Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Return of the Gangsta

9 points and 7 assists isn't anything to scare the Spurs about.

9 points and seven dimes is something to excite young Trey about, because Steve Francis is not only entrenched in his rightful place in the middle of the Rockets rotation, but he looks to be getting his game (and conditioning) back to where he could really be the backcourt catalyst we in Houston have been begging for since, well, Steve Francis left in 2004.

He sure was one of, if not the, catalysts in the win over Phoenix last night in the desert. He exerted great man to man defense on Leahandro Barbosa and made some plays from the weakside to stop inside Suns' baskets.

Most importantly, he hit the shot to put us up by four with under 30 seconds left in the game. And it wasn't so much the fact that he hit the shot, but with T-Mac settling into his usual late-game jump-shooting display and nobody else on the team capable of creating their own shot, Francis stepped and did what he does best: drive into the teeth of the defense like it was his own home.

Basically, Stevie Francis doesn't give a fuck. Never did. Still doesn't.

And that's what we needed the most. Not just a point guard, but an aggressive point guard that's not scared to make mistakes and not only match up with the league's elite pgs, but carry the ego that he is indeed among the league's elite. And when it comes to egos, Francis is definitely a first-teamer.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

R.I.P. Sean Taylor 1983-2007

24 years old. SMH. First Darrent Williams, then Bryan Pata from the University of Miami, then Eddie Griffin. Not to mention dudes all across the country and in war in other countries. Young, gifted men dying before their time.

R.I.P. to a father, son, child of God, and one of my favorite football players in the game.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Steve Francis Is Alive

No, it is not true that my recent hiatus from blogging was due to the recent slide by my Houston Rockets, who went from first in the West to ninth place in the span of a short week. Well, not all the way true at least.

The good news that may turn out to be great news: The minor injuries to Tracy McGrady and Bonzi Wells finally forced Rick Adelman to let go of his stubborn decision to DNP Steve Francis for 82 games.

Francis played 23 minutes against Phoenix and looked good despite a lot of rust. He got 20 minutes in a blowout W against the Denver Nuggets, who were obviously ready to get out of the building to get ready for the many parties they were scheduled to be hosting/attending. Steve scored 10 points and got 3 assists, but his impact on the game was a lot stronger than the numbers indicated.

Francis' mini-resurgence couldn't come at a better time for the Rockets. The point guard tandem of Rafer Alston/Mike James has been less than solid (read: they've sucked) and the two have proven that they're both suited for limited roles off the bench on good teams, especially Rafer, who should never start for a team with serious championship aspirations. Daryl Morey is going to have to make a decision on one of the two, especially with Steve rounding into shape and rookie Aaron Brooks destined to steal minutes by April. (If you want my opinion, which you're here for, I'd get rid of Skip. I mean James. Skip. James. F it, flip a coin. Seriously, get rid of James.)

And if Steve can grab the starting spot he was brought in for, count it as a major upgrade to the position we've been behind in all season.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Better Without Durant? Don't Make Me Laugh

Yeah, I know. It's been a while. And I promise there will be more bloggage around here at I Ball For Real.

Anywoo, while perusing the internet, I decided to check up on my third-place Fox Sports fantasy football team and the obliteration they were putting upon some inferior squad. Of course, when I got to Fox Sports' home page, I noticed an article by FSN's Jeff Goodman talking about the University of Texas' recent W over Tennessee.

Goodman had the audacity to say that Rick Barnes' squad was better off, yes better off, without once in a lifetime Player of the Year Kevin Durant. Goodman said that the Longhorns were better suited to make a deep postseason run because "they're more balanced" then they were last year.

Get this: He says that last year, Texas (the real UT) was a one-man show.

To that I say, wow. Texas was a one-man show last season, but it definitely wasn't Durant dominating the ball or even taking a shitload of errant shots. Even though he averaged 25 points per game on his way to every single POY award, almost all of his shots came within the framework of the Horns' offense, or whatever semblance there was of an offensive system.

No sir, the one-man show last year came in the form of point guard D.J. Augustin. D.J. pounded the ball in his (very underrated) freshman season, often ignoring the 6'10 wonderkind while draining the shot clock before forcing a contested shot or driving into the lane with absolutely no direction. Granted, when Augustin's creating shots for teammates consistently and knocking down shots for himself, like he's doing this season, he's one of if not the best point guard in the country. The problem was, he didn't do that nearly enough last season in the midst of playing with the most dominant college player ever.

Key example: twice against Kansas last year, Durant exploded in the first half of both games for 25+ points. In the second half of both games, which turned out to be losses, KD had limited touches and absolutely no sets run for him (which is a bigger indictment on Barnes) because D.J. forgot he was on the floor and inexplicably gave more shots to himself and resident gunner A.J. Abrams.

Look, at this point, D.J. Augustin is the best point guard in America, which is something I didn't think he could be yet. He was one of the best young pgs last season also, despite his horrid decision making. But to say he and the Longhorns are better off without Durant is both false and extremely ignorant. Kevin Durant would have been better off with a more experienced distributor and a coach who actually knew what to do with his many talents.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Don't Confuse Me With Marbury Out This Bitch

About the lack of posting around here, trying to find time to write a well thought-out post these days is like trying to find time to study exactly what it is that's wrong with the New York Knicks.

