Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 in Television

I don’t know if 2013 was the greatest year for Television, but I feel confident saying it was the most intriguing.  It’s definitely my personal favorite calendar year of television in my lifetime, and I can’t help but pay tribute to it.  Full disclosure: I watch way too much television for my educational good, but I also watch way too little television to give a holistic account of the best television of 2013.  Therefore this post is poorly written, incomplete, probably a waste of your time, and also incompetently formatted (although that's Blogger's fault, not mine); but at least these thoughts are now on paper and not stuck in my head, which is good for my own sanity.  Spoiler alert: this piece contains spoilers, so read at your own risk.  With all disclaimers out of the way, here are my eight personal favorite television episodes of 2013.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

On the 2012-13 NBA Season

On Andre Drummond:

                I never once saw Drummond play in college, but back in June I was hoping the Blazers would take him 6th overall.  My philosophy with drafting:  it’s better to roll the dice on a potential franchise changer, no matter how high the risk is, than to settle on a guaranteed role player whose contributions won’t mean anything in the absence of a star.  Even without having seen Drummond I felt that his physical gifts and immense ceiling rendered his expected value worth a top 5 pick, because as an NBA player’s talent/production increases linearly his big-picture value increases exponentially.

                With Damian Lillard about to win rookie of the year, this Blazers fan would still without hesitation take Lillard with the 6th pick if i had to re-do the draft – but that’s because Andre Drummond wouldn’t even be available with the 6th pick, or even the 3rd pick.  When I see him play I think he has Hakeem Olajuwon-like potential on defense, and even if his offensive game never evolves beyond finishing pick and rolls, lobs, and put-backs I think Drummond’s ability to wreak havoc on defense makes him a game and franchise changer.  Eventually he’ll be able to shut down the opponent’s low-post scoring offense, control the boards, and erase perimeter mistakes (and by extension allow his guards to play more aggressively with the risk of a blow-by drive mitigated).

                It’s still unclear how well he and Greg Monroe can function together offensively (with the team miles away from title contention it is imperative that management give the new coach a long enough leash to spend at least a year finding an answer to this question and accruing ping pong balls, even at the expense of wins).  I have a hunch that they could end up as perhaps a more athletic version of what Memphis has, but in any case let’s hope this splendid rookie year was an accurate estimator of the amount of Drummond’s copious potential that is destined to be fulfilled.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

On the rest of the NBA Season

On Blake Griffin:  If you dislike his on court antics, or the way he disputes every call and stares down refs and players after every play then that’s fine.  But I think the hate for him strictly as a player has gotten out of hand, and people keep calling him overrated that he’s become underrated.  I can’t believe he still has the rep of being strictly a dunker – he’s also a good rebounder, and he’s a wonderful passer and ball-handler for his position.  He doesn’t have much of a low post game but he has a good face up game and when he’s not settling for jump shots he’s an excellent offensive player.  Sure he isn’t as well-rounded as he could be, but he’s also not a one-dimensional player.  Also, none of his critics ever give him credit for the fact that he plays his ass off every night – he’s easily one of the most intense, driven and hard-working players in the league and he just needs to learn to channel that properly.  It also doesn’t help that just a 23 year old who hasn’t received any semblance of coaching in the past couple of years – Jeff Capel basically told him to play eight feet and in his entire Oklahoma career, and Vinny of the Black coaches probably the most simplistic “offense” I’ve ever seen in my life as a basketball fan; neither of them are any good at coaching defense and it’s painfully obvious when you watch Blake.  The effort is there, the foot speed and strength are there, but he just has no clue about rotations, help defense, or positioning.  If he were playing for a real organization, with a real coach, in the proper environment these issues, all of which are still quite fixable, wouldn’t be so glaring.  He hasn’t improved at all from last year, which is a bit disappointing, but to say he’s just a sideshow and strictly a highlight reel player is totally unfair.  So if you want to criticize him for having holes in his game of being a bit of a prick on the court that’s fine, but I’m just tired of hearing people over-criticize his actual game.

Monday, September 5, 2011

College Football Opening Weekend Ramblings

The NBA lockout is still here, and that kind of sucks – but at least the next four months will be ever so slightly bearable with college football back. My scrambled thoughts on an exciting as ever opening Saturday, starting with my favorite team to ever lose at home to Sacramento State:

· Oregon State: I don’t think the Everclear is strong enough – pour me a double shot of rubbing alcohol.

