Monday, October 12, 2009

Let's Get To Work - Coaching update

Hey there basketball fans. Here is the new news on my journey to becoming a professional NCAA D1 or higher Head Basketball Coach. Today, I started my new job as assistant coach for my High School's Girl's Team. I know what you're thinking: "That is not a Division 1 NCAA basketball program." And you're right. But my plan is two-fold. I get more experience coaching here, and move on to become a Head Coach. Meanwhile, I hobnob and network with college coaches coming to see my players. Before you know it, people know my name. And once they know my name, I'm IN!!!

That doesn't sound too cryptic, right? Whatever. I haven't Blogged since the Mercury won the Finals, 3-2 (Big Surprise, right?). Congratulations to them -- Damnit.

Until Next time,

Friday, October 2, 2009

Iverson Not Done Yet

In a recent article with ESPN's Scoop Jackson, Allen Iverson revealed that he was treated not only unfairly during his 77 game stint with the Pistons last year, but dishonestly. While Iverson stopped short of blaming Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars, everyone else in the organization was fair game. From the execs to the coach to even some of the players, Iverson detailed his disdain for what he called the "worst year of [his] career."

Iverson indicated that his decision to join the Memphis Grizzlies this year was to prove that he can still play and love the game at the same time. Iverson's detractors point to last year as a sign that the 34 year old Shooting Guard has lost some of what made him one of the best players in the NBA for the past Decade - his quickness. Iverson, though, seems determined to silence his critics. And for the first time in his career, Iverson is talking about practice. And not to explain what it is that he doesn't want to do. IVerson is ready to help the Grizzlies move back to into contention for a playoff spot in the Uber-deep Western Conference and the extremely tough Southwest Division.

I don't know if he'll live up to that lofty hope, but expect the win column to shoot up significantly, especially if Zach Randolph is on board with Iverson's plans. It's never a bad thing when a team full of young players take on a grizzled old vet with something to prove and a lot of skill. I seriously doubt that we'll see him on another one-year contract after this season. In fact, we might see Memphis get it's first All-Star since Pau Gasol. Stay tuned for more on these possibilities as the season moves along.

Soon, I will be doing pre-season previews of each division, team by team. I'm trying to get a friend of mine to help with the analyses and maybe even do a series of podcasts, so watch out for those in the coming weeks before the season starts.

Until then fans,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WNBA Finals Preview

OK, not only did my Sparks lose a series that they really could have won, but my favorite Basketball player wore pigtails in a game that will be played on ESPN classic at least 100 times (Lisa Leslie's last game).
And though I know this is a Finals preview, I have to take a moment to first thank Lisa Leslie for about two decades of one of the greatest basketball careers ever.

Some Highlights:
4-time olympian and the only player to win Gold in 4 straight Olympics (Basketball)
3-time WNBA MVP
2-time WNBA Champion
2-time WNBA Finals MVP
2-time WNBA DPOY
14-time WNBA Player of the Week
3-time All Star MVP
7-time First team All-WNBA selection
4-time Second team All-WNBA
4-time All-Pac10 Conference Player (USC - Only Student athlete to accomplish this)
1994 - NCAA National Player of the year
Selected to first or second team each year of WNBA's existence except the year she took off to give birth and the year she came back from the pregnancy.
She once scored 101 points in a high school game during the first half. The other team decided to forfeit and didn't come out of the locker room for the second half.
The starts and accolades are great, but it doesn't nearly describe what she did for women's basketball. When I was in high school, I had three players' posters on my wall: Eddie Jones, Magic Johnson and Lisa Leslie.
Lisa is one of the greatest basketball players ever - Male or Female. Her presence on the court will be missed.

