Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Get Joe Smith a Security Detail

We need to make sure Kevin Garnett doesn't kill Joe Smith in the coming weeks and months. No, seriously.

Could any one player in the NBA hate another player as much as KG probably hates Smith right now? Obviously, this has nothing to do with Smith himself, I'm sure he's a charming man. However, the facts paint an ugly picture:

Fact #1: Joe Smith was highly overrated coming out of college, going #1 overall despite possessing a limited game.

Fact #2: Smith was frequently referred to as a "bust" during his first three years, spent with Golden State and Philly. Over that period of time he averaged 16.2 points and 7.8 boards while shooting a paltry 45%. Those are Nenad Krstic numbers ... except my boy Nenad shoots a much higher percentage.

Fact #3: For what could best be described as an average power forward, Kevin McHale broke a whole bunch of NBA rules in an attempt to sign Joe Smith under market value in exchange for a wink-wink future deal. The NBA found out about it after the fact, stepped in and voided the contract, and Smith signed with the Pistons.

Fact #4: Somehow, Smith found his way back to the Wolves, so that KG and everyone else had to look at him on the bench while they suffered without any draft picks. The five-year ban finally ended and they took Randy Foye last year.

Fact #5: Scratch that, this one isn't a fact. Hold on.

Rumor #1: It appears that the Wolves were unable to get Iverson because they didn't have a 2007 draft pick to include in the package. This pick was lost when McHale traded Sam Cassell for Marko Jaric, which is a bad enough trade even before you factor in the knowledge that the Wolves were the ones giving up a first round pick to sweeten the deal. Holy hell.

Fact #5: The Wolves don't have a 2007 draft pick because they used it to acquire Marko Jaric. (I had to type it again just to be sure it was real.) So even though the Smith Incident didn't cost them the '07 pick, it symbolizes the whole situation.

Fact #6: Joe Smith is involved in the deal that does net Iverson for the Nuggets. KG has to sit by while his team does nothing, has no draft picks, and the guy that screwed up a half a decade for his Wolves is sent to Philly in exchange for the very player that Garnett desperately wants to be his teammate.

Could this be any more painful for KG? Could there be more irony? How does Kevin McHale still have a job?

Joe Smith better hope that KG doesn't piece all this together.

Poor KG: Winners and Losers of the AI Trade

I am going to write about this in more detail in a column for Whatif, but here are my quick winners and losers from the AI trade that went down today.


Denver. It is going to require an adjustment period, but if Melo can move past this sucker punch incident, I think this will work. There are more than enough shots to go around in Denver and while Iverson would do well to be a little bit more of the dazzling passer he was in the Denver All-Star Game (I think that was '05), he doesn't have to alter his game that much. It's really about Melo, which is nothing new.

Andre Igoudala. There are more shots and touches to be had in Philly now and he's got a decent point guard (read: not Kevin Ollie) to get him the rock. Of course, as long as Webber (the true source of all Philly's problems, from salary to shot selection) is around, Iggy's growth will continue to be stunted to a certain degree.

The West. The rich get richer.

The Nets. The Celtics are idiots, which means that atrocious Atlantic is still up for grabs which means New Jersey can keep skating by.


Philly. They lost a long time ago. But they just topped it off with this half-assed trade. People are going to believe this is a decent deal because there are plenty of catch phrases that GM's love to throw out there like "expiring contracts" and "draft picks." However, Billy King wound up with a crappy deal here: a worthless expiring contract (Smith's $7 million will come off the books in year where the Sixers are still like $15 million over the cap), two crapshoot picks (even in a deep draft, picks in the 20's are a toss-up), and a journeyman pointguard with his own bad contract (Andre Miller and his three years/$27 million). Not sure what there is to get excited about here. That little grab bag in exchange for a once-in-a-generation player? Yikes.

The East. And the poor get poorer.

Boston. See above.

The Clippers. I still can't believe the Clippers wouldn't trade Livingston (the verdict is still out on him, by the way) when they had the chance to become a legit title contender overnight. Weird.

Kevin Garnett. Just when we thought there was a chance ...

Earl Boykins. Sorry, little man, your days of jacking up almost a shot a minute are over.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Khoub Report, Vol. 3

This special edition of the Khoub Report is here to announce that Yakhouba Diawara gets an A+ for tonight's 123-100 victory over the Knicks for being one of the seven Nuggets that was NOT ejected in that brawl. Good times.

