30 April 2008

Stern, you're horrible.

David Stern has long since abandoned any appearance of ruling the NBA in an even-handed, unbiased way.

The way he has handled the Seattle Supersonics situation, his stated desire to expand to Europe, these things show how out of touch he is with the NBA's fanbase.

But his decision to not suspend anyone for the Celtics/Hawks Game 4 altercation puts his incompetence over the edge, in my opinion.

Maybe incompetence is the wrong word. Stern knows exactly what he's doing, and that makes it all the more maddening.

Here's what happened.

How Kevin Garnett is not suspended is beyond me.

A. He throws an elbow at Zaza Pachulia at the end of the play out of frustration. Technical-foul worthy, but not suspension-worthy. HOWEVER he then

B. after the ref comes to restrain him, he throws the referee off. How does that not count as initiating contact with a referee?

Then you have Kendrick Perkins and Marvin Williams stepping onto the court during the altercation, EXACTLY like Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw stepping onto the court during the Spurs/Suns incident last year.

Amare and Diaw were suspended for Game 5 of that series, effectively sinking Phoenix last season, and yet no suspensions were handed out for anyone involved in last night's game.

How invested is the NBA in a Boston/Los Angeles Finals?

I guess we'll see over the next couple weeks.

29 April 2008

I will never bet on sports

As I was watching my Jazz get absolutely manhandled tonight, I realized my playoff predictions are going down in flames, much like my Jazz tonight.

I said Boston and Detroit would easily win their series.

I said Dallas would beat New Orleans.

I said Denver would take Los Angeles to seven games.

I said Phoenix would beat San Antonio in seven.

I said the Jazz would beat the Rockets in six, and look good doing it.

Well, at least that last one is technically possible.

But after watching the Jazz get manhandled in Houston, my faith is wavering. Utah got absolutely destroyed in every aspect of the game. They shot 36% from the field for the game. They shot 56% from the free-throw line. They made two of nine 3-pointers. Houston scored 95 points. Luis Scola went off for 18 and 12.

It was a horrific effort all the way around. And the sad thing?

The Jazz found themselves down eight or nine in the first quarter and essentially gave up. Houston's lead never went below 10 the rest of the game, and the Jazz showed absolutely no fight, no desire to take this game and end the series. None.

Sign of a winning team? Heck no.

After the Jazz beat-down was over, I flipped over to watch the end of the Spurs/Suns game. Just like in Game 1, the Suns had ample chances to win the game, and just like in Game 1, they choked it away. Seven turnovers in the fourth quarter?

Even though this proves my theory about the Shaq trade being a horrible idea (Shaq was 2-8 from the field and 9-20 from the line), I despise the Spurs so much even being right brings me no joy.

My hatred for the Spurs is such that if the Western Conference Finals are San Antonio/Los Angeles, I will strongly consider buying and wearing a Lakers jersey.

I'm thinking Kwame Brown. Those have to be cheap, right?

Quick NBA thoughts

Gotta love the playoffs.

  • The Denver Nuggets are an embarrassment. The way such a talented team rolled over and died in the playoffs is unlike anything I've ever seen in the NBA. They should refund everyone who bought tickets to the series. Either Karl gets fired this summer or the organization makes some major player moves.
  • The Lakers look good. Of course, Terrel Owens' pickup team at the YMCA could have swept the Nuggets, so we didn't learn much. What the series did do was give the Lakers what amounts to a 10-day rest before facing the Jazz. Meanwhile, Utah has been scrapping out wins over a great defensive team. This will be a major factor in the second round.
  • Atlanta looks good. The way Joe Johnson took over in the fourth quarter last night was highly impressive... along the lines of Kobe or LeBron dominating late. I still think they lose the series, but my early prediction of a sweep was way off.
  • As much as I'd like to see the Suns win the series, and as great as they looked in Game 4, it's not going to happen. If Diaw can play to his ability and Raja can get involved, they may win Game 5.
  • I'm not sure why so many people are down on the Jazz. They're pulling out low-scoring, gritty wins against one of the best defensive teams in the league and are up 3-1. Sure, Utah looks bad offensively, but their scoring will pick up against L.A.

And I haven't even mentioned the Sixers or Hornets series. Best time of the sports year, in my opinion.

Go Jazz!

27 April 2008

How easily we forget

Americans forget things.

We forget where we put our car keys.

We forget our spouse's birthday.

We forget how important things like personal responsibility and hard work are.

We forget the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents that allow us to have the life we enjoy today.

And lately, we've started forgetting that there are people in the world who want nothing more than to kill us and our children.

Now, I'm not trying to scare you. I don't want you to live your life in fear. But I do want you to remember.

September 11, 2001 was a major event in American history. For the days and weeks and months following the deaths of over 2,000 Americans on American soil, we were united. There were no conservatives or liberals. No Democrats or Republicans. No Southerners or Californians.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon brought us together, because we all felt the same.

Now, many people believe that that feeling was exploited. People used it to sell records, others co-opted it to promote political agendas.

And in the last seven years, the phrase "9/11" has been used so much that many people are sick of hearing it. I sympathize with that sentiment. It's annoying when certain ideas are thrown around so frequently they lose all meaning.

Another factor in this annoyance is that U.S. soil has remained attack-free for the last seven years. The longer we go without a bombing or hijacking, the easier it is to feel that 9/11 was a fluke. That there's no way anything like that will ever happen again.

Forgive me if I sound like a fear-mongerer, but it can happen again. It only took a handful of men a few minutes to kill over 2,000 men, women and children. The biggest wall ever built cannot prevent terrorist attacks indefinitely.

The same phenomenon is happening with the Holocaust. The farther away we get from the discovering of Buchenwald and Auschwitz, the more voices there are that cry out "it never happened!" Holocaust deniers have Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and 9/11 deniers have Loose Change.

The above examples are extreme. There are few Americans who buy into the conspiracy theories about these events. There are many more Americans who are just tired. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan outlined the frustration many people feel about being searched at airports.

And, as always: Why do we do this when you know I am not a terrorist, and you know I know you know I am not a terrorist? Why this costly and harassing kabuki when we both know the facts, and would agree that all this harassment is the government’s way of showing “fairness,” of showing that it will equally humiliate anyone in order to show its high-mindedness and sense of justice? Our politicians congratulate themselves on this as we stand in line.

Of course, airport security could just as easily search only Arab-looking men between the ages of 18 and 35. But we all know the ruckus that would raise from the ACLU and other organizations.

But the real issue here is that Noonan never once mentions the reality of a terrorist threat. Never once gives any amount of credit to the idea that these searches have actually prevented the loss of American lives. She's just tired of being searched, tired of being judged "guilty until proven innocent." The hassle of a few more minutes at the airport is too much of a burden to put up with any longer.

Another example of this mentality comes from humor columnist Eric D. Snider. In his latest column he tells of his contempt for CNN talking head Lou Dobbs.

