Category Archives: NBA

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?

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.

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.

NBA rumour pulse check

Quick notes from the NBA as the draft nears:

  • My rule for reporting rumors is that it must be have one or more of the following characteristics: A) Reported by reputable (Yahoo, ESPN, DraftExpress, never ever Bleacher Report etc.) source, B) Reported by several sources, C) Doesn’t contradict another reputable source, D) Gut instinct/reporter reputation. Keep that in mind. There has been tons of garbage spewing around the NBA these past few days but I’m really giving you the stuff that I find legitimate….or at least interesting to talk about.
  • Josh Smith to Orlando is an interesting and fresh rumour that I’m questioning as of now but willing to talk about because of its intrigue and gut instinct I have about it. It seems to make sense and follows alongside some other reports of the Hawks willing to discuss a trade for their athletic forward. From what I’ve read, Smith could go to Orlando with Kirk Hinrich for Jameer Nelson and Ryan Anderson. (Note: The rumour, on second look, appears a bit too unsubstantiated…but let’s analyze it anyway)
  • Quick take: Fantastic for Orlando. Not only is Dwight Howard a friend of Josh Smith’s (which seems to now be the key factor in drafting/signing/trading for anybody) but they’re able to move forward with a half decent line-up that isn’t completely gutted. Arenas-Richardson-Turkoglu-Smith-Howard is a bit of weird line-up, but presents an ability to mix and match with a lot of versatile players. It also improves the Magic interior defense by putting two of the best shot blockers in the league side-by-side. If this allows Orlando to keep Dwight Howard, I think we have to go all NCAA on Otis Smith’s GM record and vacate the Rashard Lewis signing. It’s been vacated! It’s like it never happened. Otis for Executive of the Year!!!
  • Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo Sports says the Spurs are shopping point guard Tony Parker. No surprise there with the Spurs looking for a fresh look and George Hill emerging as a starting point guard. (Another great draft pick-up by the Spurs—why don’t teams just do whatever the Spurs do in the draft? It’s like copying off the smartest kid in the class with no teacher in the room.) But the shocking part? The Raptors and the 5th pick have been mentioned as a potential suitor for Parker.
  • Quick take: I should have added to my list at the top that rumours explicitly mentioning two teams are often far stronger than rumours that list 3-6 teams that have interest. The article says the Kings and Raptors have talked to the Spurs so I’m not treating this like an imminent move and I’d still have my money on Parker staying in black and silver at least until after the draft. However, the fact that this is a reputable source brings up an interesting discussion about Bryan Colangelo’s feelings with this team. I think one of the following is the motivation behind this rumour if it gains some more steam
    •  A desperation move to put a winning product on the floor to impress ownership?
    • A desire to surround the team with more veterans?
    • A realization that whoever the Raptors could get at 5 won’t be worth the money they will give them and that it is likely that Parker will have more trade value 2-3 years down the road
    • And no, Longoria is not around anymore for Parker so that isn’t a motivation…although if she still was I could see it.
    • I don’t buy the Parker stuff. We haven’t heard one mention of Colangelo trading the pick. There have been constant reports of teams wanting to trade down or out of the draft and the Raptors have NEVER been mentioned. My guess? This is the Spurs calling around and seeing if they can get Jonas Valucionas—who seems like a match-made in heaven with the Spurs organization. After announcing he’ll have to spend next year in Europe, he fell off many teams’ draft boards and I think the Spurs are trying to swoop in and get him at a discount.
    • Chad Ford (ESPN) and Doug Smith (Toronto Star) (Multiple reports, check. Reputable and/or connected sources, check) are pointing towards the Raptors establishing a core four group of prospects they will seriously look at when #5 is on the clock. The names are Kawhi Leonard, Brandon Knight, Valucionas and Congolese mystery-man Bismack Biyombo.

That’s all for my quick pulse check around the NBA. I’ll be tweeting @2_GSB Thursday night so if you’re watching the draft, I’ll ask nicely that you follow my tweets. Should be a fun night. I’m saying the over/under is at 6.5 text messages I receive after the Raptors pick. For the record, I think I was at 10 when the Mavericks beat the Heat. Regardless, follow the Twitter account Thursday night and pray that Kyrie Irving falls to us at 5…

Pray harder.

LEBRON!