The Line:
11 minutes
2-for-2 from the field
6 points (on two 3's)
2 assists
1 rebound
0 ejections
Grade: A+

By the way, lost in the brawl news are two interesting stories:

1. Stephon Marbury went 13-for-24 from the floor and finished with 31 points and 8 dimes to have his first good game of the season. Supposedly Walt Frazier was going to offer up some help to get Marbury out of his funk. So did he? If so, boy was that fast. If not, should he still help him? So many questions.

2. The Nuggets finally showed some common sense and started Nene at power forward. Granted, he got in early foul trouble and only wound up playing 17 minutes, but if you are going to try to pawn off an overpriced, injury-prone big man, you might want to showcase him a little bit. Denver has been running that guy out there for tiny chunks of time and the results haven't been pretty. If they expect the Blazers to take him off their hands as part of an Iverson deal, they need to start him, let him work up a sweat, and hope that he can show something. Tonight was a step in the right direction.

Josh Smith: A True Enigma

While watching the Bulls-Hawks tonight, I was struck by how terrible Josh Smith's body language is when he's on the court. He jogs in transition, has his arms at his sides most of the time, and generally seems like he could care less what is happening. Yet he was easily the most disruptive player on the court (including Ben Wallace). After one half of play he only had a steal on the books, but he altered countless shots and deflected at least four passes. In one sequence, he caused a bad miss, tipped a rebound to a teammate, and then (after said teammate lost the ball), deflected a pass and prevented a fastbreak basket. It was unreal.

For the season, Smith is fifth in the NBA with 2.4 blocks per game, while also collecting 1.4 steals per. His total of 3.8 "measureable defensive plays" per night is tied for first in the league with Shawn Marion.

The question is: how can a guy that looks so apathetic make so many defensive plays? Chalk it up to his unbelievable combination of athleticism and instincts.

Greg Oden: Why the Lefty FT's?

I tuned in to Ohio State-Cinci today to get another look at the Hoff Bros. (my brother Drew and I) pick to win it all, and was treated to the usual slashing from Michael Conley Jr., shooting from Ron Lewis, and all-around sensational play from the underrated Daquan Cook. And of course, dominant play in the paint from Greg Oden.

One thing left me puzzled though: why is Oden still shooting free throws with his left hand? I admit it makes for a fun story. I mean, we can take a trip down memory lane and remember Bo Kimble's tribute in the 1990 NCAA Tourney. We can talk about how Oden is shooting better with his off hand than Shaq does with his strong one. It speaks to Oden's work ethic and skill level and blah, blah, blah. But why is he doing it?

He throws outlet passes with his right hand. He blocks shots with his right hand. And he throws down monstrous, thunderous dunks with his right hand. All of those things would seem to be more taxing than shooting a free throw. Is it the bending of the wrist on a 15-foot shot that presents a problem? Is it because there is time to think on a free throw as opposed to just reacting and playing through pain with the rest of the stuff? Consider me curious. It's great that everyone under the sun is mentioning that this is happening, but just once I'd like to hear why.

Friday, December 08, 2006

AI to the Wolves?

The Allen Iverson Saga burst onto the scene like a tornado. It was nothing but clear skies on the NBA landscape and then all of a sudden we had a funnel cloud picking up houses and uprooting trees. In the span of just 48 hours, AI went from being the only guy on the Sixers actually trying in a game against the Bulls (man, I'm glad I didn't attend that blowout) to being pretty much done in Philly. It's crazy. Philly had a chance to move him all summer and Billy King blew it and now they are handling this so, so poorly. They are faking an injury so he doesn't get hurt and damage his trade value, insulting him by sending him home and not allowing him to attend the game, and then showing their hand by telling everyone he's on the way out (they can thank their chairman and his sideline interview during the game tonight for that). They will be lucky to get a starter and a draft pick at this rate.

Of course, all of this begs the question: where will Iverson be headed? The Celtics were the big rumor over the summer and with their plethora of young players like Gerald Green and Al Jefferson, they might be able to swing something. AI would be a decent fit in Denver, where the up and down style would enable him to get plenty of shots alongside Melo. The Clippers make a whole lot of sense, although their best bargaining chip (Corey Maggette) plays the same position as Andre Igoudala. However, the team that looks like the best fit is the T-Wolves. They have a lot of pieces and movable parts (not for a fair trade, certainly, but then again the Sixers are kind of screwed, so that might not matter), and more importantly, Minnesota is home to the one superstar that would be a perfect fit with Iverson: Kevin Garnett. I wrote about this last spring in a column about pairing up ringless NBA stars, but Iverson's willingness and ability to take and make big shots is a perfect match with KG's unselfishness. I'm not sure the Wolves would have anything else going for them in the starting lineup, but it would be a lot of fun to watch those two guys play together. They've both been surrounded by dog crap for a decade, so this would be nice to see.

