TrueHoop: 2007 Draft

The Status of Greg Oden

August, 5, 2008
8/05/08
10:21
AM ET

Yesterday, in a workout led by Blazer assistant Dean Demopoulos, Greg Oden worked out against Channing Frye. It was Oden's first such full-contact workout, against NBA competition, since his microfracture knee surgery.

Stamina was, predictably, a problem. 

But otherwise all reports are excellent. 

The Oregonian has all kinds of Oden coverage this week, online and off. Jason Quick writes of the workout:

Oden's most impressive stretch came early in the workout, when Demopoulos instructed Frye to lob passes near the rim as Oden filled the lane.

"Everything is a dunk, Greg!" Demopoulos shouted. "Everything is a dunk!"

Oden obliged, catching the passes in midair and finishing with mostly soft one-handed dunks. Occasionally, however, he unleashed a violent two-handed dunk, which raised the eyebrows of Demopoulos, Frye and [assistant GM Tom] Penn.

"That's some nasty stuff," Penn said. "And we're not even going full speed."

Midway through the workout, Oden had to be prodded more and more. He often rested his hands on his knees, and several times had to be reminded where to go, all while the superbly conditioned Frye dashed and darted around the court.

On one occasion Frye bee-lined toward the basket and was met by an outstretched Oden. The collision resulted in the 6-11, 245-pound Frye barreling backward while Oden held his ground. "That's a big boy, man," Frye said, smiling and shaking his head.

There is also accompanying video

Much has been made of the muscle Oden has added to his frame -- his current weight is something of a secret -- but there is all kinds of evidence that he will enter the NBA as one of the biggest, heaviest, and strongest players in the League.

Because of that, in another story by Quick, we learn that Nate McMillan says he will never again play competitive basketball.

The incident happened in Hawaii, where Nate McMillan thought assistant coach Maurice Lucas wasn't hitting Oden hard enough in a workout, so McMillan jumped in.

"So I start hitting (Oden), but then he hits me back. And you know how when you hit something and everything inside of you is shaking? Well, that's what is happening here. I hit him, and then he hits me and everything is shaking.''

McMillan continues to play Oden one-on-one, trying to make Oden move his feet on defense. After about an hour of playing, McMillan wants to hammer home his point. He devises a "box drill," which emphasizes defensive slides.

Oden, as he recalls, understood the drill when McMillan told him the first time.

"I said 'Coach, I can do it','' Oden said. "But he was like 'Let me show you how to do it, you are not doing it right' ... and I was like 'Coach, let me do it' ...''

McMillan, still exhausted from the constant pounding from Oden, took his first step in demonstrating the drill ... and BAM!

Down goes McMillan.

"It was like somebody shot me,'' McMillan said. "I yell and hit the floor and I couldn't get up.''

It was weeks of acupuncture, rest, and painkillers before McMillan could move normally again. He now swears he will never play competitive basketball again. Quick continues the story:

Oden said he vividly remembers McMillan giving him body shots as he tried to post up in their workouts.

"He was trying to make a point by saying 'These are how the other guys are going to come at you' ... and I was like, 'OK, well this is how I'm going to come back at them -- even stronger','' Oden said. "Coach is trying to make me better, so you know, what if he is going to sit there and push on me? I'm not going to sit there and practice being soft, I'm going to come back just as hard as I would in a real game.''

Atlanta's Horford is, for the moment, ahead of Durant in David Thorpe's rookie rankings (Insider). Part of Thorpe's explanation:

Durant really struggles with the concept, and the practice, of the second defender. He appears to be too narrowly focused on getting a shot over or around his defender, neglecting to consider that ultimately, his shot could be easily blocked or affected by that second guy, thus driving down his shooting percentages even further.

The result is Durant suffers very poor shooting games -- 2-of-12, 7-of-21 (twice), 5-of-20, 6-of-26. ...

Horford is not having a great season in any statistical category, either, except for rebounding. He has scored 15 or more points only once in 2008. The center is shooting less than 48 percent from the field and less than 66 percent from the line. And he blocks fewer shots than Durant.

But a deeper look suggests he is indeed playing the best, from November until today, of all the rookies. He had 10 rebounds in his first game as a pro and never has let up; he still is averaging 10 boards a game. ... Unlike Durant, though, Horford provides so much that isn't reflected in the stat sheets. Racing back on defense to thwart a fastbreak. Helping and recovering on defense. Setting very solid screens on offense. Making easy plays on both ends, limiting mistakes and letting his -- and his teammates' -- talents shine through.

Joakim Noah as Muhammad Ali

January, 17, 2008
1/17/08
6:15
PM ET

Dan Barto, who spent six weeks training Joakim Noah for the NBA draft, writes:

As media around the country produce varying reports, I want to go to a famous quote, "There is a fine line between insanity and the most successful mindset one can have." Ali danced around Zaire with the children, and many sports fan were left scathing at Ali's selfish act, not knowing his role, or that he changed the sport and world for the better.

For those of you who have not been paying attention, Joakim Noah has been doing the same for the past two years on the court and off. Antagonizing fans, pounding his chest, screaming after a big play, giving crazy and confusing interviews. Just like Ali, some can not relate or tolerate his actions because they are not willing to put in the work or sacrifice to stand up for something despite what authority might say. Whether it is true or not, just the notion of Joakim challenging Ben Wallace proves the quote above. Nobody wanted to mess with Sonny Liston at one time either.

Worth reading the whole thing, and watching the many videos Barto links. 

I am nervous about comparing current NBA stars -- tremendous professionals, but not significant in terms of politics or society (discount shoes and a book of poems as crowning achievements?) -- to anyone who had real impact like Ali.

But I'll tell you what, if you had to pick the current NBA player most likely to matter beyond sports and corporations, I'd hear your case for Etan Thomas. And then I'd pick Noah -- mostly based on meeting him once for 15-minutes. It's just so obvious that his heart and mind are both pumping. He cares about what's important, he's fierce about it, and he has the gift of being widely seen as fascinating.

In the right circumstances, that could make him important.

