Oklahoma: Shelden Williams and Jake Voskuhl
Oregon: Ronnie Brewer and Ime Udoka
Pennsylvania: Kobe Bryant and Jameer Nelson
South Carolina: Kevin Garnett and Raymond Felton
Tennessee: Brandan Wright and J.J. Redick
Texas: Chris Bosh and LaMarcus Aldridge
Virginia: Allen Iverson and Keith Bogans
Washington: Brandon Roy and Rodney Stuckey
West Virginia: O.J. Mayo and Deron Williams
Wisconsin: Caron Butler and Devin Harris
Argentina: Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola
Brazil: Nene and Anderson Varejao
Canada: Steve Nash and Samuel Dalembert
China: Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Dikembe Mutumbo and Didier Ilunga-Mbenga
Dominican Republic: Fransisco Garcia and Al Horford
France: Tony Parker and Boris Diaw
Germany: Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman
Italy: Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Gallinari
Lithuania: Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Linas Kleiza
Netherlands: Dan Gadzuric and Fransisco Elson
Nigeria: Emeka Okafor and Ime Udoka
Puerto Rico: Carlos Arroyo and Jose Barea
Senegal: DeSagana Diop and Cheick Samb
Serbia: Peja Stojakavic and Aleksandar Pavlovic
Slovenia: Rasho Nesterovic and Beno Udrih
Spain: Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon
Turkey: Mehmet Okur and Hedo Turkoglu
Ukraine: Kyrylo Fesenko and Oleksiy Pecherov
United Kingdom: Ben Gordon and Luol Deng
Virgin Islands: Raja Bell and Tim Duncan

Royce Young, Daily Thunder: Back in P.E. we always played two basketball games that were lots of fun. One was called three-peat which was basically a team three-point contest and the other was Gotcha! I think NBA stars playing Gotcha! could potentially be the most entertaining television known to man. (Ed. Note: in my experience, this game has always been called “Knockout.”)

If you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: Players line up at the free throw (or three-point) line. There’s two balls. First guy shoots. Then second guy shoots. If the first guy misses, he runs after his rebound and gets as many tries to make it as he can. But if the second guy puts it in before him, the first guy is out. But say the first guy swishes his shot, he runs and grabs his rebound and passes it to the third guy in line who has the chance to get the second guy. The worst explanation ever for a game? Probably. But maybe you get the point.

I think this would be incredible to watch. I think you need to put the NBA guys at the three though. But imagine Kobe, LeBron, CP3, Dwight Howard, Shaq and whoever else doing this. I remember how much pressure you felt when you missed your shot because you just knew the guy behind you was going to sink his. And then you get crafty doing things like throwing your ball at the other guys in order to keep him from scoring and so on. I could just see NBA guys having a ton of fun with this. And heck, if the current NBA guys wouldn’t do it, how about old-
timers? That would be good too.

Tim Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell: This would be more fun if we did it when we got together. The pros don’t miss. No one is chasing their ball to the corner.

I’d like the league to announce the nominees for some of the end of the year awards (i.e. MVP, Defensive Player, 6th Man, Rookie of the Year) in a big, glitzy Oscar Ball kinda way. That is, bring out a couple celebrities, arm in arm, to announce the nominees for the various awards. 5 nominees per category.

Why? Well, it also helps to add celebrity appeal. But my hope is further reaching. By announcing “races” in each category, one would hope some of the players would take pride in winning–motivating their play in the back half of the season–and, more importantly, it would create a lot of conversation and debate between folks like us.

Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company: The last reform I would implement is that all hands be on deck.  If you played in your team’s last game before the break, you are required to participate in at least one event should you be asked to do so by the league.