Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I sit at my desk in Japan, mulling over yet another Thanksgiving lost to grilled fish, white rice, and pickled daikon radish. The only cure for such a melancholy day is a little basketball blogging. Some random thoughts on the season that has been and the season that still might be...

1. LeBron

LeBron is as good as a Knick at this point. The trades made the cap room, Nike dropped the hint with the "Big Apple" shoe debut at MSG. LeBron is cooing about Mike D'Antoni. Can we hurry it up to 2010 already?

I read at where J.A. Adande thinks that NY is unimportant to LeBron and that the idea that the NBA needs a strong NY is a myth. Figures that an LA writer would propose such a nonsensical argument. I agree that LeBron doesn't need the Knicks. He's a one man franchise and could be personally successful just about anywhere (Charlotte and OKC included). The thing is, the argument that NY is unimportant for LeBron or the NBA in the new media environment is off base. It may be less important, but one can't just make the argument that the league has done well without the Knicks for decades and leave it at that. The question one must ask is, what the NBA would look like IF New York was strong and had the league's most dynamic young player. If you frame it that way, Adande's argument begins to fall apart. Just because the league flourished and its players became millionaires while Magic was in LA, Bird was in Boston, and Dr. J was in Philly, only occasionally being met by a Bernard King scoring outburst out of the Garden, you can't make a direct correlation to the unimportance of the Knicks.

What if Julius Erving or Michael Jordan had played in New York City? How would that have impacted the league and the cache of its product? What if LeBron had put up a middle finger at Cleveland and forced a trade to NY the way Kobe did in his situation with Charlotte? Lest we forget that Kobe was had by LA in a hostage situation for Vlade Divac. If Garnett hadn't wasted all those years in the Minnesota wilderness by refusing to play for the Wolves. If he had planted himself in Boston earlier, or NY for that matter?

The league has done just fine with a weak NY. It's done fine with a NY featuring Ewing, Starks, and the rest. How would things have been better with a Julius Erving, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant in the Garden 41 times a year? I imagine it would be like the improvement from chocolate cake to Black Forest cake. One is desirable, delicious, and satisfying on its own. The other is an upgrade and much more attractive, delicious, and worthy of envy. That's how I see this LeBron situation. LeBron in Cleveland is great. It's good for the league. It creates a competitive balance. LeBron in NY makes the NY/LA matchup sexy again in the way that Yankees/Red Sox is sexy. The league is better off for that kind of rivalry. My case closes there.

2. The Bobcats and the Thunder

Why are these teams? My preseason prediction was that the Bobcats would trade away all their starters by season's end. All of them. So far, we're looking at trade rumors around Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, and there will undoubtedly whispers about Okafor to a contender before the deadline. Felton is now a shooting guard with the emergence of D.J. Augustin. It's happening. It hardly matters though. Charlotte is professional basketball nowhere. Let Duke have that city NBA. Stop being greedy.

The Thunder's prospects are better, but the present is much worse. That franchise ought to think carefully about what they're seeing in Charlotte because it could be their own future. Smallish city with temporary enthusiasm for pro hoops and limited patience for suckitude. When the honeymoon is over, if Kevin Durant is all alone on the floor things will get ugly. They need to be bolder than they've been so far. Install a D'Antoni system and let the fans enjoy themselves.

3. The Lakers and the Celtics

Wow. It feels like 1980 all over again. The two dominant franchises in the sport are the two most traditional. Fantasy hoops fans are lamenting the lack of performance by Bryant and Garnett, but what real fan could argue with the excellent brand of hoops played on both coasts? The lower fantasy performance is directly related to the stellar on court performance of these teams and the limited minutes needed by the big names. Blowouts are great for fans, but bad for stats.

Barring a major upset or injury, these are your finals teams. I absolutely love the Lakers to win it this season. Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, and Odom are great 1-4 players, but the Fishers, Farmers, and Arizas are the guys that are locking things down. Great balance and great system there. Fuck Phil Jackson, but he's a great coach.

The Celtics make me less optimistic long term because I think there's potential for Allen or Pierce to break down a bit. Rondo has emerged, so any injury could be offset, but the fragility of the Boston roster is a concern, albeit a minor one.

4. Parity

The Celtics and the Lakers aside, who has a team full of good players in 2008-09? Let's run down the list for a moment and consider which team's have A-list players, especially in the multiples.

Celtics: Yes
Nets: No
Knicks: No
Sixers: Yes
Raptors: Maybe
Bulls: No
Cavaliers: No
Pistons: No
Pacers: No
Bucks: No
Hawks: Maybe
Bobcats: No
Heat: Maybe
Magic: Yes
Wizards: Yes*
Warriors: No
Clippers: No
Lakers: Yes
Suns: Yes
Kings: No
Mavericks: Maybe
Rockets: Yes*
Grizzlies: No
Hornets: Maybe
Spurs: Yes
Nuggets: Maybe
Wolves: No
Thunder: No
Trailblazers: No
Jazz: Yes

That's a total of 9 "yeses", 6 "maybes", and 15 "nos." You have 9 good teams, 6 fair to mediocre teams, and 15 irrelevant clubs. Is that good business? Is it good business with a salary cap? I will argue until my last breath that the NBA should contract, let some of the fringe guys that lose work head to Europe or Asia, and put a better product on the floor in less cities. Create a better D-League. If you dissolved 10 of the franchises in the "nos," you'd combine some very good players with the 6 maybes and the remaining 5 nos. The parity you seek would be there via quality rather than quantity. You could move to play a real World Championship like they do in the European League Soccer competition. It would be better for the sport and the NBA.

Just sayin'.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A New Season

Here we are again. A new season of intrigue is upon us. Lots of shit to stir up at EvW. Mr. West is taking his damn time getting anything to me on our 1st project (either because he's juggling twins or because he was involved somehow in Sarah Palin's Nieman Marcus shopping spree), so here's my take on the NBA. This is all prior to the first tip off, but is only going up now. Deal with it.