Effective Rookies

December, 18, 2007
12/18/07
1:42
PM ET

ESPN's David Thorpe pointed out something to me today: guess which rookie has the best PER (Insider)?

The answer is especially interesting when you consider that, like all boxscore-based stats, PER doesn't have a meaningful way to measure most aspects of defense.

This player is touted for this defense.

Answer after the jump.

(Read full post)

David Thorpe on Joakim Noah

November, 21, 2007
11/21/07
2:12
PM ET

ESPN's Thorpe has always been a huge fan of Joakim Noah, and has watched him closely for years. Here are some things he has noticed about Noah in the NBA, from Thorpe's massive report on rookies:

The Bulls have helped Joakim Noah a little with his perimeter shot, raising the release point a bit from where it used to be. Now he has to work on shooting with just one hand. His left thumb almost always turns toward the rim on his release, a common mistake that can be corrected with work. ...

In college, most players on their way to the NBA are the focal point of their teams. Plays are run for them, strengths are emphasized in the game plan and weaknesses are hoped to be hidden. Consider one of my favorite rookies, Chicago's Joakim Noah. He could not consistently make the 16-foot shot at Florida, but his coach still wanted the ball in his hands at that range because he could drive by many of his opponents, or use his deft passing touch to feed the ball inside or reverse it for a 3. It was a main cog for the terrific Florida offense.

But Scott Skiles is trying to get no less than four veterans enough "touches" to keep them happy and in rhythm. Noah's strength as a playmaker will have to wait.

Noah is also not bad with the microphone, I'd like to point out. 

"Odenize" -- the Ad Campaign

November, 5, 2007
11/05/07
4:43
PM ET

Remember a while ago when a TrueHoop reader, all hopped up on draft day bliss, told us that thinking about Greg Oden, or "Odenizing," had helped him ward off tears in some tough situations?

Well, that same term, to Odenize, made its way into this must-watch ESPN the Magazine commercial:

First, the Initiation

October, 30, 2007
10/30/07
12:27
PM ET
I could make fun of Golden State's rookies for their abysmal Soulja Boy Tellem dance before thousands of fans. But in truth, I am just thankful that NBA journalists don't have this kind of hazing. This is from the Warriors' official website's new blog squad:

Friday Bullets

October, 19, 2007
10/19/07
1:34
PM ET
  • Yesterday we heard about Steve Kerr and Michael Jordan mixing it up in practice. Today we get to hear the story straight from the mouth of Michael Jordan, and see some great video of Kerr teasing Jordan at their title celebration.
  • ESPN's J.A. Adande on Kobe Bryant: "I've never heard such universal frustration and disappointment with Bryant permeating the Laker organization. In the past he had those who would defend him or simply decline to comment, even in private conversations. Not anymore. ... The model for how a team and its superstar should part ways comes from the Lakers' ancestral homeland in Minnesota, where the Timberwolves and Kevin Garnett managed to satisfy both sides and send him to Boston without any rancor. But there was this quote from Garnett in Slam magazine: 'I think [Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor's] loyalty is to Kevin McHale, and I had to swallow that. So that's what it was. I was kind of hurt by it, but he's known Kevin long enough, he's believed in Kevin, so that's what it is.' Timberwolves fans should be furious that the incompetent McHale means more to Taylor than Garnett. And Lakers fans should be terrified that Buss is feeling the same way about Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, whom he pointedly defended while meeting with reporters in Hawaii. Jerry Buss has insisted that dealing Bryant would be a business decision. But if it's business, would it really be wise to choose Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss over Bryant? Who's going to win more games and sell more tickets for you?"
  • Remember a couple of days ago we talked about Chelsea's soccer star, Didier Drogba? Remember, um, just about every day, we talk about Kobe Bryant? TrueHoop reader Rolando points out that like Bryant, Drogba recently decided he was fed up with his team and wanted out. But today Drogba's quoted by Guardian Unlimited's Paul Doyle making the kinds of semi-conciliatory comments we have not heard from Bryant: "When you're disappointed you sometimes take stances that you haven't thought about properly. That was my way of showing how angry I was. But I wouldn't have been able to look my team-mates in the eye afterwards. I am someone who has always campaigned for solidarity, so I've decided to stay until next summer."
  • DeShawn Stevenson won't be needing that nametag, thanks.
  • Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune got his hands on a Sacramento scouting report describing all the Jazz players. All kinds of interesting stuff. Carlos Boozer and Gordan Giricek, for instance, are said to be defenders worth going at. One thing that really occurs to me: guys who are deemed to not like physical contact all come with instructions like "get into him" or "go at him." As you can imagine, being seen as soft can be a real pain, because now you have every opponent instructed to be extra physical with you. But let's be honest: NOBODY likes to be elbowed in the head. Even Shaquille O'Neal can't take it sometimes. The art is in being seen as tough -- making sure no one thinks you're bothered by it. 'Cause if they see you as soft, it's going to be a long night every night, right? By the way, the Kings won that one.
  • Darius Washington Jr., former nemesis of Sebastian Telfair and the guy who missed those free throws, gets some burn in San Antonio.
  • The Starting Five goes in-depth with Rob King, newish Editor-in-Chief of ESPN.com. A little anecdote about the newspaper business: "Well it's funny, I had a lot of friends that talk very fondly about the good ole days in newspapering - not just at the Inquirer, but in other places. I was in news papers for 22 years. I don't ever remember working in the good ole days. Wow. I was in Gannett newspapers from 1987-1997. I was at Knight Ridder from 1997 to 2004. The newspaper years prior to that was I worked at the Washington Post as an editorial assistant - a copy aide really - and I was at Penn State in grad school for a year. I just remember it being about dire changes and newsprint prices going crazy and threats of layoffs. ... I just don't remember those salad days where people were traveling here and there. I always tell people that one of my first exercises as a manager while I was at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky is that I had to sell a plane. They had an airplane that would enable reporters and photographers to get to one end of the state to the other. I get the job overseeing the photo department and it was my job to find a buy for an airplane."
  • Taurean Green can sing like the Four Tops.
  • Blog-a-Bull describes "the Duhon effect:" "If you just look at Duhon the player, he's a starting caliber PG for a half dozen teams that play high usage wing players. He's one of the best defensive PGs in the entire league. He shoots 3s well enough to be an effective spot up shooter. And his turnovers are manageable. He'd be perfect for Cleveland, Atlanta, or the Lakers. However, watch enough Bulls games over the last couple of years and many people, myself included, get the impression that Duhon has a negative impact. While finding that negative impact in his own numbers is hard, I discovered this summer that his negative impact shows up in other players' stat sheets. He drags other people down, specifically Kirk Hinrich and Thabo Sefolosha."
  • The New York Post's Peter Vecsey has all kinds of stories: Phil Jackson in Kobe Bryant's face a little. Portland shopping Channing Frye. Chris Webber and Detroit not at all close to a deal. And Shawn Marion sticking in Phoenix.
  • The Sonics and the City of Seattle, before the judge, arguing about where they should continue their argument. The lease has, apparently, conflicting clauses.
  • On Detroit Bad Boys, Kevin Sawyer identifies the all-overrated team. Here's one: "Ben Wallace. Cost per rebound in 2005-06 - $8,125 Cost per rebound in 2006-07 - $19,488 Cost per playoff win in 2005-06 - $750,000 Cost per playoff win in 2006-07 - $2,666,667."
  • Something I can guarantee some basketball people are worried about: Who's liable if athletes get potentially deadly staph infections in your athletic facility?
  • Isiah Thomas has been busy, OK? He can't keep track of the name of every player in training camp.
  • Oh, this video of how not to interview Sam Cassell interview is hard to watch.
  • The NBA has announced that Josh Howard has been suspended for two games after that little fracas the other night.
  • David Berri of Wages of Wins, prepare to get a lot of comments: "Let me summarize what all these tables tell us. Kobe is a great player. But he is not cursed with 'bad' teammates. In fact, his teammates could argue that they are cursed with a star that isn't quite as good as other stars. My sense is that this is not well understood because people tend to assume leading scorer means best player. When we look at Jordan, though, we see that 'best player' is about more than scoring. To be the best you need to be the total package. And Kobe isn't quite there. And this is one reason the Lakers don't compare to the top teams in the West. Their star simply doesn't compare to the top stars in the game. Now once again, who should be demanding a trade in LA?"
  • People get famous. People get rich. And throughout history, and perhaps for good reason, eventually many of them start to think everyone is out to get them.
  • Undefeated Pacers!
  • Jason Kidd having back trouble, after having just lost their backup point guard to injury, is not a good way for the Nets to start the season.
  • Mike Conley, Jr. talks dribbling.

