Rasheed Wallace Calls Into Question Old College vs. NBA Debate Over Passion and Heart

Posted by Chris Johnson on October 11th, 2012

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

For most college basketball fans, the professional brand of the game they love has never resonated in the same endearing way. For reasons ethical and not, the general perception of NBA hoops is not a good one. It is, with few exceptions, terrible. Whether it’s the isolation-heavy offense, lack of defensive organization and discipline, or the fuzzy conception-based judgment that the game just isn’t played the right way in the professional ranks, there are few more infuriating three-letter sequences for college hoops fans than NBA. I’ve never quite understood the origins or the staying power of this criticism, nor do I subscribe to the same viewpoint. Every year, the NBA offers us a nearly six-month slate of the best basketball in the world, played by the best athletes in the world – most of which come from the programs college fans invest their time, money and passion enjoying. It’s not the same as the college game; the differences are as obvious as they are numerous. But if you enjoy basketball played at the highest level, robbing yourself of the sport’s greatest compilation of talent, spectacle and athletic brilliance seems silly. Whatever your opinions on the NBA the organization, it’s awfully difficult to come up with a sound argument justifying your lack of attention to the league’s on-court product. These guys are really, really good. That alone should pique your hoops-watching impulses enough to flip-on at least a few games each year.

With Wallace speaking out against the NBA’s competitive integrity, college fans’ complaints gain a layer of credibility (Photo credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images).

Perhaps the most frequent gripe with NBA basketball brings us to the realm of intangibles, the vague qualities that enhance (or devalue) the tenor of the game’s flow of play. The NBA’s lack of passion or fire or intensity, or whatever descriptor suits your position, is raised with alarming consistency in just about any anti-NBA diatribe. The typical argument proceeds as follows: College players lose their competitive drive when they reach the NBA and receive their first paychecks. Financial incentives, so the narrative goes, rob college players of the passion and unbridled joy that made them so fascinating to watch at their respective programs. If you share this mindset (as this is a college basketball blog, there are no doubt at least a few readers who most definitely do), you are not alone. One NBA contemporary is on your side. Rasheed Wallace – former North Carolina Tar Heel, first-round pick, four-time All Star, all-time NBA bad boy first-teamer, and most recently, New York Knicks frontcourt relief option – opened up with Brian Lewis of the New York Post Wednesday to reveal the reasons behind his unlikely age-38 comeback.

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Let The Knicks’ Loss Be College Basketball’s Gain

Posted by jstevrtc on October 21st, 2010

In a move that illustrates just how in touch the organization is with its fan base and the basketball-loving public in general, MSG Network (the folks responsible for broadcasts of New York Knicks games) has let the most exciting play-by-play announcer working today slip from their grasp. That’s right — they let Gus Johnson get away.

Johnson has been calling Knicks games for 16 years, primarily on radio but acting as a backup for TV broadcasts, and even chipping with some baseball, hockey, and arena football duties as well . A few outlets claimed that MSG Network brass were ticked off at Johnson’s various other projects which caused him to miss the occasional Knicks game – little things like doing college basketball and NFL football games for CBS and boxing for Showtime — and that’s why MSG played hardball, refusing to come to a deal in the end. Later in the day, though, we heard that it might not have been quite so contentious. Still, with Johnson’s popularity, MSG should have done whatever it could have to keep him.

We’re not taking pleasure in a man losing a job, but we’re selfishly hoping that, as soon as this happened, someone from CBS called and immediately gave Johnson a mountain of cash in a big juicy revised contract that increases his college basketball visibility. As many games as Johnson already does — we want more. And don’t lie — you know you’ve been to the Gus Johnson Soundboard. We defy you to go there and not click every one of those buttons before leaving (though a link to “Don’t let the smooth taste fool ya!” is needed). It’s impossible not to. What other announcer has this? Seems like the type of guy you’d want to keep in your organization, but then again, most Knicks fans these days see that orgainzation and the MSG suits as the types who probably would have told that Paraguayan model Larissa Riquelme not to run through the streets of Asuncion naked had Paraguay won the World Cup. Whatever, guys. As long as it benefits college hoops.

