TrueHoop: Sneaker Wars

Friday Bullets

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
1:37
PM ET

Posted by Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell.

  •  I'm always more sympathetic to players who test positive for PEDs when the phrase "over the counter" is part of the story. If a substance is readily available to your local high school football team, why would we slap the hands of professional athletes for taking it? Well, as you might have guessed, that sort of reasoning is entirely too simplistic. Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is only available by way of a sad piece of legislative history. Jeff Passan details that episode in this article. Go read Passan's take, and when you're done join me in giving the NBA three cheers for having more integrity on this issue than MLB. The NBA has its warts, but I'm happy that looking the other way on DHEA is not one of them. (Thanks to Third Quarter Collapse for bringing our attention to the Passan piece.)
  • Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus frames the Rashard Lewis discussion differently than most: "Performance enhancers are a fact of life. Rather than pouring all of these resources into vilifying athletes that made choices no different than what 99% of us would have made, perhaps it would be better to legitimize the industry and work to make PEDs safe. After all, the reason that they have been declared illegal by the FDA isn't because they allow you to hit a baseball farther (if it's true that that is the case); they are illegal because they have unacceptable risks for potentially lethal side effects. Modern athletes are serving as guinea pigs for a developing arm of pharmacology that in 20 years, no one is likely to object to...if they have found ways for all of us to improve the quality of our lives."
  • Will the Rashard Lewis suspension dramatically impact the playoff race? One stat geek says not so much: "As far as I'm concerned, the only relevance this news has is this: The Magic will lose the services of an excellent player for 10 games. But Orlando projects to be a deep team this season and when I reduce Lewis' playing time projection by 10% and up that of players like Mickael Pietrus, Matt Barnes and Ryan Anderson, I see that the Magic's win projection drops from 52 to 51. That is all that really matters."
  • Marvin Williams is set to re-sign with the Hawks. Really, it's true this time.
  • Jon Nichols of Hardwood Paroxysm takes a smart look at shot selection in the final two minutes of games.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies fascinate me. Memphis GM Chris Wallace recently spoke to Chip Crain of 3 Shades of Blue and placed the size of his team's scouting staff in perspective. Michael Heisley takes a beating in the press, but Ronald Tillery makes an argument that Heisley does some things very well. And in a companion piece, Heisley paints himself as Clay Bennett's opposite. Who knew that the Grizzlies were so provocative?
  • Russell Westbrook tells Dime about all the hard work that has gone into his vertical leap. (Thanks to Royce Young of Daily Thunder for the alert.)
  • Someone else who thinks the Lakers lost in the Ariza/Artest exchange.
  • Ridiculous Upside reconsiders the question of whether to play in the D-League or Europe. And, don't look now, but they're out in full force defending the Grizzlies too
  • Neil Paine of Basketball Reference provides a bunch of data that adds up in this way: "...it appears that there's a very slight trend over the last decade that says teams who rely on their guards and smaller players tend to win a few more games over the course of a season. This makes sense, given that the league spent most of the Oughts trying to tip the advantage in favor of perimeter scorers with modifications to the rules on hand-checking and more liberal foul calls on drives in general."
  • Meet Dr. Foot.
  • You have to appreciate Tony Parker's candor. He tells L'Equipe that his recent return to San Antonio was upsetting and that he plans to gradually work himself back into his national team's rotation. They have a heavy schedule between now and training camp. (HT: Kace)
  • I spent the morning listening to a terrific Blazer's Edge podcast with Kevin Pelton. If you don't have time to listen to the entire podcast, skip to segment 4 where Benjamin Golliver and Pelton pick up the hot-button topic of Moneyball, scouting, and the changing face of player evaluation in the NBA. (Soft caution: PG-13 audio between clips.)
  • Jeremy Tyler will not be playing for Union Olympija Lubiana
  • Kurt Rambis is the leading candidate to become the T-Wolves next head coach. Shaquille O'Neal is not the GM in Minnesota
  • Most of the emails I received today were about the new Nike promotional featuring Kevin Durant, Mo Williams and Rashard Lewis.  
  • Save Our Sonics thinks James Donaldson has the best chance of restoring an NBA franchise to Seattle.
  • Bethlehem Shoals says meh to the much ballyhooed free agent race of 2010. Chad Ford says these nine teams are in that race.
  • Update: Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching learns that upon being drafted Terrence Williams was immediately enamored by New Jersey's market size. That Terrence Williams caught on quick.

Not Smelling Like a Rose

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
11:04
PM ET

Remember back when Derrick Rose was in high school, and there were all those articles about how Derrick was so lucky to have his brothers keeping him away from all the scum of recruiting?