If this happens, by the way, the Bulls will have missed their window to acquire KG. I'm not sure what Paxson was waiting for, but it looks like Minny might be doing the reverse of what we all expected. Instead of doing KG a favor and sending him out to a contender, they are trying to bring in a big gun and fix things in the North Star state. So if the trade goes down, it is sorry, Bulls fans. And sorry, Lakers fans too.

By the way, Arenas just banked in a three to end the half of the Philly-Washington game, which gives him two straight 35-foot buzzer beaters to end quarters. I'm not sure I've ever seen that before. I'm also not sure I've ever seen a guy shoot such deep jacks so effortlessly. We all remember the 35-foot jumper he made with ease against Cleveland in the playoffs last year and it seems that was no fluke. The guy puts up bombs like they are free throws.

UPDATE: Jim Grey just came on the air and said that his report earlier (saying that Iverson was looking forward to a trade to Minny) was worthless because the guy on the phone that he thought was AI was "an imposter." This, to me, is hilarious. Nice scoop, Jim Grey.

I Guess Market Dominance Isn't Enough

ESPN strikes again. I detailed my disgust for the World Wide Leader in a recent post, but I feel compelled to bring the topic up again in light of a recent controversy surrounding ESPN writer Scoop Jackson.

In case you haven't heard by now, Jackson wrote a column about being the new NBA basketball. A few people linked to it and sent it to me, some with comments saying it was funny, others that it was abhorrent. Since it was an ESPN column, I ignored it and continued my boycott of all ESPN.com content. At the time, I had no idea what was actually in the column, but the idea of a basketball telling his own story in the first person felt strangely familiar.

Want to know why? Because someone already came up with it, that's why. The terrific NBA blog YAY Sports already wrote that story. In fact, they have developed quite a back story for what has become an actual copyrighted character by the name of Orange Roundie.

On the YAY blog, the concept is well-down and evokes some laughs and no doubt Scoop Jackson thought the same thing, because he straight up jacked it and used it for a Page 2 column (insert your "scooped the idea" joke here). Not only that, but he also used the name "Orange Roundie" in the story, which is at the very least highly unethical and quite possibly a form of copyright infringement. In doing so, he basically admitted to stealing the entire concept, because how could he mention that a website had named it "Orange Roundie" and then expect us to believe that he somehow gleaned the nickname without seeing the context in which it was used? That would be like me writing a movie about a demented cab driver named Travis Bickle, saying I got the name from "a movie," and then trying to convince you that I didn't steal Taxi Driver. Okay, that was probably a bad example, but you get the idea. The use of the name is bad, but even worse is that it tips off the fact that he used the whole bag of goodies.

You can read about all this over at YAY, but to make matters worse, Jackson told Deadspin to convey a message to YAY that goes something along the lines of "Tell those guys that I'm sorry, but hey, at least I mentioned those little bloggers in my column." Like he's handing out crumbs from on high. Really? Scoop Jackson is going to make someone's year by including them in one of his rambling bits or prose? I think not.

Anyway, what really bothers me here is that this seems to be the kind of thing that would happen at ESPN more than anywhere else. The network and website believe themselves to be above all else in sports media and this entitlement leads to bizarre situations and a skewed view of how things are supposed to work. There is a Mafia-like regime in place that stomps out even the slightest criticism from within (see: the Jason Whitlock situation), that makes arbitrary decisions about what type of conduct is allowed (see: the treatment of Harold Reynolds versus that of Michael Irvin), and that projects an attitude of superiority that makes the likes of Microsoft seem like nothing more than a meek manufacturer of computer products. So a writer stealing an idea from a "lowly blog," using it as his own, and then hiding behind ESPN's shield of protection is in keeping with the general feel of the website.

Thus, the boycott continues. And this post is an effort to spread the word. Scoop Jackson is a condescending hack who steals other people's ideas and then posts them on a website that believes itself to be superior to anything and everything else in sports media. Pass it along.

