The Shame at Penn State

Joe Paterno has always seemed to be an old man. I mention this because it has been difficult to picture him as a young man, as a man with vulnerabilities for a long time. It seems as though he has stood on the sideline, or sat in the press box since time began. What made Joe Paterno as beloved as he became was not his football coaching, his recruiting or his strategic acumen. It was that he was Penn State, coaching the team since it became relevant over 40 years ago. Not only was he Penn State, through the years Penn State became something more than Penn State. It became a metaphor for stability in an unstable world. When almost all major programs were exposed as liars and cheats, there was one last honest man. That may sound like an exaggeration, and I know many people did not see Paterno in this way, but what I do know is that there certainly were some who did, and those were his people, his players, his boosters, his fans, and his kids. That was whom Joe Paterno, without explicitly stating it, was coaching for.

Jerry Sandusky, however irrelevant and immoral seeming it may now be, was very good at his job as Defensive Coordinator by all accounts. He coached phenomenal defenses, and phenomenal linebackers in particular, winning two National Championships along the way. However, by 1998 it was clear something was amiss with Sandusky, who was at the time in line to replace Paterno. Sandusky, a man who had adopted six children, a man who ran a foster home, was being investigated for inappropriate behaviour with young boys in the Penn State showers. No charges were filed, and the DA went on to disappear without a trace seven years later. It is not know whether Paterno knew, but he informed Sandusky around the same time that he would no longer be the man replacing him. Within twelve months Sandusky retired. It seems as though Penn State and Paterno recognized all was not right with Jerry Sandusky.

The years go on and in 2002 Sandusky is no longer officially employed, yet is still granted unlimited access to Penn State facilities. It is in the same showers that a graduate assistant saw Sandusky raping a 10 year-old boy and informed Paterno. Justice cannot be done to that sort of tragedy; one sentence almost feels like a trivialization. The image that comes to mind is a sickening one, one I am sure we all hope will never happen, real or imagined, ever again. Joe Paterno was informed of this and he informed the Athletic Director, who did nothing. Joe Paterno found out about the rape of a 10 year-old boy, and although he legally fulfilled his obligation to inform a superior, he did not make sure something was done about it. I would be willing to bet that if Joe Paterno had called the police, Sandusky would have been charged much earlier than he was. Jerry Sandusky continued to molest young boys because people like Joe Paterno knew about it and did not ensure the atrocities stopped.

We want our great football coaches to be great people; that is why Joe Paterno was so admired. His “Grand Experiment,” his commitment to both academics and athletics was held up as evidence of something greater than a mere football coach. What we all failed to notice was that the qualities of a great football coach are usually not the qualities of a great man. A football coach’s job is to control the outcome as much as possible, to grant his team the best chance at victory. A person’s job, sometimes, is to admit that the outcome cannot be controlled, to admit that Jerry Sandusky, his friend and colleague was a monster, to in essence admit defeat. Unsurprisingly, Joe Paterno, one of the greatest coaches of his generation, failed to do this. He did the minimum of what he had to do while at the same time ensuring that he had the best chance to emerge unscathed, to ensure that he had the best chance to win. Had Sandusky been charged in 2002, the investigation of 1998 would have come to light and Joe Paterno would be in a very similar predicament to the one he is currently in. Joe Paterno put victory ahead of decency, and as a result everybody lost.

We want to believe that football, and sports, are a force for good, that they have lessons to teach us. Sometimes, football is a force for bad. Sometimes, it allows a depraved man to get away with despicable crimes in large part because he was good at telling football players how to line up on the field. It sounds absurd how much power one football coach, even an assistant, can have. It sounds much scarier in the case of Jerry Sandusky, and how he used that power for evil.

We want to believe that friendship and teamwork are good as well. Sometimes, friendship and teamwork allow evil deeds to go unpunished. Joe Paterno did not exercise proper moral behaviour, and he allowed molestation to go on because he knew Jerry Sandusky so well, because they were on the same team. Whether Paterno consciously thought in this manner is almost irrelevant, because one way or another he allowed his teammate to escape penalty. I would like to think I would have called the police if I was Paterno, but real life is not always as easy. It is much easier to think to yourself there must be a misunderstanding, to not report your longtime coworker and teammate.

The rebuttal to all this is that the fault lies with the administration, not with Paterno. After all, he did what he was legally obliged to do. I don’t know the administrators involved, but I am pretty sure they don’t have millions of followers, millions of fans, and millions of admirers. Joe Paterno has the most power of anyone on the Penn State campus, just ask the President who attempted to fire him and was rebuffed. Paterno had the opportunity to do right by everyone, to protect innocent kids, and he didn’t do it. That is why he cannot be allowed to coach college football, and cannot be allowed to coach kids any longer.

There are no great lessons or morals to take from this tragedy. Sometimes the guy next door is a monster. Sometimes great men make cowardly mistakes. Sometimes sports aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Sometimes friendship and teamwork aren’t for the greater good. Sometimes a legend has to fall for all to realize we can do better.

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Jays Season Review and One Crazy Night (Plus Postseason Predictions)

Myles Dichter

I’m sure you will encounter numerous report card/player by player 2011 Blue Jays season reviews. And I’m not gonna lie, I was considering doing that too. But then I realized: baseball is a team sport. A team cannot be fairly judged on its performance by examining each individual player. Nine solid innings from your pitching staff are always better than 3 great pitchers but one awful one. Jose Bautista, regardless of whether or not he is the best player in baseball, clearly cannot get this team to the playoffs on his own. His own remarkable individual stats do not tell you anything about how the Jays fared this season.

I’ll start this review with the infamous man in the white shirt scandal. The Jays were accused of sending a man into the centre field bleachers, who then picked up on the opposing catcher’s signals to the pitcher and motioned to the Jays hitters whether the upcoming pitch was a breaking ball or fastball. This was just the latest explanation for Jose Bautista’s breakthrough seasons. And I believe this is entirely true. The sign-stealing story came to the public on August 10th. We don’t know when the Jays found out that ESPN had this information, but the difference in Bautista’s number before and after July 31st is drastic. Before, he was the frontrunner for MVP with a .325 average and 31 home runs (.32 homers per game). Now, he is an outside shot to win the MVP after batting .248 with just 12 dingers (.17 homers per game) in August and September. Never mind the fact that he struck out 26 times in August, a huge anomaly considering the most k’s he’d had in any other month was 16. This is what strikes me the most. Bautista has always had the skillset to thrive in the Majors, he just didn’t have the discipline, constantly striking out on pitches in the dirt. But when he came to Toronto, this annoying habit went away, with the supposed help of Dwayne Murphy. But once the man in white left Rogers Centre in August, Bautista started striking out again. It should be pointed out that while sign-stealing is not actually against the rules of baseball, it is highly frowned upon, which begs the question: Why did the Jays feel they needed to stop, if they were stealing signs in the first place?

Looking to next year, there are definite improvements the Jays must make if they want to consider contending for a Playoff spot. Every facet of pitching must be improved, though I did like what I saw from closer Frankie Francisco the last couple months. Beyond Romero, there was not a single trustworthy starter in the Jays rotation, except maybe Henderson Alvarez for the final month. I would like to see a rotation consisting of Romero, Morrow and Alvarez next year with a battle for the final two spots between Dustin McGowan, Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison (guy from AA New Hampshire, like Alvarez). I see no need to add a crappy veteran reliever to “stabilize” the rotation, a la Kevin Millwood. I’d rather see the young guys develop, as I’m sure most Jays fans would. On offense, the Jays have a hole to fill at second base, and DH. With a thin market in free agency for second basemen, the Jays will probably have to go the trade route to find a viable replacement. At the moment, the Jays have Edwin Encarnacion pencilled in as their starting DH. I hate Edwin, because at the end of every year he teases you into believing he’s a legit MLB player, but every year he disappoints. I would love for the Jays to sign Prince Fielder as their first baseman. He would solve a Jays need for a power first baseman, and would send both Adam Lind and EE into part-time roles. Moreover, the Jays would suddenly transform into contenders. Now I’m not saying that this is at all realistic, but it would be nice if AA could get the money to pull it off.

