Monthly Archives: November 2010

“Maybe” He’s Right

Not too long ago, LeBron James and the Nike advertising machine rolled out the commercial “Rise” for the release of the Air Zoom LeBron 8. That commercial has now become infamous and you have no doubt seen it. I wrote two articles about “Rise” as a way to respond to it on different levels and just to get any and all reaction out of my body after the events of the summer.

“Rise” garnered all sorts of attention when it was released. The city of Cleveland even made a scathing, if not pathetic and feeble, retort to this commercial. The citizens of Miami certainly loved the commercial. Just not enough to actually go to the games.

Since James is a Nike contract player, the following ad, which appears to be a direct response to “Rise,” is all the more intriguing. Jordan Brand, a subsidiary of Nike, has released a commercial a few years ago featuring its namesake athlete  in a spot that is very  reminiscent of “Rise.” The commercial is titled “Maybe.”

It is interesting that Nike would have two ads which are so similar to each other especially when one takes a completely contradictory tone of the other. Maybe Michael Jordan is cocky and arrogant. Having watched his Hall of Fame induction speech it is easy to conclude that he is far from humble. Yet, this commercial resonates more today than it did when it was released. It, like Jordan himself, has a timeless nature about it. It speaks volumes about character, which some accuse James of having little of. What it really speaks of is motivation to better one’s self.

WE crowned him long ago

The past few days have seen James introduce his own logo under the Nike flag in a further attempt to become a brand. What does his brand stand for though? His career has no underlying definition. He is simply a good player (one of the best in the league no less), but not the greatest player to walk the Earth. His brand stands for consumerism, as most do, but it is different. It is more hollow than most.

Jordan Brand had the slogan “Be Like Mike.” Why did kids want to be like him? Because Jordan was doubted, shunned, cut, dealt with gambling issues, and emotionally scarred during his life. Basketball was not his silver spoon. He worked hard for everything that he achieved. He quit the sport to pursue a dream of his and his father’s only to return to the game even better than before because he worked even harder. James on the other hand is seen fraternizing with Jay-Z and spending time in Las Vegas miming jump shots as he walks through casinos. This is hardly dedication to a craft.

Are they both arrogant? Yes. However, one has earned the right to hold himself above his peers because he worked every minute for what he wanted. James still has a long career ahead of him (we should hope). This entire article could prove to be a moot point at some point in the future if tides turn. For them to turn would mean a dramatic shift in the character and motivation of James. He is not one of us. He has embraced his celebrity all too wholly and made the fans the other. A brand is the last thing he should endeavor to be.

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Wild Division

It’s still a young season and teams are still forming but it’s already looking like a certain division is making a case for complete and utter domination.

The great Southwest Division hosts just two teams with titles with Houston and San Antonio but the record shows that this group of teams is serious.  The Spurs, the Hornets and the Mavs are starting this 2010-11 season off hot.  These three teams have already combined for 34 wins while the closest division’s top three can only boast 29 (The Northwest Division with Utah, Oklahoma City and Portland).

The Spurs are proving that with time they are just getting better. San Antonio runs a tight ship with a good mixture of old and new talent. It’s essentially a conveyor belt of great players with David Robinson to Tim Duncan to Tony Parker to now George Hill.

Right now, the Spurs are sitting at 13-1 with a 12-game winning streak. They haven’t lost a game since October 30th against the New Orleans Hornets who were in the midst of their own insane run (we will get to them later). They are second in the league in scoring with 108 a game and fifth in the league in assists with 23 a game.

So far, they have won in Utah, in Oklahoma, in Phoenix and in Charlotte. Their backcourt has only been outmatched twice against the Suns and Chicago. The frontcourt is definitely questionable at this point but they are still winning games.  Duncan is having a fairy inconsistent start and DeJaun Blair is obviously experiencing a sophomore slump with only six points a game.

Regardless, the Spurs are good.  Both of their last two seasons started off 8-6 and they always seem to roll-out wins after the All-Star break.  We may be talking about these Spurs a little sooner than expected as a realistic force in the West but we will see what happens as the season develops.

