Monday, December 29, 2008

Baron Davis in Golden State of Mind

According to a report from the Contra Costa Times out of San Francisco, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Jackson spent this past Saturday afternoon with former team mate Baron Davis and believes that Davis would welcome a return to the Bay area.

Let's hope that this is true and, while it seems unlikely to happen it would be great to see Davis back in a Warriors uniform. Things haven't worked out for him so far in L.A. with the Clippers and he just seems to be the perfect fit for Golden State and especially under coach Don Nelson.

The Warriors were the most exciting team to watch with Davis running the point, feeding guys like Monta Ellis, Jackson and ex-team mate Jason Richardson. Now they still play the same way (Nelson knows no other style), but they lack electricity and Davis was the spark plug.

Will it happen though ? Probably not, it would seem to be a strange move that the two franchises would agree to, especially if the Warriors offered former Clipper Corey Maggette as bait. Nobody seems to want Maggette and I can't see the Clippers pulling the trigger as a favor to the Warriors.

What is it about Corey Maggette ? He's a big, strong guy (6'6", 225lb) can play the two or three, gets to the line whenever he wants(8.5 attempts this year, almost seven for his nine-year career) and is averaging 19ppg this season (over 16 for his career) and 5.7 rpg(5.1 career) yet he seems to be available to any team that wants him. At any price.

While Maggette absolutely loves a shot, he is a pathetic defender and has an Eddy Curry-like ability to turn the ball over and he's not too fond of passing either. And he's getting even worse. He is averaging a paltry 1.8apg (down on his 2.2 career) but his turnovers are bang on his career mark of 2.4tpg.

For a guy who plays 34 minutes a game, in Don Nelson's system especially, he could just let go of the ball and he would get at least a few more assists. Then again, why pass it when he can shoot the ball himself !

Still, the Warriors only have themselves to blame, they couldn't keep Davis with $17-million and then gave $50-million to Maggette.

Brandon Roy Continues to Torment Bryan Colangelo

Toronto Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo has always stubbornly defended the decision he made when he selected Andrea Bargnani with the first overall draft pick in the 2006 draft. Brandon Roy, taken sixth in that same draft, continues to offer damning evidence to suggest that Colangelo got it dead wrong.

As witnessed by Portland’s comfortable 102-89 win over the Toronto Raptors Saturday night, it was once again Brandon Roy who played a vital role in guiding his team to victory, while Bargnani came and went like Toronto’s first half double digit lead.

Roy scored 32-points which was the same amount the Raptors could muster as a team for the second half. He was 14-for-19 from the field and combined with nine assists, it easily outshone Bargnani’s contribution of 13-points, which included shooting 3-for-4 from three-point range and two rebounds.

In the five times that these two players have now faced each other, Roy averages 24.2 points, (on 55-percent shooting) six rebounds and over eight assists. Bargnani averages a paltry seven points, (on 34-percent shooting), less than three rebounds and has dished out a total of only three assists in those five contests.

Regardless of whether or not he was thinking of a long term project or a short term gain, if Colangelo could have that one franchise-changing night from June 28, 2006 all over again, there is absolutely no doubt whom he would have chosen with that crucial first pick.

The prospective gap between Roy and Bargnani’s careers right now, is as wide as the distance between Oregon and Rome. As one player heads towards superstar status, the other heads towards being labeled a super bust.

Roy was Rookie of the Year in his first season and an All-Star in just his second. While he plots his course to greatness with the Portland Trail Blazers, Bargnani meekly plods along with the spluttering Toronto Raptors, occasionally hitting three-pointers but providing his team with little else.

While the frustration continues for Colangelo as he watches his Raptors limp along at sub .500 pace, how often he must ask himself that unanswerable “What if?” question. Just ‘What if’ the name above the number seven jersey for the Raptors said “Roy” instead of Bargnani ? Where might the Raptors be right now ?

It must be even harder for Colangelo to watch Royas he elevates himself to one of the leagues elite, confidently and calmly taking the new Trail blazers with him. Almost single handedly, Roy has buried the ugly “Jail Blazers” tag deep away from Portland.

This once tarnished franchise seems now a million miles away from the dark days of those player arrests and continual controversy.

