Morning Five: 07.05.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 5th, 2013

morning5

  1. Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens, Brad Stevens. The talk of the college basketball world has been centered on the Wednesday afternoon announcement that the Butler head coach was leaving his post for the glamour and riches of the NBA’s Boston Celtics. Everyone, of course, has an opinion on this bold and very surprising move, so let’s sum up what folks are saying. First, from the Brad Stevens/Celtics side: Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Stevens represents the “changing face of [NBA] coaches” in its new era of statistical analytics; the Indy Star‘s Bob Kravitz says that he can’t blame Stevens for jumping to the league; Fox Sports‘ Reid Forgrave calls the move a “gutsy” one on the part of Danny Ainge and the Celtics; while SI.com‘s Ben Golliver argues that the Celtics’ decision to pluck a successful college head coach with no NBA experience is a worthwhile risk. As we tweeted when we heard the news on Wednesday, the move makes sense from a logical standpoint, but it just doesn’t feel right. Stevens embodied our perhaps romantic notion of a college lifer, and in the NBA, coaches are hired to be fired. It’s hard to see him not coming back to our game sooner rather than later.
  2. The other angle in this story is what will happen to Butler without Stevens now leading the program? As our own Chris Johnson writes, the loss of a superstar like Stevens cannot be overstated — the program will absolutely take a hit, regardless of who is chosen to replace him. The most recent report suggests that either Butler assistant Brandon Miller or Michigan assistant Lavall Jordan will get the job, with Miller presumably holding the inside track given the school’s 24-year run of promoting coaches from within the program (although Jordan has more Butler experience). The general sentiment among the hoops cognoscenti is that Butler will figure out a way to still be Butler. SI.com‘s Andy Glockner writes that Butler is in great position to remain relevant and successful, regardless of who they hire to take over for Stevens. The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy thinks that the program may have a bit of a rude awakening with a new head coach suffering the indignities of a brutal Big East round-robin schedule next winter. But both Pat Forde and Matt Norlander move beyond that angle, arguing that college basketball as a whole is the real loser in Stevens’ move to the Celtics. Can’t disagree with that at all.
  3. From a coach on the way out of the college game to one sticking around, Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton received an extension through 2016-17 (and a $750,000 raise, to boot) to remain in Tallahassee as the head coach of the Seminoles. The timing is somewhat surprising given that FSU last year suffered its worst season (18-16) in nearly a decade under Hamilton’s tutelage, but his previous four years of NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC Championship certainly show that Hamilton has his program in overall good shape. His new salary of $2.25 million annually puts him second behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in terms of salaries among ACC coaches.
  4. We’re 51 weeks away from next season’s NBA Draft, but Mike DeCourcy took time during his Starting Five column this week to break down how he sees the top five picks going for 2014 (let’s just say that one-and-done is prominently featured). He also takes time to rip both FIBA — for its appalling lack of television broadcast options for the U-19 team — and Georgetown recruit LJ Peak, whose “psyche-out” trick using the school hats of suitors South Carolina and the Hoyas left a really bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths (ourselves included).
  5. Let’s finish the holiday week with some really good news on the health front: ESPN’s highlighter aficianado Digger Phelps has been declared cancer-free related to his bladder cancer diagnosis earlier this year. In just over one 12-month period, Phelps had survived both prostate and now bladder cancer, so it’s been a wild but ultimately successful year for the 72-year old television personality and former head coach. Phelps takes a lot of heat for some of his takes on ESPN’s Gameday show, but he’s always entertaining and we certainly hope that these health problems will remain behind him so that we can all enjoy many more years of green tie/highlighter pairings from January to March each season.
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Butler Destabilized by Brad Stevens’ Move to the Boston Celtics

Posted by Chris Johnson on July 4th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Burying news breaks in the lead-up to major work holidays or weekends is a totally normal thing. It almost never fails: use the benefit of most people’s designated R&R time to stanch the quick-spreading news cycle and prolonged Interweb shelf life. Snip the story at the bud before it has a chance to grow. Classic. Except that tactic might not work with Wednesday night’s news, dropped mere hours before our country’s biggest patriotic celebration – at least not among college hoops fans – that Butler coach Brad Stevens is no longer. Indeed, the baby-faced, cool-mannered, whiz kid Bulldogs sideline boss is leaving college basketball for the NBA. And not just any professional coaching job: Stevens is replacing Doc Rivers just in time to lead the 17-time champion Boston Celtics through a massive franchise rebuild. For all the classic cases of college coaches failing to translate their success to the next level, Stevens feels like the perfect hire for where the Celtics are as a franchise and the general direction the NBA is moving as it embraces a larger presence of analytics-savvy decision-makers in high-ranking positions.

The implications in the wake of Stevens' move for Butler and the Big East are difficult to divine (AP).

The implications in the wake of Stevens’ move for Butler and the Big East are difficult to divine (AP).

But Stevens is so much more than your average KenPom frequenter. In the process of lifting Butler from its Horizon League perch to a brief one-year stint in the Atlantic 10 to the new Big East, Stevens showed what comparatively lightly-recruited talent, empowered by tactical wizardry devised to maximize that talent’s best individual and collective attributes, can become. The height of his tenure, needless to say, were the back-to-back national title runs Stevens presided over in 2010 and 2011, each win over each powerhouse program coach more mind-numbing than the one before it. That’s when Stevens’ Bulldogs became so much more than the plucky Horizon league stalwart most college hoops fans had acknowledged for years. Butler became a national story, and its head coach the envy of any major program looking to replace its fired one.