The New Orleans Hornets are going through a similar run and it’s keeping a certain point guard happy… for now.  Chris Paul and company are really locking it down on defense with only giving up 92 points a game (3rd in the league).  They held San Antonio to 90 points, Milwaukee scored only 81, the Clippers only managed 82 points and Sacramento could only muster up 71.

They started the season off 8-0 and lost their first game in Dallas.  They eventually came back home two days later and managed to beat the Mavericks 98-95.  Teams are only shooting 43 percent against them and they give up the least amount of steals in the league with only 5.3 a game.  Head coach Monty Williams worked for Nate McMillan and is obviously utilizing some of the defensive sets he learned in Portland.

Emeka Okafor is averaging almost a double-double with an additional two steals a game with only 30 minutes of playing time a night.  With his efficiency and David West’s ability to bring in 30 points some nights, the frontcourt is intimidating.

However, Marcus Thornton is off to a slow start this season.  He came in last year when Paul was out but really can’t seem to find his stroke.  Williams is limiting his minutes with only 13 a game and we know that he can score when given the opportunity.  The acquisition of Jarrett Jack will take some time to work out and they seem to have hit a slump dropping two games in a row last week.

New Orleans is good but we have yet to see how it will last.  They have to play in Portland, come back home to take on San Antonio before flying to Oklahoma City to play the Thunder all in the next five days.  We still have yet to see if CP3 will stay happy too…

Next, Dallas has a well-deserved 10-4 record with a current four-game winning streak.  Opponents have only scored 100 points against them four times so far this season and they are ranked fourth in the league in points allowed with only 92 a game.

They have racked up some pretty impressive wins against teams such as Boston, OKC, Atlanta and Denver but winning early is nothing new for the Mavs that started off last season 10-4.  However, Dallas can contribute its winning to its newly formed frontcourt with Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood under the rim. Rick Carlisle seems to have found a rotation that is keeping opponents on their heels.  Having two decent big guys is definitely better than one.

In addition, Dirk Nowitzki is going nuts.  He’s averaging just over 27 points per game in the month of November.  He’s scoring 26.4 a night and only averaged more a game in 2005-06 (the year they made it to the Finals).

We aren’t saying there’s a possibility of a Championship rematch at the American Airlines Arenas (ha) but the Mavs are good.  However, their month ends with games against San Antonio and Miami on back-to-back nights.

When we discuss some of the best in the league, the Southwest Division is always mentioned. It is one reason the West is so strong and always provides perennial postseason foes for everyone.

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Obama Talks About Miami Heat

Pundits and talking heads have declared that the recent elections were a “referendum” on Barack Obama’s presidency. Common sense states that at least one house of congress has changed hands during the midterm elections at least once during a president’s term in office since the first Bush (maybe even Reagan but it is late and I do not feel like researching that). Call it what you will as long as you understand that it means that the status quo is still the predominant factor driving Washington.

Where some say that Obama was “defeated” what is certain is that the expectations that surrounded him were never as high as those surrounding the Miami Heat this season. The Heat lost again, the third time in a row, on Wednesday night to the Orlando Magic. Obama has never faced such setbacks as the Heat have.

When asked about the Heat by Barbara Walters (God knows if she has ever watched a basketball game), Obama said that it takes time and more than just superstar talent to win. Only time will tell if  Obama’s wait and see policy towards the Miami Heat will pan out. “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” Ah, those words ring true to every person who has ever balled in any form of league.

Why the hell would Barbara Walters even ask him about the Heat anyway? Obama is from Chicago! He is a Bulls fan. Ask the man a Bulls question if you are going to ask him about basketball. Did she not see him put Magic Johnson in his place with a 1991 Michael Jordan switching-hands layup reminder when the Lakers visited the White House? The Chi and the Mia are in the same conference. Do not ask the man to talk about the Heat.