On to last night. This was the best night of baseball I have ever experienced. Ever. In my entire 16 years, 11 months and 3 days. The night culminated with two teams completing 8.5 game comebacks, 2 extra innings, 2 walkoffs, Red Sox actually rooting for the Yankees, and the Rays coming back from down 7-0 in the eighth inning. There were four games with playoff implications, 3 were decided in the bottom of the ninth or later, one was a blowout. The Rays, after losing marquee free agents such as Carl Crawford, saw Crawford botch a fly ball in left allowing the Orioles to win and sending the Rays into the playoffs over Crawford’s new team. The heros last night? Robert Andino and Dan Johnson. It almost seemed like the Yankees were trying to torture their nemesis, teasing them with a 7-0 lead then blowing it. Not like the game mattered to them anyway. It was heartbreaking for Red Sox fans, who one minute seemed certain that they could at least hold on to win their game and force a play-in game, then ten minutes later were devastated by Evan Longoria’s 317 foot home run. It was really only fitting that the Braves and Red Sox blew saves after blowing their massive wild card leads.

Lets look ahead to the postseason now, with a completely different picture than at the beginning of the month. Our matchups our Rays/Rangers, Yankees/Tigers, DBacks/Brewers and Phillies/Cardinals. And my predictions…

ALDS

Rays over Rangers in 5

I’ll take pitching over hitting in the playoffs any day. Rays have an all-star rotation.

Tigers over Yankees in 4

Comes down to pitching again, and the Yankees rotation is just plain awful, compounded by the fact that their ace is going to be overmatched by Verlander.

ALCS

Tigers over Rays in 6

Rays dream run ends here as Verlander win two games singlehandedly, and Miguel Cabrera goes beastmode.

NLDS

Brewers over Diamondbacks in 3

The DBacks aren’t a good team, at least on paper. Surprising enough that they made the playoffs, but are overcome by Braun, Fielder and the trio of Marcum, Gallardo, Greinke.

Phillies over Cardinals in 4

Does this need any more explanation: Doc, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt.

NLCS

Brewers over Phillies in 7

I think the Brewers top three guys are good enough to keep the games tight with the Phillies Phoursome, and the Brewers offense is significantly better than the Phillies’.

World Series

Brewers over Tigers in 5

I honestly couldn’t care less who wins the Series at this point, other than for my own satisfaction of correctly picking the winning team. What I’d really like is a good World Series, maybe even going 7 games. I went with the Brewers here because of quantity over quality. Braun, Fielder, Greinke, Marcum, Gallardo over Cabrera, Verlander.

The Deeper Side of Pretty Boy Floyd

By: Norman Yallen

Floyd Mayweather is the best boxer alive right now. If you have a quarrel with that, take it up with the man himself. He’ll tell you all about his credentials, how he’s won every pro fight he’s ever had, how he’s never even truly been knocked down. He’d go on to say that he’s the greatest of all time, that no one can touch him. Or perhaps he’ll just kick your ass. Mayweather may fight too defensively, he may only agree to fight only those he is sure he can beat, but the one thing Mayweather cannot be accused of lacking is bravado. Last Saturday, he knocked out a fighter in the process of apologizing to him, and he threatened an 80 year-old reporter who questioned it. A common complaint is that Mayweather is ruining his legacy, yet that complaint presumes that Mayweather cared about his legacy, or had much of one to begin with. He is the greatest boxer in the age boxing matters least as a sport. He is successful not because of being able to hit powerfully, but because of a knack for evading powerful hits. He is not what most boxing fans would like boxing to be, and yet they tune in fight after fight, opponent after opponent to see if Floyd can give that something extra, to see him pushed to the brink, to see him reach within himself to pull out something he didn’t know he had. That is why everyone would like to see him fight Manny Pacquiao, except Floyd will not have any of it.

 

Most young African-American athletes today and in Floyd’s generation pursue either basketball or football. They work hard to become a basketball or a football star, making a conscious decision to invest themselves in their sporting dreams. Floyd Mayweather did not make the same decision; in actuality he never made any decision at all. His father was a boxer; his two uncles were boxers, leaving little doubt about Floyd Junior. Before he could walk his father took him in a stroller to the gym and he was held up to hit the punching bag. He never decided to become a boxer; he simply always was a boxer. In an age where young men were fleeing the sport of boxing in droves, seeing the damage inflicted on all its greats, Floyd Mayweather, due to his unique personal circumstance, actively pursued it. When he broached his grandmother about getting a job, she told him to just keep boxing. When his father went to prison for drug trafficking he boxed, even when he fired his father as his trainer, he continued to box. It never seemed to be much of a choice, or a job, it is just who Floyd Mayweather is, and when something is who you are, you tend not to care about your legacy, that is for people who have a passion for it, who choose to do it.

 

When he started out his nickname was Pretty Boy Floyd, due to a bank robber with the same name, yet it just seemed to naturally fit. Other boxers would end their fights with cuts, a bloody nose, a black eye, a busted up ear, but never Floyd. His face was always just as pretty at the end of a fight as at the beginning. At the same time as complimenting his defensive strengths, the discipline his father taught him in how to avoid any hard hits, it also validated the criticisms of him. There was the perception that he couldn’t slug it out, that he cared more about protecting himself and his face than in fighting the best fight he could. That he wasn’t as tough as a boxer should be. The original Pretty Boy Floyd hated his nickname, as did Mayweather for it seems tough guys don’t like being called Pretty Boy. He abruptly decided he would create his own nickname, introducing himself as Floyd “Money” Mayweather. This had more relatability to young, urban, primarily black people, who had grown up similarly to the way he had. He had started out dirt poor in Grand Rapids with a rough family life, and was now saying to the world that he had made it, that he was “money.” A cynical person would say he has crafted that image, that he waves hundred dollar bills as a marketing tactic, that he is just trying to prove he is worthwhile to the public. However, that person would have it quite wrong, Floyd Mayweather most of all needs to prove that he is worthwhile to himself.

 

“24/7”, HBO’s boxing show that follows the run-up to big fights has become a hit over the years in large part due to the fascinating dynamics of the Mayweather family. There’s the father and son who don’t speak, and the crazy Uncle who trains him now instead. The father was in prison for drug trafficking, the mother was a drug addict. It is not a family that will have a charming sitcom made about them on CBS; it is a family that would have a show on, well, HBO. Growing up like that, it doesn’t take a psychologist to realize that Floyd Jr. had a mindset that it was every man for himself. He carried that into his professional career, and if there were two things Floyd knew it was how to look out for himself, and that boxers were often guided and evaluated by people that did not have their best interests at heart. Muhammad Ali was praised as the greatest boxer ever, now all his hits to the head have him almost incapacitated with Parkinson’s. Mike Tyson had almost all his wages stolen by corrupt management. One of Mayweather’s opponents, Arturo Gatti, was beloved for the brutal fights he fought in the ring. He was tragically found dead in his hotel room a couple years back. Floyd was determined not to follow that blueprint. He would protect his body by fighting defensively, not taking any big hits. He would protect his money by discarding Bob Arum a man notorious for taking a large commission, and taking a large hand in managing and promoting himself. So it shouldn’t surprise us that Floyd Mayweather doesn’t seem to care what the public, those who don’t have his best interests at heart think of his legacy, he cares only about the man in the mirror.

 

So when his face, and his reputation were in the process of being attacked, Floyd acted in his own best interests. Victor Ortiz broke the rules in head butting Mayweather. Floyd could not and would not stand by as a man tried to damage him by breaking the rules, when he couldn’t compete with Floyd playing by them. He did what he would have done in a fight back in his home of Grand Rapids, when a man shows weakness and takes his eye off the fight in the middle you take him down. Interestingly, it seems most boxing writers and experts, such as Dan Rafael, agree with that viewpoint. Boxing isn’t governed by rules or ethics; the entire industry is a little less corrupt than Bernie Madoff. The sport of boxing is governed by looking out for your own best interests, and sometimes that may include a cheap shot on an opponent. Floyd Mayweather has fought since he could walk, he understands it as few do, so he would not take criticism from Larry Merchant who never fought, who could never truly understand Floyd or boxing in Mayweather’s eyes. Mayweather has never seemed to bother with those who don’t understand boxing, and therefore don’t understand him.

 

Boxing as a sport is dying. People dispute that with fight viewership statistics, but I see the point as being inarguable. MMA and UFC have countless rising stars, and countless young men in gyms across America training to become the next UFC fighter. Boxing has no young American stars, just Floyd Mayweather, and it is quite possible he may be the last big boxing star we ever see. I am aware that Manny Pacquiao is also a star of that caliber, yet he is 33 and Mayweather is 34. It is quite possible their best fights are behind them, and no young stars seem to be taking their place in the ring or in the public imagination. Floyd Mayweather is the last of a dying breed, The American Boxing Superstar. Which is why although boxing fans may not like him, they root for him to fight Pacquiao, to maintain relevancy, for as long as Floyd Mayweather is on the map in America then boxing is on the map in America.