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Big East M5: 11.15.12 Edition

Posted by Dan Lyons on November 15th, 2012

  1. College basketball’s signing day isn’t quite as frenzied for recruitniks as football’s, in large part due to the early signing period, which allows schools to ink recruits early, thus securing their commitment and ending much of the signing day “will he or won’t he” speculation. Cincinnati pulled in a nice three-player class with the opening of the early signing period yesterday, including Summit Country Day guard Kevin Johnson, a lifelong Bearcats fan who has flown under the radar due to injury. Mick Cronin heaped a lot of praise on his future guard: “He fits the mold of a lot of our current players. He can play a couple of different positions and he’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s an extremely unselfish player. He can beat his man whenever he wants.”
  2. It’s fairly common for the coach of a top-ranked team to downplay its abilities, especially early in the year, in order to reel his team in. Rick Pitino did just that when describing Louisville’s rebounding issues heading into the “Battle 4 Atlantis”, a preseason tournament featuring Duke, Missouri, and Memphis: “We are not ready to play in the Battle 4 Atlantis for that type of competition,” Pitino said. “We are not ready yet because we’re not rebounding the ball well enough.” This may not all be motivational bluster from Pitino, however. Louisville has gotten outrebounded by Bellarmine in an exhibition game and Manhattan already this season.
  3. Much has been written about Notre Dame’s experienced starting line up. While a number of players on the Irish have been making an impact for a few seasons, point guard Eric Atkins is becoming the straw that stirs the drink in South Bend. Atkins has stepped into a leadership role for Notre Dame, driven by the failure of last year’s team to put away 10th seeded Xavier in the NCAA Tournament after holding a double-digit lead over the Musketeers. The once-carefree guard is all business this year: “I thought it would be beneficial for me — just being serious all the time, just trying to perfect everything I’m doing, being focused the whole time… in a game, I’m still smiling. But when it comes down to practice time and getting stuff done, I’m going to be serious.”
  4. Former Syracuse basketball players Fab Melo and Kris Joseph, both of whom were drafted by the Boston Celtics, have been sent to the D-League’s Maine Red Claws. Where the D-League used to be a death sentence for a player’s career, it has recently been more utilized as a minor league system for NBA teams to develop fringe talent. Melo is still a raw player with less than five years of formal basketball under his belt, while Joseph is behind Paul Pierce and former Georgetown great Jeff Green at the small forward slot in Boston. Both players should benefit from the increased playing time at that level more than they would riding the pine in Boston.
  5. The Big East will never quite be the same after the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry ends, or at the very least crosses conference lines, after this season. The rivalry is unique in that it is almost entirely based on mutual disdain from on-court events, rather than proximity or other factors that usually spurn hated rivalries. This season’s games promise to be especially heated, with both fan bases signing on for “the most vitriol-ridden, hate-spewing iteration of the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry ever seen in the 30-plus year history of the teams’ membership in the Big East Conference.”  The flames of the rivalry were fanned by an unusual source today – U2 front man Bono, who spoke at Georgetown today, and, among other things, called beloved Syracuse mascot Otto “a fruit” to the bemusement of the present Hoya faithful. This isn’t the first time that celebrities have pandered to Syracuse or Georgetown fans while on campus by putting down the other school.  During a basketball game at the Carrier Dome last season, Shaquille O’Neal uttered the popular Syracuse catch phrase “Georgetown still sucks” while promoting an anti-binge drinking campaign. At Syracuse’s 2012 commencement, screenwriter and Syracuse alumnus Aaron Sorkin discussed accepting the different viewpoints of others “unless they’re Georgetown grads, then they can go to hell.” Needless to say, that final game in the Big East rivalry on March 9 at the Verizon Center is going to be a fun one.
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Louisville Should Be Happy Joanne Pitino Isn’t Afraid to Speak Her Mind…

Posted by mlemaire on October 25th, 2012

In 2001, when Michigan and then-athletic director Bill Martin announced they had hired then-Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker to try and rebuild the turmoil-riddled program in Ann Arbor, the fan base and the state’s pundits all hailed the move as an excellent one. Of course they probably would have been singing a different tune about the decision if they knew how close Martin had been to landing then-failed Boston Celtics’ coach Rick Pitino. Of course no one knew how close Pitino was to ending up with the Wolverines until the now-Louisville coach shared the story with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski on SiriusXM radio earlier this week.

Rick Pitino In Ann Arbor? You’re Right, We Can’t See It Either

According to Pitino, he had already signed an agreement to become the next coach at Michigan and had even managed to convince his wife the move was a good one. Everything was basically finalized, that is until Martin decided to go play squash and tell his secretary he didn’t want to be disturbed; at that exact moment, another team from Kentucky came calling and Pitino’s wife felt the pull of familiar territory. In fact, let’s just let Pitino tell the story himself.

I was living right on Thom Avenue in Boston, and she came up and threw her book at me, and said, ‘You know, you’re afraid to go to Kentucky.’ It’s once every two years, what’s the big deal? They’re going to boo you, they’re going to yell things, for one game. What is the big deal? You don’t know anybody at Michigan, you’ve never been there, and now you’re going to pass on all your friends and your children, you’re older son, who’s settled down there, why would you do that?’

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Daniel Orton

Posted by jstevrtc on June 22nd, 2010

Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night.  There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.

Player Name: Daniel Orton

School: Kentucky

Height/Weight: 6’10/255

NBA Position: Power Forward/Center

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Overview: If you needed any further proof that the NBA Draft selects players on potential and not on actual past performance, look no further than Daniel Orton.  That’s not to say that Orton didn’t produce for Kentucky in his one season there.  He certainly did everything that was expected of him, and did it well.  But we’re talking about a player who averaged 3.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and just 13.1 minutes a game.  That said, Orton was excellent in his role as a backup to DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson as needed, excelling on defense, specifically shot-blocking, and showing enough raw offensive skills to have the scouts salivating. He only hit double-figures twice all season, but that’s just because of the limited minutes.  With talent like this, if he’d have gotten the time (or stayed in school longer) his numbers would have probably been about triple what they were.

An intense, imposing physical specimen, Orton will carve out a living hitting the glass and blocking shots.

Will Translate to the NBA: Orton’s body was NBA-ready by the time he played his first college game.  He frequently uses that size to overpower defenders on his way to the basket and finish with confidence.  Though it could stand a little more arch, his jumper is fairly solid at this early stage.  He is physically imposing but actually has very nice touch on his shot after a post move and certainly as he gets right up to the rim.  On the defensive side, he’s way ahead of the curve in terms of shot-blocking ability, and that skill is evident whether he’s guarding his man straight up or if he’s  leaving his man and helping from the weak side.