Eastern Conference
1. Division Champs

Boston Celtics (defending crown)
Detroit Pistons (last chance at glory)
Atlanta Hawks (the talented upstart)

2. Playoff Teams

Philadelphia 76ers (well rounded club of vets + youth infusion)
Toronto Raptors (Euro system with good big men)
Cleveland Cavaliers (one great player)
Orlando Magic (dominant big man with good shooters/scorers)
New York Knicks (Euro system gets them to .500, but no playoff wins)

3. MVPs

The Obvious: LeBron James (skills and dominance)
The Unheralded: Chauncey Billups (leadership and direction)
The Sleeper: Elton Brand (offensive and defensive anchor)

4. LVPs

The Aggregious: Stephon Marbury (salary vs. output + attitude)
The Overhyped: Vince Carter (no one does less with more)
The Waste of Space: Jerome James (Isiah's last gift to Knick fans)

5. Surprise

This is where I get wild and stupid. At least four of the five opening night starters for the Charlotte Bobcats won't even be on the team at season's end. Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson, Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor will all be traded by Larry Brown. Then he'll step down for health reasons and the Bobcats will win the lottery, prompting him to try to get his job back.

Western Conference
1. Division Champs

New Orleans Hornets (Best team in the sport this year)
Utah Jazz (Sloan's a winner and Deron wants to match Paul)
Los Angeles Lakers (Most talented team in the sport this year)

2. Playoff Teams

Dallas Mavericks (for the last time prior to shakeup)
San Antonio Spurs (annoyingly and consistently)
Portland Trailblazers (Not ready yet, but best young talent)
Phoenix Suns (for the last time prior to shakeup)
Denver Nuggets (for the last time with Iverson/Carmelo)

3. MVPs

The Obvious: Kobe Bryant (Jordan, Jr. only has to win it w/o Shaq)
The Unheralded: Manu Ginobili (the engine of that annoying club)
The Sleeper: Chris Paul (hardly a sleeper, but little man in a big conference)

4. LVPs

The Aggregious: Tracy McGrady (has he ever won anything or stayed healthy?)
The Overhyped: Shaquille O'Neal (he's near the bottom of the barrell of NBA centers in 2009)
The Waste of Space: Antoine Walker (Chucky's still in the league??!! Why?)

5. Surprise

Okay, here are a quick couple of surprises. T-Mac will retire before the season ends. Andris Biedrins will be 3rd Team All NBA. O.J. Mayo will win Rookie of the Year. Baron Davis and Marcus Camby will play a combined 25 games together. Yao Ming will play 82 games this season. If the Mavs look like a middle of the road playoff team, Cuban will trade Dirk Nowitzki to the Knicks for Stephon Marbury's expiring contract and the Knicks 2009 first round pick.


-Mr. East

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Give Me the Rock

Hey. You like fantasy hoops like Mr. East and Mr. West like fantasy hoops? Then you have to go check out the super fantabulous guys over at Give Me the Rock. If you don't, we think you're dumb. That is all.

-Mr. East

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spanish Racists

If you haven't seen the promotional photo run by the Spanish National Basketball Team, here it is:

Yeah, they're playing that ignorant children's game "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees..." or whatever version was popular at your elementary school. Racism against East Asian people is tacitly accepted in our society, moreso in communities without widespread integration. East Asian's have successfully built an international niche by famously sticking together the way other mainstream "ethnic" groups have in America, for example. The Irish and Italians stuck to their own, rose above racist taunts and overt discrimination to build businesses and communities. The East Asian communities that are thriving in many large cities around the world offer the same sort of safety and opportunity.

The level of overt racism that this photo poses is only trumped in offensiveness by the lack of understanding or regret that the team has publicly shown in the wake of the controversy. Here's a snippet of their reaction:

“It was something like supposed to be funny or something but never offensive in any way,” said Spain center Pau Gasol, who also plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. “I’m sorry if anybody thought or took it the wrong way and thought that it was offensive.”

Point guard Jose Manuel Calderon said the team was responding to a request from the photographer.

“We felt it was something appropriate, and that it would be interpreted as an affectionate gesture,” Calderon, who plays for NBA’s Toronto Raptors, wrote on his blog. “Without a doubt, some … press didn’t see it that way.”

“We have great respect for the far East and its people, some of my best friends in Toronto are originally Chinese, including one of our sponsors, the brand Li Ning,” Calderon wrote. “Whoever wants to interpret it differently is completely confusing it.”

Gasol said it was “absurd” people were calling the gesture racist. “We never intended anything like that,” he said.

“We’re surprised by the remarks of racism,” said Juan Antonio Villanueva, the communications director for the city’s 2016 Olympic bid. “Spain is not a racist country—quite the opposite.”

An affectionate gesture? So, I love Jews. I love to tease them affectionately by wearing a big hook nose and horns. I love African-Americans too. I visit my friends' homes with a big bag of Kentucky Fried Chicken while dressed in blackface. They love that shit. It's affectionate. Jose Calderon is officially Public Enemy #1 at East versus West. (Space now available with the removal of Isiah Thomas from the Knicks). He even takes the typical defense...I have Chinese friends. They go ape over my chinky eyes. What...? You're offended by that too? People are too sensitive. Gasol is equally a tool. How is it "absurd" that people are offended by that shit? You're absurd with your ugly ass beard. Also, Spain is not a racist country? How oversimplified a statement can you get? Sure, Spain isn't apartheid era South Africa or Sudanese genocide-mongers, but lest we forget the Spanish conquest of the New World or the Spanish Inquisition I'd like to bring them up here. No one's hands are clean, but it only makes it worse when a bunch of ignorant jocks hide behind oversimplified rhetoric to defend their offense. Spain is only as racist as the Spaniards make it, so congratulations basketball idiots, you helped to make Spain a "racist nation" for a few days.