ESPN--The Worldwide Leader in Lebron Coverage

I noticed there was a severe lack of Lebron coverage so I decided to throw a little Lebron action into this.

Also, Alex (me) will have two columns out tomorrow. It was originally going to be one article that stayed away from all Lebron talk but it ended up being entirely about him so I separated them into a Lebron column and a Game 6 preview column which I come back to my favourite scene in The Social Network.

Stay Lebroning, my friends

What Did They Do Wrong?

Myles Dichter

Lets turn back the clock to July 2010. Everyone with even the slightest interest in pop culture is gearing up for “The Decision”. Lebron James would announce, in an hour long special on ESPN, where he had decided to sign as a free agent. When was the last time a superstar-let alone the best player in his given sport-had even considered leaving the team that had drafted him? You’re getting hyped up. For a split-second, if you’re not a Bulls, Cavs or Heat fan (the only 3 logical choices) you hope that LeBron may surprise the world and come to your team. Then you realize that that won’t happen.

Meanwhile, I’m at camp and the cabin I’m helping counsel for the week is invited to the owners cottage. Then, my own cabin is invited to watch Lebron’s announcement. Would this cause conflict? I was suddenly worried. But of course, Lebron had gotten himself primetime, so there would be no problem. The owner is expecting to us to leave at 5 past 9, since the announcement should come right away. But no, instead we get a long, stretched-out half hour that is for the most part useless. At times it feels like it will never end. Then, the decision. Lebron, and his humble self, was “taking his talents to South Beach”. The owner, in all likelihood not knowing who Lebron was previously, had probably already decided that he didn’t like this character, since he was taking too long to make his announcement.

Lets turn back the clock even further. 1962, it is announced that players would be given free agency, and the right to choose where they play. Skip forward to 2006, and knowing this, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James sign 7 year contracts with their team, but with opt-out options after 4. Each of them opt out, and each of them sign with Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. Now, in the year 1 PD (post-decision) Cavaliers hate this super-team. And I cannot blame them for that. Raptors fans too, though being one myself, it started to become more clear that Bosh would not lead us to a championship. He couldn’t even lead us to the 2nd round win. There was even a sense of relief once, out of the spotlight, he too signed with Miami.

What is the one thing that a GM looks for in signing new players? It is cliche, but it could not be more true. You need a player that wants to win. A player who is just there for the money never turns out well. All too often, we see players have huge contract years, sign even bigger contracts that offseason, and then totally fade for the remainder of their careers. Talent is obviously necessary, as you can’t have a team filled with just Darrick Martins, and John McDonalds (cross-sport reference). And we like to hold firm in our belief as fans that professional athletes go out there to win, to quote Malcolm X, “by any means necessary”. We hate said players who take the money and stop trying. We say that we respect players who will do whatever it takes to win. You see where I’m going with this, right?

“The Decision” was the worst thing on ESPN ever. It was a soulless display by Lebron James, shoving his decision in the face of a city already hard on its luck. (Sidenote: Heartbreaking aside, was this not a genius business move on the part of LeBron? Wasn’t it something like the highest rated show on television…all year?). It is almost indefensible. Even Lebron himself admitted that it was stupid, and just a brutal decision that probably ruined his reputation forever. I don’t believe that that’s entirely true.

Back to that winning at all costs thing. What is the best way to win a championship? Surround yourself with good players. Lebron knows firsthand how a cast of mediocre players leads nowhere, as does Bosh. So after a bad experience, they both felt it was time to make the change on their own. And they invited D-Wade along for the ride (it was probably Bosh third-wheeling in this scenario, but you get the idea). Now to the next decision. Lets all go play somewhere together. But where? Like anyone, they would prefer a warmer climate. Miami has that. It would be nice if at least one of them didn’t have to betray their team. Check, Miami. Now anywhere they go they will be scrutinized and criticized to the max. But where could they at least partly quell that? Not New York, but Miami.

If they Heat end up winning this thing, their super-team instantly becomes successful. Not so much if they lose. If they lose, they will not only lose all respect as people, but now as basketball players. Could you imagine if they pulled a Thunder and blew a big lead in the final minutes and that totally turned the tables on them and they ended up losing the Finals?

