Friday, August 31, 2007

The Mamba Mission

I'm willing to bet any kind of money that Kobe Bryant saw Lebron's Perfect Show on Wednesday and decided that he would use Team USA's matchup against Argentina to show why there was no equal to him as far as individual unstoppability. When it comes to competitiveness, Kobe is somewhere between Michael Jordan and George W. Bush.

I'm sure he's grown tired of hearing how Argentina was supposed to be the main comp for the U.S. and how they beat America in past tournaments. I know he hated reading about forward Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino and Manu Ginoboli.

In reality, Argentina never stood a chance. Kobe and the Americans came out with the idea of proving a point to the world that they weren't here to fuck around like past years. He scored 27 points -- 15 in the first quarter alone -- and would have easily challenged Carmelo Anthony's U.S. FIBA record of 35 points if Coach Amex would have given him some more time.

The full repetoire was on display last night. He started off the game hot from 3-point land. He then moved inside and started taking the Argentinian defenders one on one, where he is completely unstoppable. Reverse layups, dunks, fadeaways, consecutive forced shots, awkward Jordan-like facial expressions, it was the Kobe we all love.

Some other random thoughts from the game:

- If you missed the game, you missed one of the filthiest posterizing dunks in a long time. 'Melo rose up on two dudes and banged it with ferocity. I knew he could get up there, but not with that kindo of intensity.

- Somebody should really judge Chauncey's bad shots per minute. Whenever he had the ball, he either forced a three or looked like he was dying to force one. I'm sure he doesn't remember that that's what killed Detroit in Game 4 against Cleveland.

- At one point in the second half, Team USA went an estimated 10 straight possessions without passing the ball to Amare Stoudamire. We're a long way from Phoenix, STAT.

- Jason Kidd attempted arguably the nastiest alley-oop ever in the fourth quarter. He went around a pick in the halfcourt and threw the ball off the top-right corner of the backboard that LeBron James muffed at the rim. Like Bill Walton said afterwards, they should have tried that again. I agree.

- I saw no reason to be believe that if Ginoboli was there that Argentina would have fared any better. The U.S. defense was tight all game and besides, we would've just put Kobe on him. End of discussion.

- Finally, the other reason I was watching so closely was to see Scola, who my Rockets traded for in July and will suit up next to Yao Ming in two months. My analysis: Me likes. He shot consistently from the mid part of the floor where we expect him to hit so many open jumpers. Scola rebounded well in the midst of the bigger Americans, and he showed how good a passer he was. He'll fit in well in Houston.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

L.A. Riots

If I told you to look out for some intense UCLA vs. USC wars this year, the first things to come to mind would probably be Pete Carroll vs. Karl Dorrell or John David Booty vs. Patrick Cowan. But I'm not talking about college football, people. (Well, look out for these two squads on the gridiron too, but still.) The Trojans and Bruins should put together some interesting battles on the hardwood this year, and for the next few years.

UCLA basketball has forever overshadowed the history of its crosstown rivals, in the same vein of USC's football dominance over the Bruins. UCLA has 11 national championship banners in Pauley Pavilion ('64, '65, '66, '67, '68, '69, '70, '71, '72, '73, '75, '95); the Men of Troy have none in the brand new Galen Center. (The closest USC has ever come to a title is an Elite Eight appearance in 2001.)

The boys from Westwood have John Wooden; the Trojans have...Henry Bibby? UCLA has unreal number of NBA players, past and present. They have Hall of Famers and future Hall members (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Reggie Miller) plus new-school guys making their own name (Baron Davis, Jason Kapono, Trevor Ariza, Matt Barnes, Earl Watson).

USC only has one alum currently in the League, and guess who he is (come on, guess). None other than the redhead himself, Brian Scalabrine. That sucks. Matter of fact, after scowering through USC's roster of past and present NBA players, it's safe to say that the best basketball player to ever come out of Southern Cal is Reggie's sister, Cheryl.

Could the Tide be turning for the Red and Gold? Head coach Tim Floyd has taken huge steps in building a redefining a new branch of the USC sports legacy. He led the Trojans to the Sweet 16 (where they lost to North Carolina) with the strong play of Los Angeles natives Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt, who were drafted this summer by the Wizards and Celtics, respectively, and Brooklyn native forward Taj Gibson. His NBA pedigree, though horrible on all levels (exactly like football coach Carroll), has definitely aided on the recruiting network. His free-willing offense and the allure of playing at one of the nation's most heralded universities, which just so happens to be under the bright lights of Los Angeles, also are pluses.

However, Floyd's top recruit in 2007 (and the hoops program's most celebrated recruit EVER!) actually recruited him last year. Go figure. O.J. Mayo headlines a top 2007 class that also features forward Lynwood, CA native Davon Jefferson (who was featured in Slam Magazine as a sophomore), guard James Dunleavy (North Hollywood, CA), point guard Angelo Johnson (Simi Valley, CA), forward Marcus Simmons (Alexandria, LA), and big man Mamadou Diarra (Simi Valley, CA). The group of incoming freshman give the Trojans their best basketball recruiting class in its history. They join Gibson and guard Daniel Hackett in an already talented, though depleted, SC squad.

The Bruins counter with arguably the best big man recruit in the class of 2007 in Kevin Love (Lake Oswego, OR; pictured above), last year's Player of the Year. Love, like Mayo, is considered by many to be a one-and-done player in Westwood. He's the bruiser in the middle with excellent back to the basket and face-up moves in the post. Put it this way: If Love would have graduated in 2006, the Bruins would have most likely beat Florida in the Final Four this past spring. He joined by incoming freshman Chace Stanback (Los Angeles, CA), which is the whitest name I've heard in a while. The Bruins still feature Josh Shipp (who is primed for a breakout year), steady point guard Darren Collison, and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. There's no reason to believe they can't make a trip to San Antonio in 2008 and actually take home number 12.

Speaking of 2008, both of these schools are already loading up for next year. USC nabbed a solid group of '08 recruits, including top guard Demar DeRozan, the number two ranked senior by (And look out, world. "Lil" Romeo Miller is coming! Only a 2-star recruit, Rom? Thought you was the man. You ain't balling, you pump faking.

Tim Floyd had no. 1 point guard Brandon Jennings in its grasp, which would have immediately vaulted USC into elite status, but BJ backed out of his commitment and verbally committed to Arizona this spring.

Across town, UCLA has put together a 2008 class good enough to make Love want to stay in L.A. for another year. Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood, CA), a 6'4 point guard with excellent defense and playmaking skills, will join fellow top-rated recruits (and Cali natives) combo guard Malcolm Lee (Riverside, CA), bruising big man Drew Gordon (San Jose, CA), and speedster point guard Jerime Anderson (Anaheim, CA). If the college game is won by superior guard play, then the Bruins should instantly be favorites (or one of the most exciting team in college basketball) in '08-'09.

Of course, the recent influx of top-notch talent in southern California benefits more than just USC and UCLA. It validates the West Coast as a elite basketball breeding ground. The Left Side, though unjustifiably, has long thought to be far behind its East Coast and Southern counterparts in producing great players. It almost validates the Pac-10, which has taken a hit as soft conference with only 2-3 top teams.

One thing is for sure, after a few months of seeing Pete Carroll and John David Booty run through their rivals in the Coliseum and Karl Dorrell and Patrick Cowan try to upset the Trojans in the Rose Bowl, the USC/UCLA rivalry will take on a new shape in Pauley Pavilion and the Galen Center.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Rise And Fall of Skip To My Lou

Damn, Skip stays losing. Blaze already tackled this subject on his blog, On top of the World, but let me delve a little deeper.

Rockets guard Rafer Alston, better known through the playground moniker of "Skip To My Lou", was arrested yesterday in New York for allegedly being involved in the stabbing of some random dude in a nightclub.

This is Rafer's, who is from Queens, NY, second assault arrest in three weeks. Dude got anger issues.

In this latest, arrest, a member of Skip's entourage got into an argument with a 41-year-old man (what are 41-year-old dudes doing in the club, anyway?) and it turned into a brawl. (Side note: when will athletes learn that entourages are only good on HBO?)

What's up with Skip? He's been mild-mannered since he came to Houston in 2005. He hasn't gotten into any big trouble, no arrests. Shit, he didn't even try to pull a Sprewell on Jeff Van Gundy while he was here. He's been a model citizen and teammate. Has Rafer become Snap To My Lou?