Needs Work: Orton played so little compared to a lot of prospects, teams just don’t have that much to go on.  He had surgery on his left knee during his last year of high school, and while he never appeared to be favoring it, there were times when simple post moves or getting up the floor on a break seemed a little harder than one would think.  Because he’s going to make his living down low, he’s going to be getting to the free throw line a lot, and raising his percentage up from the 52% he shot at Ketnucky (to be fair, that was also his field goal percentage) is required.  Finally, it was a single incident, but the in-game sideline spat with coach John Calipari in the SEC Tournament was highly publicized, and Orton didn’t help his image by actually leaving the bench and going back to the locker room, even if he was under orders.  He’ll need to convince teams that his head’s in the right place and he won’t make a habit of openly questioning authority.

Comparison Players: Orton’s use of his physique to do things like create space for shots, set screens, and out-muscle opponents for rebounds reminds us of Leon Powe of the Cleveland Cavaliers.  If a Kentucky example is needed, his physique brings to mind the Rockets’ Chuck Hayes; like Hayes, Orton’s greatest value to an NBA team will come on defense.  Hayes is a little quicker, but Orton actually has a higher offensive ceiling.

Best Case Scenario: The key to Daniel Orton’s success will be patience.  He has the body and all the tools to carve out a very nice decade-long NBA career, if not longer.  But because he’s being drafted largely on potential, the team that drafts him will need to see some of that potential become realized in practice and in limited game time before they’ll really unleash him.  That’s not the easiest thing for young players to accept.  If he can show off his defensive abilities enough through hard work in practice, he’ll get more minutes in games, and then the offensive chances will come.  If he’s satisfied with that, after a few seasons his game could be refined enough to where he’ll find a niche on a team that needs a tough-nosed, hard-rebounding, “glue-guy” type of player that the fans love, the type of player that embodies the hard work coaches would like to see out of their whole roster.

2013 Projection: The process described above will still be happening after three seasons.  We wouldn’t be surprised to see him start to get increased minutes late in his third season and thereafter.  Up to that point, we’d expect Orton to have made an early living as a rebounding and shot-blocking specialist while the full range of his offensive game continues to grow.

Best NBA Fit: Orton will be taken almost right in the middle of the draft, and while Oklahoma City (21st and 26th pick) needs front line help in a major way — and it’s a pick that would land Orton back in his home state — the best fit for him as far as teams in that range is the Boston Celtics (19th pick).  Despite their post-season success, Boston was one of the worst rebounding teams in the league (29th of 30) and averaged a -1.5 rebounding margin.  If Kendrick Perkins‘ knee remains suspect and the retirement rumors about Rasheed Wallace are true, the Celtics would be left without a true center, and the third man on the depth chart at PF would be the unimpressive Shelden Williams.  Plus, you could do a lot worse than to have Kevin Garnett as a teammate and mentor.

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State Of The Big Blue Nation: Mood Indigo

Posted by jstevrtc on March 2nd, 2009

(OR, Why Rick Pitino Is Like School On Thanksgiving)

John Stevens is a featured writer for Rush The Court.

Kentucky basketball fans are wondering if they might have built their new state-of-the-art basketball practice facility on a Native American burial ground.

(credit:  Kentucky.com)
(photo credit: Kentucky.com)

As if the Wednesday night emasculation at South Carolina and yesterday’s home-court disappointment against LSU weren’t enough, two pieces of news are currently at the forefront of the collective mind of the Big Blue Nation, as Kentucky fans are known.  First, it looks like Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino has decided to take a giant crap on any good will he had left in the non-Louisville part of Kentucky by profiting off of one of the worst moments in Wildcat basketball history.  We’ll get to that in a moment.  Second, in addition to the growing possibility of watching this year’s NCAA tournament from their dorm rooms, this weekend the team and their supporters have had to deal with this now well-publicized incident in which sophomore forward A.J. Stewart, sick of watching from the pine as his team loses more games than they should, told everybody where they could go a few days ago and actually quit the Wildcat squad for about 24 hours after the aforementioned South Carolina loss.  He’s obviously been reinstated by his team, since he played in the home loss to LSU yesterday.

Reinstatement or not, Kentucky fans have to be wondering — what on EARTH have we done to deserve all of this?

“This” all started two years ago, specifically when Tubby Smith decided he’d had enough of (whether warranted or not) the second-guessing in Lexington and hit the road for Minnesota, which might have well been any place, as long as NCAA Tournament bids and occasional Sweet Sixteen appearances are acceptable goals there.  If you recall, it was at this time that the one coach in the country that just about every Kentucky supporter considered their Heir Apparent, Florida’s Billy Donovan, flirted very seriously with the Kentucky job before actually accepting the same position with the Orlando Magic…only to back out on THAT commitment 48 hours later to stay at Florida.  At that moment, Kentucky fans had to know — something was up.

Enter Billy Gillispie, not exactly the program’s first choice but a good selection for them since he had earned the reputation as the New Resurrector after his stints at UTEP and Texas A&M.  He made friends early by ensuring that the Tubby Smith-recruited Patrick Patterson would still attend UK, but then dropped games to the likes of Gardner-Webb and San Diego (both at home), causing much head-scratching.  Despite a tough season with injuries and personnel-juggling, Gillispie’s first UK team battled back, made the tournament (and it looked bleak for a while), and Gillispie won co-Coach of the Year honors in the SEC.  About twelve seconds after their first-round loss, Kentucky fans were looking forward to the next season, knowing it would be better once everyone was healthy and some new bad-ass recruits came into the fold.  The Billy Donovan snub was virtually forgotten.