There is also such a thing as an Uncle Wang. Check out the Chinese sponsor for the Spanish National Team jumping through hoops to save face on their investment.

Frank Zhang, Li Ning’s director of government and public affairs, played down the incident.

“We don’t think this is an insulting gesture to the Chinese,” Zhang said. “In fact, the gesture shows that the Spanish team is so humorous, relaxing and cute. They sat around a dragon pattern, which we think showed respect to the Chinese.

“Li Ning Ltd. will not change any business plans with the Spanish team because of this,” Zhang added. “People should focus on great Olympic Games instead of something else.”

It's so humorous, relaxing, and cute. In fact, we plan to create a new product line of athletic gear called Gasolderon the Chinky-Eyed Spaniard. The logo looks a little something like this...

This is nothing new though. Check out this YouTube clip from August of 2007 where Peruvian soccer player Carlos Bazalar celebrates his game-winning goal over South Korea at the FIFA U-17 World Cup game making the "chinky eyes" gesture. I'd love to get that guy down to Guantanamo Bay for a little "vacation" with the Dick Cheney boys.

The world is full of these idiots. If you see one of them, do me a favor and swiftly and forcefully punch them in the head. God will love you for it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New World Order: Fantasy Landscape

I like Fantasy Hoops. It's one of the few things that's kept me interested in the league after the Ewing era in New York came to a close. The NBA generally sucks on any given night, and most of the games and teams are unwatchable. That said, the fantasy arrangement is a way to imagine that something truly exciting and remarkable is happening, because it totally invests you in each night's action. It separates myth from reality and sweeps the ugly reality under the carpet. Mythical hoops is always played in an ideal world.

Mr. West and I play in a competitive Yahoo league together with the came core group of lunatics year in and year out. I won the whole enchilada a couple of years ago, but Mr. West is pretty much the All-Time king. He has some competition, but the end of every year sees him at or near the top, vying for the title with a well built team. He has a good head for drafting. I follow his lead in terms of style, but I'm stupid enough to play a few risks here and there. I drafted Walter Herrmann in the 6th round last year, or something like that, reaching for a possible big splash. That didn't turn out so well for me.

In the spirit of fantasy hoops and a slow few weeks of the off-season, after the Baron/Brand affair died down, it's time to look at a few guys I think might be on the radar for next season. The criteria for this little game is that the players have to be rookies, 2nd year, or 3rd year players. Beyond that anything's fair game. I chose players for this list based on a couple of factors. Obviously, past performance gets you a spot on the list. Projected playing time is also important, and really the combination of other players occupying your position dictates that more or less. The final factor I weighed a bit when looking over rosters was the likelihood the coach would employ a deep rotation, or worse, and unpredictable one. We're talking Golden State and Chicago, if we look at recent years. Maybe Memphis. This season things look a little more open though, so here goes...(players ranked in order of value):


Brandon Roy (3rd Year)
Derrick Rose (Rookie)
Rajon Rondo (3rd Year)
O.J. Mayo (Rookie)
Jerryd Bayless (Rookie)
D.J. Augustin (Rookie)
Rudy Fernandez (Rookie)
Randy Foye (3rd Year)
Marcus Williams (3rd Year)
Eric Gordon (Rookie)

This list is dominated by 3 or maybe 4 players. Brandon Roy is probably a quality 2nd round pick in most leagues these days. He's going to have a lot of help this year, but he's gifted and experienced now. Derrick Rose can flat out play and deserves an pick somewhere in the early-middle rounds. He's a risky pick as a rookie, but he didn't go #1 for nothing. Rajon Rondo may still sit in the middle rounds somewhere, but there's little doubt about his ability to throw up a triple-double here and there and steal a ton of balls during the season. He's the classic, "Oh Fuck. I still don't have a point guard and he's left. Better grab him now."

O.J. Mayo is a personal favorite. He didn't live up to the NCAA challenge really, but he's not a structured player. He won't be a winner in the NBA for sure, but he will put up numbers. I liken him to Baron Davis in a lot of ways. He shoots too much and he isn't the best decision maker, but he's better than most of the players on the floor. I think he'll be worth a late-middle round pick at this point. Someone may reach on him though. The last noteworthy guy on this list is Jerryd Bayless. He adds to a SICK Portland roster this year and has been absolutely destroying the Vegas Summer League. He was the MVP there. He will struggle for looks, but could run the show with Roy on the wing and Oden down low. Worth a look.

To briefly mention the rest of the players on this list, D.J. Augustin is highly thought of, but I'm not ready to put him in a draft situation now. He's a desperation PG pick if you already have one and it's getting late on a 2nd. Rudy Fernandez seems like a decent late round flyer, since his upside would seem to be Kevin Martin, and Kevin Martin is a top 25 player when he's on. Randy Foye has no place on my team. He kills your shooting% and turns the ball over like a madman. He's undersized and overmatched, but could find a spot in the last round or two if your league is deep and you need insurance for an injury prone scorer (Gilbert Arenas, Dwayne Wade?). I like Marcus Williams here. He probably shouldn't be drafted at all, but he's a guy to watch. He could put up big numbers in Golden State if he gets any burn next to Monte Ellis. He's got talent and he's still very young. Eric Gordon does nothing for me, but he's a hyped rookie and Baron Davis always presents a risky injury selection. He's likely to be the guy to get minutes if Davis pulls up lame.


