16 April 2010

Phil Jackson fined

Apparently David Stern didn't take kindly to Coach Jackson's criticizing of the way officials treat Kevin Durant, and the Zen Master has been fined $35,000 for the comments, which were said earlier this week.

As Basketbawful writer Dan so eloquently put it:
After giving the NBA refs and Kevin Durant a piece of his mind, The Zen Master is getting slapped with another fine. His wallet will be $35,000 lighter after complaining about Kevin Durant getting superstar calls. Of course, he doesn't have anything to say about Kobe setting up a cot, mini-fridge, and TV at the free throw line in the '02 Western Conference Finals when the refs allowed him to temporarily live there.

Well said.

Playoffs 2010

An abbreviated preview of the 2010 NBA Playoffs:


1. Cleveland vs. 8. Chicago

The Bulls are a mediocre team. The Cavs are a mediocre team without LeBron James. I can't believe that with all of the efforts Cleveland's management have made towards getting a great supporting cast for LeBron that Antawn Jamison and Shaq are the best they could do. That said, the Cavs win this series easily, thanks to the guy who's going to win the MVP. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are good players, but not great.

Cavs in 4.

2. Orlando vs. 7. Charlotte

The Charlotte Bobcats are one of the two teams I've seen play in person this season. While they lead the league in opponents' points per game, unfortunately, defense is only half of the equation, and they are third worst in points scored per game themselves. This is mainly because their offense is predicated on Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson creating shots for themselves. Wallace and Jackson are good players, but they are second bananas, intended to play next to an alpha dog like Wade or Garnett or Kobe.

Orlando has actually taken a step back this year, essentially trading Hedo Turkoglu for Vince Carter. Hedo was huge for the Magic last postseason, nailing clutch shots for them time after time. Vince has playoff experience, with 42 postseason games under his belt, but I don't see him coming through like Orlando will need him to to make it back to the Finals.

That said, the Magic don't need Vince to score 30 a game to get past Charlotte.

Magic in 6.

3. Atlanta vs. 6. Milwaukee

One of the biggest stories of the year was Milwaukee's arrival on the scene as a pretty good basketball team, thanks in no small part to center Andrew Bogut's performance. Bogut averaged 15 points and 10 boards a game with 2.5 blocks, to boot.

Unfortunately, Bogut busted his elbow in a pretty horrific way a couple weeks ago and is out for the rest of the season. Atlanta isn't exactly a world-beater, but Josh Smith and Al Horford are more than enough to deal with this Bucks team. If Brandon Jennings' shooting percentages hadn't fallen off the face of the earth after a quick start this season (shooting 37% on the year now), I might have predicted a different outcome.

Hawks in 5.

4. Boston vs. 5. Miami

The Celtics are finished. Garnett is injured/old, Pierce is injured/old and Ray Allen is still Ray Allen, but it'll take more than he and Rajon Rondo to beat Wade and the Heat. I'm not in love with this Miami team, but #3 is amazing enough that he can win this series all by himself.

The Celtics mortgaged their future for a ring two seasons ago, and right now, the future is collecting on that debt. If it weren't for Rondo (who manages to average a triple double in the playoffs every year somehow), I'd be tempted to predict a sweep for the Heat.

Miami in 6.


1. Lakers vs. 8. Thunder

Here's the irony about this matchup: I think the Thunder easily win the backcourt matchups. Durant is more than a match for getting-old-and-he's-injured Kobe in scoring, and apparently Oklahoma City's Thabo Sefolosha has the potential to limit the Black Mamba quite a bit. Take the time to read that link... it's pretty involved. In addition, Russell Westbrook clearly outclasses Derek Fisher (unless the Fish can turn back into Playoff Derek Fisher for a few games).

The problem for the Thunder is that they can't hope to match up with the Laker big men. Gasol and Odom are difficult enough to deal with, but assuming Bynum is healthy for this series, that's just not fair. Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Nenad Krstic are all decent players, but defensively they have little hope of slowing down the Lakers near the hoop for an entire series.

Lakers in a surprisingly close 6 games.

2. Dallas vs. 7. San Antonio

The Spurs are done. Duncan is at the tail end of his career, Manu isn't the same guy he was five years ago and Tony Parker relied heavily on those two guys to get his rings. Meanwhile, Dallas is peaking right now with Dirk, Kidd and Marion all playing pretty well these days. If Jason Terry can provide 16 points a game, this series will be quick and ugly. A motivated Dampier (contract year) and fairly effective Haywood shore up the middle for Dallas. Watch for Mav guard Rodrigue Beaubois in this series. He's got a bright future in front of him.

Dallas in 5.

