Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Heart-Attack Houston

Was all that really necessary?

As my boy Blaze and I always say, the Rockets can't just blow a team out in peace. They were up 14 with two minutes left and almost blew it. Typical Rox.

If we want to be a championship squad, which we should be, we have to learn how to finish off games, especially road games against teams (like the Lakers) that won't even sniff the postseason. That's the reason T-Mac was crying after Game 7 last season.

With that said, great game and I'm glad we won. 1-0, 81 more victims. You're next, Jazzies.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Since When Did We Become Soccer Moms

America the beautiful?

How about America the sensitive. This country is officially soft.

The New England Patriots have rolled through each of their eight opponents, by an average of over 20 points no less,
and have managed to piss off the league in the process, especially in the past couple of games.
Fans, detractors, and analysts alike have slammed the Pats for "running up the score" like this is pee-wee league or something.


As the title asked, when did we become a bunch of soccer moms? The Redskins and Dolphins are
pro teams getting millions of dollars to stop teams like the Pats from embarrassing them in front of thousands
of people. Don't blame Bilichek for not slowing it down and making it look closer then it really was.
Blame Cam Cameron and Joe Gibbs.

The Patriots are on a "we don't give a fuck" mission, and I like it. You try to disclaim
their titles, they beat your team by 45. You don't like it, stop them.

Until then, get down or lay down.

P.S. If this post looks messed up, it is because I'm doing it on my iPhone.
Bare with me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Antoine Walker Robbed Again

This time, Pat Riley was the culprit

It was only a matter of time before Antoine's bubble burst.

15 months ago, Walker was holding up a championship trophy as a member of the Miami Heat, completing the tranformation from alleged selfish gunner to team player/gunner.

But of course, 'Twan had to go and screw it up. He came to training camp out of shape (at least more out of shape than he already was) and fell into the doghouse of one of the game's greatest coaches of all time, further upsetting the basketball gods.

The hoops god in return shipped him to the Land of Lakes in return for Ricky Davis and Mark Blount.

This is a good move for the Heat; Davis provides a younger and more athletic scoring threat than Walker, and Blount is a formiddable option off the bench and is insurance for Riley in case Shaq takes his annual mid-season vacation.

For Walker, not so much. He goes from a city that is 85 degrees daily to a city that won't see 85 if you added their daily forcasts for two weeks. He might as well be back in Boston. (Note: He wishes he was back in Boston, right now.) Hey 'Twan, good luck finding the ball behind all those youngsters who management will love way more than you.

The lesson, as always, stay in shape, especially if Pat Riley is involved. He'll run you straight out of town. Ask Stan Van Gundy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stop Your Run One of the Reasons That They Call Us Gang Green

The other reason, we got a gang of green

It may just be the preseason, but I'm saying it. The Boston Celtics are the best team in the Eastern Conference and they will advance to the NBA Finals for the first time since your boy was all of one year old ('86 for those that don't know).

When the Garnett trade first happened, and all the initial hype died down, my main criticism of the team was the lack of talent of any kind after the KG/Pierce/Allen trio. Since then, Danny Ainge has added some nice parts to go around the Ceatles (KG's name for the top 3).

They got James Posey (a big, strong defender with range), Eddie House (quick streak shooter), Dahntay Jones (athletic swingman who can defend), and Scot Pollard (big body, six fouls). They also got Tony Allen back from that season-ending knee injury from last season to go along with rookies Gabe Pruitt and Glen "Big Baby" Davis.

Now, compare Gang Green's (that's my nickname for this team and I'm sticking to it) roster with Cleveland's '07 Finals squad and even Miami's '06 championship team. The C's aren't that far off in terms of talent from the Heat and they're way better than the LeBrons in NBA talent.

My other question about the Celtics' potential greatness was, how would the Big Three play together? Would the O run through Garnett of Paul? After watching them dismantle the Timberwolves in Italy and the New York Knicks in Beantown, it was clear that their offense was in sync. They're running a sort of free-flowing offense in which they alternate between sets run primarily through Pierce and KG while finding Allen for open threes off screens.

Their offense also allows J. Shuttlesworth to create off the dribble, seeing that Rajon Rondo might not be all the way ready to take over the team.

I'm still on record saying that if the Nets get off their asses and make a trade for Jermaine O'Neal, they will be the beast of the East, hands down. But until then, prepare for more another dominant team in New England.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

ROCK La Familia - Houston Rockets Season Preview

Imagine going out on your first date with a chick, thinking you have everything you have to make it a happy ending at the end of the night. You have the big car, flashy crib, and a few other amenities to be successful...and the farthest you get is a first base kiss. Sucks, right?

Then, the next date goes horribly wrong. Car breaks down, the food you were cooking in the kitchen burns, and she leaves inexplicably early without you even getting out of the batter's box. Even worse.

Then, on the third date, the same scenario as the first date rears its ugly head, you only getting to first base despite expecting more.

Are you imagining? Well, welcome to life as a Rockets fan in the McGrady/Yao Era.

When T-Mac arrived in H-town in 2004, Yao was the big car and Mac was the flashy crib. We lost in the first round to Dallas despite winning the first two games of the series in D-town, partly because the role players (the amenities) didn't show up (outside of Mike James).

The next year, everyone got hurt and we missed the playoffs completely. A true disaster season. Then, in '06-'07, we couldn't get out of the first round, despite A) having the home-court advantage against Utah; and B) being up 2-0 heading to Salt Lake City. We lost Game 7 at home, even though we were up by as many as six with under 2 minutes left. This hurt worse than being blown out by 40 in Game 7 vs. the Mavs in '05.

