The League’s pioneer in the Web 2.0 movement is hanging up his keyboard: “I’m retired from that. At first it was fun, but then it seemed like it was turning into a double-edged sword. Your words can work against you.” Arenas didn’t give any specific examples of how his words have been used against him, but just said, “At first people enjoyed just reading the blog for fun, but then they started trying to read into it and take bits from it. So, it just seemed like it was turning into a double-edged sword. So, I’m retired.”
by: Holly MacKenzie
Hello. Thursday. NCAA again. TNT night. Lots going on.
Two words for you. Two words, one name: Mike. Taylor. I think the SLAM energy was being felt by Taylor last night as he dropped 35 in MSG in the Clippers overtime win against the Knicks. His season average is 3.9 ppg, if you were wondering. Sunday, I spoke with Taylor for 10 minutes after the game (which will be posted today on my Court Surfing column if its the last thing I do!). I was the only reporter in the entire locker room who spoke two words to him. Last night at the Knicks/Clipps game, Matt Caputo spoke with Taylor pregame and again, was the only reporter to talk to him.
35 points later, he had his own media scrum. He knows what’s up though. SLAM can recognize talent when we see it. Loved to hear about those 35 points. Totally made my night.
About that final Dwight block against Pierce in the Orlando/Boston game… Anyone else think that might be a foul? I’ve only seen the highlight twice quickly, but I’m surprised that there wasn’t a call on that. If you saw the game, let me know. Good block, or non-call?
Also surprised to see the Nuggets take down the Hornets 101-88 until I saw the boxscore and realized New Orleans played without Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic. The Nuggets were without Nene, who was serving game one of a two-game suspension for that headbutt in the game Monday night.
Manuuuuu was back last night, but it was all about TP, dropping 42 and 10. He’s pretty damn great and I never really give him his due.
29 points from Thaddeus Young in a Sixers win against the TWolves. They’ve been rolling as of late.
20 points and 7 assists for Jose Juan Barea in a Mavs win over the Warriors. Taking it, 128-106, the Mavericks remain three games in front of the Suns for that eighth spot in the West. Dirk Nowitzi had 26 on the night as Anthony Morrow led the Warriors with 29 off of the bench.
Went to the Raptors/Bucks game and was shocked to see the Raptors win, 115-106. This one was not nearly that close as Toronto led by 20 at the half and only allowed the Bucks to close the gap in the final minutes when the outcome had already been decided. The Raptors dropped 40 in the second quarter and shot 40 free throws compared to the 9 attempts for the Bucks. Six Raptors finished in double-figures, led by Chris Bosh’s 18 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists. Anthony Parker scored 18 points as well while Jose Calderon had 19 points and 11 assists and Andrea Bargnani scored 23. The Bucks were led by 22 points from Richard Jefferson, 20 from Charlie Bell off of the bench and 18 points from Ramon Sessions.
My pick for eighth in the East lost to the Wizards last night. The Bobcats fell, 95-93 taking a hit in their hopes to make the postseason this year. While the Wizards dressed only eight players (but will have Gil come Saturday, if all news reports are correct), they had just enough to take down Charlotte. Antawn Jamison scored 27 points, Nick Young added 23 and Mike James and Andray Blatche each added 15. Gerald Wallace led the Bobcats with 21 points and 11 rebounds as Emeka Okafor and DJ Augustin each scored 15 points.
The Pacers took down the Heat 90-88 in a game that went down to the wire and came down to Dwyane Wade’s three-pointer at the buzzer that rimmed out. The Heat shot only 37% on the night and finished just 3-17 from beyond the arc. Dann Granger led the Pacers with 28 points while TJ Ford scored 20 points off of the bench, Jarrett Jack scored 13 points and Jeff Foster pulled down 16 boards. Wade finished with 21 points and 8 assists for Miami as Udonis Haslem scored 18 points to go with 14 rebounds in the loss.
Cavs playing at home against the Nets. Another win. 33-1 in Cleveland. Yup. 98-87. LeBron James finished with 22 points 11 assists and 8 rebounds, Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao scored 16 points apiece and Delonte West added 13 points and 9 rebounds. Vince Carter scored 20 for the Nets, Javris Hayes added 18 and Brook Lopez scored 9 points to go with 10 rebounds.
Spurs took down the Hawks 102-92. Tony Parker with 42 points and 10 assists, Roger Mason with 18 as the Spurs rest Tim Duncan. Joe Johnson scored 30 for Altanta as Flip Murray added 15 off of the bench.
The Magic held on to take down the Celtics, 84-82, despite scoring only 14 points in the fourth quarter. While Paul Pierce got inside with 3.8 seconds remaining, Dwight Howard was waiting and he blocked a shot that would have tied the game to give his Magic the W. He finished with 24 points, 21 rebounds and 4 blocked shots on the night as Rashard Lewis scored 21 and Hedo Turkoglu added 13. Pierce finished with 26 points for Boston as Ray Allen scored 16 points and Kendrick Perkins had an 11-point, 11-rebound night.
Grant Hill wants to make the playoffs and he’s doing everything he can to get there. Last night the Suns moved to within three games of the Mavs for the final spot in the West (with a game against the Mavs still remaining). Hill led the way in a 118-114 victory over the Jazz last night, scoring 26 points. Matt Barnes added 21 points and 9 rebounds, Shaquille O’Neal scored 12 points to go with 12 rebounds and Steve Nash added 12 points and 14 assists. Deron Williams had 25 points and 10 assists for the Jazz as Ronnie Brewer scored 17 and Mehmet Okur added 15 points to go with 12 rebounds in the loss.
Allegedly, of course: “Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa are being sued by their former housekeeper, who claims Vanessa was incredibly abusive — even demanding that she put her hand in a bag of dog feces to retrieve a tag from her blouse … so Vanessa could deduct the cost of the blouse from the maid’s salary! Maria Jimenez claims Vanessa called her ‘lazy, slow, dumb, a f—ing liar, and f—ing sh-t.’ In the lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Orange County, Jimenez claims Vanessa accused her of stealing her (mouth) retainer. Jimenez says it got so bad — Vanessa allegedly “badgered, harassed and humiliated Maria by yelling and screaming at Maria and criticizing her in front of Kobe, the Bryants’ children, employees and other people in the household” — she threatened to quit but Kobe talked her out of it.”
by Marcel Mutoni
Should a nuclear war wipe out life on this planet at some point in the future, only a few earthly creatures will survive: cockroaches and, apparently, Isiah Thomas.
Thomas is reportedly a hot commodity in NBA circles again, with the Los Angeles Clippers being the leading candidate to acquire his brilliant services. Of course they are.
ESPN and the NY Post are hearing similar things:
Isiah Thomas is actively seeking work again, and he spoke several weeks ago with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in a meeting arranged by current coach/general manager Mike Dunleavy,
Several NBA sources confirmed the February meeting between the former president and general manager of the New York Knicks, adding that there were follow-up discussions between Thomas and other high-ranking club officials — but also stressing that no job has been offered.
Sterling is said to be considering adding another executive to the Los Angeles front office to alleviate some of Dunleavy’s responsibilities in his dual role as coach and general manager…The discussions between Thomas and the Clippers were described by one source as informal yet substantive. Thomas remains under contract to the Knicks for the remainder of this season and two more, but he has the franchise’s permission to seek employment elsewhere.
As the old saying goes, if you can’t get Jerry West, you gotta nab Zeke.
How amazing (and horrible) would it be if Thomas was tabbed to replaced Dunleavy in the Clipper front office? The absurdity, the sheer absurdity would be too perfect. Replace one disaster with an even bigger one. Oh, Clippers, don’t you ever change.
by Ryne Nelson
Rip Hamilton’s former agent Josh Nochimson is at the center of violations centering around UConn’s recruitment of “high-risk” recruit Nate Miles.
From Adrian Wojnarowski and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo!!!!:
The University of Connecticut violated NCAA rules in the recruitment of former guard Nate Miles, a six-month investigation by Yahoo! Sports has found.
Miles was provided with lodging, transportation, restaurant meals and representation by Josh Nochimson – a professional sports agent and former UConn student manager – between 2006 and 2008, according to multiple sources. As a representative of UConn’s athletic interests, Nochimson was prohibited by NCAA rules from having contact with Miles and from providing him with anything of value.
From that first meeting until Miles was expelled from the university in October 2008 for violating a restraining order brought by a female student, Nochimson played an integral role in the player’s life. The agent guided Miles, who had social and academic difficulties, through a jagged journey to Connecticut.
There have been a couple pervading immediate reactions to this report: 1) The team should never have been involved with an agent, and 2) UConn should never have gone after after a “high-risk” player like Miles. The truth is every big recruit has barnacles like Nochimson attached to him, and the process is already well-ingrained into the college landscape. In addition, Caron Butler was a “high-risk” prospect who obviously was the right choice to recruit.
