Friday, October 14, 2005

Fast Breaking it Down

Is it time to wave goodbye to the real "Hebrew Hammer"? Paul explores this and more in today's column.


Fast Breaking it Down

By Paul Benedict


Before I ramble on and on about the NBA, I thought I'd clue you guys in to what Anthony and I have in store for you over the next couple of weeks. Beginning on Monday, I'll present to you my first 'Five on 5' of the season, and will do my best to implement it as a weekly column every Monday. Anthony will also bring to you a weekly piece to come out every Friday, but we're still hacking out the details on that so stay tuned. We'll also be doing pieces rating all the uniform alterations this year including the Hardwood Classics, as well as our awards predictions for the upcoming season. The following week we'll finally get to our season predictions (although maybe it's pointless since we've basically spoiled everything by now). On to my current NBA thoughts...


Easy, Ron! You don't want to go the Larry Eustachy route do you? (By the way, there's more where this came from).


Assistant Coaching Carousel

Nobody ever talks about assistant coaches in the NBA, but they often contribute to a team's success as much as a head coach. A lot of interesting names-- some former heads, others recently retired players taking a stab at life on the bench, moved around this summer and landed with teams where they could potentially have a considerable impact.

Cleveland - Hank Egan
-What do you do if you're a first time head coach facing a lot of pressure in your first season? You do exactly what Mike Brown did, and hire someone with 39 years of coaching experience and who also happens to be your former college coach, Hank Egan.

Detroit - Ron Harper
-Flip Saunders convinced Harper to work with him in Detroit this season in a move that many think will pay off big time. Give Harper two more years and he'll be strolling the sidelines as a head coach. He played on four championship teams and was always considered to be one of the best vocal leaders during his time. Plus, doesn't he just look like an NBA head coach (at least when he's not partying with drunk cheerleaders)?

Houston - Charlie Ward
-The former Heisman Trophy winner has been Jeff Van Gundy's boy for quite some time. Van Gundy had this to say about Ward upon the announcement of his retirement, "One of the toughest competitors you would ever compete against. We always said Charlie would rip your heart out on the floor and then pray for you after. That's the kind of guy you want to surround yourself with." That it is.

L.A. Lakers - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Scottie Pippen
-It never hurts to bring in two of the 50 greatest to work as 'special assistants', specifically Kareem with Kwame Brown and Scottie with Lamar Odom. Kareem is doing his best to restore his debilitating reputation around the league, but he's got his work cut out for him if he's going to turn Kwame into a big time player. Scottie is ideally suited to work alongside Odom and could make a huge difference in whether Odom proves to be a fit for this team.

Portland - Dean Demopoulos
-Not only did Seattle lose Nate McMillan, but they also watched as Demopoulos followed him to Portland to be his lead assistant. Demopoulos worked for 17 years under John Chaney at Temple where he learned the essentials to teaching gritty defense. He was considered to be largely responsible for the Sonics' defensive improvements the last couple of seasons and will be missed by Bob Weiss and his coaching staff this year.


Get well soon, Amare.


No More STATs

-Anthony touched on it briefly the other day, but I think it's important that I share my thoughts on the news that Amare Stoudemire will be out at least four months due to microfracture knee surgery. If you're a regular on this site, then you can probably guess that I'm utterly devastated. Back in February, I listed Amare as the third most exciting player in the league, and just a couple weeks ago we ranked Amare's emergence as #19 on our 30 reasons to get excited for the upcoming season countdown. Simply put, we may never see the same Amare again. As much as I want to believe the doctors that are emphatically saying that Amare will return at 100%, the history of players who have had microfracture knee surgery is just flat out depressing. And for a guy that's game is built upon his athleticism and explosiveness, I just can't see how he's not going to be adversely affected at all. Has there ever been anyone who has had any sort of knee surgery and returned as good as new? Seriously, if anyone can think of a case, please let me know. Off the top of my head, I got nothing. Can't somebody come up with the equivalent of 'Tommy John Surgery' for knees? Anyways, the Suns are toast this season and I really can't seem to care. I'm just praying STAT comes back and plays the way we remembered him because he was already a one-of-a-kind player, and had an outstanding opportunity to become one of the greats.


"You're drinking what?"
"Grey Goose, my man. It's the only way to go."


Final Farewells?