Bargnani and the Raptors however, have made little progress together. Two playoff appearances in two seasons has been an improvement after some barren years since the Vince Carter days, but in reality, Toronto is no closer to being a serious contender than it was back at the early part of this decade.

If that draft of ’06 taught us anything, it was again a case of how an inexact science drafting talent can be. Despite what any of the scouts and experts says, there is simply no way of knowing for sure, exactly how a player will develop and adjust to the rigors of the NBA.

There was no possible way to determine that in less than three full seasons, Roywould already be being mentioned in the same breaths as the current crop of the NBA’s best, along side names such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul.

The name Brandon Roy could easily complete that quartet.

The only comparisons Bargnani is making right now is to the more cringe worthy names such as Kwame Brown and Michael Olowakandi. Both were former number one picks, both complete busts. It’s enough to make Raptors fans shudder.

When Colangelo watches Roy as he drives easy into the lane, he must wonder how Chris Bosh would look on the receiving end of one of Roy’s crisp passes. Instead Colangelo is only constantly reminded of Bargnani’s ineptness, for when he catches the ball, there is often a look of utter confusion on his face and what’s expected from him within his own team’s offense.

Surely too, Colangelo couldn’t help but also allow his mind to wander to the summer of 2010 and wistfully ponder the prospect of having both Roy and Bosh together lobbying another of the other glorious free-agents to-be to join them north of the border. Instead, right now it appears right now as though Colangelo will need to plead desperately with Bosh to convince him to stick around in Toronto.

Roy and Bargnani do share some common elements to their game in that neither player seems suited to play only one position. Roy can seamlessly slide from the two-guard to playing the point-guard spot, occasionally even fitting into the three if he is needed there. Bargnani always seems to be in a ‘square peg in a round hole’ situation, too big for the small forward, to slow for the power spot and just not agile enough for a center.

This has forced the Raptors to have to yank him around from position to position, from a starter to a bench player and back again, trying any and every combination to find the right fit.

They haven’t found it yet.

From a 16-points-per-game average in his rookie campaign, Roy is now safely in the coveted 20-point plateau this season, averaging 23 per game, tied for 10th best in the league.

He knows what’s expected from him and he delivers, never looking to make a statement about himself, only for the team which he carries on his broad shoulders. Unlike many of his predecessors, Roy doesn’t need tattoos or earrings to draw attention to himself, he’s more old fashioned and he lets his game do the talking.

Recently, after he scored a career-high 52 points in a win against the Phoenix Suns, he shrugged at his achievement “My No. 1 goal is to win. Not to be the MVP. Not to be the All-Star,”

Others can talk about him; he just wants to talk about his team.

Bargnani, over the same timeframe has seen his production slowly regress each year. From a respectable 11 points-per-game average in his first year, to now averaging less than 10 points-per-game this season. Furthermore, the one strength that the Italian did possess – the three pointers also seems to have deserted him.

He’s making less per game now and shooting them at a lower percentage than he did in his first season.

The only statement Bargnani has made to date has been that maybe he doesn’t belong on the Toronto Raptors and maybe not even in the NBA.

Bargnani’s problem is that he looks literally like he’s too big for his own shoes. When he gets the ball at the top of the paint, if he doesn’t take the three-pointer he looks totally unsure of how to create any sort of opportunity for himself or his team mates.

On the occasions that he does take the ball into the lane, it is so awkward, so premeditated that the result is often ugly. Defenders often just stand there and wait for him to barrel into the lane and try to draw him into an offensive foul.

Ironically, when Roy has the ball, he too doesn’t make his mind up until the last second either, simply because he’s not quite sure which of his vast array of weapons he’s going to use. A spin around jump shot or a drive inside the lane finishing with either hand or maybe he’ll just dish off to an open team mate, whatever Roy decides to do, he always seems to know what to do and precisely the right moment when to do it.

And he usually gets it right.

Maybe it’s too early and even unfair to judge these two players against one another. Perhaps Bargnani will “get it” one day and perhaps Roy has peaked already, but both scenarios seem unlikely in the extreme right now.

Bryan Colangelo has a reputation for sharp suits and ties, but no matter how suave he looks, nothing will let him have that night all over again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Firings and Trades...the NBA Season is Rolling !

About a third of the way through the 2008-09 and there has been six coaches fired and some big trades. GM's everywhere have become more impatient and unstable than the economy at the moment.