Wojnarowski and Wetzel worked on the report since last Fall, and a timed release of this information seems to be aimed for maximum impact — UConn plays its Sweet 16 match against Purdue tomorrow. The story, however, which cites information obtained from the Freedom of Information Act, has been meticulously researched and contains some serious violations.
While the allegations are no where near as numerous and extreme as those charged against Indiana’s former head coach Kelvin Sampson — who was forced to resign after his controversial recruitment of many players, including current Clipper rookie Eric Gordon — this report could get coach Jim Calhoun fired. The report also alleges that former assistant coach Tom Moore exceeded limits on phone calls and text messages to Miles and involved Nochimson in Miles’ recruitment. Moore was UConn’s top recruiter for a number of years.
As the kid never played a second for UConn, it will be interesting to see how seriously the NCAA takes this report.
The nation’s leading freshman scorer wants to play at a higher level. Who would’ve guessed?
Photo by Atiba Jefferson
Originially published in SLAM Streetball 4
Smush did the NBA thing for a minute, repping the purple and gold. But his real bread-and-butter has always been the park—and the freedom it provides a PG like him. —Tzvi Twersky
Words by Justin Walsh
Derrick Favors – Naismith Trophy Award Winner as the top boys basketball player in the country. Derrick Favors – Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Georgia. Derrick Favors – 3rd pick in the 2010 Mock Draft by Draft Express.
Derrick is an enigma, wrapped in a codex. He’s been compared to a mix of Chris Bosh and Elton Brand with a dash of Kevin Garnett. He’s bigger than the state of Georgia, his image is blocked by the U.S. Government on Satellite photography, he’s got metal muscle-laden arms a la Jax in Mortal Kombat. OK, maybe that last part was embellished.
All jokes aside, Derrick Favors has the state of Georgia on his back, with the expectations of ACC Freshman of the year stuffed in the pockets of his jeans, the demands of having every NBA scout and ESPN analyst stamping him with a possible No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft next year, effectively assuring that anything less—even if that means just a few slots lower than they project—will be a failure.
Favors doesn’t worry about all that. When asked about the outrageously high expectations, opponents asking for autographs after games and being plastered in more magazines than Octomom, he simply stated, “I’m kind of just used to it now. I treat it as if it’s another part of the game.”
Nights of 38 points and 15 boards are just another part of the game. Boosting rival HS teams’ revenues simply by being on their schedule is just another part of the game. Being the savior of a state’s future in basketball is just another part of the game.
by Lang Whitaker
OK, so I’ve been away for a minute. Last week, after we finished SLAM issue 128, I took off for Orlando, Florida, where I haunted Braves’ Spring Training for a few days. Not for fun, though it was kinda fun, but I was there because I have a little extra work to do. Besides, I just wrote another SLAM cover story for 128, which means I’ve done 3 of the last 5 cover stories, and I needed a little break from things.
From Orlando and my magnificent room at the Marriott Generica, I loaded up my rental car and drove to Miami, where I spent the last three days watching random NCAA tournament games while typing up notes from my Spring Training adventure. And doing a little (or a lot) of this:
During my break, I did not post anything on SLAMonline.com, obvs, but I did write a couple of things on my Twitter account. (Hey, if I could post to The Links with my phone, I’d be all over it.)
I use Twitter not only to interact with you guys, but also to share thoughts and ideas, and to keep up with NBA beat writers (like the NYT’s Howard Beck) and NBA coaches (Alvin Gentry in the house). And, of course, NBA players. Last week I was emailing with SI.com’s links guru, Jimmy Traina, about NBA players who have Twitter accounts. Jimmy asked if there was a reliable list of guys who post on Twitter.
Because for a while there it was like the Wild West. Everyone thought Nate Robinson was on Twitter, until Jones On The NBA got after him. And then the New York Times’ Howard Beck and I asked Nate if he was on Twitter one night at a Knicks game and he’d obviously never heard of it. (”Tweets? Twister? What are you talking about?”) So not everybody is into Twitter — this story
in the OC Register about Twitter refers to the site as “Tweeter” — but I’m into it. And a lot of NBA guys are into it.Not only does it allow them to speak directly to their fans, but it allows us, fans of the NBA, to see what they’re up to away from the court.
So here are the guys we know are real…
• The granddaddy of all NBA twitter users is Shaq, who has not only famously given away tickets through Twitter and had lunch with fans thanks to Twitter. Shaq’s currently approaching a mind-boggling 1,000 tweets.
• Kobe Bryant has nearly 5,000 followers but, and this probably shouldn’t come as a surprise, he doesn’t follow anyone. That includes his teammate Derek Fisher, who’s been Twittering for a month, albeit infrequently. And his teammate Sasha Vujacic, who’s only done 10 updates, though with increasing frequency.
• Baron Davis is a recent convert but is obviously enjoying his Twitter experience, even if I had to explain how @replies work to him…
Can anyone out there hear me
9:00 PM Mar 12th from TwitterBerry
BD! Get Chad to show you how to look at your @replies. I’m willing to bet you’ve got a few messages in there from ppl.
9:55 PM Mar 12th from twidroid in reply to Baron_Davis
Ok good I’m glad yall can hear me. This is new to me, I need some suggestions on what yall wanna hear from me? Lang wut up
10:31 PM Mar 12th from TwitterBerry
• Chris Bosh is also a very regular tweeter, though he’s mostly used Twitter to promote projects he’s working on. Though not always…
Having the team over my house for dinner. My mom and folks threw down!
• Charlie Villanueva tweeted at halftime last week. But he also talks about trips to the grocery store…
Got back a while back, but I took a little nap. Whole Foods came thru. I always thought it was spelled with an ‘S’ at the end of Whole.
…and more recently started tweeting game at Kat DeLuna…
@KatDeLuna Dimelo migente, lets get this Dominican connect going. I got some summer projects you’ll like. Palante! A quién contacto? Send DM
• Tyson Chandler is well worth following. He not only tweeted throughout the trade deadline, when he was sent to Oklahoma City and then sent back, but he also gives little details from his personal life that are pretty funny….
So my wife bought 2 Britney Spears tix the only 1’s available were the V.I.P experiment …So guess who had 2 go? I’m standing in line …
• Jason Richardson signed up right before All-Star Weekend. Which, unfortunately, meant one of his first tweets came just after getting arrested for allegedly driving 90 mph in a 35 mph zone. Which meant on Feb. 15, he posted…
Glad allstar coming to an end. A lil tired from all the events, but it was cool to see the fans. Amare Matt n I having a party 2night
And then on Feb. 18, in his first update after the incident, he wrote a sobering tweet…
Thanks for all the love and support thru this tought time I’m goin thru. God Bless.
• Over a month ago, Shaq tweeted that he was trying to get Steve Nash to sign up on Twitter. I guess he did, because Nash signed up. He mainly uses Twitter, however, to promote stuff he’s working on or involved with, like his VitaminWater ads or his kids foundation.
• Troy Murphy signed up before the All-Star Break, but he didn’t fully utilize his account until the last few days, when he’s gone crazy tweeting green…
if you’re asking seriously am I into the environemnt the answer is YES and learning more every day
Can we call him Captain Planet from now on?
• Murph’s teammate Danny Granger was also way into Twitter…and then he wasn’t — no updates since All-Star Weekend.
• Same story with Dwight Howard — he tweeted throughout All-Star then dropped off the face of the internets.
• Andrew Bogut has embraced Twitter, and does a lot of back-and-forth with his fans, particularly his legions in Australia. He has also revealed a deep love for cars. As he updated late Monday night:
Relaxing and doing what? Checkin out some cars online…What else.
• I love following Fabricio Oberto, who constantly tweets and responds to people. He’s also got an ill background image of himself playing the electric guitar. It’s been interesting to see Oberto’s grasp of American culture improve as he uses Twitter, as well as his musical awareness as he trades music tips with fellow Twitter users…
I like almost all music, any kind or style, oasis is really good one of my favs
• Mark Madsen is a regular Twitter updater, though he somehow has fewer followers than I do (then again, I don’t play on the L-Wolves). He says he likes “basketball, cooking, whole wheat bread,” and he is attempting to raise his political profile…
@SenJohnMcCain Met you on an elevator in Philadelphia before the primaries…..thanks for the updates
His teammate Rashad McCants is also on there, though his status is locked so we can’t see what he’s Tweeting about.
• Michael Finley just signed up but has already given us a gem:
Just sawSteve Nash stick a banana in a vitamin water bottle… Didn’t hear commercial, … just imagining what he said..lol
• Sticking in San Antonio, Bruce Bowen not only Tweets, he does it in several languages…
now it’s time for comida cubano! Si se puedes!