-Every year some veterans go unsigned during the summer and we begin to wonder if we'll ever see them again. Actually, we don't. We usually just plain forget about them, whether it's because they stuck around too long or quietly succumbed to a career-ending injury, and never hear from them again until they show up as an assistant coach or on SI's "Where Are They Now?". A glance at some players that we may want to bid farewell to before they're lost amidst NBA lore.

Tom Gugliotta's once bright career went down the gutter after he blew out his knee in 1999. He's hovered around the NBA since then, but at 35, has more than likely played his final game.....One of the great mysteries in the NBA is figuring out what happened to Kenny Anderson after he landed in Boston 7 years ago (at the expense of Chauncey Billups). Anderson is probably done after being released by the Clippers last spring.....As the story goes, Vin Baker was once told to 'take a seat' after committing a stupid foul. And so he grabbed a stool at a bar and kept drinking, and drinking, and drinking. The rest is history. As far as I'm concerned, Vin Baker left the league four years ago.....The only time Travis Best could secure a starting spot was when he played alongside Jesus Shuttlesworth at Lincoln High. But hey, that's better than Howard Eisley who couldn't even nail down the starting point job with Utah last year. Don't let the door hit ya on the way out, fellas!....Kerry Kittles could have been a perennial All-Star if it weren't for his detrimental knee troubles. He could shoot from anywhere on the floor, dunk on just about anyone, and defend with the best of 'em. Unfortunately, my fellow 'Nova alum has basically admitted that he's finished at the young age of 31. I'd love to see him make a comeback, but whatever happens, we're still proud of you Kerry.....Tony Massenburg, I'm going to miss trying to guess what team you're on this year and if you're really Jewish, for at 38, you're just too old for a young man's league.....Eddie Robinson actually didn't play in a single game last year, but we''ll always remember him for signing the one of the most ridiculous contracts ever (5 years, $31.2 million).....Michael Stewart has the record for most fake injuries in the history of the NBA. He's the reason there's no longer an injured list.....Wang Zhizhi broke barriers in becoming the first Asian-born player to appear in the NBA. Problem is, you sucked. Farewell, Wang.


Dale's Not Stale

-The more I think about it, the more I'm beginning to realize that the Pistons' Dale Davis signing is vastly underrated. He won't do much during the regular season, but he'll be even more effective than Elden Campbell was against Shaq when Detroit run into Miami in the Playoffs. And on top of it, I'm convinced Joe Dumars signed Dale Davis simply so nobody else could have him. Seriously, why the hell do the Pistons need him when they have the Wallaces, McDyess, Darko, and Maxiell?! The way I see it, Joe D didn't want to take a chance on Indy bringing him back and playing as well as he did during the Playoffs last year; he knew the Heat might go after him with Zo's health issues, Laettner leaving, and Michael Doleac still lurking on the roster; and he knew the Cavs were looking for an experienced big man to shore up the frontline, thus he snatched up Davis and let them settle with Alan Henderson. Joe Dumars, always one step ahead of the competition.


Is it possible that the Kandi Man can relive his "glory days" this season? (And who the hell fed Adrian Griffin acid before this game?)



Five For the Money

-We see it every year-- players having "uncharacteristically" big seasons out of nowhere. Some fine examples from the last few seasons include Michael Olowokandi in 2002-03, Mark Blount in 2003-04, and Bobby Simmons last year. It's a total mystery to some as to why players like these so suddenly increase their level of play, but there's a common denominator for each of these instances-- contract season. Baseball is notorious for the "contract season", but it's becoming a regularity more and more in the NBA as well. Here's five under-the-radar contract players who could potentially punctuate on their status as an impending free agent by having adventituous seasons.

Kelvin Cato, Orlando
-Cato has plenty of ability, he's just so absurdly inconsistent. He'll catch your eye with a 12-15-5 and then follow it up with a 2-3-0 two nights later. Don't be shocked if puts it all together this season now that he's got his mind on the money and money on his mind.

Michael Olowokandi, Minnesota
-That's right, it was only three years ago that the Kandi Man busted out a 12-9-2 in order to ensure his wallet got thicker in a contract year. Then he signed with Minnesota and proceeded to suck more than Tera Patrick. Now it's on Olowokandi to increase his stock as much as he can which is probably why he's been getting raves for his play during the preseason thus far. I'll be beside myself if Olowokandi goes for another 12-9-2 this year and tricks a team into signing him long term this summer. This could definitely happen.