But this is 2007, and thangs are different. Out with Jeff Van Grouchy and his lethargic offense and mid-90s defense and in with Rick Adelman and his high-paced motion offense and his playoff-collapsing defense, or lack thereof. Out with old-school legend Carroll Dawson, who was probably the most underrated GM of his generation, and in with Daryl Morey, he of Moneyball fame and numbers-crunching stylistics. Morey spent the first three months on the job only dramatically improving the roster and adding much-needed depth to a top-6 NBA squad.

Out with Chuck Hayes (at least as a starter) and in with Luis Scola, the Argentinian MVP who couldn't find room on the deep Spurs roster. Scola brings with him a wide-body of experience, considering that although he's a rookie, he's 27 years old and has been playing professionally almost as long as tennis players.

Out with Rafer Alston (as a big-minute starter), in with Mike James, Steve Francis, and Aaron Brooks. Last year, Skip to my Lou averaged over 32 minutes a game, a position he wasn't really ready to do on a playoff team. There was no good backup last year, so Morey went out and got James (traded for Juwan Howard), Francis (signed as a free agent after being bought out by Portland, and Brooks (drafted 26th overall out of Oregon).

Skip will most likely start the season as the starter (until the inconsistency kicks in), while James or Francis will end games. Stevie, who won over the hearts of young, brash guards in the Houston area from '99-'04, may not be the Franchise he once was, but he's still a talented NBA player capable of putting up big numbers in the league and on this team. James is a bullish guard who can knock down shots, get to the lane if needed, and is a good defender. Plus, he's a leader, something sorely lacking in this franchise. Brooks, the speedy rookie, can penetrate the lane with his superior quickness and ball-handling, but won't see much of the floor until the later half of the year due to his inexperience and the depth at his position.

John Lucas. Luther Head. Steve Novak. They probably go bye-bye.

Dikembe Mutombo is back for his rocking chair year. Kirk Snyder is teetering the line between being an impact role player in Houston or the wrong side of a pink slip. (Related note: That 2004 Draft is starting to look worse and worse everyday. The number 2 pick, Emeka Okafor --Houston's own--- hasn't even gotten a contract extension from the Bobcats. THE BOBCATS!!)

More good news is the return, and suspected reemergence, of the enigma formerly known as Bonzi Wells. Obviously inspired by Adelman's presence, Wells has looked good in the motion offense and is showing some much-needed effort.

Of course, it all comes down to the Escalade (Yao) and the penthouse suite (McGrady). Yao was a legit MVP candidate before the toe injury that sat him for months and vaulted T-Mac into MVP consideration. In last year's first round, McGrady and the Great Wall left it up to the washer and dryer, the swimming pool, and the free parking, all of which weren't equipped to get it done. At least this year, we have better role players to shoulder the load in case Mac decides to take the last minute and a half of a Game 7 off. I'm just saying...

All in all, the Rockets have the tools to storm through the regular season. They have depth at every position and will be ready for any injury outside of Yao Ming and, to a slightly extent, McGrady (who has Bonzi, Francis, and Snyder to step in, just in case).

And if we only get to first base this year, well, maybe this chick just doesn't like us.

Regular Season Prediction: 58-24, first in Southwest Division.
Playoff Prediction: No. 2 Seed in Western Conference; lose in Western Conf. Finals

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Mavs Show Actual Signs of Toughness

Ever since the resurgence of the Dallas Mavericks under former coach Nellie and the horrible dancer himself, Mark Cuban, the Mavs have emerged as one of the elite squads in the league.

They've become annual regular season juggernauts, topping off at 67 wins in '06-'07. The problem is they've only had one miniscule obstacle (which has led to other problems): outside of head coach Avery Johnson, the Mavs have had absolutely NO toughness.

Their lack of toughness (i.e. heart, balls, testicular fortitude) showed its ugly head in the first round of last year's playoffs, which was set up to be the Mavs' coronation as one of the best teams ever. The Golden State Warriors attacked Dallas like they were a bunch of Stanford preppies (no offense, Ty) wondering around Compton on New Year's Eve, beating them in six games as an eighth seed.

This came only a year after the Mavericks blew a 2-0 lead against the Miami Heat in the Finals. The theory goes that their lack of toughness contributed to these playoff collapses.

That makes what Josh Howard did last night so significant to me. (Though we all know Brad Miller is no Bill Laimbeer.)

Are the boys in blue ready to turn the corner and actually show the world that they're not just a bunch of jump shooters who shrink up in the postseason, complain after every call, make excuses for their shortcomings, and get pushed around by smaller, tougher opponents?

God knows I hope not, but if Tuesday night's incident is any indication, they may be on their way.

Monday, October 15, 2007

We Always Loved You, Skip

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe.

A while back, I heavily criticized Rafer Alston, almost escorting him out of Houston by my damn self.

Two months later, I'm kinda warming up to the idea that he may be one of the biggest keys to how far we go this season. Look, he's our most experienced true point guard and he's always been a decent shooter, albeit an inconsistent one.

He started the first two preseason games and looked good. He made good passes, hit his open shots, ran the fast break well and just looked good in the offense. I never thought I'd say this, but he's the best choice to be our starting pg come the opening night ass-kicking of the Lakers. Reasons being:

- Unlike last year, we won't be depending on Skip to play 30+ minutes a game. Mike James, Steve Francis, and Aaron Brooks can all step in and run the show for stretches of the game.