 

Floyd Mayweather does not care about the health of the sport of the boxing, in the same way that the sport has never cared about the health of its fighters. Floyd Mayweather cares most of all about himself, and in the individualistic sport of boxing where no one can be trusted, that is the smart way to be. While it would be great for the sport for him to be challenged by Pacquiao, he is keenly aware that it may not be great for him. He makes tens of millions to fight men who he is sure he can beat, so why would he need to make a little more to fight a man he is unsure he can beat.  To him, what makes him the greatest is not merely that he has gone undefeated but unchallenged. So although it may be cliché, Floyd Mayweather does not care about what you or me think of him, whether we feel he has fulfilled his potential as a fighter. He doesn’t need the potential trauma of fighting Pacquiao, and he sure as hell doesn’t need the money. The only reason he would take this fight is for public approval, and like it or not, the only approval Floyd Mayweather cares about is his own.

Think before you tweet

I should be a public relations guy. No doubt about it—whoever is doing it now is doing a disastrous job. There are numerous examples of athletes getting in trouble on Twitter for posting things they simply should not. I have Rashard Mendenhall on my fantasy football team and thank God you don’t get points off for dumb tweets. Athletes, and celebrities in general, need to be constantly checking with their PR people on whether they should be tweeting what’s on their mind. From Anthony Weiner’s…well…weiner to Ray Allen posting some seriously nasty stuff in what appears to be part of his sexting fantasies.

And boy do I love the “hacked” excuse. I suppose you could get hacked…but the excuse has gotten a bit lame. And sometimes it’s so easy to see through the “hacked” claim. Here comes Roger Mason Jr., VP of the Players’ Union, who tweeted “Looking like there’s gonna be a season. How u” following one of the meetings between the owners and union. It’s obviously important for both sides of the negotiations to remain as tight-lipped as possible in order to retain all leverage possible. His tweet was deleted quickly and then the hacked excuse popped up.

I'm doing just swell, Roger...now about that tweet...

I don’t buy it for a single second, which is why I am far more optimistic that we will have an NBA season. Yes, I’m ignoring all of the serious issues that still lay ahead for the lockout negotiations and simply believing that Mason’s tweet is a clear indication that we’re going to have a season.

There’s two reasons I don’t buy the “hacked” line: [A] Mason is the vice president while Derek Fisher is the president. If I’m hacking an account I’m going after Fisher who is a higher profile player with over 725,000 more followers (!) [B] The “how u” slip up. Clearly Mason meant to send a text message to a teammate or friend or even his agent. How can you explain the how u???

Who is hacking Roger Mason Jr’s account? You need a computer genius, basketball fanatic (how many people know that Roger Mason is the VP of the Players’ Union?) to try to crack accounts. Better question—if this is do-able, why don’t we see way more of it? If I could hack accounts…let’s say it took me 4-5 hours…I would do it a lot. Crack in LeBron’s and admit that I’m a choker, bust into Kevin Durant’s and destroy his goodie-goodie image and I’ll be dead honest, I would probably try every thing to try to ruin Eddie House’s career (could I fit a homophobic, racist, xenophobic and misogynist comment in 140 characters?).

[Sidenote: I did some digging and there are lots of sites that show you how to hack into Twitter accounts. Some of them look way too tech-heavy and some require downloads. So I’ll either need to spend hours toiling away at something that may never work, or download what’s 95% likely to be a virus. Hmm…how much do I hate Eddie House?]

Look, I believe that some Twitter accounts are hacked. Roger Mason Jr’s didn’t seem like a hack job to me – and it turned out it wasn’t so how in the world did he do that? It’s not Anthony Weiner-level dumb—but it’s pretty close.

Twitter is an amazing tool. I used to bash it all the time for being Facebook Minus Everything Good About Facebook. But following my favourite basketball writers, players and comedians has become part of my daily routine. It’s an amazing resource for quick, instant updates. During the NBA finals, I would get constant injury updates, analysis and stats that would compliment the game. I’ve said millions of time about how they need to enhance the in-game atmosphere at basketball games by having a scrolling Twitter feed on one of the scoreboards during breaks in the game. Follow the local beat writers, bloggers and any ESPN/national media covering the game. No reason not to.

If you won't say it to the media, don't say it on Twitter

[Sidenotes: [A] I’ve also had the idea to have injured players tweet from the bench. [B] Wouldn’t baseball be amazing if the players could tweet from the dugout. There’s so much down time. Could you imagine in between pitches you getting updates from the dugout. [C] How far are we from having the managers and base coaches text each other for signals? Smiley, winkey, heart will soon mean steal third.]

Anyway, back to the point, while Twitter has its distinct advantages that other social media does not have—it becomes dangerous because people don’t always think when they publish. Hire someone to screen your tweets or just don’t tweet at all.

I’d be glad to accept a position as a PR analyst. First thing I’d say is keep your mouth shut, your opinions to yourself and your clothes on and you’ll be fine. Oh, sorry, I haven’t been polite, first I’d ask how u?

Does Yao Ming belong in the Hall of Fame?

Endings are always hyperbolic. It’s just a natural product of our behavior. When NDP leader Jack Layton passed away recently, it was met with universal praise of his life and achievements. I opened the newspaper to find an editorial which called upon future Canadian politicians to follow the acronym: WWJD—What Would Jack Do? Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but was there a Jesus comparison in there?

I’m not trying to marginalize Layton’s life—in fact, I do believe that he was dedicated, passionate and caring as politician. But when he was applauded in every form of media for an entire week, you begin to ask yourself: wasn’t the one knock on this guy that you could never see him actually running the country? The vicious world of campaigning took a complete 180 once the news of Layton’s illness became spread.

This has nothing to do with Layton but instead is an assessment of our general attitudes towards death—or simply endings in general. The same has happened in sports. When Drazen Petrovic—a European super-duper-star turned NBA underdog story—died in a car accident at 28 he was remembered as a basketball legend (and in Europe, he was). But whenever Petrovic gets brought up, the concept of him battling Michael Jordan toe to toe is always discussed. He always gets billed as “the one guy that gave Jordan fits”. He may have done well against Jordan, but his death propelled him into another stratosphere. And because nobody else ever gave Jordan any serious problems (see: six championships) combined with the fact that Petrovic could never lose that status—he would always be the guy that was just as competitive as Jordan. Hyperbolic statements are easy to defend because Petrovic can’t get burned by Jordan anymore the same way Jack Layton has no opportunity to get burned in Parliament.

Petrovic had just begun to get his NBA career on the right path before he died

The greatest example of this is without a doubt Len Bias. For those who may be unaware, Bias died the night of being drafted by the Boston Celtics because of a cocaine overdose. Whenever the Bias story is retold, he is branded as the next greatest NBA legend. He was strong, he was fast and Red Auerbach was hell-bent on getting him. And because Len Bias never played an NBA game—we’ll never know if he was bound to be an NBA legend. But in our minds, he was supposed to be—heck, he was as surefire as the Yankees or Red Sox winning the AL East. He was going to be the next big thing. And you know what incident gets attributed to the United States intensifying their cocaine laws? Len Bias.

Look, I’m not trying to say that Layton, Petrovic and Bias didn’t deserve any of this credit. That’s far from the point. The thing we tend to do around endings is over exaggerate. We turned Layton, Petrovic and Bias from exceptionally skilled and passionate people into mythical beings.

And there’s nothing wrong with it.

When Yao Ming was forced to retire from basketball this summer, in many ways it was a death. Far from the tragedies I discussed in the previous three stories—but it mirrors them to some degree. The heartbreak with Yao is that he didn’t even reach 500 career games and found his seasons cut short due to constant lower body injuries. And Yao was an amazing talent. He finished his career averaging 19 points, 9 rebounds and almost 2 blocks per game. But Yao will mostly get remembered for igniting a global NBA—especially in China where the NBA’s popularity has skyrocketed. Yao was an international icon. You could see him on TV—not just playing in games but in commercials and interviews. But we’ll always say that Yao could have contributed more. Yao could have been even greater.

