Friday, April 15, 2005

Fast-Breaking it Down

Even if you can't stand #31, you have to appreciate the way he's closing the book on his Hall of Fame career.

- We haven't even made a mention of it on this site, and even though I've never really been a fan of his up until this season, Reggie Miller is retiring at the end of the playoffs and is going out in a blaze of glory. Now it's interesting, Regg always got a bad rep on the East Coast, where Knick fans would have castrated him had they had a chance to. Growing up on the EC, all I heard were bad things about Reggie-- one-dimensional shooter, trash talker, dirty player, humongous ears, etc. But in reality, Reggie was someone that always defied odds as a player-- He's got an awkward basketball body and was never known for his mediocre (at best) athleticism; he had very little hype coming out of high school and not much more heading into the Pros from UCLA; he was only named to 5 All-Star teams and never picked higher than 3rd Team All-NBA , but he was the team leader of a Pacers club that always seemed to perform beyond expections each and every year that he's been there. And on top of that, Reggie is a consummate professional and has always been known for his community dedication off the court (he won the Community Citizenship Award last season), he's well-liked around the league by officials, personnel, players, you name it; and as Charles Barkley loves to say, he's faded into the sunset perhaps better than any player in the history of the game. Reggie knew he had his last shot to lead the Pacers to a title in 2000 against the Lakers and came up short. Since then, he's accepted a lesser role each year, instead deferring to guys like Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal, and focusing his energy on mentoring the younger guys and just performing the role that's expected of him. Well, with all that's happened to the Pacers this season, Reggie has been asked by Rick Carlisle to take on the scoring load for the last 25 games or so and at the age of 39, is showing that he still has some juice left in him (18 PPG since ASB). It's really a remarkable story to say the least and might actually make the Pacers enjoyable to watch come playoff time. If you get a chance, NBA TV is having a Reggie Miller Marathon all day this Monday and is worth checking out. And if you're a Reggie hater and don't give a crap about what I'm saying, just remember that even Spike Lee came out and said he appreciates Reggie Miller for what's he's accomplished and is happy to see him go out the way he is.

-A lot of big-name college players have yet to announce whether or not they're leaving school early for the NBA Draft, so allow me to provide my two cents on what they'll do...

  • Raymond Felton - Gone - Lottery Material.
  • Hassan Adams - Gone - Won't sign an agent, but will receive 1st Round guarantee.
  • Jarrett Jack - Gone - 1st Round Material.
  • Marvin Williams - Gone - Top 3 Material.
  • Dee Brown- Returning - Will test process, but return.
  • Maurice Ager - Returning - Will test process, but return.
  • Shannon Brown - Staying - Wait till next season.
  • Brandon Bass- Gone - Already used up draft card.
  • Sean May - Gone - I know what he's been saying, but his stock will never be higher.
  • Shelden Williams - Staying - Apparently waiting to see what others do. Coach K will hold on.

Carolina fans can kiss Raymond Felton and his overrated game good-bye.

-Denver has won 23 straight games against teams not from Phoenix- unbelievable. But is it time to consider the Nuggets a contender to not only make it beyond the first round, but to win the whole damn thing? Honestly, I think they stand a better chance than the Suns do in the playoffs for one simple reason- defense. When it comes down to it, Denver is capable of locking-down on any team in the league and while their scoring has been receiving all the attention, it's really their defense that has been winning them games. One other thing-- with five games to go for both Seattle and Denver, the Nuggets would have to win all four and the Sonics lose all four if the Nuggets were to win the Northwest Division. Seattle plays host New Orleans tonight before closing the season with road games in Minnesota, Dallas, and Houston. With the way things are shaping up, it might be wise to keep a close eye on that Seattle/New Orleans game tonight because a Sonic slip-up could result in an extraordinary division takeover by the Nuggets.

Just because I'm in a bad mood right now and need to spit out some fire, let me tear into some players that really piss me off:

  • Mark Blount - Grab a rebound and quit looking like a doofus out there.
  • Chris Webber - Throw a belt on that skirt and grab a tissue while you're at it.
  • Sam Cassell - Go back to your home planet.
  • Michael Doleac - Quit having your dog cut your hair.
  • Linton Johnson - What kind of name is that? Isn't that the shit in my bellybutton?
  • Michael Olowokandi - Don't even get me started.
  • Jared Reiner - Wherever the hell you came from, GO BACK. You're terrible!
  • Rodney Rogers - Can't you use that huge ass for something besides bricking 3s?
  • Jiri Welsch - The quintessential jump-shooting specialist without a jump shot.

Don't you come out of my bellybutton?

-I know I've already mentioned it this season, but allow me to reiterate- The Golden State Warriors are my favorite team. There's nobody on the team not worth cheering for (yes, even Mike Dunleavy who has been the brunt of a tremendous amount of criticism ever since entering the league); they're a perennial underdog year in and year out; they go out and play hard each and every night; Chris Mullin, Rod Higgins, and Mike Montgomery have instilled a fast-paced brand of basketball not witnessed in Oakland since the Run TMC glory days, AND they have arguably the best fans of any team in any city. I've been watching them a lot all season and it's amazing to me-- no matter how poorly the team is playing, no matter how many points their team is down, Warrior fans stay for the game and never turn on their team. Last week against Phoenix, in one of the more exciting games I've watched all season, the fans were on their feet for the ENTIRE 4th quarter. It's unbelievable! And as merely a television spectator, I was captivated by the energy the crowd brought to the game; it was like being back at the Pavilion and rooting on Villanova again. It's sad when you have teams like Atlanta and New Orleans, who have more empty seats at a home game than a John Tesh concert. And then other clubs like New Jersey and Orlando, who have trouble filling seats even when their teams are competitive. Warriors fans have been sticking out their depressing playoff drought for 11 years now, yet they still are as faithful to their team as any in the country-- you have to respect that.

-Here's a question to think about- outside of Cleveland and Philadelphia (and possibly New Jersey), the #7 and #8 seeds that will undoubtedly be thwarted in the first round by Miami and Detroit, which team is least likely to advance beyond the first round? It's tough to say right now because the Western Conference playoff match-ups are still being decided, but regardless of what happens, I would not give Sacramento the slightest chance of extending a series against Dallas beyond six games. Two familiar and similar teams, one with much more talent and the ability to play away from home. Case closed.

Dwight Howard is NOT the Rookie of the Year.

-Can we end the Dwight Howard 'Rookie of the Year' discussion now that Orlando has played its way out of playoff contention? Seriously, as Howard was making a "push" for the award by posting some fine numbers (Since All-Star break- 14.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.0 BPG), the Magic were busy tanking their season by going 6-18. I'm not suggesting that Howard deserves some of the blame for the horrid second half, but how can we give credit to him for posting good numbers in light of what happened? He still has lapses on both ends of the floor, is mediocre at best on defense, and constantly commits foolish fouls, yet none of this shows up in the box score. At the same time, my argument against Howard must at least somehow bring down Okafor's worth as well because like Howard, Emeka has improved (though to a lesser extent) his play since the ASB (16.1 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 2.1 BPG) despite his team going a pathetic 5-21. The difference is that even if the Magic's stuggles extend far beyond Dwight Howard, there is no substantial evidence suggesting that Howard's second half progression did in any way help the team's cause. Bottom line-- Ben Gordon is my choice for 'Rookie of the Year'-- Okafor 2nd; Howard 3rd.


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