...Lou Dobbs is not happy with that. He wants the Mexican border walled up NOW, and he wants all cargo entering U.S. ports inspected NOW. The reason he wants all of this NOW is September 11. He mentioned September 11 three times in the interview with Thompson. Of course, the September 11 attacks had nothing to do with the unsecured Mexican border, nor with unscreened cargo coming into the United States. But if you mention September 11 a lot, it helps you make your point much more dramatically and convincingly, and no one can really argue with you. September 11 is the new Hitler.

Snider clearly sees the concept of September 11 as a new incarnation of Godwin's Law. Something to be laughed at, something not to be taken seriously, something to be the target of our exasperation.

I recognize Snider is trying to be funny, but not once does he acknowledge the fact that 9/11 really happened.

He exemplifies our national forgetfulness when it comes to that day.

I am not a fan of the remembrance of 9/11 being used in a cynical, manipulative way. I also become frustrated with those who say "if you're not 100% behind everything the U.S. government is doing in the Middle East, you're against us!' The world is more gray than black and white.

Nor do I support 9/11 being used as a reason for every action taken in the War on Terror.

But to trivialize the real danger we face is just stupid, in my opinion. It's the equivalent of sticking our heads in the sand, listening to our iPods, and hoping everything is fine on the outside.

I firmly believe that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. It's hard enough to avoid repeating our own mistakes even if we pay attention to the lessons of the past.

And it's nearly impossible to avoid future tragedies if we turn a blind eye to what we experienced not even a decade ago.

I'm not asking you to live in a state of constant fear. But maybe, we as a people could buck up a little. Maybe, the next time TSA asks you to take off your shoes, you could do so without complaining.

Our parents and grandparents went through a lot more. Our sacrifices are so small in comparison as to be laughable.

So remember. It's a small thing that can change a lot.

Just ask any man who's forgotten his anniversary. :)

Conflict of interest

In my view, there were three very unbalanced trades in the 2007-2008 regular season in the NBA.

The first, Shawn Marion for Shaq, I already outlined in a post yesterday.

The second, Pau Gasol to L.A. for almost nothing, I've ranted about enough on this blog.

And then there's the third, Kevin Garnett to Boston for Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and two first-round picks last July.

Any trade involving Garnett should have demanded nothing short of an established superstar in return. Al Jefferson is a great young talent, to be sure. But Telfair is horrible and Gomes is a nice role player. Ratliff was thrown in only for his expiring contract. The first-round picks might be nice, but with how well Boston will play for the next few years, they'll be late first-rounders at best.

Sure, the salaries worked within the NBA's rules, but talent-wise, Minnesota got worked. At the very least they should have gotten Pierce and Jefferson.


What do these three trades have in common?

Major decision-makers for the teams that got the short end of the stick have major ties to the team on the other side of the table.

Jerry West, Memphis' President of Basketball Operations, used to the Lakers' Vice-President of Basketball Operations, and played for the Lakers his entire career.

Kevin McHale, Minnesota's Vice-President of Basketball Operations, spent his entire career in Boston, winning three championships, and is known as one of the Celtics' original "Big Three," along with Larry Bird and Robert Parish.

And Steve Kerr, Phoenix's President of Basketball Operations, while initially drafted by the Suns, only spent one season there and picked up two NBA championships during four seasons playing in San Antonio, where he retired.

Three bad trades. In each case, a former star helps out the team he has the most allegiance to (or in Kerr's case, at least a lot of allegiance).

And in each case, the teams looking to move a star could have gotten much more elsewhere. Gasol was worth more than Kwame Brown and Javaris Crittenton. Garnett was worth more than Jefferson and couple late-round draft picks. And Shawn Marion was worth more than an aging Shaq, who destroyed the Suns' entire offensive philosophy.

Lesson learned? Don't hire a former NBA star as your GM.

Also, the NBA needs to look very hard at trades like these before allowing them. It's borderline obscene that David Stern signed off on these three in particular.

I hope we're not witnessing the start of a trend.

Derek Fisher and the Jazz

As a Jazz fan, I continue to be puzzled by the number of columnists who insist Derek Fisher was an integral part of the Jazz's success last season.

Outside of 20 total minutes against Golden State in the playoffs, I submit Fisher was a horrible fit for Utah.

In 27 mpg, here were his stats for the 2006-2007 regular season:

38 percent on field goals.
30 percent from behind the arc.
85 percent from the free-throw line.
1.8 rpg
3.3 assists per game
1.5 turnovers per game
1 steal
3 fouls
10 ppg

Horrible shooting, low assist-to-turnover ratio... forgive me for not being impressed

And in 27 mpg, his numbers only slightly improved for the playoffs, mainly due to the heroics showed against Golden State.

Outside of the stats, Fisher was just bad. He couldn't defend anyone to save his life. Any attempt at driving to the hoop had a 75% chance of getting blocked or him just flat-out missing. His passing was not impressive.

Maybe his "locker-room leadership" or "veteran presence" gave the Jazz some magical boosts I couldn't see, but outside of that, I can't understand the love heaped on him by the national media.

I much prefer Ronnie Price in the backup point guard role this season.

26 April 2008

Jazz win Game 4

It's official. This Jazz team belongs to Deron Williams. I've believed this was true for a while now, but tonight seals it.

Williams scored eight fourth-quarter points, including two on a killer dunk, to lead Utah past Houston 86-82. Deron finished with 17 points and nine assists, a line that isn't overly impressive, but when the Jazz looked like they were going to blow a late lead, he refused to let it happen.

On a night where Utah didn't hit a single 3-pointer (0-14), Boozer shot 3-13 from the field and Korver was 4-11 (0-6 from the 3), I'll take the win. It was an ugly win, but it was a victory the Jazz needed to take control of the series.

It appears Utah figured out how to shoot free throws, going 24-31 from the line for a respectable 77%. However, Deron did miss two free throws with eight seconds to go, shots that would have put the game away.

But then Okur came out of nowhere and got rebound number 18 on the night, was fouled, and hit his two free throws to win it. He's averaging over 13 a game in this series, which is a huge increase from his seven per game in the regular season.

Overall, I'm not very impressed with the Jazz in this series. To be fair, Houston is a great defensive team, and Utah will most likely look a lot better offensively against the Lakers in the second round (thanks for nothing, Denver).

Boozer, especially, has looked less like an All-Star and more like Drew Gooden. He's averaging 15 points a game against the Rockets. He is rebounding well, but for him to be unable to score more against Carl Landry and Luis Scola is just pathetic.

Tracy McGrady continues to fizzle in the fourth quarter. After failing to show up late in Games 1 and 2, he finally "broke through" and scored seven in the fourth quarter of Game 3. On 2-7 shooting.

Tonight he took one shot in the fourth (four total points), and finished with 20 on 9-25 shooting. That's 31% from the field if you don't have a calculator at home.

Here's something I'll never get: when players score a ton of points while shooting a poor percentage, why do they get props? What would you take if you were an NBA coach?

Player A scores 26 points on 13 of 19 shooting.

Player B scores 50 on 25 of 61 shooting.