I think it's the fact that he's seen his career go from solid starter on a playoff team to possible fourth stringer in the span of four months. After the Rockets were bounced from the first round of the playoffs by the Utah Jazz in early May, new GM Daryl Morey went about an obvious path to dramatically improve the point guard position, Rafer's position. He traded Juwan Howard for Mike James, drafted Aaron Brooks in the first round, and signed former franchise (pun intended) guard Steve Francis in consecutive months. Skip's ego should be in Ja Rule-mode right now.

After his first arrest this month, it pretty much sealed his fate in Houston. He wasn't good enough to match up with the other elite guards in the West, we upgraded the position x3, then he turns around and publicly fucks up -- this dude must think he's Ron-Ron or something. What's up with Queens?

It wasn't always like this, though. When I was in the ninth grade, Skip To My Lou was the main focus of the
classic first And 1 mixtape that swept through hoods everywhere. It showed him balling at Rucker Park in real games, not the manufactured, commercial mess it is now.

That tape pretty much had me. I watched it as soon as I got home from school everyday, before I went to the park. But it was more than the playground stuff for me. I researched him and found out that not only did he start at Fresno State for a while, he was featured on the cover of Slam Magazine and was in the league, playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.

He became somebody to root for. Sure, he was a third-string pg in Milwaukee (behind Sam Cassell and Vinny Del Negro). Sure, he was known as just a playground streetballer whose game would never adapt to the NBA system. We watched and waited, hoping that he would get a chance to be that 16-year-old kid from Queens in that sketchy videotape no one could stop watching. It never came. This was a good thing.

He stayed with the Bucks for a couple more years before playing in the NBA Developmental League. He signed a 10-day contract with the Raptors in 2003 and played well. He solidified his spot in the league when he signed with the Miami Heat in 2003, playing the backup role for a suprising Heat playoff squad. He then hit it big, signing back with Toronto for a guaranteed six years, a long way from being a second-round pick that supposedly wasn't going to make it in the league.

He was traded to Houston for Mike James in 2005 after clashing with head coach Sam Mitchell. We were happy to have him. I was happy to have him. It all came full circle, I thought. The playground legend I loved watching was now balling for my city, my team. We were going to do big things with Skip at the point. *sighs*

Two years, no championship, no second-round, a lot of public spectacles of abuse from opposing point guards, and now two embarrassing arrests. Starting point guards don't do buck 50s across old men's necks, allegedly. (Of course, if he would've slashed a canine's jugular, David Stern would have him thrown out of the league, pronto. Remember kids, you can harm innocent people all you want, just don't hurt any animals. Got it. Ok.)

The larger issue looming is, what kind of value does he have now? Teams obviously know the Rockets are shopping (re: trying to get rid of him at all costs) him, and they all justifiably have the upper hand in any deal Morey tries to do. He's scheduled to make $4.5 million this year. Do we buy him out?

I don't know, we just have to get him out of here. This isn't a Michael Vick-type fall from grace, here. He was never going to lead us anywhere, anyway.

Besides, Skip To My Lou will live in playground basketball fans forever. Rafer Alston is pretty much dead to me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rockets Make An Offer To Old Man River

Hoopshype has a blog from Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle saying that Rockets GM Daryl Morey made a one-year contract offer to 41-year-old (50?) free agent center Dikembe Mutombo last week.

My question is "Why?" Even though Morey is teetering on "unquestionable" territory, I still have to inquire about bringing in another player to this team, especially one who's ancient and doesn't fit in with our now more youthful and quick style of play.

Besides, has he looked at our roster since May? We have 18 players under contract (the team still hasn't signed second-round pick Carl Landry yet). We still haven't dealt any one of our six point guards. Also, the recent addition of backup center Jackie Butler (he was included in the Luis Scola deal) should have all but sealed Mutombo's fate in Houston.

Let him walk, Daryl. He's probably going to need a cane anyway.

The Oilers Are Back -- Which Way To Tennessee?

Before I go any further, let me state this: Houston is a big sports town. Above all, Houston is a big football town. Texas is a football state. That's just how it is and will continue to be, no matter how much success other sports have had.

As a football city, the Houston Oilers were our team, no matter how dreadful they were. Though the Oilers had never won a Super Bowl, they came close a few times, as recently as 1993, when they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Round. But we always had hope. Then, a few years later, hope got shot in the head.

In 1996, Oilers owner Bud Adams packed up and moved the team to Tennessee, breaking the collective hearts of the fourth-largest city in America. There was no way around it or any other way to put it: Bud Adams forever was known as the devil.

But you can forgive the devil one time, can't you?

Well, folks, I have. The Houston Texans franchise was born in 2002 and has been a less exciting version of the old laughable Oilers. They've shown (short) flashes of potential and given the Bayou City long visions of idiocricy, culminating in the heart-breaking pick of Mario Williams in the 2006 Draft over Houston native Vince Young and Heisman winner Reggie Bush.

As a true sports fan, there are certain rules that we must abide by. Two of those rules apply directly to me: 1. "You grew up in a city that didn't field a team for a specific sport -- so you picked a random team -- and then either a.) your city landed a team", and "The owner of your favorite team treated his fans so egregiously over the years that you couldn't take it anymore -- you would rather not follow them at all then support a franchise with this owner in charge.When it happens, you have two options: You can either renounce that team and pick someone else, or you can pretend they're dead, like you're a grieving widow." Well spoken. So....

I am officially denouncing the Houston Texans as my favorite football team and I'm adopting the Tennessee Titans as my favorite football franchise, through thick and thin, sickness and in health. Fuck the Texans, I'm through with them. I'm currently dancing with the devil in Tennessee for a number of reasons.

1. Too many idiotic moves -- Here's a quick rundown of one of the worst sports-related moves ever: Vince Young leads the University of Texas to a perfect season in 2005, capped off by a win in the Rose Bowl over defending champion USC in a game where Young (who was the nation's most accurate and efficient QB in '05) passes and throws for over 200 yards and scores the game-winning TD.

Reggie Bush wins the Heisman Trophy that same year and almost leads USC to their third straight national championship while looking amazingly breathtaking and comparing many to Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders, and O.J. Simpson.

The Houston Texans went 2-14 that season and had the number one pick in the 2006 Draft. They have an embattled quarterback in David Carr, who was a former number one pick in 2002 (Why?) and hasn't shown any signs of actually living up to that mantle. The team lacks in points scored and its rushing game is horrendous. They have the first pick, who do they take, the exciting Houston native quarterback with excellent passing skills, uncanny athletic ability, and an obvious knack for leadership and winning big; or the Heisman winning running back/wide receiver/monster who can do it all and has a winning pedigree almost unmatched? The answer, you take neither. (Why bother with tough decisions, right? You take Mario Williams, a workout-wonder defensive end who couldn't even make All-ACC at North Carolina State and didn't even start some games his senior year. What's that you say, Sam Bowie? I think I should change it to: I Ball For Real -- Ya'll dudes is Super Mario Williams. Then they extended David Carr. Double Ugh. Oh yeah, Carr is now a backup in Carolina.

Vince went on to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year,win eight games as a rookie starter, lead the Titans to within one game of the playoffs, and appear in the Pro Bowl; Bush went for over 1,300 all-purpose yards while helping the Saints to their first NFC South division title and to the NFC Championship Game. Beautiful, a big stomach punch all around.

2. By all intents and purposes, they're still the Houston Oilers. Jeff Fisher coached the team when they were still in Houston. Steve McNair played for both cities and would've retired a Titan until he was traded to Baltimore. They still wear light blue (Go Blue!!). They occasionally wear the old Oilers throwbacks. And Vince Young and cornerback Michael Griffin are Texas natives. Same thing, almost.

3. Because I've been secretly been rooting for the Titans/Oilers since they left town. Yeah, I said it. My grandmother still roots for the Titans heavily, though its only because they had two black quarterbacks (Vince, McNair). I've always rooted for McNair, too. He was a good dude, and he didn't allow himself to be categorized into the stereotypical black running quarterback net.

When the Titans made the Super Bowl in 1999 (which was like getting kicked in the nuts over and over again), I rooted for them against the Rams, who I thought were overrated and hated because everybody was jumping on their bandwagon. And of course, when Vince (who I went to high school with my freshman year and had cheered for every Saturday morning when he was at Texas) was drafted, I would stop everything I was doing to catch a Titans game. Shit, I was rooted harder than ever when he went against the idiotic Texans and "Super" Mario the three-sack man. So it's not unusual for me to root for them, just now it's permanent.

