Snarky Behavior

Entries tagged as ‘basketball’

SICK Designs

July 3, 2008 · Leave a Comment

One of my best friends works for adidas in the basketball apparel department.  Part of his job is coming up with design concepts when the brand is making pitches to sign NBA rookies.

He approached a designer from the label UNDRCRWN to come up with some concepts that appealed to the players’ hometowns.  It’s unlikely the designs will ever hit market, but it’s cool to know that conceptual art is used for endorsement deals.  They kind of remind me of those old Score baseball cards with the cartoonish big heads.

Anyway, the appeal to the hometown results in product lines like Reggie Bush’s 619 (San Diego) themed apparel (see below), or the New Orleans gear.  Pretty neat.

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Live Blogging the Last Two Minutes of Game 3

June 11, 2008 · 3 Comments

Vuacic for 3!  Tying the hair back with the string!

1:47 Pierce gets clobbered… no call.  The off-balanced refereeing in this game would be a bigger issue if it weren’t alleged that the NBA ordered its refs to extend the 2002 Lakers-Kings series to 7 games.

1:33 Derek Fisher.  Nails.  That guy might be the most “solid” player in the NBA.  Nothing flashy, nothing spectacular, he just knows his roles, excels at fulfilling it, and is suprisingly clutch to boot.  I love him.

… ABC is now advertising for High School Musical during crunch time.  Boy, do they know their audience.

Vuacic and Bryant talking on the bench.  I am convinced the Vuacic is the white Kobe Bryant.

1:33 Paul Pierce and Kobe talking shit.  Awesome!  Hey Pierce, you have 5 points.

Wow that was a great set play.  Garnett with the easy dunk.

1:24 Lakers up 5.  Bryant guarded by Allen, is just destroying him, pull up, nails.  34 points.

1:00 Pierce to House in the corner.  Fuck Eddie House.  Although, if he were a Laker, I would love that guy.

Kobe again guarded by Allen!!!!  What the fuck is Rivers thinking???  He just demolished Allen, it was pathetic!!!!!

Also, Kobe Bryant is really, really, really good at basketball.

Vuacic talking to Pau Gasol.  Gasol looks legitimately homeless.  I imagine he smells pretty bad.

Bryant and Pierce again talking shit.  I think I caught some audio, Bryant saying “you aren’t NBA championship material.”  I hope he said that.

37 seconds, back to House.  He’s good but he shouldn’t be taking crunch shots.  Ray Allen dribbling like crazy.  Offensive foul.  That was pathetic. 

The Celtics don’t have a crunch player, Kobe is in Pierce’s head.

Celtics don’t foul down six????

Odom gets called for the silliest offensive foul ever.

Pierce forces up a lame 3.  And just like that, it’s over.  What a weird end to that game.  Why did the Celtics give up so quickly?  Why did they fold so easily?  Why was Allen guarding Kobe??  Why did Eddie House take all of the crunch time shots??

Lakers are definitely back in this, this should be a great, great series.  Good night!

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“Unbelievable”

April 1, 2008 · Leave a Comment

Here’s some good ju-ju for the Bruins before the Final Four.  I could watch this clip forever.

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Not to Toot My Own Horn…

March 29, 2008 · Leave a Comment

But in my 2008 Basketball Preview post I predicted the following:

My Final Four Teams:

UCLA
Kansas
Tennessee
Louisville

That’s not bad!  Considering Louisville knocked out Tennesee… in retrospect, that East bracket (including UNC) turned out to be a doozy.  I also had Kansas State as my dark horse, and they had a surprise upset over USC, so I’ll take partial credit for that.

As for UCLA, my prescience is astounding:

The primary concern about this team is its distinct lack of consistent threats from beyond the arc.  If UCLA runs into a hot-shooting team like Louisville, Memphis, or Oregon, they may find it difficult to come from behind… similar to the San Diego Chargers under Marty Shottenheimer, who were built to control the game around LaDanian Tomlinson.

The lack of consistent outside shooting (especially from Josh Shipp) has left the Bruins dangerously close several times recently… they’ve won 5 out of the last 8 games by 3 points or less, not including a forced overtime with Stanford where they pulled away late.

Finally, let’s answer some questions I posed:

Firstly, just how good is Kevin Love?  Will he dominate college competition the way he did in high school (where he averaged over 20 points and rebounds per contest)? 

Answer:  VERY good  Over the last 10 games he has taken his game to another level, carrying his team in the last two tournament games.  In fact, he’s arguably been the best player in college basketball.  It looks like the hype was true when people were saying Love would’ve been the best big man in the Pac-10 conference as a Junior in high school.  He certainly is now.