- The style of the offense allows him more room to be a creator and get open shots and layups. This way, he won't blow close shots like a women's team in the SWAC.

- Brooks is too inexperienced; Francis is too far removed from being a primary ballhandler; and James still goes one on one a little too much.

- No matter what the offense is, it still runs through T-Mac and Yao.

So yeah, I was wrong. But, to be fair, I was the main one calling for him to come to Houston in the first place. Everything that happened between then and now is water under the bridge. Deal?

Friday, October 12, 2007

NBA 2K8 Version of LeBron's "48-Point Game"

It almost looks real. Lol at LeBron throwing up the Roc sign after the behind-the-back, step-back jumper.

Video courtesy of Detroit Bad Boys.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Be Careful What You Wish For

So the big news of the day is that Lakers owner Jerry Buss is open to trading Kobe Bryant. This, of course, re-heats the Kobe trade rumors that started up when KB demanded (albeit softly) to be traded back in May.

Wonder what changed Doc Buss' mind. Buss has made it all too clear since the spring that Bryant was untouchable and would not be traded. The lesson, as always, is that no player in the NBA is untouchable. No one.

In my opinion, Buss looks at the fact that the options for improving the team are limited, what with the Lakers being over the cap by almost $15 million and no tradeable assets outside of Kobe, Lamar Odom, and the unfulfilled potential that is Andrew Bynum. Seriously, who else would you want off that roster?

That's the real reason the Lakers didn't get Kevin Garnett or Jermaine O'Neal (not yet at least), and in the latter case, O'Neal would not have vaulted L.A. to the upper elite in the West and would have handcuffed the Lakers payroll even worse than it is now, meaning they would have been stuck with Kobe and J.O. and no one else. That may work in Boston this year, not in the Western Conference.

Add to the fact of Kobe's unhappiness, and you can somewhat see how Buss might be a little ready to grant Kobe's wish. Doc and Kobe know this team is not any good and can't get any better outside of the draft (which is a great time to mention the fact that the Lakers draft horribly), so the best option would be to find the best available deal and let Kobe go while venturing straight into rebuilding mode.

The bigger issue here (which I discussed back in August) is that there is absolutely no place for Kobe to go. He missed his chance to sign with a talented team on the rise when he resigned with the Lakers instead of signing with the neighbor Clippers in '04. New homes for Bryant are insufficient at this point:

1. The Chicago Bulls, Kobe's preferred destination, have the pieces to get him, but it would take enough players to get him that would gut their core and leave them with a unit very similar to what the Lakers have now. One pro here is that he'll be in the East (the same East in which the one-man show that was the Cavs made it to the Finals last season).

2. The New York Knicks wouldn't be able to get their heads out of their own asses to make a competent deal for Kobe. I'm befuddled at this franchise (if you wanna call it that). If Allan Houston sucked so bad when you were trying to get rid of him two years ago, why even entertain the thought of bringing him back to the team. I'm sorry, I'm ranting.

3. Kobe reportedly would like to go to Dallas (which would literally scare the shit out of me as a Rockets fan), which would really work. The Mavs would only have to part with Erick Dampier and Jason Terry, according to ESPN's NBA Trade Machine. Dampier is an overpaid disappointment and Terry was an underachieving 'tweener last postseason. The Mavericks wouldn't have to gut their 67-win squad to pit Kobe with Dirk and Josh Howard, and they'll finally have a crunch-time killer. (On second thought, let's make sure this doesn't happen, please. PLEASE!!!)

The question is, would the Lakers want to take back two large contracts for two players that have no chance at being impact stars in the long term? Hmmm.

I'm of the belief that once it was realized that Kobe could only take this D-league roster so far and that Doc Buss and his sons were prostituting the prime of the league's best player, Kobe no longer was the untouchable star people said he was. No one is "untouchable". Shaq got traded for god's sake. Wilt, A.I., etc.

MJ was forced out of Chicago, people. It's not impossible for somebody to ship Kobe's bratty ass out of town to improve the franchise in the long term.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thank God For The Preseason

The NBA is back! Thankfully, this means I won't have to search the inner chambers of my brain (and the internet) for ideas for these daily posts, mostly because most of them are bullshit (team captains?).

Anyhoo, the Rockets tipped off their preseason schedule last night against the Hornets in Oklahoma City. The Hornets won 94-92, continuing their recent domination of the Rockets, though our first team completely dismantled their first squad in the first half. A few notes from the game:

- The Rockets outscored the Hornets 30-9 in the first quarter, which should be the best evaluation of how good the team is.

- The Rockets starting lineup: Yao, T-Mac, Battier, Chuck Hayes (?) and Rafer. Don't expect that to stay the same over the next few weeks.

- Yao ran well in the first half and kept up with the quicker pace of Adelman's new offense. He had 13 points in the half and looked good in the offense. He hit one long jumper just inside the 3-point line that, if he hits consistently, will make him 5.7 times more dangerous.

- There was a lot of fast-breaking last night, which makes Trey go happy.

- Bonzi Wells, welcome back to the NBA. We missed you.

- I know it was just the first game, but Luther Head and Kirk Snyder were trying their best to play themselves out of the rotation. Head struggled getting the ball up the court sometimes and looked worthless in the half-court.

