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About

Andrew was something of a latecomer to the game of basketball, having given up rugby after leaving high school. Joining Edinburgh’s fabled Pentland Tigers, he quickly moved on to the East Lothian Peregrines in the Scottish national league before moving to Belfast where he played with Queens and then with Belfast Star. After a year in the superleague, he moved back to Scotland and played with the Scottish Rocks in the BBL. He “retired” (the McDermott rule for using the word “retire” instead of “stopped playing” does require you to have been paid to play, so technically he retired) and moved to Seattle where he began life as an academic, which currently sees him working at University College Dublin. He is a legitimate non-frontrunning Miami Heat fan, having taken up following the team in 2001.

The 2012 NBA Draft

In the midst of a fascinating, if occasionally bafflingly awful, finals series between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a rather significant event which is due to take place two days after the hypothetical Game 7 was scheduled is becoming rather forgotten about: the 2012 NBA draft.

Part of the reason for that is that few people believe that there are many interesting prospects once inevitable first overall pick Anthony Davis is taken off the board by the New Orleans Hornets (and how convenient for a team going nowhere in a city that doesn’t care about them managed to get the first overall pick JUST BEFORE they were sold to a new owner).  This is perhaps a little harsh on guys like Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond, even the fake Andrew Sanders (Tyler Zeller).  Guys like Harrison Barnes, however, are a little less exciting for fans given the lack of clarity on exactly how effective these less-than-stellar college players are likely to be in the NBA.

 

Yep, that's how I roll, too

Part of the charm of the draft, along with the hyped picks of the lottery who end up being busts, are the college big guys (inevitably well short of seven feet tall) who end up being perfectly serviceable NBA power forwards.  Tyler Hansbrough, DeJuan Blair, Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer were all relatively unheralded coming into the league (although Hansbrough was still a lottery pick) but have all been able to fill a role.  In this years draft, I’m going to put Draymond Green (currently predicted to drop to the bottom of the first round, although concerns over Jared Sullinger’s back might see them swap places if a team is looking for a combative big man) from Michigan State in that role this season.  He has improved year on year in college and comes from the Tom Izzo production line of hard workers.  If he can adopt the Kevin Love approach and get his weight under control, he could be the steal of the draft.

In advance of next week’s draft, The Courtside Collective will take you for a walk down memory lane to visit the ghosts of drafts past…

 

Impressive list of players

We’ll begin in 2000.  That year, the first overall pick was Kenyon Martin and the lottery picks were filled out with household names like Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Mike Miller, DerMarr Johnson, Chris Mihm, Jerome Moiso, and Mateen Cleaves.  The second round featured players who went on to have significant European careers like Igor Rakocevic and Pete Mickeal.  Arguably the best pick was the 43rd overall: when the Milwaukee Bucks selected Michael Redd.

In 2001, the Washington Wizards picked Kwame Brown first overall, selecting him ahead of Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Gilbert Arenas and Mehmet Okur.  One could certainly argue the virtue of any of these players against the steal of that particular draft, Tony Parker.

 

The greatest...and the worst...

2002 was not a particularly great draft class.  Yao Ming, sadly out of the league with serious foot problems, went first ahead of Jay Williams (who never recovered from a motorcycle accident), Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden, Dajaun Wagner, Nene and Chris Wilcox before the Phoenix Suns picked troubled 19-year old High Schooler, Amar’e Stoudemire.  Further down the draft order came Carlos Boozer and Argentinian star Luis Scola.

Of course, 2003 was the draft that history might well remember as the greatest ever, bringing Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh into the league.  You could even cite draft class alum like Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, Mickael Pietrus, Nick Collison, David West, Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, James Jones, Matt Bonner, Kyle Korver, Zaza Pachulia, Luke Walton and Jason Kapono, not to mention 47th overall pick Mo Williams as ample reason to support this as the greatest ever draft.  Of course, the presence of Darko Milicic at second overall rather spoils the picture, but anyone who has ever seen Darko play in the flesh cannot help but note that he’s not that bad.  Certainly no worse than Michael Olowakandi, anyway.  Darko will forever be cursed with Sam Bowie syndrome, the “I can’t believe they picked him instead of him” discussions which permeate all draft conversations after the fact, but particularly so when you end up getting picked ahead of Michael Jordan or any of those guys above.

 

NBA draft class 2003

 

In 2004, there was some debate as to which big man would be picked first: raw high schooler Dwight Howard or polished UConn centre Emeka Okafor.  Ben Gordon went third, before Shaun Livingston (I still cringe even thinking about what happened to his knee), Devin Harris, Josh Childress and Luol Deng.  Deng was part of the Phoenix Suns attempt to totally butcher the final years of Steve Nash’s career, particularly when we consider that Childress, a player who makes no tangible contributions to the Suns, was the one of these two who ended up playing alongside Nash.  Deng was traded to Chicago.  Further down, Andre Igoudala, Kris Humphries (before he became a total joke thanks to his marriage to…even though only a few people will read this, I refuse to give someone who is only famous for being in a sex tape any publicity…you know who), Al Jefferson, JR Smith, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, Anderson Varejao, even Chris Duhon have all become serviceable professionals.