But is he a hall of fame player? With fewer than 500 games played, he surely doesn’t seem like your conventional candidate. But then again, how many candidates have impacted basketball on an international level the way he did? Yao will surely become the topic of a more heated debate when his nomination rolls around (he asked the committee to delay it until further notice).

You’ll have people saying that he didn’t do enough as a player to merit the induction but it doesn’t matter. Yao deserves it.

And now I’ll have my chance to be hyperbolic. Yao revolutionized Chinese basketball, took an entire country on his back to the NBA. Period.

He dominated on the court. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad word about the guy. A competitive player who believed in the idea of team-first. His physical size did nothing to demonstrate the kind of symbol he was for hundreds of millions of people.

Yes, we often get caught in the trap to overstate and exaggerate at our endings. But this is what it all comes down to: when I came to love the game of basketball and slowly learn its history, I often had to rely on accolades because of my inability to see the players first hand. I never watched Larry Bird or George Gervin or Jerry West play. I’ve seen highlights, watched a few NBA classic games and heard stories—but never seen them play a regular season game in mid-February. Never seen them dominate outside of their signature highlights and moments. So, I rely on what kind of awards they were given. To give me a picture of the NBA hierarchy in the days before I began dribbling a basketball.

Yao was a global icon

In many ways, the Hall of Fame is meaningless indicator. It’s a subjective line drawn by somebody. It’s not winning MVP or an NBA championship—it’s just a decision made by a group of people. But yet, the Hall of Fame does mean something. Because of all the great players that are inducted, there is a concerted effort to try and preserve the meaning of receiving the honor. It means very little that Michael Jordan was inducted if Greg Ostertag were also there. It is there to preserve their legacies for future hoopheads (like me).

There is a reason we attach legendary characteristics to people like Jack Layton, Drazen Petrovic and Len Bias. Because we want to ensure that the future sees these people the same way we have. And without their talents on display, we often need to be hyperbolic in order to demonstrate the true greatness of those who can no longer perform their craft.

Whether he makes it into the Hall of Fame is irrelevant to my view of him. I saw Yao. A torchbearer in a physical and emotional way for the entire world. The next generation will have never seen him play, just as I never saw Chamberlain or West, and I want them to remember him the same way I will. A Hall of Fame induction will go a long way towards cementing the legacy that he has left with those who witnessed his playing days. That’s all I want.

Rap

By: Norman Yallen

There was once a young man who dreamt about changing the world. He told tales of societies outcasts, its lower rung, and illustrated the injustice he saw around him. These tales led to that man becoming incredibly popular, wealthy, and powerful. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way he lost sense of what made him great in the first place. Now, instead of telling stories about poverty and despair, and bringing light to the issues, he remarks about himself and his own possessions. While his gift may still be there, he is laying it to waste. He simply cannot tell a story that the people listening can relate to. That is the problem with rap music as we begin the second decade of the 21st century.

 

Watch the Throne is a compilation album released earlier this month by Kanye West and Jay-Z, who are arguably the two most popular rap artists alive. Therefore, it should provide a good indicator as to the state of rap music, in both lyrical content and stylistically. Stylistically, it stands very high, with the catchiest hooks and snappiest backbeats for the songs that money and talent can buy. The song “Otis” serves as a duet with Otis Redding, which seems like a great idea, as does the whole album. That is until the two rappers begin to do what they are supposed to be famous for doing. Jay-Z follows Otis’s refrain by saying he ‘invented swag.’ It all degenerates from there, with Maybachs and Benzes, cigars, ‘poppin bottles’, supermodels, and all sorts of tidbits from the good life. It was very well produced, very well said, but it was something I could not listen to. That is not to get on a moral high horse; I didn’t hate it for its profanity, or for that matter any perceived immorality, it was just that there was nothing in that song I could identify with. Now here might be the part where people say that rap isn’t meant for me, it’s meant for people, lower class people, and predominantly it is meant for black people at that. Well, the lower someone’s income is, the less they will be able to identify with two talented, rich men, talking about how talented and rich they are. An art that was originally performed and enjoyed by people not so well off has turned into one with a bigger disconnect between the performer and the listener each passing album.

 

In 1993, fresh off the smash success of NWA and Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg released his debut alum, Doggystyle, produced by Dre himself. He rapped about his life, about smoking pot, and fucking women, and being in a gang, and even about killing people. Critics found it obscene, and repulsive at times, but most of all critics and fans found it real. He was rapping about a lifestyle and a people that were being disregarded by most Americans, and whether people liked it or not, he was showing them what life could be like for a lower class minority in Southern California. His later albums have also been about the good times, the women, and the weed, but none has caught on the way Doggystyle did. He is missing that realness, when he raps about the bad times it feels contrived, and when he raps about the good times it feels irrelevant. For instance, in the early 1990s when Snoop Dogg, or Dr. Dre, or Ice Cube cried out, “Fuck the Police,” it felt real in that they really had a distrust of cops at the time, as did much of the black community. Today when they cry that, it doesn’t really seem to add up, since police are guarding their performance. The tipping point for Snoop, and Jay-Z, and all of rap music came about the murders of Tupac, and the Notorious BIG.

 

In the early 1990s Tupac Shakur (2Pac) and Christopher Wallace (Notorious BIG) led warring factions of rap, with 2Pac running the West Coast, and Biggie running the East Coast. On the streets the Bloods and the Crips would fight, and on the mic 2Pac and Biggie would fight. The content, the flow, and the bile were something deeply connecting with much of America at the time, and it really served to put rap music on the map to stay. Unfortunately for these two men, and for the entire genre, that bad blood carried out into the streets as both men were murdered. Although there would be feuds, and gangster talk, it wouldn’t be the same after. There might be an invective about someone’s wife, but there would no longer be death threats on a song. Rap music had become too real, and in its urge to end this feud, it became something more corporate and less relevant for the lives of its listeners.

 

To be clear, I am not bemoaning the good old days of rap music. I am thankful that today music icons aren’t dying over silly feuds. I don’t believe most people listening to Pac or BIG were really in gangs, and as a matter of fact, I probably identify more with Kanye’s jet-setting life than I do with Pac’s stint in prison. In a way, I am not entirely sure why the latter for whatever reason feels more real than the former. Perhaps because it fits the stereotype of the black man as a gangster, as opposed to a globetrotting entrepreneur. For better or for worse, rap became less violent, broadened its base of listeners, and that changed the music that was coming out. In a way, both Pac’s America, and Ye’s America are entirely contrived creatures. Almost anyone listening to Pac, or Snoop Dogg, I am willing to bet, had no idea what it felt like to ‘cap someone.’ Almost anyone listening to Jay or Kanye, has no idea what it feels to drive a Maybach (that car must be mentioned in every single rap song.) In that way, rap isn’t about the music and never has been, and that is why many old people will never understand it. Rap music is selling us not on the reality, but on the fantasy, whether it is being rich, or being a gangster, or maybe being both. There is a reason people love Tony Montana, because although most people don’t actually want to be a gangster, they find there to be something desirable about it. Almost anyone will confess they would like to jet around the world in the way Kanye talks about doing.

 

That’s why for all the posture, I don’t believe I ever really liked rap music then or now. It was never so much for the music for me, as it was the idea of being a gangster, or being a star. The irony is that a style started by street poets and MC’s attempting to talk about real life, turned into an almost contrived selling of a fantasy that the average listener will never experience. There are exceptions of course, K’naan talks about Somalia, the hardships of Africans, and the eternal hope in moving forward. Last I checked, K’naan is not on the throne of rap music however, it is Kanye West and Jay-Z. Eminem has endured over the course of time, with a talent and style no one can match. He has taken an enormous amount of criticism for his misogyny. I would contend that secretly, many of his male listeners get a kick out of degradation of women. Maybe they don’t personally find it appropriate, but all Eminem fans are giving it a tacit approval. Call it almost a fantasy, if you will. I am not going to say I am morally against Eminem, that is not who I am and is not who I want to be, but if you think all of Eminem’s fans think it is the jest he says it is, then I urge you to listen to ‘Stan’ and you’ll soon see why Eminem and I would beg to disagree.

 

Rap music is not the people’s music. It does not chronicle life as it is for the poor people; it is not the modern day folk music. However, it certainly says something about us as a society. We are people that like to dream, that sometimes buy houses when they can’t afford it, that sometimes do things that they shouldn’t but wish that they could. We don’t want someone chronicling our reality, as perhaps a second recession draws near. We want the fantasy, whether it is the gang or the Maybach. So for giving the party people what they want, I must give three cheers to Kanye West and Jay-Z. You’ll find me in the corner, unsure of just how to listen.