One of those players returning to health in that off-season was versatile point guard Derrick Jasper.  Having gotten over all the physical and mental hurdles that come with microfracture surgery of the (left) knee, the 2008-09 edition of the Wildcats was his to lead.  Jasper was poised to be the floor general of one of the storied programs of college basketball.  It was to be “his” team.  But instead, in a move that nobody saw coming, after a mere two years of living in Lexington — citing “homesickness” — Jasper bailed on his chance to lead the program, choosing relative obscurity over an amazing opportunity.  He transferred to UNLV and left Kentucky high and dry with point guard problems that Gillispie hasn’t been able to solve with junior Michael Porter and freshman DeAndre Liggins.  How big was this loss?  Considering that the point guard handles the ball 60% of the time for any given team, is it a coincidence that Kentucky is 338th out of 341 Division I teams in turnovers per game?  Probably not.

Only 1 of these three remains at UK.  (daylife.com)
Only 1 of these three remains at UK. (photo credit: daylife.com)

Then came the home loss to VMI earlier this year, an inexcusable loss given the Gardner-Webb debacle from the year before and the alarming talent disparity between the two teams.  With that loss still stinging, a few games later (in a game Kentucky still won), Liggins refused to re-enter a close game against Kansas State in a protest about playing time.  For a day or so it looked like Liggins’ status with the team was tenuous at best, but (just like what’s happened with the current A.J. Stewart situation) the players voted to reinstate him.  This had to remind Kentucky followers of the Alex Legion strangeness from the previous season; Legion was a prize recruit with a nice outside shot, and who they were going to count on for some serious point production…but he didn’t even make it to Christmas in his first year at UK, leaving because he (and his mom) felt he wasn’t getting enough PT.  And now — this weekend’s situation with Stewart.

Kentucky fans are left wondering what has happened to the culture in their program.  Their obvious Heir Apparent in Billy Donovan declined to return even though he had been groomed for the job since the Pitino years; with inexcusable losses to comparatively talent-bereft teams (and not too many surprising wins) Billy Gillispie is starting to look like a good example of the Peter Principle; some important players have jumped ship, seemingly preferring oblivion over recognition and opportunity, and others choose unproductive ways to protest lack of playing time; and despite having two lottery picks on the team and some hard-working young role players, the Wildcats find themselves sliding down the bubble’s surface this season and are giving the tournament selection committee every reason to leave them off the bracket two weeks from now with these stretch losses.  This is a program that didn’t exactly weep when Tubby Smith left town; I’m not even saying they’re wrong about that, since after Smith’s 1998 title run with the Wildcats, he never returned to the Final Four in his next nine seasons — would UNC, Kansas, Duke, or UCLA fans put up with such a streak these days? — but keep in mind that, for unknown reasons, Billy Gillispie hasn’t even signed his contract at UK even though he’s basically got two seasons under his belt, now.  Many folks in Lexington wonder if he should even bother, with UK’s performance this year, even if the team slips into the tournament somehow.  And to make matters worse, if Kentucky fans have to watch this tournament without their Wildcats for the first time in 17 years, this is the time of year that a certain shot by a certain former Duke player gets played over and over again…

Oh, but if only that were the end of it for the Big Blue Nation.

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12.29.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by nvr1983 on December 28th, 2008

This is the last installment of Fast Breaks for the calendar year, but it’s a loaded one with lots of news before the New Year’s ball drops.

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2008 NBA Draft Live Blog

Posted by nvr1983 on June 26th, 2008

Well this is sort of unplanned, but rtmsf asked me to do this and I’ve got nothing else to do tonight so I figured I would throw up a live blog of the events.

7:30 PM: Everybody’s favorite commissioner/megalomanic David Stern walks to the stage. Pretty weak response from the crowd. Minimal booing and almost no response to a mention of the WNBA. I think Isiah and Dolan have broken the New York fans.

7:38 PM: Stern announces the Bulls’ selection of Derrick Rose. Kind of anti-climatic, but surprising how quickly the consensus swung from Michael Beasley to Rose in such a short time without anything really big coming out (other than Beasley being shorter than advertised, but the decision was already made at that point).

7:40 PM: ESPN shows some highlights of Rose winning the state championship game 31-29 in OT. Yes, 31-29. I guess the lack of offense in the Big 10 goes all the way down to the high school level.

7:42 PM: Stern comes to the podium with the Miami Heat’s pick. . .Michael Beasley. For all the talk about going with O.J. Mayo I always thought this was a no brainer. I mean they could have dropped down to the #5 pick, but I don’t buy the whole Rudy Gay + #5 for #2 trade. There’s no way Memphis would have done that. Does Pat Riley think Chris Wallace is an idiot? Oh wait. . .

7:45 PM: The interviews have been pretty tame so far. Beasley could have at least pulled the dead rat “joke” on Stephen A. Smith. The Stephen A. Smith guys better have something good planned for the draft because this is pretty weak so far.

7:48 PM: Minnesota is up. Time for Kevin McHale to shine. And the pick is. . . O.J. Mayo! Why do I have flashbacks to KG and Stephon Marbury. Stu Scott fills us in on O.J.’s full name. Thanks for that since we haven’t seen it in every single article written about him (except on RTC). At least O.J.’s time in Hollywood got him prepared for the bright lights of Minnesota. Wait, Minnesota?

7:50 PM: If you’re reading this after the draft and wondering why the writing sucks, blame it on the stupid 5 minutes between picks. There’s no way Bill Simmons live blogs this stuff. It’s impossible. He has to take 3-4 hours after the draft to put something together.

7:53 PM: Wow. Six picks for Seattle. Stu Scott with the quick math (6/60 = 1/10th). I’m not sure why they didn’t do some kind of big package to try and get some help for Kevin Durant.

7:54 PM: Stern with the pick. . .Russell Westbrook! Our first surprise of the night. I had heard Westbrook might be top 5, but never really believed it. The guy’s athletic, but I just don’t see how he’s considered the 4th best prospect in this draft. If you’re just going on athleticism, I’d take Eric Gordon over Westbrook. As for his “great” defense, I don’t remember it against Memphis and Rose. Plus I don’t buy Westbrook as a NBA point guard.