Now, as for the Finals, we've got a match-up of two teams who choose to be dominant in two very different ways. They were 1 and 2 in the WNBA standings this year. Indiana did it with classic Hoosier Defense and Phoenix did it with classic Paul Westhead offense. Corey Gaines, head coach, has Phoenix playing so well right now that they are surprised when they lose a game. You can see it all over themselves. Remember the Bulls in 1998? The Comets in 1999? The Lakers in 2000? Those teams played with such confidence that a loss was seen more as a detour toward the predestined eventuality that was their championship than a sign of something that they were doing wrong. They don't go out and "Play Basketball." They go out and "Win Games." Trust me, the difference in their mindsets, compared with that of the rest of the league is HUGE.
Indiana, on the other hand, plays with an urgency and passion that makes every loss seem like a personal insult. When they step on the court, they look to win every single possession on each end of the floor and get visibly upset when they give up a transition basket. Layups are not seen as an easy shot for their opponents, but rather as a challenge for a wing defender, too far away to get the block, or a post player who might be able to step in for the charge, just in time. You can tell that the veteran presence on this team wants to win now. You see them explaining proper positioning and the team defensive concepts after every missed assignment, after every blown coverage. Three things you don't see against this team? Long, cross court passes that hit their target, "easy" layups, and senseless fouls. That's the mark of a good defensive team.

The match up of Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi should be entertaining and will get most of the attention, but Tameka Dixon and Cappie Pondexter have had their battles in the past and no one gaurds Cappie better. Dixon will get a lot more minutes in this series against her (if there is anything good and righteous in this world) and Look for the winner of that matchup each game to determine the winner of the game and, eventually, the series. In particular, if Dixon can goad Pondexter into a lot of bad shots and a low percentage on them (since she usually shoots a pretty high percentage on bad shots), Indiana's excellent defensive rebounding should provide Indiana plenty of opportunities to limit Taurasi's offensive touches, and thus, her effectiveness.

But in the end, I expect the excellently coached Mercury to prove to be too much for the Fever. You can see it in their eyes. They see that Chips and Salsa at the end of the table, and they are hungry. My prediction: Mercury 3-2 Fever. Diana Tarausi (my pick for Finals MVP), will once again find herself at the same place she has found herself for much of her entire basketball career -- whether High School, College or now the WNBA - on top.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What does Candace Parker's return mean for Sparks, WNBA?

How long does it take to realize greatness? A year? A lifetime? A season? Sometimes, greatness doesn't wait to be recognized. Sometimes, greatness stands up and boldly proclaims "Here I am! Deal with me!" When Candace Parker finished her college career as the best female athletes since Marion Jones, people knew that she was good. After leading the league in rebounding during her first season, while taking home the Rookie Of The Year and Most Valuable Player awards, we took notice, and even thought, "She's something special." But on Sunday evening, when she entered the game against the Mercury with 5:35 left in the first quarter and less than two months since giving birth, that was the third time since the WNBA's inception that a player stood up boldly and shouted "Take Notice! Or be the only one who doesn't!"

The first time was in the WNBA's third annual finals when Cynthia Cooper decided that she could score and assist at will, propelling Houston to it's third of the Four straight championships to get the League off to a good start. The second was when Lisa Leslie, aging, but still one of the best in the League, took a fast break pass with no one in front of her and calmly, but demonstratively, stepped to the front of the rim and softly stuffed the ball through the net (possibly in response to the then-college star, parker dunking twice in a game the week before). Both of those performances were significant on the court, of course. But off the court they made statements that would help propel the league forward. Cooper's performance told the then-doubtful public "Yes, a woman can be a fearless cruch-time scorer and send chills down your spine with her ability to score when her team needs it." Lisa Leslie's performance said "Yes, we are less athletic than men. But we are still athletes! We still compete! And if average Joe-six pack thinks that he can run with us, come try me."

