Thursday, July 31, 2008

Notes from Across the Association: Deng, Artest, etc...

So a lot has been happening recently, so I figured it's worth checking in:

Luol Deng: I have no problem with the Bulls keeping Deng. Deng is a versatile player, a hard worker, and the kind of guy who, in my opinion, will one day show the type of savvy veteran leadership that is essential to building a successful squad. But Deng is not a first option. And I feel like the front office here in Chicago thinks he is. His whole style is too rigid, too consciously constructed. He reminds me of Bill Bradley, maybe not so much in the tactics he employs (although somewhat in that sense), but in the sense that Deng doesn't have superstar talent, he just spends lots of time in the gym crafting a pallet of moves. He doesn't have the improvisational capacity to score at will. In other words, the man can't take people off the dribble. Nobody on this Bulls squad can take anybody off the dribble. Andres Nocioni thinks he can, but he is wrong. Well, OK. Rose may one day be a sizable offensive force beyond his distribution abilities, but for now this team needs someone who can really slash. If anyone even remotely tries to make the argument that Ben Gordon can create off the dribble, you are wrong. Dribbling into a double team and forcing a pull up jumper does not count.

Ron Artest (I am going to assume this Artest thing is still going to happen): So, hilariously enough, this whole Ron Artest-Rockets thing has already gotten off to a bad start. I was actually surprised how quickly the mere mention of Artest was able to create locker room problems, although I probably shouldn't have been. Either way, if this goes through, I think the Rockets will be a force to be reckoned with. Despite the last 48 hours, I actually think Adelman can keep a lid on Crazy Pills.

First and foremost, this team will be a defensive monstrosity. They were already one of the best defensive teams in the league, and as a couple of people have correctly noted, if it weren't for Artest antics, he would be a perennial all-NBA defensive first teamer. Artest is icing on the cake on that end of the floor.

For me, the questions lie more on the offensive end of the court (where, oddly enough, a lot of people feel the real upside to this trade is). I already feel like this team has problems with offensive fluidity (consider the fact that once the McGrady-Yao balance was decided by Ming's injury, the Rockets maintained a huge winning streak). Not big problems, but quietly I feel they have pecking order issues. Artest has said he is willing to be a third or fourth option. He has said he is willing to come off the bench. This is the right attitude. My worry is that when Artest gets his hands on the ball, he will forget all that. He can be a bit of a black hole. Now, if he really believes in his teammates, really believes he need not be the first option, this could all be mute. I just am concerned he may not have the presence of mind to execute that out on the floor. That being said, he is a deceptively smart basketball player for somebody who is so bat shit nuts.

Europe: I was completely ready to get on the "EVERYBODY IS GOING TO EUROPE, LET'S FREAK OUT" train, until somebody (I can't remember who or I'd link'em. Maybe Matt Moore) said that Olympiacos just signed a 11-10 per game guy for the most in the history of euroball; No way they have the money to poach anybody who happens to be a serious star. And that's when I calmed down.

Spurs (obligatory): I'm underwhelmed by our off-season moves so far. Yes, Mason was a good pickup, and despite his mediocre summer league performance, I'm content with George Hill. But I really feel we need to pick up a more dynamic offensive weapon. We need to go after J.R. Smith.

N.B. According to some, the fact that the Spurs are unlikely to resign Robert Horry makes this off-season a big success.

USA Basketball: Make sure to check out a blogger roundtable I contributed to coming up sometime within the next week over at Upside and Motor regarding the Olympic team. And check out (maybe) something similar over at HP regarding the difference between major market and small market franchises.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The State of Things

I think this is the tenth post in a row where I've complained about the amount of work I have instead of talking about basketball, and that is getting very boring for everyone involved, myself included. Either way, there are some things we have to discuss:

First, I neglected to mention last week that I am now writing a weekly column for Hardwood Paroxysm. It's titled HustleJunkie and runs on Tuesdays. You can read last week's installment here, and today's here.