Obama should sit down with David Stern and Billy Hunter, stare each of them in the eye, and tell them that a lockout would be (hand on the red phone) unwise. Make Obama the commissioner after his eight years (yeah, I said it) are up. The NBA could use some change.

P.S.    Sorry about all the Heat articles this week. We will get back to normal coverage (i.e. Mavericks, Kevin Love) after Thanksgiving.

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NBA Lockout Looms Large According to Billy Hunter

This could soon be the new NBA logo

Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Union, has laid out a bleak future for the NBA in an interview with The New York Times.

“I’d be 99 percent sure as of today that there will be a lockout,” Hunter said. “I’ve said, ‘Save your money because in all probability there’s going to be a lockout.’

“I’m waiting to get some sign, some movement from owners, that they want to reach a reasonable deal. Right now they’re being unreasonable. And I can’t tell you when reason is going set in.”

Neither the NBA and its owners nor the players union have been able to reach any form of agreement on the new collective bargaining agreement. In fact there has been virtually no headway on the issue at all.

The team owners, and David Stern, want to see dramatic changes. A hard salary cap, shorter contracts, smaller annual raises, less guaranteed money and a nearly 40 percent reduction in salaries and benefits, amounting to about $750 million to $800 million out of the current $2.1 billion are all proposals that they have put forth. Hunter and the union have flatly rejected the changes. “It’s sort of like, beat me up and take my lunch,” Hunter said, characterizing the terms simplistically.

However, the NBPA has not offered any details of their proposal beyond face value. That offer is that the union is willing to accept a slight decline of the players’ 57 percent guarantee of basketball revenues. Hunter has stated that he may be willing to accept a 50-50 split between the players and owners after a $1 billion deduction in expenses. He does not want to see the disappearance of what he calls middle-class players in the league as he feels the owner’s proposal will only be able to grant large sums of money to star players and minimum amounts for the rest.

Hunter has also stated that he would like to see the CBA return to more of the perimeters that were established in 1999 when the current framework was formed. “Our contention is that the system that was put in place delivered everything it was supposed to deliver,” Hunter said. “So why now at this stage are we now saying that the system doesn’t work and it’s got to be overhauled?” Apparently, Hunter does not have a concept of change, especially economically, over time.

The union and the league have been at odds for some time now over the estimated income that the league takes in. All union calculations point towards the league’s revenue growing an estimated 3-5 percent while Stern routinely states that the NBA and its teams are set to lose $250 million this season. Somebody is using fuzzy math.

This season the NBA has enjoyed record television ratings, ticket sales, and attendance (except in Miami). Yet, the owners claim that they are still going to lose money. “It’s the economy, stupid,” they seem to be saying.

The two sides are at an impasse. So far the only agreement that they have reached is that there needs to be significant progress made by the time of the All Star break in February. Hopefully, the NBA and the NBPA can hammer something out by then otherwise it is going to be an exceptionally long summer. Some players are already making plays to play overseas as a work stoppage grows closer to becoming inevitable. It would truly be a shame if the NBA followed the path of the NHL.

 

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Erick Dampier to sign One-Year Contract with Miami Heat

Will Dampier help Miami heat up?

Pat Riley never wanted it to come to this. He resisted the urge to call on Erick Dampier to become a member of the Miami Heat. Oh how times change. Dampier is expected to sign a one year contract with the Heat on Tuesday Ken Berger of CBS reports. The deal will be worth the veterans’ minimum.

To make room on the roster for Dampier, the Heat will have to release a player. As it stands now, the there are two likely candidates in Dexter Pittman and Jamaal Magloire, who scored the only bench points in their loss to the Pacers. Dampier will be filling the role left vacant when Udonis Haslem went down indefinitely with a foot injury that will require surgery.

The move to add Dampier was announced Monday night as the Heat were being manhandled, at home, by the Indiana Pacers. Miami began the season as favorites to win the championship but has seen those expectations completely shattered by their inconsistent and sloppy play.