 

Ummmm, wrong Williams guys...

2005 saw more poor decision making.  Although Milwaukee have been rather unlucky with the way Andrew Bogut’s career has panned out, Marvin Williams over Deron Williams AND Chris Paul is unforgivable.  What Atlanta could have been with either player…  Andrew Bynum went tenth and Danny Granger went 17th but there are other players who have arguably had just as impressive careers as Marvin Williams in Lou Williams (45th), Monta Ellis (40th), Brandon Bass (33rd), or David Lee (30th).  Other players who failed to set the league alight included Williams’ UNC colleagues Sean May and Rashad McCants.

2006 was another bad draft year.  Andrea Bargniani went first to Toronto ahead of LaMarcus Aldridge.  Then came Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams, Randy Foye, Patrick O’Bryant, Mouhamed Sene, Hilton Armstrong…although these picks were broken up by those of Brandon Roy, Rudy Gay and JJ Redick.  Rajon Rondo dropped to 22nd.  Steve Novak was also drafted by the Houston Rockets (interestingly a pick that was originally New York’s).  Down at pick 47 was Utah’s Paul Millsap.

 

Is this a basketball player or the bassist in a heavy metal band?

In 2007 all the hype was about Oden or Durant?  Portland took the gamble on the Ohio State big man who apparently had one leg longer than the other over the precocious talent of the Texas…well whatever position you would say Durant is.  Other picks in this draft included Joakim Noah at nine, after Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer and Brandan Wright.  Were any of these guys better picks than the super-athletic Rudy Fernandez?  Aaron Brooks and Arron Afflalo  at 26 and 27?  Big Baby Glen Davis at 35?  Way down at 48 came Marc Gasol.  I’ll stick my neck out and say that every team who picked after Mike Conley Jr. came off the board at four would probably take their pick back to get Gasol.

The following season came another serious debate which is hard to comprehend in hindsight.  This time it was Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley?  The Chicago Bulls famously won this draft lottery and selected the lightning fast Memphis guard who may or may not have attended any classes during his time in Conference USA.  Another who was in the first-pick conversation early on was O.J. Mayo, a player who deliberately went to USC in order to “develop his brand”.  After Mayo came Russell Westbrook, then Kevin Love, Danilo Gallinari and Eric Gordon, all guys who have developed highly promising NBA careers already.  There then came a bit of a retrospective lull, with Milwaukee making the classic mistake of picking an athletic white guy in Joe Alexander (out of the league already), followed by a series of competent but unspectacular picks like DJ Augustin, Jerryd Bayless, Jason Thompson, Brandon Rush, Anthony Randolph and the Lopez twins, who seem unable to grab significant rebounding figures despite both being seven feet tall.  Down at 18 came Roy Hibbert, a guy who surely played his way into a more-than-he-deserves contract either this summer or next when he enters unrestricted free agency.  The second round of this particular draft was actually fairly typical, with very few guys ever making an impact on the NBA.  Forty-fifth pick Goran Dragic being one notable exception to a rule where Australian big Nathan Jawai flattered to deceive along with jumping jacks Bill Walker and James Gist.  Smarter picks were evident, such as the Trail Blazers’ selection of Omer Asik, and Minnesota’s pick of Mario Chalmers at 34 (both men were of course traded).

 

Strange to think this was a serious debate

 

Another debate occurred in 2009, except it was over who would go AFTER Blake Griffin was taken first overall.  Griffin of course missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury, which he has exploded back from in a way many feared would not be possible.  Memphis picked UConn giant Hasheem Thabeet who has ended up averaging fewer than three rebounds a game and a disappointing 0.8 blocks per game.  Slightly better selections were James Harden at three and Tyreke Evans at four before Minnesota went PGCRAZY (this was an impressive draft for guards, Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor, Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison were also taken) picking Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn with successive picks, then taking Ty Lawson at 18.  Bizarrely, they traded Lawson, who had arguably been a more impressive point guard in college than Flynn, as impressive as Flynn was in that crazy Syracuse season (which included that six OT game in the NCAA tournament), to Denver and were unable to secure Rubio’s release until roughly a year ago.  Golden State took Stephen Curry after Flynn was off the board and, ankle issues aside, Curry has impressed with his accurate shooting.  Jordan Hill, DeMar DeRozan, Brandon Jennings, Terrence Williams and Gerald Henderson were all then picked before UNC star Tyler Hansbrough was picked by Indiana.  The second round saw some very effective NBA players drafted.  Would teams trade DeJuan Blair, Jonas Jerebko, Jodie Meeks, Chase Budinger or Danny Green for Christian Eyenga, Victor Claver or BJ Mullens?  Probably.  Would Memphis take anyone over Thabeet?  Well, maybe, but that’s the luck of the draft.  And that’s why you do your research, NBA execs!

