By Henry Abbott and Kevin Arnovitz
When we started the TrueHoop Network a year ago today, our goal was to bring together the best independent basketball writers in the blogosphere and give you a steady stream of their smartest and most creative work.
The other day, we were trying to figure out approximately how deep that stream was.
10,000 blog posts? 20,000? More?
Somewhere along the way we lost count, but dozens and dozens of those pieces stayed with us. In honor of the TrueHoop Network's first anniversary, we decided to put together a list of ten outstanding posts.
Every day across the TrueHoop Network, you can find thoughtful consideration of big questions, nuanced x's & o's breakdowns and hilarious observations of the game we love. Whittling the selection to 50 was fairly easy, getting to these ten was painstaking and more than a little arbitrary. With apologies to the many great posts that could've been here, and huge thanks to every blogger in the network for a tremendously successful first year, here's our take on the ten best of the TrueHoop Network's first year:
Basketball is a visual experience, which has made the emergence of video in the blogosphere a beautiful thing. Rob Mahoney brings poetry to the images in his video paean to Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks-Spurs rivalry.
What is it about Greg Oden that evokes hope, heartbreak, promise and doubt? Harper pleads with Oden's skeptics: "You don’t see what I see with Greg. Wait; do I actually see what I see with Greg? You see injuries, slow feet, and an awkward shuffle up court. I see powerful dunks, skying for blocked shots, and brute strength unlikely to be matched by feats of feeble young giants."
The pursuit of perfection is a fascinating exercise. As good as LeBron James is, he can still get better: "One of my chief arguments for LeBron as basketball’s best player over the years is that the most valuable skill in basketball is not the ability to convert difficult shots, but create easy ones. LeBron needs to remember that when he posts up, and use his athleticism and size with some footwork to get layups in the paint instead of trying to use his skill to drain tough shots from 8-14 feet."
Who was your NBA tour guide, the voice that first taught you the game? For McHale growing up in Illinois, it was Johnny "Red" Kerr, who died last year at age 76: "Kerr loved the Bulls. I mean, he loved them in a way most men never even love their wives. And he knew the game in a way that went beyond numbers and APBRmetrics. He was a homer, sure, but that was a natural extension of his passion for the game and for his team. I miss that. I miss old Red."
The ability to capture the big picture and the finest details simultaneously is a gift, one Haubs and The Painted Area have in spades. Their summary of the 2009 NBA Finals is a great example. "It doesn't always work out like this (hello, Shawn Marion). ... It is sacrifices like these, up and down the roster, that championships are made of. A key to San Antonio's run has been Manu Ginobili's sacrificing multiple All-Star appearances by accepting a role with lesser minutes, which keep his stats artificially low. And now Odom's acceptance of lesser minutes in a free-agent year has helped put L.A. over the top, and he deserves praise for it."
It's not every day that an NBA owner sits down for a candid conversation with an independent team blogger. In Memphis, 3 Shades of Blue commands that kind of respect from the organization it follows so diligently. Crain and the Grizzlies' Michael Heisley discuss everything from Allen Iverson to the trials of being a small-market franchise. At one point, Heisley turns the questioning around, asking 3 Shades of Blue, "If I could give LeBron James $5 million more do you think he would come to Memphis?"
The Rudy Gay-for-Shane Battier trade left a lot of Rockets fans scratching their heads at the time, but it was the first window into the Daryl Morey Era in Houston, one that's just getting started: "Due to the novelty of his approach, and the immediacy of his success, oft forgotten is it that we still lay merely in the earliest of stages in the shaping of this team. Only precious little is known of Daryl Morey’s managerial philosophy. The forethought with which he has guided the transformation of this roster would indicate some grander scheme yet to unfold."
Few NBA bloggers have been gracing us with their insight longer than Kurylo and Knickerblogger, which has been on the scene for more than five years. As useful as Knickerblogger's advanced stats section is, Kurylo's ability to communicate complicated ideas with clarity is even more impressive, whether he's explaining player efficiency or proposing a new collective bargaining agreement: "Imagine if player deals were only guaranteed for the first three years. Almost instantly the Knicks could have jettisoned any unwanted players and reshape their team in a single offseason. On his first day Donnie Walsh could have cut Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Jamal Crawford, and Malik Rose. ... It’s easy to see why this would benefit teams and their fans. Bad franchises would be able to fix their mistakes quicker, which means fans wouldn’t have to wait years for the hometown squad to turn things around. And since winning correlates to ticket sales more than anything else, it means the owners would see more money in their pockets."
Defense is one of the toughest things to measure in basketball. Fortunately, in the absence of reliable stats, we have 48 Minutes of Hell's keen observation: "Bowen has a very particular defensive style. He never focused on blocks or steals. His entire goal was to limit a player’s options. Every player has options: He can pass to one of his many teammates. He can drive to the basket with either hand. He can shoot at several different points on the floor. Every player prefers certain of these options over others. Bowen’s entire goal is to get you to choose the option you’d least prefer, or at least eliminate the option you’d most prefer."
Great basketball players can look immortal one moment, then disappoint you the next. Such is the history of Josh Howard in Dallas. "On the court, Josh Howard lives and dies by his emotions. That much is certain. His highest peaks are brimming with confidence and joy, and his lowest valleys are shadowed by self-doubt and disinterest. It’s an influence that goes beyond momentum; Howard’s emotions inevitably force him into a series of positive feedback loops, self-sustaining spirals that intensify and reinforce themselves over time."