Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Are Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen Successful Way into Their 30s and Antoine Walker and Allen Iverson Not?

On ABC's broadcast of the Lakers-Celtics game yesterday, an analyst mentioned how Kobe Bryant actually made it to the arena before Ray Allen. Ray Ray is known for being the NBA player most likely to make it to the arena before anyone else.

These two are head and shoulders above the rest of the league when it comes to effort. This not only means making it to the arena before anyone else, it also means taking care of their bodies in the weight room.

Antoine Walker was known as the first player on the court and the last player off. Allen Iverson was notorious for his rant on "practice" and for his effort on the court.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top 10 Isolation Players

At the end of the game, if the other team is one or two points ahead, a team goes to its best isolation player. Often, they will clear one side of the floor and let the clock run to 5 seconds. Having a good isolation player is crucial to being a good team. Here's who you want in isolation plays in general and, especially, at the end of games.

10. Lebron James

Surprised to see him so far down this list? If you saw him try to catch the Heat up with an untimely 3 point shot that hit off the very top of the backboard, or any other unsightly jump shots, you would understand. Isolation players do not need to be able to nail 3s, there is usually some other player on the team for this role (in Miami's case, Mike Miller.)

They do need to do 4 things well: get to the rim, get fouled, hit free throws once they are fouled and hit midrange jumps shots. Lebron scores an A+ on the first two, a B on hitting free throws and an unfortunate C - when it comes to hitting jump shots. This is not going to put you at the top of this list.

Friday, January 21, 2011

First Impressions: Blake Griffin

Let me preface this article by saying, unfortunately, I got tired last night and was not able to watch the whole Clippers-Blazers game. Therefore, there are aspects of Griffin's game (especially his ability to finish with a jam) that I was not able to observe.

The first thing I noticed is Griffin does not leap for rebounds. You might think this is a weakness for someone with Griffin's leaping ability. It is actually a strength.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Top 10 Throwback Jerseys

 The following jerseys are judged on design and not on value or players' abilities. The jerseys that do have numbers related to famous players are in no way meant to reflect the ability of these players.

10. Phoenix Suns Throwback

NBA Throwback Suns Jersey

This one snuck onto the list because I could not find a proper throwback to fill the number 10 spot. The design is not nearly as cool as the following designs, but earns extra points because it features a basketball and because the color scheme is done so well.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What to Wear and How to Act like What You Wear

I, like many die-hard fans, GO CRAZY when I go to a Celtics game or any sporting event, for that matter, and people at the event are wearing button down shirts that are not even the same color as the team they are cheering for. WHERE'S YOUR SPIRIT?!!?!? At the very least, if you are going to a game for your hometown team, wear something that is the same color of the team. If you have their gear on hand, wear that. And if you can afford to dress and act like a maniac, that is the most preferable solution of all. Your team will get a psychological and tactical edge the louder and crazier you get.

If you are coming to cheer on a road team YOU HAVE TO at the very least have a jersey of that team, or if you cannot afford a jersey a t shirt with their logo or even a white t with the name of one of their players on it. Do not come to my hometown team's game and be a lukewarm fan for the other team. At the very least, I want to respect you and hate you for coming to the game.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top 10 X Factor Players

Many great teams have that one guy you cannot overlook but somehow seems to sneak up on you anyways. These players are crucial when it comes to winning championships and playoff series because they can often swing one game in their team's favor. They usually have one or two special abilities which can cause matchup nightmares or cover up matchup nightmares with the other team. Over the past three years, we have seen players like Trevor Ariza, Tony Allen and Goran Dragic absolutely alter series in just minutes of their total playing time. The best 10 of these players are the following:

Terry comes in at number 10 because he has been slowly moving from X factor to consistent player you know how to plan for every game. He can score from anywhere on the court and is great at creating shots as well, a lethal combination. A former Sixth Man of the Year Award recipient, Terry is aging but can still be relied on to score and dish the ball.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Greatness Equation (Guest Article by Luke Ewalt)

The Greatness Equation

For the last few years, as I've watched the great players that I grew up idolizing (basically the original Dream Team) retire and give way to a new generation of superstars (basically the Redeem Team, with maybe a dozen other guys who didn't make the cut), I really began to wonder how these players stacked up against each other. And I don't mean just the biggest iconic names of their generations like LeBron vs. Kobe vs. Jordan. I'm talking even Barkley vs. Garnett. Or Nowitzki vs. Pippen. Or Reggie Miller vs. Ray Allen. How do those guys stack up against one another? Sure you can look at stats and see how many points or rebounds or assists someone averaged and compare them, but what about across different positions, who, by definition, are going to have wildly different averages in different categories? How could I compare Jordan or Magic to Shaq or Duncan? Hell, how could I really even compare any of them to Wilt or Russell or Kareem who played in completely different eras?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Calling All 2012 Free Agents to Boston

No, we do not have a nightlife that bumps until 5 in the morning. Nor will we leave you alone when walking the streets like you were in New York or LA. No, we do not have pretty women and great beaches you can visit almost all year round like Miami. No, we do not have a billionaire owner that will pay you buckets of money like the future Brooklyn Nets. And no, we do not have a major market team, the backing of the President and Oprah down the street to kick it with like Chicago.

