Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mavs On Another Level

The best team in the NBA? The Dallas Mavericks. No question. The Phoenix Suns, who are beautiful to watch, play better defense than they get credit for and have an all-time great point guard, but the Dallas Mavericks are possessed. They are on a mission, consumed with winning the championship that they feel they gave away last June. The Mavericks do not play many "big games" this season, because their games are not about their opponent. This team is all about demolishing every single team they face, for as long as it takes, until they win the last game of the NBA season in June.

Why will the Mavs get by the Suns and the San Antonio Spurs?
  • Depth- When healthy, the Mavericks can legitimately go TEN players deep! They have the league's best starting five with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Devin Harris and Erick Dampier. Harris the Mavs' #4 starter, would be STAR on practically any other team. He's a true point guard who's capable of playing like Allen Iverson! Now throw in a bench that features the offense of Jerry Stackhouse, the ouside shooting of Austin Croshere and the defense of DeSagana Diop, Greg Buckner and Devean George. This team is loaded!
  • Focus- The Mavericks never believe that they are out of a game. It's shows every time they play. They have lapses and occasionally habe stretches when they get outscored by eight or ten points, but they never seem out of control. They are methodical and systematic in stopping their opponent's run with their defense and, before you know it, they've put the game away. When the Mavs get a lead, they methodically and systemically add to it until they've squeezed the fight out of their opposition. This team has its eyes on the prize.
  • Desire- This team does not care who it plays. There is only one goal for the Mavericks and they cannot reach that until June. The Mavs are using all of their games until then to show the league just how good they are. Despite the numerous national television appearances against the NBA's best, The Dallas Mavericks do not give the impression that they have any "big games" this regular season. Regardless of who they are playing, they are out to dismantle every team that is put in their way. The Mavs are serving notice to the NBA. Their message is simple:
The Dallas Mavericks are the best team in the NBA.

Unfair

Is there anything sadder in basketball than Shaun Livingston's NBA career?

In addition to being one of more gruesome NBA injuries ever caught on film, the Clippers' Shaun Livingston tearing three ligaments and dislocating his knee is a basketball tragedy. It's not a loss because a loss is quantifiable. The NBA has no idea what it's losing because we've still only seen flashes of how brilliant Livingston can be. Shaun Livingston is special. At his best Livingston is a mix of Scottie Pippen and Steve Nash, seeming to float when he runs the floor and making passes that very few players in NBA history have been able to make. This injury may be treated nationally like any other serious injury because not many fans have watched enough of the Clippers' games to know what the league has lost. Livingston is always a threat to make the kind of play that leaves you with your mouth open, bursting into spontaneous laughter. This sucks. This is such a shame.

Whether they know it or not, all fans of the NBA are hoping Shaun Livingston returns to 100%. There is so much of his game left to see. The NBA dodged one bullet with Amare Stoudemire's return to form after microfracture surgery. Hopefully Livingston has Amare on speed dial, because he needs to do just what Stoudemire did. At just 21, he still has time.

There's just so much more to see.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Karma's Swift Revenge

After pulling out the rug from under the Heat’s second “non-Pat Riley” coach in two years (seriously, I wouldn’t even want Riley standing behind me in the line at the grocery store), he thought he’d triumphantly lead the Heat, with the superhuman D-Wade and a now-healthy Shaquille O’Neal (the timing was probably just a coincidence), to another “us against the world” championship.
Riley is the leader in the clubhouse for “Most Priceless Face of the NBA Season.” During the third quarter of Riley’s second game back, as his Heat were getting pummeled by 30 at Dallas, just one night after Wade suffered what is looking like a season ending (both for Wade and the Heat) shoulder separation, Riley flashed the tortured smile of a veteran burglar who tried to pull one job too many; the look of a man who had doubled down on eleven and gotten a three. He wasn’t mad; he was resigned. He was facing the reality that after just two games, his plan has NO CHANCE of working.
Not so fast, Riles!

Just a Win Over Memphis? Maybe Not!