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Time to Bet Heavily Against FIU

Posted by nvr1983 on April 14th, 2009

According to Jeff Goodman at Fox Sports, Isiah Thomas has accepted an offer from Florida International University to become their head coach. We briefly discussed the situation yesterday, but now that it’s all but official it is probably a good time to review Isiah’s prior experience. As a basketball player, there is no question that he was an all-time great. As a basketball executive/coach? Not so much.

isiahthomas

Here is a quick recap of his prior stints in a managerial role:

  • Toronto Raptors (1994-1998): Serving as the GM and part-owner, he started by taking B.J. Armstrong with the #1 pick in the 1995 expansion draft. While Armstrong isn’t what you would consider #1 pick material, when you look at the other luminaries that were available it was probably a pretty good pick (at the very least he could show the young guys all the three championship rings Michael Jordan won for him that he won). Unfortunately, Armstrong refused to report to the team and was promptly traded. Even though the team was 67-179, Isiah did exhibit some draft acumen by taking Damon Stoudamire (turning the #7 pick into the Rookie of the Year), Marcus Camby (the #2 pick who might have won Rookie of the Year that year if it wasn’t for some guy named Allen Iverson), and Tracy McGrady (with #9 pick out of high school just 2 years after Isiah’s hilarious plan for Kevin Garnett). Sadly, this was probably the high point of Isiah’s managerial career.
  • NBC (1998): Briefly worked with Bob Costas and Doug Collins. Not particularly memorable, but it worked out better than his last appearance on NBC (see below).

  • CBA (1999-2000): Purchased the league for $10 million on October 7, 1999 and turned down an offer from the NBA to purchase it for $11 million and a percentage of the profits, which according to some sources would have been a $2 million profit (or a 20% ROI) in March 2000. Isiah then promptly proceeded to show everyone what a shrewd businessman he was for turning down the 20% ROI in 5 months by running the league into bankruptcy. [Ed. Note: The fact that the CBA Museum has a page for Isiah Thomas is amazing. Isn't that kind of like a Jewish charity museum starting an exhibit on Bernie Madoff?] Sadly, this was not the low point of Isiah’s managerial career.
  • Indiana Pacers (2000-2003): Took over a team that Larry Bird had coached to the Eastern Conference finals and decided to change directions with a youth movement by playing Jermaine O’Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, and Al Harrington more minutes. Even though he had a respectable 131-115 regular season record, his stint is largely considered a failure as his team’s lost in the first round in each of his 3 seasons as a coach. Heading into Isiah’s 4th year, Larry Bird came back as President of Basketball Operations. At his press conference, Bird assured the media that he would work with Isiah. He promptly fired Thomas and replaced him with Rick Carlisle. [Lesson: Don't mess with the Basketball Jesus.]
  • New York Knicks (2003-2008): I don’t know what can be said that hasn’t already been said. I’ll just refer you to Jeff Coplon’s article that says everything in its title “Absolutely, Positively the Worst Team in the History of Professional Sports”. Quick Cliff Notes style summary: Threw away two 1st round picks for Eddy Curry. Fired Larry Brown (his best move) and made himself coach (his worst move–on the court). Ordered his team to commit a hard foul against the Denver Nuggets resulting in a brawl. Despite having the highest paid team in the league and the pipe dream of landing LeBron James he continued to blow money/cap space on over-priced/under-performing players. “Reassigned” and forbidden to have any contact with the Knicks’ players. Charged in a sexual harassment lawsuit that led Madison Square Garden to pay $11.6 million to his accuser and offended multiple sponsors. Reportedly overdosed on Lunesta and was taken to the hospital, but afterwards tried to throw the entire thing on his 17 year-old daughter.

So, um yeah, good luck with that FIU.