Adding Dampier is a desperation move by a team that is already in panic mode. This was supposed to be a super team, or so many thought, that was incapable of losing and was therefore destined to bring a multitude of titles to South Beach. What has actually transpired is far from any semblance of glory. It is a team of two wing oriented superstars and their errand boy who operates as a small forward in a power forward’s body. The rest of the team is made up from the tripe of the league. It is uncertain whether any of the players on the roster even know if they have a defined role on the team at all.

Adding Dampier is a joke. It is nothing more than what Pat Riley and company hope to be a stop-gap measure. If they expect Dampier to contribute in any significant way towards a successful turn around for this team they are only fooling themselves. Dampier is not that type of player. He is a lumbering, dated post relic. His presence on the court will only continue to hamper the offense of the team due to his lack of speed and athleticism to go along with little offensive prowess. Defensively, he is well past his prime and only serves as six available fouls to expend against the more dominant frontcourts in the NBA.

Miami is in trouble and Erick Dampier is not the solution. The Heat lost on Monday to the Indiana Pacers 93-77, dropping their record to 8-6. It was not that the Heat were getting brutalized in the paint, as they often do, though the Pacers found multiple opportunities to exploit Miami’s weak interior scoring 41 percent of their points in the paint. The problem for the Heat is that they have no consistent production from any more than two players on their roster during any given game. Dwyane Wade was 1-13 shooting on the night while the Pacers’ bench outscored Miami’s reserves 40-4.

Dampier will not change the culture in Miami. He will not even restore it to any sense of normalcy that was envisioned for the Heat this season. This is normal and it will remain so for the remainder of the season. It is foolish to throw money desperately at three huge contract player and neglect to surround them with a competent supporting cast. It is a model for mediocrity and that is what South Beach has found out. No wonder no one attends their games.

As long as  mediocrity and inconsistency remain as the central themes in Miami, Erik Spoelstra can start counting the days he has left with the organization. He will go the way of Stan van Gundy and be replaced by the same man: Riley. However, as presently assembled, even with the addition of Dampier, the Heat will find themselves hovering a few games above .500 for the season with an early exit in the playoffs… that is unless they make another deal with the Devil.

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Udonis Haslem’s torn ligament could be sad face for Heat :(

Haslem might as well be made of wood because he is the bench for the Miami Heat.

In what would prove to be another embarrassing defeat for the Heat, the boys in South Beach may have lost a little more than their pride.

Turns out that Udonis Haslem tore a ligament in his foot in the fourth quarter during Miami’s 95-97 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.  An MRI performed this afternoon revealed the bad news and he could be out for months.

Considered their best bench player, Haslem is essentially the only weapon they have other than the major three.  Zydrunas Ilgauskas only had six points in the loss while Carlos Arroyo only had seven.  Both starters are only averaging a little over six points a game while most of the shooting is going to Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

Haslem is one of the only remaining stars from the 2006 championship Heat and is considered one of the toughest players in the NBA.  He played in the finals with a bruised shoulder bone so an injury that could sideline for some time not going to be good.

This will also add further to Erik Spoelstra’s headache that is the Heat rotation.  Right now he is looking at an even more limited roster with Wade out with a sprained wrist.

To put it simply, the Heat are struggling and it really comes down chemistry and depth.  The team has never really seemed to click with three All-Stars taking most of the shots and a bunch of garbage on the bench.  In addition, Spoelstra doesn’t seem to really get on anyone’s case.  The guy is young and even looks timid taking time-outs during poor play.  Regardless, it’s still a depth issue.  Too many chiefs and not enough guys like Haslem that are willing to really leave it all out on the court.  With both captains out, what can we really expect?

The Heat are a funny team since so much was expected from them.  It’s a simple problem that will be hard to fix and it doesn’t come without a certain King’s eagerness to win.

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Spurs Continue Dominant Play

RJ's resurgence has contributed to their early success

Here at the Beef we never really discuss the San Antonio Spurs except when we want to make light of them. However, not even we can can joke about their play of late as they have been simply dominant. Last night the Spurs steamrolled the Cleveland Cavaliers 116-92 to notch their tenth consecutive victory giving them the NBA’s best record at 11-1, which is also the best start in franchise history.

