Monthly Archives: June 2012

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Was in Dallas Yesterday For STEM Conference

Yeah, that’s the Segway guy.

Most of the time, I think of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a legendary basketball player-turned-curmudgeon. But he was in town yesterday for another purpose, to speak at STEM Solutions 2012, a conference focusing on educating kids in science, technology, engineering, and math. Luckily, I happened to have a family member in attendance. His discussion with Dean Kamen, the perpetually denim-clad inventor of the Segway PT, centered around how important it is to inspire youths to become interested in these fields from an early age.

Kareem’s always been a supporter of education, but has ramped it up in the past few years, becoming a U.S. cultural ambassador and wrote a book on the history of African-American inventors. Pretty respectable gig for a retired athlete, but that’s par for the course for Kareem.

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Filed under History of Hoops, NBA at Large

Miami Heat Poised to Win Championship

One more

Doyle Rader: With the Miami Heat one win away from their second ever NBA title, now is as good a time as any for us to talk about the Finals. Last night, the Thunder, namely Russell Westbrook, threw everything they had at the Heat in an attempt to tie the series but came up just short as they have in every game since Game 1. Plenty of people are singling out Westbrook for the foul he committed on Mario Chalmers with 15 seconds left in the game as the moment the Thunder lost the game. (They were down three points at that time.) Yet, this is a complete overreaction to the play in my opinion. If it wasn’t for Westbrook in the first place the Thunder would have likely not even been in this game. He poured in 43 points on 20 made field goals. Everything was falling for him last night. It was a performance on par with what Rajon Rondo did against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. During the presser LeBron James even likened those two performances to each other. It seems to me that a new narrative (it isn’t that new actually) is forming around Westbrook, scapegoating him, doubting him, much in the same ilk that James has dealt with throughout his career. However, James is on the cusp of shattering his previous narrative and the baggage that came with it.

Travis Huse: If we’re looking at problems here, it’s not Westy. Harden went
2-10 last night and finished with 8 points, and here’s the part where I tell
you that he was still third in the Thunder’s point totals. They managed to
beat the Spurs with an effective team play atmosphere, and they’ve lost the
contributions from Harden and Serge Ibaka. Smart team play can defeat Miami, but pitting a “Big 2” against a “Big 3” is suicide.

Casual basketball fans tend to place much more emphasis on offense than
defense, and that’s the population most affected by Anti-Westbrook Fever.
But you can’t overlook how the Heat have been able to control the tempo of
the game, and Harden looks thrown off. He was 2-10 on Sunday, as well, held
to only 9 points. If he wants the label of next-generation Manu Ginobili, he
needs to step up better now, where it really matters.

DR: You’re right, Harden has been bad, but it isn’t just his shooting. For
some reason, and there has been much to talk about concerning Scott Brooks’
rotations, Brooks insists on having Harden defend James for extended periods
of time. I know that James is a player that is difficult to defend on every
level but this simply is not where Harden should be utilized on the
defensive end. Time and again, James will just post him up since he is
bigger and stronger and the results have been devastating.

Zach Lowe over at SI.com touched on that today. By his tally, Miami scored 24 point on James post-ups. The points did not all come from LeBron as he was able to hit open teammates when double teams came his way. He finished the game with 12 assists. How can anyone stop him at this point, let alone an undersized player known more for his offense?

It’s not just Harden, though, you are correct in pointing out Ibaka’s
dramatic fall-off but Kendrick Perkins has been equally awful. He is the
wrench in the gears. Nick Collison showed flashes of brilliance against the
Heat in Game 4 but then vanished. Poof! Scott Brooks is showing us his
inexperience with these stubborn, and at times haphazard, lineups that he
has been throwing out there.

Last year Rick Carlisle showed his flexibility by inserting J.J. Barea into
the starting lineup to wondrous results for Dallas as they went on to win
the championship. Erik Spoelstra was left in the dust scratching his head as
he stuck with Mike Bibby in the starting lineup for too long. Now, Spoelstra
is in command and his small center-less lineups are rendering OKC’s bigs
completely useless.