Parker's performance, which she would even admit was a sub-par for her standards, was significant for a completely different reason. We've all heard it said, "The WNBA is nothing but a lesbian league." "None of the women have kids because athletes can't have kids and still compete." When Parker played in Sunday's game, less than two months after giving birth to little Lailaa. Seriously, that's amazing. A woman who works in my office, sitting behind a desk needed four months to come back from pregnancy. Now of course, she's not the first mother to play in a WNBA game. Yolanda Griffith and teammate Lisa Leslie are two notable examples of WNBA Mothers. But Leslie waited until her career was almost over before having her baby - after the Championships, after the MVPs, and after most of her statistics. And then she took a whole year off. Many others, like Griffith, had babies before they knew that they would have Basketball careers. Others, like Parker's teammate Tina Thompson, don't take the entire year off, but also don't contribute significantly in the year that they return from pregnancy. Paker, though, chose to have a baby with her husband and obviously got pregnant DURING the season, giving birth a little over a month before the following season began.
What's most significant, though, is that she was the best player in the league last year. So if she can get back anywhere close to her peak ability this year, we will probably start to see a lot more players planning May/June Babies. Parker's return to action shows that young female professional athletes don't have to wait until their mid-thirties to have babies. Rather, as Leslie pointed out, Parker's age (22) will no doubt assist in her recovery from the pregnancy and allow her to fully recapture her physical prime beter than a woman in her late thirties. So instead of ending a great career early, women can just take a couple of months off in their twenties.
This, in combination with her undeniable skill on the court, charisma in interviews and charming demeanor all around (not to mention her near flawless beauty) will help to propel Parker from athlete to national and international spokeswoman for the game.

The WNBA has found it's Magic, with Leslie playing the part of Kareem, to build around for the next 15 years. Here's to hoping that she comes through on all the promise we see in her. Candace, the WNBA's future and success is in your hands... No pressure, though.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ron Artest to the Lakers. Ariza, probably out...

Let me preface everything I'm about to tell you with two cautionary statements. First, I am perpetually dubious towards guys who have stand out numbers in contract years and especially step it up in the playoffs during contract years. Generally, it wreaks of someone who doesn't put in enough effort to maintain those same numbers over the life of his contract.

Secondly, I remain completely skeptical about guys who attack men half their size (and 1/64th their pigment) on national television without clear and indisputable evidence of their reasons for doing so. And even more so of guys who then have their barber carve the logo of their franchise into their heads. Rodman did it. T.O. did it (I think), and I'm certain that both those guys are crazier than talking carrot sticks.

Now, having said that, I LOVE Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest! With the signing of Ron Artest, the Lakers will now have 5 All-Start quality players, any of whom could score 30 points on any given night. That is, of course, if they keep Lamar Odom.

If the Lakers resign Odom, this will be a monumentally successful off season for the Lakers, even if Ariza does sign with another team, as he probably will. But even without Ariza, the Lakers' team has actually upgraded over the team that just won the championship last month.

So to recap the off-season so far:

Shaq goes to Cleavland and all but promises a ring to Cavs fans. Cavs fans and most of the media, evidently decide to ignore the fact that they are not getting 27-13 Shaq from a decade ago. They're getting the Shaq that didn't play on the second night of back-to-backs last year. They're getting the short bus Shaq. You know what I mean. This is the Everybody-gets-a-trophy Shaq. Don't make me spell it out for you, Everyone has been talking about his resurgence. Seriously? Am I the only one who noticed that it doesn't exist?

Anyway, moving on...

Charlie Villanueva and, for some reason, Ben Gordon Agree to sign with the Pistons. Ok, this one was even more perplexing than the Shaq Trade. I understand Charlie V. He's a big, mobile guy who can hit jump shots and defend a little bit. Kind of like Rasheed Wallace before he dissapeared off the face of the planet. If he can remember what defense is after playing in Milwaukee, he could fit in well with Detroit. But, uh What about Gordon?

Here's a guy who plays the two guard position pretty well. He uses screens very effectively, whether on the ball or on the weak side. He's solid, but not spectacular defensively. And offensively, he can hit jump shots with a high accuracy and consistency. He'll take big shots and is one of the best conditioned athletes in the League, so you know that he could probably play 40 minutes every night if you need him to. Though he still takes too many three point shots, He's basically been proving his critics wrong - whatever those critics wanted to say about him - since he came out of U-Conn.