Wednesday Bullets

October, 17, 2007
10/17/07
1:25
PM ET
  • LeBron James reportedly haggles for consumer electronics in Shanghai.
  • The Las Vegas Review Journal talks about working out with trainer Joe Abunassar in Las Vegas. They also include some details that make my inner entrepreneur want to get out a pen and paper and start scribbling. 50 NBA clients at 25k each for a year's instruction is $1.25 million. Sounds like a lot, right? But he has a massive, air-conditioned, state-of-the-art gym in Las Vegas. It even has a glass-enclosed chamber to mimic high altitude. I'm telling you, that facility costs multi-millions to purchase and outfit. And some of those costs (like keeping the place up to date with the latest equipment, and air conditioning away the desert) don't go away. Then you tack on whatever crazy liability insurance comes with having multimillionaire athletes do dangerous things every day on the premises. Then you start adding in all the nutritionists, assistant coaches, receptionists, and the like. Then there's whatever it costs -- a lot I'm guessing -- to court this hard-to-reach clientele. And I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty. My point is: 25k may sound like a lot, but it's not easy money for Abunassar, I'd wager. I bet the success of that business depends a lot on what you can do to drive revenue in that facility during the regular season, when NBA players aren't there.
  • When I first skimmed this China Daily article by Zhao Rui, I thought I was reading some goofy quote from some goofy fan. (But even then it didn't make all that much sense.) Then I read again, and realized this quote was attributed to Nike's CEO, Mark Parker: "Nike has even sponsored the LBJ Museum in Shanghai, a display dedicated to all things LeBron. The opening ceremony of the museum on Monday, attended by James and Nike CEO Mark Parker, attracted some 2,000 fans eager to catch a glimpse of the basketball phenomenon. 'I'm proud of watching him play. I'm mad about him,' he said. 'I think he is more than an individual. He has started a new craze across the world. I will support him like I'll cry for China at the Olympic Games.'"Cry for China? Is this a translation thing?
  • TrueHoop reader Mike: "I'm watching the Bulls/Wizards game and Stacey King just compared Oleksiy Pecherov to Family Guy's Stewie Griffin."
  • Dave from BlazersEdge emails: "We were talking about Stephon's track record with the 'Wolves, Suns, and Knicks and have decided that he's had such a profound effect he deserves his own verb. I'm not sure if this has been thought of before. It seems too good not to have been. But just in case it hasn't I propose that what's wrong with the Knicks can be summed up in three words: They've been Marburied."
  • John Hollinger, the New York Sun, with some strategies for the Knicks to get Kobe Bryant. Try as I might, though, I can't see post-microfracture, non-winner Zach Randolph starring in such a deal.
  • Racism was codified as law not that long ago in the U.S. We have reversed the laws, but haven't done much of anything concrete to bring together those races who were once so clearly at odds. Nonetheless, every time someone smells a whiff of racial tension, there's someone else at the ready to say it couldn't possibly be so. Yesterday I linked to a Cosellout blog post that discussed many facets of Steve Nash, including how fantastic he is, and how he might benefit from being white. Today there's a Hardwood Paroxysm post saying, essentially, that race couldn't possibly be part of the reason mostly white writers gave white Nash nearly four times as many first-place MVP votes as LeBron James.
  • Also, a thoughtful article from a couple of years ago pointing out that the racial melting pot of the NBA is not so melted, (making it, I guess, more of a chunky stew). Daniel Greenstone, writing on PopPolitics.com, discusses the oft-noted reality that commentators tend to compare players of the same race. Good white players are may more likely to be the "next Larry Bird" for instance. (He has great examples of Keith Van Horn or Jason Williams.) Greenstone concludes: "Contemporary ethnographic studies have confirmed, speaking generally, that blacks and whites still have different values about athletics and performance. One study that was detailed in Thomas Kochman's Black and White Styles in Conflict (University of Chicago, 1981) found that when first graders were asked to relate a story to their classmates, white students were literal, obedient and modest, placing great value on uniformity. Black students, meanwhile, emphasized individuality and vitality. That these different values have tended to produce different modes of playing basketball should surprise us no more than the idea that black and white ministers have different styles of oratory. Of course, in the post civil rights era, it should hardly be a shock to find white players playing 'black' and black players playing 'white.' So what are we to make of the fact that, even now, so few people in the world of basketball seem capable of seeing past skin color to the qualities possessed by individual players? The idea that race retains a powerful hold in the minds of the basketball community should not, I think, detract from the progress that the NBA has made. Rather, the persistence of racial stereotypes, even in the face of clear examples, like Van Horn and Williams, who do not fit the mold, may suggest just how difficult it is for even well intentioned Americans to think outside of racial categories. It may, too, suggest how far American society has to go before it can truly be considered colorblind."
  • The Swiss Mister can dunk. (Watch the in-game self-pass alley-oop. Was that intentional?)
  • Nothing to do with basketball (I'm trying to think of some gambling/cheating/Tim Donaghy angle) but this tale of cheating at poker is fascinating.
  • Graphing the points of a turnaround in the moods of Portland fans.
  • Everyone is crazy about Marco Belinelli, right? He made a great first impression in summer league, that's for sure. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress is a little more measured in his praise, shall we say, in an interview on Golden State of Mind. After pointing out that Belinelli is a super streaky shooter (his percentages were poor in Europe last year) Givony gets to talking defense: "Belinelli was once considered an excellent defender, but as his role offensively grew, along with his status in Italy (and thus, his ego)--his defense fell off a cliff. Most European coaches I talked to called him a liability at the Euroleague level, even if he does have potential here due to his length and quickness as noted. The problem is the NBA is a lot more physical than Europe, and Beli isn't the strongest guy in the world as you probably noticed." Givony then goe
    s on to say that he doesn't think Belinelli can play point guard either, because he's more of a gunner and finisher than creator, and he's too soft to make things happen in the lane.
  • This scuffle between the Kings and the Mavericks ... watching on video, don't you get the feeling it all started with Brad Miller just getting confused, and shoving the wrong dude? Devin Harris was not the guy he had been tangling with.
  • Kenyon Martin's first game in roughly a thousand years: 11 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes. Carmelo Anthony is sold.
  • Too many kind-of-good big men in Seattle creates a paradox: a shortage of talent, and a logjam.
  • Again, not really basketball, but excellent: the New Yorker on "the Wire."
  • Dwight Howard had 31 and 14 as the Magic win in Shanghai against the Cavaliers.
  • Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon-Journal: "LeBron James again played pretty well, scoring 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting. He's acting like a superstar, no doubt. I must say, though, that LeBron's defense continues to be suspect at times. He's had his moments, as he did with Team USA over the summer, but he still gets beat often. No big deal in the grand scheme, but I think it deserves to be pointed out."
  • Sports get no respect on campus.
  • Competition for ESPN's John Hollinger from Jazz owner Larry Miller, who has a super hokey statistical formula of his own.
  • The Bulls are saying to themselves this morning: There's somebody in the NBA called Dom McGuire? And he blocked six of our shots last night?
  • Remember we talked about Al Thornton dunking over a 6-11 guy? Watch.
  • Halloween for an NBA rookie, as described by Mike Barrett on Blazers.com: "The first player I ran into on Monday morning was Jarrett Jack, who was asking for advice about what costumes to dress the rookies in for Halloween. I reminded Jarrett that we'll be in New Orleans on Halloween night this year, but that didn't seem to matter. I asked if the rookies will be given a choice on what costumes they'll be asked to wear, and he just gave me a strange look and said, 'heck no.' So, we've got that to look forward to."
  • A real NBA reporter wants you real people to help manage his fantasy NBA team.
  • The new Dirk Nowitzki site cracks me up, the way his big mug directs you around the site. Funny. (Via Ball in Europe)
  • David Stern is in China, talking.
  • Rome, through the eyes of Rajon Rondo on his Yardbarker blog: "Me and E. House clowned around a lot...we took these pictures dressed up like gladiators...we were wildn. We spent most of our time over there eating and playing cards though. KG likes to play this game called booray (if that's how you spell it)..I don't mess with that game though...you can lose all your money too quick."