TH: To be very honest, one of the biggest hindrances in Lebron’s career has
been his unwillingness to post up. He used to be very prone to jacking Josh
Smith-type 3s, so much so that every time I play against him (Miami or
Cleveland) on the 2K games, I will sag off him and make him shoot it. I
might have to change my approach with the next one. And it makes sense that
their success has revolved around his post play, because the dude is the
biggest, strongest, most athletic person that might have ever existed. The
Thunder don’t have anyone who’s going to be able to defend him without
leaving a glaring mismatch. I’m not sure anyone in the league does, and
that’s why the Heat are one win away from the championship.

They’re a stronger team than last year, and they’ve found a way for both
Lebron and Dwyane Wade to play together. Right now their bench is outplaying the Thunder bench. I don’t see any way the Thunder make it as champs, and you’re right, Spo is out-coaching Brooks. Unless something drastic changes, the Heat seem to be poised to close this one out sooner rather than later.

DR: After the body language that Durant showed last night in the post game
presser this series could wrap up Thursday night. During that presser we
witnessed the return of Durant’s backpack, which had been MIA all
postseason. It too was just as sad an dejected as Durant as he let it fall
to the floor, shoulders slumped. It reminded me of the Western Conference
Finals last year. There were many a sad backpacks to be found in that
series.

Here’s the thing though, as I am not a true fan of either of the teams in the Finals, just a fan of the game, I have slowly come to view the post game presser as must-see throughout these playoffs. Sure, the questions are generally fluff, verging on inane at times, but I find them to be truly interesting.

Chris Bosh, who has been great this series, gives one of the best presser
interviews there are. Honestly, if more people heard him speak, instead of
instantly buying into the “Like a Bosh” or “Bosh Face” trope, they would see
just how smart, composed, and well spoken he is.

But of course the presser is all about the clothes. Man, these players
(Westbrook) wear some silly expensive shit. That said, Wade won the presser
clothes game last night when he came out wearing glasses that were straight
off the face of Dwayne Wayne from Different World.

TH: I’ve never really understood why Bosh gets so much shit. He’s a consistent 20-10 player, a perennial all star, who stretches the floor very well. His outside touch does wonders for the sometimes-anemic Heat offense, exposing the rim for the slashing of the other two stars.

It has become so commonplace to make fun of the Heat, that the worst thing I could think of has happened. I have moved past resenting them, past feeling sorry for them, into rooting for them as an underdog. Obviously, they are not the underdog, but I now feel that I have to throw stats in the faces of anyone who harps in on how much they hate the Heat.

DR: I found myself in the same place as the Finals started this year. For various and extremely biased reasons I cannot bring myself to root for the Thunder organization so that left me with only one choice. I have James many times on this blog, taking both a negative and positive view of him and his game. Seeing all the backlash towards one of the greatest players the league has ever seen has continually shocked me, though. Sure he, and the Heat have made some questionable choices in the past but does that really outweigh what goes on in a game? Miami is the most scrutinized team in sports and it is simply ludicrous to hear some of the things said about them.

The Heat deserve to win the championship this year, if for no other reason that silence the doubters who continually lob volley after volley of asinine rhetoric interspersed with buzz words at them all the while refusing to make sound judgments and arguments. At this point, if winning a championship is the only way to get it through the thick skull of some people that James is good and so are the Heat then so be it. They shall be vindicated.

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Metta World Peace is Metta Man

Apparently, I am a little late on seeing this, but today as I was avoiding anything that Bill Simmons wrote on Grantland, I stumbled upon this little gem about Metta World Peace. It chronicles the life that World Peace, formerly Ron Artest, has been living since his Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs. Since Ron-Ron is a Beef favorite this was a must read for me.

Now, I know he is going to be in a Lifetime movie, did the weather in Vancouver, and that his mixtape rap game is on point but this video caught my eye:

Wow. Pure gold.

What many may forget, due to wanting to paint World Peace in a less than favorable light, is that he won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2011. He won the award do to his work in promoting awareness for mental health issues, especially among children. Yes, World Peace has actually done remarkable work in this field. Hense the video’s message.

However, the content of the video is, well, just so Artest (or possibly Tim and Eric). I’m not quite sure what a curling stone, skateboard, New York City skyline, Larry King, what looks to be a toy helicopter from Radio Shack, a Mini Cooper with hydraulics, and dunking have to do with raising awareness of mental health  but I am not Metta Man. Therefore, how could I make the correlation.