Given the fact that Blake Griffin’s rookie year was delayed a full season, the draft class of 2010 was enhanced by Griffin’s rookie season, which probably robbed John Wall of the rookie of the year award.  The Kentucky guard was taken first by the Washington Wizards before Buckeye Evan Turner.  This draft class was, however weakened but the strength of those players who left a season earlier.  Once you get past the promising Derrick Favors at three and Greg Monroe at seven you could easily make the argument that the Celtic’s Avery Bradley (19th) or possible Eric Bledsoe (18th) were the next best selections.  Among those taken in the lottery were the entirely underwhelming Wesley Johnson, Ekpe Udoh, Al-Farouq Aminu, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry (who had been in the first overall discussions well in advance of the draft), Patrick Patterson and Larry Sanders.  DeMarcus Cousins still promises about as much as he threatens to totally lose the plot.

And so we arrive at the 2011 draft.  Again, there was debate: Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams.  Not really a debate we would have even three months into the lockout-shortened season.  Irving featured in the all-rookie team along with Ricky Rubio (who eventually made it across the Atlantic to great success), Kenneth Faried, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Iman Shumpert and Brandon Knight.  Would teams give back their selections of guys like Williams, Enes Kanter (3rd), Tristan Thompson (4th), Bismack Biyombo (7th), Jimmer Fredette (10th and who was usurped by 60th overall selection Isaiah Thomas by the end of the season) or the Morris twins?  Leonard in particular fell to 15th and Faried was taken by Denver at 22nd.  Both had impressive seasons which extended into the playoffs.  Then again, perhaps if they’d been given a worse situation than the San Antonio Spurs or the Nuggets, they would have struggled as well.  We are still to see the likes of Jonas Valančiūnas, who is coming off a FIBA European Player of the Year award, so perhaps we might yet look back fondly upon the 2011 draft.

 

Class of 2012 led by Davis

 

What the Miami Heat need to do to close out

Tonight is a pivotal game 5 in the 2012 NBA finals.  The Miami Heat stand on the brink of their second title, Lebron stands on the brink of his first title and probably a finals MVP award.  Kevin Durant stands on the brink of becoming the new Lebron (the “he’s good, but he doesn’t have a title…” argument).  Here is my list of what I think the Miami Heat need to do to avoid going back to Oklahoma City for game 6 and perhaps game 7 (let’s not forget that they won the 2006 title in Dallas).

 

1: Put Lebron in the post.

2: that’s it.

Lebron came out at the end of game 4 with what has been described as leg cramps.  Watching him loosely jog after getting up (before the long outlet which got him that bank shot over Westbrook) and limp around the court when he came back on would suggest that this was indeed what had happened.  Scoring a clutch three on guts alone was HUGE.  However, air balling the next three that he took told Erik Spoelstra that he had to take Lebron out of the game.

I’m sure many of us have had leg cramps.  Some perhaps even during a game or training session (anyone who’s been through the Darren O’Neill pre-season will definitely know about this).  It hurts but it’s rare that you end up unable to walk the following day, or even unable to play basketball a couple of days afterwards.  However, those of us who might have suffered cramps at the end of running a marathon might argue otherwise.  Lebron has been sensational all season long.  I can’t even come up with a word to top “sensational” to describe him in the playoffs.  But the chances are that he’s very close to running on fumes by this stage.

He has been guarding the only other legitimate contender for the title of “best player in the league” for the past couple of games and has effectively taken Durant out of the equation.  It took an all-time great finals performance from Russell Westbrook to keep OKC in game 4 because Lebron had made Durant less of a factor.  His intense defense has tired Durant out by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.

But he’s clearly not 100%.  Neither is Dwyane Wade.  Neither is Chris Bosh, although his fitness is improving whilst the others is declining.

Therefore, if Lebron is not completely fit, especially if he is lacking the athletic explosiveness which has defined his play throughout his career, the logical place for him to take up offensive position is in the post.  Nobody in the entire world can guard Lebron in the post.  He’s either too strong or too quick (and at full fitness he would be both too strong AND too quick for most) for every possible defender, particularly those on the OKC roster.

His inside the paint/outside the paint field goal percentage isn’t even close.  The “jab step, jab step, jump shot” offense which still creeps into his game would cost Miami tonight.