How I’d save the NBA season…even though we’re doomed

There’s an old story I remember hearing when Jalen Rose was a Raptor and his astronomical contract sat on the Raptors’ cap, much to the dismay of most fans. Rose had signed a massive deal from back in his Indiana days and at the time was sliding in his productivity while still on that contract. Rose wasn’t going to fool anyone by saying his performance justified his pay—it didn’t. But when pressure from fans began to rise, Rose asked them whether they would turn down the contract that was offered to him. Would anybody realistically say ‘Hey, I’m not going to be worth that in 5 years so I would like you to give me less money’ and walk away from millions of guaranteed dollars? So, why would we heckle Rose? He’s just trying to earn as much money as possible, just like everybody else.

This is where our eyes open from the narrow perspective of a fan to a new vision. A vision that says that the NBA is a business. It’s almost become a clichéd phrase in this lockout world. But unlike the NFL, the NBA is a business that is losing money and according to David Stern that number hovers around 300 million. That includes 22 of 30 teams that are no longer profitable. As much as you love NBA basketball, if the owners aren’t making money it’s a dead business. And that means a dead game.

Jalen Rose got paid like a superstar without playing like one--but can we fault him for it?

So the solution seems pretty simple—the owners need to start cutting costs and the first place they’ll look is player salaries. And the owners have a point. When Eddy Curry is eating up (literally) 13 million dollars every year of someone’s cap space while contributing actually nothing to the franchise, you have a problem. When Elton Brand is making more than Lebron James, you know you have a problem. When Rashard Lewis and Gilbert Arenas were two of your top 5 earners last season, you know you have a problem.

But going back to the Jalen Rose story, is this problem the players’ fault? I mean, how can we fault Rashard Lewis for accepting a deal that would be nearly impossible to live up to? And here is where the big divide between players and owners exist. Owners think the rules in place force them to hand out big contracts and the players are insisting that if the owners offer the big contracts then its their problem. Yikes. Who’s to blame?

Here’s the three things that I think must exist in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (there are more things I’d want changed, but for sake of brevity I’ll stick to three):

1. More revenue sharing. The 22 teams losing money statistic is quite misleading because six teams that are making money could support the other 22 teams. Now, it seems unfair to ask the six teams who are extremely profitable to be forced to keep 22 teams afloat but it’s more fair than asking the players to help out. The owners have to be able to figure out their own system first before asking the players for salary cutbacks. Whether that means a more aggressive luxury tax, free agent signing tax or whatever the NBA’s lawyers can devise, the NBA owners need to share the wealth with this disparity before meeting the players.

It simply isn’t fair that the owners of those 6 teams, who do not wish to share with their fellow owners (and for good reason), will turn to the players to take pay cuts. Are those six teams obligated to keep the other 22 entirely afloat? Of course not. But when you have such a broken system, you have to at least even out the revenues to some degree before begging the players for money back.

2. Shorter contract lengths. Those five or six year deals that players are inking have to start becoming things of the past. I know it may seem unjust to the players, but it’s becoming incredibly frustrating to sign players to long-term contracts when they’re likely to become unreliable especially after just signing them. Teams (especially unattractive free agent destinations) have to give players longer deals in order to entice them to sign but those long term deals often lead to players showing up out of shape, unwilling to put an honest effort because of all the guaranteed money.

Think about signing a 5 year, 55 million dollar contract and still having the desire to play hard every night. There are countless examples of players who cannot perform to their contracts, especially towards the ends of the deals. Jalen Rose was a prime example of this. He had a few seasons of star basketball in Chicago but began to fade as his career went on—but was still getting paid like a star. It is too much to ask of owners to have to commit so much long term money on such risky players.

For the Phoenix Suns last off-season, they attempted to break the mould and told Amare Stoudemire that they would only give him partially guaranteed money towards the back end of his contract fearing that his previous knee problems may resurface and become a burden on the Suns’ payroll. They were being prudent. Stoudemire, rightfully so, wasn’t interested and took the fully guaranteed deal from the Knicks. The Knicks made the playoffs and the Suns sat out this spring. Now, if all owners were like the Suns’, then perhaps Amare would have stayed but not everyone was. The opportunity to seize Amare Stoudemire for a star-hungry market in New York blinded the Knicks from seeing any future danger. And it will be interesting to see if Amare can survive the length of his deal as rumors began to swirl during mid-season that medical experts were skeptical of the durability of his knees. Amare may end up getting paid like an uber-star to wear suits on a bench towards the end of his career if this trend continues. NBA owners are at too big of a risk. Shorter contracts are a must.

Exhibit A: Why we need shorter contracts

3. Salary tier system. OK. Here’s where it gets tricky. I really don’t think there is any issue with the money that Lebron, Kobe, Wade, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant etc. all make. In fact, I think you could easily make a case that with all the revenue that these players generate for their teams that they are severely underpaid! The max contract levels are fine where they are. The main issue rests in the middling zone—or as I like to call it, the Danny Granger-Andre Igoudala zone.

Essentially teams are forced to give star money to guys that will just trap them further. Igoudala is a good player but was given his contract based on the fact that he was going to improve and become the face of the 76ers. Well, he’s didn’t and he’s not. Iggy’s a great defender with a solid-to-good offensive repertoire and high-flying ability. But the 76ers are paying him like a go-to, killer instinct, ‘I’m-going-to-win-this-game-no-matter-how-bad-my-teammates-are’ kind of guy.

Ditto for Granger who has the Pacers in this forever middling zone because as good as Granger is—if he’s your best player, you’re screwed. And right now he’s paid like the best player on a team and to no one’s surprised—the Pacers are screwed.

So, how do you solve this? By creating a money-earning tier system. I won’t go too much into detail (and probably couldn’t even if I tried) about this idea but here’s the gist:

For each team you are allowed to hand out a certain amount of contracts within a certain tier per year. For example: Team X is allowed to hand out two contracts every five years between 14 and 16 million dollars, four contracts every six years between 8 and 14 million dollars, four contracts every four years between 5 and 8 million dollars etc.

What does this accomplish? First off, it forces teams to be much smarter with how they hand out contracts. Is it really worth it to give up one of our Tier One (14-16 million) contracts to a guy who maybe isn’t worth it? What happens if a guy comes around that’s Tier One talent but you don’t have the ability to sign him? Secondly, it stops superteams. You can’t have Wade, Lebron and Bosh. This allows there to be a superstar in every market.

It also gives smaller market and less free-agent-friendly teams serious bargaining chips. If you’re Chris Paul and the Heat, Celtics and Lakers can only offer you Tier Two or Tier Three contracts and the Bobcats, Grizzlies and Bucks all have Tier One contracts available—maybe Paul chooses one of those teams. Not only that but maybe the Bucks, let’s say, also have another Tier One contract available along with a lot of Tier Two and Three’s available. They have something that very few other franchises have and even though they’re in Milwaukee they can actually spend the most! Nobody can hand out those many contracts except for them! You’ve just evened out a lot of the disparities between teams when recruiting free agency. Who cares that Miami has beaches or that Boston has the Celtics’ history when the only team that can offer you big bucks is the Hornets!

4. Make me commissioner. We’d have all of the coach Mic’d Up segments online and uncensored, Twitter feeds of sportswriters covering the games as tickers in every arena in game, fines for flopping and a play-in tournament when the 8th seed in one conference has a worse record than the 9th seed in the other.

Because then, even if we lost this season—2012-13 would be the greatest season ever.

My NBA posts are now being syndicated on Beating the Buzzer. You can check out Beating the Buzzer on Twitter @btbsports. Follow Two Guys Sports @2_GSB or my own Twitter @the_REAL_alexb. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet.

 

So About Two Nights Ago…

Editor’s note: This post was supposed to be titled “so about last night…” but I forgot to post it yesterday, when it would have made sense. Anyway, about 2 nights ago….