Rudy Gay (3rd Year)
Kevin Durant (2nd Year)
Michael Beasley (Rookie)
Tyrus Thomas (3rd Year)
Jamario Moon (2nd Year)
Al Thornton (2nd Year)
Yi Jianlian (2nd Year)
Russell Westbrook (Rookie)
Anthony Randolph (Rookie)
Thaddeus Young (2nd Year)
Sean May (3rd Year)
Danilo Gallinari (Rookie)
Kevin Love (Rookie)
Wilson Chandler (2nd Year)
Joakim Noah (2nd Year)
Adam Morrison (2nd Year)

To be honest, the top three players here at the forward position are all extremely tempting. The ranking reflects my own sense of their value, since Gay is a legitimate fantasy stud now and could be a late 2nd round or early 3rd round pick. In a deep league, he could press the earlier part of the 2nd. Durant isn't there yet. Too many holes in his game. The upside is huge though and he's probably about two years away from real value. That said, he'll build on what he did as a rookie and should be watched for an early-middle round pick. Beasley could be more talented than Durant. He could put up bigger and better numbers and probably should given his supporting cast. With Dwayne Wade getting all the attention, Beasley should be clear to do the board work and score all over the floor. Jamal Mashburn put up 19, 4.5, 3.5, and a steal as a rookie. Beasley could do that with more boards.

My big sleeper is Tyrus Thomas. When he gets 30+ minutes he looks a lot like Shawn Marion. Make no mistake, he's not Shawn Marion. He won't shoot as well, and he'll turn it over more. He'll fill up the rest of the stats though, and he should be a steal in the late-middle, early-late rounds. He'll barely be on people's radar this year, so wait on him and pick him late. (Looks like my classic risky selection of the year.) Jamario Moon isn't going to be slept on this season. He's not great, but he is efficient and makes a great 4th forward. He's the guy that you want to plug in when he plays 4 times and you want to compete in blocks and turnovers, not to mention FG%. Late-middle rounds ought to get you Moon. Al Thornton may be a better draft selection than either Thomas or Moon. He won't have Maggette or Brand taking his minutes and Camby doesn't score. Thornton, almost by default, is a 20 point scorer this season. His boards may suffer though and it's doubtful that he'll do much else. Yi Jianlian is better than his 2007-08 season. He's going to get some shots in NJ and he'll be protected by Vince Carter's slashing style. I doubt he's worth more than a late round pick, but he's going to get an opportunity in New Jerz.

Russell Westbrook and Anthony Randolph probably shouldn't be up so high on this list, and they probably don't get the minutes or the looks they'll need to be worth a fantasy damn, but their talent puts them there as players to watch. Thaddeus Young would have been much higher on the list, but Brand and Dalembert complicate his playing time. An injury to either one of them will necessitate a Young pickup, even if there's no reason to draft him. Sean May is also a guy that probably shouldn't be drafted (maybe the last round) but his stats translate to Elton Brand if he gets 30-35 minutes. He's always hurt though so why bother. Who wants a guy with huge upside that sits most of the year. If he's on the floor and playing, maybe worth a waiver wire pickup, but leave him for someone else.

Gallinari is intriguing to me. No reason to draft him, but he could get the ball a lot for the Knicks if he can do anything. Defense be damned, if he can shoot, he'll play for D'Antoni. That's worth a look in any league. Kevin Love is a stiff in my book, but I could be wrong. He's a huge injury risk too, so keep him on your deep, deep, deep radar. Deep. Wilson Chandler is a guy that could be fun. Not really draft-worthy, but D'Antoni loves him and he has some skills. Poor man's Shawn Marion potential at 10-12 points, 6-7 rebounds, a steal, and a block? Jamario Moon territory, no? Joakim Noah. Nothing to say. Adam Morrison? Could be a shooter, and plays on a shit team, so there's always a chance they need him for minutes.


Greg Oden (Rookie)
Al Horford (2nd Year)
Luis Scola (2nd Year)
LaMarcus Aldridge (3rd Year)
Spencer Hawes (2nd Year)
Andrea Bargnani (3rd Year)
Sean Williams (2nd Year)
Brook Lopez (Rookie)

I want to put Al Horford first on this list, cause I rode him down the stretch last year and he can play. He should be in the 2nd tier of centers considered in the draft and needs to be on a team by the middle rounds. Oden may go earlier and has that huge Shaq-ish upside, so he gets top billing. I don't love him that way though. He has to play to get that kind of respect. At this point, I don't think you can take him before the 5th round. Even that might be a stretch. He's an enigma, because he could be a monster, but he's coming off a major injury and has never played against NBA players. Selecting him as anything more than a #2 center is foolish, and he's probably best as a #3 center and backup PF at this point. Luis Scola can play. I also had him down the stretch last season and he won't hurt you. He won't be great on a lot of nights, but without Yao he was shooting a lot more, scoring a lot more, and still holding his own on the glass and with the FG%. He'll slide back into a secondary offensive role with Yao back, but he could be the kind of player that good teams have on their bench, waiting for the 4 game week when he wins you boards and FG%.

LaMarcus Aldridge is interesting. If he still qualifies at C this season, he has value. He'll lose points, boards, and blocks to Oden. Plus, he's got Bayless, Fernandez, and Outlaw looking good on the team. If I were the Blazers, Aldridge might just make for good trade bait that brings back a top flight defender. His value is high right now, and he should really be on a team that runs and that can use his offense. Portland can still be that team, but there have to be some question marks coming into this season with the depth and the competition at the F slot. On the other hand, I like Spencer Hawes. He's not as good as Aldridge and actually is behind Brad Miller in Sacto for playing time. He should start stealing that playing time as the season goes on and Miller breaks down. I expect the Kings to shop Miller at some point, and he would seem to make sense for a contender somewhere. Hawes is not draftable as things stand right now, but if he's named the starter at any point, don't miss him.

Andrea Bargnani was the #1 pick. Let me type that again. Andrea Bargnani was the #1 pick. Still doesn't feel right. I think the day will come when people will view the Bargnani pick for what it was. Brad Lohaus as the top pick overall. Sigh. He's center eligible and shoots the three which is a nice gimmick if you're punting the big man categories, but any wise GM will flip the bottom of their chin at Bargnani and try someone else. Sean Williams of the Nets is an intriguing player this year. Will he play or won't he? Will Josh Boone get the burn, or are things going Williams' way? He's not draftable, and he's the classic Stromile Swift overhyped, athletic big man with no real skills except freakish athleticism, but he blocks TONS of shots and might be worth a pick up during the season if the choice is between him and Erick Dampier, say. His teammate Brook Lopez might actually be worth watching though, since the Nets would like to get something out of the center position and they didn't take Lopez just to have him gather dust on the bench. Not draftable, but an early candidate for a November waiver wire pickup for the center deficient teams in your league.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Game. Blouses.