It’s good to see that World Peace, even with his active offseason, is continuing his campaign to help children, adults, and veterans who struggle with their mental issues. He’s not all bad, people.

One last note: I couldn’t help but notice that Metta Man’s costume is strikingly similar to that of Meteor Man’s. That was easily the most distracting part of the ad for me. Heck, the similarities abound between the two. That can’t be a coincidence.

Dear sweet movie green-lighters, please let this be an omen that World Peace will star in a remake of Meteor Man. If Colin Farrell can star in a remake of Total Recall then we must have a remake of Meteor Man. Hear me, Hollywood! It will totally be better than Thunderstruck.

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Filed under NBA at Large, Players

Let Them Play

Mark Cuban is a brilliant owner who has done everything in his power to see his franchise win a championship. No one can question or doubt his dedication to the Dallas Mavericks and his continuing drive to make the team successful at all costs. In 2011 his team, and the city of Dallas, realized that goal. However, when it comes to international play, Cuban, a staunch opponent, and this is where he is wrong.

Cuban, like every owner or general manager has the right to be worried about the players, who represent their teams in the NBA, getting injured or forced into heavy minutes in off season play. They have every right to be concerned. That is because they treat their players like a commodity.

Dirk Nowitzki is the end-all and be-all of basketball in Germany. He always will be. Is it so wrong for him to want to represent his team in international or Olympic play? No. Cuban thinks it is. Cuban pays him the money, Cuban is invested in him.

Unlike the Facebook IPO, NBA players actually pay dividends, unless their name is Eddy Curry or Jerome James. If I were a rich man I could completely sympathize with Cuban’s, and other owner’s, sentiment. However, I am not rich. I am a regular citizen.

What owners seem to neglect is that NBA players represent a whole swath of nations, not just a team somewhere in the United States or Toronto. This is an international game and David Stern will readily point that out.

Greg Stiemsma will be a member of Team USA this summer. Only as a member of the USA Select team, so please feel free to exhale. That is no slight to Stiemsma, who has played valuable, albeit small, minutes for the Celtics this post season. But is that who should represent the United States in the Olympics? No.

It is foolish to think that the U.S. will not and should not send its best and brightest basketball minds and players out into the international arena. The same holds true in virtually every other arena, athletic or academic. Why should we, as a nation, limit our possibilities? Why should we limit our gains? Our pride? There should be no limit to what we, and our players, can accomplish on the world’s stage.

London is an opportunity, a great one, as all the Olympic games are. It is where the best athletes in the the world compete. Yet, we should only send second or third tier quality. Yes, that makes sense. Hamper our players and our citizens. Why should we complete at the zenith of international sport. Sucks to your ass-mar!

Team USA might be depleted, and that is being generous at this point, but we, as a nation, must put forth the best players we have available. Of course much of this is predicated on whether they want to compete or not. However, many, especially the young stars of the NBA, want to. They are not commodities. They are men and as men they want to represent their country.

In the long list of gender double standards, the women who will represent the United States in the 2012 London Olympics are not placed on the same pedestal as the men. Why are no owners or, for that matter, college coaches up in arms that their players have the rare opportunity to compete on an international stage? Why are the men so cherished as a commodity?

The stage of international competition is what brings our divided country together. We, as citizens, voter, residents, tax payers deserve to see our best athletes compete. One person, or many, unites us all as they vie to be the best in the world.

I’m sorry, Mark, when it comes to grown men, they are not a commodity. Sure they are specialized and adept at their sport but the are still human, yet you do not own them. I understand wanting to get the most out of your investment but even when you have full control over a player it is risky (see: Odom, Lamar). I generally agree with your positions, Mark, especially your take on Bill Simmons, but when it comes to international completion, let your players compete if they want to. They have a higher calling than just playing for the Mavericks, or any team for that matter. Country comes first, as children we learned that long ago. Nationalism may be a dated concept but it is still a source of pride, no matter the outlet.

International competition works best when the elite athletes of a country are allowed to compete. What else is the point? Should we send high school track stars to race against Usain Bolt? No.

