Friday Bullets

  • ESPN's Marc Stein has word that Dirk Nowitzki edged out Steve Nash in MVP voting, and will be presented the award next week. Nowitzki tells Stein: "If I do get it, it's an incredible honor. I'm sure 20 years from now or whatever, to see that in the [record] books, it's an amazing achievement. But right now, it's hard. Obviously, you can't feel good about the way our season ended." A poll that accompanies the story shows most readers don't believe he deserves the award, but as it's a regular season award, I'd like to see how many people felt that way before the playoffs.

  • Charles Barkley tells Isaac Chotiner of The New Republic all kinds of interesting (PG-13 for salty language) stuff about politics, economics, and race -- including why he made that "I am not a role model" commercial: "We are really struggling in the black community because all our kids want to play sports or be rappers. And they don't even think about being doctors or lawyers or engineers or teachers or firemen or policemen. That is what I tried to do. And everyone is figuring this s*#! out now. I figured it out when I made that commercial back then. Our kids are getting washed. They are confused. When I go to speak at these schools, 99 percent of these kids want to play sports. They aren't gonna play sports. And that's when I went to Nike about making that commercial." Via Matthew Yglesias.

  • There is some suggestion that Ohio laws that apply to strippers might apply to the Cavaliers' dance team. I'm sure it's much ado about nothing, but if it ever does go before a judge, this is Exhibit A (can't believe I'm saying this, it's from NBA.com for crying out loud, but that link is as PG-13 as the swimsuit issue).

  • The statistically not-all-that-unlikely nightmare for Boston.

  • Famous basketball writer Mike Wise loves Journey.

  • Mark Monteith of the Indianapolis Star wants to dispel the myth the the San Antonio Spurs didn't want Stephen Jackson back: "San Antonio did try to re-sign Jackson after their championship season in 2003. It offered a three-year, $10 million contract, and also negotiated with him again after his one year in Atlanta."

  • ESPN Insider Jeff Weltman: "Conventional wisdom says bet against the team that relies on the J, especially if it is being brutalized on the boards. But the Warriors have proven to be more than just a tempo team. They are excellent defensively and resilient mentally. I for one will be unraveling Game 2 all summer. Game 3 is do-or-die for Golden State and with the crowd behind them, we like the home team to hold serve on Friday."

  • How many NBA race studies could there possibly be? Lots! This one was conducted by Andreas Apostolatos and Paul Sommers of Middlebury College. Apostolatos emails that he found black players may perform better for black coaches: "While finishing up my undergraduate work in economics and psychology, I took a senior seminar called 'The Economics of Sports' last spring, and conducted a multiple regression project looking at the effects of pairing predominantly black NBA teams (in terms of player makeup) with black leadership figures (in this case coaches) on team winning percentage. My professor and I ultimately found that in the 2005-2006 NBA season teams that had a higher overall ratio of black players (most of the 30 teams were in the range of 60-80% black) AND were coached by a similar-raced individual performed better (as measured by winning percentage). It's an interesting thought. Do human beings in general put forth greater effort when they better identify (in this case racially) with their supervisor/authority figure?"

  • The Second Coming NBA Blog: "I would contend, honestly, that without Derek Fisher on that Lakers squad, even with Kobe and Shaq, they would have never won a championship. Not one. Who else would balance out those egos? Hit the three when both were doubled? Get on their cases when they were lazy, acting up, or bitter? He was Shane Battier before he became the definition of 'glue.' He did everything, took nothing away from the table, and facilitated that triangle offense to its peak capability. No team can win without a Derek Fisher. No one. Credit much of this Jazz success to him, and don't forget it."

  • Coach Steve Finamore on Detroit's Game 3: "I hope every coach at every level watched the second half. The Pistons played a great 1-2-2 zone defense. (I still don't know why some coaches refuse to play zone) Tayshaun Prince was at the top of the zone and he made it very difficult for the Bulls guards to get any good looks. (Prince is 62103) Their display on the defensive end should be turned into a coaching DVD on how to play an effective zone defense."

  • Deron Williams tells Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune this his early fouls in Game 2 messed with his defense: "I was pretty much at the mercy of [Baron Davis]. He could do whatever he wanted and I couldn't really be physical with him, the way I wanted. He had a great game."

  • Jeff Ruland, Isiah Thomas, Kelly Tripucka, Jay Vincent, and Buck Williams were on the NBA's all-rookie team when Julio Franco started playing baseball, and he's still playing.

  • If you wanted to create the perfect basketball player, you might start like this.

  • Steve Kerr of Yahoo: "Gasol is a nice player, but let's look at the facts. His Grizzlies teams made the playoffs three years in a row and got swept each time. That gives him an 0-12 playoff record. And what about this season's Memphis squad? If Gasol is dominant enough to handle the Pistons' front line, then how come he couldn't help keep the Grizzlies from amassing more losses than any team outside the state of Massachusetts? I think Paxson has a virtue that is sorely lacking in pro sports these days: patience. With fans and media clamoring for him to make the Gasol move, Paxson stood his ground and decided to wait for something better. What that will be is anyone's guess. Perhaps there will no trade, and the Bulls will try to grow from within. But there's no question that no NBA team is better positioned to make a deal
    this summer. If anyone has the goods to bring Kevin Garnett to town, for example, it's Chicago." In the comments of my post yesterday about Chicago's future, a lot of people seemed to believe I thought Chicago should have traded for Gasol. As I clarified in those same comments yesterday, in fact I do not. I agree with Kerr on this one.

  • Daryl Morey officially takes over in Houston.

  • Shaquille O'Neal calls the Chicago Tribune's Sam Smith, who started the rumor that O'Neal might be traded, an idiot with no credibility. He also, essentially threatens Smith with violence, which might hurt his credentials as a man of the law. Then, as reported by the Sun-Sentinel's Ira Winderman, O'Neal shot himself in the foot a little by adding some emphasis: "Sam is an idiot -- i-d-o-u-t -- idiot."

  • Either Doc Rivers is not a good coach, or he was intentionally tanking. Which is it, Mr. Ainge?

  • UPDATE: Tales of racist taunts from that very white Utah crowd. (Via FanHouse)