7:58 PM: Commercial break. Weak start to the draft so far. At least we have the comedy of the booing of the Knicks draft pick to look forward to in 2 picks.

8:00 PM: Bilas is pushing for Memphis to take Kevin Love. Stern with the announcement. And it’s Kevin Love. Nice call by Bilas even if Love basically gave it away on PTI earlier this week. I’m pretty sure the first time that anybody has ever had the Color Me Badd facial hair in Memphis.

8:03 PM: Pretty routine breakdown of Love. Good court sense/knowledge of the game, passes well, good range, and can’t run the court. Can we have someone disagree with a pick? I just want to see the player’s reaction (not to mention what their mom will do).

8:05 PM: Waiting for the Love family interview to finish so I can see the Knicks screw up their pick. This is the highlight of the night. . .

8:07 PM: Stern walking to the podium with the Knicks pick. . .(dramatic pause). . .Danilo Gallinari. BOOOOOOOOOOOO! Sorry. Just had to join in the fun. I don’t really buy Gallinari, but hey the YouTube video looks decent and that worked out well for guys like Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry worked out great, right? (Yes, I know that was before YouTube).

8:08 PM: Fran Fraschilla offers the most important piece of news of the night (for those of us who read Deadspin or The Big Lead). “Gallo” is apparently the Italian word for “rooster”. If you’ve read the posts on either site yesterday, you’ll know what that’s important.

8:12 PM:  The Clippers select Eric Gordon. I feel bad for the guy. He goes from the most dysfunctional program in the country to the worst franchise in pro sports. Love the guy’s game, but he’s just too inconsistent at times. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

8:15 PM: Our first horrible suit of the night. Gordon with the combination of white coat and navy blue pants. Not quite Karl Malone level, but you would figure his high school agent could have gotten him something nice.

8:18 PM: Joe Alexander to Milwaukee. At least it won’t be much of a culture shock going from Morgantown to Milwaukee although Joe won’t be seeing as many burning couches.

8:23 PM: MJ and Larry Brown are on the clock. It seems like Brook Lopez is the choice here. The Bobcats certainly have enough college talent on that team being veterans of the lottery process (tip of the hat to the legend Elgin Baylor).

8:24 PM: Jay Bilas and Mark Jackson agree with me.

8:25 PM: But apparently MJ and Larry do not. The Bobcats take D.J. Augustin. Looks like Raymond Felton is going to have some competition. This seems like a good pick for a trade.

8:27 PM: I still don’t get it. Of course, MJ was also the mastermind behind the Kwame Brown selection so maybe I shouldn’t.

8:28 PM: So it looks like Brook Lopez here to New Jersey. They can’t take Jerryd Bayless since they already have Devin Harris. This will be an interesting pick since they just traded away Richard Jefferson for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.

8:30 PM: Brook Lopez at #10 to New Jersey. Solid pick especially this far down. I’m surprised that he fell down this far. A 7-footer with a mean streak and solid fundamentals. Usually guys like this go too high and typically don’t slip. Not sure what is going on.

8:33 PM: Wow. Looks like our first classic draft moment of 2008. Apparently Jeff Spicoli dressed up as a 7-foot tall guy who went to Stanford. I wish I had been there for Brook’s Stanford interview. What? You mean he didn’t go through the regular admissions process?

8:35 PM: Bayless at #11. I like Bayless at #11, but does Indiana need another guard? Jamaal Tinsley, T.J. Ford, and Bayless. Looks like Tinsley and his gun collection are moving out of Indiana.

8:42 PM: Sacramento takes Jason Thompson. Our first real surprise pick of the draft. I’m actually ashamed to say I have never seen this guy play. Bilas says he’s pretty good so I guess I’ll have to go with that.

8:46 PM: Portland at #13. . .Brandon Rush. Interesting pick. He’ll probably fit in well with this team. He isn’t a star, but they have enough young talent that they don’t need him to be more than a solid role player. He’ll probably back-up Brandon Roy for the next couple of years.

8:50 PM: Golden State is on the clock. This is the part of the draft where teams have a lot of choices. Let’s see what the Warriors do.

8:51 PM: Stern with the pick: Anthony Randolph. 3rd team All-SEC member. Even the LSU blogger doesn’t believe in him. Not sure what else I have to say about this pick.

8:54 PM: Dick Vitale ripping the international. Comparing Gallinari to Darko Milicic. Ouch. Not a surprise since Dickie V loves all things college (as do we, but we don’t rip on the other stuff).

8:56 PM: Phoenix takes Robin Lopez at #15. I’ll admit it. I’m hitting the wall here so I’m probably only going to make it through the first round. I actually like this pick. Robin isn’t an offense force, but is a pretty good defender, which Phoenix is lacking.

9:03 PM: With the 16th pick, Philadelphia selects Maureese Speights. Seems like a talented player. It will be interesting to see how he works with Samuel Dalembert. Wow. Stuart Scott just compared FG% in college to FG% in the NBA as if it’s the same thing. I don’t even know what to say to that.

9:08 PM: Toronto selects Roy Hibbert at #17 for Indiana (part of the Jermaine O’Neal trade). This makes sense. Hibbert will “replace” O’Neal. It’s too bad that Hibbert fell this far. He would have been a top 10 pick last year. He didn’t get injured or play poorly, but because he never exploded like NBA scouts hoped he would he fell far enough down that it probably cost him a few million dollars.

9:12 PM: JaVale McGee at #18 to Washington. Looks like Lebron has another guy to dunk on.

9:15 PM: Pretty interesting trade. Indiana gets Jarrett Jack and Brandon Rush for Ike Diogu and Jerryd Bayless to Portland. Bayless and Roy make a really scary potential backcourt dishing the ball off to Greg Oden and company.

9:19 PM: Cleveland is on the clock. This pick is big for Danny Ferry because it might go a long way to keeping Lebron in Cleveland and out of Brooklyn. Darrell Arthur is still sitting in the Green Room. . .