It's a simplistic example, excluding 3-pointers and free throws, but you get my point. My take is that Player B actually hurts his team more than he helps. He's only shooting 40% from the field, and the worst teams in the NBA don't average 40% from the field.

Thoughts from the rest of today's games:

-I love Dwight Howard. He recorded 19 points and 16 rebounds to go with eight blocked shots in a big win over Toronto. The scary thing, he's still learning. Mark my words, in two or three seasons, when Dwight is as smart as he is strong, he'll do something ridiculous like average 30 and 20 for an entire season.

-Right when I was about to write Rashard Lewis off as one of the worst contracts ever, he shows up tonight, scoring 27 points, pulling down 13 rebounds and dishing five assists. He's still shooting under 33% from the 3-point line for the series (including 0-9 in Game 2), but he can pick that up.

-The Nuggets are an embarrassment to the league. After failing to show up against the Lakers once again, Carmelo Anthony makes the following statement:

In a game like tonight, on our home court, us giving up as a whole is uncalled for,” Anthony fumed. “Yeah. We quit. Everybody. From the coaches to the players, we quit. And I said it.
Wow. Just wow. The Nuggets have underachieved for a long time now, but tonight takes the cake. If I were owner E. Stanley Kroenke, I'd think long and hard about making some major trades, and maybe firing Nuggets coach George Karl. And I say this as a completely unbiased observer. If Denver actually puts up a fight against the Lakers, it helps the Jazz in round two.

Instead, the Lakers will barely break a sweat in sweeping the Nuggets and be at full strength against Utah. Not good.

-Josh Smith makes me love him more every time I watch him. He's like Andrei except better. Gotta appreciate anyone who can dominate on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, and throw down some earthshaking dunks to boot. Smith finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He also had a sick block against Boston's Rajon Rondo attempt at a reverse layup, and slammed four dunks down with authority.

So much for my theory that Garnett wouldn't let Atlanta win a single game.

A friend of mine asked me why a sports writer called the Hawks an underrated team. After thinking about it, I realized Atlanta has a lot of talented players. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Marvin Williams and Mike Bibby are not bad players. I'd watch out for them in the near future. If they don't take off, I'm going to blame coaching.

Outside of the L.A./Denver and Spurs/Suns series, the playoffs have been pretty outstanding so far. My wife's getting a bit sick of these playoff game marathons in the living room, but she's been supportive. I'm a lucky guy.

Tomorrow I'll finish explaining the theory I mentioned earlier. It's too late to go into it tonight.

I love the NBA.

BYU sports news

BYU forward Trent Plaisted has declared for the NBA draft, but has not hired an agent.

BYU small forward Lee Cummard also declared for the draft without hiring an agent.

The significance of them not hiring agents is that if they are not drafted, they can return to BYU for the next season. If a college player does hire an agent, they are not allowed to return to their team, even if they end up undrafted.

My quick take on each:

Plaisted has a ton of athleticism and little skill. How he's gone through at least six or seven years of organized basketball without learning how to shoot a jump shot is beyond me. That little shot he flips from his waist is not going to cut it in the NBA. A team might take a flyer on him and hope they can coach him into a great post player.

Cummard is long, quick, and plays great on both ends of the court. He weighs 170 pounds soaking wet, which is a concern for any team drafting him. On the other hand, Kevin Durant had a pretty good rookie season, and he's a stick, too. His jumper has great range, and his long arms bother opposing guards. I can see him going late in the first, early in the second.

But we'll have to see.

In other news, the NFL draft is today. That means Cougar fans were watching to see if the Miami Dolphins would draft a quarterback or not, because that's be a good sign about whether they trust former BYU QB, current Miami QB John Beck or not.

And Miami did, drafting Michigan quarterback Chad Henne in the second round.

Many BYU fans believe this means Beck is done. They view Miami's pick of Henne as a vote of no-confidence for the former Cougar.

I'm taking a more balanced view. While Beck was not spectacular last year in Miami, he was thrown into the fire with no running back, no offensive line, and few options to throw to. This hearkens back to Beck's first season with BYU, a season where the team went 4-8.

But by the time he was a senior, Beck was possibly the top quarterback in the NCAA, leading the Cougars to an 11-2 record, including a dominating win in the Las Vegas Bowl over Oregon. Beck was simply unstoppable that season, completing 70% of his passes for 3900 yards and 32 touchdowns, while throwing only eight interceptions.

Beck may lose the QB spot in Miami, but it will only be if Henne is very, very impressive.

All in all, it's a fairly interesting time for Cougar fans... at least as interesting as it can be with no college football or basketball to watch.

Steve Kerr, what have you done?

Timeline of (somewhat) recent events for the Suns:

2002: The Suns' backcourt of the future in Jason Kidd and Penny Hardaway flames out as Phoenix fail to make the playoffs. Kidd is traded to the Nets. The Suns draft Amare Stoudamire

2003: Amare wins Rookie of the Year honors. Phoenix drafts Leandro Barbosa. With Shawn Marion, Amare and Barbosa, the Suns have three of the best open-court players at their positions. Now they just need someone to run the show.

2004: Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks decide point guard Steve Nash is at the end of his career. They're unwilling to sign him to a new contract, and the Suns grab him. The Run N' Gun Suns are now ready to go.

The Suns save the NBA from the horrors of the Clutch N' Grab, Slow it Down Pistons and Knicks. Scoring almost at will, blowing people away on the fast break, getting shots up in the first seven or eight seconds of the shot clock, Phoenix is flat-out fun. Other teams start to mimic their style, and the NBA is more exciting to watch than it's been in a long time.

2007: The Suns get ousted in the second round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs (see: vampires). This is the second time in their last three playoff appearances that they get eliminated by San Antonio.

Now, I believe the Suns organization overreacted to this playoff series loss. In Game 4, the Suns were 18 seconds from a series-tying victory. Robert Horry then body-checked Steve Nash into the scorer's table, initiating a fracas in which Amare and Boris Diaw were suspended for one game for getting up off their seats on the bench and taking two steps. Horry was also suspended, but this costs the Spurs far less than losing Amare cost the Suns.

In my opinion, the suspensions of the Suns players were bad calls. Obviously NBA commisoner David Stern is worried about having another Pistons/Pacers brawl on his hands, but Amare and Boris didn't get anywhere near any Spurs players.

In Game 5, the shorthanded Suns almost pulled out a win, but fell 88-85.

Mentally defeated, the Suns were unable to even make it close in Game 6, and the Spurs took the series, four games to two.

Now, maybe it's over-simplistic to believe that without the Game 5 suspensions, Phoenix wins the next game, and has a great shot of winning one more to make it to the Western Conference Finals. But that's my stand. Phoenix, as constituted, was in a great position to make another run in 2007-2008.

Fast forward to July 2007. The Phoenix Suns hired Steve Kerr as the team's President of Basketball Operations and General Manager. The details become unclear here, but at some point over the next few months months the Suns organization became convinced that to get past the Spurs, something had to be done. Something big.

The Run 'N Gun Suns weren't enough to get through San Antonio.