Now it's time to start asking how well that worked out.

Of course, you have probably seen the reports about how Memphis is being investigated for this and that. Derrick Rose's brother Reggie's name is coming up a lot. ESPN.com News Services:

Another violation alleged by the NCAA was that a person, according to sources Rose's brother, Reggie, was permitted to travel on the team plane at no cost on two different occasions. The value of the trips was $1,125. The same person was allowed to stay in the team hotel at no cost on five different occasions for a value of $1,135.

"We sell seats all of the time," Johnson said of the team plane. "Anybody is eligible to go. We don't say, 'You can't go because of this or that.' If they pay, they'll go. We'll continue to do that. The way finances are, that's one of the big things on a charter, you have to do things that will help your team. Tiger fans get to go on the charters [if they pay]."

In basketball circles, while Derrick was at Memphis, Reggie was a mystery. He split time between Memphis and Chicago. He jetted around. But he didn't have any obvious means of support.

Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial Appeal asked Reggie Rose about it at the time. This is how he responded:

"I've got an AAU foundation out of Chicago through Nike, and I'm a director, and I work with inner-city youth in Chicago," he said. "I'm employed by Nike through AAU basketball. Then I've got a nonprofit organization that helps out kids from the Englewood community."

Wait, did Reggie Rose misunderstand that question? He was asked how he makes money, not how he gives it away. Aren't non-profits for giving goods and services away?

I know some people who work in the non-profit world. Money is tight all around! It's something people tend to do as a sinkhole of money -- not as a source. Reggie Rose tells us he's integral to not one, but two, non-profits.

This is a fascinating answer, in this day and age. I have mentioned more than once on TrueHoop that basketball sources are buzzing about the increased use of non-profits as ways to solve the age-old problem of needing to funnel money to recruits who are supposed to be amateurs. That was a factor in the O.J. Mayo case, and word is non-profits are popping up more regularly around young prospects.

(And let me add here, that I don't much care about someone like Derrick, or even Reggie, Rose making some money. In my perfect world, elite players like Rose would realize the value of their work in above-board fashion -- instead of navigating the underworld of amateur basketball. What concerns me are the people paying. Who are they? What do they want? Why are they so unwilling to let players act freely? When cash is king in steering players to this or that college, agent, sponsor or something else, then we as fans are investing our energy and passion into an endeavor that is not what it purports to be. I'm in the business of understanding what it really is.)

You hate to second-guess somebody's community work, though. So I tried like crazy to find records of Reggie Rose's non-profit. Non-profits are required to file various papers, which are searchable online. Searching every way I know how, I could not find any Chicago-area non-profit with Reggie Rose's name on it. (I also talked to Wolken, who tells me he did the same thing, with the same result.) I found various things with names and missions that theoretically could have been his foundation. But not with Reggie Rose's name.

And here's another weird thing: If you're running a non-profit, and you're close to super-famous Derrick Rose, then you have one thing going for you: The media is all over Derrick Rose, and the media can help you spread the word and raise money. And it's a good cause! You're helping kids! This foundation could even boost Derrick's profile in the eyes of NBA teams and potential corporate sponsors. Wouldn't you be singing the story of the non-profit into every microphone that strayed near you? Where are the photos from this non-profits events?

I also searched for times Reggie Rose mentioned his non-profit to the media. The only one I could find was in response to Wolken's question about how Rose supported himself. 

Help me out here. Help Reggie Rose out. Fill in the gaps. There must be a non-profit or two out there which were the source of Rose's income. Let's find them. Maybe you can search better than I can.

There are two main resources I know about for searching non-profit records: The Foundation Center and Guidestar.

Can you find anything?

And if we can find records of a non-profit, then we can get into the really interesting question of finding out whose money was supporting that foundation.

Renardo Sidney is one of the best high school players in the country ... and yet recently USC and UCLA withdrew their scholarship offers to him.

Sidney's now on a path to attend Mississippi State. But even that school is promising a non-trivial peek into questions like how his family could finance the lifestyle to which they have been accustomed.

Various basketball insiders admit to having paid his family for this or that thing, as Lance Pugmire has detailed nicely in a Los Angeles Times article about Sidney's complex situation.

Here's the thing, though: The kinds of things reported to have happened in this case? There are stories somewhat like that about all kinds of top players. Many of them are, no doubt, speculation or rumor-mongering.

It's unusual, however, that they would be this public, this early in the process. I have not heard many stories at all like this one, where a top program gets so worried about these kinds of payments so as to withdraw an offer.