 

Key to failure

Commentators argue that Oklahoma City doesn’t understand that they are “beaten”.  Of course its possible that they could win three in a row for what would be an all time great comeback.  It’s just that, in each of their losses, they have looked inexperienced.  Durant, while I’ll grant that he doesn’t get superstar calls, is picking up silly fouls.  Westbrook isn’t a pure point guard and can’t get Durant the ball early enough in the offense BEFORE Lebron pushed him out of position.  Harden has stunk.  Perkins is a liability in this series with his slow defense and non-existent offensive game.  Ibaka is being dragged away from the basket by Bosh’s jump shooting ability.  Sefalosha isn’t really an offensive factor.  Derek Fisher is not going to give them enough to compensate for all of these other deficiencies.

OKC will of course have other opportunities.  The squad they have COULD end up contending for NBA titles for the next decade.  Of course that won’t happen because at least two out of Ibaka, Harden and Sefalosha will have had their heads turned and demand more money than they are realistically worth.  Ibaka in particular will have a short shelf life as his game is the most sensitive to injury, given his athleticism.

Sorry Lebron haters.

If Lebron James never wins a title…

Tonight, the basketball equivalent of the Khymer Rouge (not really, but I figured if everyone else could claim to hate Lebron James, I could indulge in some hyperbole) meet the basketball equivalent of the Salvation Army (that’s the charity, not the paramilitary wing of the Alliance Party) in Oklahoma City as the NBA finals reach game 2.  With exaggeration and over-reaction the name of the game these days, of course we all understand that there is no way the Miami Heat can come back from a one game deficit.  In almost three-quarters of cases, the team who wins game 1, wins the series.  Of course, the team which wins game 1 is more often than not the number 1 overall seed, or at least a team which defeated the number 1 seed.

 

 

Some pundits felt that the occasion of game 1 would get to the younger Thunder players and that the more experienced Heat roster might be able to capitalise.  Of course, we all know that Kevin Durant came out balling and the Heat couldn’t cope with average games from it’s number 2 and 3 superstars.

The emergence of the Thunder as legitimate title contenders must have sent shivers down the spines of at least Pat Riley and Lebron James, if not all persons interested in basketball outside of Oklahoma.  The superstars are young.  The role players are young.  The role players are all very good or excellent at one thing which means they can play serious minutes in important games.  This team could, injury permitting (and you can never rule out the prospect of injuries derailing anything, isn’t that right Chicago?), contend for the next ten NBA titles.

 

Durant or Lebron?

 

Another consequence of the rise of the Thunder is that the best player in the NBA, or perhaps the most talented, might never win an NBA title.  Lebron James has been nothing short of a phenomenon since he began to feature in national media a decade ago.  Let’s not forget that his 18th birthday present from his mother Gloria (and perhaps also his estranged father…Delonte West…) was a Hummer, for which she secured the loan based on her son’s future earning power.  Imagine he’d wrecked that car and smashed his legs?

There is a popular viewpoint (although given that it’s popular, it’s not really a viewpoint, it’s a trend) that if Lebron doesn’t win an NBA title, he can never legitimately be considered one of the best players ever.  This makes the massively erroneous assumption that it’s in some way easy to win an NBA title.  Statistically, Lebron is giving NBA fans 26ppg, 7prg and 6apg for his career.  Compare that to 25.4ppg, 5.3rpg and 4.7apg from Kobe Bryant, or even the 30.1ppg, 6.2rpg and 5.3apg of Michael Jordan and you have to say that Lebron deserves to be spoken of in elite basketballing company.

The critics, of course, argue that it’s not the statistics, it’s the personality.  Because they all know him so well?  No, because of massive assumptions they’ve made based on the views of people who don’t know Lebron very well either.

 

Celeb Lebron exaggerator/critic Skip Bayless

He’s all about the brand?  I assume you won’t be wanting the new Jordan XI’s when they’re released?  The whole concept of a brand traces back to the black and red Jordan I’s for which young Michael was fined every time he wore them in games.  Magic and Bird wore the same shoe.

He’s arrogant?  Re-read that bit about his mum buying him a Hummer age 18.  Go back and look at the Sports Illustrated cover from his senior year in High School.  The media built him up into this global phenomenon and deservedly, but it fails to see the cruelty when it decides to pick him apart?

Look at just about every decision he’s made since he came into the league and try to convincingly argue when I say that, actually, he’s done pretty well given how f-ed up his life has been.  Multiple kids with multiple women?  Or two kids with his childhood sweetheart?  Gun charges?  Getting into fights in nightclubs?

 

The Decision

You don’t like “The Decision”?  Well, you should know that it raised $6million for various charities.  That tenner you gave the girl you fancy for her 10k doesn’t seem quite as impressive any more, does it?  Also, do you think it was Lebron or ESPN who really drove that programme?

