Sunday, April 20, 2014

NBA Playoffs 2014: Miami Heat Can't Handle Duke Blue Devils

The Miami Heat keep getting facialized by former Duke University players late in the 2013-14 season. Did "King" James insult the Dookies publicly? Maybe Coach K, who knows the pros pretty well after his time with them during the Olympics, gave his old players some tips...
Josh McRoberts makes a poster out of Chris 'Birdman' Andersen.

 
Mason Plumlee stuffs LeBron James potential game-winner.


Monday, April 7, 2014

NCAA Tournament 2014: Kentucky v. Connecticut

No matter who won the national championship, it is great that coach John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats once again stood at the top of men's college basketball with transient young talent.

 
It is excellent that the delusional "college hoops is better than pro because it is pure" advocate was left foaming at the mouth, as experienced teams were beaten by kids who are barely old enough to vote.
 
"Put my money on UK-NBA feeder program to win," wrote one web commenter, "but, my heart and soul is with UCONN for student-athlete respect and integrity."
Obviously, that sports fan did not read, or ignored, the fact that the University of Connecticut just came off probation! Even if we argue that those violations had little to do with this year's players... it does show that the perception of the "integrity" of college athletics is an illusion that needs to be shattered. But people continue to cling.
 
***
 
The real issue here is that the NBA is simply better basketball than college ball. That infuriates the college fan who clings to the false idea of amateur athletics at our higher learning institutions.

If you really believe college sports are pure, then the approaching unionization should splash a little cold water in your face.
 
The argument of keeping players in school longer has almost nothing to do with giving young men the mythical "university experience." That is a fat softball of a lie which should be smacked out of the park. But people who know better don't stand up and say so in public, maybe for fear of looking like they don't support education.
 
Stopping one-and-dones also has little connection to the quality of the college game. If that were true, then the talented freshmen who only stay one year in school would not keep beating the three- and four-year players! This is not difficult to figure out. Elite talent wins. The fiction of lesser players who are a tight-knit group beating the top shelf talent needs to be exposed, as it doesn't happen very often. Hoosiers was a Hollywood concoction; in real life, if you are simply better than me, at some point it won't matter how savvy I am... you will dominate nine times out of ten. Yea, life isn't fair.
 
The real reason that the NBA and NCAA will collaborate to keep basketball players in school, or to figure some other way to delay their professional paydays, is because the college game is weak. Most "experts" (which these days is defined as someone, knowledgable or not, who has access to large audiences and talks a whole lot), agree that the NCAA is watered down.
 
The goal is to augment the college game by forcing top talent into universities, which will do at least two things: (1) Pump up the NCAA's visibility with better players, as every casual fan knows to ignore these intramural-style games until late February, and (2) Stick a finger in the eye of the NBA, a league that has a combination of money and glamour that college just can't match.
 
***
 
There is one other issue that, so far, no one wants to touch in major media: That all these black young "thugs" enter the pro draft and get paid millions simply galls a lot of people. As we have mentioned before, there is no outcry when any other sport's athletes go pro as young adults (with the obvious exception of football).
 
"The college experience is so beneficial." Not necessarily. The high school grad who can't afford, or doesn't have the academic performance to attend college, will interact with a world's variety of people by working the cash register at a Popeye's Chicken. That's a chance to mix with different people and learn a lot about diverse personalities, too. It's a forced argument when we all know that the talented ball player is usually not there for classes, at least not primarily. Making education a priority begins from the ground up... not when a person is already 18 and has devoted hours per week to developing his crossover dribble.
 
"Well, these guys don't know the fundamentals." Then why wait until college to teach them? Why not when they are small boys, before the AAU stardom march begins? If the fundamentals are lacking, AAU and high school is too late. This is why the "basics of the game" argument is simply another lie.
 
Until the one-and-dones are outlawed, hopefully 17- and 18-year-old phenoms will contend for the college title every season.
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Only Thing: Jim Harbaugh's Success All That Matters



Bleacher Report wrote in 2012,

The point at which the world of professional sports diverges from the reality you and I know is how much a team is willing to tolerate if a player can help them win. There are countless examples of players whose bad behavior is overlooked as long as they produce. Once the points start to decline; when the 40 time starts to tick up...that's when bad behavior shifts from "disappointing" to "unacceptable."


So... as long as someone is contributing to your winning ways, you keep him. While he has the talent to help your organization, his personality and approach should not be criticized.

According to popular media and the fans who cannot think for themselves, this is the conclusion when it comes to San Francisco 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh.

But if you are going to say that about Harbaugh... if you want to say winning isn't everything, it's the only thing... then say it for athletes who do dumb, even criminal things.

Yea, an also-ran player who can't get it done on the court or field -- get rid of him, when he runs up against the law or is even just shown to have a bad attitude, isn't that right? However, an athlete who can go into beast mode should be "acceptable," no matter what.

Say it's all about winning instead of being furious at Ray Lewis for ten years after his blood-soaked night. Say that about Michael Vick and his dogs, instead of being angry that the NFL allowed him another chance... or about any number of troubled athletes with elite talent.
 