- Steve Francis caught one tip dunk off the rim on Hilton Armstrong that was just nasty. It was waved off because he had his other arm on Armstrong's back. Shame.

- Don't expect Luis Scola to be the savior just yet. He looked good in the offense, showed some presence on the boards, but was struggling with the change from international rules to NBA rules. He got called on at least three moving screens.

- I hate to admit it, but Rafer is still the best pure point guard on the roster. He looked improved last night. He knocked down some 3s and made some nice passes (including a one-handed fast break assist off the dribble to Mike Harris in traffic).

- No sign of Aaron Brooks last night. I'm disappointed. Mike Harris got some nice burn, though. He knocked down a few mid-range jumpers and ran the floor well. Still don't see a roster spot for him.

- Mike James and Francis give us that "we don't give a fuck" attitude we need to overtake the elite Western Conference teams in our way. Say what you want about Steve, but during his first stint in Houston, the Rockets never backed down from anybody.

- Chris Paul is almost unstoppable. He had one in-and-out crossover that turned Scola completely around. CP3 definitely makes the All-Star Game this year, especially since it's in Lilweezyana.

Monday, October 8, 2007

An Enigma Wrapped In a Mystery

There's a story in today's Houston Chronicle about how Bonzi Wells is so happy to be playing with the Rockets under Rick Adelman and other blah blah shit.

Of course, I, like everybody else in Houston, waited patiently for these predictable comments ever since he announced that he would be coming back to the team. Of course, that was after Adelman was in and Jeff Van Gundy was out.

Do I believe Bonzi's newfound exuberance to be a Rocket? I'm not sure. I still haven't fully forgiven him for inexplicably quitting on the team last year just before the playoffs when we needed him the most, though who can blame an offensively talented player for not wanting to play for Coach Fester?

Regardless, the fact remains that Wells remains one of the keys to the Rockets' elevating to elite status this season, though not as much as last year when there was a shortage of impact playmakers outside of McGrady and Yao. This year, there's Scola, Francis, Mike James, and Aaron Brooks to help lighten the two superstars' load.

And you can add Bonzi's name to that list. He only played 28 uninspired games last season (and 21 minutes per), averaged 7.8 points, and was not the Bonzi Wells we were hoping to get when he signed. He was slow, out of shape, whiny, and was a far cry from the 2006 Bonzi who played in 52 games under Adelman (32 minutes per), averaged 13.6 points per game, and gave the Spurs fits in the Kings/Spurs first round series.

Hopefully, Adelman can turn back the clock on Bonzi's rollercoaster career. First, he's gotta get him healthy. He's been sitting out much of training camp with the same groin injury that sidelined him for so much time during last season's preseason.

If he keeps up this shit throughout the season, I'm gonna have to put him over teammate Skip to Another Team on my Rockets Shit List.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

I'm the Boss of this Boat, You Can Call Me Skipper

With the amazing news that Stephen Jackson had been named co-captain of the Warriors last week, amid both praise and criticism, (also, check out my homey Ty Keenan from Plissken at the Buzzer's Jackson post here)I decided to decipher who would SHOULD be the team captain (or co-captains in some cases) on each of the NBA's 30 teams.

Atlanta Hawks - Joe Johnson - Joe-Joe is undoubtedly the Hawks best player, plus he can counsel young teammates about the perils of leaving 60-win championship contenders to be the team captain on a floundering East team that entertains about 367 people a night. No offense, though.

Boston Celtics - Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce/Ray Allen - Is an explanation needed? The trio doubles as the team's top 3 players and the group for where the Celtics respect ends.

Charlotte Bobcats - Jason Richardson - J-Rich is the only notable 'Cat outside of the team president/basketball god that has won anything, save for the 2004 and 2005 NCAA Championship games.

Chicago Bulls - Ben Wallace/Kirk Hinrich - Because an overrated team should be captained by two overrated players.

Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James - Any guy with the balls to declare himself a diehard Yankees fan and wear a Yanks cap to the ballpark where the team from the city where he plays and grew up 45 minutes from, while that team is playing the Yanks no less, is tough in my book and should be a captain.

Dallas Mavericks - Anybody but Dirk - If you put a gun to my head, I would say Jerry Stackhouse, seeing that he was the only one who showed up against Golden State. Or Mark Cuban. Just not Dirk.

Denver Nuggets - Allen Iverson - Sorry 'Melo, but I don't think you've earned the full respect of all your teammates. And A.I. should be the captain on any team he suits up for.

Detroit Pistons - Chauncey Billups - Mr. Big Shot gets the vote here. I was going to go with Sheed, until I remembered how he quit on the team and single-handedly jump-started the Pistons' meltdown against Cleveland in Game 6.

Golden State Warriors - Stephen Jackson/Baron Davis - Who else? Jackson has to be the best teammate ever (just ask the Detroit fans). From Bomani Jones from ESPN's Page 2 in the linked article above:
The best description I've read of the Warriors came from Rodimusprime, a commenter on the message boards at Rodimus says the Warriors "play like they came in the gym late and STOLE someone's next and then was like, 'We already got our five.'"

Tell me you can't see Jack stretching at the free-throw line, claiming he called next when he got out of his car, saying Monta Ellis can verify that he did -- in fact, calling next and daring someone to say he's lying. And tell me you can't see Baron Davis with them, holding the ball above the top of the key, waiting for someone to realize that his squad ain't going nowhere.

That's a team that means business, and Jack fits perfectly at the front of the pack.

How Matt Barnes got to be a captain is beyond me, but I digress.