Let them compete. Let the top athletes compete. Bragging rights are childish but to hamper the dreams of someone wanting to represent their country is downright petty. Insure them if you must, unlike Amar’e Stoudemire, but protect your assets if that is what truly drives you. If they get hurt, fine. Write it off as a temporary loss but do not, for one second, limit a person’s potential to compete for their country on the most prestigious sporting stage the world has to offer. To do otherwise is only selfish.

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Filed under NBA at Large, Team USA

Young Miami Heat Fan to Team: “Good Job! Good Effort!”

There wasn’t much to cheer about in Miami (of course cheering loudly just doesn’t seem to be a thing at Heat games, but that is another issue) as the Heat fell to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals 94-90. Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had good games, James scoring 30 points and pulling down 13 rebounds with Wade chipping in 27 points. But at times, the effort just didn’t seem to be there.

The Heat were sluggish in transition defense and didn’t hustle after the 50/50 balls with the energy of a team playing to go up a game in a series that had become a best of three. Obviously, these are the plays the national media will pick up on which will fuel the choke meme’s that are already rampant across the internet and social media. Yet, all of that might not hit home as hard as what one fan had to say to the Heat as they sullenly retreated down the tunnel to the locker room after the final buzzer had sounded.

Many people who played sports as children remember shaking the other team’s hands after every game, win or lose, and issuing platitudes to the opposing players. Since what was said was generally insincere, it was especially biting to hear after a loss. One young Miami Heat fan must have either felt the scorn of a recent loss or just has an impeccable sense of irony.

While the Heat walked off the court, the kid can be heard yelling, “Good job. Good effort!” That is cold-blooded. Perhaps, though, he was being sincere. After all he is just a kid and couldn’t possibly be as jaded as an adult, right? Whatever his intentions (I imagine some media outlet will track him down sooner or later) he has quickly become a meme. Since the internet travels at the speed of cynicism a Twitter account, @goodjobkid, has cropped up as well as merchandise with his now infamous quotes.

Well done, kid. You have trolled us all.

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Filed under Eastern Conference Finals, NBA at Large, Playoffs

Rajon Rondo is beyond this Earth

Boldly going

Doyle Rader: Rajon Rondo has been the most refreshing and entertaining player in the NBA during the playoffs. This no better illustrated than just before game four of the Eastern Conference Finals a friend, who doesn’t like basketball, called me up and asked who that player on the Celtics he should watch is. I told him it was Rondo. The Rondo Lore is growing by the minute.

Against the Heat, Rondo has been putting on a clinic with his passing, fakes, jukes, and even his jump shot. Though he does prefer to score at the rim as indicated by his Game 4 shot chart.

Game 4

He does it all for the Celtics without getting tired. He has played 681 minutes in the playoffs thus far, more than any other Celtic. Paul Pierce is second but is 20 minutes behind (fouling out doesn’t help).

All of these factors have helped grow the legend of Rondo, who before now was frequently mentioned in just about every trade rumor coming out of Boston. Trading Rondo is a silly notion as he is by far the most valuable asset the team has going forward, especially with the breaking up of the Pierce-Ray AllenKevin Garnett core looming on the horizon.

Rondo is the Celtics’ Garry Kasparov. Much as been made about his unpredictability being one of his greatest assets but to accept that is to ignore the fact that Rondo is entirely plodding and methodical in his approach to the game. He is one step, if not more, ahead of the competition directing his players like pieces on a board. Rondo vehemently waved off Pierce, who was looking for a transition three in Game 4, and directed him to cut to the bucket. The result was an easy lay-in. Rondo’s court vision has just been superb.

Travis Huse: Rondo’s a different breed of NBA player, but his is a style I envision taking over the league within the next few seasons. He’s like Fat Lever, but with Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd‘s triple-double capabilities, all hopped up on bath salts and Cap’n Crunch. But you’re positively on point with the Kasparov reference (Did you catch Ray Allen’s chess quote last night?), the little guy is so manipulative with his head-games.

Remember when he tried to sneak  into the Heat’s huddle last season? It was in the middle of a huge Celtics run in the 3rd quarter, both as a small display of bravado and as a way to keep the Heat thinking about him. What at the time seemed like a silly move to pester another team is now tactical warfare. Rondo had a triple-double that game, and the Celtics won by three.

