Friday, February 29, 2008

Rose, Beasley, D.J.: Bringing Light Skin Back?

Don't worry folks, I haven't offed myself. And no, Houston hasn't replaced Seattle as the suicide capital of the world after Yao went all Bill Walton on us.

Speaking of Seattle, it's a damn shame what Clay Bennett and David Stern are doing to the Sonics and their fans.

Anywoo, today's post focuses on the new phenomenon affecting the college basketball scene (besides good players actually going to school), the re-emergence of the light skin hoops star.

K-State's Michael Beasley, Memphis' Derrick Rose, Texas' D.J. Augustin, Indiana's Eric Gordon, Arizona's Jerryd Bayless, Tennessee's Chris Lofton and others have captivated campus hoops this year, setting up what could be seen as a revolution of the light skin star.

Beasley should be the number 1 pick this summer in the draft, with Rose a near lock at number 2. Augustin may be the best point guard in the country at this point and is a lock to be a first team All-American, Gordon is one of the most dynamic scorers in the country, and Bayless is also a top scoring combo guard as a freshman.

Hell, Lofton's Volunteers even upset number one Memphis at home last Saturday.

Is the light skin player officially back? Maybe, maybe not. Next year's incoming crop of froshes include Arizona recruit Brandon Jennings, UCLA's Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans (who is undecided), who are all fairly dark skinned. However, USC recruit Demar Derozen is kinda light, so there may be hope.

And yes, this is a light-hearted post to keep my mind off the fact that the Rockets' playoff hopes now depend on Tracy McGrrady.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Apollo 13

I got a call coming out of my 11:00-12:15 class earlier today from my homeboy Frank, a diehard Mavs fan.

"You alright, dog." "Yeah, I'm good," I replied, a little confused. "Oh, you haven't heard the news yet," he said, I guess trying to hold back a short laugh. "I have some bad news for you."

Then, the world became a sad place again.

"Yao is out for the season."


"I wouldn't lie to you about this, Trey."


All through this magical 12-game winning streak, I've been praying for the Rockets to get more attention. I mean, after they won game no. 12, the game's highlight didn't come on until the middle of the show. I understand the Lakers are riding an eight-game win streak with the game's best player on a MVP campaign Barack Obama would envy and a new big man averaging 22 ppg in his first 10 runs with the Lake Show, but damn.

Well, attention we have, and this type of pub will undoubtedly cost us The Streak, playoff position, and will make sure we don't advance out of the first round for the 11th straight year.

The funny thing is, after Sunday's game against Chicago, I told my girlfriend how happy I was with the Rockets (which was rare for me) and how optimistic I was about their playoff chances. I mean damn, with another 3 consecutive wins and some losses by other teams, we could have been number one in the West. It's just that tight.

But hey, these are my Rockets. They're cursed. Not Clipper cursed, but cursed. Or unlucky. The Knicks are cursed (though it is to their own doing).

So what do I do now, root for a late playoff push, just so we can get bounced out by the Lakers in the first round? Root for the Rockets to tank the rest of the season (since we can't be taken seriously against any team in the top 8) and go for a late lottery pick?

I know what I'll do, I'll just be (no Common). No feelings. I'll be Tim Riggins, drinking beer all day in a lifeless state. 3-game win streak, whatever. 10-game losing streak, who cares?

First the Patriots, now the Rockets. My heart is broken. Our hearts are broken.

And everybody won't shut up about it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Streets Are On Fire

So the annual trade deadline for the previously-known-as No Balls Association has passed, just like the appropriation of that title.

Although it failed to live up to the excitement of past years, where big names like Baron Davis and Ray Allen were exchanged in the 11th hour, this year's trading fiasco (no Lupe) was definitely interesting.

Let's look at each deal (at least the important ones; nobody cares about Von Wafer for Taurean Green) and see how each team fared (especially my Rockets, who kept busy today.

Cleveland gets Ben Wallace and Joe Smith from Chicago and Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West from Seattle; Chicago gets Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Shannon Brown and Cedric Simmons from Cleveland; Seattle gets Donyell Marshall and Ira Newble from Cleveland and Adrian Griffin from Chicago.

Cavs - It looks like Danny Ferry came out on top in this deal, at least on the court. They got two big rebounders to make up for Gooden's inconsistent production in Medium Ben and Smith, who provides the low-post offense Wallace and Andy Vareajo are utterly incapable of. The only sucky part is that they take on Ben's horrible contract, which still has 3 years left on it.

The Cavs also receive a proven playoff shooter/scorer in Wally, who should play well off LeBron, and a young guard in Delonte West. Plus the added bonus that Wally's $12 million deal expires next summer.