Houston Rockets - Tracy McGrady/Steve Francis - McGrady is our best player; Francis is our tough guard (every team needs a tough guard. The Warriors have like 10 of them). Mike James could also be a candidate here, he's the best talker on the team.

Indiana Pacers - Jamaal Tinsley - It can't be Jermaine O'Neal, right? He doesn't even want to be there anymore.

L.A. Clippers - Sam Cassell - With their best player (Brand) most likely out for the year, and Mike Dunleavy trying to trade Corey Maggette for Ron Artest as I type this, the vote goes to the Brett Favre of the NBA, minus the records.

L.A. Lakers - Derek Fisher - Yeah, like I'm gonna go with the moody gunner who demanded a trade twice in one day and is engaged in a he say/he say situation with his 19-year-old center over a botched text message. No, thanks.

Memphis Grizzlies - Damon Stoudamire - Nobody on this team really screams out "leader" to me, but I'll go with Mighty Mouse, who was playing well last season before he got hurt and was already named captain of the Grizz.

Miami Heat - Shaquille O'Neal/Dwyane Wade - Both two championship superstars not at 100%; both the only chance the Heat have of contending this season.

Milwaukee Bucks - Michael Redd - I was going to go with Yi Jianlian, but I realized there will be no chairs for him to compete against in the league.

Minnesota Timberwolves - Randy Foye/Ricky Davis - With KG gone, it's Foye's team now. Davis, not much of a team leader, is a go-to scorer on possibly the league's worst team.

New Jersey Nets - Jason Kidd - Kidd is still the best point guard on the planet and that fact alone qualifies him for permanent captaincy status.

New Orleans Hornets - Chris Paul - The third best pg in the league and the preeminent young leader of men.

New York Knicks - N/A - This franchise is screwed up from the owner on down, a team captain is irrelevant at this point.

Orlando Magic - Dwight Howard/Rashard Lewis - When you're overpaid by at least $50 million, you better be a leader of some kind. You'd better bust a few shots in the air in the parking lot of a strip club ala Stephen Jax. Do something.

Philadelphia 76ers - Andre Miller/Andre Igoudala - After trading away the ultimate leader, the captain status goes to the new go-to guy and the other Andre who kept the Sixers out of the Oden/Durant sweepstakes.

Phoenix Suns - Steve Nash - The best pg in the world not named Jason Kidd keeps the team intact despite the annual bitching from his small forward.

Portland Trail Blazers - Brandon Roy - Young team with no relevant veterans, so the vote goes to the Rookie of the Year who will be counted on even more with the old-man rookie out for '08.

Sacramento Kings - Ron Artest - Since Bibby stopped caring about two seasons ago and Kevin Martin not yet ready to be a leader, the vote goes to Artest, just so I can call him Captain Ron.

San Antonio Spurs - Tim Duncan - If I have to explain, please stop reading.

Seattle Sonics - Kevin Durant - I know he's only 19. I know he's only like 200 pounds. I know he's yet to play an NBA game. But he is the franchise and undoubtedly the Sonics best player, plus he'll earn everybody's respect around the second week of the season.

Toronto Raptors - Chris Bosh/T.J. Ford - Bosh is the franchise player, of course, and every team that T.J. has been apart of has made the playoffs. Check the history.

Utah Jazz - Deron Williams - Boozer's the go-to guy, but he's not really the leader. That would be D-Will, as judged by his playoff performance and his recent emasculating of Andrei Kirilenko after he asked to be traded last week.

Washington Wizards - Caron Butler - Sure, Gilbert Arenas is one of the best, most exciting guards in the game, but he has yet to prove he can lead and inspire others. I think he'll improve upon that in '07-'08, but until then, it's Caron.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Who Ya Got? Steve Francis vs. Mike James

Before you start laughing, know that this is only a comparison in the sense of the Rockets' starting point guard position, not who's better overall.

The team's guards have already talked about the glut at the position, with the starting spot widely seen as Francis' to lose. Of course, I second that opinion.

But I'm trying to be fair here. Francis has the most ballyhooed history in Houston, being a three-time All-Star and easily the most exciting player in franchise history. James, however, has the most recent history with the team, starting for the Rockets 2005 playoff team.

If we're going by overall talent, as you all know, Francis takes that by a landslide. But, in an offense predicated on half-court movement, superior talent isn't as important as in most systems. Let's compare the two

Mike James -- A 6'2, strong-built combo guard...undrafted out of Duquesne University.

Strengths: Played six seasons in the league and has averaged 11 ppg and 4 apg....He averaged 12.4 points and 2.9 assists in 27 games with the Rockets in 2004-05...Career 38% 3-point shooter...15.5 PER...43% shooter from the field...tough player, which is needed on a Rockets team that has been perceived as too nice over the past few years...solid perimeter defender...he's been shipped around the league a lot, so he's humble...gets along well with his teammates, good chemistry guy...played for a championship Detroit team in '04.

Weaknesses: Nowhere close to being a pass-first point guard or even a facillitator of the offense...struggles handling the ball against intense pressure at times...tends to get out of the offense much to take low-percentage shots...struggled playing with Kevin Garnett last season, which is unjustifiable...there has to be a reason why he's played for 8 teams in 6 seasons.

Steve Francis -- 6'3, 200 pound bundle of amazing athleticism, even after a couple knee injuries. Drafted 2nd overall by the Grizzlies out of Maryland in '99, traded to Rockets in August '99.