Bonzi Wells, Sacramento
-I'm not sure there's a player out there who has to be happier with his new surroundings than the Bonz. He barely averaged 20 MPG last year and was benched during the Playoffs, now in Sacto he finds himself in a starting role where the green light is always on for everyone. Look for the Bonz to try and repeat the 17-6-3-1.5 numbers from 2001-02 with Portland that earned him his expiring 4 year, $30 million contract.

Aaron Williams, Toronto
-What happened to this guy? During New Jersey's Finals runs he looked like one of the best backup big men in the league, then he crosses the border and can't even crack the rotation in Toronto. Now if he can't outduel Rafael Araujo and Loren Woods for the starting center spot in a contract year, I'm not sure he should be playing in the WNBA.

Lorenzen Wright, Memphis
-Lo will be 30 in a matter of weeks and isn't getting any younger with those shotty knees of his. Nevertheless, he'll be a hot commodity because he's an above-average big man with experience and a good attitude. With Stromile gone, Wright should inherit more minutes and have a great opportunity to get his numbers up to the 13-9-1 range.


Dear Mr. Fantasy

-Don't overestimate this year's rookies when drafting your team. Believe it or not, Andrew Bogut is currently the only lock to start for his respective team.....Chris Paul is reportedly facing stiff competition from a determined Speedy Claxton, a player that has proven he's an able starter in this league.....Jerry Sloan has never been known to play rooks big minutes, so Deron Williams may have to really earn his way into the starting lineup, especially considering the Jazz have two other decent point guards in Milt Palacio and Keith McLeod......Marvin Williams will likely come off the bench until the Hawks shave their roster down a bit......Raymond Felton has been the most impressive rookie in the preseason thus far, but he's still expected to serve as a back-up to Brevin Knight to start the year, as is Sarunas Jasikevicius to Jamaal Tinsley in Indiana.....Rashad McCants could very well break into the starting lineup for Minnesota, but he's going to have to convince Dwane Casey to bring Marko Jaric or Troy Hudson off the bench.....Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham aren't slated to start, but should see decent run from the get-go and could eventually work themselves in once the Raptors tank.....Ike Diogu likely set himself back by fracturing a bone in his hand.....Channing Frye has to put in some work before Larry Brown even considers giving him a respectable role off the bench.

-Bottom line, don't expect big things from any rookie to start the season. If you're going to draft them, just remember to be patient. I think the pay-off for all of the above-mentioned guys could be significant, but you'll be drafting each with the risk of them not being fantasy-worthy for some time.


Do we really want this guy coaching Team USA?


Runnin 'n Gunnin

-I just don't understand why Mike Krzsywsjioassjdisski was elected to coach the USA Men's Basketball Team. What international coaching experience does he have? Luol Deng does not count. Are we more concerned about the face of USA Basketball, or winning the Gold Medal?

-LeBron's new shoe, the Zoom LeBron III, is...well...awesome. Doesn't mean I'm burning $32,472 to buy it.

-Trying to gauge who's going to be the starting point guard for the Milwaukee Bucks? Just go to the team's site.

-Headline: "Cassell Was Close To Becoming A Maverick". Question: Was RealGM that desperate for a headline that they busted out this doozy?

-NBA Live 2006: B-. Wish I had bought NBA 2K6.

-If you'll remember last week when I listed 50 random reasons to get fired up for the season, I said this, "Any opportunity you have to hear Mason RIP the Pistons' starting lineups once again." Well, here's your golden opportunity.

-It's been pouring in the northeast for the past week and I got SOAKED jumping off the 'Andrew Bogut for Rookie of the Year' bandwagon after watching him get absolutely MANHANDLED by the Detroit frontline last night. I know it's the Pistons and all, but my goodness, he looked like more of a stiff than Chris Dudley in his Diabetes commercial.

-The Spurs have done it again. I caught the preseason opener on Monday and came away vastly impressed by one of their new acquisitions. Not Michael Finley, not Nick Van Exel, not Fabricio Oberto, not even Jawad Williams. Nope, I was in awe of some guy named Sharrod Ford. Who?! The 6'9" undrafted rookie out of Clemson only dropped 8 points in 16 minutes, but each of his scores was very impressive and he made his presence felt on both ends of the floor. Just checked the box score for tonight's game-- 13 points, 6 boards, 2 blocks.