As a result of this new line of thought, the Suns traded Shawn Marion to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal on February 6 of this year.

And everything changed.

As I posted when the trade went down, O'Neal is the anti-Sun. Shaq, and especially 38-year-old Shaq, is the epitome of the half-court game. If you want Shaq on your team, you give up your ability to run the fast break.

And that's what the Suns are. By trading Marion for Shaq they undid all the work they did over the past six years to become the fast-paced team that they were.

Nash is a great point guard, but he's a brilliant point guard in a running system. He's at his best hitting jumpers in transition, finding Marion on the break, and dishing to Amare trailing the play.

In the half court, especially with Bowen defending him, Nash loses all of that. Phoenix might as well put Andre Miller or T.J. Ford in at point.

It's not only Nash that is suffering. Barbosa is almost useless in the halfcourt. Diaw isn't scoring or passing well (though to be fair he's been off for the past two seasons anyway) and Raja Bell isn't getting good looks for 3-pointers. It seems that only Amare has been able to transition his game to the halfcourt.

How much of this new line of thought was due to Steve Kerr? Obviously a lot of the impetus for the move was Shawn Marion demanding to be traded, but in the end, Kerr signed off on this radical departure from what the Spurs were built for.

Oh, the irony of the Suns acquiring Shaq for the express purpose of getting past the Spurs, and then finding themsleves down 0-3 against San Antonio two months later.

Now, being down 0-3 in a series means you're not looking good by definition. But after a double-overtime scratch-and-claw affair in Game 1, the Spurs have pretty easily run over the Suns in Games 2 and 3.

Shaq's not playing defense all that well. He's as bad as ever from the free-throw line, which allows for the Spurs to play Hack-a-Shaq whenever they want. He's not even rebounding well (six boards in Game 3).

I think it's pretty safe to say the Suns are worse now than they were before the trade. Yes, they were in a difficult spot with Marion, but they could have gotten more for him than an aging 300-pound guy that can't hit free throws.

This is one of the three major trades of the 2007-2008 season that I see as unbalanced.

This leads me into a theory that's been bouncing around in my head for a couple months now.

I'll continue this tonight, but before then, go Jazz! A win in Game 4 against Houston means Utah has the series wrapped up. A loss means the Jazz are in very serious danger of losing in the first round just one year after making it to the conference finals.

25 April 2008

Good golly I hate the Spurs

Tony Parker was nigh-unguardable tonight on the way to scoring 41 points and handing out 10 assists in a 115-99 beatdown of the Suns. A few thoughts:

Is Steve Nash really that old and slow?

Are the Suns really that bad at defending the pick and roll?

Boy, the trade for Shaq certainly looks bad now, doesn't it? More on this tomorrow.

Oh, and Duncan had a quiet 23 and 10, while Ginobili scored 20 points of his own, including four 3-pointers.

Hack-a-Shaq is horrible in any situation. For Greg Popovich to employ it in the first AND second quarters of tonight's game is unconscionable.

The Spurs look like machines right now. Great passing, hitting open looks, taking good shots, playing great defense... as a Jazz fan I want no part of them. Unfortunately, it looks like they are on their way to another NBA Finals. Heaven help us all.

TNT's Inside the NBA is awesome

Kenny, Charles and Ernie are one of the best things to happen to the NBA in this decade.

I love Barkley, but the Jet's got his moments, too.


24 April 2008

Houston wins

Jazz lose to Houston 94-92 tonight. Utah's fifth home loss all season.

Two thoughts:

1. Make your stinkin' free throws. 20-33 from the line is pathetic. Make two more free throws and this is a win.

2. Deron was brilliant all night, then his brain turned off in the last 20 seconds. Jazz down one, Deron brings the ball up the floor. Pick and roll, has Boozer WIDE open under the basket, forces a wild pass to Kyle Korver on the wing instead. Gets the ball back, drives left, draws Boozer's defender to him, Boozer is again WIDE open under the hoop. A simple pass and it's a Jazz win, series over. Instead, he forces up a tough tough fadeaway shot attempt off the glass, which gets blocked.

That's all. Go Jazz.


So Kobe goes for 49 in a home playoff game against the second-worst defensive team in the NBA.

He spends the last three or four minutes of the game preening for the cameras, blowing smoke off his "six-shooters," and trash talking with J.R. Smith.

Oh, and he's got two solid post players to take defensive attention away from himself.

Congratulations, Kobe. You truly are a man among men.

22 April 2008

Best. Flop. Ever.

Since flopping is the hot topic today, here's the best flop in the history of flopping (at least in basketball). Gotta love Duke.


So the other days I made a good long rant about how flopping is ruining the game of basketball.

After Game 2 of the Houston/Jazz series, both Tracy McGrady and Rockets coach Rick Adelman complained to reporters about an offensive call made against Rockets forward Luis Scola for pushing Andrei Kirilenko out of bounds.

Houston was down three at that point, and right after the call was made, McGrady passed the ball to teammate Bobby Jackson, who nailed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with under two minutes left.

The bucket was waved off, and the Jazz went on to win.

Now, I saw the play live, and I've watched it several times since as morning shows on ESPN replayed it over and over, discussing the controversy.

And Andrei flopped. He's a European, what can you expect?

But seriously, Scola did initiate contact with his arm as Andrei was trying to close out on McGrady. That's a foul. And yes, Andrei reacted like he'd been shot. Correct call, Andrei exaggerated the result.

And Scola had been getting away with murder the entire series thus far.

In one instance, he grabbed Andrei's arm with both hands to keep him from helping on defense. In another, he full-on two-handed shoved a Jazz player who was going for a rebound. Neither of these fouls were called.

He's been clutching and grabbing and hacking all series, and getting away with it for the most part. Heck, the entire Rockets team got away with a lot of physical play last night. Aaron Brooks knocked Deron Williams on his backside while setting a pick that was more like a bodycheck in the second half. Dikembe Mutombo has at least three blocks that weren't even close to clean that were allowed by officials. The Rockets are desperate, and it shows.

ESPN's Mike and Mike this morning had the audacity to blame Houston's loss on this one call. The Rockets didn't lose because Scola was whistled for an offensive foul. The Rockets lost because they missed 10 free throws. The Rockets lost because McGrady scored one point in the fourth quarter. The Rockets lost because they were outrebounded when it mattered most late in the game.

I hate flopping, but in this case, I don't have a problem with a flop getting a foul called against a guy who'd been playing dirty all night.

So yes, I'm a pretty blatant homer. What are you going to do about it? :)

21 April 2008

SWEEP! and other NBA Playoff thoughts

The Jazz won their second game in Houston 90-84 tonight to go up 2-0 in the first-round series.

It's over. There's no way the Jazz lose four of the next six games.

Tracy McGrady played a fantastic game, racking up 23 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists. But once again, he disappeared in the fourth quarter, scoring only one point in the final twelve minutes.

The Jazz are just too deep, too methodical, too focused.

Sorry, Houston fans. Better luck next year.