Play the Young Guys

NFL coaches are a frustrating bunch. They are generally way too conservative and avoid risk at all cost, to the point where they are punting from the opponents' 35-yard line down by a touchdown late in the game (Bears at Patriots). Not enough teams throw on first down, prevent defenses don't prevent anything but your chances of winning the game (credit that little turn of phrase to my Dad), and if I see one more draw play on 3rd-and-14 I am going to puke.

That said, there is one stodgy trend among NFL coaches that bothers more than all the others combined: the refusal to hand the keys to the running game to young, superior backs. I don't know if it is loyalty, fear, ignorance, or stupidity, but all around the league, we are seeing young running backs explode onto the scene, only to be kept on the sidelines in favor of lesser players. Here is a quick glance at some guys that should be getting 20+ carries a game and are instead in (at best) time share situations:

Joseph Addai - The rookie out of LSU is the captain of this team. He's received only 22 more carries than Dominic Rhodes, yet Addai has a whopping 324 more yards and three more touchdowns than the Colts' veteran. Is Dungy trying to save Addai's legs? The guy's 23 years old! Addai has only had 20 or more carries in a game twice and in those two contests, he totaled 44 carries for 255 yards and five scores.

Marion Barber - Another "backup" that has clearly taken over as the preferred back in a time share, which frankly, isn't enough. It is nice that Barber is finally getting more carries than Julius Jones, but he should be getting neary all of the touches. Jones is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry this season, including a miserable 3.2 per over the last seven games. Meanwhile, Barber is picking up 5.2 yards every tote and has scored 11 touchdowns. Sure, he's not that fast, but he obviously doesn't need to be. When you consider that a large percentage of Barber's runs come in the red zone, that average is even more impressive.

DeAngelo Williams - We all saw what this rookie could do on Monday night when he racked up 175 total yards and a touchdown. Oh wait, nevermind, I guess we didn't all see that, because John Fox has indicated that DeShaun Foster (another member of the 3.9 Per Carry club) will be the starter and split carries if he's healthy on Sunday against the Giants. Genius. Did Fox coach that entire game with a blindfold on? Doesn't he have access to game film?

Jerious Norwood - I think this is a situation in which Jim Mora Jr. just can't bring himself to punk Warrick Dunn and replace him with Norwood. It is the only explanation. Norwood is fresher, faster, more explosive, stronger, and - at this point - simply better than Dunn. The rookie out of Mississippi State unleashed a jaw-dropping 63-touchdown run against the Redskins on Sunday is now averaging a whopping 6.7 yards per carry (easily tops in the NFL among running backs). Not only that, but he leads the NFL in fourth quarter rushing with 367 yards in the final stanza of games. I guess this makes sense, because he only gets to carry the ball in the fourth quarter. Imagine what he could do with some touches during the first three.

You could probably stretch and make cases for Maurice Jones-Drew and Brandon Jacobs as well, but Tiki Barber and Fred Taylor are actually playing pretty well, so we'll let Coughlin and Del Rio off the hook.

The Khoub Report, Vol. 2

It is inexcusable how long it has taken to post the second Koub Report, but I'm here to rectify things. In case you didn't read the first one and don't want to click on the link (hey, I don't blame you - the whole world is one big link now and sometimes it just gets tiring), this is - as far as I know - the only blog in existence that devotes ongoing posts to Denver's Yakhouba Diawara.

Ostensibly, this running post is about giving Khoub some love because his time at Pepperdine overlapped with mine. On a deeper level though, the Insider Blog is celebrating the bizarre turn of events that led a WCC power forward that couldn't defend a chair and went 0-for-17 in his final college game to cracking the Denver Nuggets' rotation as a defensive stopper and three-point shooter. I'm still not sure how this is possible. That said, Khoub is a great guy, so I'm eager to throw a little attention his way.

The good news is that Khoub has recently been providing both of the aforementioned services - defense and threes - on a regular basis. Part of the reason I hadn't posted a Khoub report since his first game was that he was playing kind of poorly (although the real reason is that my apartment building is archaic and cheap and refuses to pay for the wiring necessary for Comcast to provide me with League Pass, so I never see any Nuggets games). Fortunately, that has changed.

In Denver's first seven games, Khoub went 0-for-8 from three and scored just eight points while racking up two DNP's and playing just 11 seconds in another contest. Then he hit three big triples against the Raptors and seemed to find the range a little bit. In the last nine games he is 14-for-38 from downtown (a respectable 37%) with 10 steals and 70 points. He's still not getting big minutes backing up J.R. Smith and Melo, but when he does get in the game, he's making an impact.

Grade (for the past nine games): B+