9:21 PM: The Lebrons select J.J. Hickson and Darrell remains seated.

9:26 PM: Charlotte’s on the clock at #20 and take Alexis Ajinca. I’ll turn to Stuart Scott here, “Who is this guy?”

9:28 PM: Wow. I’m pretty sure that’s the first time the economy ever was mentioned in the NBA Draft. Fran informs us that the fall in the dollar’s value will affect Ajinca’s decision whether to stay in Europe. (Side note: Josh McRoberts is part of the Portland-Indiana deal. He’s not worth his own post.)

9:33 PM: The Nets go with Ryan Anderson at #21. Darrell is still sitting. . .

9:38 PM: Looks like Orlando goes with another guard by taking Courtney Lee. I loved Jeff Van Gundy’s analysis. Basically, Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis are the only two guys he likes on the team–a team that’s coached by his brother. More importantly, what does this do to everybody’s favorite Zima drinker, J.J. Redick?

9:42 PM: Utah takes Kosta Koufos. It will be interesting to see how Koufos fits in with Utah’s bigs (Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, and Paul Millsap). He’s a skilled big guy who was really hyped coming in, but was too inconsistent to stay in the top 10. Playing for Jerry Sloan will either toughen him up or turn him into AK-47 (and cry during the playoffs).

9:49 PM: Seattle takes Serge Ibaka. Fraschilla says he’s good and he’ll be here in 3-4 years. Yeah. . .

9:50 PM: Doris Burke interviewing Darrell Arthur. Pretty tame interview. No tears. Not much to say.

9:55 PM: Houston takes Nicolas Batum. Fraschilla compares him to Rudy Gay, which I guess is good. Fran also says he needs to work on his ball-handling and he’s only 20 years old. Since when do people learn how to dribble after they turn 20?

9:58 PM: Ric Bucher announces that Darrell Arthur has a kidney problem, which he says explains why Arthur hasn’t been selected. Sounds like a HIPAA violation somewhere along the line.

10:00 PM: George Hill from IUPUI? Well apparently he plays great defense and has 3% body fat (thanks for that Stuart).

10:08 PM: New Orleans Portland ends the madness and takes Darrell Arthur. Nice moment as the New York fans clap. Nice pickup here. He should be able to come in and spell the big guys for a few minutes here and there immediately.

10:15 PM: Memphis selects Donte Greene. Seems like he’ll be playing behind Rudy Gay for a while. Well at least they got something for giving away Pau Gasol.

10:22 PM: Detroit selects D.J. White. Nice pickup at this position. Productive player who should be a solid guy off the bench for stretches.

10:31 PM: Mercifully, Boston with the last pick of the first round. J.R. Giddens. Wow. What a long ride it’s been for that guy. The former big-time recruit at Kansas who transferred to New Mexico.

Well it’s been a long first round. We’ll be back tomorrow with a more in-depth (and hopefully shorter) analysis.

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Where Near Chokes Happen.

Posted by nvr1983 on June 9th, 2008

Like most basketball fans I spent last night watching Game 2 of the NBA Finals and assumed the game was over well before it actually was. Unlike most people I also sent taunting text messages to the Lakersfans I know with 1:21 left in the 3rd quarter when Boston went up by 20. I was feeling pretty confident in my rather moronic display of hubris when Boston was still up by 24 with 7:40 remaining in the game.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten Billy Packer’s faux pas from just over 2 months ago when he awarded Kansas a place in the NCAA championship game when they went up by 26 with 27:30left in their game against UNC–the Tar Heels subsequently cut into the margin enough to make the game competitive and make Packer look like an idiot once again. To be fair, 20 points with 16:21 left and 24 points with 7:40 left is certainly a much, much bigger margin than what Kansas was working with, but nonetheless I should have turned to the Bill James Lead Calculator before I sent those text messages (not to mention the voice mails).

A quick calculation would have revealed the following “facts”:
- At the time of my text messages (20 point lead with 16:21 left), the lead was 28% safe.
- At the time the Lakers started their comeback (24 point lead with 7:40 left), the lead was 91% safe although it would have been “over” (100% safe) according to James if the Celtics had the ball at that time.

Fortunately, the Celtics survived the Lakers 3-point barrage and Vladimir Radmanovic’s 5-step breakaway dunk to win or I would still be getting text messages and voice mails right now.

Moral of the story: Before you decide to call “ballgame” (and taunt everyone you know), ask yourself “What would Bill James do?”

Update: Apparently rtmsf decided to make a post about this late last night (an advantage of being on the West Coast) and being the idiot that I am (see the aforementioned reference to taunting text messages) I decided to throw up a post without looking at the blog even though I had mentioned that he might consider writing a post about it last night. Anyways, I just went to The Big Lead and saw that our blog was linked to and realized that this was a duplicate post. Hopefully, you can at least enjoy my stupidity. Hey, it was better than the “19-0. Next. . .” text that I sent when I saw Eli Manning jogging out onto the field with 2 minutes left. . .

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Never Fear, Celtics Fans…

Posted by rtmsf on June 8th, 2008

We only throw this up because we’re certifiable stat nerds, but as we were watching the Celtics-Lakers game tonight, we started wondering if we were witnessing a possibly historic comeback when LA had cut the Boston lead to 2 with 0:34 remaining.  Only seven minutes earlier (at the 7:40 mark), the Cs had been enjoying a seemingly insurmountable 24-point lead.

Nelson Wasn’t Worried

This got us thinking – harkening back to the piece we did a while ago on the Kansas-UNC game where we discussed when it is statistically appropriate to call a game over (thanks, Billy Packer), just how worried should Boston fans have been?

According to the handy Bill James Lead Calculator,

Boston’s lead was as airtight as Vanessa Bryant’s pre post-nuptial agreement.   In other words, no cause for worry, Beantowners.  Even the Assassin Known as Kobe Bryant’s Ego can’t overcome 10:1 odds.