• Portland’s Jerryd Bayless recently opened an account and has done a total of about 10 words in posts. But because he plays for Portland he has about 500 computer nerds following him already.
• Brian Cardinal has an account. His “Bio” section is oddly reflective…
I play basketball for a living, yet basketball does not define me…
You can say that again. Love the picture of himself at a Wrigley Field night game.
• Another L-Wolf, Randy Foye, is also on Twitter. Looking through his tweets, I was surprised to learn that he’s got an assistant. Maybe it’s Kevin McHale?
• Joe Alexander used Twitter to try and get in the dunk contest. Alas, being an early adopter didn’t work out for Joe.
• I’m noticing a trend here: Bad teams have more guys on Twitter. The Kings have two players, Donte Greene and Jason Thompson, who is fastidious about telling us where he eats.
• The only NBA coach on Twitter appears to be Alvin Gentry, who occasionally posts three and four post groupings about things he’s going through…
does anyone have advice on how to turn off my brain and get some sleep. all i can think of is what do we have to do to beat the jazz.
One word for you coach: Defense!
And it’s not a real account, but there’s a fake Jerry Sloan who’s hilarious.
• There’s some dispute as to whether or not Kyle Korver is actually on Twitter. A Kyle Korver account continues to be updated, though Korver says it’s not actually him (see toward the bottom here).
• And even though neither of them are actually in the NBA right now, both Marcus Williams and my main man Josh Childress are tweeting away.
I think that’s it for now. I’m going to keep this post updated, so if more guys get online I’ll add them here with a date of when we updated it. If you guys see anyone else, let me know.
by Ben Osborne
Back in the ’70s and early ’80s, when, in general, the NBA’s dress code could best be described as “flashy” and “funky,” one player still managed to stand out: World B. Free. A personal favorite of mine from his latter days with the Cavaliers, his charisma and flair made the Brooklyn-born streetballer one of the League’s most colorful personalities.
A 6-2, 185-pound scoring guard who was born in 1953 and attended Canarsie High in BK before small Guilford College in NC, Free would go on to put up nearly 18,000 points over a 13-year career spent with the Sixers, Clippers, Warriors, Cavs and Rockets. Free was a deserving All-Star in ‘79-80, when he averaged 30.2 points, 4.2 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals for the San Diego Clippers. But even as one of the NBA’s top scorers, he was the type of player who was more than just the sum of his stats. His rim-rattling dunks, scorer’s mentality and opinionated persona put the man born Lloyd B. Free in a, well, world of his own.
These days, besides working for the Philadelphia 76ers, Free is a recently signed endorser of K1X. As the German-based, street-friendly hoop brand put it in a recent press releats, “For K1X, basketball should always come with a little extra mustard. So teaming up with World B Free for the possibly illest hoop collabo ever was a no-brainer. With a main ingredient like World B Free and K1X to add some spice, it’s no wonder our exclusive 09 summer line got game like winner-stays.”
The line includes clothes and footwear, both of which you’ll be seeing even more of on the site and in the mag in coming months.
But our friends at K1X didn’t just hit us with a press release—they gave us a great q+a too. Enjoy.
K1X: Can you take us back to Brownsville and tell us how you grew up there and how that made you the person that you are today?
FREE: Brownsville is a world of its own, as you know. You’ve been out there, too. It’s a place that either made you or broke you. So either you were going to be someone or you wasn’t. I always followed a couple of guys that were older than me. And they didn’t let me play basketball until I was in 11th or 12th grade. A lot of the guys who got out there were a lot younger than I was. I didn’t have that great skills at that time but I had great elevation with my jumpshot. So the older guys would always teach me more about the game, beat me up, pound me on the court. They would treat me like a rookie and I would learn from that. And as I got better and better I started to teach that to the younger kids.
In Brownsville you had just one basket and the ball had no frills, it was bald as my head right now. And I was just in there, I just loved the game. It was great. You had to come out in the snow and rain and we did that. That‘s what it was all about.
K1X: What was the New York streetball scene in general like back then?
FREE: Back then, when you lost a basketball game that was it. It was all over. You might not play again until 10 at night. The court was so crowded and everybody wanted to show their stuff. There were people coming from all over. We were in Brooklyn, so people from the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island came to Brownsville, to a court that we called Sixty-Six Park back then, because that’s where legends were made. And everyone wanted to go to that park to be somebody. They had the Rucker Pros up in Harlem but we had Sixty-Six Park.
K1X: Tell us who played in that park.
FREE: We had guys like Jim McMillan, Doc played there, too. We also had guys like Connie Hawkins, Nate “Tiny“ Archibald. We had some of the best players to ever play this game.
K1X: What other tournaments were there in the city besides Rucker and Sixty Six Park?
FREE: There was a tournament at St. John’s Recreation Center that was big. But you could basically go to every basketball court in Brooklyn at that time and find that the court was full. It’s not the same anymore. When you drive by the parks you won’t see that many kids out there anymore.
K1X: You are not the biggest basketball player when it comes to height. Tell us how you changed your shot to overcome that.
FREE: My thing was that I had a 44″ vertical leap and I was very strong. I used to shoot straight in front of my face when I brought the ball up. But I realized that that shot got blocked every time. So I started to put the ball up to the side of my head and combined with my vertical I could shoot over the defenders.
K1X: I heard you also started shooting over a ladder.
FREE: Yeah, I did that to create a higher arc for my shot. I actually did a lot of those things because the guys back then were pretty much jumping out of the building. So if you didn‘t want your shot to be smacked all the way to the other end of the court you better come up with something. That’s a lesson you learned for the rest of your life.
K1X: You’ve probably told the story a million times but we need to hear it again: Where does “World” come from?
FREE: That name comes from a guy by the name of Herb Smith. This is a guy who is also from Brownsville who introduces everybody who he thinks will come into the NBA, in his mind. So he will give you a nickname. He named guys like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Connie “The Hawk“ Hawkins, Phil “The Thrill” Sellers. He called me “All World” one time because I was doing 360 slam dunks in games. And I remember, it was in a league game, about two seconds on the clock and I stopped, bounced, did a whole 360 and dunked the ball. And Herb just yelled “All World.” That rang around the whole gym and every since then I was called “All World.” And that was just in junior high.
K1X: What made you change your name legally as well?
FREE: “Lloyd B Free” was the name given to me by my father. So I just changed the Lloyd to “World.” I said to myself that if I should make it professionally in the league with this name that was given to me I would go ahead and wish that the world could be free one day.
K1X: But there was a lot of turmoil going on at that time after the war in Vietnam and the Cold War. Was there something philosophical about that name? Were you like a hippie?
FREE: No, no, no. What I was was a person that wanted good for everybody. My mom and dad raised me to be kind to everyone, no matter what color or race you are. And at that time I was just hoping that the world could be free. So if people would speak about me they could keep it in their head that the world be free.
K1X: What is your take on the whole commercialization of streetball? You know, all the interest that the sport gathers from sponsors and the media these days.
FREE: The NBA and streetball are two totally different games. The players on the streetball courts have their own unique set of talents. But the level of attention they receive now helps some of them to get into the league. And that‘s a good thing.
K1X: You were playing professionally in a time where it was hard not to get in trouble sometimes. Teammates smoking and drinking in the locker room. But today you are teaching the kids not to do those things. Did you, back then, sometimes feel that you were on the wrong side of the track?
FREE: Let me put it this way. Temptation was there. But with me coming from Brownsville and playing only my first and second season in the league I was a nobody basically. So when I looked at all the guys I was strong enough to know that it wasn‘t for me. I said to myself ‘I‘m going to make it.‘ and I went 13 years in the NBA.
K1X: While you played actively, the league was very different from today. People would go outside for a smoke break in between games. Tell us about that era.
FREE: Yes, you are right. When I was a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers they had beers in the locker room, they were actually smoking cigarettes in the locker room. It was a totally different time back then. But when I was a rookie I played with some of the greatest players who ever played this game, eventhough some of them were already in their thirties. And they did the things they did and I could never understand that. But they were no doubt dedicated to the game.
K1X: You played with some of the most interesting characters to ever play the game. Just let me know what goes through your mind when you hear the different names…Let’s start with Julius.
FREE: Julius Erving was a special basketball player. If you wanted your kid to look up to one person for what that person did on a basketball court that person would be Julius Erving.
K1X: Darryl Dawkins.
FREE: The Character. And also one of the best friends I’ve had in the basketball world. Great guy, great individual. He was a man to himself because he was the first one I knew who could put somebody on “Lovetron.” You’ve never heard of that before in basketball. That was until Darryl Dawkins came in right out of high school making up names. A great guy.
K1X: How about Charles Barkley?