Other thoughts....

-The Spurs/Suns series is going to be epic, but I don't know if I want to watch another game after witnessing the abomination that was Game 1.

-Pau Gasol is the MVP of the Lakers, not Kobe. The Black Mamba has spent the past four years trying to prove he can win without a dominant post player, and he couldn't. Congratulations, Lakers fans. Memphis gift-wrapped Gasol to you and now you're a championship-caliber team. Can you imagine how good the Jazz would be if the Grizz had sent Gasol to Salt Lake in exchange for Jaron Collins and Jason Hart?

-Amare Stoudamire had a great game, but made some game-changing mental mistakes against the Spurs on Saturday. In two situations where the Suns were up three points with 40 seconds left, Amare ended up turning the ball over, once with a shot-clock violation, once with a horrible charge. He's got to get his head in the game or the Suns are toast.

-Deshawn Stevenson should shut his mouth when the playoffs roll around next year.

-Detroit is looking old.

-Chris Paul is trascendent. If Dallas can't figure out a way to keep him from scoring at will, they are finished.

-Any team that gameplans to stop the opposing star by hard fouling him every time he goes to the hoop deserves to lose the series. That's not basketball.

-I love Dwight Howard.

Olympics 2008

So Beijing is hosting the 2008 summer Olympics. Unless you've been living in Rob Lowe's basement for the past month, you've heard about the protesters who've hounded Olympic torch bearers from Paris to San Francisco.

Apparently these people, who are strong proponents for a free Tibet, ie. a Tibet independent from China, believe that messing with random individuals holding the torch will help their cause.

I disagree, but it illustrates a larger point.

The Free Tibet people are dead on. As far as I understand it, China's relationship with Tibet is pretty similar to its relationship with Taiwan. Both T countries want to get out from under Chinese control, and China refuses to even acknowledge that fact.

Now, this isn't the same as Texans saying they'll secede from the Union. As far as I can tell, that threat is always made tongue-in-cheek. There's no real reason for Texas to create their own country.

But for Tibet, China's Communist government, complete with violent oppression and thought control, is something to be feared.

And here we have the conflict. China desperately wants the Olympics to be its venue to announce that China is now a world superpower.

What China does not understand is that democracy is kinda the way to go for world superpowers right now, and Communism isn't very well-accepted.

Plus, killing Tibetan monks doesn't help China's image.

So we'll see how things go this August. I don't see it ending well.

20 April 2008

The solution to flopping

Saturday's Suns/Spurs game should have been a classic. A double-overtime game in the first game of a first-round matchup? Good times in most cases.

However, the game was ruined as it became Flopfest 2008.

We all hate flopping. Players who attempt to manipulate the refs to gain an advantage are poorly seen by fans and opposing players alike. From Vlade Divacs to Bill Laimbeer, from Dirk Nowitzki to Raja Bell, guys who flop are hated.

Saturday's game featured an All-Star cast of floppers.

Nash, Duncan, Thomas, Stoudamire, Bell, Ginobili, Horry, Parker, Oberto.

I've never seen a game with so many "charges."

It got to the point that any time a player drove to the hoop, the three or four players in the vicinity (of either team) would fall to the ground, almost like they couldn't help it.

Now, the Suns are guilty as all get out, but I have to look at the Spurs as the instigator. They took flopping to an art form in last year's second-round matchup against the Suns. For the most part, the Suns did not respond in kind, and ended up losing the series.

This year, I believe the Suns figured, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," the end result of which is the abomination we witnessed yesterday.

I place the blame for this horrible practice squarely at the feet of European and South American players. These guys spent their childhoods watching and playing soccer, where flopping is an artform. It is so bad, that if you don't flop, there's a slim chance you get the refs to call fouls made against you.

Players like Divacs and Ginobili come to America to play basketball and bring these habits with them. NBA refs are not accustomed to the acting, and frequently fall for these theatrics.

I submit this piece of evidence:

Flopping cheapens the game of basketball and makes it nigh-unwatchable at times.

It's getting so bad that it seems there's hardly a player in the NBA who hasn't flopped at one time or another. And why not? There's absolutely no disincentive for flopping.

What can be done? Obviously the NBA has failed to take any steps to rid the league of this garbage, as Stern is more concerned about dress codes and basketballs made of microfiber.

Here's my idea:

After every game, a team of refs goes over the game tape. If they discover an egregious example of flopping, such as the one above, the instigating player is suspended for one game.

The next time this player is caught flopping, he gets two games, and so on.

The process of determining what is a flop and what is not cannot occur in a live game, for obvious reasons. The game moves too quickly to make that kind of determination on the fly, and no one wants to wait ten minutes while refs watch a replay and make their decision.

But I think it's completely doable to review the tapes after the fact and hand out punishments. The NBA already does this when determining Flagrant-1 and Flagrant-2 fouls.

When I'm the commissioner of the NBA, this is the first practice I will implement.

Then we will see no more of this:

Just sad.

A final note: do a Youtube search for "flopping NBA," and an inordinate number of the search results will feature players wearing silver and black.

I'm just sayin'.


My friend Jessie hit me with a tag the other day, and here it is:

Book tag...
1. Find the nearest book
2. Open to pg. 123
3. Record Sentence 5

At the end of Broad Street, it ran right down to the water's edge, where there was a small, wooden wharf.

It's from The Complete Sherlock Holmes, specifically the story "The Sign of Four."

My grandpa gave me the book for my birthday about ten years ago. It was hardcover when I got it, but after I and three or four of my siblings read it 300 times each, it's now softcover. Sits next to my bed on a permanent basis.

This dog is narcoleptic

Child trafficking in North Africa

Here's a link to a pretty good feature story written by Associated Press reporter Rukmini Callimachi. She outlines the problem of child trafficking in North Africa being done under the cover of religious instruction.

In a nutshell, parents send their kids off to the big cities to learn the Quran, as an educated child will bring them salvation in the next life, if not good fortune in this one. Once under the control of an instructor, the children are sent out to beg on the streets for nine hours a day and given only two hours of Quranic instruction.

Children, some of whom are as young as three, are beaten if they don't meet the quotas set for them.

It's a new phenomenon, and many countries are trying to put an end to it by threatening jail time to parents who send their children away.

Heartbreaking stuff.

18 April 2008

The numbers continue to love Utah

Whatifsports.com, who lives for simulations involving actual teams and actual statistics, ran their simulation of the 2008 NBA Playoffs 10,000 times and determined that the Jazz have the best chance of anyone to win the championship.

Adding this to Hollinger's numbers, which show the Jazz getting to the Finals, and Section F Sports' numbers, which show the Jazz getting to the Finals, and it appears the computers have a crush on Utah.

As a Jazz fan, this makes me nervous. Last year every expert and their dog picked Houston to win their first-round series against the Jazz. Utah won in seven games. This year the Jazz are the trendy pick by humans and cyborgs alike. It's never good to be the favorite.

Someone needs to write an article about how the Jazz are horrible, and soon.