Note:  it would be nice if one of the NBA commenters verified this, but we believe the largest 4th quarter comeback in NBA playoff history was in 2002 when Boston came back from 21 down at the start of the quarter to beat the Nets 94-90. But James would call that lead only 48% safe in comparison.

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NBA Finals Preview 2008

Posted by nvr1983 on June 5th, 2008

Well it’s the series everybody has been waiting for (ok, not rtmsf). I’ll try to limit my bias in this preview although all of my friends are well aware of the extent of my taunting. Honestly, they’re just happy there isn’t a potential Triple Crown (and eternal bragging rights) at stake here. Anyways, on to what might be the most hyped NBA Finals since 1991 when Michael Jordan formally took the throne away from Magic Johnson (and Larry Bird).

By now, you may have heard that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have a little bit of basketball history. Boston comes in sporting an amazing 16-3 record in NBA Finals, but no appearances since 1987 andno titles since 1986 (following that title they selected a forward out of Maryland named Len Bias). Meanwhile, LA comes in with a 9-13 record, but had a 3-peat from 2000-2002 and appeared in the 2004 Finals. However, as Rick Pitino said during his ignominious stint in Boston:

Despite all the hype ESPN has given (wonder who has broadcast rights) to the history of this rivalry–think hammer versus nail (sorry, I can’t help myself)–none of the players that led the franchises to their numerous titles will be walking through that door except for some guy named Kobe Bryant. So instead of focusing on the glorious past of this match-up, I’ll focus on the present and this season.

Head-to-head: Boston 2-0. The Celtics won a November matchup in Boston 107-94 and a December matchup in Los Angeles 110-91. As every talking head on TV has mentioned, Pau Gasol didn’t play in either game (before Chris Wallace and the Memphis Grizzlies gave the Lakers the Western Conference). I could go into a detailed analysis of what happened, but I’ll just give you the link to Henry Abbott’s excellent analysis of the earlier games.

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fischer. It seems like this match-up hasn’t been getting much press, but I think it could be the most pivotal of the series. This is definitely a young gun versus experience veteran type of match-up as Rondo is much more athletic than Fischer, but is more prone to making silly mistakes. Along with experience, Fischer has a big edge on Rondo in terms of shooting. With all the helpside defense that Kobe demands, Fischer will likely get a lot of shots. Advantage: Fischer. This match-up is closer than you might think because of Rondo’s athleticism and his surprising maturity. Unfortunately for Boston, Rondo is too inconsistent to give Boston the advantage at PG, but if he plays well he should be able to equal Fischer.

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen vs. Kobe Bryant. Somehow this turned into a rivalry soon after Shaq left LA and Ray Allen told the media that Kobe would go to to Mitch Kupchak in a few years and demand a trade (a few years later. . .). Later, Kobe said that he and Jesus Shuttlesworth shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence. Now, the two All-Stars are saying that there never really was a feud. Why do I bring this up? Well because even though these two play the same position, I can’t see them guarding each other much. LA might put Kobe on Allen particularly if he goes into another one of his funks, but Kobe roams too much and that’s a very bad idea against Allen even if he hasn’t been performing up to his standard. As for Allen guarding Kobe, even Doc Rivers isn’t that dumb. Kobe will see a steady diet of James Posey and occasionally Paul Pierce although Ray Allen will probably play some matador defense against him early in the game as Kobe will probably defer to his teammates early as he notes “I can get off any time I want” (insert Colorado hotel room joke here). Advantage: Kobe. This one isn’t even close. Allen has sort of become a wild card for the Celtics. Even when he’s on this position goes to Kobe and the Lakers, but if Allen can hit from the outside he can keep Boston in the series.

Small Forward: Paul Pierce vs. Vladimir Radmanovic. This might be the biggest mismatch of the series (not including the coaches). If they match up head-to-head, Pierce will dominate Vlad. As Shaq once said, “My name is Shaquille O’Neal and Paul Pierce is the motherfucking truth. Quote me on that and don’t take nothing out. I knew he could play, but I didn’t know he could play like this. Paul Pierce is the truth.” An Inglewood native, Pierce grew up idolizing Magic and the Showtime Lakers, but during his time in green, he has torched the Lakers for a career average of 27.9 PPG (his most against any team). My guess is that Kobe will be guarding Pierce in crunchtime. The rest of the time Vlad will try to stay in front of him. The key for LA is for Vlad to hit his 3s, which usually energizes the Hollywood crowd (if it’s after the 6 minute mark in the 2nd quarter when the crowd shows up) and will make Pierce or whoever is guarding him work. Advantage: Pierce. Big edge although this might turn into a Kobe vs. Pierce match-up, which Kobe would still win.

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett vs. Lamar Odom. This is the most interesting match-up of the series. Although Pierce is Boston’s go-to guy, KG is the heart-and-soul of the team. Usually he is able to dominate at the 4 because he is much more versatile than the opposing player. However, Odom’s unique skill set could theoretically pose a problem for KG especially with the amount of help defense he will have to play with Kobe and Gasol. Odom has the type of game that could limit KG’s ability to roam, but Odom is so inconsistent that it may not matter. Advantage: Garnett. If you look at the match-up on paper based on skills, it would be pretty close other than defense, which Odom doesn’t seem to care about most of the time. However, KG’s consistency and effort wins out over Odom’s tendency to space out (insert bong joke here).

Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Pau Gasol. The Boston fans will really hate Chris Wallace by the time this series is over. Not only did he kill a few years of Paul Pierce’s prime by trading Joe Johnson for Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk (some blame falls on Paul Gaston, the Celtics owner at the time, who refused to resign either player), but he also gave the Lakers Gasol, who poses a tough match-up for Perkins. One of the 3 straight-to-pro starters this series (you probably know the other two) Perkins has grown a lot this year. Playing alongside KG has certainly helped during games, but perhaps more importantly off the court in practice and it shows in his improved performance. Unfortunately for Kendrick, Gasol is basically the worst match-up he could have. While Perkins is a hard-nosed defender with good strength, he isn’t particularly agile and the Lakers pick-and-roll with Kobe and Gasol could give Celtics fans nightmares over the next 2 weeks. Gasol will probably dominate this match-up unless Perkins can somehow turn this into a physical match-up. To limit the Lakers advantage, Perkins will have to try and dominate the glass as the Lakers don’t really have a great rebounder (Gasol can put up numbers, but isn’t going to get physical) while the Celtics have two (Perkins and Garnett). Advantage: Gasol. The Lakers have a clear advantage here as Gasol is one of the best centers in the league, but it’s closer than most people think. Perkins has had some big games in the playoffs and will need to do so in this series if the Celtics are to win #17.