FREE: He was a different character. Charles Barkley was the beast of the east. If it wasn’t his way it was no way.
K1X: And everybody was scared of him.
FREE: Yeah, he would bully you.
K1X: Talk about the layup lines back when you were with the 76ers.
FREE: Man, you are talking about something very special right there. I mean, people got mad when they missed the Sixers warmup. They rather missed the game than miss the layup line. The World would go first. After that Darryl Dawkins with a Chocolate Thunder Dunk. Boom. And then Doc soaring in from the free throw line. Boom. Then I would throw it of the glass and finish with a tomahawk. That layup line was our trademark when we came to the building. We had some guys that could do unbelievable dunks. The layup line alone was a dunk show.
K1X: How do you think the best five players of your era would fare against the best five guys of today‘s era?
FREE: I believe that the best five players from my era would wear today’s guys out. And I’m not just saying that because I was part of that era. I believe that we were more physical, that we were more skilled in our profession and in what we did on the basketball court. Nowadays they hype the game a little bit different. I’m not saying there is no talent out there. There is a lot of talent, I just think that the skill factor is a little bit different.
K1X: You were one of the players who brought the slam dunk to the NBA. Who took that torch from you? And who do you enjoy watching today when it comes to aerial assaults?
FREE: In my active days it was Julius, of course, and Michael Jordan. I also liked Connie Hawkins, but also the little guys like Spud Webb, coming out there and doing the incredible at 5-7. I watched a lot of different players and everybody put something different into their dunks.
K1X: You played in the League with Mike, so you brought several generations together. You were there for the generation of the Ervings and then you were there for the generation of the Jordans. How was MJ as a player?
FREE: As you can imagine, he was one of the greatest players to ever play the game. In his first four years in the League Michael and I went head to head. In his book, Come Fly with Me, he was asked who he respected the most in the League for doing to him what he had done to the other guy, and he said World B Free. That was an honor for me. I just knew that he was something special once I saw him. The same was true with Magic Johnson. I was playing when Magic came into the League, broke him in his first game. And I knew right then that he was going to be something really special.
K1X: I was going to ask you about that. Magic was the most hyped Rookie coming into the league that year and in his first game you dropped 46 on him. Did you think that all the hype was for nothing?
FREE: No, no. I didn’t think like that. I was still a young buck at that time. When people are looking somewhere they are not looking somewhere else. So I wanted to catch their attention. I was the underdog at that moment…and that’s when I’m dangerous.
K1X: Who was the best player you went up against? You mentioned that MJ listed you as one of the toughest players he went up against. What about you?
FREE: George “Iceman” Gervin. He was one of the best players I ever played against. When this man was rolling, and this was like every game, he could get 50 on you in a half—and not even break a sweat. And that’s why they call him “The Iceman.” I asked him about that and he just said “World, I just scored 60 on you, and I’m not even sweating.” [Laughs]
K1X: What about your own quote, “passes don’t get paid”?
FREE: Uhh, I got that from Fred Carter. When I was a rookie he came to me and said, “Rook, let me tell you something: In this League, passes don’t get paid. Passes do not get paid.” And that stuck with me as soon as I stepped on the basketball court. It wasn’t my own theory, though. I got it from a veteran. There could be five guys open and he would still not pass it to you. [Laughs]
K1X: How confident were you as a player?
FREE: As a player? Very confident. I knew that I could get my shot over anybody on the basketball court because of my jumping ability and I had ballhandling skills. I could go either left hand or right hand. I was very confident in my offensive game.
K1X: When you look back at your NBA career you were an All Star and you were one of the big stars of the NBA. Do you have any regrets? Do you think you have been conceived by the fans and the media in the way that you should have been?
FREE: I don’t have any regrets. If I had to do it all over again, believe me, I would do it just the same way because I know that what I did helped guys like Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Magic Johnson become who they are, even though they would never say it. The reason why I say that is when I shot the ball 20 times a game, I was called a gunner. Today players like the three guys I mentioned can shoot the ball 30 or even 40 times per game and will be called a great player because you average 25 points. It allowed them to step out of that shadow of being called a gunner for taking that many shots. I helped that and I feel good about that.
K1X: You say you don‘t have any regrets about your basketball career. Do you know what I would regret? The fact that I didn’t play 20 years later and make $20 million a year.
FREE: [Laughs] But you know what? You can say all that and it’s all good. To put your mind there would be just wrong when you are a real basketball player. I would have to be really selfish. When George Mikan and Bob Cousy played the game they made like $25. So who am I to demand that more money than they made?
K1X: How do you feel about your place in basketball history. I read that you were a little disappointed that the Cavaliers have not retired your number.
FREE: Yeah, because the franchise was family and when I got to Cleveland there were like 16, literally 16, people in the stands. And by the time I left my teammates and I had helped turn that into a basketball place once again. And for being a big part of that success you might think about retiring my number. It was a good place for me, though.
K1X: Tell us about what you’re doing with the 76ers these days.
FREE: I’m the 76ers’ Players Development Coach. That includes teaching these young guys, who suddenly make a lot of money, how to react in certain situations. They have people coming into their lives now, women coming into their lives. And I help them deal with all those things. So if the players don’t want to talk to the regular coaches, they can come talk to me.
I’m also very involved in the community. I’m working on several projects right now as the Community Relations Leader for the Sixers. That includes going to high schools as well as colleges and talking to kids there about drug awareness and also the different ways to succeed in life.
K1X: You look like you are still in shape. Do you still play ball or maybe hit the streetball scene?
FREE: I shoot with the team. I broke my foot last year but I’m getting back there. I’ve been playing with the guys before and I was beating them up. [Laughs] They said, “Come on World, you keep playing that old men’s game!” And I said, “No, that’s the game! You will have to just learn it. So when you get fouled out there you won’t even recognize you got fouled.”
K1X: Who is your favourite player in the game today?
FREE: I do like Allen Iverson and I also like Andre Iguodala a lot. He is starting to get there now.
K1X:I see you got the Sixers flavor in there.
FREE: Yeah. It’s great to be around these guys every day, and having gotten to witness AI up close. The real special thing to me with the players today is the kind of respect that they show me. Nobody turns their nose up to me, not even the biggest star in the League. And that means more than money to me.
K1X: As the player with maybe the greatest name in the history of the NBA, who do you think has the best nickname in the league today?
FREE: I like Allen’s nickname, “The Answer.” When he first came into the League they asked him what he was called. He said, “Some call me Bubba Chuck. Some of my friends call me The Answer because when I’m on the court I will answer every bell that rings.” And ever since then, for 13 years, he has been up there. So I like that name very much.
K1X: You mentioned the other day that you played with Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant and that Kobe used to join that team at practice sessions. Can you tell us a little bit about young Kobe?
FREE: At that time Kobe was a freshman in high school and he was playing against our guys as we had a pick up game going. I knew Kobe because I watched him play at Lower Merion High School. So I knew that he had game. But what I didn’t know was how good he had become from playing in Italy where he played against a lot of guys who were older than he was. And he also played with his father every day. And his father used to beat him up on the basketball court. Kobe would drive past him and Joe just kept hacking his son and fouling him. And I was like, “Man, that’s a foul!” But Kobe just kept playing. I knew that Kobe was going to become something really special because he didn’t whine or cry about nothing. And the guys on our team knew as well. He’d wear them out. I think Vernon Maxwell was the only guy Kobe didn’t light up.
K1X: Tell me why style is important in basketball. What do style and basketball have to do with each other?
FREE: See, it’s just like a great one-on-one basketball player. You’re talking about the Michael Jordans, the Magic Johnsons, the Larry Birds, the World B Frees of this world. What we do is we come out on the court and we play with a special style. And when you play like that you’re likley to celebrate your style off court, too. And that’s why it’s important what you wear. So when you come out on the court or out on the street, people will see that’s what seperates us from the others.
K1X: Would you say that Allen Iverson is like the World B Free of this era because he brought a whole new kind of style to the game and made it his own?
FREE: I would say that Allen Iverson would be a good second World B Free for what he has done in basketball—other than the thug life. He is an icon for young people. His clothes and the way he wears them, and also his wearing braids early on. He has his own type of style.
K1X: How many shoes do you have at home?
FREE: [Thinks] I would say more than a thousand pairs of shoes.
K1X: Man, how much space does that take?
FREE: Well it does take up a lot of space. I have one of these clean houses and a closet where you just push a button and it goes round and round until you get to the style you like. A good friend of mine made this one for me and he did a really good job.
K1X: You played in the NBA from the mid-’70s all the way to the late ’80s and you were always leading the League with your style. What kind of reactions did you receive for your whole World B Free style?