4. The Titans are better, plain and simple. Tennessee beat Houston last season, one featured a justified, classic ending in Houston. (see below)

As already mentioned, the Titans were one win away (they lost to New England in the last game of the season. Yet another reason I dislike the Pats) from making the playoffs with a rookie starting quarterback. LenDale White is no LaDanian Tomlinson, but he's better than any of the stiffs the Texans are employing as running backs. (Ahman Green? Wali Lundy?) Same goes for backup Chris "Run It" Brown. The Titans have a star quarterback, the Texans have Matt Schaubb. Schaubb is decent and all, but he's only started in 2 regular season games. At least he's better than David "Raggedy" Carr.

Both defenses suck, but at least the Titans have budding playmakers in Pacman Jones (once he comes back from suspension) and Griffin, Tennessee's first round pick. They also have former Pro Bowlers linebacker Keith Bullock and safety Chris Hope. We on our way.

So, Houston, I'm gone. The Texans suck. The Astros suck even worse. I could give two shits about soccer. Texas Southern, Rice, and the University of Houston all suck, especially TSU. All I have left is the Rockets and the Longhorns. See ya'll in late October.

I'll be in Tennessee, chilling with Vince Young and Derrick Rose.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Their Reign On the Top Was Short Like Leprechauns

Now I'm convinced.

Before the FIBA Tournament of Americas started,I wrote about how I was concerned about some issues regarding Team USA's infrastructure and their chances at winning the TOA. Namely a certain Blue Devil ringleader.

I also gave my reasons why the Blood, White, and Crip would walk over the comp in Vegas. Mainly Kobe Bryant. But after watching the US completely shit on Brazil tonight, I'm officially turning in the last piece of my Team USA hater card.

Kobe, Kidd, and co. routed the Brazilians by 37, and it wasn't even that close. Yeah, Brazil hung with U.S. somewhat in the first half (the Americans only led by six after the first quarter and our winning margin of 19 at halftime was the lowest of the tournament), Team USA broke it open in the second quarter and never looked back. Some notes from this latest poor example of an international competition:

- Kobe and Lebron might get most of the media attention, but probably the most dangerous American baller has been Carmelo Anthony. He's been the U.S.'s leading scorer and is third in points per in the qualifying tournament. Melo's finally cut down on his "black hole" offensive game and stopped holding the ball for 10 seconds before deciding what to do with it. He's rebounded well and shot well from all over the court. Carmelo also has been showing off his underrated (under-used) passing skills. He put up 21 points tonight on a different array of shots (mid-range, three-point, finishing alley-oops).

- Bill Walton said something about Steve Nash being the best basketball player in the NBA. Funny. I smell another "Who You Got?" coming between Nash and J-Kidd. I don't care how many MVPs Steve has won, he can't fuck with Kobe, Bron, Duncan, or Kidd for that matter. I love his game, but the league's best player should know something about defense. I'm just saying.

- I don't know if you've heard this before, but Kobe Bryant is the best player in the world, hands down. He had 20 points on only 6-9 shooting and had a couple periods in the game where he completely stood out over everybody. His fundamental game is nice; his athleticism is still unreal even after turning 30; when he has talent around him, his court vision increases immediately; and his one-on-one offensive moves and defense is above everyone else's. On one play, Lebron tried unsuccessfully to drive past Da Silva from Brazil. He just couldn't get past him. A few plays later, Mamba absolutely used the same dude for an easy deuce. As great as Lebron is, the individual game between him and Kobe is nowhere close right now.

- I'm starting to be glad the U.S. lost all those games the last few years. The team (especially with Kobe and Kidd) just looks super-hungry right now. In terms of hunger alone, this team is favorably comparable to the '92 Dream Team. They're getting at dudes all over the court. (Once again, especially Kobe. He's harassing guards left and right. Leandro Barbosa will be having nightmares about Mamba all night. He was taken out of the game from the start and only finished with four points. When Kidd couldn't get out on the break early on, the Americans just overpowered the smaller Brazilians in the post, with dudes like the 6'9 Lebron showing a dominating mismatch inside. Then you had dudes like Chauncey Billups coming down and draining 3's in transition just because. That's the U.S. I know and love. Killers.

- It's a shame how much Deron Williams is getting Summer 2006-Chris Bosh-ed in the Tournament of Americas. He's the third-string point guard on the team and really only gets minutes in the Darko moments. I don't want to beat dead horses here, but, Kevin Durant would be a lot better with those minutes. And I know Coach K and Bryan Colangelo were counting on Chris Paul's foot being healed in time for the qualifying tournament. He looked sloppy against Brazil's second and third team. Deron just looks like he doesn't know his role or spot on the squad (kinda like Arenas last summer). I know his spot, and it's nowhere near the court. (I kid, I kid.)

I hope Argentina and Puerto Rico and all the other former welcome mats had fun during our down years, because Team USA is back. I'm talking '95-'96 Bulls back. '05 Mariah Carey back. Get down or lay down.

Or we'll have to sick the Black Mamba on you. And you don't want that shit.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Redd Hot -- Is Trey Changing His Mind About Team USA?

Michael Redd was on fire last night in Team USA's game against the Virgin Islands. Redd put up 22 points in the 123-59 rout, the second-biggest Team USA win ever. And believe me, it wasn't that close.

I'm starting to feel a tad bit different about this team and their chances for gold. With Jason Kidd in the fold, the team's offense is night and day from the last few years in international play. And Kobe is giving even proof that he's easily the best player in the world, even when he's on a team with other players that can lay that claim. Any team that he's on should be feared, well, except any team Mitch Kupchak is running.

Carmelo also looked good, dropping 22 points and shooting great from the field. Mike Miller and Amare Stoudamire each scored 13 points and the U.S. was 15-30 from 3-point land. We're almost there. Not yet, but almost.

On a side note: For all you Big East fans, there was a Carl Krauser sighting. I see moonlighting as a native of another country is the new NBA. I digress. I thought he was from the Bronx. Oh well.

The Virgin Islands were nowhere close at any part of the game. Maybe if Tim Duncan was playing. I'm still waiting to see Team USA against a top team like Argentina, France, Canada, or Puerto Rico.

But until then, we're 2-0 bitches!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hotter Than Arizona

A few days ago, I was reading Henry Abbot's TrueHoop blog about Gilbert Arenas trash-talking Richard Jefferson. Gil said that RJ is mad that he's only the third-best player from Arizona. Big shit poppin' I see. (So, Mr. Zero, who's exactly number 2?)

Yesterday, David Berri at The Wages of Wins Journal decided to do a little statistical analysis on the matter. A very interesting read.

Arizona has had a lot of great players, most have gone on to solid careers in the League. I decided to throw my own 50 cents into the discussion.

So here is my list, though not as statistical as David's, of the top 5 players in the League from the University of Lute Olsen. (note: My list is a cumulative of college and pro careers.)

1. Damon Stoudamire -- In my opinion, Gilbert Arenas isn't even the best player from Arizona. It's Mighty Mouse. Gil may be more "Now" (shout out to ESPN), but Damon was a first team All-American, finished as the Wildcats' all-time leader in 3-pointers made, finished fourth all-time in assists, led UA to the Final Four as a junior, and was a Wooden Award finalist. He was taken 7th overall by the Toronto Raptors and won Rookie of the Year in '95-'96 averaging 19 points and 9.6 assists. Stoudamire averaged 17.6 points and 8.5 assists his first five years in Canada and Portland before injuries and lost minutes on a deep Blazers squad decended his status as a top pg.

2. Gilbert Arenas -- Gil gets the nod over Sean Elliott and Mike Bibby because:
A) Agent Zero is on the verge of catching Elliott and in points scored in half as many years, and
B) Gil is an All-Star who has been the Man on his team for multiple years.
Arenas had a modest college career, breaking out his junior year when UA reached the national championship game against Duke in 2001. He was a second round pick in '01, though he got a lot of burn towards the end of his rookie year, averaging 10.6 points in 47 games. He played in all 82 games the next year and put 18.6 points in a contract year. He signed with Washington that summer and has steadily improved his ppg average every year except '07, when he got hurt at the end of the season(19.6 in '04; 25.5 in '05; 29.4 in '06; 28.4 in '07).

3. Mike Bibby -- Bibby had the most team success of anybody on this list, winning the NCAA title as a freshman in '96-'97, scoring 20 points in that game against the mighty Kentucky Wildcats. He was taken 2nd in the solid '98 Draft (before Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and Jason Williams) by the Vancouver Grizzlies. He's had a solid career stats-wise, averaging a career-high 8.4 assists in '01 and a career-high 21.1 points in '06. But his biggest exploits came in the 2002 and 2004 playoffs, averaging 20.3 and 20 points, respectively, for the Sacramento Kings. In 2002, he hit a bunch of clutch shots in helping lead the Kings to within a game of the NBA Finals (where they most likely would have won.)