Some of the coaches deserved to go. P.J. Carlisemo was a poor signing to begin with last season. At 2-21, the Oklahoma City Thunder are on track to record the worst season in NBA history, currently held by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers at 9-73.

Thunder GM Sam Presti has some work to do. He traded away everything to go young and build around Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, but no matter how good any player is, they need a few (good) experienced players around them.

Sam Mitchell had to go too. He lost his way in the last 12-months. There appeared to be a clear difference of idea on how the Raptors should be playing. GM Bryan Colangelo has been lauded for what he's done since arriving in Toronto but his biggest challenge is coming up. Can he convince Chris Bosh to stay ? The fate of not only the Raptors hinges on this decision, but more so Colangelo's reputation.

Randy Wittman getting the boot in Minnesota was probably the best thing that happened to him. Kevin McHale has been - by far - the worst GM in the history of the NBA. He has continually wrecked this franchise with shocking decision making, yet, he somehow keeps his job and firing others for his incompetence.
The T'Wolves should go back to Dwayne Casey, in fact I'm surprised that Casey hasn't picked up another job since getting the boot almost two years ago.

Eddie Jordan was unlucky in Washington. He'll definitely be coaching again before long. The Wizards have been without loudmouth point guard Gilbert Arenas for the best part of two years. The Wizards shouldn't have signed Agent-0 to that $111-million contract in the Summer. The only "0" really relates to "overpaid" or "overrated".


It's funny how some players rate themselves. Look at Shawn Marion and Raja Bell for instance. Both thrived in Phoenix under Mike D'Antoni. Marion tried to bluff Steve Kerr and Kerr sent him to Miami. Now, Marion still has exactly the same skill set he always has, but without Steve Nash and not playing under the Suns' offense, Marion isn't anywhere near the All-Star he was.

Raja Bell is the same. He thought he was pretty hot stuff knocking down wide-open 3's every night under D'Antoni's high scoring offense. He was also a "great defender" for clobbering Kobe Bryant in the playoffs when in actual fact, he had to play dirty against Kobe, because the Black Mamba was murdering him.
Bell will struggle in Charlotte because apart from shooting three-pointers, Bell has ZERO moves. ZERO. His supposed defensive abilities won't be of much use to a team that gets pounded every night.
Sometimes guys just don't realize how good they've got it.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Paul Out Duels Bosh in a Battle of the Chris's

Toronto Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo witnessed a game of basketball Sunday afternoon played just the way he likes it.

It was fast paced with clean, crisp ball movement, lots of three-point shooting and perimeter play, and had a mix of an inside action as well.

It had that “European” style that the GM admires and it's that way he’s trying to get the Raptors to play.

Unfortunately for Colangelo though, it was the visiting New Orleans Hornets led by the irrepressible Chris Paul, who stole the show and out played Toronto 99-91.

The Raptors boss might feel as if Hornets head coach Byron Scott has stolen his idea. In Jay Triano’s first game as head coach of Toronto against the Utah Jazz, Colangelo stated on air that the Raptors were “still a perimeter team”.

Heading into Sunday's game, it was New Orleans who led the league in three-point accuracy at 41-percent, yet was only eleventh in tries at 18.5-per-game, but seventh in makes with 7.6-per-game.

You can add another 12-for-33 three-pointers to New Orleans stat sheet from today, six of them coming from reserve James Posey, who also had 10 rebounds.

There is no feeling more deflating than being beaten at your own game.

After a slow start to the season, the Hornets have now won eight of their last 10 games and improve to 13-7. Toronto had a two-game winning streak snapped and drops to 10-13.

Paul controls the tempo of a game like no other player in the NBA does. Not Kobe Bryant, not even LeBron James, which is a measure of just how good he is.

In their own right, of course Bryant and James are fantastically entertaining players to watch and much of their teams fate - on a nightly basis - is decided by them. However, there is so much more noise and bang to the way they play.

Every dunk is a thunderous one; every play has highlight reel potential.

It's like watching a heavy metal rock concert.

Paul plays a very different way. He's subtle but deadly effective, instead of being at a rock concert, watching him is more akin to listening to a saxophonist playing in New York’s Central Park on a warm Spring afternoon.