FREE: I was always a trendsetter. When I saw someone wearing stuff that I liked I always tried to do it a little bit different. If someone wore his socks either high or low I would wear mine in between. I never wanted to be the same as the next person. I wanted to be World B Free. So I wanted the people to say, “Wow, when World B Free wears something then it has to be something different.” That’s what I wanted the people to know about World B Free.
K1X: You guys were wearing your gold chains during the games and everything. Tell me your honest opinion about the NBA dress code.
FREE: My opinion on that doesn’t really mean anything. But I believe right now that the players should wear suits and ties. When you are a professional and you go out to the public you dress accordingly. When you get home from the game and you wanna get comfortable you can relax. But when you are doing your profession you should pay attention to the fact that there‘s kids looking up to you.
K1X: What was your reaction when you were approached by K1X several years ago to create whole line based around “World B Free”? What were you thinking?
FREE: When they first came to me I was elated by it. I’ve had companies come at me before, big guns too. But I never really felt it. Then my son told me one day ‘Dad it would cool to have your own line. You should go ahead and do something like that.’ And a year later K1X approached me about the possibility a second time after first bringing up the ideas at the All-Star Game in Philly back in 2002. You know, God is good in all kinds of ways. I think it’s a great thing because, like I said, I’m a stylish guy, a trendetter. And I only try to wear the best. And this is what K1X has put out for me, the best.
According to both men, everything is coming up roses: ” Carmelo Anthony and George Karl have had their differences during an up-and-down four full seasons together. But both say this has been their best season together, despite an incident of insubordination March 1 when Anthony refused to come out of a game at Indiana. Karl suspended him for one game. ‘This season me and George haven’t had no beef or nothing, no going back and forth,’ Anthony said. ‘We’ve been on the same page, other than that one incident, where things were a miscommunication. But other than that, everything’s been cool.’ Karl agrees. ‘Even though sometimes some stuff is tough, it brings you to communicate better and work together and be together,” Karl said. “And the crazy thing that happened in Indianapolis, I think people who were around knew it was forgotten really quickly because it was such a surprise.’”
Scary stuff for one of the game’s greats: “Three months ago, Bernard King fell down 17 stairs, cracked his head open and nearly died. Saturday night in Atlanta, he ended up in the hospital after barely being able to finish a walk home…Saturday night, King suffered what he called a “precursor to a stroke,” and he said yesterday that if he hadn’t called an ambulance to get him to the hospital, he ‘probably wouldn’t be here.’ King’s stroke ‘precursor’ occurred after he had walked a mile and a half, then sat down for 20 minutes before starting his journey back home. But he said he was able to walk only 10 steps at a time, then had to take a two-minute rest. He repeated that pattern the entire walk home. ‘I finally got home and realized I was in trouble and called for an ambulance,’ said King, who works in energy management. As a result of the hospital stay and a visit with a cardiologist yesterday morning, King learned he has high blood pressure and is now on medication.”
Everything - including fouling out - is absurdly funny when going up against this toothless bunch: “Odom hadn’t agreed with the five fouls he’d gotten earlier, although he has tried hard not to let the officiating get to him in recent weeks. When Odom went back into the game with 8:32 left, he smiled at courtside reporters, made like a left-handed batter getting one more pitch to hit and asked how long he thought he could last with his five fouls. The answer: 15 seconds. Odom fouled out on that possession, unable to resist contesting Russell Westbrook’s layup attempt. Odom couldn’t believe referee Michael Smith called the foul, going to the bench before getting back up to ask Smith: ‘Are you sure it was me?’ Meanwhile, because the Lakers led by 19 points at the time, Odom’s teammates — especially Kobe Bryant — were cracking up at his plight. (Asked about it after the game, Bryant deadpanned: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”) Odom kept protesting for a while, speaking half toward the referees and half toward Phil Jackson by saying: ‘That’s some (expletive). Every game, man!’ Odom being one with such a light heart, though, he quickly let it go and just enjoyed how his teammates were enjoying it. He also walked back to reporters and comically made like a baseball umpire, dramatically punching himself out.”
by Marcel Mutoni
Team owner Bob Johnson has no qualms with letting his employees know this. And this reality drives Larry Brown crazy.
The Charlotte Bobcats have had a raw deal over the last few years with their scheduling, and this season is no different. They have Johnson’s daughter (and her horsies) to blame.
From the Charlotte Observer:
Asked Monday what he thinks of closing the regular season with four road games, Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown was frank: “It’s ridiculous to end like that,” Brown said. Team President Fred Whitfield understands Brown’s concern, and hopes to improve the situation in future seasons. But Whitfield has to balance his responsibilities to the team with his obligation to manage Time Warner Cable Arena.
For the second consecutive season, the Bobcats’ schedule is heavily backloaded with road games. Last season they played 19 of their final 29 away from Charlotte. This season 24 of the final 39 are on the road.
Some of this is unavoidable. Events such as the circus in late January and college basketball tournaments in February and March have locked-in dates. The Bobcats are aggressively booking concert business to fill the arena with up to 200 events annually. And the Charlotte Jumper Classic is a pet project for majority owner Bob Johnson. It takes up the last weekend of the regular season, a factor in the Bobcats’ closing road trip to Oklahoma City, Chicago, New Jersey and Orlando. Johnson’s daughter is an equestrian, and Whitfield made it clear this event is a priority. “The horse show is something he feels very deeply about, he’s very committed to,” Whitfield said. “As long as Bob is the majority owner, that’s something we’re planning to do.”
That obviously sucks something major, but Larry Brown should be thankful they don’t host golf tourneys indoors; MJ’s requests would probably drive him to drink.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, I suppose: “According to legend, it all began — as many of the team’s old, crazy ideas have — with former Cavaliers guard Damon Jones. A couple years ago, the loquacious guard developed special handshakes with each of his teammates. He’d go through each of them during player announcements, spending the most time on a special, ever-morphing handshake with James just before he went to the scorer’s table to toss up talc. They would pantomime a boxing match, pretend to take pictures of each other, jiggle and dance…Jones went to Milwaukee in a trade over the summer, but the handshakes stayed. And evolved. And improved. And now, each Cavaliers player has his own, distinct gesture.”
And that lesson is going to cost him a hefty sum: “Pistons star Allen Iverson must pay $260,000 for standing idly by and watching his bodyguard beat up another man in a 2005 bar fight, a federal appeals court ruled today. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the guard’s attempt to throw out the verdict decided by a jury in 2007. Bar patron Marlin Godfrey accused Iverson’s bodyguard, Jason Kane, of punching, kicking and hitting him with a bottle because he refused to vacate the VIP section at Washington club Eyebar to make way for the basketball star and his entourage. Godfrey suffered a concussion, a ruptured eardrum, a burst blood vessel in his eye, a torn rotator cuff, cuts and bruises, and emotional injuries.”
The Warriors’ captain isn’t going to be playing for a while due to a bum toe: “Ever wonder why Jackson, who is right-handed, almost always jumps off his right foot (which is what a left-handed shooter does)? It’s because his left big toe has been killing for more than two years now. And he’s fed up with it…But now he has an appointment in Houston on Friday to get his toe checked out. He’ll play Wednesday night in Dallas (you know he’s not missing a showdown with Dirk) and then he’s going get his toe examined by the Houston Rockets doctor. Why now? Because it’s getting worse and the Warriors aren’t playing for anything. After the New Orleans game, he was noticeably limping. Then Tim Duncan stepped on it tonight.”
by Marcel Mutoni
Um, that’s according to Ryan Hollins of the Mavs, a man who has played in a whopping 18 games this season, and clocked about 9 minutes per.
Hollins, appearing on a sports radio talk show, gave the Lakers (and their leader) some great motivational material should the two squads meet in the first round of the postseason.
The Dallas Morning News has the details:
Hollins went so far as to provide some insight on how the Mavs could succeed as an 8 seed against the Lakers, whom he acknowledged were the team to beat. The key: Take advantage of Kobe’s selfishness.
“Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the game, and I think sometimes he has issues trusting his teammates,” said Hollins, who probably saw a lot of Lakers games while playing college ball at UCLA. “Maybe we catch them off guard, kind of get Kobe into playing a little one-on-one or doing a little too much, I think we’ve got a shot at them definitely.”
As the local reporter helpfully points out in the post, Hollins has yet to log a single Playoff minute in his life. Should he get the opportunity this year, one can’t help but feel that it won’t be a pleasant experience.
by Holly MacKenzie
Okay, back to the daily grind we go.
Thanks for being patient with that one day hiatus! Appreciate it. Even though my plan to go to bed early and wake up late became foiled as news of Bosh’s baby-drama hit the wires. I had heard about this story awhile back and all I will say is I’ve heard some other things that lead me to believe that we’ve heard only one side of this story. I’m not implying that I know the truth, only reminding everyone that they don’t either. I’m sure the entirety of this story will unfold in a court where it belongs. In my opinion, there is no need for this to populate sports blogs and television shows
Maybe that’s just my opinion though. I don’t know. I do know that it is almost the end of March already. Not sure how that happened.