8 Comments:

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous lang said...

"I just don't understand why Mike Krzsywsjioassjdisski was elected to coach the USA Men's Basketball Team. What international coaching experience does he have? Luol Deng does not count. Are we more concerned about the face of USA Basketball, or winning the Gold Medal?
"

Congratulations, you just lost all credibility.

 
At 7:29 PM, Blogger Paul Benedict said...

Lang,

Allow me to elaborate because that is a topic I should have gone a little deeper in. I failed to mention that Coach K was an assistant on the original Dream Team, which I admit is a terrible mistake. Nevertheless, I stand by what I said. If you're not a regular to this site, you probably have no idea that I've been campaigning for Mike D'Antoni to coach this team all year long. He's considered perhaps the best European coach of all time, he's the NBA's reigning Coach of the Year, and he's been an assistant over here for years, so he's very familiar with our NBA talent. Why would we choose a college coach like Krzyzewski? Don't get me wrong, I think Coach K is far and away the best college coach there is. When all is said and done, his name will be appropriately be put right next to John Wooden's. But how does any of this necessarily qualify him to be the Team USA Coach? He likely will not have coached or coached against any of the players that will be on the team, he's not nearly as familiar with the international game, and to be quite honest, he's more of a program builder than X and O guy anyways. Simply put, you can't argue that he's more qualified than D'Antoni. I dare you to try. I understand Coach K is a class guy and an ideal face for Team USA, especially considering we're trying to restore our reputation. But I just can't fathom how we can be more concerned with how we are perceived than how we perform. What do you want? You want to look good, or you want to win the gold medal? I want the fucking gold, baby! And D'Antoni was the man to get us there. Let's just hope he's named an assistant. I appreciate your comment and can understand why you might be annoyed by my comments (I'm guessing you're a Duke student or alum?). I'd like to hear your side because I'm always up for a good debate. Thanks for writing in, Lang.

 
At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was down to between Coach K and Popovich, right? The face-value of K had to have been a major factor. Immediately they regain some 'honor' or 'integrity' and other sorts of things that Gregg Popovich obviously does not have, at least in the ESPN era. I believe utterly that this was a factor. Basketball-wise, Colangelo might have worried that Pop was involved in both the 2004 Olympics and 2002 WBC disasters. Even if he was an assistant coach to each, it would've been enough to give pause.

Having K there gives the impression to the players that this is something different than an NBA team. It might work out. But then, Pop was there when they crashed last year and he knows what it looks like now. ...Anyway, it's all about what players they get...

The rest--

T-Mass gets to retire with a ring, so big ups for the big guy.

Glenn Robinson looks like he's gonna be picked up by no one. He'll retire, right?

What about Sprewell? Will he be forced to play in Europe?

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

"You just lost all credibility"

Are we serious here? I know Paul may be nicer than me, in fact a lot nicer than me, but c'mon, he should have given you the piledriver. If you can't respect someone's opinion, especially when it concerns Team USA Basketball, how can YOU be considered a credible sports fan? The committee basically said, "Okay, fuck NBA coaches, they haven't done shit, let's go with the biggest face in college hoops." What does that say for the NBA? Our coaches suck that badly that we can't even send someone in there to compete with a college coach? You have to realize it's nothing against Coach K, because he's done a magificent job with that program and like Paul say, he's Wooden Jr.

 
At 8:54 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Part 2: Sorry, I dunno what happened. So, Lang, by you simply putting Paul's text up there, then posting your smart ass comment does nothing for you, Paul, me, or anyone else that reads this site. Did that make you feel good to write that? We're all here to enjoy the game of basketball, and when things like this occur, it really pisses me off. If you disagree, AWESOME, just tell us why instead of copping out like you did. We're all here to listen brotha, let's here what you got to say, Lang.

 
At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a little tip for all you fantasy geeks. Martell Webster will start this year and put up good numbers on the offensively depleted Blazers. He is only a rookie but he has one of the sweetest jumpers in the league. He would be a great late round steal.

 
At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John Stockton and Jason Kidd both returned from microfracture surgery pretty well. baby arm.

 

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