 

The “Chosen 1” tattoo?  Because it’s in some way worse than Marquis Daniels’ “Healthy Woman Roof” (look it up)?  Or the innumerable “the game chose me” type tats that everyone gets?

Whether Lebron James wins an NBA title or not, we should be appreciating watching this guy and not getting overly involved in something which we ultimately shouldn’t really care all that much about.  It’s just sports, after all.

 

 

Why everyone should be hoping for a Miami Heat victory

The NBA finals are nearly upon us and voting patterns on the TCC site seem to suggest that most of you will be cheering on the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Why?  Well, it seems to me that most of it is because people “don’t like” LeBron James.  Ignoring for one second the fact that it is unbelievably counter-intuitive to actually hold a strong view about someone you’ve never met, nor are ever likely to, much of this anti-LeBron sentiment seems to stem from “the Decision” of a couple of years ago.

 

If you can take the time to watch this incredible documentary, I believe that you will find ample reason to support anything but an Oklahoma City victory.  The people of Seattle thank you.

 

Doris Burke – why?

Watching the NBA, or even a show about the NBA, on ESPN often serves as a reminder of how little we in northwest Europe know about basketball.  While BBC’s Match of the Day football show (just in case you weren’t aware what that is!) provides punditry which rarely transcends the mundane, and frequently is so uninformed and uninteresting that it borders on the insulting, ESPN features journalists and former players who really know there stuff and give insights and points of contention which you actually mull over in your mind whilst watching.  It is the most interactive form of punditry, as most commentators transmit their views to the world via twitter over the course of any given day.  Anyone follow @alanhansen or @alanshearer?

Side note – I once saw Shearer described as a “squaddie who had just beaten someone to death with a shoe”.  That still makes me laugh when I see his disgruntled face point out that any given footballer “must do better” with a missed chance or “will be disappointed not to have scored”.  Really, Alan?

Where is his shoe?

By contrast, ESPN employ a series of pundits whose opinions are insightful and interesting.  One cannot watch any of the “sports shouting” shows that the channel broadcasts on weekday afternoons (late nights in the UK and Ireland) without at least acknowledging that each of the participants have really thought about the topics at hand.  Again this contrasts to MOTD where Shearer once boasted “Our knowledge of these two teams is limited” during the Slovenia vs Algeria game at the 2010 World Cup.  Ever heard of wikipedia Alan?

You simply cannot say the say about the likes of Mike Wilbon, Bomani Jones (who I might not always agree with, but find easily the most entertaining of the Around the Horn talking heads), Woody Paige, Jackie McMullan, Stephen A. Smith (a close second favourite of mine), or even the inflammatory Skip Bayless.  It also has a series of young female reporters like Erin Andrews and Rachel Nichols who fill the Sky Sports News role of “nice to look at, nice to listen to” anchor.

So why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, oh why, OH WHY did ESPN decide to promote the barely sentient Doris Burke to the role of court-side interviewer for the NBA conference finals?  WHY?  Seriously, why?

Oh great, more insight…

 

 

Burke sidles up to the players and coaches on-court at half time and, magically, without even moving her lips, asks excessively long questions of players who would clearly rather be somewhere else.  There was honestly no-one better to do this?  Not Craig Sager…

 

 

 

 

A couple of examples:

 

 

 

 

The end of an era in San Antonio?

Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder closed out game 6 in San Antonio to knock out a side which had until very recently given the impression of becoming a post-season juggernaut.

Behind 34 points and 14 rebounds from Kevin Durant and a 25/8/5 stat line from Russell Westbrook (few will be surprised that he and Durant ended up with the same number of assists), along with 16 points from James Harden, the Thunder saw off decent performances from Tim Duncan (25 and 14) and Tony Parker (29 and 12 assists) and a transcendent performance from Stephen Jackson who went 6-7 from three point range to finish with 23 points.

 

Yassss!

 

Until they went to Oklahoma City, the Spurs had not lost for twenty games.  Since they arrived there on May 31st, they have lost four in a row and have dropped out of the 2012 playoffs, which many predicted them to win.  The Spurs, often cited as the best coached team in the league, perhaps second-guessed themselves with the decision to start Manu Ginobili in the last two games of the series, a move which rather negated the Argentinian’s impact off the bench.  As all good coaches understand, it’s not who starts so much as who finishes.

The Spurs this season had been playing a brand of basketball which belied their “boring” tag.  There was not much boring about the way Parker sliced through defenses, how Duncan defied age and a 66 games in 120 days season to produce basketball not seen from him in years, how Boris Diaw shook off his miserable time in Charlotte (not to mention his man boobs) to become a serious contributor, how Danny Green overcame  being waived by the Cleveland Cavaliers and some serious time in the D-League to make the Spurs starting rotation this season and how Kawhi Leonard made NBA GM’s across the nation look foolish for drafting, well, pretty much anyone other than Kyrie Irving ahead of him.