4. Sean Elliot -- Elliott is perhaps the best individual player ever at Arizona, winning the Wooden Award as a senior in 1989. He was drafted 3rd overall by the San Antonio Spurs, traded to the Detroit Pistons in 1992, then traded back to the Spurs in '94. He was mostly a solid veteran role player during his career, culminating in helping the Spurs win the '99 championship, which may or may not have actually happened. Came back to play in 2000 after having a kidney transplant (given to him by his brother).

5. Jason Terry -- My Mavs hatred notwithstanding, Terry has to make this list. He was UA's all-time leader in steals. He was drafted 10th overall in a good draft ('99) by the Hawks and became the first Hawk since Stacey Augmon to make an all-Rookie Team. JT averaged a career-high 21.7 points in 2001-01 for Atlanta. He's averaged 18 points a game since his rookie year. He's never been an All-Star (and probably never will be) but he's been a catalyst on a very good Mavericks team that were two games from a title in '06.

We The Best

Good times all around. The U.S. Men's Team manhandled Venezuela 112-69 last night in the first game of the preliminary round. An ass-whooping of Texas Ranger-like proportions. Maybe not that bad, but still.

Some interesting notes from the game:

- I know I have my doubts about Team USA, but I still feel very comfortable as long as Kobe Bryant is on the team. He increases the intensity level by about 10 when he's out there. He was an absolute beast on defense. And after he settled down on offense, he was a more all-around complete Kobe, which is when he's at his best. (Of course, he did play with a bunch of talented players. Step your game up, Kupchak.) KB led the team in floor burns, which is crazy, considering that he's like the best player in the world.

- Venezuela was definitely not the best test for Team USA. No NBA players among them and their leading scorer (Greivis Vasquez, point guard for the University of Maryland) only had 12 points and was harassed all night by the Black Mamba.

- Jason Kidd only had 4 assists, a number that is sure to go up in the upcoming contests.

- On the flip side, the ball movement Team USA showed last night was magnificent. Everyone made it a point to get each other the rock, a rarity among multiple stars used to being the alpha dog.

- The negative about that is that over-passing has been a thorn in the U.S.'s side since 2002. Dudes start thinking its the All-Star Game or something. And the upcoming zone defenses will put a short halt to all the flashy dimes.

- Michael Redd could be this summer's premier zone-buster. (Like Chris Mullin in 1992, Reggie Miller in '96, and Ray Allen in '00.) 7-12 shooting and 3-5 beyond the arc.

- All in all, it was just the first game against a weaker opponent. Remember we blew out Puerto Rico in the preliminary round in '04 before they dominated us in the actual tournament.

Team USA played really well, but had a few missteps last night. Namely...

- Overall bad shooting from 3 point land. Mike Miller (2-8), Chauncey Billups (1-4) and 'Melo (1-3) struggled while the team only shot 38%.

- Too many isolations. Carmelo was the main culprit. The offense became somewhat stagnant and Team USA struggled to score for small periods. Put the ball in Kidd's hands and watch how the offense flows freely. Plus, all the isos will be irrelevant once stronger squads employ the zone defenses.

Check out Team USA tonight vs. Canada on ESPN Classic.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Finally, Some Real Basketball

I'm a basketball junkie.

Whether it be long couch sessions watching ESPN Classic's NBA's Greatest Games or NBA TV or even the 2007 Final Four games I recorded or the NBA Summer League games on my DVR; the point is, I need basketball to watch.

That's what makes the summer so frustrating. On one hand, you have the ending of the playoffs, then the Draft, and then the summer leagues, and then you might be able to handle a little chill time. You know, try to recoup some of the six months you wasted searching through box scores and ignoring dates to check scores on your phone. But that need for down time doesn't last long, or not at all.

After the summer leagues, the free agency period starts and then there comes the trade rumors and obligatory big deal that sets the world on its ear. Then, as fans, we can't wait to see the new players along with our favorite rookies with their new respective teams. (Luckily, NBA Live usually comes out around late-September-early October, but even that feels like forever. And never mind NCAA March Madness. That comes out late November.My suggestion: Get into NFL Madden deep and ride that out until the fall.)

The point is, I, like every other true hoops fan, have been yearning for some real basketball competition since that travesmockery of an NBA Finals last June.

Thankfully, tonight we get our first real look at the U.S. Men's National Team. The U.S. squad, sans my dude Kevin Durant, will face Venezuala in the first game in the preliminary round.

We get to see Kobe. We get to see Lebron. We get to see Carmelo, Amare, Kidd, and the rest of the guys that made the final cut. I should be super-excited right? Yes and no. I have some causes for concern about this squad, and not just because Mike Krzyzewski is coaching. (Well, actually that's one of the main reasons.) Too many issues are keeping me from truly staking 100% faith in America's reclaiming world dominance in roundball.

1. Coach K is Running the Show -- Why Krzyzewski was picked to be the U.S. guiding light is beyond me. He hasn't been at the top of his sport since 2001. He has very minimal experience in coaching a large group of grown men superstars (His Duke teams all catered to his system. Even when he had a bunch of All-Americans on one team they all conformed and most of them never reached their full potential. UNC's Roy Williams would have been better suited for this group than Mr. American Express.) And most of all, he's Coach K. From Duke. About 87% of the players in the NBA probably hate his guts.

2. The Best Players aren't Playing -- Sure we have Kobe, Bron, Melo, Amare, and Kidd. Sure we finally have true point guards, a few shooters, some big men. But we don't have the best point guards (besides Kidd. Deron Williams is really good and Chauncey will be used more as a shooter than distributor. But no Chris Paul or Baron Davis. What country on the planet can stop a trio of Kidd, Paul, or BD? I didn't think so.) And tell me you wouldn't rather have Ray Allen and an un-retired Reggie Miller in place of Redd and Miller. And why we're at it, where's Garnett, Duncan and Shaq? Add them with Amare and you have the reincarnation of the Monstars. We're the only country in the world who isn't sending out our very best players. (Though some are due to injury.)

3. Some Players' Games Don't Fit the International Style -- Namely Lebron James and Tyson Chandler. Don't get me wrong. I am admittedly one of Lebron's biggest fans, but nothing about his game says "international play". The zones always limit most of his driving ability; and he's still not a good enough mid-range shooter to be very effective in the half-court. The zones also take away much of his court vision and passing. Tracy McGrady would be a better fit for the U.S. team (but with that nagging back of his, let's hold off on that for a few summers.) Chandler's main (read: only) strengths are shot-blocking and offensive rebounds. We have Dwight Howard for that, and he's much better at it than Tyson. His limited offensive repetoire makes him a huge liability in half-court sets.

4. We Still Don't Get The International Rules -- In Team USA's game Saturday against the US Select Team, with the Senior Team down in the final seconds and after the Select Team's Al Jefferson missed a free throw, Carmelo Anthony grabbed the rebound and immediately called timeout. Much to his and the big boy squad's chagrin, only the coach can call a timeout in international competition. (Why didn't Coach Amex tell his players that beforehand? Beats me. ESPN's Chris Sheridan also questions if the Duke coach can lead this team in the article above.) That speaks volumes about the team's continued inability to adapt to the FIBA rules. The three-point line is shorter, the game is effectively shorter, and the ball can be knocked off the rim. We still haven't figured out how to combat these different rules and superior athleticism is not going to solve it.

Besides all that, I'm glad to have some real basketball back in my life. I was thisclose to watching a Houston Comets game. Maybe not.

If the internet connection on my laptop wasn't being a total bitch the last couple of days, I would give a live diary of the game against Venezuela tonight. But since that won't be happening, see you tomorrow with a recap. Go U.S.! Go Coach K!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

R.I.P. Eddie Griffin

The Houston Chronicle is reporting former Rockets forward Eddie Griffin was killed last week.

Reportedly, he was killed when his SUV crashed into a moving train in Southeast Houston. His body was so badly burned that his body had to be identified through his dental records.

Griffin was drafted 7th overall by the New Jersey Nets out of Seton Hall in 2001. He was subsequently traded to the Rockets in exchange for Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins, and Brandon Armstrong. He turned out to be a bright spot for us, blocking shots and being a threat from the outside.

Unfortunately, he couldn't stay out of trouble with the law. He was released in '03 by the Rockets after several arrests. The Timberwolves picked him up and he was with them until he was released last season.

Eddie Griffin, God bless your life.

Remembering A Hip-Hop Hoops Classic

While writing my Tim Hardaway semi-tribute the other day where I mentioned renting the same NBA video, I started remembering other video tapes and movies I used to love. I started to think about the one movie that I at the time couldn't get enough of.