Strengths: More of a scoring point guard than combo guard or undersized 2...only played off the ball in Orlando and New York, two teams who, to put it nicely, weren't good at all (sorry, Don) of the most athletic point guards ever...single-handedly saved my freshman year in high school, which coincided with his rookie year in Houston (okay, I could have left that out)...always been a good mid-range shooter...has averaged 18.4 points and 6.4 assists in 8 seasons...averaged 19.4 points and 6.3 assists in five seasons in Houston...helped continue the trend among great guards wearing the #3 (which was started by Allen Iverson and, to a lesser extent, Stephon Marbury)...averaged only 16.6 points and 6.2 assists in his only season playing for Jeff Van Gundy, then followed that up with 21.3 points and 7 assists in his first season in underrated passer in his first stint in Houston, should be a great distributor with all the new talent this year...very strong, won't be overmatched physically by big guards like Deron Williams like Rafer Alston last season...good defender...always hit big shots in the clutch...can post smaller guards...older, so he's more of a leader than when he was younger...great player, cheap contract...3-time All-Star, one-time starter...Houston legend...has lost a little bit of a step, but still gets to the rim whenever he wants.

Weaknesses: Has always been known as kinda moody and selfish...pissed off Rockets fans with his selfish acts his last season in Houston...had a big tendency to play out of control...never a great 3-point shooter, career 34% shooter...only played in 68 games combined the last two seasons in New York due to knee injuries...averaged a career-low 10.8 ppg in '07...has only played in one playoff series (2004 with the Rockets, losing in five games to the Lakers)...didn't gel well with Yao Ming in their two years playing with each other...needs to be more of a complete point guard than big-time scorer, which is a concern as to whether he can do that right away...also a concern about whether he will be able to deal with the multiple point guards on the roster...had a tendency to over-dribble and go one-on-one, though that was pretty much the offense during the Rudy Tomjanovich Era post-Hakeem...doesn't play that well off the ball, which he might have to do sometimes with all the guards on the roster...has never played with a big-time scorer the likes of Tracy McGrady, better yet two big scorers...I wonder how he'll handle going from franchise player 3 years ago to 3rd or 4th option in '07.

With all this said, the obvious choice is Stevie at the point on October 30 in L.A. He's the better player and the better point guard. But, watch out, Steve, Aaron Brooks is still the future.

Nike Zoom Kobe 3s

These are absolutely horrible.

Pics via Sneaker Files.

I Know You Like My Style

It's October, in the midst of the beginning of the first training camp under a new coach, so, as is always the case, players are expressing their love of the coach's new style of play and throwing politically correct shots at the previous regime.

The Rockets have already started continuing this trend, greasing up to new coach Rick Adeldam, the free-flowing, former leader of high-scoring offenses, while dispelling the previous system set by former coach Jeff Van Gundy, the posterboy of grind-it-out, defense first and second, and consistent scoring in the 80s.

For the record, count me in as another supporter of Adelman over JVG. That's mostly because of Adelman's fluid offense and up-and-down style fits perfectly with the roster Daryl Morey has built this offseason. Van Gundy's head would have exploded if he had to coach a team with 7 point guards, 3 of which used to scoring big numbers, and 1 of which is Steve Francis.

The world knows the story between Stevie and Van Gundy. There was the constant bickering, the Super Bowl fiasco in 2004, and the simple fact that Francis had his worst season as a Rocket under Jeff, and you can see how him coming back to Houston would have limited the types of players we could have added this past summer.

Instead, Steve will thrive under Adelman, who will most likely have the point guard facilitate the offense instead of Tracy McGrady, who was the prime distributor under Van Gundy. Mac led the team in assists last year, mostly because we had an inconsistent starting point guard that simply wasn't ready to lead a great team. But he's gone now....oops, sorry Rafer. Anywoo..

Career-wise, Adelman trumps Van Gundy, but only slightly. Rick took the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals in '90 and '92, losing to the Pistons and Bulls, respectively. Jeff took the Knicks to the Finals after Patrick Ewing got hurt in the '99 lockout season that absolutely never happened.

Adelman, however, led another team to the brink of the promised land. The 2002 Kings were one win away from going on to sweep the Nets in the Finals, but faltered late in Game 7 against the Lakers. Van Gundy hasn't gotten past the second round since that mystical Finals run.

So, yeah, the Rockets players are saying the mandatory "I love his style of play" jibberish that dudes always say under new head coaches, but at least it isn't for naught. We should see a lot more 100-point games this season and we definitely should see a second-round playoff game at Toyota Center.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

King Live Returns!!

I've finally emerged from my little hole (read: my room) where I have been emersed in the latest version of the NBA Live series, for which I am the current world king. A few observations from my 2-day streak of complete neglection of the rest of the world:

- '08 is at least 5x better than last year's version, which I played for a total of 3 hours. The graphics are improved and the gameplay is definitely on another level from '07.

- The dynasty mode is also more improved. First, EA did away with that annoying PDA feature (they may or may not have gotten rid of it last year, I wouldn't know) and, instead, have all of the league's news and rumors on the dynasty home screen.

- When you simulate games in season/dynasty mode, it shows a full play-by-play of the game being simulated and even asks you to join in if something significant is happening, like your team having a slight lead late in the game or trailing late. I started my first franchise with the Sonics and, while simulating the first game of the season, it stopped to ask me if I wanted to intervene the game because Kevin Durant was on his way to scoring 40 points. To that I say, wow.