Bulls - The Bulls get a relatively young forward in Gooden while getting rid of Wallace's horrendous contract, which opens up playing time for young guns Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. The only problem? They take back Larry Hughes' slightly less horrible contract. Hughes could assume the scoring load for this Bulls team which has lacked a go-to scorer since....well you know who (if you don't count Elton Brand and Jalen Rose's brief hoorahs in the Windy City). Shannon Brown may or not be a player in the future and Simmons is...just...cap fodder.

Sonics - This was all just a salary dump for the Sonics. Nuff said.

Houston gets Bobby Jackson and Adam Huluska from the Hornets and a second round pick and the draft rights to Sergei Lishouk from the Grizzlies; New Orleans gets Bonzi Wells and Mike James from the Rockets; Memphis gets the draft rights to Malick Badiane from the Rockets and the draft rights to Marcus Vinicius from the Hornets.

Rockets - I've grown to like this deal. The Rockets get an established veteran point guard in Jackson, who has been playing well as of late for the division-rival Hornets. Of course, like every other Houstonian, I hate losing Bonzi to said division rivals. James, not so much. I thought this deal was a pre-cursor to a big deal later on in the day (like Battier and Snyder for Artest, but Snyder ending going elsewhere. More on that later.) This deal works for us because Jackson's deal expires next summer, giving us a big trade chip this summer or next season. Plus we don't have to pay Mike "Who" James $12 mil over the next two.

Hornets - New Orleans comes out of this deal looking real nice (except for the paying James $12 mil thing). Coach Byron Scott wanted to shore up his bench, and shore up his bench he did. Bonzi is a big guard with tremendous low-post scoring ability and maybe James can get off the bench in the Big Easy. N.O. is already number one in the West, and this trade gives them a better chance to stay in the home-court advantage range. If the home-court even works for them.

Memphis - See Seattle. Or Gasol trade.

Houston trades Kirk Snyder to Minnesota for Gerald Green.

Welcome home, young fella. We get hometown product Green, a former 18th pick overall, for basically nothing (sorry, Kirk). This gives us an unprecendented young core of Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola, Carl Landry and Gerald Green to go along with the veteran core of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady (who may not be here if we don't get out of the first round), and Shane Battier (who I would have exchanged for Artest in a heartbeat). Good job, Daryl Morey.

The big news today: Isiah Thomas did not further ruin his cap by trading for the corpses formerly known as Vince Carter or Jermaine O'Neal. So that's pretty good.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Mark Cuban Missile Crisis

What in the leather-shorts-hell is going on in Dallas?

In case you were too busy watching Congress make a fool out of itself, you would have missed the Mavericks doing the same.

Dallas and New Jersey have reportedly agreed in principle to a blockbuster deal that would send Jason Kidd to the Mavs in return for half of the Mavericks' roster.

To quote my homeboy Frank, a lifelong Mavericks fan from nearby Arlington, TX, "F--- that, I'm leaving Dallas and moving to Portland. I'm a Portland fan now." Suffice it to say he doesn't agree with the trade.

First of all, as previously noted, Dallas mortgaged its future (Devin Harris, Maurice Ager, 2 1st round picks), bench (Jerry Stackhouse, Ager, Devean George), and inside presence for the playoffs (Diop, who would come in handy when facing the Spurs, Suns, Lakers, Rockets, Jazz of the big man-dominating group in the West) for essentially one guy (Malik Allen, who would come to Texas with Kidd, won't be any kind of a factor).

Now, granted, I've never professed to be any kind of a fan of Devin Harris. I never thought he was a true point guard, nor do I ever think he ever will be. Sure, he's quick and his jump shot has been improving along with his stellar defense, but his ceiling as a NBA point guard is average. He's the equivalent to a NFL scat back. He's Darren Sproles to me. Or Maurice Jones-Drew. You will never give him the ball and entrust the game in his hands.

But he is 24-years-old and improving, and he gives the Mavs probably their best advantage: a super-quick guard who can get to the lane at will. And he fits better in their style than the soon-to-be 35-year-old Kidd.

The new question is whether the trio of Kidd-Dirk-Josh Howard is enough to win the West. The new answer is an emphatic NO. Where's the size? Dampier? Hell no. Where's the bench? Jason Terry? Is that it?

Put it like this: as a fan of a conference rival, I'm overwhelmingly excited for this deal. Thank you Mark Cuban for making sure your Mavs never win a NBA championship.

Sorry, Jason.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And The Rockets' Red Glare

Well well, look who's back into the playoff mix.

Seven in a row and 11 out of 12 (save for that stinker at home against the Jazz without Yao) and my boys are tied with G-State for no. 8 in the West.

Carl Landry for President, or at least way more minutes. The rookie has been the running, dunking power forward we've sorely needed since forever.

Now the hard part is to wait for some other Western Conference team to drop out of the top 8, and that other team would most likely be a very good squad like Golden State or Denver. But we will have a better vision of who that will be (if there will be such a team) after the All-Star break.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Grand Opening, Grand Closing

The Franchise has officially gone under.