Above the Rim was that movie. It had everything. Playground basketball, Tupac right before the apex of his career, a young Duane Martin, Marlon Wayans, Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris) and the best soundtrack ever. It also could have been more of a documentary about inner city basketball than Hoop Dreams.

Above the Rim was the story of Kyle Lee Watson (Martin), a young high school basketball star guard aspiring to get himself to the NBA and his mother out of the hood. But like every inner city hoops prodigy, the ills of the city seemed to draw him in. This story is reflected through the real lives of basketball youngsters. Whether it be guys who were drawn in deeply (Caron Butler, Stephen Jackson, Allen Iverson) or dudes that brushed against it (JamesOn Curry, Sebastian Telfair, etc.), the streets can either bite you or swallow you whole when you stand too close. Kyle Watson was a shining example of it. He got too close to Birdie (Tupac) and it almost cost him not only his free ride to Georgetown, it almost cost him his life.

Above the Rim was also a true basketball film. As much as I love Love and Basketball, let's be real, it was a chick flick. Playing one-on-one for someone's heart, though romantic, is not gangsta. The movie started off with Kyle balling in a high school game, killing dudes until his ego got the best of him, which was another side story in the flick. Humble yourself or life will. From the one-on-one scenes with Flip (Bernie Mac) and Shep (Leon Robinson) to the playground tournament at the end (which looks like it was shot at the Rucker), the actual basketball scenes were on point.

Above the Rim was never a commercial success in the same vein as He Got Game but it was definitely a hip-hop classic. It came out around the same time as Nas and Biggie's debut masterpieces Illmatic and Ready to Die, which ran New York at the time. It featured a rap star right on the cusp of national superstardom in a role that seemed tailor-made for him. Just about everybody knows a Birdie from their neighborhood, whether they're still running the streets, locked up or in the grave. Birdie epitomized the street hustler who wanted his hand in everything: drugs, clubs, women, basketball. Anything that would be in his interest. His whole point in Kyle Watson was the fact that he could potentially win money for him in the Shootout Tournament. He didn't care about his family (Shep), Kyle, his soldiers, bums (Flip). All that mattered was that he came out on top. Pac was possibly the only person alive that could play that role and he played the shit out of it. (Some would argue that he took his roles in Above the Rim and Juice a little too seriously in real life.)

In the same token, every character in the movie seemed to be a reflection of real life personalities in the hood. There was the father figure guiding hand (Shep), the single mother working late hours to support her son (Ms. Watson), the friend that took the wrong path in life and seemed to not be able to re-direct (Bugaloo), the loyal tough guy soldier, and, of course, the neighborhood laughingstock bum (Flip).

That was the thing about Above the Rim, everything about it seemed real. There was no Hoosiers-style game-winning shot at the end followed by everybody hugging. There was a park shooting that left one of the main characters with his arm in a cast taking a bullet for the young dude he was trying to protect all along. Kyle made it to Georgetown, he even hit the game-winning shot on national TV, but not before overcoming the obstacles of the unforgiving neighborhood he was born in. The last scene was a poetic summary of the whole movie; Kyle hitting the game-winning shot using the same advice that Shep had taught him, all the while Shep and Kyle's mother are looking on, proud.

And then the screen fades to Warren G's "Regulate", always one of my favorite parts of the movie. From one classic to another.

Some NBA Ish

- Damon Stoudamire says he wants out of Memphis. I don't blame him. With Mike Conley, Jr. destined to be the Grizz starting pg and Kyle Lowry still around, Mighty Mouse's minutes will stay getting eaten up. I say he works out a buyout and take the next plane to Boston.

- In an effort to prove me wrong, Kevin Durant didn't make the last cut for the U.S. Men's National Team. I thought his versatility and shooting would help, but what do I know? Coach K knows way more about fielding underachieving teams than I do.

- Richard Jefferson donated some big money to the University of Arizona. And former teammate Gilbert Arenas is not impressed. Gil sounds like he's hating here. If I was RJ, I'd tell him that I don't go back and forth with gunners who haven't made it past the second round.

- And finally, wouldn't it be funny if David Stern was fired? I'm sure Suns fans would be elated. Real talk, I'm a little concerned that the NBA won't deny that they had prior knowledge of a ref gambling on games. Wouldn't you be?

And I figured I'd throw my two cents in on the whole Michael Vick saga. Me personally, I thought Vick would take it to trial. But I guess the fact that your three co-defendants basically sold you out for less time makes it harder to win a federal case that was originally meant to bring you down above all. As I mentioned in my previous post, I hope this serves as a lesson for the next athlete that you can be loyal; you can even be loyal to a fault sometimes; but you can't be loyal to the fact that you could go to jail and lose a big part of your career (not to mention a lot of money).

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's A Celebration, Bitches...Hopefully

Your boy is 22 years old today. Leos stand up!

It's been an interesting 12 months since I turned 21 last August. Peyton Manning won his first Super Bowl. Florida won back-to-back college basketball championships after winning the national title in football. Barry Bonds broke the home run record. Michael Vick saw his 2007 season (and possibly his career) go from potentially great to non-existent in the span of 3 months.

I got a new girlfriend, a new car, moved back into an old house, and welcomed back old friends. And I drank a lot of alcohol this year. A lot.

I look forward to an even greater 22nd year on this earth with my family, friends, and the readers and commenters of I Ball For Real. I appreciate all of ya'll.

But being that I'm the birthday boy, I have some wishes. Let's pray all of these come to fruition. I wish:

-That the Houston Rockets win the 2008 NBA Championship.

- If the Rockets don't win it, that the Denver Nuggets win the title. (For Iverson's sake.)

- That the Houston Texans at least become respectable.

- That the New York Yankees win the 2007 World Series.

- That Alex Rodriguez makes the world kiss his ass.

- That the iPhone comes to T-Mobile.

- That Steve Francis turns into Steve Nash (you know, with better defense)

- That the New England Patriots don't win the Super Bowl.

- That Baron Davis stays healthy all year.

- That the world gets to witness Chris Paul in the playoffs.

- That Kevin Durant tears the league apart.

- That Vince Young actually gets NFL receivers.

- That Michael Vick's career really isn't over.

- That athletes stop acting like idiots.

- That the NBA and college hoops seasons hurry up and get here.

- That the NBA and college hoops seasons are actually good.

- That the North Carolina Tar Heels win their second hoops title in three years.

- That dances in hip-hop go far away and die.

- That Graduation outsells Curtis on September 11.

- That I graduate before I turn 23.

- Speaking of 23, that if the Rockets or Nuggets don't win it all, I wish Lebron and the Cavs win the championship.

- That I can make a lot of money not doing any actual work.

- That Minorities stop killing each other.

- That Season 2 of the Boondocks is as good or better than the first season.

- That hip-hop becomes great again.

- And of course, that I Ball For Real becomes one of the best sports sites in the world.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"You From the Era Where Snitchin' Is The Shit"

"I'm afraid of the future." - Jay-Z, "30 Something"

As I'm sure all of you may have heard by now, Michael Vick's remaining co-defendants in the federal dogfighting case both plead guilty today and opted to testify against Vick. The co-defendants (Purnell Peace, Quanis Phillips) also double as his best friends. Ouch! Damn shame.

What's the world coming to when you can't even trust your ex-con weedcarriers?

The answer: it's always been like that. Historically, most organized criminals facing long time in prison have ratted out big factions of their fellow mobsters (see: Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, Henry Hill). Refuted drug dealers (Nikky Barnes, Frank Lucas) also cooperated with the law to save themselves from dying in prison. Three dogfighters from Virginia really isn't that big a deal.

Remember folks, this is America. We're a nation that is consistent with the mindframe of "survival of the fittest". The underlying theme in that frame of mind is "save your own ass". Trust me, I'm not condoning ratting out your supposed best friend who probably funded your and your family's lifestyle, but they did nothing pretty much the whole world hasn't been doing before them.

The truth is, something like this was bound to happen to a big-name athlete. From Allen Iverson to Ray Lewis to Pacman Jones, how many times do you hear athletes say after getting in trouble because of friends that they need to "watch the people around them"? A billion times by my count. I'm as loyal as anyone on this planet, but I draw the line when you start impeding my progress and taking me down your path of screwupness.

Vick obviously never learned that (unlike the rest of this country, I'm reserving judgment until a little thing called the legal system plays out. But if he cops a plea, I'm through with him) and now he'll probably be the official poster boy for what can happen when you hang around the wrong people. He's now left on a dangerous island by the people who he never expected to abandon him. That is his biggest crime.

No wonder his awareness rating on Madden is so low.