Our last call is 1:30 (1:45 if you are lucky) and when we see you in the bars you won't even make it through the throng of fans to order a drink anyways. Our girls are red-headed and full of freckles and the beaches are lucky to be filled 2 months a year. Our owners are committed but are not a charity, they won't hand you $9 mill a year and expect you to coast. And "The Hub" is not really a hub, but a small, cozy town where everyone knows your name like the Cheers bar.

But, although we are all those things, we are also a people who bleed green, as you will, too, once you become a Celtic.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Makes Teams Title Contenders Year-In and Year-Out? Exploration of the L.A. Lakers, Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs

The Lakers, Celtics and Spurs all look poised to be title contenders for the 4th straight year. This has to be because these teams must be doing something to stay strong year after year. The formula has been consistency in their starting lineups, smart free agent pick ups to tune their lineup, finding pieces that work together, sticking with the same system and staying with the same coaches.

How Much Has Their Starting Lineups Changed Over The Years?

2007-2008 Lakers Starting Lineup (after Gasol Trade): Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (with Vladimir Radmanovic and Ronny Turiaf filling in with Bynum injured)

2010-2011 Lakers Starting Lineup: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum (with Gasol filling in at center and Odom filling in it power forward with Bynum injured)

2007-2008 Celtics Starting Lineup: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins

2007-2008 Celtics Starting Lineup: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins (with Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal filling in with Perk injured)

2007-2008 Spurs Starting Lineup: Tony Parker, Michael Finley, (with Manu Ginobili filling in for bother Parker and Finley when they were injured), Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, Fabricio Oberto

2010-2011 Spurs Starting Lineup: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Dejuan Blair, Tim Duncan

The Lakers starting lineup is only one person different (with the person who was replaced playing the 6th man role.)  The Celtics lineup has not changed at all in the past 4 years (with the exception of Perk's injury forcing them to plug in someone different into the lineup.) The Spurs' hand was more forced, with the retirements of Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen, and Oberto really being plugged into the lineup because they could not find anyone better. But they still have retained their core 3 players (Parker, Duncan and Ginobili.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How Can Rondo (and you!) Improve His Free Throw Shooting?

Rondo is only shooting 41% on free throws this season and 62.1% for his career. You might think he is just a poor natural free throw shooter, but a closer look at his career splits reveals something:

October: 15 made, 29 attempted = 51.7%
November: 73 made, 145 attempted = 50.3%
December: 105 made, 156 attempted = 67.3%
January: 111 made, 176 attempted = 62.5%
February: 101 made, 170 attempted = 59.4%
March: 110 made, 156 attempted= 70.5%
April: 74 made, 116 attempted= 63.7%

This trend to warm up by mid December holds steady in every one of his seasons. While he still is not a great free throw shooter, if he was putting more effort into free throws during the off-season, he probably would be around 64.7% for his career (the average of free throws not in October or November, not a huge difference, but a pretty modest bump.) And it is likely that the extra work he put in would compound over the years.

Now let's take a look at his shot:

Basketball Drills

I was going to do a video of some basketball drills that have helped me improve, especially dribbling drills, over the last 2 months, but I was looking online and there are just some people WAY more qualified with better drills than I have (I hope to start adding these drills this week, I will let you know how good they are.)

The ones I liked the most and ones you will find most practical at any level of your game are those by Expert Village. Just type in "expert village basketball" (apparantly they have a bunch of other videos online) on youtube.

If you are ready for some advanced moves (if you have any doubt that you are, then you are not) look at Mike Lee videos. You should only do these (guestimation) after you have been practicing dribbling about 5 hours a week for one or two years.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Impressions: Kevin Love

Tonight, I am in the middle of seeing Kevin Love play a full basketball game for the first time (people might actually watch the T Wolves play by choice now!) My overall assessment is, despite having advanced skills when it comes to rebounding, touch around the basket area and shooting 3s and free throws, Love remains a middling NBA starting power forward because of an inability to make mid-range shots, happy feet, lack of toughness around the basket and poor defensive play when it comes to challenging fall-aways.