Thursday Bullets

October, 11, 2007
10/11/07
2:15
PM ET
  • Scary times for Etan Thomas, who is having open heart surgery today to repair a leaky aortic valve. Former Syracuse teammate Jason Mallin chimes in on the blog FromCourtside: "As a former teammate and friend of Etan, I wanted to wish him the best of luck with his surgery and a quick recovery. Etan is a man of great intellect and maturity well beyond his years. He wasn't the kind of guy you would find partying at the bar or getting into trouble. He is an individual thinker with strong beliefs but most of all he is a nice, caring and thoughtful person. Thinking back to our college days I recall many fond memories with Etan. We spent a fair amount of time together, being not only teammates but also business majors. Some of those memories include joking around as we sat bored out of our minds in managerial accounting, talking after practice or on road trips, driving around picturesque Syracuse, NY in his Tahoe as we headed to the mall or even to grab a quick bite. I always enjoyed Etan's company. It's been a few years since I last spoke to Etan. In fact, the last time I saw him was when the Wizards were in town to face the NY Knicks and I arrived at the Garden early. I recall him calling me down to the court as the players were shooting around. We caught up for a few minutes underneath the basket as he told security to let me on the court. I remember feeling very happy for Etan knowing how far he had come to make it in the NBA. He wasn't the most naturally gifted athlete, and was also undersized, however he was an extremely hard worker that persevered to become a defensive presence in the League."
  • Houston, don't say you weren't warned. There will be some very loud Greek fans in the Toyota Center tonight.
  • There are many arguments that top college athletes should stay in school. The more corruption we learn about in college sports, and the more athletes don't seem to be getting real educations, the less intriguing most of them are to me. Here's the other side of the argument, from Damon Agnos: "The last month has been a bad one for last year's star 7-foot freshmen: Greg Oden has had knee surgery, Spencer Hawes has been scheduled for knee surgery, and Brook Lopez has been declared academically ineligible for the first part of the season. Meanwhile, one-time surefire 1st round pick and current 1st round age limit casualty Bill Walker struggles to recover his trademark explosiveness after having his ACL fixed. Had he been born a year earlier, he'd be rehabbing on the dime of an NBA club, with another couple years of guaranteed pay ahead of him. Sort of like prep-to-pro Robert Swift, who's been paid handsomely to recover from knee surgery, or Swift's classmate Shaun Livingston, who may never play again but who can now afford decades of tuition payments. The lesson, college stars? Don't believe the hype -- unless the hype is that you're a consensus first-round pick. And as soon as that's the case, get out."
  • Basketbawful has the goods on a Mehmet Okur beverage commercial from Turkey. The product is called "Dimes:" "Forget Russell versus Chamberlain or Magic versus Bird; this is Mehmet Okur versus Mehmet Okur. I hate to ruin the surprise for you, but Mehmet Okur wins. Of course, the real winner is anybody who drinks Dimes. Seriously, I think Memo had a drinkgasm at the end of this clip. Have you ever in your entire life seen a look of such totally refreshed satisfaction on a human face? If you said yes, you're lying." Also, I'd point out that according to this commercial, in Turkey, apparently, in one-on-one, you check the ball in at half-court.
  • Ron Hitley of Hornets247: "With apologies to their fans, methinks the Pacers are the most insignificant team in the NBA right now. Perhaps insignificant is the wrong word. It's just that if the Hornets killed my family or something, thus forcing me to pick a new favorite team, the last team I'd pick would be the Pacers. They're just... ugh."
  • Luis Scola puts his finger on a difference between NBA and European basketball, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Luis Scola had his first welcome to the NBA moments into Tuesday's game, repeatedly getting called for moving screens, fouls he said would not be called in Spanish League or Euroleague games. 'It was a big difference,' Scola said. 'You saw it. They call fouls every time. That's the difference. I have to stop doing it and doing it different, the way they do it here. It's no big deal. Don't move, I guess.'"
  • Interesting account of how teams should and should not credential bloggers.
  • Brian Windhorst writes about Cleveland's training camp for ESPN.com. After detailing the misery of the off-season -- instead of fresh talent, there's last season's roster minus holdouts Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao, and injured Eric Snow, plus effective player Damon Jones wants to be traded -- Windhorst writes: "The news isn't all bleak at Cavs camp, though. James arrived in excellent shape after a summer of hard work. After the Spurs had used his inconsistent jumper against him by playing off him and daring him to shoot during the Finals -- he shot just 35 percent in the four games -- James swore he would improve. After looking at several different shooting coaches, James practically had Cavs assistant coach Chris Jent live with him over the summer. Jent flew around the country on James' private jet to various locales and worked on shooting whenever James got time around sponsor commitments and vacations. The results showed with Team USA, when he averaged 18.1 points and shot a shocking 62 percent from 3-point range. 'LeBron could've just taken the summer off and nobody would've blamed him,' Cavs coach Mike Brown said. 'He's showing a lot of dedication, and that's what you want from your leaders.'"
  • Ian Whittell is awesome, huh? He's writing for ESPN.com from London: "NBA commissioner David Stern stressed Wednesday that he has not ruled out the possibility of taking punitive action against the New York Knicks or coach Isiah Thomas in the wake of the civil action that reached its conclusion last week. Stern also revealed that the league will not be firing any more of its referees after interviewing all 60 on staff in an attempt to unearth further conduct violations following the Tim Donaghy betting scandal." Then Stern goes on to get all mad at the New York Times. Worth a read. Also, here's video of Stern's press conference.
  • Great newsreel footage of a then 17-year-old: "Remember the name, Wilt Chamberlain -- It will probably make big sports copy for years to come."
  • The Oregonian has famously warre
    d with the Blazers on a number of fronts in recent years. But the war is over. Consider the comments of new Oregonian Blazer beat writer Joe Freeman (who, by the way, has been doing great work) as quoted by BlazersEdge: "I can't imagine there being an easier, more accommodating franchise to work with. Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan are extremely accessible and forthcoming. The players seem to be genuinely nice and hardworking. And the public relations and communications staff is friendly and helpful. I can't speak to what things were like before I hit the scene in the spring, but I have heard horror stories about the previous regime. There has been a great transformation with this franchise on the court and off the court, and I think it has been overwhelmingly positive."