Preseason Madness

Yesterday, Slam posted their Preseason College Top 25, which was an interesting read. I have been wanting to do a college preseason top 25 for a little while now, but a few things stood in my way (girlfriend, other topics, just didn't feel like it).

I agreed with most of the selections, though I personally would've put Memphis at number 2, you know with them advancing to the Elite Eight, bringing everyone back, then adding the number 1 point guard in the nation. That's just me though.

So here is my Preseason College Top 25:

1. North Carolina - The nation's top returning point guard (Tywon Lawson), one of the nation's best big men (Tyler Hansborough), a potentially deadly shooter (Wayne Ellington), plus a wealth of swingmen (Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green) and big men (Deon Thompson, Alex Stephenson) + one of the nation's elite coaches + a Trey Jones bias = the number 1 team in the country.

2. Memphis - Chicago pg Derrick Rose (I promise this is the last time I mention his name until the season starts) comes in to Memph-town as the number 1 high school pg in the country and has some talented weapons waiting on him. Chris Douglas-Roberts highlights a group of veterans that made a surprising trip to the Elite Eight despite the lack of a true pg to guide them. Rose could put them over the top.

3. Kansas - The Jayhawks return a bunch of talented youngsters despite losing versatile forward Julian Wright to the NBA. Darrell Arthur will be expected to make a big leap this year as will pg Sherron Collins, who should move into the starting lineup this season. Kansas immediately stayed in elite status when swingman Brandon Rush decided to come back to school.

4. UCLA - The arrival of big man recruit Kevin Love automatically makes the Bruins a contender. And he'll be needed in the giant-heavy Pac-10. Darren Collison still mans the point and Josh Shipp will step up as a go-to scorer on the wing.

5. Georgetown - The Hoya resurgence is coming full circle (though I should drop them lower for not retiring Allen Iverson's #3 jersey). Center Roy Hibbert made the bold decision to rejoin forward DeJuan Summers and Patrick Ewing, Jr. in the frontcourt. Georgetown will feature fresh young talent with All-American backcourt Chris Wright and Austin Freeman.

6. Louisville - Coach Pitino's squad lost no one from last year's veteran club. Expect a big sophomore year from point guard Edgar Sosa, one of the most underrated freshman last year. Derrick Caracter came on strong late last season and he'll most likely continue that improvement. Terrence Williams and Juan Palacios are still formiddable vet leaders for Louisville.

7. Arizona - Now that the Mustafa Shakur Experiment is over, freshman guard Jerryd Bayless will try to keep the seat warm until '08 recruit Brandon Jennings steps on campus. Hopefully (Houston native) Jawann McClellan can bounce back from an underachieving season and provide the scoring he's capable of. The loss of Marcus Williams will hurt a little bit, but only until Wildcat fans realize they have one of premier collegiate talents in the country in Chase Budinger.

8. USC - The O.J. Mayo show now stops (temporarily) in Los Angeles. With Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt gone, Mayo will definitely get the opportunity to show why he's one of the most heralded recruits ever (repeat: ever!). Daniel Hackett joins him in the backcourt and sophomore Taj Gibson will once again captivate the Trojan fans with his athletic ability.

9. Tennessee - Tyler and JaJuan Smith (no relation) will step up as leaders for the Vols with senior guard Chris Lofton gone. They'll get much help from guard Ramar Smith and sophomore forward Duke Crews.

10. Indiana - Freshman scoring sensation Eric Gordon joins a Hoosier squad highlighted by forward D.J. White and is hungry to return to the elite Indiana days.

11. Kansas State - The biggest loss was coach Bob Huggins' defection to his alma mater West Virginia, but freshman Michael Beasley and the returning Bill Walker should still do just fine.

12. Stanford - The 7-foot Lopez twins (Brook and Robin) should carry the Cardinal deep into the Pac-10.

13. Washington State - Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver lead an underrated squad that surprised many in '07.

14. Michigan State - Expect an improved Maurice Joseph to help out leading man Drew Neitzel.

15. Marquette - I'm sorry, Dominic James is one of the most overrated guards in the country. With that said, he's good enough to get the Golden Eagles into the top 20.

16. Gonzaga - Derek Ravio, the homeless man's Luke Ridnour, leads this perennial underachiever that also features guards Jeremy Pargo and Micah Downs. Josh Heytvelt will be a star in the WCC.

17. Virginia - Potential ACC Player of the Year Sean Singletary should be enough to keep the Cavaliers in the ACC hunt.

18. Alabama - Big man duo Richard Hendrix and Jamareo Davidson will continue to roam the paint in the SEC. The loss of Ronald Steele will hurt.

19. Texas - Losing Kevin Durant after one season is like getting a once in a lifetime date with Beyonce, then not knowing exactly how to talk to her (screwing up any chance of getting anywhere that night), then her leaving you with a short kiss on the cheek (like the Longhorns' quick bow out in the Tourney) saying on her way out, "I wanted to stay but I can't pass up on Jay-Z". That's how badly the Player of the Year was used last year. Hopefully, D.J. Augustine will clean up his erratic play.

20. Florida - With their top four scorers gone from the back-to-back title team, the Gators get this far because of Billy "Wishy-Washy" Donovan and a great recruiting class (Jai Lucas, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus, Adam Allen).

21. UConn - Center Hasheem Thabeet and guard A.J. Price should team up to restore the school back from their (temporary) rebuilding phase.

22. Syracuse - All-Americans Donte Green and Johnny Flynn will join the Orange and leading scorer Eric Devendorf to surprise a lot of people in the Big East.

23. Villanova - The folks in Philly are hoping that incoming freshman point Corey Fisher can have a Scottie Reynolds-like breakout freshman season in '07-'08. Corey Stokes will also be a welcome addition in the backcourt.

24. Kentucky - New coach Billy Gillispie will have an abundance of talent to work with this season. He did a great job of convincing late signee Patrick Patterson to join a talented Wildcat squad along with Mike Williams and Alex Legion.

25. Duke - How the mighty have fallen? The Blue Devils best hope this year will be to sneak up on people (Duke sneak up? Wow!) and rely on sharpshooting freshmen Kyle Singler and Taylor King along with sophomore Gerald Henderson.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Life and Times of Tim Hardaway Vol. 10

After reading Ty Keenan's post about Run-TMC the other day, I had an epiphany: Tim Hardaway at a time was one of the illest players in the league, and a top-5 pg, easily. He was that good. So, since we are deeply entrenched in the dog days of summer (re: boring), I, Trey Jones, and the good folks at I Ball For Real bring you the Life and Times of Tim Hardaway. Enjoy.

When I was about 9 years old, way the f*ck back in '94, my cousin Kendrick would come stay over at my house for days at a time during that summer. We would always go to the local video store and rent movies. Besides a few Wrestlemania tapes, we always rented the same "NBA Superstars" video. It featured Kenny Anderson (my favorite college point guard of the '90s), Shaquille O'Neal (coming into his dominant self), and Derrick Coleman (one of the best young big man of the '90s).

But my favorite part of the video was when they got to Tim Hardaway, the dynamic, 6-foot point guard from the Golden State Warriors. Hardaway was, at the time, one of my favorite players and was playing on one of the most exciting teams of my generation.

Timmy was the head man (behind head coach Don Nelson) of the infamous Run-TMC (Tim, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin) juggernaut that run-and-gunned their way to stardom in the early '90s. But his story as one of the most underrated stars of our era began way before that.

Hardaway came out of Chicago, a city that can rival NYC as a top-flight breeding ground for point gods (Isiah Thomas, Hardaway, Will Bynum, Sean Dockery, Dee Brown,Sherron Collins, Derrick Rose.) He went on to star at the University of Texas-El Paso, winning the Naismith Award for the nation's best college player six feet or under.

Hardaway was taken by the Warriors with the 14th pick in the '89 Draft, after future journeymen like Michael Smith, Tom Hammonds, and Randy White. Timmy hit the ground running in Oakland. By his second year in the league, Tim Bug was an All-Star and dropping almost a double-double per game. (He averaged 22.9 points and 9.7 assists in '90-'91. He topped the double-double mark the next year.) In a league that was supposed to be tough on point guards, Hardaway had not killed that theory but shamed the critics that said he was too small to succeed in the L.

Tim was beginning to leave his mark in the NBA. He was charismatic (his "I Got Skills" commercial featuring Spike Lee remains an all-time favorite.); he was an All-Star (even giving up his starting spot to Magic Johnson in the classic '92 All-Star Game); and the Warriors were winning (they made it to the Western Conference semifinals against the Lakers in '91, losing in five.) But his biggest trademark would come in the form of a devastating move that was far ahead of its time.