Playoff predictions, Part 2

Picking the East winners this year was easy. I'm not worried about the fact that I didn't pick any upsets among the four series, as I believe no series will be close, with the exception of the Cavs/Wizards matchup.

The real work begins here. The West is the deepest and possibly the best collection of eight teams in one conference ever. Last year's champion, San Antonio, is currently in possession of the three seed, while a New Orleans team with little to no playoff experience has the two seed.

That's crazy.

So let's get into it.

Los Angeles (1) vs. Denver (8)

This 1 vs. 8 matchup is very different from the East's Boston vs. Atlanta. Denver is a 50-win team with three valid All-Stars. Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby are all great players who can score and play defense. They can beat you inside and outside and on the run.

Everyone will bring up the fact that they gave up 4 million points a game in the regular season. I firmly believe this was a matter of laziness and not a matter of inability. Camby was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2007, and AI's freakish quickness lets him stay with anyone. And for all I dislike about Melo, he can defend, as well.

On the other side, the Lakers scare me (as a Jazz fan) more than anyone but San Antonio. Kobe is a top-3 player in the game, and he's very motivated to show he can win without Shaq. Add an All-Star forward in Pau Gasol (a stolen forward, but a great forward nonetheless) and a very talented small forward who loves being the third option in Lamar Odom, and this is a dangerous team. If Andrew Bynum can return and be the same Bynum he was in January, they've gotta be favorites to win it all.

Game 1 is going to tell us a lot. If Denver is serious about playing defense, they've got a real shot to beat the Lakers. If not, they lose in five.

I'll play the middle here.

L.A. in seven.

New Orleans (2) vs. Dallas (7)

The Mavericks have been to an NBA Finals. No one other than Peja Stojakovic and Bonzi Wells for the Hornets has any decent playoff experience. Chris Paul and Jason Kidd are both great point guards, but they aren't exactly strong defenders.

Dirk Nowitzki is a shooting guard disguised in a seven-foot frame. David West is one of the better post players in the league.

Peja is hitting over three 3-pointers a game and shooting 44% from behind the arc. Josh Howard has been performing well in the playoffs since 2005, and will be a major factor on both ends of the floor.

These teams match up very well, making this another tough call. In the end, I'm going to go with Dallas. Their experience is just too much for the young Hornets. But it won't be easy.

Dallas in 7.

Phoenix (6) vs. San Antonio (3)

This is hands-down the best series in the first round. It might end up being the best series of the entire playoffs. Phoenix traded Shawn Marion for Shaq last February for the express purpose of getting past the Spurs in the playoffs. At the time, I was not a fan of the trade, but Shaq's been playing well enough that I think their plan just might work.

Phoenix was thiiiiiiis close to beating Tim Duncan's team in the 2nd round of the Western Conference last year, and minus the completely bogus suspension of Amare Stoudamire for game 7, they would have won the series.

Cons for the Suns: Steve Nash is one year older, Boris Diaw isn't the same player he was last season and neither is Leandro Barbosa.

Pros: Amare is playing like a monster with Shaq taking some of the attention from him down low. Raja Bell is still good for physical defense and outside shooting. The Suns' run-and-gun style might be enough to tire the Spurs out this time around.

San Antonio is still San Antonio. Duncan is as efficient as ever in the post, no one on the Suns can guard Tony Parker off the dribble, and if Manu Ginobili is healthy, he's good for at least 27 a game in the playoffs.

My heart says pick Phoenix, especially since they have homecourt advantage, but my head says go with the Spurs.

San Antonio wins in seven games, but it's ridiculously close. We're talking overtime games, multiple game-winning buzzer-beaters, that kind of thing.

Utah (4) vs. Houston (5)

Number-crunchers love the Jazz. ESPN's resident stat geek, John Hollinger, picks then to come out of the West. Adam Hoff, of Section F Sports, plugged the season numbers into his own mathematical contraption and came up with the same result.

As an admitted Jazz fanatic, even I don't like Utah that much. The Jazz have zero interior defense, and when they get down, I question their ability to stay tough under the pressure.

I think the reason we see so much love from the spreadsheets is that the Jazz blow out teams at home and don't ever get blown out themselves. As Hollinger noted, Utah was beaten by 20 or more only once this season; and that was the last game against the Spurs. That doesn't mean there haven't been some bad losses, as well. The tank job against the Spurs on Wednesday and the awful defense that led to a Mavs win last week come to mind.

Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur have shown the ability to defend well in the playoffs. Last season they performed admirably against the Rockets and again against Golden State in the second round. I personally hope we see Kyrylo Fesenko, rookie center out of the Ukraine, get some good minutes. His scoring ability is raw, but he's a legit seven-footer with agility you rarely see in big men.

However, coach Jerry Sloan refused to use center Rafael Araujo last year against Duncan in a situation where I think he could have done some good, so who knows if Fesenko will even see the floor?

The Rockets are a good team, as evidenced by their 22-game win streak earlier this season, but they just don't match up well against the Jazz. Utah can stick either Andrei Kirilenko or Ronnie Brewer on Tracy McGrady and slow him down. Houston has no answer for Boozer, Okur or Deron Williams. The Jazz have proven they can win in Houston.

This is the least interesting of all the West's first-round matchups.

Jazz in six, with a couple blowouts by Utah along the way.

There you have it. This is my first time ever going so in-depth with my playoff predictions, so if my picks are way off ( like they were with March Madness), maybe I'll think twice about doing it next year.

Feel free to post your comments on where I'm dead on or way off. I allow anonymous comments, so if you want to tell me how much I stink, feel free to do so without any fear of retribution.

17 April 2008

Playoff fever!

This Saturday ABC/ESPN is broadcasting four straight NBA playoff games from 10:30 a.m. to around 10:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

That's a lot of high-quality basketball. And I'll be on my couch watching every second of it.

The Western Conference brand of the playoffs, especially, is chock full of goodness, as every single one of the eight teams competing to make it to the Finals has 50 wins. Every one.

The East has some great teams, too, including the 66-win Celtics. We'll get at least two or three great series from the Celtics, Magic, Wizards and Cavs.

But the West is where it's at. No series will go less than six games, and if there's a sweep in any of the series, I'll be shocked.

So to help you make sense of the awesomeness that is the NBA playoffs, here are my predictions for each of the first-round series.

Boston (1) vs. Atlanta (8)

Sorry, Atlanta, you're toast. None of the Celtics Big Three has won an NBA championship. They are on a mission to destroy any team on their way to getting that first ring. Josh Smith will get a few SportsCenter Top 10-worthy dunks, Joe Johnson will play well, and maybe if Boston only had Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, the Hawks could pull out a victory.

But with Kevin Garnett around, there's no way on earth Boston even comes close to dropping this series.

Celtics in 4.

Detroit (2) vs. Philadelphia (7)

Detroit is the ultimate "fly beneath the radar" team this year. No one is talking about them, but the Pistons are essentially the same team that won it all in 2004. Yet somehow I haven't even heard the name Rip Hamilton once during the regular season. Sure, Hamilton's scoring average is down three pointers per game, but his shooting percentages are up, as well as his assists.