Makes me think the people around Renardo Sidney just must not be very good at this stuff. Because if my sources are to be believed, all kinds of elite athletes are getting away this kind of stuff.

This story does have one particular element that strikes me as particularly noteworthy -- it involves a non-profit. (I have talked about this before and believe it to be the latest trend in moving money in mysterious ways around basketball.) Pugmire writes:

Renardo Sr. and an El Monte car dealer named Richard Macias formed a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational organization called the Los Angeles/LA Dream Team Foundation.

Tax laws specify that charitable 501(c)(3) organizations such as the LA Dream Team "must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator's family. . . . No part of the net earnings . . . may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual."

Forming a nonprofit to fund a youth athletic team isn't a new strategy, according to Vaccaro, who said, "The money that comes in is supposed to fund and go to the betterment of the team, with that money obviously being focused on the team's superstar."

Federal law requires a nonprofit to allow public inspection of its application form and, if the organization has received more than $25,000 in donations in a given year, its federal Form 990. The Sidneys declined to respond to requests by The Times to inspect the LA Dream Team Foundation documents.

Here's the problem with non-profits: By and large, if money rules are broken in basketball circles, they have to do with the NCAA. You break some NCAA rules, and your amatuer status is at stake. Bad, but not the end of the world.

But non-profits ... their rules are managed by the federal government. In that sphere, there might be more rigorous investigation, and enforcement with more teeth, should anything be found to be suspect.

In the big picture, though, I can't help but wonder about all this. Here's a kid with a lot of skill and marketable attributes. Here are people who want to give him money to associate with him.

What, exactly, is the crisis here again?

To me there's nothing wrong with young people being professionals, in any field. What's wrong is a system that rewards not those who are smartest, most talented, or the best at pushing this or that product. Instead, the system rewards (with instant cash!) those among the best prospects who are most willing to flaunt the unrealistic and difficult-to-enforce rules.

(Thanks Kurt for the heads up.)

The New York Times Sunday Magazine won't come out until Sunday (or Saturday if you subscribe at home) but you can read the cover story right now online.

It's by Michael Sokolove, and it's about a young basketball player in Washington state called Allonzo Trier, who is ranked #1 in the country for his class.

You know the drill with the phenoms and the weird lives they lead.

They're like gorgeous young women. Everyone wants to help them, give them things, and invite them places. And honestly, it's because of their personality. Or whatever. (And you ask: If it's about personality, how about that normal-looking woman over there who has a way better personality? You inviting her to your beach house for the weekend?)

In the opening of the article -- which is a great read and covers far more than the one issue I'm digging into here -- Sokolove summarizes some of the weirdness surrounding this kid.

Trier has his own line of clothing emblazoned with his signature and personal motto: "When the lights come on, it's time to perform." His basketball socks, which also come gratis, are marked with either his nickname, Zo, or his area code, 206. He's expecting a shipment of Under Armour gear soon, thanks to Brandon Jennings, last year's top high-school point guard and now a highly paid pro in Italy. He is flown around the country by A.A.U. teams that want him to play for them in tournaments -- and by basketball promoters who use him to add luster to their events. A lawyer in Seattle arranged for Trier's private-school tuition and academic tutoring to be paid for by the charitable foundation of an N.B.A. player, and the lawyer also procured free dental care for Trier. 

The kicker, of course, is that Allonzo Trier is a sixth grader. These kinds of influences -- various businesses buying the allegiances of players -- are reaching younger and younger, in part because older players are already off the market. 

Now, when I first read that list of entities doing favors for young Allonzo, I nodded along. Some socks. Some shoes from another player. An AAU team with money. All fairly normal, if maybe a little disturbing, stuff. Until you get to that ... charitable foundation of an NBA player part.

Whoa, whoa, whoa ... what?

Here's what freaked me out: Remember the O.J. Mayo recruiting disaster? This is where people trying to get close to a young basketball star -- with an eye on eventually profiting from him -- allegedly used a bogus charity to funnel money to the player.

By coincidence, I have spent a fair amount of this week chasing down other such similar stories. The theory I am investigating an alleged new underground trend in recruiting. Agents, lawyers and the like endear themselves to young players by arranging for them to receive stuff of value through some third-party charity.

How can the NCAA, the IRS or anyone else get upset about a nice charity delivering needed services and support to a young person and his family?

So when I saw this, I couldn't help but wonder ... who is this lawyer in Seattle, who is this NBA player, and what is the story here anyway?