The Killer Crossover was about as unstoppable a move as there has ever been in the NBA. He was too quick and that Chi-town handle was impossible to stop. Even though his move would go on to be overshadowed by another killer crossover, true hoops fan know who was the originator.

Hardaway was the perfect point guard for the revolutionary run-and-gun offense in Golden State. (Contrary to what people believe, Run-TMC was the first true quick offense/no defense team; the Showtime Lakers not only were a good defensive team but they had a dominant low-post presence. The Warriors had neither.) Timmy ran the fast break like he was born for it. Mullin and Richmond might have scored more, but Tim Bug was the captain of the ship.

Of course, the good times didn't last that long. Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber came along and things dissolved between them and coach Nelson. Hardaway was traded to the Miami Heat in '96 and instantly made them a contender in the East. Unfortunately, the Heat could never get over the mountainous hump that was Michael Jordan and lost to the number 8 seeded New York Knicks in '99.

The last days of Hardaway's career in Miami were spent with him becoming a heavily overweight three-point jacker before he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in 2001, who then sent him to Denver for another underrated pg, Nick Van Exel. Not too long after, he retired and became one of the worst ESPN on-air analysts ever before putting a Shaq-size shoe in his mouth by admitting that he "hates gay people" on Dan Le Batard's radio show in Miami. A sad end to a legendary career.

No matter what, in real basketball circles, Tim Hardaway will be always recognized as one of the best point guards of a great point guard era. And he will always hold a special place with me as one of my favorite players of all-time. He was the reason I stayed in my driveway practicing that crossover. He was one of the main reasons I wore number 10 in high school. And he was the reason we kept renting that damn "NBA Superstars" video.

From The U.S., You Just Lay Down Slow

After taking a few losses too many in past competitions, the USA Basketball Team got its mind right, money right, and is ready for war. (We're still run by Dubya Bush, after all.)

In 2002, Team USA came in 6th at the World Championships. 3rd in '04. 3rd in '06. Our aura of invincibility is pretty much over and it's back to proving we still running this world hoops shit.

Before Jerry Colangelo took over USA Basketball in 2005, the squads were always glorified All-Star fantasy teams in the same vein as the dominant '92 Dream Team and the slightly-less dominant '96 gold medal team.

Not anymore. Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski have devoted their time to fielding a squad of more than just the league's biggest names, but an actual real team. There are scorers, slashers, shooters, defenders, big men, and distributors.

The USA roster has to trimmed from 15 to 12 by next week, so I'll look at the team and see who should be in and who should be gonzo. Keep in mind the number of players to withdraw from USA Camp to injury or personal reasons (Paul, Bosh, Battier, Hinrich, Wade, Brand, etc.)


Jason Kidd - Any team with that features Kidd is automatically dangerous. He's simply the best pg in the world. Period. He'll get everyone open shots, even in the midst of a zone. Just remember this: He's 33-0 in USA Basketball competition.

Kobe Bryant - The best individual player in the world. Period. Kobe's competitiveness alone will fuel the team as he'll definitely bring out the best in the likes of Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Michael Redd - The team needs scorers and shooters, and Redd fits both categories.

Chauncey Billups - Another point guard who doubles as a versatile scorer and consistent shooter.

Mike Miller - One of the league's best shooters can play either swingman position.


Lebron James - Even though his game doesn't fit the international game at all, he's still the most talented basketball player on the planet. (Not best, but most talented.) If he can get into the zone D, his passing will definitely come in handy.

Carmelo Anthony - Last summer's team star will provide the team with consistent scoring and mid to long range shooting and competitiveness.

Tayshaun Prince - With Battier pulling out, the squad needs another wing defender, which is Prince's description to a tee.

Kevin Durant - The wild card of USA Basketball. He can shoot the lights out when he's hot, plus he can score in and out and defend inside with his length. I say he stays.


Amare Stoudemire - Improved mid-range shooting makes him more dangerous in international competition.

Dwight Howard - Will dominate inside with his beast-like dunks and shot-blocking; also will continue his domination of the offensive and defensive boards.

Tyson Chandler - Will contribute to Howard's rebounding advantage and will be effective with his shot-blocking.

The major notable cut would be Deron Williams; and I made that cut in favor of Chandler, who is needed with Bosh's withdrawal due to injury. Billups makes it over him with his outside shooting.

Now, with all that said, the Olympics aren't until '08 and a lot of the players should be better/healthy. There's nothing like international embarrassment to motivate Americans to start kicking ass again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Only 8 More Weeks!!

Just putting you on alert. NBA Live '08 is almost here snitches! Get ready, me and my Rockets are coming.

See ya'll in October.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Making The Best Point

"I dish out, like the point guard off your favorite team, without doubt." - Hov, "Dead Presidents"

Coming up in the early-to-mid '90s, also known as the Jordan Era, the basketball world seemed perfect. Every kid dreaming about soaring through the air, hitting fadeaways and dominating through scoring not only had Mike, but Clyde Drexler, Dominique Wilkins, Steve Smith (don't front), Glen Rice, and Mitch Richmond, to name a few. Big men like Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaq, David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning, Mutombo, and Patrick Ewing ran rampant through the league with guys like Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace coming out of college.

But for little men like myself, it was all about the point guards. The generals. The quarterbacks. Magic was just leaving and Isiah was winding down, but we still had dudes like Jason Kidd, Gary Payton, Tim Hardaway, John Stockton, Kevin Johnson, Mark Jackson, Muggsy Bogues, Mark Price, and Penny Hardaway. Had me feeling like small was the thang to be.

At some point during the beginning of the late 90s, it seemed the most important position in basketball was falling off. Point guards didn't want to be distributors anymore; assist totals plummeted (some of you might remember when being a top assist man in the NBA meant averaging at least over 10 a game); and the overall quality of the game suffered heavily.

(Though he's my favorite player, I blame Allen Iverson for this pg plague. Even in college, he revolutionized the position. Slashing at all opportunities, dunking on big dudes at will, taking advantage of every mismatch no matter what, AI changed the way little men looked at pgs. No longer would they be Stockton-type pick-and-roll distributors who fed the post and hit open jumpers. Iverson triggered this movement. He was never me-first; he was talent-first, and he had more than anybody on the court.)

To me, the recent revolution of the true point guard began with the 2001-02 season. Kidd had just been traded to the Nets for Stephon Marbury, who fell and bumped his head and thought he could have the same impact as a scoring guard as Iverson. Kidd took the same players Marbury couldn't lead to the NBA Finals, coming in 2nd to Tim Duncan in MVP voting (though he really should've won). The Nets made it back to the Finals in 2003, again with Kidd as the playmaking catalyst.

That same season, University of Texas freshman T.J. Ford showed college lead guards how to run NCAA squads, becoming the first pg ever to lead Division I in assists. Ford went on to win NCAA Freshman of the Year in 2002. The next season, Ford won the National Player of the Year award while leading UT to the Final Four.

That season, in 2003, I remember watching "College Gamenight" on ESPN one night and they were discussing T.J. Somebody stepped up and said that he was one of the best pgs in the country, including the NBA. Big statement.

With Steve Nash's recent back-to-back MVP run and the resurgence of the point guard in the college and high school ranks, the art that is the true pg is back and headed in a great direction. So we must now debate.

Who are the best point guards (NBA, amateur) in America?


1. Jason Kidd - In my humble opinion, Jason Kidd is still the best point guard in the world. Two Finals appearances, 5-time assist leader, 2nd player ever to average a triple-double for an entire postseason, 7th all-time in assists. He even holds the NCAA record for assists average for a freshman. The downside to him is that he's been traded twice (though his teams slumped after his departure) and was rumored to be traded again. Also, he's consistently been a horrid shooter from the outside his entire career. But he's still one of the best playmakers ever and one of the top defensive guards of this era.

2. Steve Nash - Of course he's next. Nash has led the league in assists the past three years (which included consecutive MVPs) and was one of the top assist men before that. He's definitely raised his game in his later years in the NBA, a feat rare in little men like him. Nash (like Kidd) can be credited for bringing back the art of passing, seemingly making it cool again. He led the Suns to their best record in 12 years in 2005. The negatives with Steve is that he still hasn't been able to take a loaded Suns team to the Finals and his window is closing rapidly. An almost perfect point guard, his major weakness being horrendous one-on-one defense.

This is where it gets extremely tricky (and controversial). The next two are Chris Paul and Deron Williams. They both have similar numbers (CP: 17 ppg, 8.9 apg; Deron: 16 ppg, 9.3). Do you put Paul ahead of Deron due to lack of established surrounding talent or do you give Deron the nod due to his breakthrough postseason performance?