Simply the funniest hoops story ever told.

Why We Love Gil

I have a couple of reasons to love Gilbert Arenas. The first is a fantasy hoops related reason. I picked him up off the waiver wire in his rookie season and rode him out to a deep playoff run. Didn't pan out in the end, but you love those guys you take a chance on that blow up. The second is this photo that keeps on giving:

Kind of says it all doesn't it? You'll see that photo here at EvW from time to time because it expresses a general feeling about certain parts of the NBA that just don't have words. I suppose the third reason that I like Arenas is that he had the balls to shout, "Hibachi" when he was shooting for a while. The best reason to like Agent Zero, however, is that he blogs and says whatever he wants. Fuck David Stern.

His most recent blog is just a long rambling bunch of NBA PR about traveling in Europe, probably the result of a deal he has with the league to talk about life as a player and the rest. We get to pure Arenas when he starts talking about recent free agent transactions and trades, and he says this about Richard Jefferson:

"Richard Jefferson going to Milwaukee …. HAHAHA! Oh man, now that is funny. When I heard that, I started laughing. Oh man, did I start laughing. You know why? Because every player hates Milwaukee. Nobody wants to live in Milwaukee. I’m sorry, Milwaukee, to come down hard on you, but no one in the NBA wants to play in Milwaukee. From him going from New Jersey, actually from New York (because he lives in New York), from New York to Milwaukee is like going … let’s just say it’s not going to sit well with you. That was a funny one when I heard that one. I know Yi is happy though."

Couldn't have said it better myself, and even if I had no one would have read it. Hello? Is anyone out there...?

Mr. West and I have been saying this kind of thing for a long time. Mr. West's favorite city to beat up is Charlotte, while I've always had a thing for Milwaukee, myself. You can understand why I rushed to post here about Gil's diary. Why the fuck would anyone want to visit Milwaukee? Why would anyone want to identify with Milwaukee? Seriously.

Now, before anyone from Milwaukee stumbles onto this blog while Googling for cheese curd recipes, and gets themselves all worked up, I have a confession to make. I've never been to Milwaukee. As a father of two and a settled-in kind of grown up, I might even love the kind of lifestyle that Milwaukee has to offer. The people are probably cool and the food is probably good. I bet there's some good live music somewhere and the school system has to be nice. Russ Feingold is my kind of guy. The thing is, this isn't about me and my boring-ass excuse for a life. This is about the NBA.

The NBA has too many teams and needs to knock off at least a half dozen. Among that half dozen, Milwaukee has to be near the top of the list. It's a minor media market, overshadowed by Chicago, and is about as uncool a location as one can pull out of a hat filled with American cities. I'm not talking about actual cool. The Fonz was from Milwaukee so there has to be something cool going on. I'm talking about the kind of cool that sizzles. The NBA is a television product. That's it. They understand that, so they rake in the cash. If there was no TV, there would be no NBA. It would be an afterthought. They'd probably still play in cages and wear belts.

TV loves glitz, fashion, glamor, sizzle, pizzazz, razzle dazzle, hip hop ya don't stop rockin' to the bam to the boogie ta be. It doesn't love nice schools and good neighbors. It likes "Desperate Housewives" and "Ultimate Fighting Challenge" and "Sex and the City" and "Survivor." Milwaukee is like the equivalent of watching local public access debates on zoning regulations.

So, what was the reaction on the net to Arenas' Milwaukee rant? Let's take a peek, shall we?

Jeff Sherman of writes, ""Every player" hates Milwaukee? Come on, Gilbert! It's no secret that Milwaukee isn't New York City or Chicago. But we aren't some two-cow town in Iowa either. It's tough, yes, for many corporations and sports teams to recruit "stars" to smaller market cities. But, the days of "Bush League" are gone and Milwaukee can and is competing. See, which ranked Milwaukee the ninth best city for young professionals."

Really? That's it. You state that you're not a two cow town, and point to a link at Forbes to show why young professionals can be comfortable in Milwaukee? That's the argument that Sherman chooses to defend his city as an NBA location? "Not a two cow town." Let me help you, Sherm. Try this: "Hey Gil. Fuck you. Next time you come to Milwaukee, you better hide or I'll slap you silly. Unless, of course, I'm too busy kickin' back with the Rusty P's at the club, heard?" Who's next?

Charles F. Gardner, beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, "Not all NBA players have viewed Milwaukee as a place to be avoided. Ray Allen wanted to stay here and was genuinely disappointed when he was traded to Seattle, before he eventually moved on to Boston and won a championship ring last season. Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut seem to like Milwaukee well enough and have earned long-term contracts with the franchise. Desmond Mason came back for a second contract as a free agent, after being traded to New Orleans (and protesting vehemently) a couple years ago.

Yi Jianlian's representatives wanted him out of Milwaukee and tolerated one year here, but they were delighted to get the Chinese star to a larger media market with the Nets. The player who arrived in the ill-fated Allen trade, Gary Payton, never wanted to be here and got out of town as fast as he could when he became a free agent after that 2002-'03 season."

So, let me get this straight. "Not all NBA players have viewed Milwaukee as a place to be avoided." Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Kind of more "not a two cow town" kind of defense. Then we have a list of players who kind of tolerate Milwaukee ("Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut seem to like Milwaukee well enough..."), a scrub who came back after he realized he had no other options (Desmond Mason), and two guys who hated Milwaukee (Yi Jianlian and Gary Payton). Oh, and Ray Allen loved it there. Sigh. Even the newspaper people hate Milwaukee. I hear Vin Baker loved Milwaukee's Best.