  • I just got this email from TrueHoop reader Angel who says that if you look at Gilbert Arenas' online Halo 3 profile you will see that he has been victorious in a lot of games that were only a few seconds long. This is a known method to boost your rankings, although it is generally considered cheating. Do we know this is Gilbert Arenas doing this? We do not. But he did once say in his blog that he uses the name "Agent Arenas." UPDATE: Here's video of Arenas bragging about his Halo 3 ranking, saying things like: "I'm pretty talented, you know, I actually was beating the pros who were the pros in Halo 2 but not pros in Halo 3 ... for a while I was the number one player in Halo 3 until everyone got it."
  • Long, long, long interview from this summer with O.J. Mayo.
  • The Grizzlies are desperate to show they are a new team with a new attitude. New coach, new GM, new players ... and they came out of the gate with a loss to Unicaja Malaga. Whoops. Means nothing, but would have been better if it didn't happen that way. The thing to watch on that team: how do they play Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley Jr., Juan Carlos Navarro, and Damon Stoudamire? They're all real NBA players, and they can't all find time. Conley himself blogs about the game: "Yesterday we had our first pre season game and i had nerves running all through my body! It was different because of the hostile environment. I had never played over seas before and the fans love basketball. You could hear random whistles coming out of the stands and all of the different horns that people would play. I thought we werent mentally ready to play from the beginning of the game. But in the second half Kyle Lowry really stepped up when no one else was and helped get us back into the game. The other team made some tough plays down the stretch in order to beat us by a couple of points but i think it was a learning experience for both my teammates and I."
  • Remember Sedale Threatt? Yesterday The New York Times published a Michael Weinreb article which quoted the mother of one his children estimating Threatt might have as many as 14 kids. One of the two kids he has called Sedale Threatt Jr. (with different mothers) is the starting quarterback for Lehigh. If he's anything like his mom, Nadine Jackson, he's one tough dude: "Over the years, Jackson and her son moved frequently and endured a number of struggles, both financial and emotional. When Sedale Jr. was about 18 months old, a fire at the house where they were living in Boston killed Jackson's grandmother and her aunt's two babies. Her 10-year-old cousin leapt out of a second-floor window into her arms. Jackson said most of her salary from her job at the Gillette Company went toward care for Sedale Jr. 'We had nothing but the clothes on our back,' she said. Jackson said she refused to go on welfare, in part to serve as an example to her son. They bounced between various residences for several years. She and Sedale Jr. recalled that their overtures toward his father were repeatedly rebuffed; Sedale Jr. spent a couple of weeks with his father in Arizona as part of a court order when he was a teenager, but has not seen him since. But Jackson also refused to paint an overtly negative portrait of him. 'People would say: 'How can you do this? You're giving your child false hope,'' she said. 'But I didn't want him to be another young man whose father walked out on him. I didn't want him to be a young angry black man.' Jackson, who eventually became director of community relations for the New England Patriots, now works at an investment bank and lives in a house in Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood. She sent her son to private schools, and said that although Sedale Sr. promised to help pay the tuition at Lehigh, he had yet to contribute."
  • Matt from Blogabull on Joakim Noah's first pre-season game: "The guy I was really impressed with was Noah. Sure, his first possession was a jumphook chucked off the backboard. He was good at what we were told he was good at: passing, catching, defense, and rebounding. He'll fit in well with the Bulls big men with an uncanny ability to get his hands on loose balls and even pitching in a few steals. He finished strong and above the rim, and showed impressive athleticism when blocking and challenging shots. He's ready to join the frontcourt rotation right away."
  • Golden State's Kelenna Azubuike has barely been in the NBA long enough to learn his way into the locker room, but has already dropped 27 preseason points on the Lakers.
  • Quoting Sactown Royalty: "The Kevin Durant Show, Starring Kevin Martin." In Durant's first game, Martin scores 27 points on 11 shots. It's hard to help on Martin, because he scores within a second or two of posessing the ball. Durant will look better against other players.
  • Pat Riley called out Antoine Walker in the media, again, for his conditioning. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel: "What did the Heat expect when it added Walker in the 2005 offseason? His current conditioning numbers are actually better than when he was acquired. This is who is he, what he is, and what he always has been."
  • Newsday's Ken Berger on Allan Houston's new deal with the Knicks: "Houston got a one-year deal, but the real mystery is whether it's guaranteed. Since a roster spot isn't guaranteed, logic would suggest that the contract isn't either. But with the Knicks, you never know. They won the Randolph Morris derby, for example, by guaranteeing his two-year deal and not prorating his salary last season."
  • Blazers.com's Mike Barrett on a Blazer who shone against the Clippers: "Martell Webster had the most impressive game offensively, scoring 28 points on 11 of 14 shooting. He had 22 in the second half, and scored in a variety of ways. He's talked of wanting to be more aggressive in takin
    g the ball to the rim, as well as shooting from distance, which he obviously has down." Sergio Rodriguez had seven assists and one turnover. Taurean Green was solid. LaMarcus Aldridge, again playing well. Brandon Roy didn't play, but says he has no pain. If Roy and Aldridge stay healthy, this is not a cellar-dwelling team.
  • Keeping tabs on Roko Leni Ukic, a tall point guard I was all over in the 2005 draft.
  • Speaking of over-sized Europeans I have adored in drafts, here's Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Kyrylo Fesenko's game will be remember for the untucked jersey episode in the fourth quarter. That will overshadow what he did in the second quarter, when he had seven points and drove for a really nice left-handed basket. Maybe it isn't such a sure thing that he's headed to the NBA Development League this season."
  • Mark Cuban produced a hard-hitting documentary about Iraq, but the documentary's director is not at all happy with Cuban at the moment.
  • The genius who gave "Agent Zero" his nickname is ready to set up Washington Post beat writers Michael Lee and Ivan Carter with nicknames of their own. Hilarious, and a little strong in the language department.
  • UPDATE: Now that his Yankees have been vanquished, LeBron James is supporting the Indians. Via Deadspin.