 

Big hands...

 

However, now the Spurs season is at an end, we are reminded that Tim Duncan will be blowing out 37 candles at his next birthday and had been dragging his left knee around for a good few seasons.  Manu Ginobili will turn 35 this July and has been playing the role of slasher to great effectiveness in the NBA for a decade.  Tony Parker also has nearly 1,000 NBA games on the clock.

 

For my money, the Spurs reputation as a boring team is more a result of careful management on the part of coach Greg Popvich and the ownership team.  Aside from Parker’s 2010 divorce and alleged affair with the spouse of a certain former team-mate, there is not a great deal which is known about terribly many of the Spurs roster.  Compared with the media circuses that are the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, etc, etc, the Spurs are in a relatively small market.  Indeed they are the only show in town, so to speak, in San Antonio.  It is therefore surprising that the San Antonio media has not circled their wagons around the team in an effort to reveal more about the squad.

 

 

How many of us knew that Tiago Splitter was actually born in Belfast and was separated from his smaller, but otherwise identical twin, Paul Dick, at a young age?  Tiago got the height, Paul got the jumpshot.

 

Paul Dick?

Splitter?

 

In all seriousness, though, this could well be the end of the current Spurs squad.  Ginobili himself admitted in a recent interview that their window was closing.  While he has struggled with injuries this season, it must be the health of Duncan which causes Spurs fans the most concern.  He cannot go on forever, but we must remember that he and Popovich came very close to achieving titles thirteen years apart.  What an achievement that would have been.  Even Michael Jordan’s last title was a mere seven years after his first.

 

What happened to OKC?

Click on the image for a “Fresh” look at the NBA finals…

Turning down the Heat

It’s almost two years since “The Decision” brought together a group known variously as the “Superfriends”, “The Heatles”, “The Big Three”, “Miami Thrice”, “DLC and the D-Leaguers”, “The Three Amigos”, “The Three Basketeers”, and, more recently, “Batman and Robin” and “Two and a Half Men”.

The Big Three?

The disrespect shown in the latter two names is directed mainly at Chris Bosh.  The 28-year old from Georgia Tech was the fourth pick in the famous (infamous?) NBA draft, directly ahead of Dwyane Wade and developed a reputation as a tough competitor, forced into playing significant rookie minutes at Centre after the departure of Antonio Davis.  His rookie averages of 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game were impressive and he made the all-rookie team along with LeBron, Carmelo, Wade (interesting how he never gets his first name) and Kirk Hinrich.

 

Critics point at Bosh’s inability, at 6-11, to consistently grab double figure rebounds.  He has, in three different seasons, averaged over 10 rebounds a game, but not since he joined Miami.  Given Bosh earns $16M this year, the same as LeBron and a few hundred thousand more than Wade, and is the most important inside player for Miami (we’ll come to that), his unimpressive stats and style of play have led many to dismiss his relevance as a legitimate superstar.

 

Bosh went down with an abdominal strain during the May 13th victory over the Indiana Pacers.  The Heat went on to win by nine but the damage was done.  Without their third scorer, the Heat were unconvincing in a narrow loss to Indiana on May 15th and got smacked last night, even though they had come back from a slow start to lead at the end of the first.  Never has it been more obvious that Bosh is an integral part of this team.  Equally, never has it been more obvious that the Miami Heat’s main problem is not how LeBron James or Dwyane Wade perform (even though Wade was atrocious with only five points last night), it’s how unbelievably awful everyone else on their roster is.

Joel Anthony's range: 2 inches

With Bosh out, Dexter Pittman started alongside Joel Anthony.  Although a credible college player at Texas, Pittman was woefully out of his depth against all-star Roy Hibbert.  Pittman and Bosh are barely even comparably players; Bosh’s strength is as a jump shooter whereas Pittman does not possess a reliable shot.  The other option for the Heat is Joel Anthony (a man who should really be called Jel Anthny), or the doomsday scenario of letting Eddy Curry back into an NBA game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too much Curry?

 

Although the Pacers are an unfashionable side, the balance they possess is becoming clear to many.  They have an excellent guard in George Hill, a solid scorer in Granger, Hibbert clogging up the middle and, let’s not forget, they also have David West.  On top of that they have some energy off the bench in the form of Tyler Hansbrough and Louis Amundsen.  The Heat have Ronny Turiaf and the artist formerly known as Mike Miller, who has been clanking threes this off-season like he has never properly recovered from his hand injury of last season (although he is still shooting about 40% from the three point line).