It's not even a competition. Gilbert Arenas by himself is cooler than everything that has ever happened in and around the greater Milwaukee area, ever. That's why he opted to stay in DC, which is a shit hole of a place to live, but is a quadgribillion times better NBA city than Milwaukee. Don't believe me? This is the CitySearch list of "Top 10 Milwaukee Experiences":

1. Miller Brewery Factory Tour
Sample free, ice-cold beers after witnessing how water is transformed into the tasty, frothy brew that made Milwaukee famous.

Miller sucks. That can't be your top Milwaukee experience. The beer that tastes like piss, but that is less filling so frat boys can drink until puke comes out their ears. Next.

2. Harley-Davidson Tour Center
You'll be in hog heaven watching factory workers assemble the roaring engines on America's most legendary motorcycle.

Watching factory workers assemble motorcycles is the #2 top experience in Milwaukee. I guess it works if you're drunk at 10am from your tour of the Miller plant.

3. Safehouse
Order a crisp martini and investigate a mind-boggling collection of espionage and spy paraphernalia at this one-of-a-kind back-alley bar.

Okay, a cool bar of some kind. Nice to know. I'd check it out, but I doubt there's anything mind-boggling about spy paraphernalia at a bar. Kind of like eating at T.G.I. Friday's or Bennigan's cause they have all that cool old crap on the walls.

4. Kopp's Frozen Custard Stand
It's a must-stop for not only great custard, but huge and tasty burgers.

Oh, good Lord. The #4 best experience in Milwaukee is a custard stand. Someone kill Richard Jefferson now. It's for the best.

5. Milwaukee Art Museum
Explore one of the most comprehensive collections of German Expressionist art in the country at this swooping architectural landmark on the lake.

Got nothing bad to say about museums, but it says something when yours is ranked below a brewery, motorcycle factory, and custard stand.

6. La Perla
You haven't partied until you've had a margarita and ridden the bucking mechanical red pepper at this bustling Mexican restaurant.

Y'know, I actually think this might be right. I may not have partied until I get my ass to Milwaukee to get drunk on margarita's and ride a bucking mechanical red pepper. Except that I'm sure I saw some shit like that when I was partying in Amsterdam, dodging street cars, while evading the wolfman clone-bots chasing me out of that coffee shop.

7. Zaffiro's
Try the E.B.A. (Everything But Anchovies) pizza and you'll understand why people have been flocking to this tiny joint for decades.

That's what I hate about Milwaukee most, and the reason I harbor this not so secret resentment of its Midwestern fucking anchovies.

8. Miller Park
Witness the famous sausage race where Brewers fans dress as brats and run around the stadium after the sixth inning.

This is the double-whammy of sadness. The baseball park is listed 8th on this list, behind a brewery of swill, a motorcycle factory, a custard stand, and a bucking, mechanical red pepper. Part two is that the Brewers aren't even part of the attraction, but the racing sausages are.

9. Taylor's
Sip one of the best cosmos in town and keep your eyes peeled for your favorite Bucks player at this ultrahip bar.

I love this. Cosmos are so-2002. Bucks players aren't going to show up there because they're all in their agents' offices making physical threats about leaving town. Even if they were there, they'd be Charlie Bell, Dan Gadzuric, Royal Ivey, and Jake Voskhul. I have cooler collections of lint in my bellybutton than that. (True story).

10. Mars' Cheese Castle
Become a true cheese head and take home farm animal-shaped cheese from this quirky roadside landmark.

What would a list of great Milwaukee experiences be without the quirky roadside landmark, especially when combined with farm animal-shaped cheese. No wonder Latrell Sprewell is such an angry prick. He grew up in Milwaukee. He probably had his high school prom at the Mars Cheese Castle.

After reading this list, even people from Milwaukee are laughing at Richard Jefferson and buying Gilbert Arenas jerseys. Gotta love that.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The New (York) Knicks

Hey. Mr. East here. Long time no see. Mr. West and I are going to be posting here throughout the 2008-09 NBA season after a one season hiatus. The time away from blogging was largely unintentional, but it definitely requires dedicated time, which neither of us had. With no further ado, here's my take on the developing New York Knicks situation. Mr. West may chime in, but I'm hoping for a take on the OKC franchise, formerly known as the Seattle (Super)Sonics.

Out with Isiah. Finally, Jim Dolan took his head out of his ass to see the crumbling cornerstone of the NBA at his feet in the Garden. Make no mistake about it, Isiah Thomas is public enemy #1 in New York, but he really should be #2 on the list of people to blame for the shit that the Knicks have become. He's a moron, but every moron needs an enabler to spread mass destruction throughout the world. George Bush's enabler is Dick Cheney, for example. Isiah's was Jim Dolan. I guarantee that pressure from the NBA's front office mounted to the point that Dolan had to cave to the immense will of David Stern and can Zeke. Stern didn't even hide the fact that he was ashamed of the Knicks.

That said, putting Zeke in NBA Siberia was the right thing to do. I understand that Dolan has shelled out so much wasted money at this point that it had to stop somewhere, but that couldn't deter him from ejecting Isiah from the scene in New York. He got to keep some value in Zeke by sending him off to Europe on a scouting mission, while rebuilding the organization in New York from the ground up. People focus on the team and it's hideous construction, but it's easy to forget that Zeke put together a bunch of cronies at the Garden, collectively incompetent and unapologetic. Even the Marbury clan had free run of the place and it all came to a head when the whole organization was hauled into court on sexual/power harassment charges....and lost. To me the highlight (lowlight) of that whole fiasco was Stephon Marbury's testimony about sleeping with interns in limosines. He's so stupid that it never occurred to him that his Coney Island bubble was the only place where that looked cool in court.