I suspect it will take him 2 years to become average in these areas, which will make him a top 10 NBA player.

Of course, it will come as no surprise to any NBA fan that Love impressed me with his rebounding (even more than I expected!) because his fundamentals were so solid. Boxing out has become a lost art among NBA players, but Love always puts a body on someone if they are around the basket area. If there is not an opponent within 12-15 feet of the basket, Love is a master at staying in the middle of a zone that does not interfere with a teammate's rebounding zone. (A very underrated skill which is just as important as boxing-out, and the reason that rebounds just seem to "find" Love.)

On the offensive end, his fight for positioning actually comes at the cost of his and his team's shooting chances. This is because he goes for positioning in areas where it is impossible to get a post pass. He makes up for this disruption in his team's offensive sets with offensive rebounds and putbacks. However, when he becomes more comfortable playing in half-court sets in places other than the 3 point line, I expect he will sacrifice some offensive rebounding to become more a part of the regular offensive flow.

His touch around the basket is impressive, but again it is in use basically only when he gets a rebound, as he is hardly ever in position to receive passes in the post. This also makes it doubtful that he has a good back-to-the-basket game or a good hook shot.

He is great and part of the offensive sets when he is shooting 3s. And he gets to the line and makes his shots there (I assume, but I have not seen enough of him, that he gets to the free throw line because of people fouling him when he gets an offensive rebound.)

He is not a good midrange shooter, which is why he is shooting .454 from the field despite shooting .437 from beyond the arc and having great touch around the basket. I expect this to improve GREATLY for 2 reasons:

1. young players tend to be bad midrange shooters (according to Hollinger) when they are starting out, and tend to think they are much better shooting there than they are.

2. He took a BANK shot in the 2nd quarter. Love is a true student of the game, and anyone who knows NBA history well knows that, for midrange shots, the bank shot is BY FAR AND AWAY the most efficient way to score, and NBA players seemed only to abandon it because it lost them style points. If you don't believe me about the effectiveness of bank shots, try to check out Tim Duncan play a few games.

The bigger problem with his shooting inside the arc is that when he gets the ball 10-18 feet from the basket he gets "happy feet" and travels. This is likely because he has not worked a ton on footwork and because he is nervous getting the ball in this area.

This problem should not be as self-correcting as the midrange shots, and it will be up to the coaching staff to find ways to incorporate drills for him within team play.

Love's biggest problem seems to be banging around the basket and contesting fall-aways. This is not a surprise for someone who has just entered the league two years ago and is 22 years old. He should physically mature up to a peak in his late 20s, even if he foregoes a ton of lifting weights and physical training (he seems like the type of player to do more basketball drills and less physical training. This tends to help players as they develop into their late 20s, but hurt them once they reach the wrong side of 30. Antoine Walker and Allen Iverson are prime examples of this.)

He needs to get more aggressive when contesting mid-range shots and in general on the defensive end. Big baby got a TON of uncontested looks (granted, he was not hitting them, but usually these are shots that he does make.) Love left Davis WIDE OPEN the whole game. When Davis decided to take Love to the hole, you could see this was because Love did not want to expose his poor post defense.

This is a problem of attitude and not a problem of skill. He has 2-3 inches on Davis, and Davis is not a threat around the basket area, so he can always rely on Darko (a great shot-blocker) to help out should Davis go by him.

Love is such a student of the game (watching him play for 2 minutes or even listening to him talk for 2 minutes will reveal this) that I doubt any of these weaknesses will exist for long. Barring injury, he is a sure-fire Hall of Fame player. But, if you do not believe me about him being a middling starting NBA power forward as of now, consider this list (in no particular order):

1. Chris Bosh
2. Kevin Garnet
3. Pau Gasol
4. Tim Duncan
5. Dirk Nowitzki
6. Amar'e Stoudemire
7. Carlos Boozer
8. Josh Smith
9. David West
10. Blake Griffin
11. Zach Randolph
12. Paul Millsap
13. Louis Scola

Love is still behind all these players, mostly because of his shortcomings on the defensive end. By the end of NEXT year, however, I suspect he will pass all these players except Gasol (and, possibly, Amar'e.)

One Last Shot

All I will ask god
before I go
is for one last shot,
one last dribble
and one last foe.

Think not it selfish
but think it whole,
this person I have become
in one last go.

Think not it fair,
but think it even,
this hardwood we travel on-
on our last road.

And think not it life,
but think it a game
and give us a foe
we cannot, we would not,
we will not blame.

You can see my other poetry selections at

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