Not that a win over Memphis is something to celebrate, but the Golden State Warriors’ win against the Grizz on Wednesday exhibited four very encouraging developments for the Warriors as they make their playoff push:
· Monta Ellis is a true playmaker, especially when it matters. If he keeps developing like this, Ellis, who’s only 21, will be one of the top five or six point guards in the NBA. In addition to scoring nine of his 22 points in overtime, including two big jumpers to start the OT period, he repeatedly got into the lane created shot for his teammates down the stretch.
· Andres Biedrins will be an elite big man in the Western Conference. In just his third year in the league, Biedrins is not only consistent, nearly averaging a double-double (10.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg), he’s capable of breaking out with a spectacular game on any given night, like his 21 point, 14 rebound, 3 steal, 2 block effort again Memphis. Watching Biedrins and Pau Gasol go head to head on the same floor, Biedrins looked like the superior player. Period.
· Stephen Jackson is really smart player! For all that’s been said about his poor judgment off the floor, Jackson’s decision-making down the stretch against Memphis was outstanding; he got to the basket, got to the line and made every pass the team needed him to. He and Monta Ellis were the most reliable players on the floor for the Warriors.
· Returning from a knee injury, Jason Richardson played what may be the most team-oriented, unselfish game of his career, with 19 points (11 in the 4th quarter & OT), 10 rebounds (6 offensive), 5 assists and 2 steals. All that with just 1 turnover! He’s still extremely athletic and fast, but he showed a little something more on Wednesday night. He looked like a new player- a veteran leader, not just a walking highlight.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why Does It Matter?

Tim Hardaway hates gay people and would not have embraced John Amaechi as a teammate. Why does Tim Hardway's opinion about gay people matter AT ALL? Who the hell is Tim Hardaway? The guy was a pretty good, not even great, player who retired 5 years ago. He's not a Rhodes Scholar. He's wholly irrelevant in society! Who cares what he thinks? Is it really that shocking that there happens to be an unenlightened former player in our midst? The fact that there is a homophobic former NBA player is about as shocking as the fact that there is a gay former NBA player- not very.

Why have we not heard from any of Amaechi's former teammates? Not one of his teammates has stepped forward and gotten his back. As ignorant as Tim Hardaway has shown himself to be, he has become a very convenient scapegoat for the NBA. It's a bigger indictment of NBA players' attitudes toward homosexuality that no one has (or will) come to his defense. ESPN is giving us round-the-clock coverage of this non-story, but they cannot track down anyone that played with Amaechi for a comment? The guy retired less than four years ago! He still has former teammates all over the NBA. That not one of them has has uttered a public word in support of Amaechi sends a pretty damning message about locker room culture- either Amaechi did not play with a single player that accepts and supports his lifestyle, or those that do are afraid to say so.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Where is "IT"?

LeBron James has a lot of things: out-of-this-world talent, a physique worthy of a heavyweight champion, class, manners and marketing appeal. But something's missing. After bouncing the Wizards in his first ever playoff series, then giving the two-time Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons all they could handle before being eliminated in 7 games, we were all supposed to be "Witnesses" this season. With LeBron (and the other young Cavaliers) having gained a year of postseason experience, a healthy Larry Hughes and a decidedly mediocre Eastern Conference, 2006-07 was supposed to be the year LeBron made serious run at the NBA Finals.

But the Cavs have been nothing special. At all! The Eastern Conference has obliged, reaching all new levels of mediocrity, and Hughes has been healthy, however he hasn't been particularly productive or consistent. Before this season, accounts of the LeBron James dynasty were already being written- prematurely, as it turns out. What happened? LeBron James, the man-child with more talent than anyone who's ever entered the league, doesn't have a SUPERstar mentality.

This is NOT, I repeat NOT, an anti-LeBron rant. It is however, an examination of the single trait that is keeping LeBron from being the best we've ever seen. The fact is that LeBron James doesn't seem to recognize when the Cavaliers need him, for better or worse, to take the ball and dominate a game. What LeBron needs is what Jerry West, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson had. And, in today's NBA, what Kobe, Dwayne Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Steve Nash and Mike Bibby (yeah, he's got it!) have. It's not selfishness, and it's not about physical ability. It's the recognition of the moment when a team needs something extra; it's recognizing when your team needs you to go from superstar to superhero.

LeBron has it in him, we've seen it, albeit in small bursts. It seems as though he's more concerned with not being thought of as selfish than he about doing WHATEVER NEEDS TO BE DONE to win games. There will come a moment (he's to phenominally good for it not to come!) when it will dawn on him that passing the ball to Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes is NOT the best option for the Cavs.

It's ironic that a man with nicknames such as "the Chosen One" and "King James" chooses to defer to Damon Jones and Anderson Varjao! In his own mind, LeBron needs to make it OK to dominate the ball in order to win games.