I know that everyone is cheering for the Disco-Dirk led Mavs. And if they pull of the upset, then everyone will claim to be happy. But all this will do is ignite a little more hate for the Heat. Because they came together to win championships, by any means necessary. And if they don’t win, then Raptors and Cavs fans feel even more betrayed. Lebron lost a Finals by himself in Cleveland, he didn’t have to leave them to do that again in Miami. Other fan-bases will be angered. Angered that the Heat spent all summer hyping themselves up. Angered that even after a terrible start, they still felt like the Heat would take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy. If the Heat win, on the other hand, then I can only imagine two feelings. One, being anger that Bron, Wade and Bosh didn’t come to their team. And two, a sense of “good for them”. Because in the end, call them what you will, but you and I both know that the Heat did absolutely nothing wrong, short of wasting one hour of your precious life.

Enjoy Reading this article? Follow the blog on Twitter @2_GSB, and follow me @mylesdichter!

NBA Finals Preview

By: Alex Bogach

It’s odd how each team plays 82 games and we have this long-winded, ‘seems-like-an-entire-season-in-itself’ playoffs yet, these next four to seven games hold so much more weight than the rest of them.

(Hold that thought! There was one game this year that had significant impact on the Finals. Raptors-Heat on April 13th. Yes, you heard my right. When Eddie House—easily number one on my most hated list—dropped 35 on the Raptors in a game that saw Juwan Howard and Jamaal Magloire play significant minutes against a Raptors team that was happier to lose than win. Well, despite doing everything humanly possible to lose (they started Mike Bibby, Eddie House, James Jones, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Joel Anthony), the Heat won big. Now granted, we were starting Joey Dorsey, but losing to that Heat team that put shame to the word roster, 97-79 put a sour ending on even sourer season. But here’s the kicker, my Raptor fans. Do you know what the Heat accomplished that night without even trying? They got home court over the Mavericks should they meet in the NBA Finals. But that wasn’t going to happen because the Lakers were making it out of the West…)

I don't like you, Eddie House

These next games, which could be our last taste of NBA basketball for the foreseeable future, are much more significant than your average game for certain and most likely more than your average Finals’ series. Let’s just dive right into it.

With Scottie Pippen officially commencing the Lebron-Jordan debate before Lebron has even won a title, I can only imagine the amount of discussion around the Jordan-Lebron debate if Lebron actually wins a championship. Look, there are a lot of good points made around this discussion and I know people will say championships are all that matter. It’s simply not true. Some of the greatest players all time never won six championships, let alone one! But here’s my problem with Pippen’s comment. How can Lebron be the greatest if he has never achieved the greatest accomplishment? How can we even begin the conversation? It’s like calling someone the greatest President ever when they lost every election they ran in. He simply isn’t there yet. Lebron could score 100 points in a game this series, but if he loses he’s still behind Jordan in my books. At the end of the day, if you want to be the greatest, you better have the greatest achievement any basketball player can attain. Once Lebron wins, we can open up the discussion but Pippen’s comments were pre-mature and on top of that, seemed closer to a petty slight of Jordan’s owning his spotlight in Chicago than an endorsement of Lebron’s career.

But besides Lebron’s legacy, which I would equate to analyzing safety features on hover cars today, this series holds incredible bearing for the NBA as a whole

Let’s go back to Tuesday October 26th. The season opener (!) for the 2010-2011 campaign. Remember how the Celtics dismantled the Miami Heat? Dwyane Wade had returned from a pre-season injury and played a game so bad that even Juwan Howard would echo my thoughts. Point is, that even though that game was the tiniest of sample sizes—we turned it into a Game 7. We looked at it as the reclamation of the East by the Celtics and an embarrassing and shameful introduction to the Miami Heat.

Well, the Celtics are back in Boston resting their dislocated elbows and various lower leg injuries while Miami looks invincible. We forgot that the season ends in mid-June and the Heat had plenty of time to re-group. Their subsequent 9-8 start to the season took a toll on them. People began to seriously question Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Spolestra and even Pat Riley who had managed to orchestrate two signings that will go down in history as the only press conference with a fog machine.

They went through intense scrutiny like no other NBA team had. It was really remarkable. ESPN devoted specific writers and even an entire page just to cover the Heat.

What happened was that when the Bulls and Celtics were flying under the East radar, the Heat had playoff level pressure on them for almost every game. Even trips to lottery-bound Cleveland and Toronto had heightened pressure. By playing in mock playoff games all year, the Heat were ready. So, when the defense started to buckle up and crowds started to get rowdier—it was like another regular season game for Lebron, Wade, Bosh and the South Beach Retirement Home. They were used to it.

