All posts in basketball

30May

how to fix the NBA

By in large, the NBA is doing very well these days. Players aren’t rushing into the stands to throw down with the fans, referees aren’t wagering on games they’re calling and teams are once again capable of scoring more than 80 points a game. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas in which the game and the league couldn’t improve upon.

Call traveling. We know you want LeBron James to be great, but let’s not make a mockery of the game we love so bad. At this point in his young career, referees let King James get away with so much that it only takes him three dibbles to go coast to coast on a basketball court.

Don’t take the Sonics away from Seattle. The home of Pearl Jam and Starbucks was awarded a basketball team in 1966, and the Sonics began their inaugural season the following season. Call me crazy, but more than 40 years of history tells me the they deserve to keep the franchise. If you want a team in Oklahoma City or wherever, that’s fine. But leave the Sonics alone.

Fix trades. When trades become more about a player’s “expiring contract” and less about the actual player, then there’s something wrong with the system. Nuf’ said.

Suspend players who flop. It’s embarrassing watching some of the best athletes alive resort to these kind of shenanigans, but I guarantee that if the league suspended floppers one game for every infraction this new trend would go away in a heartbeat. Otherwise, you’d see Manu Ginobli sitting out more games per year than notoious hothead Rasheed Wallace — all because Manu hits the deck like Hillary Clinton just ordered a hit on him every time he comes in contact with another player.

Ditch the WNBA. At this point, the only rational explanation why the league even admits the WNBA is still in existence would be David Stern’s ego. Let’s not forget, almost everything he’s done for the league has worked out (expanding from 23 to 30 franchises, televising games in more than 200 countries, making the league a ton of money globally). So I’m sure when he set out to help the NBA’s “special” little sister, he thought his name alone would put them on the map. Instead, what he got was an overwhelming “no thanks” from basketball fans who didn’t care if “she got game.”

And finally, make kids stay in college for at least two seasons. Just think about how much money O.J. Mayo would have if he were at USC for one more year. His parents would never have to work again, and NBA teams might (gasp!) actually be able to draft more than four or five players who could contribute during their rookie season.

05May

all you can eat

We officially live in a “no fun” world — where every kid in the league gets a trophy regardless of whether their team wins a game or not and character-building games like dodgeball are almost universally banned. So it should come as no surprise that moments after Papa John’s put together some timely t-shirts with LeBron James’ number and the name “crybaby,” they issued an apology for offending people.

Papa John’s will sell Cleveland residents a large, one-topping pizza for 23 cents this week, and will also donate $10,000 to the Cavaliers Youth Fund. I realize this is a no-brainer for them because they get a ton of free publicity, but this is not cool. Either have the stones to call someone out or don’t. This is no better than playing both sides of the feud — sticking whichever side is winning.

Sports are all about trash talking, and it should be a good thing if D.C. establishments want to get in the game and support the local franchises. But don’t wuss out and bail the second you get a phonecall complaining (even if it’s from the commissioner David Stern). You had the grapefruits to think up the t-shirts and to have them made. Stand by your decision and tell Cleveland to, once again, quit crying.

01May

talent, credibility sold separately

(photo by Brian Murphy)


I need to up front and honest with you all, this relationship we have is not exclusive. Sure, I come out and tell you how great you are and that you’re the only readers for me, but the truth is — I’m a whore. I hate to admit it, but if you were unexpectedly drop by and check up on me one day, you’ve got a decent chance of catching me in the act with another website. In hopes of clearing the air, I figured it best to lay it all out there.

For starters, I got together with the guys from Skinscast to do a post-draft podcast. We take a pick-by-pick look at the Redskins draft and argue over how we think the team did. One bit of warning – for a guy called Homer, I was fairly pessimistic that night. But I guess that’s to be expected when the ‘Skins draft 37 pass catchers in one day.

In addition to the podcast, there’s my bi-weekly column on HoboTrashcan. This week, I take a moment to thank the Washington Wizards for somehow finding a way to raise the bar after the Redskins and Capitals respective playoff runs. And since the Redskins minicamp starts this weekend and we’re talking about HoboTrashcan, let me take a minute to direct you towards celebrity interviews with some of the most beloved players on the roster — Clinton Portis, Fred Smoot and Marcus Washington. Each of those interviews was from the 2007 season, but I think it’s reasonable to expect we’ll get some new ones this year once training camp gets going. Hopefully these will do until then.

29Apr

where amazing happens

Brendan Haywood earned the scorn of the national media when he delivered a “hard foul” to LeBron James, sending King James into the third row of seats in the first game of the Wizards-LeBrons series. DeShawn Stevenson, depending on which talking head you listen to, either attempted to clothesline James or use a close-handed fist to straight up pop him in the dome in game four. Judging by the number of times folks in the national media have called for a Wizards player to be suspended, clearly, no one paid to cover basketball is up for any sort of physical contact — especially when it involves The Savior.