Speaking of....

So Isiah Lord and the Knicks fined Stephon Marbury today for missing last night's shootaround and game against the Phoenix Suns, which they went on to lose by the way - how surprising. There was speculation that Steph left the team and headed back to NYC because he heard that Zeke was benching him and limiting his minutes. Others say he went AWOL (or, he went Steph. Whichever way you want to put it) because the Knicks are discussing a long overdue buyout or trade to ship the PG (SG?) out of the Big Apple.

(Me personally, I think he left because he didn't want the embarrassment of facing yet another team that got better almost as soon as they parted with him, but I digress.)

Who knows? But, all I know is that whatever team Marbury is considered the leader of, will forever underachieve. Or just not be any kind of good. Those are the only options. The worst part is that he's due $42 million over the next two years, when his contract expires in the summer of 2009. (Helllloooooo Italy!)

Don't get me wrong, I used to be a huge Starbury fan. He was even one of my favorite players up until the 2004 playoffs, when I realized that it was not his teammates or his coaches or the weather; it was him. He's just not a winner. And he's definitely not a winning point guard.

He squandered his one true chance to be part of a building block to a winning team, in Minnesota, and he ruined that to be the overpaid man in New Jersey. Stephon was never able to do anything with the talent in Jersey (you know, the same group that Jason Kidd, who was traded straight up for Marbury, took to the NBA Finals two straight years) and was shipped to Phoenix for the aforementioned Kidd.

After one playoff season in the desert (2003) and a horrible start to the '03-04 season, he got his ultimate wish: to be traded to the Knicks. It seemed like a great idea at the time; kid from Coney Island, Brooklyn comes back home to play point guard for one of the most storied franchises in history, and he was brought back by one of the greatest point guards in history (Thomas) to play for one of the greatest pgs ever (then coach Lenny Wilkins).

Sure, everyone overlooked his monstrous contract (especially Thomas, who seems to do that pretty often) and the fact that he never made his teammates better, and they all enjoyed the lovefest. The Knicks were relevant again, and winning.

Now, it's 2007 and the Knicks have their most talented team on paper in 13 years. Problem is, they don't have the on-court/off-court leader to maximize that talent. If they are discussing a buyout for Marbury, their first thought should go to building cap space to make a run at Kobe Bryant in a year, Chris Paul or Deron Williams (both of which would catapult New York into elite status) when their rookie deals are through, or LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the big 2010.

As long as Stephon Marbury is not on that team, I'll definitely be rooting for them.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Derrick Rose Era Has Begun

Hate to say I told you so, fellas, but I told you so.

The kid they call "Pooh" (and my favorite player not currently getting paid to play basketball) showed the world (or at least the good folks that have ESPNU, which I tried to get yesterday and failed) why he should be the first player taken next June, putting up 17 points, six rebounds, and five assists in his college debut last night against the University of Tennessee-Martin.

He may have just been playing a way less talented team like Tennessee-Martin, but he looked like he was playing on another level than everybody on the court outside of Chris Douglas-Roberts, who dropped 28 points. D-Rose raced past everyone down the court while showing unbelievable speed, he got to the rim at will, found open teammates for easy shots, dunked on dudes, and even caught a block from behind off the glass on a fast break. That #23 on his back really came in handy.

Quite simply, he was that dude last night. Well, he was that second dude - CDR was ballin' something serious. Of course, Christmas will come early for all college hoops fans when Rose and the Memphis Tigers go up against O.J. Mayo and the USC Trojans on December 4th.

The top two impact freshman at the point guard position, playing for two major programs, in Madison Square Garden, on national TV, when both are expected to be top 5 picks in the '08 draft. Who can wait?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Make the Damn Deal, Chicago

Please. I'm tired of hearing about it.

Unless you've been living under a rock (in Iraq), you probably have heard about the ongoing Kobe Bryant-trade rumors saga. Deals sending him to Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, New York, and Washington have been mentioned, but it's the Bulls who have the pieces and the best chance to get 24.

They also have the biggest need (among contenders at least) for Kobe. To put it bluntly, the Bulls are overrated. Bill Simmons has them winning the East, which is proposterous. They have no interior post presence, and they go through too many long stretches of limited offense to even get out of the first round.

Quite simply, they have no stars. Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, and Kirk Hinrich are good players, but they're not stars. They might all be good together, but they're not stars. You can't count on them to carry you for an entire series. Even though he's never done it without Shaq, Kobe can definitely carry you in the Eastern Conference.

Give the Lakers Gordon, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, and Chris Duhon and the Bulls are instantly a top-2 team in the East. Don't, and you're a perennial second round flameout.

It looks like the teams are close to making a deal. A rumored 3-team trade between the Bulls, Lakers, and Kings fell through last night, but it appears a deal is still in the works.

Make it happen, Paxson. Championships are earned through risks.