Aside from the pleasure of working with a number of really talented writers over at HP, its also an excellent chance for me to do what I've been meaning to do for some time now: Not talk about the Spurs every damn post.

But it leaves me with a lingering question. If I now have a venue to muse on the state of the NBA as a whole, should I just give in and make this the full blown Spurs blog it is already on the cusp of being, or should I continue to keep up the charade of "this is an NBA blog that happens to be written by a Spurs fan." Well, actually, I lean towards the latter. I really do love the NBA as a whole, including its bumblingly tragicomic elements, and I don't want to limit myself. I hope to invest the time next season to really cover a variety of teams and players, and let whatever niche I carve for myself occur naturally. On that note, go over to HP and read my stuff, I think it ain't half bad.

And I promise, absolutely promise, that I will put up some meaningful content here at 48 Minutes this week. No excuses. Just good, ole' fashioned, amateur basketball analysis.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Quick thoughts on Childress

So awhile back I wrote pieces on both Brandon Jennings and Juan Carlos Navarro that began to hint at what has happened this week with Josh Childress. A lot of people have weighed in on this matter, and I think Kelly Dwyer is right to argue that it is far too early to begin calling this either a fluke or the beginning of a new era in basketball operations internationally. I do think the NBA could do a thing or two to insure that international leagues do not become an increasingly utilized safety valve for second-tier NBA talent.

Eliminate/Revise the Rookie Max Contract: Tiago Splitter, who was drafted by the Spurs in '07, chose to stay in Spain and play for Tau Ceramica rather than come to the NBA, mostly because Tau was able to offer him a much more substantial contract than the NBA's rookie contract regulations allow for. I understand why both the league and the coaches have an interest in limiting the salary of 18 and 19 year olds (measured personal development; not breaking the bank on players who are, at the end of the day, just potential), but there should be some stipulation regarding foreign players or players of a certain age that allows NBA franchises to offer competitive contracts to the top international talent. Also maybe add a stipulation which allows an NBA franchise to make a matching offer if an international team attempts to poach an American rookie. I'm not completely sold on my last suggestion, but I figured I'd just throw it out there.

Ok, so actually, that's the only immediately constructive thing I can think of, aside from revive the American economy and pursue a strong-dollar monetary policy. Which, however enticing, may be beyond the NBA's capabilities. That being said, I am very fascinated by this whole development and would like to take some time to explore it further. Alas, work has been absolutely crazy the last couple of weeks (I work in politics and subsequently things are very busy) and it has severely cut into the amount of time I am able to dedicate to writing as well as the energy that I have when I do sit and try to pump something out. Either way, expect more reflections on the significance of Childress' Greek opportunity and the potential/pitfalls of the NBA as a global brand.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Quick Apology

So, I just wanted to issue a brief apology for the lack of content on my site recently. It's been an extremely busy week at work, and although I've spent some time writing, I've haven't really finished anything worthwhile recently. Anyways, sorry about that. I assure you that I'll be back in business as soon as is humanly possible. In the meanwhile, let this serve as a tribute to a recently departed (and in all honesty one of my all time favorite) Spur, Brent Barry.

He signed with the Rockets. You thought I meant he was dead? Oh, no. That's not what I meant by that.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Check Out the New Guy

The Spurs acquired free agent Roger Mason Jr., who played for the Wizards last season. And that's fine I guess. The only thing that could have made this a more Spurs-y pick up is if he had been really old. He's a hard-nosed defender who shoots 40% from beyond the 3-point line. Sounds like half our roster. But the fact that he'll be 30 in 2 years as opposed to 40 isn't insignificant. And we're only giving him $7.5 million for 2 years, so overall I like this move. I actually like the Wizards (Caron Butler brings the ruckus), so I've watched Mason a little more often than the average bear, but I would never claim to know the guy's game well. I remember he put up decent numbers against the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs this past season, including 18 in a blow-out game 3.