· Mississippi: Part of me wants to see Houston Nutt remain gainfully employed just so Boise State can get a free pass in next season’s opener. The coaching matchup will be kind of like seeing Stephen Hawking run circles around a toddler on a Calculus test – comically and entertainingly lopsided, fascinating in a sick and twisted way, yet oh so excruciatingly painful to watch. But if Ole Miss is serious about having a good program I’m not sure how they don’t fire Nutt – even they can do so much better.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Scottie Pippen: Greatness in a Nutshell

With the lockout upon us, and the future of the NBA as we know it up in the air I want to take some time to reflect on the sport and the league that I love so much, and all the players, teams, and moments that hold the most special places in my heart.

What better way to kick-start all my lockout posts with a tribute to my favorite basketball player of all-time – the incomparable Scottie Pippen. I have always felt and still feel that Scottie continues to receive far less due than he deserves – he remains eternally underappreciated, and I want to illuminate some of the qualities that endeared him so much to me. There has already been a lot written by much smarter basketball minds (and much more concise writers) than myself, and I only hope to add a few of my own thoughts to the blogosphere’s Pippen anthology, starting with all the things I loved about Scottie strictly as a basketball player:

Monday, May 30, 2011

2011 NBA FInals Preview - 2006, the sequel!

In 2004 nobody gave the Detroit Pistons a chance to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals. The Lakers had two all-time greats still in their primes, and they had won three of the last four titles; Detroit simply didn’t have enough talent on paper and would never be able to score enough points to keep up. You just don’t win a series when the other team has the two best players, right? Well normally you can’t. But in retrospect we ignored some obvious advantages – namely that Detroit had a transcendent defense that made more of an impact than any one player on the Lakers, that their bench and their team was significantly deeper and more versatile, that the coaching matchup was beyond unfair (Phil Jackson is an all-time great but he was on total vacation check for this series), and above all Detroit, a team full of castoffs and misfits, had an enormous chip on its shoulder that reared its head on every loose ball, every rebound, and every fourth quarter.

In 2011 nobody is giving Dallas a chance to beat Miami, not when Miami has the two best players in the league in their primes, not when Dallas simply lacks the talent to contain Miami. But are we ignoring a lot of smaller advantages that can allow Dallas to steal the series? Like their ridiculously efficient, borderline unstoppable offense? Like their ridiculous depth and versatility? Like their experience and vast array of hungry, rabid veterans who have been turned back on the biggest stages so many times and are desperate for redemption? Like their 7-foot assassin who transcends matchups and lifts his team to greater heights not quantified by the sum of their parts?

To me this will be an extremely close, hard-fought, exquisitely well-played series; and given all the subplots, storylines, and notoriety of the stars involved this could be a historically entertaining clash and the perfect way to close out this era of hoops before the lockout. With that here are my thoughts on what will decide the series.

Scattered NBA thoughts

This has been the greatest season that I’ve ever watched, both the regular season and the playoffs. We haven’t had a boatload overtime games and game sevens (the spring of 2006 remains tops in that regard), but in terms of the quality of play and the number of transcendent individual performances that we’ve seen, nothing tops this year’s postseason, at least nothing from my lifetime as a basketball fan. To recap:

-Chris Paul reminded us that he’s still the best point guard alive and put on a clinic for how the position is meant to be played.

-Carmelo Anthony showed us why he’s the most unstoppable scorer on the planet when he’s going all out and playing aggressively, unleashing a barrage that rivaled LeBron’s 2007 heroics.

-Brandon Roy temporarily resurrected his career on Easter Weekend, almost singlehandedly leading a comeback for the ages and giving blazer fans hope that he can rehab his knees and still contribute as a scorer off the bench as a Paul Pierce-lite type of player.

-Dwight’s 48-19 in a game one loss to Atlanta exposed how amazing Dwight is (and how flawed his supporting cast is), showing the flaws behind using team wins as the primary metric in MVP voting.

-Rajon Rondo pulled an Isiah Thomas, shaking off a dislocated elbow to lead the Celtics to victory in game 3 vs. Miami, a courageous display of his toughness and will to win.

-We all Neal before Gary when it comes to ridiculous, out-of-nowhere, do-or-die last-second shots.

-Zach Randolph put the finishing touches on a splendid series against the Spurs with a 31-11 closeout game (including 17 in the fourth quarter), presenting exhibit A of why teams continue taking chances upon chances with uber-talented knuckleheads.

-Kevin Durant’s 16 straight points in the game five closeout of Denver gave us a glimpse of what an unstoppable scorer and crunch time assassin that he’ll be when he puts it all together.

-General Grievis (Vasquez) put in a miracle, triple OT shot in one of the most ridiculous and exhilarating playoff games of the last 25 years.