Will Shipp stay healthy and quick enough to guard guards instead of wings? 

Shipp’s health has not been a concern this season, but mostly because he’s not the “junk yard dog” player he used to be.  The game at Stanford probably ruined his season, because he was taking (and making) deep threes off the dribble and on drifting curls.  He’s since been ice cold.  And I don’t think the Bruins can win a title unless Shipp is aggressively attacking the basket and only taking threes when they’re available.

Will Mbah a Moute succeed away from the basket? 

No.  This is curious because Ben Howland has had such success developing players, but Mbah a Moute really hasn’t been the same player he was as a freshman (when he was fighting for minutes).   The guy is nails defensively (before the ankle injury) and shows some random promise on offense, but for the most part his takes to the basket are out of control and lead to turnovers.  The emergence of James Keefe has been a blessing (and a wise move on Howland’s part to waste his redshirt).

Will Collison learn to be a leader and distributer without Farmar or Afflalo?  

In the second half of the season, yes.  And what’s more, Rus Westbrook turned out to be FAR better than I could’ve imagined.  The Bruins’ backcourt is probably the best in the country.

Will Jessica Alba replace Ashley Judd as the hottest fan in college basketball?

Even preggo Alba is an upgrade over the aging Judd.  It’s a sympolic surpassing…. as UCLA will this year overtake UK as the proudest basketball program in the history of the NCAA.

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Westbrook Dunk

January 6, 2008 · 1 Comment

It’s weird. Maybe I should see a doctor about this, but everytime I see Rus Westbrook on television, my body starts ovulating. I guess I just want to have his babies… all of them… and raise them up right, too.

No really, this kid is SICK.

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Yao and Yi

November 17, 2007 · Leave a Comment

Yao and Yi

If I had more readers, I’d hold a caption contest. Oh what the hell… Caption Contest! I’ll start:

In China, due to the one child policy and a heavy male bias, boys are taught from a young age both to lead and follow the tango.

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In Defense of Kobe

November 1, 2007 · 5 Comments

“Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.”
–Dwight D. Eisenhower

This week while I watched the Lakers’ opener, I was very unsurprised to find that Kobe Bryant was being booed. Kobe’s off-season included a very public trade demand, a leaked video of him trashing the Lakers’ management, and a terrible music video with Tyra Banks.

Nope wait, that last one was some time ago. But he still deserves to be booed for it.

What Kobe doesn’t deserved to be booed for are his contributions on the basketball court. He is hands down the best all-around player in the NBA, which means he is the best living basketball player on the planet. How many people can (pretty unarguably) state that they are the best at what they do? Him, Federer and Tiger? Outside of sports, it’s pretty hard to measure.

Chuck Klosterman made a pretty important point about the NBA in his most recent Page 2 article: namely, the NBA is never as good as we’d want it to be because it’s never as good as we think it should be. Let’s explore that for a moment.

We want the NBA to be exciting. We want the outcomes of the games to matter to the players, for rivalries to form, for the regular season to be meaningful. That is to say, basketball is not the ballet: you’re not necessarily there to see the human body performing at its highest level (although that’s certainly part of it), but to see what happens when these bodies compete and struggle, when there is a clash of wills and ability played out in a structured, competitive environment. (Incidentally, this is why I prefer college basketball to the pros: even though the talent level is incredibly higher at the pro-level, the meaning behind the competition is much greater for the college game.

The endemic problem with the NBA is just what Klosterman identifies: the season is too long to give any one game significance (as is the case in football); the back-and-forth scoring dynamic too monotonous to rev up the intensity of the environment (which soccer and baseball enjoy); and the players too highly paid and contractually insured to demand full intensity on any given night (hence the comparative appeal to the college game).

For its part, the NBA tries to fix structural and systemic problems with a polish and luster that smears lipstick all over its own snout. It tries to engage its White audience by making its employees dress more “suitable” for a business environment. It hypes up the “entertainment” value of its product by promoting individual players over their teams. By creating video montages and all-star festivities centered around high-flying dunks and breath-taking displays of athleticism.

Again, those are the things offered by the circus, by the ballet. I can watch SportsCenter to see the highlights. What I want out of the NBA, what compels me to watch the game, is its competition.

Which brings us back to Kobe.

Kobe Bryant is a competitor. He is a leader. He is a cocky ass-hole, assuredly, but he is a leader.