Us Portland fans have been through it. Everyone loves Greg Oden all summer. They dance on the Rose Garden floor, literally, when the pick is announced. Then he gets hurt -- an unforeseeable event -- and suddenly a big chunk of Blazer fans are traveling back in time, and revisiting that same decision to draft Oden, that they loved back in June.

In Charlotte, they're doing the same thing with Sean May, and the blog Queen City Hoops nails it:

There are two schools of thought into time travel (at least when it comes to movies). First is the romanticized version of time travel, as depicted in movies like "Back 2 the Future" -- travelers have the ability to change the past, which ultimately changes everything else from there on. Marty goes back to his parents' high school prom, spills crap on the bully, and his dad winds up a successful science fiction writer.

The other version of time travel is not as pleasant. The other depiction shows characters as being able to go back in time and be part of the past, but this had already happened, so the present/future does not change. In "12 Monkeys," James Cole goes back in time, realizes who spreads the virus that will ultimately wipe out most of the human race, and dies unable to do anything about it.

Being a sports fan is more like being James Cole. As fans, we look at moves made in the past and see ways to correct them or better them. As Bobcats fans, that is what we are dealing with right now. Sean May's injury has created a new "virus" that we feel the need to go back and stop ... Instead, what matters is to take what lessons we can from the past and apply them going forward.

Pretty awesome video follow up.

Training Camp Notes

October, 1, 2007
10/01/07
5:59
PM ET
  • A full transcription of Kobe Bryant's quotes today from Inside the Lakers, including this: "I think there was a lot of speculation about whether I was going to show up for camp or whatever, but we wanted to keep things behind closed doors and amongst ourselves going forward. Management knew. There was never a doubt and never a doubt in my mind." And this about his boss, Jerry Buss: "Well, what I understand about Jerry, from the stuff people have been telling me, is that he's kind of been out of the loop for the last two years, for just to see how the organization would run, or what have you. My understanding is that he's kind of going to be back in the mix now."
  • Dikembe Mutombo re-signs in Houston. Daryl Morey deserves a lot of credit for making the Rockets better than ever. But what happens with this roster? Rafer Alston, Shane Battier, Aaron Brooks, Jackie Butler, Steve Francis, Mike Harris, Chuck Hayes, Luther Head, Mike James, Carl Landry, John Lucas III, Tracy McGrady, Dikembe Mutombo, Brad Newley, Steve Novak, Justin Reed, Luis Scola, Kirk Snyder, Bob Sura, Jake Tsakalidis (FA), Bonzi Wells, and Yao Ming. That's 22 players, right? They have to get down to 15. And they paid a bunch of money for the pick that became the unsigned Landry. (UPDATE: Whoops, turns out Landry is signed.) If he doesn't make the team that was pure folly. So maybe Sura and Lucas are not going to make it. Butler? Is he out? Newley I guess will head overseas. There's a lot of cutting to be done.
  • Dirk Nowitzki isn't exactly grabbing that leadership position by the throat. The blog of the Dallas Morning News quotes him as saying today: "We'll see if we find a good way for me to lead, as we tried to do the last couple years."
  • Jarrett Jack and Steve Blake are in a close contest to see who will start at point guard for the Portland Trail Blazers. Jack admits that. But he does not admit that they are in a close contest to see who dresses better. Jack wins that one, he claims, by a long shot.
  • One of the big jokes of the off-season was that if you spent a bunch of money on tickets to see Kevin Garnett this year, you'd end up also seeing a lot of ... [insert name of the many lesser-known Celtics who are a big drop-off in star value]. Perhaps the easiest name to insert into that sentence is the 32nd pick in this year's draft, Gabe Pruitt. But now Pruitt has hurt himself and is day-to-day. So maybe you won't even see him.
  • Pruitt is being missed already. Check out Glen "Big Baby" Davis's blog entry from Rome: "I got out a little Sunday night, and we got to see some things. The Spanish Steps were nice. It was a whole bunch of us. It was fine until I had my first rookie duty. Gabe (Pruitt) wasn't there, so I had to do it alone. I had to eat a whole plate of octopus. I think that's one of the toughest things I ever did in my life. I ate raw octopus. Everybody was like, 'Eat it. Eat it. You'd better eat it.' So I ate it. You know, team spirit."
  • Tony Massenburg has a deal with the Wizards, and if he makes it into a game this year he will have played for his 13th NBA team, a record. the 40-year-old was out of the League last year, recovering from a car accident.
  • Getting to know the people who know Yi Jianlian.

As Ball in Europe tells it, Portland's first-round pick will endure a special version of conscription, for elite athletes, that doesn't mess with their day job too much.

Still, I'm sure it's no picnic. 

Here's a TrueHoop interview with Koponen from before the draft, in which he explains that Santa Claus is really from Finland. 

Tuesday Bullets

September, 25, 2007
9/25/07
1:43
PM ET
  • Greg Oden had it bad when he was, essentially, stuck living on a bed in his living room. You could argue he has it worse now, as that living room is being shared with a puppy that is not house-trained. Oden blogs: "His name is Charles Barkley McLovin and he is my new dog. He is a Boston/Beagle. He is not too big because i cant have a big dog while im renting my house. He is very quiet, hasnt even barked since i had him so far. He does of course pee in the house, making me mad. I know it takes time to train a dog, but don't you wish that a dog can just be born knowing to go to the restroom outside and to eat his food out of the dish?" (Via Jen's Free Throws)
  • The riddle of Shawn Marion.
  • Wearing number two isn't good in any setting, but it's especially bad if you're a Chicago Bull.
  • Dee Brown has played in the NBA, is now headed to Turkey, and plans to return to the NBA one day. That would make his career a Turkey sandwich. He's just hoping there isn't too much Turkey in there.
  • Look who made the Forbes list of top ten pundits!
  • After reading this account of playing basketball overseas, I'm thinking TrueHoop needs to open an office in Greece.
  • A whole mess of links to video highlights of incoming college freshmen (some of whom are potential stars of the 2008 NBA draft).
  • Don't you get the feeling that Larry Brown must be loving this Isiah Thomas trial? His case all along was that things stunk at Madison Square Garden. Also, this is worth noting.
  • Boston still needs a big man.
  • Car detailing, I have heard, is expensive. The guy with the beard cleaning cars in these photos is a multimillionaire.
  • You should probably see this video of Mark Cuban dancing, even though I don't know what it is about. (Via the Big Lead)
  • The NBA needs referees to be more friendly and likable right? How about this guy?
  • Basketball camp highlights, from coach Dan Barto: "We finished the sequence with the same drill. Only during this sequence after each player took the charge the rest of the teammates sprinted over to help the player off the ground in celebration of the great individual basketball play. The energy and emotion was bone chilling. To put an exclamation point of the whole sequence we had each of the coaches take a charge and the players from all of the teams pick the coaches up. By this time we had spectators and coaches from all of the other sports entering the gym smiling, clapping, and enjoying what sports and practice is all about. After a quick water break we brought the kids in to talk about creating positive energy and how great every kid was feeling at that moment. We asked them if they thought they would have that much fun when they arrived in the gym that morning and the answer was an overwhelming 'no.'"
  • Rules help please: TrueHoop reader Jermaine is convinced that by tossing the ball in the air and catching it again, Charles Barkley is completing an illegal self-pass. I'm thinking that without moving his feet, nor conveying any kind of advantage, it may or may not be legal, but it's certainly something that would never be called -- especially on the MVP.
  • Ranking the early favorites to win gold at the Beijing Olympics.
  • Things are getting much more exciting in Memphis.
  • UPDATE: I pretend to know something about the Golden State Warriors.