Later in the article, Sokolove answers the first two of those questions:

Rich Padden, the Seattle lawyer and investor who arranged for Trier's schooling, said he set about addressing his educational needs after hearing from Steve Goldstein and another coach in New York who had taken an interest in Trier's basketball and academic progress and had flown him in to play tournaments. Padden arranged for Trier's testing, private tutoring and tuition to be paid for by the charitable foundation established by Brandon Roy, a star with the Portland Trail Blazers. Padden served as a mentor to Roy in high school, as well as to another N.B.A. player from the Seattle area, Martell Webster. (Padden is also an investor in one of the major manufacturers of basketballs, so Trier, who goes through a lot of balls, has a reliable source for more.)

"Allonzo is the first beneficiary of the Brandon Roy Foundation, hopefully the first of hundreds or thousands," Padden said. "He fit our criteria. We would have supported him even if he were not a basketball player."

Okey dokey.

But wouldn't it be so much cleaner if the first recipient were the 100th best player in his class? Or someone who doesn't play basketball at all? Or someone who didn't have a decent shot at making lawyers, agents, sneaker companies and others lots of money one day? (By the way, Trier appears, to my inexpert eye, to be lacing on some Roy-model sneakers in the online article's main photo. UPDATE: Or not. They look like Jordans.)

Now, there's a bit of back story here.  Brandon Roy's older brother was, some say, a better player than Brandon, but had a learning disability that was diagnosed too late for him to qualify  academically for elite college basketball. His career faltered in junior college. Part of Roy's idea in starting a foundation was to help kids like that academically. Trier -- who has academic trouble -- fits the bill perfectly.

But of all kids for the foundation to help first ... Couldn't it have been anyone other than everyone's top pick to achieve stardom?

I'm going to assume this is nothing more than a kid in need of some special education getting a hand up from some colleagues in the world of elite basketball. A tip of the cap to everyone involved for that -- the education is happening no matter the motivation. (I have put out feelers to talk to some of the people involved, to get more of the story.)

Isn't it sad, though, that -- no matter what's really going on in this case -- basketball is so shady that we have to worry about motivation here?

Would it be nice if, as a precaution, everyone on Brandon Roy's business team (agents, lawyers, sneaker executives, foundation people etc.) promised never to do business with Trier, just to be extra safe?

 
Except for one little detail: With those players in those uniforms, it looks like an All-Star game. But nobody plays that hard in the All-Star game.