Don't look to the stats sheet to tell the full story of Paul’s dominance. There, you will only see the numerical impact Paul had on today’s game. Twelve points and twelve assists is a moderate return from an All-Star and Olympian.

What the box score won’t tell you is how Paul, after showing total trust in his team mates all day, decided he would drive the final dagger through the Raptors.

Toronto had closed to within five points 92-87 and still over two minutes remaining when Paul fearlessly dissected the lane and scored a lay up to stretch the Hornets lead back out to seven points.

It was a high-percentage play, from a high-percentage player. The type a team expects from its franchise player.

The Raptors franchise man, Bosh, clearly wasn’t paying attention to Paul. The man who he'd spent a lot of time in the summer with as they won Gold medals as team mates at the Beijing Olympics.

Rather than answer back by getting to the basket himself, Bosh launched a three-pointer. It clanked off the rim and Toronto’s fate was effectively sealed.

Just moments earlier, Paul, in total control had confidently confirmed his teams’ advantage. Bosh, unsure of himself, opted for hope and luck. Unsurprisingly, he came up short.

This game was decided on Paul’s watch.

The next possession Paul completely killed off the Raptors. He found Rasual Butler who drained his fourth three-pointer and the Hornets’ 12th.

It's no surprise that Paul’s team mates always seem to be ready. Even if they don’t know that they’re open, he lets them know that they are.

Back on November 27 after finishing practice for the day, a sweaty Chris Bosh told reporters that one of his goals for this season was to win the leagues Most Valuable Player award.

Bosh was playing at a high level and was posting career high numbers in scoring (27.6 points-per-game) and field goal percentage (55.1-percent). The Raptors were at the .500 mark with seven wins and seven losses.

From a statistical point of view, Bosh was posting MVP type numbers.

Since then however, Bosh has been very un-MVP like. Toronto has lost six of nine games and during that dip, Bosh has seen his numbers plunge. He is only averaging 19.6-points-per-game and shooting the ball at 46 percent over those nine games.

The Raptors have also lost their coach Sam Mitchell and after a strong start, Toronto once again finds itself in familiar, disappointing territory.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Maurice Cheeks Squeezed Out of Philadelphia

Mo Cheeks got the flick this afternoon as head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. This move isn't a huge surprise seeing that the rumours had been swirling about Cheeks demise in the last couple of weeks.

Mo might have been a victim of his own success. The Sixers weren't supposed to make the playoffs last season, but they did and almost knocked over the heavily favoured Detroit Pistons in the first round. Philadelphia led that series 2-1 and should have gone 3-1 up before Detroit regained control and took the series in six games.

The surprise addition of Elton Brand in the summer gave Philadelphia the low-post scorer and genuine inside threat that they lacked last season. Big Samuel Dalembert isn't capable of doing that job. However, Brand has struggled with Philadelphia and the Sixers are 9-14.

The real problem in Philadelphia this season has been Andre Iguodala. Iggy oozes talent and has long, strong arms yet he simply doesn't utilize his strengths enough. Like a lot of "franchise" players, he is undisciplined and settles for too many jumpshots rather than attack the hoop and getting to the free throw line.

His scoring numbers are down across the board. He is averaging 14.9 points-per-game and is shooting a career low 43.9 percent from the field. Certainly some of the reason his scoring is down is due to the presence of Brand and the emergence of Thaddeus Young, but that's no excuse for his lazy field goal shooting.

Philadelphia need Iguodala to forget about the jumpshot and get to the paint.

Look for 76ers GM Ed Stefanski to try and grab former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan to fill the void, though it probably won't happen before next season.


The Toronto Raptors won for the second time in a row last night. Interim head coach Jay Triano's team blew the New Jersey Nets apart by 22 points. Since Triano took over from Sam Mitchell, the Raptors are 2-3, although the wins came against Indiana and the Nets.

It's still too early into Triano's reign to see what sort of coach he'll be and considering that in two of the three losses he's coached, Toronto was ripped by Utah and Cleveland, but the team does look to be playing a bit 'looser' than they were under Mitchell.

Andrea Bargnani's wildly inconsistency continues, but he doesn't look like he's looking over his shoulder all the time, waiting to get yanked at the first error. Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo will probably never admit it, but if he could have that 2006 draft all over again, there is absolutely no doubt that he would take Brandon Roy first overall.