"But Harbaugh hasn't done anything to break a law or be moronic," you might say, "he is just hard to get along with. That's not really a problem."
 
Then why are Terrell Owens and Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson so despised? Why do NBA fans have such a love-hate relationship with the do-it-my-way Allen Iverson?
 
"Those guys didn't help their teams win."

Really? Their on-the-field numbers were pretty amazing. Whether you think they were too individualistic in play or personal behavior is simply your opinion.

"Yea, but... they blew up locker rooms, they were not 'team guys', they were distractions."
 
So Harbaugh's Chucky, Junior act isn't a distraction? So the reports that the coach "wears people out" and seems to not care about the defensive half of his team is team-friendly? Why would the Niner organization allow all of these negative stories to leak out about him if there wasn't fire beneath the smoke?

"Coach Harbaugh wins everywhere he goes and wins immediately. The University of San Diego won conference titles under his leadership. Stanford went from being dogs to humiliating Pete Carroll's USC Trojans at USC. And now Harbaugh has brought the Niners to the brink of three consecutive Super Bowls! He was one play away from winning one of them!"

And to do that, he has shown himself to be someone who is divisive and nearly impossible to get along with.

"Come on, man. Use wisdom. All successful men are tortured by the need to dominate. All powerful people are Type A personalities.  You deal with that to get what you want."

Okay, but who draws that line of what to accept, and how much?

This is not picking on Jim Harbaugh. If the everyday person's words, actions and attitudes were picked apart the way sports celebrities get dissected, few would escape unscathed. It is meant to poke at us, sports fans who have these weird standards that are just indefensible.

The bottom line is: We are in a culture where anything can be justified if we like the person. Right now, Harbaugh still is liked by most media talking heads and football fanatics. He is a "winner," and until that perception shifts (likely because of the same press that now deifies his coaching success), the answer we will hear is, Keep him and dump anyone in his way.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Doppelgänger: Stan Smith v. Speech Card Guy




On the left is Stan Smith from Seth MacFarlane's American Dad animated series. He works for the feds, so he knows about guns and has fighting skills, and plus he has that huge chin, so you would think he is tough... but actually he always comes off as whiny and set in his ways, or basically an out-of-touch wimp. Probably because he is supposed to be an America-loving conservative Christian, though almost none of his actions portray someone who is convicted and living up to the standard set by Jesus. Plenty of storylines have Stan being convinced or somehow whipped into changing his "intolerant" and old-fashioned ways.
 
On the right is a speech cue card for elementary school students. The "ch" sound is used to pronounce "chin." We know nothing of Speech Card Guy's convictions. But at least he is helping children in some small way, unlike Stan...
 
 
The



On the left is Stan Smith from Seth MacFarlane's American Dad animated series. He works for the feds, so he knows about guns and has fighting skills, and plus he has that huge chin, so you would think he is tough... but actually he always comes off as whiny and set in his ways, or basically an out-of-touch wimp. Probably because he is supposed to be an America-loving conservative Christian, though almost none of his actions portray someone who is convicted and living up to the standard set by Jesus. Plenty of storylines have Stan being convinced or somehow whipped into changing his "intolerant" and old-fashioned ways.
 
On the right is a speech cue card for elementary school students. The "ch" sound is used to pronounce "chin." We know nothing of Speech Card Guy's convictions. But at least he is helping children in some small way, unlike Stan...
 
The doppelgänger  pages
 
 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Keep A Brother Down: Holding Athletes in College Won't Improve Basketball

The lie of assuming that keeping basketball players in college for one, two, or more years will improve the game is rising again.
 
Why do well-meaning people, most of them considered sports "experts", believe that the NBA and college basketball would benefit from such a rule?
 
The common reasons: young players would have more time to learn fundamentals, teamwork, and generally grow up more. But it isn't necessarily true.
 
***
 
Sidney Crosby was about college freshman age
when he first appeared in the NHL.
We need to wonder why basketball players are always the ones singled out for this kind of suggestion. No other sport, other than football, forces athletes to wait before aiming to earn a check with their talent. The NFL has good reason to put a delay in place--usually, a young man's body is not prepared for professional punishment straight out of high school.
 
The National Basketball Association has no such excuse.  For every one-and-down or straight-from-high-school player who was a complete bust, we can name just as many four-year college players who had talent but made no professional impact.
 
Think Tyson Chandler has been a waste after being drafted out of Dominguez High School? I give you Gonzaga's Adam Morrison--has his fundamental and mature play changed the league? Give me Sebastian Telfair... I show you Sean May, who stayed at UNC three years. You laugh at Anthony Bennett... don't forget about four-year collegiate Trajan Langdon. This could go on for hours but it would get boring.

We are not making fun of anyone here, simply pointing out that a long college career doesn't guarantee anything. Especially not a rise in the quality in play. "The Logo" Jerry West told one radio host that the NBA was the worst he's ever seen it, and everyone dogpiled onto his opinion. Even if West is correct, this "stay in school" proposal is a garbage, kneejerk idea. If the gameplay is lacking, take it up with our dunk-a-minute sports highlight culture.