Mason brings intensity, a deft shooting touch and a little bit of athleticism to a squad that could use all three. What I don't like about this acquisition is the likelihood that the front-office will grow complacent now that we've made one decent move. We almost nabbed a guy who averages 22 a game, but had to settle for a guy who averages 9 game. Mason's passing ability and defensive prowess (neither of which Maggette is known for) make up for some of that, but I still believe we need to go in search of a guy who can put bundles of points on the board, even if he's a tad bit of a defensive liability or, dare I say it, a loose cannon. Really what this is all leading to is a renewed call for the Spurs to go after J.R. Smith. He's a wild child on the floor, but so far this off-season my primary hope was that the Spurs would acquire somebody who can create his own shot (Mason cannot). So far we have yet to do so. If we get Smith we will have done just that.

I also wouldn't mind the Spurs going after Josh Childress or Josh Smith. Originally I wanted the Spurs to take a look at James Posey but Mason is fundamentally the same type of acquisition (hard-nose defense, 3-point shooting), only he costs less. Given our frugality, I think Childress wouldn't be a bad pickup (Smith would cost more than we can spend and rightfully so. He is one hell of a talent). Childress is a really solid player in my opinion, but is overshadowed by the on-court spectacle of Smith and Johnson. I don't even know if the Spurs are looking his direction, but if I wake up one morning to read we picked him up, I'll be just fine with that.

One more quick note about Mason: According to this photo, the man may just have superhuman strength.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Is Manu Ginobili Everything to Everyone?

Yes, as a matter of fact, he is. I don't yet have a cogent interpretation of this video, but rest assured I will reflect upon this masterpiece and get back to you.

Is anyone else confused as to why each photoshopped picture has a slightly mobile element?

N.B. I apologize for lazily allowing YouTube to replace my impulse to write lately.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

In Loving Memory of the Seattle Supersonics

Rather than preach to the choir, I will let YouTube do my elegizing for me:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Smart Move

According to two NBA sources, one from each conference, the Spurs are preparing to make an offer to Maggette, who became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday when he opted out of the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.
-Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express-News
This is the best move the Spurs can realistically make this off-season. I also like the idea of chasing down J.R. Smith, but Maggette may be the better choice, primarily because his game is more proof, less potential than Smith's. It's widely agreed that the Spurs need an athletic wing who can slash and isn't a huge defensive liability, i.e. there is little debate that Maggette would be a smart move by San Antonio.

Hopefully other Spurs post-season moves will include not resigning Michael Finley and Robert Horry, bringing back Brent Barry, Bringing up Ian Mahinmi and giving George Hill a legitimate shot at being the back-up point guard over Jacques Vaughn. We also have some serious work to do regarding our front-court bench. I don't have a problem bringing back Kurt Thomas, who did solid work the second half of last season, but Thomas wants a 3 year deal and the idea of Thomas wearing silver and black 3 seasons from now is a nightmare. No matter what happens with the rest of our roster, I think picking up Maggette would put the Spurs in an excellent position to bring a fifth championship to San Antonio. Our team was a shadow of its former self this year and we still managed to make it to the Western Conference Finals. By making a move to add a serious piece like Maggette (and for not that much money, reportedly) nobody could honestly overlook the Spurs as a contender.

UPDATE: It may be a done deal, but I'll wait for the WWL to confirm before I truly believe.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Le Bored

As an homage to a few close friends of mine who are presently in France, most likely drinking Chateauneuf de Pape and consorting with a disinterested pastry chef named Pascal while dreams of May '68 flutter in their heads, I bring you the rap stylings of Tony Parker. Because why the hell not? Its Tuesday, and the off-season, and I'm completely bored out of my mind. And by the way, this is a reminder to those of you in Europe that I want you to bring me back some really kitschy Parker related items. Rap CDs, trashy magazines, or any piece of clothing that has that ridiculously atrocious "TP" symbol on it. I know they go absolutely ga-ga for his big brown eyes and inability to keep his balance when driving to the hoop. And listen. The man's got both types of game that count, no doubt about that. But really, Tony...your rap is pure shit.