We had a pretty quiet night for a Tuesday and there wasn’t a lot of excitement besides that Spurs/Warriors game that -of course- the Spurs won, 107-106. This one was close throughout and while Tony Parker led the way for the Spurs with 30 points, it was a jumper from Roger Mason with 23.9 seconds remaining that gave the Spurs the lead for good. San Antonio didn’t exactly close out the game properly. After Mason’s jumper, Kurt Thomas went to the line and missed two free throws, giving Monta Ellis a chance to take the last shot of the game, running upcourt and launching a last-second three that didn’t make it. Parker had 10 assists to go with his 30 while Mason scored 24 points and Tim Duncan added 21 points and 10 rebounds. The Warriors were led by Ellis and his 27 points while Stephen Jackson added 18 points and 8 rebounds and Anthony Randolph added 13 points and 9 boards off of the bench.
The Lakers rolled over the Thunder, 107-89. This one was basically over before it began as the Lakers led 37-20 at the end of the first quarter. LA led 62-38 at the half and things didn’t get any better for Oklahoma City. There were six Lakers in double-figures, led by Pau Gasol’s 14-point, 14-rebound performance as Kobe Bryant finished with 19 points and Lamar Odom added 18. Kevin Durant had 24 points for the Thunder, Jeff Green added 12 points and Nenad Krstic added 11 points and 7 boards.
Without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich shone for the Bulls as they took down a Detroit team that was without Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton, 99-91. Close in the first half, Chicago pulled away in the third quarter as the short-handed Pistons couldn’t keep up and were outscored 32-25 to give the Bulls a 75-68 lead going into the fourth. From there, Chicago laid it on, going up by as many as 19 points before the Pistons made the final score more acceptable in the final minutes. Hinrich led the way for Chicago with his 24 points as Tyrus Thomas scored 18 points to go with 12 rebounds and 5 assists. Joakim Noah scored 15 points to go with 10 rebounds and Ben Gordon added 19 points. The Pistons had 20-point performances from Tayshaun Prince and Will Bynum and 16 points and 8 rebounds from Antonio McDyess.
The Utah Jazz used a strong second half to get a W against the surging Houston Rockets. Taking the 99-86 victory, Utah was up only three at the break, needing a 15-4 run in the third to get some breathing space from the Rockets and go into the fourth leading 75-67. While Houston would cut the Utah lead to only one, they would not be able to go ahead and the Jazz took care of things from there. Deron Williams led the way with 19 points and 12 assists, Ronnie Brewer scored 17 and Paul Millsap added 15 points and 9 rebounds off of the bench. Aaron Brooks had 20 points for the Rockets, Shane Battier scored 18 and Ron Artest added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
by Jeff Fox
Like it or not, there are more important things at stake during the NCAA tournament than how your entry in the office pool is doing. Even for the actual participants in the games, there is more at stake than whether or not their team wins or loses (but they won’t admit it). Coaches are auditioning either for a job at a bigger school or a big contract extension from their current employer. And, of course, players are auditioning for the numerous NBA and overseas pro scouts watching the games.
But how much of a factor should a prospect’s play in the tournament have on his draft stock? The Portland Trailblazers’ GM Kevin Pritchard was posed a similar question on NBA TV recently, and he said that while it is important to see a top prospect go up against other top competitors (which is what March Madness offers), their performance in the tournament should only be viewed as another item to add to a player’s extensive scouting report. After all, Sean May, Mateen Cleaves and Jeff Sheppard are among the names to have won the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award over the past decade or so.
So, while taking this all with a grain of salt, here are the players who have boosted, or hurt, their draft stock with their play in this year’s edition of the Madness thus far.
Blake Griffin — Oklahoma
Considering he already was projected as the number one pick in the draft, Blake Griffin technically hasn’t boosted his stock with his play in the tournament. However, his gritty, athletic play has further solidified the opinion that he is head-and-shoulders above all other prospects in this year’s draft. Think Tyler Hansbrough, but with off-the-charts athleticism.
Demar DeRozan — USC
Double-D just got better and better as the season progressed, to the point that if he does enter this year’s draft he’ll be leaving college on a high note. Averaging 18 points and seven boards while shooting 50 percent in the tournament (against two very good teams) does wonders for his stock. However, considering he is a wing player, only knocking down six three-pointers during the season is a bit of a concern.
Cole Aldrich — Kansas
Haters will say that he didn’t do it against any real tough post players, but Cole Aldrich’s play during Kansas’ first two tournament games was still amazing. A double-double his first game and an almost unheard of triple-double in his second is eye-opening stuff. While he is still not expected to enter this year’s draft, look for Coleplay to be a top-10 pick in 2010.
Others worth noting: Terrence Williams, Louisville; Sam Young, Pittsburgh.
James Harden — Arizona State
Heading into the NCAA tournament, the Sun Devils’ James Harden was being given serious consideration as the second-best prospect in this year’s draft. While that may still be the case today, his play in the tournament did nothing to justify this. Despite being the most talented player on the court in both of Arizona State’s tourney games, Harden shot 3-18 combined and almost had as many turnovers than assists. Not exactly the take-charge performance his team—and the scouts—were looking for.
Austin Daye — Gonzaga
While his play hasn’t been poor—he’s shooting 50 percent for the tournament—with his skill level and length, more is expected out of Austin Daye. Just like Harden, he is the most talented guy on the floor more often than not, yet when he isn’t sulking about a foul call that has gone against him he is showing that he is not physically strong enough to finish as many plays as you’d hope from a top prospect.
Jeff Teague — Wake Forest
This has pretty much been a tournament devoid of upsets—other than Cleveland State’s spanking of Wake Forest. Jeff Teague did nothing to help his team’s plight—or his draft stock—in the loss. At 6-2, Teague is going to have to prove he can run the point in the NBA, so his seven turnovers against five assists in the Cleveland State game doesn’t help his cause. And for a shoot-first point guard, shooting 18-43 for the month of March is abysmal.
Jeff Fox also writes about college hoops and the NBA draft at College Hoops Net.
by Cub Buenning
Let me start today’s thoughts by apologizing for not “being there” more over the past week. After a very busy few days (remember, I have a full-time writing job that is not associated with SLAM or even basketball) I chose to sit back, order the DirecTV March Madness package (well worth the duckets) and watch.
With my folded-up, in-and-out-of-the-back-pocket-for-the-next-month bracket just starting to show some wear, I was out of contention in most of my pools by the first week’s end. My hours and hours of not only close viewing, but in-depth analysis of this year’s college season, led me to believe that West Virginia and Wake Forest were on a head-on collision in the Midwest’s Regional Final (cue snickers and laughter).
Honestly, WVU has looked really nice lately and their three major contributing freshmen had been playing like upperclassmen. I don’t have the highest opinion of this year’s Atlantic-10 (I had all three losing in the first round) so I liked the Mountaineers draw. Kansas and Michigan State are teams with balance, but maybe not ready to win six in a row. My feelings on Louisville (the biggest joke of an overall No. 1 seed maybe ever) are more than well known as I am still searching for an impressive, quality win on their resume or in the 15 or so games I saw of them this year. I had trouble getting them out of Dayton and past Ohio State (who didn’t even get by Siena) in the second round, so the inevitable match-up with an extremely talented, but albeit disappointing as of late, Wake Forest team was an easy selection for me. In addition, I still don’t think that this is a year (like last season) when we will see all the top seeds. In my estimation one of ‘em is going down over the Thursday/Friday “holiday.”
Which brings me to the purpose of penning these ideas, which team(s) might it be?
Which of the four No. 1 seeds will pack it in early and be forced to consider the season a failure?
My aforementioned impressions on the Atlantic-10 should lead you to assume that Pittsburgh should skate on through to the weekend in the East. Purdue might be a little thin up front to have many answers for Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet, so UConn should advance.
However, I am not so sure about the other two.
Arizona is playing great and before I illuminate on my preseason “illusions of grandeur” about how this might the best team in Pac-10 (which were met by a chorus of written disbelief by mainly, cough…. Washington fans) and how they are the only team remaining from that conference, I’ll say, Arizona and Louisville might turn into a classic and an upset is surely not out of the question. Six sure-fire (yes, Nic Wise is going to be a pro) NBAers on the court at the same time should be enough for even our most ardent NBA-diehards to turn to CBS for a few minutes on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.