Chauncey Billups is still dishing out assists and hitting big 3-pointers. Tayshaun Prince still has 17-foot long arms. And Rasheed Wallace is still an elite big man, with the ability to hit from deep and take it inside.

Philly has some nice pieces; I love Andre Iguodala, and if the Jazz could somehow sign Samuel Dalembert, I'd be a happy man. Rookie forward Thaddeus Young has been putting up some pretty impressive numbers since the All-Star break.

But in the end, Detroit's experience is just too much. I'll give the Sixers two wins, no more.

Detroit in 6.

Orlando (3) vs. Toronto (6)

I love Dwight Howard. The kid is 22 and unstoppable down low. He's averaging 20 and 14, while shooting 57% from the field. His combination of power and quickness is almost unfathomable.

So the Magic are fantastic in the paint. Then they add Hedo Turkoglu and his 20 ppg, while shooting 40% from the 3-point line. Rashard Lewis is another 40% 3-point shooter, and while he isn't worth the $15 million a year the Magic are paying him, Lewis is still a 6-10 small forward with range.

That's a dangerous inside-out game, and it carried Orlando to a 16-4 start this season. Since then, they've fallen off the map as the NBA's attention has focused on the Celtics and the entire Western Conference.

Still, I believe the Magic are going to go far. I love the Raptor's Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon, but there's not much beyond that in Toronto.

Orlando in 5.

Cleveland (4) vs. Washington (5)

A rematch from last year's first round, and the most intriguing matchup in the East. The Wizards' Deshawn Stevenson has made a name for himself by calling Cleveland's LeBron James "overrated." The whole thing is weird. No one except for Washington and Jazz fans knew who Stevenson was before his comments. But he set off a firestorm of comments back and forth between the Cavs and Wizards, and even Charles Barkley has gotten involved, calling the Wizards "the dumbest team in the history of civilization."

Washington star Gilbert Arenas even said he wanted the Cavs in the first round.

Looks like he gets the rematch he's been asking for.

In last year's series, LeBron James reportedly psyched out Arenas while Gilbert was at the free-throw line in a potentially series-changing situation.

The Cavs swept the Wizards in four games that time around, though to be fair, Washington wasn't exactly healthy. This time around, they have a (hopefully) healthy Arenas, along with a dangerous Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, who is a valuable third option.

The Cavs? Well, they have King James, which is nice. But I wasn't impressed with Cleveland before their mid-season trade, and I'm even less impressed with them now. The only player I'm even going to mention is Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and he's only effective if he's healthy.

So essentially this matchup is between the King and Washington's three stars.

This is a tough one to call, but I see the Cavs winning in seven. James is a superstar, and superstars get out of the first round in the playoffs. Especially in the East.

Tomorrow: My Western Conference picks.

Romney's pretty funny

From the Annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner last night.

I know I'm biased and everything, but I can't help but feel we missed out on a great candidate this time around.

16 April 2008

That did not go well

Is it possible to get absolutely destroyed more effectively than Utah was tonight?

I believe it is not.

The Spurs jumped out to a 10-point lead in about three minutes and never looked back, leading by as many as 30 before settling on a 109-80 margin of victory.

San Antonio shot 74% in the first half and led by 26 after two. They cooled off substantially afterwards, and ended up shooting a pathetic 59% for the night, 50% from the 3-point line.

The Jazz's lack of interior defense has never been so apparent. Time after time Tony Parker or Tim Duncan got into the lane for uncontested layups or dunks. Okur and Boozer spent most of their time watching this parade into the Jazz paint.

What I wouldn't give for a Kurt Thomas or Samuel Dalembert.

Factor two in the loss: fast-break points. The Jazz made no effort to get back on defense, especially in the first quarter. San Antonio racked up 12 fast-break points in the first 12 minutes of play.

Factor three: the Spurs defense was stifling. Boozer was rendered completely irrelevant by Duncan. Booz knows he can't take Duncan to the hoop, so he was left with taking contested jump shot after contested jump shot. In 26 minutes Boozer was 3-8 from the field, though he did manage to pull down 10 rebounds, mostly when the game was well out of hand. Every time a Jazz player even looked like they were going to the basket, the San Antonio defense collapsed that was the end of that.

Looks like the Spurs still own Utah.

What is it about being at home that transforms the Jazz into an entirely different team? I know homecourt is a real advantage, but the way it seems to affect Utah is just ridiculous.

April 5 win over the Spurs in Salt Lake:

Jazz hold the Spurs to 36% shooting and only 64 points.

April 17 loss to Spurs in San Antonio:

The Spurs shoot 73% in the first half for 65 points, effectively ending the game at that point. They score 109 on the night.

April 5:

The Jazz make 10 3-pointers, shooting 52% from behind the arc. San Antonio makes only two 3-pointers, good for 16%.

April 17:

Spurs make eight 3-pointers, shooting 50% from behind the arc. The Jazz make only two 3-pointers, good for 16%

Such disparity. These are the same two teams, right? Right?

Part of me wonders if Utah intentionally threw the game. Maybe Sloan and Larry Miller realized there was no way the team would beat the Spurs in the playoffs, and chose to face Houston without the homecourt advantage instead.

But I can't believe that. Sloan's personality strikes me as such that he is incapable of tanking a game. Also, after the way they beat San Antonio in Salt Lake two weeks ago, the Spurs weren't looking as invincible as they usually do.

The silver lining to this horrendus loss: now the Jazz will play Houston in the first round instead of San Antonio. I want no part of the Spurs in the playoffs. Here's hoping Phoenix's move to get past them (trading for Shaq) pays off.

In conclusion: ugh. So much for going into the playoffs on a high note.

For good luck

Here's hoping the Jazz are the big scary Australian dude tonight and not the little one who runs in and tries to push him down.

15 April 2008

Latest from Kenya

The situation in Kenya after their disputed presidential election is improving, but still has a long way to go to stability.

After the election between Raila Odinga and Mwai Kibaki resulted in widespread violence, former UN secretary Kofi Annan flew in to begin peace talks between the candidates.

I must admit that I was skeptical that Annan could get anything done. After initial efforts to get the two Kenyans to meet failed, I was sure the violence would only become more widespread as the people felt more and more frustrated with their government.

But instead, Odinga, Kibaki and other Kenyans sat down and hammered out the National Accord and Reconciliation Act. Essentially, Kibaki retained his presidency and Odinga became Prime Minister, a position that had not existed in Kenya since 1964.

In short, I was wrong. Diplomacy and compromise appears to have worked in this situation, which is fantastic. More nations should learn from this example, especiallythose in Africa.

A new problem has arisen, however, in a large gang, named Mungiki, that is responsible for at least four civilian deaths yesterday in Nairobi. Kenya's top-selling paper, Daily Nation, makes some interesting accusations about this gang:

"There are convincing indications that very senior politicians in both the past and present government used the sect to carry out dirty political work. Perhaps that is where the impunity springs from..."