So why don't I understand this signing? Read the Last paragraph again. I'll wait. Seriously, just humor me and actually read it again. Can you honestly tell if I'm talking about Ben Gordon or Richard Hamilton? Watch this:

2008-2009 Season Statistics
..........Richard Hamilton............Ben Gordon
Point.... 18.3....................... 20.7
Rebounds. 3.1........................ 3.5
Assists.. 4.4........................ 3.4
Steals... 0.6........................ 0.9
Blocks... 0.1........................ 0.3
FG%...... 44.7%...................... 45.5%
FT%...... 84.8%...................... 86.4%
3P%...... 36.8%...................... 41.0%
Minutes.. 34.0....................... 36.6
Fouls ... 2.6........................ 2.2

OK, three point percentages aside, these guys are eerily similar. They even went to the same freakin' college!!! If this were another team, I would say "Great Job, Orlando, Cleavland, New York, Seattle, Sacremento, Utah, Denver, UTAH!!! DENVER!!! or Minnesota!" But this just seems to me like a GM who had too much money to spend and not enough time to spend it. Joe Dumars must be feeling right now, like if he doesn't do SOMETHING, then he'll let too much go and he would rather just look busy than be fired for inactivity. It wreaks of that situation. Otherwise, why would they hire a Richard Hamilton Clone right after giving the Original Rich Hamilton (well, the real one anyway. The original Richard Hamilton was Reggie Miller) a big contract? It doesn't really make any sense.

Now, on with it.

The Lakers agreed to terms with Ron Artest to get him signed at somewhere around the mid-level exception. This is the biggest move so far by ANY team because of the Lakers' status. If he had gone to Cleaveland, Orlando, Boston, San Antonio or even Portland, that team would have to be considered to be seriously in the running for a Championship. But he didn't. He just made the best team in the League even better. His defense, especially, will improve the Lakers' overall team defense as well as keep someone on the floor to guard the opposing team's best perimeter players. Kobe is always up for the task, but sometimes, it takes too much to do that every night. Also, it gives the Lakers yet another person who can score on his own and command a double-team. That makes 5... at least 4, but maybe 5 on some nights .

Thursday, May 21, 2009

So Much Things To Say Right Now...

- I'm kind of tired of hearing all of this "Who is Better, Lebron or Kobe?" mess. They're each better at different things. Lebron is now the more consistent scorer, while Kobe can still score in a lot more ways.

- It's interesting watching Dwight Howard and Lebron James in a series right now. They're the two most physically gifted athletes... maybe EVER in the NBA. And both of them are so busy making 10 "Where Amazing Happens" commercials per game to do the things that signified some of the past greats. Watching them fumble around on the low post for their respective teams is especially amusing. Watch them. It looks like someone pulled the old Dennis Rodman "Pull the chair from under him" routine almost every time they try to make post moves towards the basket. On one play, yesterday, Lebron almost stumbled over his own feet... but he still got the two points. I guess that as long as they're scoring, it doesn't matter how pretty the move is. But if Dwight had moves like Olajuwon, he would score like Wilt.

- Congratulations to Shelden Williams and Candace Parker-Williams on Baby Layla Nicole Williams (Not Sure of the spelling). Also congratulations to Uncle, Anthony Parker. On a separate note, wouldn't you love to just watch a pick up game at one of their family bar-b-qs? If Layla knows what's good for her, she better play basketball. I could see her biography on Lifetime now "In the shadows of BB", with the inevitable scene where she's caught reading up on constitutional law because she wants to be a lawyer, then the family has an intervention to find out what's wrong with her.

- Tonight is Nuggets V. Lakers, Game 2. The Nuggets played better in the last game and still lost. I picked the Lakers to win in Six, but after seeing that, I might want to change it to Lakers in 5. Especially if the Lakers get an extra home game on Monday Night when Vince McMahon gets his way in the Pepsi Center.

- My Never-Ending quest to become an NCAA Coach took a positive turn this week when I was offered a position. Not as an NCAA Coach, but as a High School coach. Still, it's something. Now I just have to figure out how to survive in Los Angeles for a year on $23.45, the entire stipend for the position. I'll let you all know if I end up taking it. If I do, you'll probably see me at your local Wal-Mart Convenience store in the mornings.

- In the meantime, I'll be coaching another season at MVRC, beginning next month. I'm excited about that, even though it looks like I might not have 7 kids on the team. I guess they'll just have to get in shape.

- OK, that's it for now. More later.