Wednesday Bullets

September, 19, 2007
9/19/07
1:39
PM ET
  • TrueHoop reader Brandon suggests that Anfernee Hardaway is not worth nearly what he once was worth. Instead of "Penny," he suggests, we should call him "Peso" Hardaway.
  • You have to respect Jim O'Brien for this lovely comment. He's out pressing the flesh with Pacer fans something fierce. Here's how the Indianapolis Star's Amy Hyerczyk recites one key message, as recalled by local Kiwanis member Greg Fennig: "'He sat down with a bunch of us at our table and asked us what we thought was most important for him to be successful,' Fennig said. 'We all just kind of sat there, scratching our heads, not sure what to say. He responded with one word: love. He said that it will be about getting the guys to respect each other and care about each other and work together. Those are the critical elements.'"
  • The current Dime magazine (this article not online, sadly) has an Austin Burton profile of Caron Butler. Brace yourself for profound honesty from Butler about the dark days of his youth as a member of Racine, Wisconsin's Gangster Disciples. It has this eye-popping quote: "Basketball took me all over the world, farther than selling narcotics took me." He also admits that he never was all that into basketball until he did some long hours locked up in solitary confinement while doing time for a gun charge. Then he started hooping hard in the lock-up -- winner took Little Debbie cakes -- and when he got out he joined an AAU team, determined never to make it back to a correctional institution. Very good read, and I salute him for his honesty.
  • If you're in the Boston area, you can go see Sonny Vaccaro speak at Harvard Law School tonight.
  • Logos on caskets and urns. Baseball people take things so seriously.
  • You have to wonder if Greg Oden will return with that killer attitude. So far, so good.
  • The best high-school players of recent history.
  • The scoop on Rudy Fernandez.
  • I once read the book Swee' Pea, about Lloyd Daniels, a great player, but one of the most addiction-prone humans ever to step on a basketball court. At one point, they even sent him to play in New Zealand where, at the time, apparently, there were no drugs. So he reportedly drank INSANE quantities of beer instead. Now Lloyd Daniels' agent is talking about him.
  • Brandan Wright blogs on AOL about, among other things, Greg Oden: "I am pretty good friends with Greg Oden, though. I hung out with him a bunch at the rookie photo shoot. He's a really cool, really quiet guy. He's nice and down to earth too. We talked a bunch, played video games, typical guy stuff. His whole situation is really unfortunate. Injuries and surgery are part of the game; it's just one of those unfortunate things. But I think Greg will come back strong. He has to be patient with the process, though. It's tough to sit out for a long time and then have to come back like you've never been gone. What's most difficult is he's going to have to be a rookie again next season. I think a big thing about your rookie year isn't just playing the games but learning about all the off-the-court stuff. Unfortunately, he's going to have to wait to learn a lot of this stuff. But I'm sure he'll be fine. (I've been lucky. The worst injury I've ever had is a sprained ankle. I hurt my hip a little while ago, but it's totally fine now. I've never even had to have surgery or anything. Knock on wood ...)"
  • Why doesn't Hassan Adams have a job?
  • This American Life is a fantastic radio show, and they just rebroadcast a 17-minute long interview with Luis Da Silva, who starred in those Nike ballhandling commercials six years ago.
  • Keith Bradsher in The New York Times: "... the N.B.A. plans to announce Wednesday the formation of a Chinese subsidiary. To head it, the league has chosen Timothy Chen, chief executive of Microsoft's China operations and one of the best-known business executives in China. For the N.B.A., China is a growth opportunity. It is already the N.B.A.'s largest market outside the United States. Nearly a third of the traffic to NBA.com comes to the Mandarin Chinese side of the site."
  • Forget the salary cap. For some teams, the challenge is to keep certain players under the calorie cap.
  • This is ridiculous. (If Portland thought Greg Oden was going to get injured, why would they have picked him?)
  • Guess which NBA rookie had a million questions for Bill Russell? That's right, Joakim Noah. Memo to everyone else: if you ever wanted a winner of a role model ...
  • Bill Laimbeer and Swin Cash (who shared a table at an All-Star media session in Las Vegas, and were both very smiley at the time) are now locked in a player vs. coach spat for the ages.
  • The Madison Square Garden case rolls on.
  • Bethlehem Shoals of FreeDarko makes a convincing case (language!) that Vince Carter is not built, mentally, for basketball. But then he shows us video of a game-changing alley-oop windmill dunk, and all is forgiven.
  • Etan Thomas on the bad doings in Jena, Louisiana.
  • Comparing Jason Kidd and John Stockton. Did you know Stockton only ever had one triple double?
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel talks to an anonymous NBA scout about Charlie Bell: "... the scout said Bell not only sets up well as the primary
    backup at shooting guard to Dwyane Wade, but that he could also envision Bell closing games alongside Wade because of his defensive tenacity -- sort of a Damon Jones who can play both ends of the court. The scout said there is no way first-round pick Daequan Cook would emerge, in the short term, anywhere close to Bell's current level. The scout, though, warned not to overstate Bell at point guard, rating him as little more than a fallback option. He said a Bell/Smush Parker combo in the absence of Jason Williams would not be enough to guide a contender. But he also said Bell is a far superior player to Parker on both ends of the court, going as far as to question why the Heat was so quick to sign Parker or why it even tapped into its mid-level exception for the former Laker."
  • UPDATE: Re-capping the argument that Allen Iverson is not an efficient NBA player, in a column that the New York Times never ran.

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