Back to Triano and the Raptors and we'll get a better idea of Triano's coaching abilities Sunday afternoon when Toronto hosts Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets.

Regular readers of The Daily Hurt know that I believe that Paul is the BEST player in the world right now, ahead of Kobe, LeBron and anyone else.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Usain Bolt Beats Out Michael Phelps as 2008's Best Athlete

It only took 9.69 seconds, but Usain Bolt managed to steal Michael Phelps thunder at the Beijing Olympics. Despite Phelps winning a staggering eight Gold medals – five more than Bolt - none of them were individually more spectacular than Bolt’s pulsating sprint in the 100 meter dash.

Memories are built on moments, not numbers.

In the primest of prime-times, Bolt put on a show to give the Olympics blue riband event its deserved platform. The men’s 100 meters is the one race that every Olympic fan waits patiently for and hopes for a special moment that they'll be able to talk about forever.

Usain Bolt delivered.

In doing so he returned the initials ‘WR’ next to the numbers 9.69. This is one event that should always have its best result run at an Olympic games. It just seems right.

Phelps, possibly the greatest swimmer ever, is certainly the most prolific Olympic Gold medal winner in history. With a personal tally of 14, at only 23 years of age, he’ll likely add to his haul at the London games in 2012, should he choose to compete there.

However, apart from the jubilation and splashing of fists into the water after he captured his seventh gold by the very tip of his fingernails from Serbian-American swimmer Milorad Cavic, Phelps will be remembered for the total amount of medals he won more so than any of his individual races.

Just days after his electrifying run in the 100m, Bolt came out for the 200m in front of 100,000 fans at the Bird’s Nest stadium. With millions more watching on TV around the world, everyone on them expecting to see another record.

Bolt delivered.

Bolt rounded the bend and roared down the straight and flashed across the finish line in just 19.30 seconds after exploding out of the blocks to smash the world record of 19.32 set by Michael Johnson 12 years ago.

This Bolt of lightning struck twice.
In two races totaling less than 30 seconds, Bolt upstaged the Baltimore superfish.

Bolt’s run in the 100 was astonishing. In an event where hundredths of a second can make all the difference, he even left a few on the clock. If you didn’t know what the term ‘scary-good’ meant before, if you thought it was just one of those sayings of kids these days, then go on Youtube and watch Bolt’s race.

Watch it again and again and then you’ll understand.

Despite annihilating his own record by four-tenths of a second, Bolt could have crossed the line sooner, had he not begun his celebration about 15 meters out.

Perhaps it was arrogance or perhaps it was immaturity from the then 21-year-old speedster, or maybe Bolt is just an old-fashioned showman.

Whatever it was it, he left everyone salivating, screaming for more.

Rather than be overawed by the expectation, Bolt turned in another scintillating performance in the 200M.

This time, he didn't let up. When it was obvious he wasn't going to be overtaken, Bolt was only chasing the record and he got it. Throwing his arms out triumphantly as he crossed the line, Bolt then went over to the crowd, found his family and draped himself in the Jamaican flag again.

Bolt’s performance means that he is the only man ever to break the world record in both sprints in the same Olympics.

His frame and body are supposedly too big for 100m, but perfect for the 200m. You can throw that reasoning out the door now.

For so long, this event had been dominated by stocky, nuggety men with tightly packed muscles with a photo the only way to determine who crossed first.

Bolt starts his races the same way all sprinters do, hunched over in the starting blocks. Only then are his opponents are on equal footing with him.

At the sound of the starter’s gun, Bolt begins his charge, unfurling into a perfect running machine. His long, lanky legs search out the track and gobble it up; like a gazelle, his golden trainers seem to barely touch the surface.

The final stretch for the finish line is usually close …Bolt was so laughably ahead that Buz Aldrin was closer to Neil Armstrong than the other plodders were to Usain.

Bolt was so electrifying, that his glorious run has finally given us an image to supersede Ben Johnson’s controversial one fingered salute when he dashed home in the Seoul games of 1988. In a talent laden field that included 1980’s golden child Carl Lewis, the race became infamous. We now know that Johnson was a cheat, but he was unlikely the only drug fueled runner on that infamous day 20 years ago.

Bolt has confined that image to history and replaced it with his own glorious one.