Enter Donnie Walsh. I would have loved to have seen a young GM brought in a la the Sonics Pestri. (Mr. West wrote about this before last season.) The NBA is behind the game when it comes to injecting fresh blood into the process. It's coming along, but the same old faces keep popping up everywhere, from coaches to GMs to players. Try something different for God's sake. The Major Leagues have famously embraced the new and different and many young GMs have made names for themselves in short order by going "new." Brian Cashman of the Yankees is a young-ish guy and started as an intern. Theo Epstein has won two World Series and made the Red Sox into the model franchise in the sport. C'mon NBA.

Back to makes sense to have a ship set adrift captained by an experienced leader with knowledge of the ins and outs of the league. The risky move with the greatest upside would have been the young guy, but the smart move here is the stabilizing presence of a respected insider. Walsh is no spring chicken, so you have to figure that he's going to get this thing straightened out and then pass the reins. His biggest move to date has been to commit to getting under the cap and making a run at the LeBron class of 2010 free agents. Next on the list is the hiring of Mike D'Antoni.

Hiring Mike D'Antoni. The EuroHoops era of basketball has finally hit New York. The Suns have been the model franchise in the NBA for adopting the European model of basketball. The Raptors went to the playoffs and turned their mediocre franchise around by doing the same. A lot of teams are going foreign and reaping the benefits. The Spurs wisely combined tough defense with an Argentine flair to build a dynasty. They play smart and hard and understand what a team is. As far as I'm concerned, getting as far away from the AAU player as possible is the key to building a winning franchise in the NBA. AAU athletes are stupid. They play street ball and don't understand the way to do it right.

Before you read this and get your back up about that last series of comments, understand that there's not a racial tinge in there. There's not an anti-streetball stamp on the statement that discounts the street from the development of the modern sport. I'll explain by saying that the AAU/Streetball model of basketball is one of flair and style before strategy. It's one of showcasing and entertainment before winning. A lot of those teams win because they have great athletes who are playing against other great athletes who don't know how to play. If two teams play equally bad basketball, despite their talents, someone's got to win out. The problem is, when those players go up against a team that is talented and knows how to play, they lose. Hence the Olympics and World Championships.

When Magic, Michael, Bird, Malone, Stockton, and the rest teamed up to play internationally they destroyed everyone. They were talented, flashy, and entertaining, but they knew how to play. Somewhere in the Derrick Coleman era things went terribly wrong and have spiralled downhill ever since. Is it the SportsCenter mentatlity? Is it the increasing echo-chamber of agents, entourages, and assorted hangers-on that have turned the AAU kid into a shitty basketball player? I don't know what the answer is, but one need only look so far as Stephon Marbury to understand it. Starbury is gifted. He's a gifted athlete. He's a gifted point guard. He was a smart player at Georgia Tech. He knew the game, but he didn't feel he had to play by anyone's rules but Starbury's. He was on the cover of Slam every week and had it all. Somewhere along the way the NBA figured out that he could drop 40 on you, but he didn't know how to make a team better. They let him drop 40 and beat him every night. That's why the Suns and the Nets gave up on him. That's why the Knicks are giving up on him now.

Getting back to D'Antoni, I expect to see him clean house. We already see the effect on the roster, and there's plenty more to come. This guy played in Europe and coached there. He saw the way that the European teams beat the NBA and have come to rule the sport in the new millennium. He may not win right away in New York, but I guarantee two things. One, the team will be better to watch night in and night out. Two, the club will no longer underachieve. Attitude and style of play are going to change in New York or guys are going to be shown the door. The new regime isn't going to let this group of mediocre players rule the roost. If you have LeBron and he wants to dictate to the club, it's hard to argue, but if it's Marbury or Zach Randolph, fuck 'em. Get out.

The roster is changing. I won't get into the long term plans for the Knicks and the cap today, except to say that there's a decent plan to get better and that it doesn't mean trading crap for more crap. The changes that are coming right now are going to have an impact and I want to highlight a few of them:

Chris Duhon is in the house. Make no mistake, I don't think this guy is a great player. His per-36 minute stats are extraordinarily mediocre with Chicago. The thing is, he's smart and he comes from a good system. More than stats, basketball is a sport of chemistry. I'm a stat guy, so I need to clarify that. Stats are simply a record of what a guy does on the floor. In that respect, all a player is in the end is an aggregate of his statistics. The thing is, he's an aggregate of some statistics that don't as yet exist in basketball as they do in baseball. Baseball has pioneered the analysis of value and performace via statistical modelling and it's easy to compare one player's impact against another's, even across eras. Basketball has no such system as yet. Duhon isn't great, but he's better than his range of murky NBA statistics tell us. His assist to turnover rate is phenomenal and he plays good defense. He also knows the game and can run an offense. Plug him into a D'Antoni system and he'll not only learn it quickly, he'll feel it and help his teammates feel it as well. That's the role of the point guard.

This is a plus, plus for the Knicks because it allows us to dump Stephon Marbury in a hurry. We can eat one year of his ridiculous salary, since he's coming off the books next year anyway and is poison to the locker room. I think Knick fans will be pleased with Duhon as the temporary solution to the point guard spot in this lineup.

Gallinari has arrived. Look at the picture of this kid. Look at that body. He's fuckin' 19 years old and growing. Every Euro gets compared to either Dirk Nowitzki or Darko Milicic these days, adding in recent #1 pick Andrea Bargnani to the mix. Gallinari is more Nowitzki than Milicic or Bargnani, although it's hard to say how good he'll be in 6 or 7 years. Nowitzki was a monster at 19 and put up slightly better numbers in Germany than Gallinari did in Italy, although I think Italy is a better league. I don't expect Gallinari to be the NBA MVP, nor does he have to be, so Nowitzki can be a nice ceiling to shoot for, knowing that slightly less can be equally acceptable.