Blaze says: "Chris Paul because he can create at will and is dominant with the rock. He always finds the right man and is a leader. He needs a better jumper but I would rather have him." Well, then. My boy Frank (from Dallas, by the way, where Deron is from says: "D-Will can do all the things that CP3 can do plus he is more of an all around scorer, can post up and wear down the opposition with his size and strength. Plus he from the crib." Damn hometown bias.

3. Chris Paul - I'm a big fan of both CP3 and D-Will, but this is a question of who I think is better, not who I like more. Skill for skill, Paul is a better creator, better off the dribble, better scorer after two years, and averaged 0.4 less assists than Deron, even though Chris was stuck on considerably less talented squad that was ravaged by injuries his rookie and sophomore seasons. CP3 still managed to lead the Hornets to the brink of the postseason in both years, capturing Rookie of the Year in 2006. His weakness still continues to be his outside shot, which lets teams play off of him in the halfcourt (though he still gets into the lane at will). It also doesn't help that he has yet to play a playoff game, but I'm taking Paul and I'm happy with my decision. A little bit.

4. Deron Williams - It's hard to put D-Will this low, especially after the playoff explosion he had in '07. Deron and CP will be #1 and #2 in the league in a short amount of time, though, in whatever order. Deron came along slowly his rookie year, typical for a Jerry Sloan first-year player, but had the reins mostly taken off in 2006-07. It culminated with him coming in 2nd in assists per game (9.3) to go along with his 16 ppg. He's learned how to master the pick and roll perfectly and his size and strength get him into the lane any time he wants. His outside shot has gotten more consistent, making him a more complete offensive weapon and the perfect pg for Sloan's system. The only knocks on his game are his tendency to sometimes be too passive (as evident by Games 2 and 3 of the GS series last year) and he still hasn't become that dominant off the dribble like Nash and Paul.

5. Baron Davis - BD's gotta be on this list, right? If it weren't for his chronic injuries, he could easily be #2-4 on this list. He delivered one of the best postseason performances in years by almost single-handedly slaying the number 1 seeded Mavs in round one of the playoffs. He's about as dominant a point guard there is today (20 ppg, 8 apg) and is widely considered one of the toughest matchups in the league, regardless of position. Baron has always been a great passer and distributor from his days at UCLA, to Charlotte/New Orleans, to Golden State, his problem has just been staying healthy and toning his game down, as he's been sometimes too erratic and (before last season) not much of a on-court leader.

Outside Of The League:

Now for the dudes that are doing it for free. This is the group that's gonna be responsible for a lot of trade ups in the next couple of drafts.

1. Tywon Lawson - Tywon enters his sophomore season as arguably the best point guard in Division I. Ty had an up-and-down freshman season (mostly up) that ended in an Elite Eight loss to Georgetown which Lawson didn't play so well in. The 5'11 waterbug is uncontrollable off the dribble and in the open court, where coach Roy Williams wants him the most. Tywon should cut down on the turnovers and run the Tar Heel squad (which will be ranked very high again this season) like his predecessor, Raymond Felton did in that '05 title run.

2. Derrick Rose - As the supposed D-Rose lovefest continues. (Note: Let me clear up something, my post the other day comparing Rose to O.J. Mayo was not meant to demean Mayo's skills or purposely catapult Rose far above him, it was meant for me to express my opinion about a debate I have seen taking place for a while now. Yes, I thought Rose was better coming into the post, but that was the aim, to claim he was better and provide the reasons I thought he was better. With that said, I think Mayo is talented as f*ck and will be one of the best players in the nation next year.) Anyway, Rose comes in as the piece that will supposedly push last year's Elite Eight Memphis squad to a long-awaiting national title. He brings unstoppable scoring and uncanny court vision to a team that already likes to get up and down the court for easy baskets. He, like Lawson, should go very high in next year's draft.

3. O.J. Mayo - Mayo comes in with as much hype and flair as any college freshman...ever! He's been a basketball prodigy since the 7th grade and rightfully so. Dude has a silky smooth game and the confidence to go along with it. He might not be the purest of pgs, but he possesses unique passing ability to go along with his size (6'5, 210). He's a proven big-time scorer and the Trojans will need it after losing two of their top scorers from '07 (Gabe Pruitt, Nick Young). The city of Los Angeles needs more sports stars, and O.J. will definitely fit the bill playing at Southern Cal next year (like Rose, most likely his only year).

4. Darren Collison - The man that will be facing Mayo (in what looks to be a very entertaining UCLA-USC rivalry) comes in at number 4. Collison is the quintessential solid college point guard. He defends extremely well, distributes the ball evenly, hits a fair amount of shots when open, doesn't do too much and not too little, and he wins games. He's played in back-to-back Final Fours (he was Jordan Farmer's backup in '06) and has been the steady leadership the Bruins needs. He doesn't do anything flashy, unless lockdown defense is flashy to you. Collison doesn't provide much of creativity off the dribble, but he'll be sure to find new UCLA recruit Kevin Love pretty easily.

5. Brandon Jennings - Mr. Jennings is a 2008 product out of Los Angeles with as much creativity and flashy in his thumb as almost any guard walking. He committed to Lute Olsen's Arizona Wildcats earlier this year and has a legitimate chance to be one of the best pgs ever to play in the desert (which is saying a ton). Jennings has been tearing up AAU tournaments since last year and is the lead guard of the mighty Oak Hill powerhouse. He still makes too many unnecessary flashy plays and desperately needs to get stronger, but he's 17 and already on his way to greatness.

Yep, the true point guard is back. Let's just hope the great play of the NBA returns with it.

Allow Me To Re-Introduce Myself

While strolling through for the 60th time today, I caught a great column from new online columnist J.A. Adande personally introducing himself to the readers of the good folks at the Worldwide Leader.

After reading the column, it got me to thinking. How can I just blog to people about very touchy subjects without really throwing myself out there.

My first post was a half-assed introduction that I'm sure nobody read or gave a f*ck about. So without further ado, it is with the utmost pride and sincerity that I present this blogging, as a living testament and recollection of history in the making during our generation.

- My name is Tristan "Trey" Jones, I hail from the Southside of Houston, TX.

- I'm a featured writer for Houston Style Magazine and Strong Sports. Check those out if you're in the city.

- I went to Ross Shaw Sterling High School, class of '03.

- I played basketball for Sterling during my tenure there. Point guard to be exact.

- I'm admittedly the biggest Rockets fan on the planet. And I hate the Mavericks. I said it.

- I'm probably the biggest Jay-Z fan on the planet. Hate if you will. He still running this rap shit.

- I started blogging because I hate the word restrictions I'm confined to in the magazines I love writing for. I can't just give you 700 words about Steve Francis rejoining the Rockets.

- I think I know more about the NBA than I should know, though I welcome anybody that differs from my points.

- I absolutely, positively love to argue. Basketball, football, rap. Hell, I'll argue about something I agree with just for the fun of it.

- I hate rap nowadays. It's too disposable and basic. I grew up on Jay, Nas, 2Pac, Scarface, Biggie, Wu-Tang, UGK, S.U.C, Outkast, Ice Cube, Eminem, Talib, Mos Def, when rappers could make you dance while still throwing a little piece of knowledge in your dome.

- I think David Stern catapulted the NBA.

- I think David Stern is slowly ruining the NBA.

- I only play NFL Madden until NBA Live comes out. Call me weird.

- Allen Iverson is my favorite player of all time.

- As a former pg, I never ever modeled my game after him. That would have been T.J. Ford.

- T.J. Ford is tied for the greatest college point guard I've ever seen.

- Jason Williams is the other greatest college pg I've ever seen. Nasty he was.

- I'm a big North Carolina fan, so the above statement is very hard to admit. I hate Duke with a passion.

- I attend Texas Southern University.

- The second I get into the University of Texas for grad school, I'm going to pretend I never went to TSU. You have to be from Houston to understand why.

- As subjective and biased as I seem to be about a lot of things, I can always speak truthfully and objectively about anything. Except the Mavs. (Kidding)

- Jason Kidd is still the best point guard in the world. Period. (Post coming later about this)

- One day you'll (hopefully) see me on

- My favorite sportswriters are
Bill Simmons, Scoop Jackson, Henry Abbot at TrueHoop, J.A. Adande, everybody at Slam, just to name a few. Check them out also if you haven't already.

- I turn 22 on August 20th. Leos stand up!

- Most of all, I appreciate anybody that reads my blogs, comments, whatever. I just do this because I have a billion thoughts in my head and I need a place to release them.

One hunned