I certainly hope not, but it makes sense. The government is doing its best to crack down on this gang, which has been around since March of last year. Overcoming the election turmoil was a major step in the right direction. Eliminating the threat Mungiki poses to the safety of average Kenyans would be another.

Step One, complete

It wasn't pretty, but the Jazz beat Houston last night, 105-96.

Houston started the game shooting 1-8, and the Jazz weren't doing that much better. It appeared the teams were on their way to a classic 74-82 game from 1998, heyday of the Knicks and Pistons grab-them-if-you-can't-stop-them defense.

In fact, it never seemed that either team really got on track, but at halftime, the Jazz somehow had 56 points. Some of that probably had to do with the balanced scoring Utah got. Six players scored in double figures, and Millsap had nine points.

The Jazz also shot three for 16 from the 3-point line.

Oh, and they ended up holding their seventh-straight opponent to 100 points or lower.

So a win's a win. And now, with a victory in San Antonio tomorrow night (Step Two), the Jazz can secure the three seed in the playoffs and earn homecourt advantage in the first round, which would most likely be against the Spurs.

Oh, and Utah hasn't won in San Antonio since Feb. 28, 1999. That was so long ago NBA.com doesn't have a record of the game.

In 1999? John and Karl were still going strong.

Olden Polynice started 79 games.

Adam Keefe was Sloan's garbage guy.

Howard Eisley was the backup point guard.

Not one of the players on that roster is on the Jazz today.

Deron Williams is 0-6 in his career in San Antonio. Boozer has never won there, even when he was playing for the Cavs. Suffice it to say there's a bit of a mental block for these guys when it comes to winning in Alamo City.

Now, the Spurs aren't getting any younger (Duncan 10 seasons, Brent Barry 12 seasons, Bowen 11, Finley 12, Horry 15, Damon Stoudamire 12, Kurt Thomas 12, Jacque Vaughn 10). San Antonio also has to deal with Sixth Man of the Year Manu Ginobili's groin injury, which kept him from playing against the Kings last night. If he's out tomorrow, that gives the Jazz a big advantage.

The Spurs are not invincible.

Winning on Wednesday, even against an injured and possibly resting Spurs team, will give the Jazz a solid boost going into the playoffs. I like the idea of breaking the losing streak on the last day of the season.

It's a tough road to the Finals in the West, but I think the Jazz can get there. Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap are playing very well, and with the addition of Kyle Korver, this team is a lot better than the 2007 playoffs version.

Not to mention how Derek Fisher's move to L.A. was addition by subtraction.

This Jazz team is deep. Deron will dominate in the postseason again. Booz and Okur will score, and if they can play defense like they did against Houston last season in the first round, good things will happen.

I can't wait.

14 April 2008

Props for Deron

From NBA.com:

Deron Williams has scored 1,523 points, handed out 851 assists and shot .509 from the field this season. He has joined Magic Johnson (1986-87 and 1988-89) and Kevin Johnson (1988-89) as the only players in league history to score 1,500 points, hand out 800 assists and shoot 50 percent from the field in a single season.

That's some pretty elite company.

Now beat Houston and San Antonio this week, Deron.

Miami fans should be feeling pretty good

Sure, Miami is sitting at 14-66, good for last place in the entire NBA.

Sure, the Heat are only two years removed from winning their first-ever NBA championship.

Sure, Wade is hurt (again), and Shaq bolted for the Suns.

But you should be feeling pretty good about yourselves, Miami fans.

You've got a great chance to have the #1 pick in the NBA draft this summer. Dwayne will be back next fall, and Shawn Marion is a solid player. I'm optimistic about a team with Wade, Marion, and someone like Derrick Rose. Especially one playing in the Eastern Conference.

Your salary cap situation is not bad (like the Knicks); you've got $53 million worth of contracts on the books for 2008-2009, which leaves you with room to shop for a free agent or two.

I'd wait around a few months before jumping off a Miami high-rise or switching my allegiance to another team if I were you. Show some patience. It'll pay off.

The Western Conference is ridiculous

The Jazz have two regular-season games left and could end up seeded anywhere from 2 to 4 (and no lower because of their NW Division Title) in the playoffs. San Antonio could end up anywhere from 2 to 6, and Houston could take the number 1 seed, or fall to the 6 seed.


Now, things are so close in the West that it's feasible that Utah, Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix all finish with identical 55-27 records. How does the NBA work that out as far as seedings go?

Determining Ties for Playoff Position


1. If applicable, division champions must be determined first.

2. Better winning percentage in all games among the tied teams.

3. Better winning percentage against teams in own division (only if all tied teams are in same division).

4. Better winning percentage against teams in own conference.

5. Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in own conference (including team that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position).

6. Best point differential between offense and defense.

Note: If a multiple team tie is reduced to a two-team tie at any point using the above criteria, the two-team tie will be resolved in accordance with the existing two-team tie procedure.

Assuming Utah wins at home against Houston tonight and at San Antonio on Wednesday, here's how it shakes out:

Utah would be 7-3 against the other three teams with the same record.

Phoenix would be 6-5.

Houston 5-6.

San Antonio would finish at an unimpressive 4-8.

That would make Utah the #3 seed, Phoenix the #4 seed, Houston the #5 seed, and San Antonio the #6 seed.

Which would mean Utah plays San Antonio in the first round. I wouldn't be too happy about that, though for that to happen, the Jazz would have to have beaten the Spurs in San Antonio for the first time in forever.

It's a weird situation where the Jazz have to beat the Spurs in San Antonio to be forced into a situation where they'd need to beat the Spurs in San Antonio.

No matter what happens over these next few days, the Western Conference playoffs are going to be amazing. I don't see any series (even first round matchups) going less than six games. The Spurs look vulnerable with Manu injured and Duncan not getting any younger. Phoenix L.A. are pretty intimidating, but they each have weaknesses the Jazz can exploit.

TNT's "40 Games in 40 Nights," you own me.

10 April 2008

Deron's clutch, but it doesn't matter

The Jazz lost to the Mavs 97-94 tonight. In general, I'm not that disturbed by the loss, as in my opinion, the Jazz will be best off in the four seed for the playoffs.

The Jazz played uninspired ball most of the night, but still had a shot with 11 seconds left. Utah was down three, and Deron hit a 3-pointer while being defended pretty well.

Wahoo! Barring some miracle, the game will at least go into overtime!

Dallas had no timeouts. The Mavs knew this. The Jazz, apparently did not.

With five seconds on the clock, the Mavericks inbounded the ball and Jason Terry took off downcourt.

On the other hand, the Jazz were happy with Deron's impressive display of clutch-ness and stood around. Especially Boozer, who was assigned to defend Dirk Nowitzki.

Long story shot, Dirk hit a WIDE-OPEN 3-pointer with two seconds left.

Game over, Jazz lose.

It's been a while since I've seen such an egregious display of weak-sauce defense. The Jazz showed a major lack of mental toughness.

If they do that in the playoffs, there's no way we see Utah get past the first round.