Different contexts require different leadership positions. Previously this week I posted a clip of Alec Baldwin (the greatest actor of all time!) undercutting the confidence of a group of salesman by pulling the alpha male “brass balls” leadership technique. In a cut-throat industry like sales, where you “f*ck or walk,” it’s important that the employees be constantly challenged, constantly pushed. Their salaries are too good to incentivize their work ethic in any other way. That is to say, when you’re making a good living (and basketball players make millions for working 9 months out of the year), it’s easy to become complacent and push yourself short of your potential.

Kobe Bryant has brass balls. He is Alec Baldwin, undermining the confidence of his teammates, expecting them to expect more from themselves. He drives an $80,000 BMW (in 1980 dollars) and has a gold Rolex that costs more than what some of his teammates (ahem, Jordan Farmar) make in a year. And he is pulling all the strings he has available to him to make himself and his situation successful. He is pushing the buttons of management (who are also easily complacent with a financially viable and successful franchise living off the laurels of its tradition and market)… and he’s doing all of this without giving a flying you-know-what about what sports writers think of him.

Billy Crystal (paraphrased) said that a Jewish boy’s true Barmitzvah is the day he realizes he’s more likely to own an NBA franchise than ever play for one. The same could be said of a sports writer. He is a fan first, and a journalist second. Sports writers want their stars to be good guys, to be the heroes they idealized growing up. And there is a strong degree of cynicism when the writers realize that some of these alpha male competitors are Alec Baldwin ass-holes. So they openly begrudge the players for being “selfish,” for being “bad character guys.” They likewise chastise coaches perceived to be “too tough” on NBA players, who do not respond well to the expectation of self-discipline, hard-work, commitment, etc.

Kobe Bryant certainly could rest on the laurels of his previous 3 titles. He could certainly flash his boyish grin and be friendly with the media. He could play the rest of his career as the best player on a mediocre team, he could garner scoring titles and lavish shoe contracts, and he could secure a legacy in the pantheon of the greats. But Kobe doesn’t want to be one of the greats. He wants to be Ali. He wants to supplant Jordan. He wants to be the greatest.

So why do we begrudge him for it?

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2007-2008 UCLA Bruins – Basketball Preview

October 22, 2007 · 3 Comments

I recently discovered that Jessica Alba is a fan of UCLA athletics. Also recently discovered Shakira is not only an enrolled student at UCLA, but that she is a history major.

Why are these things relevant?  Because I used to be a history major at UCLA who subscribed to Maxim for the sole hope of a Alba or Shakira covershoot.  In fact: my dorm room had a giant poster of Shakira over my bed, to compliment John Belushi, Che Guevarra, Dirk Novitzki, Snoop Dogg, Tupac and Shug Knight.  The most eclectic group of college posters you could hope for.

The thing is, I didn’t go to UCLA when Shakira was there, or when Jessica Alba was showing up to rallies.  The only celebs I saw were a fat Chris Webber and Tyra Banks, a slutty Jessie Spanos, a sweaty Master P, a morbidly obese Michael Moore, a washed-up Mr. T, an extremely tall Asian (Yao Ming), a coked up Topanga and Corey Matthews, and a neutered Nick Lachey.

I also didn’t go to UCLA when the sports teams were any good.  In the two years since I graduated, UCLA’s basketball team has been to consecutive Final Fours.  In the four years I was at UCLA, we went to one Sweet 16, and didn’t make the tournament TWICE, the second time being the first losing season in 40 some odd years.

Life is not fair.  But I remain loyal.

My birthday is coming up, and the older I get, the more pathetic my loyalty to my alma mater and hero worship of 19 year old kids becomes.  In my mind though, I can reasonably be a devout fan of college basketball as long as there are players remaining on the team who were at the school while I was there.  So thank you, Lorenzo Mata and Josh Shipp.

On to the preview…

2007-2008 UCLA Bruins

PG:  Darren Collison (Jr.)  -  Collison is arguably the best point guard in college basketball.  His strengths include an incredible quickness, blazing speed, impressive toughness for his size, and a deceptively consistent shot from long range.  He answered all those who doubted his ability to take a leadership role once Jordan Farmar left for the Lakers by leading the team back to Final Four, highlighted by an astounding defensive performance against Kansas.

With the departure of Arron Afflalo, Collison will be expected to guard the opposing teams’ best guard.  His rangy arms give opposing players’ fits and make him a pesky threat to poke turnovers into easy transition baskets.  He’ll have to remain healthy for the Bruins to be a title contender, because this team is dangerously thin at the guard position.