But I truly believe the best of the next eight games will be played in Memphis when the North Carolina Tarheels meet the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Friday at 10 p.m. I don’t see a better or more complete team in the nation than UNC and why they weren’t named the No. 1 seed is beyond me. My aforementioned “bracket of doom,” however, does involve a Gonzaga win and an eventual trip to the Final Four.
Follow me on this.
If there is one team in the nation that actually matches-up with the Tarheels in the depth/athleticism/size/experience/talent department, the Zags might be that team. So with those thoughts and impressions in mind, I shall waste the next few minutes of your time breaking down this regional semi-final.
North Carolina comes in with 28 wins while their counterpart paved their Sweet 16 trip with 26 wins. Both were regular season champions in their conference, but let’s look at the personnel specifically, as apposed to crunching numbers that might be meaningless at this point in the year.
The health of several point guards was one of my main concerns entering the conference tourneys two weeks ago. Carolina’s Ty Lawson was my biggest worry. A turf toe injury might be one of the more debilitating injuries that a fast-paced point guard can endure. With Lawson struggling through the injury (and more than likely ready to go after his gutsy game on Saturday against LSU) what was an advantage for UNC might become more of a push. Lawson is a one-man show from back there and the opposition can roll out senior leader in Jeremy Pargo who has size and strength over Lawson and might be as quick as the slightly hobbled Tarheel. Gonzaga freshman back-up Demitri Goodson proved his stones by not only taking the outlet pass against Western Kentucky directly in-front of Pargo, but then proceeding to make like Moses; parting the red sea of Hilltoppers on the way to the winning bucket and instantaneously legendary status in Spokane. This position and this position alone might determine the outcome of this game.
By now, most of y’all know I am a big fan of my boy from Colorado, Matt Bouldin and that I think the world of him as an all-around player, but this might be a really tough match for him, against Wayne Ellington. While Bouldin is the superior shooter, playmaker, rebounder, post-player, and probably some other areas I am forgetting, Ellington’s first-step quickness and explosiveness (especially when his perimeter shots are hitting) will give Bouldin fits.
What gives Gonzaga some promise in this spot, though, is that with a player such as Stephen Gray coming off the bench combined with Bouldin’s versatility, the slight mis-match can be covered-over. Coach Roy Williams only has six true contributors but between the four-guard rotation that Mark Few can trot out, this game should prove the old “guard play” theory for tournament success.
Danny Green has grown to personify the streaky shooter that doesn’t always know when to stop shooting. If he can hit some perimeter shots early, the Tarheels could be in a good position to stave off an early run against a still “cold” Lawson. Gonzaga can play the three guard rotation of Pargo, Gray and Bouldin with the latter sizey enough to defend the majority of college wings. If not, senior Micah Downs is steady and can do a bit of everything as a senior leader. The rebounding and intensity he has shown lately will be greatly needed.
Austin Daye does not fit the prototype of a regular college power forward (although he fits a rather ideal one for a professional one) and his rebounding will be so crucial to sealing up the paint against the active, athletic and relentless inside attack of Carolina. Whether it is Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, or Tyler Hansbrough, all attack the rim hard and are players that must be accounted for on both sides of the glass. Daye has proven at times to be a dominating rebounder, but his slight frame might be exposable against the stauncher opposition. Josh Heytvelt is playing a high level, again, and his interior defense against Hansbrough should prove a tough test for the ACC’s all-time leading scorer. Heytvelt has a similar physical make-up to Hansborough but has an honest two-to-three inches on him. If Heytvelt plays timid (as they all did against Memphis) Carolina will dominate this game in the paint.
There is no set formula on how to take these individual decisions and mend them into one concise winner. I can play out several scenarios in which both teams control the play and come out victorious. Ty Lawson proved that once he got his toe “warm-up” he could dominate his opposition, but this time, his opposition is not LSU. The Zags can throw several different looks at the hobbled Heel, from the similarly built (but again, another 2-3 inches) Pargo to the young and impressionable Goodson to even the long athletic energy of Gray. The Zags have also proven to be quick starters through out the year as well as in both of their two tournament games to date. If Lawson cannot get warmed-up quickly, this game could look like a replay of last year’s national semi-final against Kansas.
Prediction: The minute Lawson’s speed was compromised due to his toe injury; an opponent like Pargo became the ideal “Ty-stopper.” Throw in Gonzaga’s depth across the board and versatility at the guard position, as well, and the nod has to go to the Zags.
You can ignore for a second the fact that an extended Gonzaga run is about the only way that I can crawl back into my pools…
Check Cub Buenning’s scouting website for weekly player reports.
by Ben Osborne
The Steph-KG post I did the other day was fun. This might be more so. Few stories in our history had more of a cult following than Scoop’s totally unique piece on Ricky Davis, titled “The Price of Fame,” that ran in SLAM #69. Moved by yet another email asking where it is, this time by a fellow media member, as well as some recent comments from folks who miss reading Scoop’s work in SLAM (as I do) , we decided it was time to finally run it in its entirety on Slamonline. I’ve run it with the original paragraph breaks, as well as indicated original line breaks (as in, first lines after a break that Scoop/we inserted for effect) with BOLD type. Enjoy.
words Scoop Jackson portrait Ian Londin
You’ve seen him before. You just don’t know it. Different look. Same game. Same image. Same misconceptions. Same birthplace. Same person. The sequel. Think. The points. The style. The demeanor. The hops. The range. The fire. The ice. The life. The talent. You’ve seen this man before. But it wasn’t him.
Isaiah. Not Thomas—check the spelling. Rider. JR. Think not? Look again. With mind, not eyes. Everything fits. Down to the headbands. One hell red, one baby blue. One left, one centered. The game. Their games. Erratic. Unpredictable. Fearless. Ghetto. Beautiful. Often, unstoppable.
Both: Dark skin. Deep eyes. Hard to figure out. Harder to explain. Easy to love. Madison Avenue? Never. The block. Forever. Always. Til’ death or separation. At birth they must have been. Too similar. Maybe reloaded is better than the original. More complete. More focused. More appreciative. Maybe. Part II learned from Part I’s existence. Analogy. Removed. Maybe, Ricky Davis has something to live for. Maybe, JR Rider didn’t.
ATL. ASW. Packed. Thick like Chunky. Crunchy. Crunky. Ts and Ps. Faux.
T and A. Real. He chills. Marquis. Marriott. He sits in the lobby stretched out. 6-7, 195. Uncut. Rasheed Wallace jersey. IFE. AF1s, too. He reps. Fam’s all here. Always are. No sleep. Three days. Eight rooms. Action. No lights. No cameras. Game day. No play. Not upset. “Should I be playing in the All-Star Game this year?” he re-asks the question tossed at him. “No. Not really.” Breakout season. 22, 5 and 5. Per. Hummin’. No Hummer. Human highlights. Humbleness. “Next year.” His words. “I plan on playing in L.A.” Plan. Mission. Voted or chose. “I want to prove that this year is not a fluke.”
Out of nowhere. He came. It seems. Drafted. Lockout year. Faded. From Charlotte to Miami to here. Slohio. Emergence. Overcome pain. Injuries. Plural. Three years. Congruent. “I broke my right foot in the summer of my second year in the League and it’s been slowing me down ever since…” This season. This campaign. First time. Healthy. Hoopin’. Outta control. Gaining fans. Collecting enemies. HDGAF. But still, he feels it.
To prove yourself. And win. Simultaneous. “It ain’t easy.” An admittance. Losses pile. Play shines. Coaches fired. Season gone. Another one. The
I on this team. Has to be that. Wagner. Miles. Z. Him. The one they point the finger at, the one they blame. To prove himself and win at the same time. Ain’t easy! He shakes his head. “I don’t know why they don’t talk about the fact that we have like only 10 wins, instead of just focusing on Ricky Davis.” Burden. Heavy. The price of fame. Unpaid.
Hate. Omnipresent odiousness. Ill will. Apparent between animus and abhorrence. Amoral. A baptism. Sinking in. Through skin. Cruel words. “Undisciplined.” “Unruly.” “Unworthy.” ESPN. Spotlight. Tim Legler: “Not the guy you want to be following.” Sean Elliott: “Loads of talent, but…” “Runs off, goes nuts.” “Lack of discipline.” An NBA assistant coach. Nameless: “He can’t shoot for shit and you can’t tell him anything.” An NBA superstar. Famous: “You wanna find him? Barhop.” Abomination. Aversion. Anarchy. Acceptance? No time soon. He knows.
“They just don’t know what type of person I am. It doesn’t bother me though, not at all. It makes me work harder. I look at it like if I have to change, I’ll change. If the bad rap and the perception of me is hurting my career, then I’ll change.” The politics of the game. Brotha can’t be true to self. Pain ain’t love. “The politics sometimes bothers me, I ain’t gonna lie, sometimes it bothers me a lot. But I gotta learn to deal with it. Or else it will drive me crazy.”