-Dirk’s shooting in game one against Seattle was beyond unfair, as if he had set the game to rookie mode and turned up all the shooting bars to the maximum value. He was so damn good that Kevin Durant scored 40 points and was completely overshadowed.

Other than that nothing very eventful has happened in these playoffs. With that here are my scattered thoughts on a few of the recent storylines.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

#1 Pick in the 2011 NBA Draft: Obvious... Isn't it?

The NBA Draft Lottery passed a couple of weeks ago, and the Cavs won the #1 and #4 picks. This seemed like the obvious result about 4 months ago, but was actually a bit of a surprise considering they no longer had the best odds to get the pick, and even more surprising considering that they one the top pick with the Clippers' unprotected lottery pick they received in a trade for Mo Williams (totally worth it by the way). Well now that this is all out of the way, the number one pick is obviously going to be Derrick Williams out of the University of Arizona... wait a second...

Well according to the Walterfootball 2011 NBA Mock Draft Database (pictured above), a lot of people that talk about basketball don't watch basketball. To explain, let's look at the Cleveland Cavaliers' depth chart (bold indicates starters):

PG - Ramon Sessions, Baron Davis, Daniel Gibson
SG - Anthony Parker, Manny Harris,
SF - Alonzo Gee, Joey Graham, Christian Eyenga
PF - J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison, Samardo Samuels, Luke Harangody
C - Anderson Varejao (injured for most of 2011), Ryan Hollins, Semih Erden

So between these five starters, which position could be improved the most? Well the answer is actually SG or maybe even C, but considering that Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams are the only two realistic options at the top spot, let's look at just the PG and SF positions. 25-year-old Ramon Sessions held season averages of 13.3ppg, 3.2rpg, 5.2apg, and 46.7 FG% on 26mpg. 24-year-old Alonzo Gee held season averages of 7.4ppg, 3.9rpg, 0.8apg, and 46.2 FG% on 24mpg.

To try and get a sense of each player's potential, let's look at each player's best month during the season. Sessions' best month came in February, where he averaged 19.9ppg, 4.3rpg, 8.8apg, and 56.4 FG% on 35mpg. Gee's best month was April, where he averaged 11.6ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.0apg, and 56.5 FG% on 29mpg.

In both of these comparisons, Sessions has been much, much more impressive. So why is everyone saying that the Cavs need to improve their PG position more? It must be a financial issue right? Well, this is one area where Gee actually beats Sessions. Gee only has a $760,000 salary while Sessions' salary is just under $4 million. But even though he costs much less, is Gee actually more valuable at his position? During Sessions' month of February, the only month where he got legit starter minutes (35mpg or above), he averaged 20ppg-4rpg-9apg. Deron Williams, star PG for the New Jersey Nets, averaged 20ppg-4rpg-10apg. Sessions productivity is just a shade below Williams' when he gets the same minutes. Now here's the kicker: while Sessions only gets $4 million a year, Williams' salary for the 2010-11 season was $15 million!

So in every facet we've measured so far, Sessions has proven to be a much better asset than Gee. So since it obviously can't be about the current Cavs roster, it has to be about how much better Irving is than Williams... right?

Sophomore Derrick Williams averaged 19.5ppg and 8.3rpg while also shooting 60% from the field and 57% from 3pt range. His second leading scorer on the team averaged 9.7ppg, so it's not exaggerating to say that Williams carried his Arizona Wildcats to the Elite Eight, where they still only lost by 2 to the eventual NCAA Champion UConn Huskies. Freshman Kyrie Irving averaged 17.5ppg, 3.4rpg, and 4.3apg while shooting 53% from the field and 46% from 3. Irving played on the Duke Blue Devils, who entered the season as the favorites to win it all, and was arguably the reason why Duke got pummeled 93-77 in the Sweet Sixteen against *dum dum dum* the Arizona Wildcats let by Derrick Williams.

Well Derrick Williams was much more productive at the college level, but Irving must be a much better athlete... right?

Derrick Williams, at 6'8 and 240lbs, is considered to be one of (if not the) most explosive athletes in the draft. Kyrie Irving, at 6'2 and 180lbs, hasn't shown the speed that many were expecting coming out of high school, and has been athletically underwhelming in regards to the top PGs of years past (John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, etc.). Irving also has some injury concerns, as he suffered a toe injury 8 games into the season that took him out of a majority of the season, and only returned for the NCAA Tournament, where he was obviously not at 100%.

Now take in mind, this is not an "I hate Kyrie Irving" post, this is a "Draft Philosophy 101" post. In summation, start watching more basketball, NBA and College Basketball pundits. Also, common sense doesn't hurt.