SG:  Josh Shipp (Jr.) – The 6′5″ Shipp has had trouble remaining healthy over his career, probably because he was playing at a weight a little heavier than would be advisable for a wing.  He’ll have tremendous shoes to fill by sliding down to the off-guard position to replace the departed All-American Afflalo.  While Shipp is neither the shooter nor the tenacious defender that Afflalo was, he is an exceptional athlete with impressive basketball intelligence and other intangibles.  Assuming he has improved his outside shot, he could be the leading scorer and go-to guy for this veteran team.

SF:  Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Jr.) – Mbah a Moute suffered somewhat of a disappointing sophomore slump after a very impressive and unexpected breakout season in 2006.  In an effort to improve his particularly weak shooting and ball handling skills, the forward moved away from what made him so effective: offensive rebounding and second chance “garbage” points.  It will be a tall order to ask the 6′7″ Cameroonian to slide down from power forward to the small forward position, where teams will undoubtedly give him space on the wing and dare him to shoot or drive into a zone.  His defensive prowess and toughness will keep him in the starting lineup, but it will be his improved shooting and takes off the dribble that determines whether he is an All-American and lottery pick or a second-team Pac-10 role player.

PF:  Kevin Love (Fr.) – The much anticipated arrival of Kevin Love has Bruin fans buzzing over the Nov. 9 opener against Portland State.  Love represents an answer to the teams’ Achilles Heel of the previous two seasons:  an offensive post-presence.  The 6′10″ freshman is the #1 recruit in the country and has drawn comparisons to Wes Unsled and Bill Walton for his throw-back fundamentals and ability to dominate the defensive glass and initiate fast-break opportunities with powerfully accurate outlet passes.  The Love to Collison attack should increase the pace of the UCLA attack, which in the past was quite methodical and often criticized as “ugly.”

C:  Lorenzo Mata (Sr.) – The sole senior on the team has made tremendous strides since his awkward freshman year.  Mata has added an impressive jump hook to his arsenal that should force teams to stay on him instead of doubling down on Love.  His timing, footwork, hands and shot blocking have all vastly improved over his four years.  However, it remains to see if his free-throw shooting has improved, or if it will remain as an embarrassing liability to the team.

THE BENCH

PG: Rus Westbrook (So.) – The speedy Westbrook made quite an impression on me during the tournament run last season.  He is absolutely fearless taking the ball to the rack, although he doesn’t yet possess Collison’s floor-vision or decision making abilities.  His mid-range opportunities should open up with the departure of Afflalo, and he could very well end up being the team’s fourth option on offense.

SG: Mike Roll (Jr.) – Who???  Mike Roll is the presumptive “gunner” on the team, but has yet to show the confidence or consistency to earn the distinction.  With Love clogging the low post or drawing attention form the high-post, Roll should see his opportunities increase.  It’s just a matter of him stepping into his shots and knocking them down.  He is a hard worker, a great interior passer, and a good team defender, which should get him a fair amount of minutes.

SF: Chace Stanback (Fr.) – Stanback is reportedly 6′8″ with impressive range.  He is rail thin and I could see him getting out-muscled in practice, which tends to get pretty physical under Coach Ben Howland.  Should be a solid contributer over four years, but I don’t expect much from him in his freshman campaign.

PF: Nikola Dragovic (So.)  – Dragovic found himself in Howland’s dog house last year for his inability to play tough defense.  He reportedly can shoot from anywhere on the court, and is tall enough to shoot over anyone.  It’s a matter of how hard he is willing to work to get on the court.

C: Alfred Aboya (Jr.) – The man-child Aboya is a fan favorite for his toughness and intimidating presence on the court.  He should be rotated in frequently for both Mata and Love, although his contributions will be limited to the defensive side of the court.

Players Departed – Arron Afflalo (Draft), Ryan Wright (transfer)

OVERALL:  Coach Ben Howland has in his fourth year what could be his best team yet.   Between them, his players have been to a combined 14 Final Fours.  There is no other team in the country that can match UCLA in terms of experience.  Howland will be challenged with structuring a new system that best utilizes the skills of the big-bodied freshman Love, who could end up as this seasons’ Greg Oden.

The team looks to be one of the strongest, toughest, and best rebounding teams in college basketball… which comes as somewhat of a surprise given UCLA’s and the Pac-10’s reputation for “softness” and a preference for offense over defense.  With Collison and Westbrook pestering rival PG’s and Mata, Love and Aboya swatting shots, scoring on the Bruins will be no easy task.