3. Phoenix vs. 6. Portland

I have never seen a team be as injury-cursed as the Blazers this season. Seems like every single player on their roster went down for an extended period at some time over the last six months. But perhaps no loss was bigger than watching Brandon Roy sit out thanks to a knee injury. Roy will certainly miss this series, but he may return if Portland advances.

Unfortunately, that's one series too long for the Blazers. The Suns are on a roll right now, with Nash playing as well as he ever has (at 36!), Amare looking more and more like pre-microfracture surgery Amare every day (I've missed that guy) and the role players shooting lights out.

Phoenix doesn't have the defense to win it all this year, but they can take care of an utterly devastated Portland team no problem.

Suns in 5.

4. Denver vs. 5. Utah

Denver in 5.

So there you go. I'm looking forward to TNT's "40 Games in 40 Nights" thing, though my wife probably is not. If I had to pick a team to win it all this season, I'd have to give a tiny, tiny, tiny edge to the Cavs, depending on how well Shaq can deal with Bynum and company.

15 April 2010

Durant responds

How anyone could dislike Kevin Durant is beyond me. As I said yesterday, he's done nothing but conduct himself with class his entire basketball career.

I don’t disrespect nobody in this league. I respect every coach, every player, everybody. I never say anything bad about anybody else or question why they do this or do that. So for them to say that about me, I don’t even want to use no foul language.

If the refs pay attention to that and change how they call things because of that, that’s terrible. That’s terrible to the game of basketball and to us. If that happens, then (coach) Scotty (Brooks) could talk, too. Or any other coach could talk, too, just so the refs could switch everything up. But I doubt they do that. They’re smarter than that, and they have more skills than that as refs.

Impressive. It may have been better just to ignore Jackson's pre-complaining, but this way the refs have to decide whether to let Phil's subtle mind games affect them or not. So that's nice.

What would be even nicer is the Thunder beating the Lakers in the first round. The problem is, Oklahoma City doesn't have the ability to deal with Bynum/Odom/Gasol (but name a team that can), or I'd really feel they had a chance.

On that note, look for a playoff preview tomorrow.

14 April 2010

Phil Jackson is a jerk

I know Phil Jackson has more rings than any other coach in the history of the universe.

I know he's widely regarded as a brilliant mind with a talent for dealing with competing egos on a team and making it work.

He's still a jerk.

While most of the Western Conference playoff picture is still flexible, the 1 vs. 8 matchup was decided a couple days ago when the Thunder lost to the Blazers two days ago. The defending NBA champion Lakers will face these (extremely) young Thunder in the first round.

Even before the regular season has ended, Jackson is working his infamous "influence the refs through snide interview comments" strategy, which apparently has worked in the past, so why should he stop now?

Because it's ridiculous, that's why.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Jackson began this campaign yesterday, saying, "Yeah, by the calls [Kevin Durant] gets, he really gets to the line a lot, I'll tell ya. There's a couple plays in the last game where I was pretty curious how he got there."

Now look, it's apparent that Kevin Durant is earning superstar status in the eyes of the referees. This is a status where certain players are benefited from the referees giving them virtually every call, and especially in situations late in games. LeBron James has this status. Dwyane Wade certainly has this status. And Kobe Bryant has had this status for over a decade.

And who does Kobe play for? The Lakers. Come on, Phil, are you really so petty that you'd point out a certain player is benefited by NBA officiating when you have one of the league's favorite sons headlining your team?

Apparently he is.

Now, I know Durant has surpassed Bryant in "players I'd like on my team" for every coach in the league, but there's no need to resort to this type of pathetic complaining, Phil! You still have Pau Gasol, who brings a double-double every night, great defense and percentages that are through-the-roof impressive (Gasol obtained by trading Kwame Brown and a couple draft picks)! You still have Lamar Odom! You still (probably) have Andrew Bynum!

Sure, your guards are all pretty terrible, but I'm sure Derek Fisher will turn into Playoff Derek Fisher a few times if you need him to.

But you won't, will you? This Thunder team is just too inexperienced, too young and too small-market to get it done vs. the gorilla that is the Lakers. Durant will get his rings, but the first one won't be this year.

So lay off the kid, will you? He's been nothing but class his entire NBA career thus far... don't try to drag him down into the mud with you.

13 April 2010

Global climate change theory under fire

About 18 months ago I posted my thoughts on the climate change debate. At the time, I was concerned because many of those who believe climate change is largely driven by human action loudly touted that there was a consensus in the scientific community at large on this idea.

I declared this to be an utterly worthless argument at the time, and I still feel that way.

However, things have changed. Today, these climate change proponents are under attack from many angles, and right now, fewer people believe humans are causing the earth to warm than did just a few months ago.