Well, that got me thinking. Maybe the Wiz are better off openly embracing the role of the villain. I mean, they’re already down three games to one and nobody outside of the beltway is rooting for them. So go with it. Cue up the intro music for Iron Sheik or Nikolai Volkoff from the WWF’s glory days and come out playing the part of the bad guy. Start one of your expendable bench players like Andray Blatche and the first time LeBron James goes for a dunk, a layup or even a drink of water, you knock his ass out. We don’t need to start a brawl like the trash in Detroit, but we can send a message that this Washington squad isn’t going down without a fight.

Which brings me to my last point — come out in Bullets jerseys. In fact, announce tomorrow morning that the franchise is embracing its roots and returning to a name that never should have gotten away. Team owner Abe Pollin has ruined two names — changing the Bullets to the Wizards back in 1995 because the name “carried violent overtones” and then being honored by the District when they renamed Fun Street to Abe Pollin Way. So he’s turned the local basketball team soft and taken the “fun” out of Washington. Thanks for nothing, dick.

You want people to take you seriously, Wizards/Bullets? Well, I want to cheer for a team not named after a Harry Potter character. Let’s work together and see if we can’t fix this sad situation. For starters, break out the old red, white and blue Bullets jerseys, grab a steel chair and show the good people of Cleveland that you’re ready for a shot at the title. If nothing else, it’ll give us all something to talk about during the offseason (besides the fact that this team is better off without Gilbert Arenas in the lineup).

Oops … did I say that?

UPDATE: Dan Steinberg’s latest entry proves the Wiz are completely on board with my suggestion. DeShawn Stevenson didn’t come out onto the court to the Iron Sheik’s music — he did one better. He arrived in Cleveland for game five wearing a Mike Vick jersey. It’s so simple, I’m stunned I didn’t think of it. Why go back 20 years, when you go sport the jersey of public enemy number one who is currently in jail for killing dogs for fun? This is especially effective when you’re in the city with a diehard group of fans who call themselves … you guessed it … the Dawg Pound. Did I mention D.C. is like no other sports town?

(courtesy photo)

28Apr

shawn carter update

As previously mentioned, Shawn Carter, a.k.a. – Jay-Z, took time out of his busy schedule to dive into the DeShawn Stevenson-LeBron James feud. Thanks to the reader who was kind enough to pass along this link to the hip-hop icon’s track that was played at Love nightclub in D.C. this past Friday night while the Cleveland LeBrons were enjoying a night out on the town. Getting Soulja Boy to show up at a game, sit courtside and sport your jersey is one thing, but having Jay-Z make a custom-track and sending it to the club you just so happen to be at with your boys … well … that’s taking it to the next level. Needless to say, the freestyle lyrics flowing from Mr. Carter are not exactly work safe. Keep that in mind when you check it out.

And sadly, unless the Wizards learn to rebound, take smarter shots and stop with the careless passes this series (and the off-court drama that comes with it) will be over in the next few days. Can’t Gilbert Arenas blog about Nas and get him involved? If I remember correctly, Nas and Jay-Z aren’t exactly the closest of friends.

27Apr

only in the district

“There will never be a rivalry between me and DeShawn.”

Those are the words of Cleveland Cavs superstar LeBron James from this past Friday. Thankfully, King James’ words to the media and his actions are not on the same page as this first round playoff series continues to find new ways to become more and more enjoyable. Let’s take a step back to get everyone caught up:

After the Wiz defeated the LeBrons back in March, Stevenson called LeBron “overrated.” It had less to do with King James being on the cover of Vogue that month, and more to do with stopping LeBron from hitting a game-winning shot at the buzzer. When asked for a response, James declined, saying responding to Stevenson “would be like Jay-Z saying something bad about Soulja Boy.” (Trashtalking For Dummies breakdown: I’m the best there is and he’s a one-hit wonder).

DeShawn is a smart guy, so he uses that slight as a reason to contact Soulja Boy. He catches the rapper up on the feud and invites him to join the Wizards in their playoff quest to dethrone mighty King James. Fast forward to this past week, when Soulja Boy sat courtside for the Wizards first home game of the playoffs, a 36-point rout of the Cavs, while rocking a DeShawn Stevenson jersey. If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, here’s a link to the video (courtesy of the Washington Post) of Soulja Boy doing his trademark dance and even throwing in Stevenson’s “I can’t feel my face” hand wave at the end.

Beat writers jokingly asked LeBron if Jay-Z, who by the way is a minority owner of the New Jersey Nets, would be appearing in James’ corner for game four. “No. Come on. We don’t … I’m not even going to say what I want to say,” was his response. So that’s it, end of story, right? Not by a long shot.