The opening game of the season got scrutinized like a Game 7—so the Heat were ready for anything. While they cracked and cried at certain points, we forgot the season ends in June. It’s a long way away from October 26th, from the All-Star break and even from mid-April.

It’s a long way away.

And that’s why this NBA Finals means a lot. Because if the Heat lose to the Mavericks, it will be like nothing they have ever experienced. Before when they lost, they had another opportunity to recover. Another ESPN appearance, another marquee game. But now, the recovery time is much longer. It’s a long way away.

With a lockout looming over the NBA, a Heat loss this year will follow Lebron, Wade and Bosh like that absolutely atrocious, chemically dangerous, ‘atomic-bomb-level’ Axe-body odour combination when you leave a high school gym locker room.

A loss in the Finals will lead to another year of intense scrutiny for the Heat

In other words, it’s gonna stink for the Heat.

Not only do they have to face an entire off-season of questions but then do the same journey—from September to June with all the added pressure. On top of that, teams have seen you fail. They have seen you lose.

As much as the Heat have been prepared for any stage—they have never experienced this. With this being perhaps the final NBA games until January 2012—or even September 2012, the amount of pressure placed on the Heat cannot be compared.

Or can it?

While the Heat do face an impending disaster of an off-season if they lose, in which I can guarantee that YouTube will feature “not one, not two, not three, not four…” parodies of the Yes We Did concert, they have plenty of time to win. The Mavericks are running on empty. Jason Kidd is 38, Terry is 33, Dirk’s 31, Caron Butler is going to be coming off major knee surgery and Tyson Chandler is only 28 but has been in the league for a full decade.

And if you think an entire locked out off-season will weigh heavily on Lebron, can you imagine what it will feel like for the Mavs? Instead of planning their ways back to the Finals wearing blue and white, they may have to begin planning their life with the NBA’s pension plan (or, in other words, the Miami Heat bench). Dallas fans have much to be weary about as well. With a hard cap on the horizon, Mark Cuban’s spend-spend-spend ways may not only be curtailed—but also, penalized under the new CBA.

The Mavs need Nick Gilbert...give him a JJ Barea jersey!

There are equally compelling cases for who needs this championship more but we know one thing for certain—one team will be spending its off-season with a heavy burden. The storylines are tantalizing. You don’t think Dan Gilbert, after attempting to acquire the second pick in the draft this off-season, is anxious to see Lebron go down in flames and introduce the Cavs next year with Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams?

But, unless the Mavs can sign Nick Gilbert to play alongside JJ Barea, my pick is the Heat. I’m happy the Mavericks made it to this point. They proved themselves the best team in West this playoffs by dispatching their opponents with ease. But the easiest answer I can give you is that the Heat are just too good. They don’t surprise me with miraculous 4th quarter comebacks or wild 20-0 runs.

I have NBA Jam for my Super Nintendo that I dust off occassionally and play every once in a while (Stockton and Malone or Payton and Shawn Kemp, for those were wondering) and whenever you play the computer, the game makes it nearly impossible for you to win. As the game gets towards the end you cannot make a single shot, the computer rips the ball out of your hands on every possession and you even miss wide open dunks. You’re in full-out Mavs ’06 Finals mode. Not only that but the computer turns up the Robert Horry meter for the last minute and a half by hitting anything and everything—full court shots to win the game are quite probable. I plan for it going down the stretch. I can be up 10 going into the fourth quarter and I know the computer is going to claw its way back in and take the lead—it’s inevitable. It’s programmed into the game. Same goes for the Heat. It is almost programmed into every game they play. You know Wade and Lebron will reel off a 30-8 run at some point—it’s inevitable. It’s the same feeling of hopelessness I saw in the Sixers, Celtics and Bulls.

Everyone that is picking the Mavericks has them winning in seven. I haven’t read anybody that says the Mavs can win in four or five. You’d sound crazy thinking Dirk and his flip-floppin’-fadin’ style is going to guide the Mavericks to a clean sweep of the Heat. But guess who doesn’t sound absolutely insane when making predictions? People that say the Heat will win in four or five. It’s not insane because we can totally envision it. Tack on the fact that Dallas, if they won in six or seven—which seems to be the only somewhat realistic answer—would have to do so on Miami’s home floor, where they have yet to lose this year.