San Antonio’s start is a complete 180 from last year’s when they were 6-6 at this point. Last season we joked about the Spurs’ age slowing them down. This season they addressed that issue bringing the average player age on their roster down from 28.11 years old to 27.25 years old. Essentially, they eliminated the fat but kept their veteran core intact.

Keeping that core who knows how to play in Greg Popovich’s system has paid dividends so far. The Spurs rank second in the league in both points per game, averaging 107.8, and offensive rating which stands at 112.2. Their defense is not too shabby either as the Spurs hold their opponents to 98.2 points per game which ranks eleventh in the league while their team defensive rating is sixth best at 102.2.

San Antonio keeps winning despite Tim Duncan‘s offensive struggles. It is not insulting to say that Duncan is on the downhill slope of his career which peaked from 2001-2003. Since that time his numbers have remained as mechanical and consistent until the past several years. This season Duncan is averaging 13.7 points, which places him fourth on the team in scoring, and 9.6 rebounds, his lowest averages in his career. He is also connecting on field goals at a clip of .482 which is a career low.Where Duncan’s age appears to be effecting his game, others have stepped in to fill the void.

Last season, Richard Jefferson found himself to be the butt of jokes and the shame of the River Walk. Many questioned the Spurs’ sanity when they resigned him after releasing him this summer. They released him so that they could restructure his contract. That restructuring seems to also have effected his game and efficiency substantially. Jefferson recorded his worst season last year since he was a rookie, averaging only 12.3 points. This season he has seen a marked improvement. He is averaging 16.3 points on 54 percent shooting, the highest mark in his career. Yes, the season is only twelve games old for the Spurs but if Jefferson continues this pace it can mean only good things for the Spurs.

Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, despite his marital collapse, continue to pace San Antonio, as they have done for several years now. Ginobili leads the team in scoring at 20 points per game with Parker not far behind at 19.1. Parker is also averaging 7.7 dimes per contest.

Role players have also contributed greatly to the Spurs’ early success. Matt Bonner, the team’s most reliable three-point shooter, leads the entire league in three-point field goal percentage with a clip of .667, though he has only appeared in six games thus far, connecting on 14 of his 22 attempts this season. Gary Neal and Antonio McDyess have also contributed nicely off the bench while George Hill is averaging 8.4 points to lead all reserves this season.

Tiago Splitter, the most recent acquisition by San Antonio, has appeared in eight games this season with the game against Cleveland being his biggest. He scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting while also collecting five rebounds and recording two blocks.

Not everything is flowers and butterflies for the Spurs, however. DeJuan Blair‘s offensive production need improvement. The second year player out of Pitt is averaging just 6.4 points while shooting a dreadful 39 percent from the floor. Where is game does not need improvement is on the defensive end. Blair is grabbing 4.8 defensive boards per game out his season average of 7.8 total rebounds and has a defensive rating of 98 which is tied with Duncan for the best on the team.

The Spurs did not have the most difficult schedule for the first twelve games of the season with their one loss coming against the New Orleans Hornets, who have the second best record in the league at 10-1. They did, however, have to face the Thunder, Bulls, and Jazz in a three game stretch in which they handily defeated each. The coming week should be a good barometer of how the Spurs shape up in the league as a whole as they host the Orlando Magic on Monday and Dallas Mavericks on Friday with a trip to Minnesota in the middle.

Early this season, San Antonio has given the Western Conference more to think about other than the general Lakers praise that is rampant. They have the best record and sit atop the tough Southwest Division. The Spurs seem to be a dark horse championship pick every season. This season, however, calling them a dark horse candidate would only mean that any appreciation of their accomplishments so far has been ignored. Do not be surprised if San Antonio disrupts a certain team’s quest for a three-peat. The Spurs and Lakers square off for the first time on December 28.

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