Mike Wise’s column from Sunday’s edition of the Post breaks the news that Jay-Z
made a diss record on Friday about DeShawn Stevenson, with Mr. Beyonce Knowles freestyling over the beat from “Blow The Whistle” by Too Short. Read that last sentence again. The biggest rapper alive crushed DeShawn Stevenson in a track specifically made for this feud that was played at Love, the same D.C. hotspot where Gilbert Arenas’ million-dollar birthday jam was held last year. Ladies and gentlemen, all we’re missing is an owner like the unstable Mark Cuban or a cameo by “Iron” Mike Tyson and this could end up becoming the biggest sports story of 2008.

People wonder how I’ve been able to brainwash my wife, who knew nothing about sports before I “saved” her five years ago. The truth is, this town does sports like no other. We’ve got Clinton Portis playing dress up during press conferences. Chris Cooley wears booty shorts and marries a Redskins cheerleader (only after she gets fired for being with him in the first place). Alex Ovechkin, the league’s best player, like to hit people as much as score goals. Sergei Fedorov was married to Anna Kournikova. Gilbert Arenas blogs about killing himself. Caron Butler went on Oprah to tell her about being a thug as a child. DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden have a beard-growing competition — first one to shave reportedly loses $25,000. Seriously, this isn’t professional sports — it’s an MTV reality show. It’s the kind of crap-tastic drama that fills her gossip magazines and airs weekly on Big Brother or The Real World. You can’t pry her away from this stuff. Where else in the world would Jay-Z feel the need to pause his 43rd comeback tour to freestyle a rap dissing the fourth most popular basketball player on the team?

Only in the district. And thank God for that.

24Apr

the history of civilization?

Growing up, I was a huge fan of the WWF. The theater involved with Hulk Hogan calling on his Hulkamaniacs to “say their prayers and eat their vitamins” so he could have the strength to defeat Andre the Giant was more than enough to have me tune in each Saturday morning.

I also grew up an avid boxing fan and often was able to talk my parents into letting me have a friend spend the night when one of Mike Tyson’s fights were going to be shown on HBO. From their standpoint it was simple – ‘Iron Mike’ was going to knock out his tomato can of an opponent in the first round and then they’d send my buddy and I to bed for the night. I bring this up because anyone whose ever heard the name Don King knows the ingredients for a entertaining weigh-in – lots of trash talking, some pushing and shoving and then the promise of a top-notch main event.

I bring up both of these examples because this entry is dedicated to the Washington Wizards, who are currently facing a “standing eight count” against the Cleveland LeBrons. You may remember Wiz guard DeShawn Stevenson calling King James “overrated,” and Gilbert Arenas following that up with a blog entry basically begging for a first-round bout with Cleveland because he was sure they were beatable. Well, in the immortal words of my mom, “Be careful what you ask for because you just may get it.” The Wizards hung around in game one until their biggest Achillies’ heel exposed itself once again.

For three years I’ve argued with other locals who follow this team that they’re never going to venture deep into the playoffs unless radical changes are made to the composition of this team. There are simply too many guys who settle for jump shots instead of driving into the paint and getting the tough baskets or forcing the opposition into foul trouble.
That may work for stretches during the regular season, but when everything intensifies during the postseason, jump shooters have a way of going cold and missing the big shots with the game on the line. That’s why ESPN always shows when a shooter drains a 20 footer in the second half — because they just don’t go in that often in the playoffs.

Antawn Jamison is a wonderful complementary player, but he’s not the type of go-to player who is willing to bang around down low and muscle his way to the basket when the season is on the line. Gilbert Arenas is fearless, when healthy, but this player wearing #0 is not that same player. Injuries have limited Agent Zero to 15 points and three assists a game so far in the playoffs, which is fine if you’re Derek Fisher. Not so much for Arenas, who fancies himself a superstar. Ditto with Caron Butler’s production, who is bringing home 13 points and five boards a night. Brendan Haywood is willing to get down and dirty — shoving King James into the third row of seats behind the basket when James had the audacity to try to drive the basket while Haywood was on the court (he hasn’t been this willing to get physical since the last time he and teammate Etan Thomas read poetry together). But Haywood can only do so much. Anyone expecting more than 10 points and 10 rebounds from Brendan is in for a letdown.

So this leads us to a fairly simple question — if the Wizards are built for regular season success, at best, and are suffering from the same rash of injuries that have hampered them for the last two years, why are they talking trash to the best young player in the game? Um … anyone?

“I think the Washington Wizards have got to be the dumbest team in the history of civilization,” said Charles Barkley, who never shies away from a chance to state the obvious. “I think for them to rile up LeBron, who is the second best player in the NBA, I think that’s just stupid.”

The bottom line is, unless the Wiz can stop talking the talk and start walking the walk, they’ll be golfing the golf by next weekend. They’re entertaining and a fun team to watch, and when the shots are falling, they can run with anyone. But during the playoffs, I just don’t think their jump-shooting mentality, especially against a motivated Cleveland LeBrons squad, is good enough to carry them past the first round. If this series goes six games, I’d be stunned. Hopefully I’m wrong, but history (and not to mention Cleveland’s eight straight playoff wins against the Wiz) seem to agree.

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