The process. Learning. That’s what he calls it. But he’s not been given time to learn. The machine needs another clone. Immediately. He ain’t it. He don’t fit. He won’t acquit. The machine lacks patience. Lacks understanding. Has fear. Doesn’t consider background. The life before this. Constant movement. Vegas. Germany. Chicago. Iowa. All before 14. Stability? Please. Straight from the block. Survivor of the block. Unchained talent trying to leave the block. But not leave it behind. Not like that. High school? Davenport, Iowa. Less than one percent like him. Stay true or lose yourself like Rabbit. Therefore. Ethnicity. Embraced. Embedded. Emancipated. Exoneration? Unexpected.
Environment. Product of. The opposite. Excuses. Excuses. Wants none. Gets less. Critics say. Look at Amare Stoudemire’s life: Death. Jail. Six schools. Four years. Had nothing. Look at Baron Davis: Crip-Blood wars. He chose. He escaped. Look at Rafer Alston: Concrete raised. No fam. KG. GP. P-Double. All adapted. Adopted. League acceptance. Why can’t he? Ricky D? Be them? Why thug? Why rebel? Braids. Unshaved. Grime. Calling out teammates. Another AI. Mo’ gully. Bob Ryan: “I don’t understand why [these people] can’t change.” Fact: He, Ricky, shouldn’t have to answer. Then again. Whose world is this? To get past, to stay sane, he raises above. Grips family. And tells himself this: “I can play. I can win.” Repeatedly. Daily. Therapy.
“When you come into the League as a young guy, you have to fit into a system that the NBA guys are used to. Most rookies and young players don’t know it. It can make us look crazy, like we’re cocky, crazy or talking back. But in reality, it’s not like that. We’re just playing. We play the way we know.”—Tyree Ricardo Davis
Shot. After shot. After shock. Some miss. Most don’t. Each. Release. Teach. Points. Increase. Solo. On his own time. Also. Game time. This will happen. Away from everyone. No one will see. Offseason. Summer ’03. Workout. Diet. Six packs. Not beer. Chisel. Cut. Weights lifted. Miles run. Not Darius. Lifestyle change. “I’m trying to lead the League in scoring next year.” The promise. Imperfections, perfected. Weaknesses, vanished. Results. Fall ’03. Out of JR’s shadow. Into new uniforms. All for one reason: LeBron.
Trade. Rumors? He hears, he knows. Pays no mind. Stackhouse motto: “As long as checks can get cashed in 52 states, it don’t matter.” Davis, understands this. Five years, three places: Charlotte, Miami, Cleveland. Sound familiar? Stability? Please. Irregular. Can’t control it. Six years left. Contract up. Won’t get comfortable. Knows the game. Show business. Five percent show, 95 percent business. Cut throat. Only wants to play. Preferably Cleveland. One GM’s leftover. Another GM’s entrée.
The 50 Cent of the game. No, the Chino XL. Flashes of brilliance. Nothing to show for it. The outsider. Don Cheadle. Jeffrey Wright. Luis Guzman. Performances, remembered. Player, not. The flushes. Twelve highlights. So far. Steve Nash. Victim. ESPN’s Play of the Year. Midseason. “Yeah, buddy.” The reminiscence. “I didn’t expect it to go down like that. I didn’t expect me to go up that high. Different times. Different take offs. Different heights. I guess.” The contest? No show. No invite. Conspiracy. “They said I couldn’t get in because I had more than three years’ experience. They know. I thought it was pretty weak anyway.” That smile. “Plus, I only like to dunk on people now. I like when people jump.”
Moms. Clad. Burberry plaid. Proud. Pop’s also around. Military. Retired. Sister, Marie. Fine. Off-limits. Brothers. Three. One brother, EB. Younger. 15. Ballin’. Part III. Revolutions. Walks like, moves like, runs like, rolls like, tires like, grabs shorts like, braids hair like. Supposed to attend St. Vincent-St. Mary High. Akron. You know the one. Practiced with Bron in the fall. Technicalities prevented. D1 game. Needs role model. Looks up to. Who but he? The legacy. Like Steph (and Jamel) to Bassy, Kobe to JC (John Cox); but closer.
“Irresponsible?” Often heard. This is what they don’t know. Or care to learn. “I know my brother watches everything I do, doing everything I do now. He’s
following me. This is why I have to show a good image. I don’t want to mess up his chances. I have to lead him the right way. I have to show him right from wrong. I have to do that because I’m the one that’s here now and my life isn’t all about me. He could easily fall into a trap. And I can’t let that happen.”
These words sink. Ricky looks. Finds his brother. Eye contact. He knows the words he just spoke are real. He knows that regardless of what the media, other coaches or other players say about him, he is not about to not be his brother’s hero. Jaron to Kareem. He knows he will not go out like that. This is what he lives for. Word to God.
Locker room. Ethnic. Many hues. Beats bumping. Lovely sight. Mood somber. Another loss. Damn.
It’s late. AM. Plane flight. Return home. No sleep. Every player goes home. Practice in the morning. In a few hours. Ricky stops off. Has to. Store’s open. Obligation. Priorities. His niece. Jax. Just turned 3. Asleep. Don’t matter. Special order cake and ice cream. From Uncle Ricky. When she wakes up. The type of person he really is.
The papers. Next day. Ride Ricky. More hate. Despite 23, 8 and 8. The blame game. All eyes on him. The Cavs can’t win. Neither can he. The cloud gets dark. Hovers. Follows him. He can’t shake it. He doesn’t even try. He holds a benefaction inside. No one knows. That of his best friend. The one who took him in. Rescued. Saved. His mentor.
“When Ricky first came into the League, he really didn’t know anyone,” his sister tells of his professional introduction at age 19. “The one person that really showed him everything, took him under his wing, showed him love, was Bobby Phills. He really misses him.”
How different would Ricky Davis’ life be had there not been that loss? Not the loss of another game, but one of a special individual’s life? If Bobby was still here to co-sign on Ricky’s character and activities? As opposed to the perceptions. To oppose the perceptions. Talk to him on the phone when the heat gets hot. Make him understand why the world looks at him as it does. Like Malik Sealy to Kevin Garnett, it’s not easy when an NBA player befriends another and then is taken away by more than a trade. It becomes difficult to trust others, to lean on grown men. Fear of the worst follows them. Their circles get closed. Nothing new enters. They live for them now. Those that are gone. “This one’s for you, dawg,” gets said a lot. Heard less. Basketball becomes a business, an outlet. Smiles evaporate. Sadness escalates. Numbers get written onto socks. Mementos get hung up in cribs and lockers. Index fingers directed toward the skies. Simple memories turn into life-long lessons. This has become his life, regardless of the outcome. Imagine what Ricky Davis must really be going through right now. Imagine the pride Bobby Phills is feeling.
Story told. Incomplete though. Missing? One lyric. Hip-hop classic. Speaks his life. MC? Namesake. Ricky D. No eye patch, no deportation. Just words: “La-di da-di. We like to party. We don’t cause trouble, we don’t bother nobody.” Replace “we” with “he.” Still don’t get it? He don’t bother nobody!
Anyway. One question remains: Rider? Will his career end up the same? One answer: No. Difference? Never take talent for granted, never let the hood take him under. Burned up cellies and weed busts. Dysfunctional play and organizational disruption. A path he won’t follow. But on the court? The continuance. The sequel. Same image. Same misconceptions. Same story. Different ending. Just watch. And believe.
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Clearly there’s no rhyme or reason to the order we release these wallpapers. Last week, we gave you Dwyane Wade beside the Biscayne Bay, a photo from Lang’s Ish 127 cover story. It was quite timely and relevant–Wade has only bolstered his MVP case since All-Star. But while looking through the cue of unreleased walls, it occurred to me that the Kobe “Face Off” wall was waiting for weeks, gathering virtual dust as we cranked out issues. Issue 128 is about to hit newsstands, so it’s high time we gave you this one.
The idea for this is simple: Kobe is the only person who can stop himself. He has the third most points of among active players (soon to be first, as Shaq will be around for one more season, and Allen Iverson isn’t as buckets-productive as he once was). He’s mentally tough as a samurai (What honestly, do you think would throw Kobe for a loop now?). He’s as focused on that championship as he’s ever been. He’s a complete iron man (Kobe’s played every game possible in the past two seasons, including four Playoff rounds and the Olympics).
He’s 30 and seven months, yet he’s showed almost no signs of slowing down or frustration. Will it ever kick in? Will being the NBA’s model of on-court excellence and consistency ever become too much? Will there ever be that “This is just too damn much!” moment, where Kobe breaks down and takes a step away from basketball. It sounds sort of familiar. It sounds like only Kobe will know the answer… — Ryne Nelson