Noah Bronstein

Of all the sports drafts, the NBA is by far the most engaging. Firstly, it realizes we all have lives (okay most of us… fine some of us) so the entire draft lasts one night and actually sustains momentum through most of the first round until the teams tread into the “dominating Horizon League star with 80’s haircut” and “guy with a name already taken by another sports legend” nether regions. A rarity in professional sports, the NBA expects rookies to play significant roles very early in their careers, giving the draft much more gravitas than in other leagues. While it’s tough to ignore the biggest news of the night- the entrance of World Peace into the league- we will focus on the drama that was the 2011 NBA draft. Let’s go over the first couple picks (and the overall effort by those teams) of the draft, and then a quick look at the Winners and Losers (ya its clichéd, but that’s what you get with a really quick review from a guy on summer vacation).

Cleveland takes Irving with the #1 pick, back to where they were 7 years ago. Could be one of the saddest parts of sports to realize a team built itself up, reached a point and then collapsed only to be back where it started- with no championship to show for the whole thing. Cleveland fans can now start worrying about Irving leaving in 2015. People think the Thompson pick at 4 was a bit of a stretch but I don’t mind it (not just the Canadian in me agreeing here, but the basketball know it all). Thompson is a solid character guy with an established position. You know what you’re getting with him, and he’ll have plenty of time on the court to grow with Irving (of course until they leave).

Minnesota finally makes a pick that’s not horrendous in Derrick Williams, except for the fact that they already had 5 other guys who play that same position. To their credit Minnesota did get rid of Flynn, breaking up their gluttony of point guards. Unfortunately the only way to do this was to acquire Brad Miller, who will be paid about $14.25 million over the next three years to back up Kevin Love. And people are wondering why the owners asked the players to give $120 million back.

Utah did what everyone expected and it was truly the right pick in Enes Kanter. Of all the players in the draft, I think he has the most reachable upside (we’ll get to BIYOMBO later). Unlike the other big guys in the draft, he already has the body and while he might not have played for Kentucky, he still practiced everyday with Calipari, which is never a bad thing. Let’s be honest, no one in Utah will remember today as the day they got Kanter, but the missed chance of Jimmer.

Now to the pick all you Raptor fans are fuming and barfing about… Jonas “not as strong a body as Chris Bosh” Valanciunas. At first it felt like Bryan Colangelo took a giant dump in my mouth. Valanciunas will be known around town for a while as slang for shit. Last night at commercial I told my friend I had to go to the washroom and make a Valanciunas. That was the utter pain I and many fans felt. Many pro-Valanciunas have pointed out that we are just being xenophobic and cannot comprehend that there is such a thing as a European who can be tough in the NBA. Our friend Bogach pointed out that Knight and Walker aren’t must-have “transcendent” guards and that for Colangelo, who is on a short leash, must have a lot of confidence in Val (saves a lot of time) to pick him. I can’t disagree with that, but I can say this: most European big men have struggled with the NBA game (no one denies Europe plays a whole different style). Valanciunas was an excellent rebounder in Lithuania/Euroleague with almost 15 rebounds per 48 minutes but I don’t anyone in Lithuania can rebound like Chandler, Okafor, Howard or even Kris Humphries. With Knight or Walker, both guys who fill a need at PG (Calderon has 2 years left but will probably be gone sooner). With Walker, you get a guy who can score when it matters and has shown to be a natural leader, which the Raptors severely lack. I am hoping Val pans out, but the odds are really against it. The only way I understand this pick is if Colangelo admits he did this so we suck even more next season (if there is one), allowing us to get a chance at #1 in a much stronger draft.

Okay so there was a draft after pick 5 so without further ado I’m just gonna sum up the rest of the draft quickly…

WINNERS:

BOBCATS: Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky have effectively proven being the most talented at your sport makes you terrible at identifying talent. But last night he was able to nab two lottery picks, taking Kemba and BISMACK BIYOMBO (sorry the name can only be said/read via screaming like a wild hunter). The team should have warmup dashikis just for the two of them. Everybody knows what the deal is with Kemba, no mysteries there; a solid middle of the pack starting PG at best (Ray Felton level). Biyombo has the most defensive upside of anyone in the draft and although he’ll be dead weight on offense for a couple years, he could mould himself into a great defensive stopper. For a draft that will be known for its weakness, this is probably the best a team could do.

MARKIEEF MORRIS: The only time in his life that he has outdone Marcus. We all know Marcus was crying out of pure shame. And playing with Steve Nash, who will make you look way better than you actually are, is always nice. Markieef, you may be a little creeped out by the Phoenix twin fetish (see Robin Lopez, Taylor Griffin) but you’ll get used to it.

SPURS: Well it’s the Spurs, when are they ever wrong? (Everybody is allowed one Richard Jefferson every 15 years) Kawhi Leonard was a stone cold steal at 15 and although it cost them George Hill, they picked up Corey Joseph at the end of the round, a guy who will fit in well with the Spurs offense. If Joseph had stayed at Texas he would have definitely moved up into the lottery in 2012 but the recruitment of prized PG Myck Kabongo (another Canadian, #2 PG in 2012 class) to Texas ultimately forced Joseph’s hand. He’s only 19 and by the time Parker is gone, Joseph might be a solid PG in the league.

DONNIE WALSH: Is it me or did Donnie Walsh purposely screw up the Knicks pick at 17? Why not? He’s leaving and everyone will blame it on Isiah Thomas soon enough anyways.

LOSERS:

PISTONS: Brendan Knight fell so far in the draft the Pistons were obligated to take him, which is a real shame because there is really no room for him on the present mess that is their roster. The Pistons needed a big man but their really weren’t any left by #8. Tough break for Joe Dumars. He really should have found a way to get out of this pick, there must have been someone who actually wanted Knight.

JAZZ: Just imagining every man, woman and child in Utah stammering in the corner of the living room screaming like a child “We wanted JIMMER!!! He’s ours!! ” Also, there are reports of several Utah citizens leaving the Mormon Church due to Joseph Smith’s failure to answer their prayers.

REGGIE JACKSON/ISAIAH THOMAS: Sorry, but you guys have no shot at success. It is very easy to tell a player will not be successful based on their names. Derrick Rose and John Wall sound like superstars unlike alphabetically unblessed Nicholas Tskitishvili or Eric Montross (Hockey fans be prepared for this to happen to Nugent-Hopkins, I just can’t imagine that name succeeding). These guys fit into the unfortunate “Already Taken” category. If your name already belongs to an iconic sports figure its over unless you find an excuse to change your name.

WARRIORS: Another guard who’s specialty is you guessed it, shooting!! Looks like Golden State will now only lose games 175-150. They should change the team name to the Archers.

…And that’s the 2011 NBA Draft! Could be the last look at official NBA workings for a long time. Tristan and Corey you’re welcome to come by the JCC anytime.

Flyer Firesale

Myles Dichter

HUGE news in the NHL today as the Flyers trade Captain Mike Richards and Jeff Carter for a combined haul of Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, a 1st rounder, a 2nd rounder and a 3rd rounder. It is no surprise that the Flyers traded Carter, seeing as they did not have cap space and were trying to sign Ilya Bryzgalov. The Richards trade is surprising to me, and I don’t love it from the Flyers perspective. Yes, they needed to dump salary, but Carter’s $5m would have been enough. Plus, they got a great return from the Blue Jackets (Voracek, 1st, 3rd), and thats being in a situation when the whole league knows the Flyers are vehemently shopping Carter. There’s also that whole thing where the Flyers placed 2nd in the East this season, and made the Stanley Cup the year prior. This isn’t a depth deal for them, since they had the most depth in the league (at least top 3) this past season. To me, the Richards trade seems like a desperation move by the Flyers. Its not your typical if we don’t make the playoffs now I’ll be fired, I need to shake things up desperation, rather its the we haven’t had a good goalie in our history type of deal. Philadelphia would have been much better off keeping their captain, and giving Carter’s money to Bryzgalov since $5m sounds about reasonable for him. Today will define Paul Holmgren’s legacy at the helm of the Flyers, and we will see if his massive risk today pans out. The only question now is whether the Flyers will be able to pay all the young players they got today, 3 years from now.

Time to play ‘Be an NBA GM’

First off, I’ll welcome guest writer Steven Lampert to Two Guys and a Sports Blog. I pitched the idea to Steven that instead of coming up with a mock draft in which we predict where each player will land, we would pretend to be the GMs of each lottery team, alternate selections and make the decisions that we see best fit. Given our lack of media credentials and absurdly fanatical obsession with the NBA Draft, this was the best route to take. So we’ve been exchanging emails and pretending to be GMs in the lottery for the past day or so and this is what we’ve come to.