Bench: James Posey, P.J. Brown, Eddie House, Leon Powe, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, & Sam Cassell vs. Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmer, Ronny Turiaf, & Trevor Ariza. The Celtics will probably use Posey quite a bit on Kobe and Brown on Gasol as neither of the Celtic starters appear to match up particularly well. If Posey can focus on staying in front of Kobe and knock down 3s on kickouts, he could become an important facto in the series. Outside of Posey, Brown and House are the most likely to play key roles in this series. Brown primarily for his interior presence against Gasol and House to spot up for 3s assuming Doc notices Cassell couldn’t cut it in a YMCA league. Powe and Big Baby could also contribute in spots, but I have a feeling that Doc will yank around their minutes too much to give either a chance to contribute for more than a game or two. If Doc is smart, Allen and Cassell won’t take off their warm-ups as neither of them has contributed much this season. Meanwhile, the Lakers have a very strong bench. I’m pretty sure Walton would start on most teams in the league. He’s one of the rare players who can come into the game and make an immediate impact, which I attribute to Luke being one of the few players in the NBA who plays with his head instead of his body. Vujacic and Farmer have also proven to be valuable and will spell Fischer when Rondo starts to wear him out. Both of them can hit 3s, which will make them valuable when Kobe decides to drive. As for Turiaf, he’s not a great player, but he’s the only legit thing the Lakers have as a 4/5 backup. Advantage: Lakers. This may be the difference in the series even if Doc doesn’t screw up the rotations like he usually does.

Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Doc Rivers. The Zen Master with 9 rings as a coach (tied with Red Auerbach) and 11 rings overall (tied with Bill Russell) versus the least stable rotation in basketball history. Advantage: Jackson. This is probably the biggest mismatch in Finals history. Even Ubuntu can’t save Doc in this one and it might cost the Celtics a shot at the title.

Prediction: Lakers in 6. If the Celtics play to their potential (that means you Ray), I think they can win, but he’s just been so inconsistent and the Lakers have been so dominant (in a better conference) that I just can’t pick them to win as much as it kills me if you haven’t caught my bias in the preview. I think LA and Boston will split the opening 2 games and Boston will come back to win 1 of 3 in LA before Kobe takes over in Game 6 and puts the Celtics away.

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NBA Draft Preview Version 1.0

Posted by nvr1983 on May 19th, 2008

Lost in the huge O.J. Mayo scandal and the smaller Darrell Arthur scandal is the upcoming NBA Draft, which is a little over 1 month away. Unlike last year, where there was a ton of hype regarding the Draft Lottery (Note: This may have just been because I live in Boston), the day has snuck up on us. I just noticed that it would be happening on May 20th in contrast to last year where I had the time of the lottery programmed into my Treo by mid-March (thanks to an 18-game losing streak). Teams that failed to make the playoffs have the following odds of winning the #1 pick:

2008 Lottery Odds

Basically the lottery breaks down into a couple key segments:

(1) The top 2 picks: Whoever ends up with the #1 pick will have to decide between Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley. Up until the Sweet 16, it seemed like Beasley was the unanimous choice to be the #1 overall pick regardless of who was drafting at that spot. However, after being the best player on the court the last 4 games of the NCAA tournament including lighting up lottery-type talents like D.J. Augustin and Darren Collison/Russell Westbrook, Rose vaulted himself into contention. Unlike last year when there were only minor rumblings of debate over the #1 pick coming from people like Bill Simmons, I believe there is a legitimate debate over who should go #1 that will only be decided when the NBA announces who has the #1 overall pick. Do you think David Stern has noticed that Derrick Rose would be an excellent PG for Mike D’Antoni’s New York Knicks?

(2) Picks #3-6: The guys in this category are Brook Lopez, Mayo, Eric Gordon, and Jerryd Bayless. The key in this group is Lopez. He will go to whatever team needs an inside presence. I’m not completely sold on his game translating to the NBA (covered in upcoming posts), but Lopez is the only legitimate top 5 inside presence in the draft (Beasley is a combo guy). After that it seems like Mayo is the consensus top combo guard in the group although I suspect that with some good workouts Gordon and Bayless might be able to jump him. Gordon is likely being hurt a little by his precipitous drop-off in production at the end of the year while Bayless is hurt by the fact that he didn’t play in a system that fully utilized his skills in the open-court.

(3) The rest: Honestly, I have no idea on picks 7-14 and it seems like that draft experts don’t either as each one has a completely different order. The key players here are Kevin Love, D.J. Augustin, DeAndre Jordan, Darrell Arthur, Chase Buddinger, Joe Alexander, Anthony Randolph, Russell Westbrook, Kosta Koufos, and JaVale McGee along with all the internationals (Danillo Gallinari and Nicolas Batum). We aren’t even going to touch this group until the order is set because so much of it will depend on team need. The one guy that we think could jump significantly is Buddinger based on his workouts. 

The fate of franchises will be decided

We’ll have more coverage/analysis following the Lottery on Tuesday as we start to break down the players and team needs.

If you’re a fan of one of these unfortunate teams, you may find some solace in ESPN.com’s Lottery Mock Draft Generator. I know I used it quite a bit last year (getting angry every time the Celtics fell out of the top 2). This year, you guys will be playing with it while I wonder why the f- Rajon Rondo disappears on the road (rtmsf wishes Rondo showed up at all in college).

Photo Credit: http://theoldlogo.blogspot.com 

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