DR: To quote the kids these days, “Rondo gives no fucks.” He is out there to play basketball and to win. A perfect example is what he said to Doris Burke at halftime when he flat called out the Heat for constantly bitching to the refs about calls. This is the type of mentality that every coach can appreciate when your team is battling for the right to the NBA Finals. Miami is Rondo’s enemy, why should he show them anything but contempt. He does not respect them right now, nor should he.

Also along the line of giving no fucks, have you seen what he has been wearing in the post game pressers? Not only is his game on some next level future shit, but is wardrobe fluctuates from the 1980s to the 24th century.

TH: He’s good for the league in his disdain. The “super-team” mentality of the Heat takes away from the real reason people love to watch sports: to hate another city with a burning passion. When players group together as players, marketing personal brands over team identity, the whole thing seems to matter less. It is much cheaper to watch a pick-up game down at the park if you’re looking for a good-natured buddy game of basketball.

Playing with fire, drive, and even hatred is what makes you a champion, and the sports culture in Boston thrives best under those conditions (I think Boston as a whole survives based on a constant undertone of street fighting, to be honest). The team has 17 trophies to show for it. Pat Riley exhibits this trait, but the rest of the Heat organization is lacking in that regard. Erik Spoelstra can’t really invoke that championship fire in this squad, and the squad itself isn’t built for it. I simply do not believe that they are playing for the sake of basketball. Rondo is, and he’ll do whatever it takes to win, and he will do it in ways never seen before.

DR: With Boston, it’s all about narrative. It’s who they are. They are never favorites and have been written off more than once. Their quest for recognition and glory is all that matters with their storied past. I for one am happy that Rondo is the protagonist of this particular chapter.

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Filed under NBA at Large, Players, Playoffs

Nets in pursuit of Ersan Ilyasova and Steve Nash

Brooklyn bound?

We don’t often cover the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets here at the Beef, because, well, they are the Nets, but two interesting bits of news popped up this morning concerning them.

Brooklyn (I will have to get used to that) has been rumored to be in the market for just about every available free agent in the world. They have been linked to Dwight Howard (roll eyes here) and trying to retain Deron Williams especially. However, to land those two it would likely have to be a package deal. You can’t have one without the other.

Despite possibly being out of the race for the two big names, the Nets are not looking to stand pat. According to Gery Woelfel, Brooklyn is the front-runner to land standout power forward Ersan Ilyasova as he becomes a free agent this summer.

Ilyasova had a breakout season this year for the Milwaukee Bucks posting 17 points and 11.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. Those gaudy numbers landed him on many Most Improved Player lists when the awards were being handed out at season’s end.

Having made just $2.5 with the Bucks in his final year under contract, it is assumed that Ilyasova will command an annual salary in the ballpark of $8 million whenever he inks a new deal. That is a sizable chunk of change but Mikhail Prokhorov has shown a willingness to spend in order to return the Nets to relevance.

The acquisition of Ilyasova, who was scouted heavily this season by the Nets, would be big for Brooklyn as they also look to retain Gerald Wallace. Those two players, though dramatically different stylistically, would help to bolster the team’s frontcourt along with a healthy Brook Lopez.

It will be interesting to see how, if they do land him, Ilyasova and Avery Johnson mesh. Johnson has only really found success with one power forward in his career as a head coach and he was named Dirk Nowitzki. The Nets brought in Troy Murphy, who was riding a high with the Pacers, but Murphy quickly fell out of the graces of Johnson and was relegated to the bench, eventually lost in obscurity only to later find himself on the Celtics’ bench. I bring up Murphy because, at his peak, his game and that of Ilyasova are very similar. Yes, this is a different scenario with Ilyasova entering his fifth year in the NBA and Murphy was a veteran player but the similarities cannot be denied.

If Williams does choose to relocate this summer the Nets have a plan B. They have joined a long list of teams that will be suitors for Steve Nash. Nash will be an unrestricted free agent and has a bevy of teams clawing for his services. Where ever Nash decides to play, it will likely be the last contract, probably a three-year deal, he signs. Brooklyn will be hard pressed to get Nash though, as the Phoenix Suns will make a hard push to retain their star. Portland and Toronto will also be pushing to sign him with other teams such as Dallas, Miami, New York, and Chicago waiting in the wings.

Of course, everything hinges on Williams and the likely out of reach Howard. From the looks of it though, when free agency begins in July, the Nets will be major players.

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