Steven won the lottery (a coin flip) and thus earned the right to put himself in the hate-filled shoes of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, while I earned the honour of putting myself into the mind of David Kahn and making a selection for the Timberwolves.

Remember, this isn’t who we think they will take but rather who we think they should take. 

Without further ado…the Cavaliers are now on the clock.

The Cleveland Cavaliers select G Kyrie Irving

Steven: Year 1 of post-Decision turned out just as expected for the Cavs- finishing at the bottom of the league. So, Dan Gilbert has his own decision to make with the first overall pick this Thursday in the 2011 NBA draft. All indications point to the Cavs selecting Kyrie Irving with that first overall pick. After the “Decision,” the Cavs were left without an identity and a big three consisting of Manny Harris, Christian Eyenga and Samardo Samuels. Intimidating, I know. Irving will help the Cavs establish a new identity and a new start of sorts. While he doesn’t project to have the same impact as previous top pick point guards Derrick Rose and John Wall, he is the best player in this draft. Barring any shockers, Dan Gilbert and his staff will be making the right “Decision.”

The Minnesota Timberwolves select F Derrick Williams

Alex: My first move as Timberwolves General Manager is to retract all over excessive hype around Ricky Rubio and create a new ad campaign entitled: “Let’s be realistic with Ricky”. My second move is to send Dan Gilbert a gift basket for taking Kyrie Irving. After hosting the Minnesota equivalent of the Heat “Yes We Did” party for Rubio (a bunch of cheerleaders at the airport), the last thing we needed to do was pick another point guard. Thank you!

If I can’t trade the pick, I’m sticking with Derrick Williams but Enes Kanter is getting a real look here. I really hate holding 3 tweeners on my team (Anthony Randolph, Michael Beasley and Williams) but Williams has star potential and I’m going to swing for the fences and hope he can keep Love in Minnesota. Kanter makes sense because he can bang inside and the Wolves need a true 5, but I’m afraid of the whole ‘I-haven’t-played-a-game-in-a-year’ thing going with Enes. Too much bust potential. And I recently listened on a podcast that Chad Ford saw some Darko in him. So yes, Derrick Williams. We don’t need two Darkos. I’m quivering at the thought.

The Utah Jazz select G Brandon Knight

Steven: The Sloan era is over, which means the years of drafting catch and shoot swingmen might finally be over too, Utah fans.
This pick was acquired in the Deron Williams trade, leaving the Jazz without a true franchise player. They have pieces in place, but need that extra push if they are to challenge giants of the West (Go Mavs!). Reports indicate that this pick is pretty much down to two players: Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight or Kentucky/Turkey/Nike Hoops Summit centre Enes Kanter. The Jazz have talent up front in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, but neither is a true 5. Kanter brings that toughness inside, but what do we really know about him? He hasn’t played competitively in a year! The Jazz are also not known for their risky picks. Therefore, if I am Kevin O’Conner, I either trade the pick (to Washington for #6 + #18 ???) or draft Brandon Knight.
Knight is a big guard who can shoot the three and has loads of potential. He reminds many of Deron Williams, due to his size and toughness. While he has much to learn at the position, he fills Utah’s biggest need, as Devin Harris is only good for one step back buzzer beater a game.
With this pick, we can finally start the Tyrone Corbin era in Utah! The excitement is overwhelming.
The Cleveland Cavaliers select F/C Enes Kanter

Alex: So, now I get to draft for the Cavs? Doesn’t this seems like a move out of the TrailBlazer handbook? With their history of GM mistreatment, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them fire their GM mid-draft.I think Valanciunas is actually the best prospect available but he’s not coming over from Europe until next year so I’m hesitant to pick him for the Cavs who need some immediate help in order to win a championship before the self-proclaimed King. Kanter gives them a nice 5 to pair up with Anderson Varejao and now the Cavs start to look like a real team…sorry Manny Harris. Irving-Baron Davis-Varejao-Kanter-Hickson-Jamison presents a solid core for the Cavs moving forward with a lot of intriguing tradeable assets. Dan Gilbert may use this selection to pick “F— YOU LEBRON”, but if I was GM, I’m running with the Turkish Bull.
The Toronto Raptors select G Kemba Walker
Steven: RaptorNation, don’t worry, Bismack is coming.
After Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter are taken off the board, Bryan Colangelo is forced to choose between Kemba Walker, Jonas Val…(not going to bother how to look up the spelling of his last name), Kawli Leonard, Jan Vesely and future fan favourite Bismack Biyombo. Take your choice.
New Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey was pretty clear in his news conference that he is going to stress toughness and defence. While Biyombo would bring defensive presence to the team, I don’t think that is the direction the Raps should go. Listen, I have no problem with Bismack. I do think he has the chance to become an impact defensive player in this league. But at the 5 spot, I think BC should target something concrete and sure. The surest player in this year’s draft is Kemba Walker. Walker led UConn, a team who wasn’t projected to make the tournament before the season, to the national championship. To quote a wise man, he simply “put da team on his back dough.” I think the Raps must bring in playmakers and guys with winning backgrounds. Kemba embodies those two traits.
With that said, knowing BC and the Raptors organization, look forward to another international “Star” in Toronto next season.
Is it too early to start the Harrison Barnes campaign?
(Editor’s note: Steven is a Connecticut Huskies fan…if you couldn’t tell)

The Washington Wizards select F Jan Vesely
 
Alex: If we did take Kemba I think it would be because Dwane Casey locks Colangelo in a small closet before the draft. Then with the Wizards up next and Colangelo already sobbing at the mere thought of, not just any top NCAA prospect, but one with heart and passion for the game, the Wiz grab Jan Vesely! Colangelo at that point begins to uncontrollably yell and scream. Vesely is exactly what Colangelo wants. A European with desire, intensity and athleticism so he can say “he’s not a prototypical European” 500 times.But in all seriousness, Wizards getting Vesely is a nice pick-up. No, he isn’t good enough to keep John Wall in Washington but he’ll make for a vicious alley-oop partner. Vesely loves to get up and the down the floor and if I’m in the Wizards’ front office, this matches very nicely with my franchise point guard.
The Sacramento Kings select G/Mormon Jimmer Fredette
 
Steven: At #7, the Anaheim, err, the Sacramento Kings have been primarily looking at two guys, BYU star Jimmer Fredette and San Diego St. forward Kawhi Leonard. Leonard is considered a Gerald Wallace type player, who will bring energy and defence to the 3 position. The Kings are lacking a true starting 3, so Leonard does make sense here. However, if I am calling the shots on draft night for the Kings, I have to go with that pure BYU boy, Jimmer. One of the most prolific scorers in NCAA history, Fredette gives the Kings a scoring punch and allows them to move Tyreke Evans to his true position at shooting guard. Plus, if the Kings do go with Fredette, they have a wicked set of names at the point guard spot (See: Beno Udrih, Pooh Jeter, and of course, Jimmer Fredette. Wow.)

Side Note: I’m hoping when Jimmer gets drafted, he shakes hands with David Stern and then proceeds to announce to the world that he slept with the entire BYU cheerleading team while attending BYU. Now that would be awesome. Mormons 4 lyfe.

The Detroit Pistons select C Jonas Valanciunas 

Alex: So…the guys who own a bunch of casinos have turned to the Mormon for help. Jimmer could allow the Maloofs to keep casinos in Vegas running–what a nice Mormon boy! I think the Maloofs are at Satanic levels in Provo, which, by their standards, would make Brandon Davies the much better fit in Sacramento.

David Stern approaches the podium, adjusts the mic and leans forward…”With the 8th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select–Jonas.. Val… Val…Valeci…from Lithuania”
If I’m Pistons GM I actually might spend most of my cap money on a time machine either to go back in time and never sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva…or give Rip Hamilton his extension or to fast forward when I no longer have this guys sitting on my cap.
Now, keep in mind, I’m running the Pistons and not Joe Dumars who would never dare take a player he’d have to stash over in Europe because his job is on line. But me? Jonas is the perfect fit. First off, I am 100% sure I am now the first NBA team to have two Jonas’ (Jerebko being the other) and second of all–why in the world do I want to bring in a talented prospect to the most toxic roster in the NBA. My team quit on my coach, laughed during the games and are a complete embarrassment because they’re not even good to begin with. My plan as Pistons GM is just to wait and wait until I can get out of the Villanueva-Gordon-Hamilton salary cap hell that Joe D has built for me. Why do I want to throw possibly the most talented big man prospect in this draft in the fiery inferno of mediocrity, mutiny and malcontent that plagues my roster? Jonas can stay in Europe until I can get rid of all these cap killing losers on my team and then we can bring him over and have a strong, legit and now-polished 5.