I wonder how the Heat got home court in the playoffs anyway?

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.

Awaiting the first openly gay NBA player

Alex Bogach

The media has a habit (and I’ll just say a habit) of manufacturing stories. You’re witnessing it right now with Russell Westbrook and the apparent “feuds” between him and Kevin Durant and/or head coach Scott Brooks. When Brooks benched Westbrook for not executing properly, the media began to make links. Links like an intense anger from Russell Westbrook, a lack of trust from Brooks in his point guard or even a frustrated KD getting an opportunity to play without Westbrook. But the truth is that Westbrook didn’t have a great game and Eric Maynor and James Harden were simply better on that night. 90 some odd games Westbrook is better than those two put together and deserves minutes down the stretch—but he didn’t there. It doesn’t mean that there is a feud or that there are serious chemistry issues.

But the media makes it into a bigger story than it needs to be. They want to scoop up scandal and aggression between the, once buddy-buddy, now combatants, Kevin Durant and Russ Westbrook. I’ve written about this before when Chris Paul spoke glowingly about Michael Jordan at a Jordan Brand event! After that bombshell shocker, the media took it as a sign. Chris Paul, quite possibly the best point guard in the league now, wants to go to Charlotte.

Let me repeat. The media’s ‘logical’ conclusion from Paul speaking highly of Jordan at a Jordan event was to say that Paul wanted to play with Gerald Henderson, Tyrus Thomas and D.J. Augustin. Please. Luckily that one died fast.

But it happens again and again. It’s not always the media’s fault though. Durant and Westbrook don’t exactly provide good writing material. How many times can you write a cute, personal story about Durant’s now-famed backpack? Eventually you need some controversy, some animosity and most importantly—a story! ‘Durant v. Westbrook’ sounds a lot more interesting than ‘Durant and Westbrook totally friends and are enjoying playing basketball—especially together and by the way, how awesome is Kevin Durant’s backpack’.

Look, in order to make a living you need to write stories and try to dig stuff up and blow it up. It’s never ‘Westbrook had a bad game, but totally understands coach’s decision’—it’s always ‘Westbrook looks angry’, ‘Westbrook won’t work with Durant’, “Westbrook isn’t a point guard’. And we’re getting on him too much. His team’s in the Western Conference Finals, he’s an all-star and Scott Brooks, who is no idiot, had been playing him the whole way through.

Is Durant putting Westbrook into a chokehold?!?!?!

At a certain point, we can’t keep writing these stories because they aren’t organic. They’re like McDonald’s meat—call it meat, looks like meat but it ain’t meat. This kind of manufacturing of stories may look and seem like sports writing—but it’s not. It’s just made up fantasies of shocking drama.

But this isn’t my point. I’m not going to be a righteous preacher and say the media should stop. You have to make a living and sometimes when you dig deep enough into a story you actually might find a bit of truth. But sometimes, it goes beyond that.

My point comes from listening recently to comments made by Charles Barkley regarding Rick Welts, president of the Phoenix Suns, coming out last week. While the media made it into a story—which it was—they began to discuss the homophobic nature of the NBA workplace. Surely, there is some degree of homophobia in the NBA—but Barkley doesn’t think it runs as rampant as many sportswriters claim. Even though no athlete has come out yet doesn’t mean everyone is a homophobe. Barkley made that point very clear stating how people pick on macho jocks thinking they will be insensitive to gay teammates. He also had an interesting line on the B.S. Report (Bill Simmons’ podcast) when he said that he wouldn’t care at all if a teammate was gay, but he would care if he sucked at the sport.

I’m with Barkley on this one. I really don’t think NBA locker rooms are the homophobic capitals of the world. It’s no San Francisco but I’m almost positive there are NBA players who know about their teammates’ sexual orientation. But why aren’t more players coming out? I don’t think anybody would be so opposed to having a gay teammate (I’ll discuss this more later).

But the media is making us believe in this ultra-homophobic, ‘I wouldn’t want to be in the same shower room as this guy’ culture. And while homophobia is likely more prevalent in the NBA world, I certainly don’t think that a gay player would be ousted or discriminated.