 

 

 

Mario rates Dwyane Wade's performance last night

Mario Chalmers really picked up his game last night, filling the gap from game 2 when everyone was asking what the Heat had beyond LeBron and Wade, but the plummeting performance from Wade was to the detriment of the Heat.  Wade’s bust up with coach Erik Spoelstra, apparently a result of Spoelstra speaking some home truths in a time out (basically that Wade wasn’t playing well: an astute observation, even if it doesn’t really seem like being a wise move to irritate one of your superstars when you have the shoogliest coat-peg in the NBA), has again raised the spectre of Pat Riley taking control of the team next season.

 

LeBron was impressive again after missing free throws which might have seen the Heat going into game 3 with a 2-0 lead.  He has been forced into playing time at the 4 spot which is tiring him out and he has also been on the receiving end of some cheap shots.  LeBron missed a technical foul free throw after having his jersey pulled by Danny Granger and Lance Stephenson was seen on the Pacers bench making a choke gesture which would have been infinitely more hilarious if the person making the gesture was even remotely relevant as a basketball player.

 

And you are?

 

If the Heat can get their transition game going, there is a chance they could yet salvage this series.  There is no definite date on Bosh’s return, so an extended series could see him back in uniform.  Even if they do get past Indiana, they will likely match up with the Boston Celtics, whose own big three are playing at a level which belies their advanced years.  Then it looks very much like the finalists from the East will meet up with either the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder.  I dunno about you, but a western winner looks very much on the cards from where I’m sitting.

 

As for the Heat, with a title (not one…) looking increasingly unlikely, questions are raised about what this team might look like next season.  Spoelstra may or may not keep his job, but rumours about the future of Bosh (whose reputation has soared in his absence) and even Wade, with Dwight Howard available, persist.  There is no doubt that a team with LeBron, Howard and potentially Steve Nash (a signing which would allow Mario Chalmers to spend time at the 2) would challenge for the title next year, but if any lesson has been learned of this season in South Beach, it is surely that depth is an absolute necessity for a championship-calibre team.

Anthony Davis: an all-star in the making?

The recent “University” of Kentucky triumph at the NCAA tournament final in New Orleans couldn’t have been achieved without the extraordinary recruiting class of coach John Calipari.  I use inverted commas around the word “University” because one would imagine that there is a greater chance of illiteracy than graduation among many of its basketball players.  Calipari certainly caters for a new generation of basketball player who is forced into a year of college action after high school by the NBA’s minimum age rule.

A few of you will recall the fabulous adventures of Jeremy Tyler who decided to leave high school before his senior year and play professional basketball in Israel.  Amazingly, a kid from San Diego did not manage to settle in Haifa.  He played a while in Japan before becoming NBA-eligible and, after being drafted by Charlotte, ended up with Golden State, where he has started fifteen games this season, averaging (to date) a less than stellar 3.4 PPG and 2.6 RPG.

 

Jeremy Tyler

 

Most high school kids are smart enough to realise that moving to a foreign country, on your own, at eighteen years of age, is not the easiest transition you can make in life.  Brandon Jennings made a reasonable fist of life in Rome, although his statistics suggested otherwise, before impressing in his rookie season in the NBA.  The vast majority have decided not to follow Jennings and Tyler and still head to college.

Now, the minimum age rule is the topic of some contention; few could argue that the likes of Lebron James and Dwight Howard were NBA ready from a young age.  Of course, those same arguments would have to stand up to the claim that both James and Howard could have done with at least a little maturing before embarking on their professional careers: character-wise for James and post-move and free-throw wise – okay, and character-wise – for Howard.  Indeed, the prospect of Howard with a little more heart and three effective post moves is truly frightening.

 

Drop step Dwight!

 

The alternative argument is that if players are good enough then they are old enough.  Professional football teams in the UK sign kids during their mid-teens and develop them within the, for example, Manchester United system.  Those who do not make the grade with that team are often able to impress elsewhere, but many end up on the scrapheap.  There are compelling arguments for making education compulsory up to the age of 22.  But there are also compelling arguments for allowing guys who are drawing massive television audiences to get paid.  The NCAA makes an absolute fortune every season whilst prohibiting any college players from legally making any money.  Of course, one could argue that the $250,000 that a college education can cost is pretty good money for four years.

With the rules as they stand, the best option for the elite high school player of today is to do the “one and done” college career.  The current school of choice for the discerning one and done..er is Kentucky.  John Calipari made a pretty good fist of turning his Memphis players into viable NBA prospects, even if the professional careers of Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and co have been varied in their success.  This has drawn potential one and done players to his teams.  And attracted negative attention with allegations of illegal payments widespread.

The most notable of his recruits was the 6’10” Anthony Davis, out of the Perspectives Charter high school in south Chicago.  Davis has been a consensus pick for collegiate player of the year and seems like a likely selection by whichever team wins the NBA’s draft lottery at the end of this season.