The primary concern about this team is its distinct lack of consistent threats from beyond the arc.  If UCLA runs into a hot-shooting team like Louisville, Memphis, or Oregon, they may find it difficult to come from behind… similar to the San Diego Chargers under Marty Shottenheimer, who were built to control the game around LaDanian Tomlinson.

There are many X-factors to this season, but it is important to note that UCLA is a heavy favorite to win the Pac-10 and reach the Final Four regardless of whether the “X-factors” pan out positively or not.  Firstly, just how good is Kevin Love?  Will he dominate college competition the way he did in high school (where he averaged over 20 points and rebounds per contest)?  Will Shipp stay healthy and quick enough to guard guards instead of wings?  Will Mbah a Moute succeed away from the basket?  Will Collison learn to be a leader and distributer without Farmar or Afflalo?   Will Jessica Alba replace Ashley Judd as the hottest fan in college basketball?

Stay tuned sports fans…

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White Men Can’t Jump to Conclusions Mat

May 10, 2007 · Leave a Comment


You see Billy it’s like this, you either smoke or you get smoked. And you got smoked.

Yeah, I got smoked today. I played hard but I made a couple of dumb passes, missed an easy lay-up or two, and generally contributed nothing on the offensive end. I was Adam Morrison, minus the mustache, the offensive game, and the tears. The tears came later.

Let me preface the rest of this post by stating in advance that I am not a racist (well, evelywone’s a rittle bit lacist). But, I’m not politically correct, either.

“Political correctness” encourages self-censorship when discussing the sensitive issue of race. Everyone’s afraid of being Imus, so it’s better to omit the subject altogether. Unless you have a fat blanket of immunity like Rosie O’Donnell.

Anywho, today I was the only white guy on the court. I wore a blue shirt so my nickname was “Smurf” or “Light-Skin.” In the past I have been “Dan Majerle,” “Vlade,” “Luke Jackson,” “B-Sheezy,” “White Chocolate,” and “Flower” … but more often than not I’m “that dude” [disdainful half-handed gesture].

Whatever, right? My self-identity isn’t defined by my ethnicity. It’s water [or in my case, profuse perspiration] off my back. I was brought up in a burnt-out hippie Unitarian Church where “tolerance” was proselytized as the ultimate virtue. In fact, I’ve been socialized to view my race as “Clear,” since the term “White” or “Caucasian” doesn’t resonate.

So being called “Whitey” isn’t offensive to me, even though it is prejudicial and (in this instance) I was being discriminated for it (my teammates refused to pass me the ball, even when I made wide open cuts to the basket).

I used to be intimidated by being the only White guy on the court full of Black guys. I never played high-school ball and so I spent the majority of my time at UCLA playing against Asian and White guys, with the occasional Mexican (I’m being presumptuous…Which is it? Latino? Hispanic? Chicano? I took Spanish for 7 years and I’m still not sure which is the appropriate nomenclature)… oh, and an Indian or Persian in there for good measure.

But I learned from my roommate Will (a hard-nosed baller) that it’s silly to be intimidated by anyone on the court. It’s a mental advantage that Black guys use against White guys, and White guys use against Asian guys. I wish I were making this up, but it’s an overwhelmingly true phenomenon… basketball is a competitive game, and your phenotype’s-stereotype is a competitive advantage. I’ve literally been scoffed at by a team (”man, my blackness will beat you”) before running them off the court 11-2.

What bothers me about being the White guy on the court is not the fact that I’m not going to get passed the ball. That’s fine. If I play hard, grab some boards, run some breaks and make some baskets my teammates will start giving me looks.

I don’t even mind the constant bickering that goes on, or the questionable fouls that are called when the game is close. Yeah it can get annoying, but it’s usually pretty damn entertaining, too.

What bothers me is the nonchalance.

In my experience, the attitude that goes hand in hand with “my blackness will beat you” is an inexplicable commitment to not trying your hardest. When things start going poorly in the game, some guys will start jacking up fade-away jumpers or stop playing defense altogether. The game falls apart as everyone catches on and cherry-picks for the rest of the game.

It KILLS me. I just want to walk off the court when I see that shit.

Look. I know you’re a better physical specimen than me. I know you’re taller, faster, more athletic, more skilled, less sweaty and more experienced. I know you’d probably beat me 1-on-1 10 out of 10 times. And I’m sure your penis dwarfs mine.

But I’m out here TRYING. I’m hustling, boxing out, playing defense, chasing balls, being competitive. I know I don’t look cool doing it. I know I barely get 12 inches off the ground. But I’m here to challenge you. At least give me a game… I’m not a complete scrub.

Thanks

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