(And by the way, why we do we still have the image of everyone showering in the same room after the game? I’ve seen NBA locker rooms on TV. How in the world would they not give each player their own shower—perhaps even personalized with their name, jersey painted on the walls and television replaying their all-time greatest plays?)

We’re in a new world. Not necessarily in a world where homosexuality is permitted but rather that its opposition is not. Even if an NBA player felt uncomfortable for whatever reason, they would be insane to stand up against it. I know exactly how it’s going to play out when the first NBA player comes out. It will get released and the next day all the reporters will be asking the players what they think about their teammate. Using my time travelling abilities let me tell you each of those quotes:

“He’s a teammate. He’s with us. We don’t look at him any differently”

 

“All we gotta focus on is winning. And he helps us do that. As long as we’re winning, I want that guy on my team”

 

“He’s a friend of mine. I’m totally supportive of any decision he makes”

 

“We don’t even talk about this stuff. We’ve been going through the same rituals. We went to shoot-around this morning, looked at film. Everything the same. We’re a basketball team”

 

“I don’t know why we’re making a big deal out of this”

I know exactly why we’re making a big deal out of this. I know why no NBA player wants to come out. Once someone comes out, the player then begins to shift extra focus on his team. The media circus trying to ask every player about how they feel about it when the reason it’s a big deal is because it’s manufactured. Just like the Russ Westbrook issues. They don’t exist but the media invents them.

You won’t see a guy say how he doesn’t like changing in front of him or guarding him. Even if he did, he’d wise up. Being opposed to gay rights just isn’t a smart move these days. The NBA world would support him. Magic Johnson would be on ABC Sunday broadcasts giving him props, Stuart Scott would call him brave, David Stern would call it a non-basketball issue, PTI would have 45 seconds of Wilbon and Kornheiser in complete agreement and John Hollinger would come up with some statistic to praise him. Point being, the NBA is ready for a gay player to come out.

And I’m not sure if it’s a homophobia that’s preventing a player from coming out. Sure, it’s factor. And of course, there are players that oppose it—which is unavoidable in any workplace, even today. But it’s not like your normal desk job guy coming out at your office. It’s not the same because there won’t be a media frenzy around the issue, but for an NBA player there will be. If I was a gay NBA player I wouldn’t want to come out. It’s not necessary. Tell my coach, teammates, and general manager? Sure. But why do I want to distract the team and create unnecessary attention.

Here’s a tougher issue—which was brought up in the Simmons’ podcast as well. What happens if a player was religiously opposed to playing with the guy? If God-fearing Player X told management he wanted out because he didn’t want to play with a gay teammate, what would happen? Now we have two conflicting rights we feel we should honour. On one hand, we have someone’s religious freedom and on the other hand we have someone’s own personal lifestyle decision. Simmons said that player would be out of the league because no team wants to trade for the homophobe.

It brings up a much larger question that’s beyond sports. It brings up an ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspaper from Brooklyn apologizing for removing Hillary Clinton from a photo in their paper but still standing behind their policy of not showing women in the paper. It brings up in Saudi Arabia a story of a woman who protested a law—by driving (talk about an odd form of civil disobedience). It brings up Bin Laden and how we know where religious extremism can leave us.

Hillary Clinton (not pictured)

I don’t intend to go down that path any further because it will detract from the original purpose of this column—but it’s a difficult question to tackle nonetheless that is worth mentioning and thinking about.

The fact is that really, outside of some sort of religious objection, the idea of a gay NBA player wouldn’t face very much friction around the league. Barkley’s right. The media has painted the jocks as vehement homophobes when it’s just not true. Would there be some opposition from NBA players? Certainly. It would be ludicrous to suggest that every NBA player would be totally fine with this. I even find myself, someone who thinks your sexual orientation shouldn’t determine your rights, feeling uncomfortable around some degree of homosexuality. I’m not sure why, but I just am. I have no problem with it and in fact support it, but when Cam and Mitchell kiss on Modern Family it’s not the same as when Phil and Claire kiss. I take notice of it. It looks out of place. I know it’s been drilled into cliché levels, but Seinfeld was dead on with their take on gay people—I’m not gay…not that there’s anything wrong with it. We’re not opposed to gay people, but it’s not the same as saying you have brown or blue eyes yet.

Coincidence? Please.