- Wishing you all Love, Peace and Soul, Everybody... I miss Don Cornelious. Shamar more is a very poor replacement.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

MVRC Jazz: 1-1

We got our first win!!! We're only allowed to have one practice per week for one hour, so yesterday was the first time we got everyone on the court together. In fact, one player joined the team yesterday! I put a couple of plays into our offense - one to use against man to man and one to use against the zone defenses. Also, we worked on spotting the open man and getting him the ball quickly. Then, we made sure that each person knew for certain what positions he is supposed to play when he's on the court, depending on who else is on the court with him. But the best thing about practice was the intensity that the guys played with. It made me very confident about today's game. The last thing I said in practice was "Tomorrow, we get our first win of the season. But it's not really about winning or losing, it's about having fun... but winning is REALLY fun!!!" Well, it is.

Game day. A few players show up early and we're working on running the plays that we put in yesterday. Not too hard. It's pregame warm up, not practice. And I don't want us to over exert ourselves right before a game. Everyone seems to be feeling very confident with themselves because last week, though we lost by 15 points, we did much better in the second half than the first and we didn't have an offensive identity yet. Now, we know who we are on offense. We know what we're doing and how to do it.

When the game starts, we jump out to a very quick 10-2 score on the strength of 3 layups and a couple of offensive rebounds, as well as some very inspired defense on the other teams best player, a sweet-shooting, ball handling small forward who can only really go right, but last week scored 10 points in about a minute of game time. We were very worried about him. After the first half, we were up by 17 points. But I reminded the guys what happened last week. The suns had beaten us down in the first half and we shaved 10 points off of their lead in the first 15 minutes of the game. If the refs didn't institute a running clock, we probably could have won the game. We just ran out of time. Plus, one of their players scored 10 points in a minute, so they're capable of coming back. Everyone was happy with themselves, but intense and focused on the task at hand. We ended up winning by about 22 points and, oh yeah, our starting point guard wasn't there due to a prior engagement (Club Soccer in the valley, good luck Daniel).

Then we all went out for pizza where the boys got a chance to mingle as a team, away from a basketball setting and really start to get to know each other. Their parents came too, of course which was even more important, because now we have someone in charge of bringing water for the games and snacks for afterwards.

All in all, it was a good day :). I can't wait till next week.

As always, you'll know more as I do,

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Here we go again

As of Right now, there are currently 9 teams on pace to win 50 games in the NBA's Western Conference. And while in past years, I would use this statistic to talk about the dominance of the West over the East, I simply can't. Because, while the Lakers currently technically have the best record in the league (30-6, compared to the Cavaliers at 29-6), the East currently has three teams - one in each division - on pace to win over 60 games!!! A total of 13 teams are currently on at least a 50 win pace, making this spring's Playoffs look like it already could be better than last years, which was one of the best ever! Let's look at some of the possibilities, come this April, May and June.

As it stands right now, some of the first round match ups we could see might be. The Lakers would be slated to match up with their most constant western conference rival, Utah, while San Antonio would be hosting another wild match up with Phoenix. Portland and New Orleans would meet in a match up of two of the best Rookie-Of-The-Year award recipients this decade (no offense to Elton Brand and Kevin Durant). This would probably be the most exciting series in the West, with two very young teams that rely heavily on their well-rounded guards and adept low-post scoring Power Forwards. In fact, come to think of it, they also both have young Centers who are pretty good defensively, but not quite there offensively and coaches who - well, they both have coaches. Anyway, this would be a fun matchup to watch and every single series could go either way (even LA Vs. Utah if they get Boozer back).
But after the Lakers, the next eight teams are only separated by 2.5 games. That means that if number 2 San Antonio wins three of their next 5 games and number 9 Dallas wins all five of theirs (which wouldn't be much of a surprise seeing how each have had stretches like that this year), they could potentially switch places in the standings. The number 2 team in the west could be out of the playoff picture by the end of next week, so it's way to early to start talking about playoff match ups. But it's still fun :).