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NBA Draft Preview Version 1.1

Posted by nvr1983 on May 20th, 2008

As previously mentioned on RTC (and every other decent site that covers basketball), the NBA held its draft lottery last night. Among the luminaries in attendance were the Basketball Jesus himself Larry Bird, Dwayne Wade of “Fall down 7 times, shoot 14 free throws” fame, Jay-Z, Kevin Durant, Mitch Richmond, Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg, and some lady who has Sacramento Kings season tickets.

As most of you know by now, the Chicago Bulls defied their 1.7% odds to steal the #1 pick. Rounding out the top 3 were the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves. The losers of the draft were the Seattle Oklahoma City Supersonics who fell from the #2 spot to #4, which I think they deserved after last year (still bitter despite a NBA record 42-win turnaround and a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals).

The top 2 are essentially set in stone although the Bulls lack of an interior scoring presence (not you Joakim) and lack of an elite point guard (sorry, Kirk) means they could go either direction. The Heat will get the “leftovers”. I’m guessing that Pat Riley (still the GM, right?) is hoping that the coachless Bulls take Michael Beasley because it seems like Beasley and Shawn Marion would clash in terms of their inside-outside styles and type of play so he would prefer Derrick Rose, who could be absolutely ridiculous paired with Wade and Marion.

We’ll be putting up draft previews over the next couple of days, but until then we’ll just offer a few thoughts:

(1) If I was the Bulls GM (if Reinsdorf or any one in the organization is reading this, please contact me), I would go with Rose. Even though they lack a great inside scoring threat, I think it’s a lot easier to find a serviceable PF than PG. I also think the impact of a great PG is bigger as Chris Paul and the other great recent vintage PGs have shown everyone the past few years. The Bulls have a lot of talented NBA-quality young guards (Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, and Thabo Sefolosha) along with a couple talented unproven youngsters (JamesOn Curry and Shannon Brown). While some analysts may argue that this is a reason to get a big man, I would argue they should take Rose (better than any of the current guards) and make a big package of these young guys to try to get another inside presence to compliment Andre Nocioni, Joakim Noah, Drew Gooden, and Tyrus Thomas along with the team’s only “star” Luol Deng. I’ll have more on this in an upcoming post. . .

(2) I wonder if Mike D’Antoni is starting to think he should have asked the Knicks for more money. He could have had almost the perfect team for his offense if he went to Chicago even before they had the chance to select Rose. I also wonder how D’Antoni is going to handle being on a team that uses its draft pick to select a player instead of selling it for money.

(3) Hoiberg looked like he was going to throw the cancer patient’s teddy bear when the Timberwolves ended up with the #3 pick (falling outside of the Beasley-Rose jackpot). That would have made an even better YouTube moment than it already was (around the 2:20 mark of the clip below).

A couple quick, early links on the NBA Draft:

(1) As always, Chad Ford has a mock draft up with a brief analysis. I swear he must have enough spare time during the year to come up with mock drafts for every possible team draft order combination.

(2) Meanwhile, Jack McCallum chimes in with his own thoughts. Mostly just rambling about what D’Antoni must be thinking along with a brief breakdown of what the top teams in the draft might do.

(3) If you want to hate John Hollinger and his ridiculous unproven stats, check out his Pro Potential analysis (ESPN Insider access required). For those of you without access here are a couple of gems:
- Michael Beasley at #1 followed by. . .Blake Griffin at #2 and Danny Green at #4.
- 11 of the top 25 are freshman, which isn’t surprising, but that does not include several notable freshman who didn’t make the list: Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo, DeAndre Jordan, Donte Green, and Eric Gordon.
- The list of freshman that Hollinger considers to have more pro potential than those five heralded freshman: DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh), Dar Tucker (DePaul), Robbie Hummel (Purdue), Andrew Ogilvy (Vanderbilt), and Matt Howard (Butler). The fact that I decided to list the schools these guys play at should tell you how far off the radar most of these guys are as NBA prospects. Hollinger offers an impassioned defense of his system, but I don’t buy it.

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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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