Der Spiegel, a German newspaper of note, recently published a massive recounting of the problems groups like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are dealing with.

Here are a few passages:
In late 2007, the IPCC was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with former US Vice President Al Gore.... [but] less than three years after this triumph, more and more mistakes, evidence of sloppy work and exaggerations in the current IPCC report are appearing. They include Jones' disputed temperature curve, the prediction that all Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 -- which was the result of a simple transposition of numbers -- and the supposed increase in natural disasters, for which no source was given.
There are many more examples of bad science outlined in this article; how are we supposed to trust these individuals at all?
Reinhard Hüttl, head of the German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam near Berlin and the president of the German Academy of Science and Engineering, believes that basic values are now under threat. "Scientists should never be as wedded to their theories that they are no longer capable of refuting them in the light of new findings," he says. Scientific research, Hüttl adds, is all about results, not beliefs. Unfortunately, he says, there are more and more scientists who want to be politicians.
An admirable critique of many scientists dealing with the issue of climate change. Any scientist who is so involved with his theory that he is no longer seeking truth, but rather working only to support this theory is no longer a scientist, in my opinion.
The climate historians working with Michael Mann used tree rings as the primary source of their data. The problem with this approach is that large numbers of trees from suitable regions are required if conclusions about past temperatures based on tree growth are to be drawn. "Unfortunately, if we go back more than 500 years, we don't have many reliable trees for our analyses," explains Jan Esper of the University of Mainz in western Germany.

For example, there are many indications that in medieval times, between 900 and 1,300 A.D., when the Vikings raised livestock in Greenland and grape vines were cultivated in Scotland, it was in fact warmer than it is today. This is precisely what Mann denied, with a certainty that irritated even his allies.
The data is incomplete and sketchy. This is something rank amateurs like Michael Crichton and Glenn Beck have pointed out, only to receive ridicule from the scientific community.

The whole article is a pretty long, but I found it to be fairly even-handed in its treatment of the discussion at large. The authors are equally critical of skeptics who use lies and distortion to push their view as they are of proponents who use the same methods.

Again, I'd like to point out that I am not saying humans have no involvement in climate. I am merely pointing out that global weather is too complex, too large and too involved for us to understand completely. Those who shout with certainty that we all need to change our behavior or calamities of Biblical proportion will kill us all... huh. I think I just found another connect between global warming alarmists and religion.

02 April 2010

An Ultimatum

Okay, the Jazz. I know you've been playing well lately. You earned a decent 12-4 record in March, and you have one of the best records in the league since the All-Star break. You're currently sitting at second in the West, thanks to owning the tiebreaker over Dallas and Phoenix, and have six games remaining in the season. Deron's playing well, Boozer's playing really well, Korver's shooting over 55% from deep this season (!), Wesley Matthews is playing like no other undrafted free agent has ever played in his rookie season and things look good.

The test is tonight.

You play in L.A. against the world-champion Lakers. A Laker team who has had the #1 seed in the playoffs locked up for some weeks now. A team playing without Andrew Bynum. A team that clearly doesn't give a care until the aforementioned playoffs begin, because they've lost three of their last four games.

Meanwhile, you, the Jazz, are locked in a battle to keep that second spot. You have everything to play for, because one loss over this final stretch could be the difference between the second seed and the fifth seed.

You have to win this game. If you fail to, I cannot take you seriously in the playoffs. My stance has long been that no team with Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur manning the 4 and 5 spots can ever, ever win an NBA championship, but if you win tonight, I'll allow myself to believe a little bit.

Lose, and we're done until November.

So there you have it, the Jazz. No pressure or anything.

In other NBA news, the Knicks are a lot better than I hoped they'd be this season.

"[B]ut the Jazz are still virtually assured a bottom-three pick," I wrote back in December.

Well, a quick look at the standings shows that currently, SEVEN teams have worse records than the Knicks. That means if the laws of probability don't favor Utah over these next six games and/or when the envelopes are drawn this summer (see: Chicago in 2008), the best we Jazz fans can hope for is the 8th pick in the draft.

And like last year, there's a pretty clear line between the good and the bad of this draft. Remember those guys I was excited about potentially drafting? Derrick Favors, Evan Turner, etc.? Long gone by the time pick number eight rolls around. NBADraft.net has the Jazz taking Greg Monroe from Georgetown with the pick, and says he's comparable to Lamar Odom, only less athletic.


But hey, he is 6'10" and can block and rebound, so who knows? Maybe the Jazz will take him and he'll be a great young, defensive big man in Utah.

Either way, the Knicks pick is not as great as I hoped it'd be. Darn you, Nets. Darn you, Gilbert Arenas. Darn you, Joe Dumars, Minnesota's management and the Warriors.