In the East, on the other hand, the balance of power isn't so... well, "Balanced." The Three top teams, Boston, Cleavland and Orlando, figure to finish in the top three in some order. I wouldn't be surprised to see Boston, Cleavland or Orlando end up with the top spot. Then there's Detroit and Atlanta, who will be fighting to have home court advantage in their series against each other, but will be playing one of those top three in the second round. After that, you've got 6 teams that are fighting to get into the playoffs with between 16 and 19 wins right now. I wouldn't be surprised to see any three-team combination of those six be wiped out in the first round by the top three. I also suspect that no more than 2 of them will wind up with a winning record. Maybe none of them will win 42 games. Only one thing is for sure. There's very little chance of them winning ANYTHING in the playoffs this year. There are some exceptions. Miami has seen Dwayne Wade go Crazy in the Playoffs before and he's healthy again, so there's no reason why it can't happen again. In particular, against Orlando, if the match up is right. Toronto always has a shooter's chance, as long as their shooters get back to full health. In particular against Cleavland, who has a difficult time guarding early three point shots. And If Indiana is matched up against Boston, they have a good chance. I don't know why. But they seem to play ridiculously well against Boston and LA.

I can't believe this. It's January, and I'm already talking about the Playoffs! Man, I love this game! Oh, wait, that's the old slogan. Whoops.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fantasy Basketball Update # 4: Oblivion.

I'm ranked 1st in one of my leagues, tied for second in another, and all of the others have just gone away completely. I don't know what's going on. Brandon Roy is out, Nate Robinson is out, Zach Randolph, Carlos Boozer... It's really not a good year to be on one of my fantasy teams. It's Just really bad. What I said before about the New York/Golden State trade seems to have been accurate so far. Especially for Al Harrington. Monta Ellis should be back in a couple of weeks, so we'll really get to see the effects of three guards who think a chest pass is a character flaw running the same floor together.

And that doesn't just apply to fantasy ball. Harrington is really doing well for New York, who recently beat Boston on the strength of a Monster game by him. His numbers: 30pts, 7 rbs, 2 asts, 11/23 FG, 5/9 3FG. Those are good numbers for a center who averaged 12 points and got more DNPCDs than Blocks in the first month of the season.

But My teams suck now. Bleh.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

MVRC Jazz: 0 - 1

Woo Hoo!!! Alright, I know that the team lost today, but we won the second half :). As you know, I am the head coach for the Mar Vista Recreation Center (Not Utah) Jazz. Yesterday, we had our first practice with five or more people in attendance. Then, today, we had our first game. As you can probably imagine, we didn't do very well. First half score: 12-37. The Kids came back to the bench deflated and dejected, looking to me for guidance and direction. I peered into their glazed-over eyes, glanced up at the scoreboard and winced a little, searching for a muse, some method of conjuring up any ounce of oratory inspiration and encouragement. As the kids panted before me, only one thing went through my mind. So, being the man that I am, I had to be honest with them: "Wow", I gasped... "That was pretty rough." What do you want from me? I'm new to this stuff.

Honestly, we were down by 25 points for two reason: Lack of practice time together, and lack of an experienced coach. So I looked to the 75% of a team we had available and I told them "It looks bad right now, I know. But we're going to do better in the second half." I told them all that this was not the time for us to shrink and hide, but to shine. When you're down by 25, you might as well experiment, right? All the pressure is gone. You know, they say that it's all about having fun, so I told them to just go out there and have fun. And can you believe that they actually bought it?

We instituted a "Don't-Look-At-The-Scoreboard" Rule in the second half, which just made people look at the scoreboard more, and the MVRC Jazz went out and played their hearts out in the second half. My substitution patterns were more succinct and meaningful and the defense was more inspired. The offense still sputtered and looked at times like we hadn't worked on any offense together as 5-man units (we still haven't, actually, but that's beside the point) but the play was inspiring. By games end, we had shaved 10 points off of the "Suns" lead and would have gotten it down further if not for a running clock.

All in all, I'd say it was a successful outing. No one got injured, everyone seemed to have fun, I finally got a really good look at how my players react to each other and in different situations. Also, I found out that I'm putting a couple of players in positions that they don't need to be in. We Still lost by double digits, but we did much better in the second half and once we finally get our full team together (Hopefully this Friday), the Jazz are going to be a force in the MVRC Majors division league.

Next week, win or lose, I'm taking all the kids out for pizza after the game (man I hope we win... I scouted next week's opponent in today's game and they have some really good players). You'll know more as I do.

Until then,