 

Anthony Davis

 

Divisive ESPN talking head (or should that be “shouting head”?) Skip Bayless tweeted “I can see Anthony Davis being an NBA All-Star but not a superstar w/ young Shaq impact. Extreme wingspan but still 6-10 and a little skinny.”

Although he has yet to declare for the 2012 NBA draft, he is a consensus number 1 pick, likely to end up at one of the no-hopers of the NBA like the Charlotte Bobcats.  Quick: name me a current Charlotte Bobcats player.  Not all that easy to do is it?  Do you think that’s a good thing?  The Bobcats aren’t flush with talent, but there has been a certain inevitability to the way that DJ Augustin and Kemba Walker have rather faded from the public consciousness since landing in North Carolina, even if Walker has performed pretty well in his first season in the NBA.  If the lottery hands the overall number 1 pick to Charlotte, it quickly becomes the pick that no-one wants.  That said, a couple of smart draft picks, along with some careful free agency and trading work, put the LA Clippers on the straight and narrow.

As of the 8th of April, the Charlotte Bobcats had won seven games this season.  There is a very real prospect of the Bobcats ending up with the worst ever percentage in NBA history (if they lose all their remaining games, they will end up at 0.108).  They are five behind Washington in the race to not-be-the-worst-team-in-the-NBA.

 

Hi, I'm Adam. Remember me?

 

Not that such a race even really exists; once you are assured of missing out on the play-offs, the mot-du-jour becomes “tanking”.  On occasion, the player that the deliberately-losing team covets most even has a name which lends itself to a catchphrase, like the Indianapolis Colts recent period of “Such for Luck”: allegedly deliberately losing games so they could win the NFL’s number one overall pick, which will likely be standout Stanford Quarterback, Andrew Luck.  Of course, in the NBA, tanking only gives you the best chance of winning the draft lottery.

One should note that not since the 2004 Orlando Magic selection of Dwight Howard as the worst team managed to win the number 1 pick.  In fact, other than the previous year (Cleveland selecting…well, you know who), you have to go back to 1990, then 1988 to find the team with the greatest chance of winning the lottery actually winning it (the picks which became Danny Manning for the LA Clippers and Derrick Coleman for the NJ Nets).  Statistically, the most likely teams to win the lottery are actually those with the third and fifth worst regular season records (five “wins” each since the lottery was introduced in 1985).

There is, of course, a chance that the number one pick could end up with a team like Utah or Milwaukee – not particularly fantastic places to live, particularly when you have the alternatives of Cleveland, New Jersey or…oh wait.  Actually, it’s pretty interesting how the glamorous NBA cities are enjoying more success this season.  It hasn’t always been that way, but it does make sense; players with more power over their destination are always going to be more likely to pick a nice city to live in.  Not that Portland or Minneapolis aren’t nice places.  It’s just that they’re not Los Angeles or Miami.  In any case, there is a decent chance that Davis will not end up in Charlotte.

There are also issues that are highly specific to Davis himself.

Some have considered Davis to be a “once in a generation” talent.  Even in the age of hyperbole (absolutely everything that happens is of exaggerated importance, partially a result of the 24 hour news cycle where things have to be exaggerated simply to keep people tuning in), this seems a stretch to me.  Sure, Davis has the ability to handle the ball and can shoot to about 17 feet (although he only made three of the twenty three-point shots he took this past season) and ended up with a very impressive 62% on his field goals this season – although his length means that a great number of these were undoubtedly dunks or put-backs – but it is his ability to play small whilst having a seven-foot-plus wingspan that excites so many.

There is a precedent for a skinny kid, just shy of seven feet tall, playing only one year in college before taking the NBA by storm.  I’m of course referring to Kevin Durant.

 

Kevin Durant, in the jersey he should still have been wearing

 

The problem for Davis is that he doesn’t have anything like Durant’s range.  In the NBA he will likely end up playing at the power forward slot where he will face guys like Kevin Love (260lbs), Blake Griffin (251lbs), and Elton Brand (254lbs).  Davis is listed at 220lbs, not particularly light in the grand scheme of things, but not particularly heavy in a league where power forwards are typically at least 20lbs heavier.

 

Perhaps the most significant challenge that Davis will face is that he will end up going to one of the worst teams in the league.  If it is to be the Charlotte Bobcats, he will join the ranks of a team where Byron Mullens (who wisely gave up the BJ nickname when he entered the league), a guy who may not see significant playing time if chosen for the team GB squad in the Olympics, is the third best player.

Anthony Davis will undoubtedly be a very competent NBA player.  Maybe he will be an all-star.  Whether or not the stars will align to permit him to do so, however, remains to be seen.