- Point guards are literally unstoppable if you're guarding them straight up as a user. One of my first games playing, Steve Nash lit me up for 20 in the first half and was hitting everything, floaters, left-handed hook shot layups, pull-up jumpers, 3s, everything. My suggestion: lots of help defense...lots.

- If a big man has the ball close to the basket, it's money 95% of the time.

- EA casually forgot to include Luis Scola on my Rockets, which deals a big blow to my world domination plans. (Hello, NBA Live online.)

- The Rockets look nice on there. Despite getting screwed out of Scola. Update your rosters, people.

- Haven't played the FIBA World Championships yet, but EA nailed it with the exact rosters for foreign squads.

- No word yet if LeBron and Kobe have already traded themselves away from their respective teams.

- As much as I like this year's Live, next year's version is going to be off the chain. Especially with Derrick Rose in a Sonics or Trail Blazers uniform, O.J. Mayo with the Clippers, Tywon Lawson with the Pacers, and Eric Gordon with the Kings.

- Speaking of which, can't wait for NCAA March Madness '08 to come out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

T.O.N.Y. (Tool Of New York)

Funny thing happened as I was browsing the internets before opening the package on the new NBA Live '08 game: I checked out only to see that Isiah Thomas sexually harassed Anucha Browne Sanders, according to the jury.

This puts an end to another chapter in the embarrassing New York Knicks offseason, and another chapter in the walking comedy novel that is Isiah Thomas' career in the Big Apple.

So, how does Zeke come back from this? He's been about as horrible a GM as you'll ever see, making the most unexplainable trades with absolutely no regard for the salary cap or actual team chemistry. His moves have further crippled the Knicks' payroll while the team's record has not reflected the high salary.

Sexual harrassment set aside, it's surprising that Isiah still has a job in New York, better yet the NBA. It hurts me to say this, considering he's one of my favorite pro athletes of all-time, but he truly sucks as an executive post-Hall of Fame career.

Of course, he drafts well, always has. As the Raptors' GM, he took Damon Stoudamire in 1995 and watched him win Rookie of the Year, and then took Marcus Camby the next year. In New York, he drafted Renaldo Balkman amid boos from the MSG crowd. Balkman surprised a lot of people with his hardworking play (though offensively his defencicies are highly amusing).

But the deals he's made since being hired in 2003 have set the franchise even further back from where former GM Scott Layden left it, which was almost in retarded mode. He traded for Stephon Marbury (cap-killing pg that historically makes teams worse and former teams better), Tim Thomas (cap-killing versatile forward with a penchant for uninspiring play), Quentin Richardson (cap-killing oft-injured 3-pt shooter who gets little open shots because of lack of distributing guards), Jamal Crawford (cap-killing gunner), Zach Randolph (cap-killing double-double guy with absolutely no D), Jalen Rose (cap-killing washed up forward; bought out last season), and signed Jerome James (Why??? James was overpaid by $10 million and never plays).

Notice any trends? Those were all cap-killing moves that had no regard for the Knicks' future. It's like he's out there playing fantasy league basketball or something. NY won't be under the cap (or close to it) until '09, and that's if he doesn't make another horrible trade (and that's if he gets to keep his job).

Isiah should've blown up this team two years ago, but didn't because of the menacing backlash from fans that was sure to ensure. Now, he's faced with another team that looks good on paper, but will struggle gelling with each other. He also has little room to improve the team, with no cap room and a lack of first round picks in upcoming years.

But worst of all, he has a PR nightmare of a sexual harassment suit hanging over his head that further embarrasses himself and the Knicks organization (if you want to call it that), and a short leash just turned into a noose. Of course, don't be surprised to see Thomas hang himself.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Time To Play Fantasy GM

It's the first of the month, people (Wake up, wake up, wake up), which means NBA training camps have officially started.

The Rockets opened up camp today in Austin, with some new news to spread. The team resigned 41-year-old center Dikembe Mutombo to a 1-year deal today and signed second round pick Carl Landry.

Mutombo and Landry make 21 players headed into camp, with 16 of them with guaranteed contracts. Obviously, GM Daryl Morey stole the idea from Bryan Colangelo to invite as many players as possible to camp and make them tryout for spots on the team. (What is this, high school?)

This worries me a little (and I mean a little. There are a plethora of teams that wished they had the number of quality players we do) for a couple of reasons:

1. Lack of chemistry -- Having that many guys on the team may sound good on paper when looking at the many options it offers, but, realistically, you can't ask 21 guys (with that number being cut to 15 before the season starts) to gel in three weeks. Add to the fact that a few players in camp actually have the same exact game (ex: Mike Harris/Carl Landry/Chuck Hayes; Luther Head/Mike James; Aaron Brooks/John Lucas III; Justin Reed/Shane Battier) and the Rockets are guaranteed to have some serious chemistry issues this month.

Lack of excess cash to throw around -- As I already mentioned, we have 16 players with guaranteed contracts and $31 million already tied into T-Mac and Yao this season. The rest of the team, outside of the $5 million owed to Battier, have cheap salaries for the most part, but with so many players on the team, those cheap salaries start to add up.

All this means that it's time for Morey and Rick Adelman to shape up this roster as quickly as possible. And who better to aide in the shape up of the Houston Rockets roster than your resident Rockets fanatic, yours truly.