The Charlotte Bobcats select C Bismack Biyombo

Steven: 
Well, we now have the Jonas brother front court in Detroit. Too many lulz to follow with that duo.We shift our focus to Charlotte. Our roster has very few pieces and no real identity. Heck, all we have going for us is that we can say MJ is running our team. Is that even something to be proud of? Many have pegged Kawhi Leonard at this spot, simply because he projects to be very similar to Gerald Wallace. However, the Bobkittens most striking need is inside, where none other than KWA-ME Brown resides. I think its pretty self-explanatory why a replacement is needed. Reports indicate that Charlotte may be looking to take an established college vet who is NBA ready, such as Marcus Morris. But, as the Mavs proved this playoffs, the key to any defence is to protect the rim. Enter Bismack Biyombo.
There is no question that Biyombo is a project and is extremely raw offensively. However, he is only 18 years old, still growing and has a very good chance of becoming a defensive presence in the paint. Plus, with DJ Augustin and Stephen Jackson on the roster, there won’t be many shots to go around and Biyombo doesn’t need shots to be effective.
All we need is Marv Albert to move to Charlotte and announce every Bobcats game. “OH MY GOODNESS, BIS-MACK BI-YOM-BO!!!!!”

The Milwaukee Bucks select G Klay Thompson

Alex: 
I think you had a typo in your last email. You said: “Biyombo doesn’t need shots to be effective”. I think you meant: “Biyombo should never ever ever ever shoot the ball”. One of the best lines after the Biyombo’s solo Euro workout was that “Biyombo played one-on-none…and lost”.

You realize if MJ makes this pick that Biyombo is an auto-bust, right? It’s amazing how the greatest player ever can’t find a good player himself (Adam Morrison, Kwame Brown). It’s like he picks good players and destroys their confidence and ability in order to preserve his greatness. Over/under 4.5 Kwame Brown mentions at the draft?

As you can see, I’d rather not talk about the Bucks and was rather upset when I lost the coin toss and had to deal with this mess. To do this shortly–the Bucks had an absolutely atrocious offence this year. Klay Thompson shoots the ball nicely from where it is worth 3 points. This fits an immediate need for the Bucks as they need more baskets to get in the hoop and is an added bonus that these baskets are worth an extra point!(Yes, we need to dumb it down this much for the Bucks offence. I’m looking at you Jon Brockman and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute)
The Golden State Warriors select F Kawhi Leonard

(Editor’s note: MAMMA, THERE GOES THAT MAN!)

Steven: So let me get this straight, John Hammond adds Klay Thompson to a group that includes Carlos Delfino, Corey Maggette, John Salmons and Chris Douglas-Roberts. And don’t forget Michael Redd! Pure U-G-L-Y.Golden State we go, where Mark Jackson takes over a defensively challenged Warriors team. Steph Curry, Monta Ellis and David Lee on the same team? No, not surprising they can’t guard a pylon. Jerry West and crew should aim to find a tough, defensive minded player who will help the team on that end of the court. They will gladly grab Kawhi Leonard, who gives them exactly what they are lacking. A bit of a slide for Leonard, maybe due to his unflashy game, which is perfect for this GSW team.
Just remember Kawhi, hand down man down.
The Utah Jazz select F Chris Singleton
Michael Redd’s contract is about to expire. Yay John Hammond! Go sign more Drew Goodens and Corey Maggettes to further cement yourselves as absurdly mediocre. OK–I’ll admit Klay Thompson was a bit of reach. Should have gone with Tristan Thompson. I’m regretting it already. It was a Thompson nonetheless so I’ll take 0.5 points if the pick works out.No Jimmer? What? That was the only reason I was happy I lost the coin toss. This is absolutely pointless. There is nothing else interesting to write about the Jazz. I need a Mormon angle! You stole my Mormon angle!Singleton is a big all-D, no-O small forward with NBA size. I like all-D guys. They have a way of sticking around in the league. The Jazz are depending on C.J. Miles, Gordon Hayward and Raja Bell on the wings. That’s a recipe for disaster. Knight-Singleton is a nice pull for the Jazz. But without Jimmer, this is a Fredette-ful draft for Mormons/Jazz fans.

The Phoenix Suns select F Tristan Thompson
Steven: Really like Singleton too. I think he’d make a nice replacement for AK-47. One more thought or question about the Bucks (absurd we’re giving them this much attention): How did John Hammond named the 2009-2010 Executive of the Year? Yes, they had a solid 12 win improvement, but really? Maybe my standards are higher now that we are post-decision, but something just doesn’t seem right with Hammond winning that award.
Anyhow, at #13, Phoenix is in an iffy spot. Do they continue to flirt with mediocrity or should they completely blowup (mainly trade Nash to a contender. Gotta get this man a ring)? Well, if I am in the Suns front office, I think I want a player who improves our interior toughness, rebounds the basketball and still has potential to grow. Tristan Thompson fits this mold. Thompson, a Toronto native, will surely move past Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye on the depth chart and give Nash another big man to make look 2000x better than he actually happens to be.
It must be relieving knowing that any player you take will be made instantly better playing with Nash. I don’t know how Steve Kerr didn’t succeed…
The Houston Rockets select F Kenneth Faried
Alex: Tristan’s a great pick for the Suns. They need interior help and he’s perfect for them. I’m giving you an A+ on that one. And now, I get to make my most irrational pick of the night. Yes, Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried.I know he doesn’t fit on the depth chart with Scola but I don’t care. I need to get my Faried argument out there.

Of all the players that we’ve been blabbering about there is one stone cold lock of this draft. Irving? Nope. Derrick Williams? Try again. Kenneth Faried.

All I hear about this draft is uncertainty, busts and long-term projects. Faried has everything you want in an energy role player. Insane rebound numbers? He beat Tim Duncan’s NCAA rebounding records. Great motor? Did you watch Morehead State and Louisville…Faried looks like a man on a mission! His hair flops around so people will think he hustles even more than he does. Not only that but he’s got an amazing attitude. Down to earth, hard-working, wants to play a role kind of player. The epitome of blue collar. Can’t you envision in Faried in a playoff game playing 18 minutes and grabbing 5 offensive rebounds and absolutely crushing the other team’s morale with a non-stop energy assault?

For Houston, I’m not sure it’s a great fit. But you know what? I’m all about collecting assets and in a draft that looks like there aren’t very many assets I’m picking a sure thing and getting something of value at 14.

Recap
Alex: Alright, so you’ve got Irving, Knight, Walker, Jimmer, Biyombo, Leonard and Tristan. I have Williams, Kanter, Vesely, Jonas, Klay Thompson and Kenneth Faried. Looks like I got smoked. Got suckered into the Colangelo trap and grabbed all the Euros.

I want the Klay Thompson pick back. That’s really it. And I wish I would have won the coin flip so I could take Derrick Williams and force you to pick Irving. Well there’s always next year…

Steven: Take note RaptorNation, NEXT YEAR. While this draft does have some depth, overall, it is quite abysmal with few stars, many risks and euros galore. So yes, it seems logical to choose a sure thing such as Kemba Walker or Kenneth Faried, but what do we know. I guess hitting the big risk is just too enticing, but it is also the reason why many teams struggle to improve. Let’s just hope BC has his thinking cap on Thursday night.

Alex: 
We’ll meet up again around this time again next year to look back at our picks and likely wonder how we missed out on Donatas Motiejunas and his stellar Rookie of the Year campaign.I’m sure this will be jammed with comedy in 12 months from now.Thanks Steven, hope to see you on TGSB more often in the future.

Steven: My pleasure. Thanks for having me. Harrison Barnes, here we come.

Alex:
Well, I think this wraps up my blogging run until September. I just want to give my thanks to Myles Dichter and Norm Yallen for asking me to join TGSB (and the rest of our never-ending list of writers). Also, a thank you to Dustin Pollack at Beating The Buzzer sports for allowing me to syndicate my NBA content on his website. Lastly, thanks to all the readers–I know you’re out there somewhere and I apologize for my sometimes long and never-ending columns but we made it! It’s been a blast writing these and I hope everyone stays tuned for when TGSB re-launches in September.