But even with that uncomfortable feeling and perhaps some legitimate opposition, I think we’d see the NBA welcome gay players into the family. It’s a league that has honoured and will always honour excellence in basketball. Period. If Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Dirk Nowitzki or Kobe Bryant came out this off-season I can assure you they would be respected. People would want to play with them. They would get selected for all-star games by the fans and they will all end up in the Basketball Hall of Fame and even more likely at David Stern’s Sunday morning legends’ brunch every All-Star weekend. If you can play, you have a place in the league.

We won’t be surprised what happens when a player comes out. Did you hear anybody oppose Rick Welts’ decision? So, when every article on ESPN, SI and your local newspaper talks about how welcoming and open minded the NBA and its players have been to the first openly gay player in the league, remind yourself that the exact same people that are praising the league for breaking down a barrier of a homophobic culture are the ones who created that idea in the first place.

The same way they create stories about Russell Westbrook’s chemistry issues with Kevin Durant. You know, how he won’t pass to him. Check out this little tidbit I found:

“Russell Westbrook has assisted on 54 of Durant’s baskets in the 2011 playoffs. Not only is that the most assists any player has on a particular teammate’s buckets in this year’s playoffs, it is double the next highest total (27, by Rajon Rondo/Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki)”

Now you get what I mean by ‘manufacturing a storyline’.

Why We Hate the Heat

I rest in the majority of basketball fans in one idea for sure. I hate the Miami Heat. I watch the video below frequently (not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six…) during Miami-Boston games and I begin to bleed Celtic green.

But I think we, as Heat Haters, need to step up and really acknowledge the true reason we hate the Heat. I’ve heard the reason everyone says. “It’s not that they all went to Miami—it’s how they did it.” I’m not going to say that The Decision and Bosh’s slimy departure didn’t impact the way we felt about the Heat, but rather that regardless of how they went to Miami—we were bound to hate the Heat. It’s convenient to say that it is solely because of how they went to Miami, but this is just a nice way of saying how we really feel:

We hate you because you went to Miami.

We hate you because you ruined everything right about basketball—even though it seems as if you did everything right. I mean, think about it, three stars taking role and pay reductions (no, I don’t think they sacrificed any attention or publicity—even Bosh became more newsworthy after being the franchise in Toronto) to get a championship. We love these stories. A group banded together that will put nothing in the way of a championship.

But we hate the Heat. And there’s a simple reason that we don’t have to feel bad about. No, not jealously—we hate the Heat because if they win, it gives no hope for the little guy—for the everyman, or shall I say the everyfan. If the Heat win, it means every superstar will realize that the only way to avoid the paths followed by Reggie Miller, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone—great players, zero rings in total—is to join together much like the Heat have done. And thus, big NBA cities and owners will feel the need to put these superstar-superfriend squads together that would make even the Monstars take the early shuttle back to Moron Mountain.

If he would have said Toronto, I wouldn't be saying that I didn't like the way he did it

So, why do we hate the Heat? Because Toronto ain’t doing what they did anytime soon. Ditto for almost every other team in the league. Most of the league’s fans are mourning with the Timberwolves, recovering with the Pistons—or in my case, just hangin’ on by a thread with the Raptors.

We hate the Heat because if they win, then we lose—maybe forever. It means team chemistry, shrewd trading and balance are thrown off. It means the recipe for winning is no longer the 2004 Detroit Pistons—who saved basketball from superteams in 2004 when they beat the Shaq-Kobe-Payton-Malone Lakers. It means the Raptors will never stand a chance.

So yes, I hated The Decision. But, what I hate more is that the recipe for winning includes nice weather, beaches and no state tax—of which Toronto has none in the drawers.

And if this off-season comes around and Chris Paul is in New York, Dwight Howard is in LA and the Heat use their Mid-Level Exception to sign Tyson Chandler—it will further push Toronto into a subdivision of the NBA mediocrity.

This is why we need Memphis, Oklahoma City, Atlanta (or even Chicago and Dallas) to be shaking David Stern’s hand. That shake will be from Toronto, Cleveland, Utah, New Jersey, Sacramento and San Antonio among many others saying thank you for keeping our hopes alive.

And if the Heat win? If Lebron raises the Larry O’Brien Trophy high guaranteeing another 25 before he retires, I’m hoping for a long painful lockout with King Soloman as our mediator. Given my feelings for Lebron, I’ll gladly accept his verdict to cut him into 30 pieces.

Or at least a hard cap.