Let's start with the players who are a lock to make the team:

Yao Ming -- Let's see, he's easily the best center in the league, Houston's franchise player (sorry, Mac. You too, Steve), and would have been a top MVP candidate had it not been for a toe injury that sidelined him for 34 games. If he plays well in camp, there might just be a starting spot waiting for him this season. Of course, he's going to miss a part of camp to attend the Special Olympics. Go figure.

Tracy McGrady -- Hopefully, young Lazy Eye is fully healed (or at least close to it) from that whole chronic back problem thing. I have a lot riding on that back this season. Of course, I don't know if I should be worried or enthused that he's traveling all the way to Africa.

Steve Francis -- Another young (old?) man that could be the reason we're planning a downtown parade or calling for Adelman's head in May. I would be very worried if he doesn't beat out Rafer "Slash To My Lou" Alston, Mike "Who" James, and rookie Aaron Brooks for the starting point guard position. Of course, like everyone else in basketball does when things go wrong, I'll just blame Isiah Thomas.

Shane Battier -- I put Shane after Francis for the simple fact that Battier's game and contract are so league-friendly that he'll always end up in loads of trade rumors, and it's not even his fault. I see him furthering his role as "the token glue guy who is the key to so many wins" this year.

Luis Scola -- If you want to gauge how excited I am to have Scola in a Rockets uniform, know this: I secretly smiled with pleasure as he won the MVP award in the TOA's, even though LeBron and Carmelo got absolutely robbed. (Note: There's no changing my mind on that.)

Aaron Brooks -- As I've previously wrote, I truly believe that Brooks is one of the most important pickups in recent franchise history, if only because he's the rare late first-round pick that can contribute immediately off the bench yet still be primed to carry the torch for the future (think Tony Parker and Sam Cassell before the Rockets pulled off that idiotic 4-for-1 Charles Barkley deal in 1996. I still haven't gotten over that shit). He would have been a slight favorite to start had Francis not come back.

Bonzi Wells -- As is the case with the Bonz, he's one emotional meltdown from being a total non-factor this year....and he could be the catalyst for a championship. Only he knows, which scares me.

Kirk Snyder -- It absolutely baffles me that Snyder isn't a prime member of this team. He's the Glue Guy 1.5 version of Shane Battier. He's athletic as hell, has a fairly consistent shot, gets to the line when he's in the game, can post up smaller guards, drive past slower forwards, and defends. These are rare qualities in the 3rd or 4th guy off the bench. He needs to get a lot more minutes, especially after we get rid of....

Mike James -- Almost forgot about you, Mike. Maybe it's because you stunk it up in Minnesota last season, or maybe it's the fact that you really don't have a defined position. Wait, I know why, it's because you're going to be eating up Aaron Brooks' minutes because you're older. I hate you. Just kidding (kinda). James can defend the perimeter and knock down shots, even if those are his only meaningful assets.

Luther Head -- Lu Head (note: I think that should be his permanent nickname from now on) has been the forgotten man this offseason, even though he helped submarine our chances of beating Utah in that Game 7 (shit, actually the whole series) and got exposed for being an undersized 2 that can't create his own shot or make plays for others and freezes up in big moments (you know, like the '05 title game against North Carolina). But besides that, he's cool. I say shop him around the league and hope for a late first-rounder/second-round pick.

Jackie Butler -- I was extremely elated to see his name get included in that Scola deal. He's a big bruiser, decent rebounder, and he'll act as the enforcer/backup to Yao.

Chuck Hayes -- As Yoda from Star Wars would say, "Back to the bench, you go." Or something like that. Chucky had no business ever starting for the Rockets, just like the Rockets had no business ever expecting anything substantially efficient from him. Another glue guy, though. He reminds me of a nicer Cliff Levingston. You know, the guy they show in the Jordan highlights on the bench saying, "He. Is. Hot. Whooo!"

Steve Novak -- The Spurs have Brent Barry, we have Novak. Sure, he'll never see the light of day in Adelman's system, but we still have him.

Dikembe Mutombo -- Old man river returns again. Why? Beats me. Adelman's style is quick and fast-paced, and Dik is 41. I repeat, Dik is 41. Put it this way: he looked super slow in Jeff Van Gundy's style of play.

Mike Harris/Carl Landry/Justin Reed -- I don't see the need for any one of these dudes, truthfully. They're all undersized 4's with no offensive game whatsoever. Tell you what, just pick one of these three and move on. Neither one has any shot of stepping foot on the court this year. I guess this is the wrong time to mention the Rockets paid $1 million in that Sonics trade to get the pick that they ultimately took Landry with.

And finally....

Rafer Alston -- The only, I repeat, only, reason Skip is still employed in Houston is because he single-handedly killed his own trade value by getting arrested twice in the span of three weeks. Even Mike Tyson is embarrassed. O.J. is shaking his head at you, Skip. If you want to know how I really feel, read and read.

That would give the Rockets a roster that looks like this (at least when the regular season starts):

C - Yao Ming
F - Luis Scola
F - Shane Battier
G - Tracy McGrady
G - Steve Francis

G - Mike James
G - Aaron Brooks
G/F - Bonzi Wells
G/F - Kirk Snyder
F - Chuck Hayes
F - Steve Novak
F - Mike Harris/Carl Landry/Justin Reed
C - Dikembe Mutombo
C - Jackie Butler
G - Luther Head
G - Rafer Alston

After a few trades here and there, the roster top to bottom should be just about right. And if Morey needs a fantasy GM to pull off those trades to, he knows where to find me.