Andrea Bargnani reminds me of Brad Lohaus. The numbers are astonishly similar. I looked at a photo of Bargnani and asked myself who he reminded me of physically and Lohaus came to mind. Then, it occurred to me that they play the same kind of game. Outside, weak defense, occasionally trying to beat a slower big off the dribble. Bingo the stats match up. Gallinari looks a lot like Detlef Schrempf to me, and to a lot of others as well. Both are lean, muscular, and mobile for players their size. I also thought of Dan Majerle when I saw that buff picture of Gallinari in his Knicks garb, but I think he's more of a power player than Thunder Dan. A better rebounder, if a worse defender. Either way, that's also a nice comparison for a 6th pick. Schrempf managed to put up a 15 year NBA career with averages of 14 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. The prime of his career was spent with Indiana and Seattle, on winning teams, and he regularly averaged mid-to-high teens in points, between 8 and 10 rebounds, and about 4 assists per game. He averaged an astonishing 19 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 6 assists for Indiana in 1992-93 as a 30 year old.

If Gallinari does anything like Schrempf for the Knicks, I'll be overjoyed.

UPDATE 7/16: When I came back to look at this post again, I saw the picture of Gallinari and thought immediately of Tom Gugliotta. More than Schrempf, who is a fair comparison, I think Tom Gugliotta might be a decent projection for this kid. Maybe slightly conservative with his upside being closer to Nowitzki than Gugs. For the record, Gugliotta averaged 13 points, 7 boards, and 3 assists a game over 13 NBA seasons. He was injured as much as he played during long stretches and therefore never got any real traction as a player. His best year was 96-97 when he played all but one game for Minnesota, averaging 20.6 points, 8.7 boards, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. After that year, Gugliotta averaged about half a season on the DL over the remaining 8 seasons of his career. Too bad. If Gallinari can match his production and stay on the floor, we've got something.

Wilson Chandler is in the mix. D'Antoni has a man crush on Wilson Chandler. He said as much recently when he said that Chandler's mix of skills is intriguing. To illustrate how intriguing Chandler's skills are in a new look Knicks offense, the forward dropped 26 points, 8 boards, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and a three on 11 for 21 shooting in his Vegas Summer League debut against the Cavs. Mind you, the players on the Cavs roster were so anonymous that even their parents had to do a double take to recognize them. Chandler's not going to be the next coming of Shawn Marion for the Knicks, as he's never been so highly thought of in his entire playing career. He was a looked-over recruit as a high schooler, an interesting afterthought as a collegiate draftee, and a nice fill-in for the Knicks last season.

From late-March through mid-April last season, Chandler performed very well. He scored in double figures almost every night, rebounded a bit, and hit some threes. One of the positive things about Chandler that D'Antoni has to like is that he doesn't turn the ball over. He protects well and doesn't need to have the rock in his hands a lot to do good things. He runs the break, finishes well, fills the lane with the drive or the three, and is active around the ball. I expect to see nice things from the 21-year old this season.

represent a group of players who stand to play important short term roles with this club. I listed them in the order of importance for the new Knicks. Crawford is the scorer and should have the ball in his hands a lot. He's going to drop 25 a game this season for sure. Q-Rich is the outside shooting valve that D'Antoni requires in his system to keep defenses honest. He's going to be Duhon's best friend in New York if he can stay healthy and in shape. IF. Nate Robinson is the backup point guard. I think he'd the Leandro Barbosa of the Knicks and could have real value off the bench for significant minutes. It remains to be seen if he can actually play the sport though, and we'll know soon enough if D'Antoni intends to use him or lose him. Lee is in the same boat. He should be the guy in line to get minutes here, but I expect him to be traded. He can't shoot so he has no place in the Euro system. I love the guy, as do Knick fans everywhere, but we have a glut of forwards. Gallinari, Chandler, and Richardson already have slots on this team and Zach Randolph is still around. Lee has value as a good player with a low salary.

are a group of guys that have no purpose in life as Knicks. Jones is a decent shooter and a hard nosed veteran. He may be out, but I'd keep him. Mardy Collins is out. Jeffries is stuck in New York, but can't figure in the mix much. Jerome James is on the target list for early departure with the club trying to convince him to retire. Yeah, right. And I'm about to win the lottery. James is content to sit the bench and never play at all. He can collect his big check and laugh all the way to the bank. Jeffries, on the other hand, is paid a lot of money, but wants to play. He sucks though, and D'Antoni should plant his ass on the bench until he demands to be released. He comes from a good system (Indiana) but he can't do anything on the court. He can't shoot. He can't pass. He can't rebound or defend particularly well. He reminds me of Josh Childress, if Childress had one leg. He reminds me of Shane Battier if Battier were legally blind. Renaldo Balkman is a player. He can do all the dirty stuff and has a place in the league. Just not with NY. I think he can be traded for a 2nd rounder. Do it.

Randolph and Curry are our baggage. They're exactly the same player in different length bodies. They're both Oliver Miller. Neither guy is in shape. Curry, especially, looks like he ate Jerome James with a side of fries and a super sized shake. Randolph is actually a good rebounder to his credit. Neither guy can pass, defend, or control the ball. Neither guys looks like he cares a lick about winning. It looks like the Knicks have some kind of deal in the works with the jilted Clippers for Randolph. Great!! I'll pay his airfare.

If Walsh pulls this off, I'll buy him a cake. Getting rid of one of these guys has to be a priority this offseason, along with the dumping of Starbury. Absent Randolph and Marbury, the Knicks should be a much better balance of players.

If I were making this roster, I'd go with the following:

Chris Duhon.....Nate Robinson
Jamal Crawford.....Fred Jones
Quentin Richardson.....Wilson Chandler
Danillo Gallinari.....Jared Jeffries
Eddy Curry.....Randolph Morris

The remaining two roster spots should probably go to Renaldo Balkman for his practice hustle, and a guy to replace one of the above stiffs in a deal that would include Lee/Randolph. If we can upgrade by dumping Randolph and packaging Lee, the above team could be bearable for the year. In the end, it's about the direction the team is taking. Q-Rich has no future with the team. Neither do most of the bench guys. The key is dumping and rebuilding piece by piece. One guy out, a decent player in. Slow and steady wins the race.