Media and fans love the flash, and we are now thirty-plus years into the 24-7 sports channels which shrink games down into thirty seconds of slams and no-look passes... that means a generation or more of children have grown up thinking that is the way to play! Because that is what has entertained us. The best young players are scrutinized by media who are constantly searching for content... by coaches, scouts, and technology-addled fans who all want to discover the next big thing...
 
And then talking heads get on a microphone and criticize the kids for living what they saw (and see). No one ever looks at it from that angle.
 
***

New NBA commissioner Adam Silver, already
formulating ways to make his legacy.
The Bill Gates-Mark Zuckerberg example (We don't tell talented teenagers in OTHER industries to sit and wait) has been used a lot, and is now politely scoffed at, as it was by NBA commissioner Adam Silver on ESPNRadio's Mike and Mike.
 
Fact is, that is a good argument... you can't name many jobs in which, if someone is physically and mentally capable of performing, they are kept from working.
 
You can limit that reasoning to just sports and it's still valid: No one stopped Michelle Wie or Jennifer Capriati. We didn't tell Sidney Crosby to wait. Are the stars in other sports just a better quality of people than the average basketball player or what? Is it reaching to see a hidden subtext here?
 
***

Even if we concede that such a move would have some effect, we must also admit that it will take years to see that effect.

But the fact is, forcing players to stay in school won't positively affect the game. If we really believe that young ballers have issues with basics, then things must be examined much earlier. The change should be made at local, high school and AAU levels, not three-quarters of the way through the development process of a player.
 
"Maybe the word (legend) demands an adjustment
 given the constraints of the one-and-done generation,"
wrote a sports commentator about Jabari Parker.
By the time he reaches his college freshman year, he is pretty much the player and person that he is going to be. A solid kid who is coachable and shares the ball will only continue and improve those qualities; a guy who wants to breakdown the entire opposing team off the dribble is unlikely to switch up his approach because that's who he is. So whether he stays at the university one year or four, even a great coach's touch will be limited.

Hopefully Silver and the NBA players reps will tinker with something else. The Association seems to have set its sights on one day competing with the 'reed in the wind' NFL, which business-wise is a worthy goal... but on a social level, is guaranteed to make a mess.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

College's Conference Pride is Sick and Dying

Does the idea of college conferences matter in basketball anymore?

Up through the 1990s, naturally it was a source of pride for a fan when his favorite college team was stacked. A North Carolina Tarheel was happiest with a win over Duke. Any combination of games involving Connecticut, Syracuse, and Georgetown made for revelry.

But conference pride existed, too. UNC beating a ranked Syracuse team from the Big East, for example, was almost as sweet. Especially if it happened in the tourney. 

There used to be a running debate about which conference was better and deeper. That argument came to a head from the 1980s through the turn of the century -- the ACC and Big East seemed to almost take turns winning NCAA tournament titles.

Now Syracuse is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Texas A & M is in the SEC, and Utah has landed with the Pac-12 (which used to be the Pac-10, I mean the Pac-8).

***

The so-called "BCS" conferences... or the
"major six"... or what-have-you... have all shifted in the last fifteen years. A high school sports fan doesn't know about John Thompson's Georgetown teams battling with Dean Smith and UNC; has little clue of the regional angst between observers and local media. The world is more interconnected and smaller, which is why a midwest college joining a conference on either coast isn't as strange as it once may have been.

There is an idea floating around that, within the next decade, the power conferences (read: the money-makers) will break away from all other schools completely.

What does all of this mean? That it is silly to drag out arguments about the "toughest conferences" anymore. Most of the old rivalries are gone, at least for the foreseeable future.

***

Media and fans are trying to create new rivalries in an instant. But it seems forced. When top-ranked Syracuse and a talented Duke team faced off in February 2014, their first meeting as conference mates in the ACC, the game went into overtime and excited the fanatics. Within twenty-four hours, people were projecting a legendary contention that would last for the next decade.
We are trying too hard.



Slow down. We have to accept that the old days are gone. Media talking heads from the baby boomer generation can be heard complaining that the Duke-Maryland and 'Cuse-UConn battles have been
interrupted. They need to let it go.

We have to quit this smirking, "Well, Syracuse and Pittsburgh came into the ACC and are two of the top teams, what does that say about their new conference?... that they must not be that good!" It is all speculation.

This is supposedly and historically the BEST conference, and their good team lost to a "lesser" conference foe , therefore it is an upset and worthy of concern... is that "better" conference now falling away?...

What did best conference ever really mean, anyway? When anything depends on the decisions of sixteen- and seventeen-year-old boys as to what university that they will theoretically "attend", what does it mean?

It mean that your schools have the most money, which translates into better facilities, coaches, boosters, perks, exposure, and so on. That's all! There is no magical cloud or spirit that falls on a football SEC, or basketball ACC/Big East from a few years ago, that just makes them superior.

These schools attract better players and personnel because they have more "things" to offer... and from there, the myth builds upon itself, with some help from silly media and fanatics. Conference pride is a dead horse. We can't ride it anymore.