It was announced that Steve Francis is likely out for the rest of the season with a torn quad.

So much for the big reunion. Steve has only played in 10 games this season, started three, and had an impact in only one (the big early season W in Phoenix).

After a summer of fantasizing about whether Francis would be the piece we needed to rejoin the elite, we now can wonder if he'll even be back in a Rockets uniform in 2008-09.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Diesel in the Desert

Congrats Phoenix, you just showed the world that L.A. got you shook.

The Suns, finally realizing that San Antonio will own them no matter how many points they score until they get some interior defense, rescued Shaq from Miami today, sending off their most versatile player, Shawn Marion, to the Heat along with scrub Marcus Banks.

Shaq's health issues aside, there have been many questions as to why the Suns would make this deal, including:

Wouldn't a slower, older Shaq slow down the fast-paced Suns?

Yes and no. Yes, it would provide them a low-post presence who still commands double-teams for the playoffs and another option to their slightly predictable pick-and-roll offense.

But Shaq's presence won't hinder them on the fast break. Quick question: when have you ever seen five guys, including a 7-foot center, run a fast break? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was like 48 and he never slowed down Showtime. If anything, the Suns with Shaq will be a homeless man's reincarnation of the late 80s-era Showtime. Let's call them Gametime. Or Showtime in the Desert. Whatever.

If Phoenix ownership has dreaded going far into luxury tax range, why take on $40 million for the last two years of O'Neal's contract?

Well, it's a risk-reward issue. If Shaq can stay healthy and be the inside presence the Suns have lacked since Steve Nash re-arrived in 2004 and Phoenix can win a chip this year or next, wouldn't that be worth the $20 million he'll get in 2009-10? Plus, after Nash retires, the Suns are going to have to do some reloading anyway.

So yeah, I think it was a fairly good deal for Phoenix, and an even better deal for Miami. Pat Riley gets from under Shaq's massive salary and takes back Marion's deal, which he might opt out of this summer, leaving Riley with major cap space to go along with a potential top 2 pick in a very good draft.

So will the Suns overtake the Spurs (and Lakers) in the crowded West? Maybe. The Spurs have looked off, though they tend to look that way through stretches of many a regular season. But this has looked more so like a year-long thing.

Put it this way: The Suns just gave themselves a way better chance of not being San Antonio's property.

Monday, February 4, 2008

On My New York Ish

Wow....just wow.

I'm finally getting over last night's precedings. My beloved Pats went down for the first time since last January. Wow.

Anywoo...congrats to Eli Manning, who took a bunch of criticism (some unfair), the Giants, and the whole New York area (except for Jets fans).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Highway (101) Robbery

How ya like Mitch Kupchak now?

I take back everything (well, some) I ever said about Kupchak and his idiotic trading pattern. Besides, trading a future All-Star in Caron Butler for Kwame "Doodoo" Brown, almost all of his moves have worked.

He got rid of Shaq when he was clearly physically in decline and wanted too much money, and now you look and the Diesel can't even make the All-Star game as a reserve. He drafted Andrew Bynum amid league-wide criticism and stubbornly held on to him through trade talks, amid league-wide criticism. Now the young Bynum is a double-double developing beast, a damaging knee injury not withstanding.

Jordan Farmar has become a reliable spark plug off the bench, Ronny Turiaf is an ultimate glue guy, and he and the Lakers organization stayed patient through Kobe's trade talk madness..

Now you can add today's move to his growing list of accomplishments.

Quite simply, the Lakers stole an All-Star-caliber big man for absolutely nothing. Kwame Brown was only kept around because of Bynum's injury; Javaris Chrittenton was the third guard on L.A.'s depth chart, and was a project with no real position, and Aaron McKie is more coach than player these days.

The Lakers do give up a couple of first round picks (2008 and 2010), but they should be a veteran-laden championship contending team by 2010 and won't really need them. You don't see the Spurs sweating over late-20s picks.

So what does this mean for the Lakers in the spring of 2008? They immediately move up a level in the stacked West. They went from a playoff lock with the emergence of Bynum giving them a chance to go deep to Bynum getting hurt and the Lakers being in jeopardy of falling out of the top 8 (and making room for my Rockets *sad*), and now they should be regarded as a team that should be expected to challenge for the West crown.

Their whole core is still intact, including their starting five. Gasol gives them not only a consistent low post threat in Bynum's absence, he provides a mid-range game young Andrew had not yet developed, and he is a very good shot blocker with those long arms. Not to mention his passing is a definite upgrade over Kwame (especially Kwame) and Bynum. And just think about a starting lineup of Fisher, Kobe, Odom, Gasol, and Bynum. Nasty.

Can they beat the Mavs? Yes. Suns? They already could with their young center beasting Phoenix's soft interior. Can they beat the Spurs? Probably not, but Pau Gasol surely gives them a better chance than Doodoo Brown.