First Cup: Tuesday

December, 23, 2008
12/23/08
8:48
AM ET
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Rajon Rondo has been a Brett Favre fan since childhood. Thus, he also is that most silent of pariahs -- a Jets fan in Boston. But however distasteful the task may be, Celtics fans have to give props to the aging quarterback. It apparently was Favre, more than any point guard over the last 15 years, who had an impact on the rugged way Rondo plays his position. 'I grew up watching football and baseball,' said Rondo, a former high school quarterback. 'I didn't know I had hoop dreams. I watched Brett Favre. When I was in third grade they asked us to do a drawing of our favorite team, and I drew the Green Bay Packers -- green and yellow. But my main thing was Brett Favre. So now I'm a Jets fan.' More to the point, Rondo is an NBA point guard who fearlessly throws his body into the paint as if it were a goal line pileup."
  • Ivan Carter of The Washington Post: "Caron Butler said his sideline rant at the end of Sunday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks wasn't directed at any particular teammate or issue. The two-time all-star said he simply lost his cool after watching the Wizards (4-21) squander yet another winnable game with yet another poor fourth quarter performance. 'There are no Cleos around here,' said Butler in reference to the fortune teller whose ads used to run all over late-night television. 'Even [Miss] Cleo couldn't dictate this. It's just one of those situations where it's 'Man, this is not okay.' Somebody has to say something. This is not okay. It's not okay to continue to lose games like this. And I know that everyone feels that way on the inside. I just expressed it, and I expressed all the way out from deep in my tummy. I just put it out there.'"
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Chauncey Billups' legacy in Denver might extend past his final pass. The Nuggets point guard said he would like to someday be general manager of his hometown team -- 'A dream job, bro. A dream job.' How cool is that? In November, the Denver born-and-bred basketball star returned home to try to win a championship. And now, win or lose, he wants to attempt to do the same as a team executive. ... George Karl pointed out that sometimes an exec who was too talented might have a skewed mind-set, thinking 'the game is easier and more perfect than it is. And the guy who wasn't any good is a lot better at looking at the game with a correct reality.' So, is Billups in trouble because he's too good of a player? Karl smiled and joked, 'Probably.'"
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said Dwight Howard was picking up 'a lot of pretty ticky-tack fouls' and suggested that big guys such as Howard are being officiated differently than perimeter players. 'I think [Howard] is very frustrated the way the game is being called right now,' Van Gundy said. 'It's different in this league. The real good perimeter players seemed to really get the benefit of every call, any touch. The real good big guys, it seems it's just the opposite. They let people do more in there. I think it's part of an ongoing thing -- they won't say that -- but I think the league is trying to do everything it can to make it a perimeter league and not a post-up league.' Van Gundy agreed that the 6-foot-11, 270 Howard takes more punishment because of his size. 'I think they [officials], subconsciously, even it up. But what's interesting is that they don't do that on the perimeter guys,' Van Gundy said."
  • Chris Lau of the Detroit Free Press: "The Pistons have an active streak of nine games with at least one individual technical. 'Them dudes, they off the chain,' Tayshaun Prince said. 'I can't help them. I talk to them as much as I can. I can't do nothing. You know what? There's been plenty of times where we've been aggressive going to the rim, couple things don't go our way, then a couple ticky-tack calls and the next thing you know, we start to yell at the refs.' Prince hasn't received a technical this season. 'This is what happens when you get a technical foul: Teams make a run, referees start to give them a couple calls here and there, and the next thing you know, we put ourselves in a bad position,' Prince said. 'So, Rasheed and Rip will have to realize when is a good time to make that happen and when is a good time not to make that happen.'"
  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Somewhere on the way to reaching the Western Conference finals, earning second-team all-NBA honors, signing a max contract extension and being selected to the U.S. Olympic team, Jazz guard Deron Williams skipped a step. The hole in Williams' résumé his first three seasons as a pro came with never having been chosen to play in the All-Star Game. The expectation coming into this season was that Williams wouldn't have to wait long for his overdue coronation. That all changed, however, as soon as Williams went down with a sprained left ankle in the preseason. Nearly a month after returning, Williams still isn't the same player and his ascent to becoming an All-Star is anything but guaranteed. 'I didn't start the season healthy, so I'm not really worried about it,' Williams said. 'After not making it the last two seasons, I'm even more not worried about it.'"
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "You know that TV commercial where your problem gets fixed by pushing a big, red Easy Button? Boris Diaw is becoming the Charlotte Bobcats' Easy Button. The problem all season has been scoring; they're last in the NBA in that category by a wide margin. But in the five games Diaw has played here, the Bobcats average about eight more points and shoot 3.5 percentage points better. It's not just what Diaw does (post scoring, 3-point shooting and creative passing), it's what he represents: His willingness to pass seems infectious, and addressed the Bobcats' greatest need."
  • David Gladow of NOLA.com: "Let's be frank: Julian Wright is an amazing talent. His athleticism is on display with every high-flying dunk and diving steal he delivers as a pro, and it was certainly significant enough for the Hornets to draft him in the first round last year. The problem with Wright's game this year does not appear to be a physical one, however. Instead, the second-year New Orleans Hornets forward is reportedly struggling with the mental side of the game, and unfortunately for Hornets fans everywhere, that does not appear to be a battle he will win anytime soon. ... Byron Scott is no dummy. I'm sure he can see what we can. Wright's exceptional talent can help this team ... and even assuming Scott decides that it can't, Wright will be sent to another team. So don't expect Wright to be sitting on the inactive list come May, whether he's on the Hornets or not. But if Wright doesn't begin to grasp the offense (and more importantly, understand that he has plenty of improving to do), we won't be seeing him anytime soon. Mr. Scott will make certain of that."
  • Michael Cunningham of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Watch Michael Beasley and it doesn't take long to realize the Heat's rookie forward has a special talent for finding a way to put the ball in the basket. It also becomes quickly apparent that when the ball goes in to Beasley, there's a good chance it's not coming back out. Among the 17 NBA rookies playing at least 20 minutes per game, Beasley, with 308 shots in 647 minutes, shoots at the highest rate (one attempt for every 2.1 minutes played). Only Dwyane Wade, the league's leading scorer, shoots more often for the Heat (one attempt every 1.8 minutes) and no one else is close to Beasley. Meanwhile Beasley is tied for 15th in assists among rookies averaging 20 minutes or more. The rookies in that group who are equal or worse than Beasley in assists are all post-dwelling centers: Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute, Portland's Greg Oden and New Jersey's Brook Lopez."
  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Last summer, TNT, NBA TV and NBA.com were all brought under the same umbrella with Turner Sports in Atlanta. Part of the reason was so the entities could cover stories on multiple platforms. The first such project will be launched next week to honor James' 24th birthday. There will be 24 hours of continuous coverage on NBATV, starting at 1 p.m. on Dec. 29. It will feature James' first professional game against the Kings in 2003, his first national television game when St. Vincent-St. Mary played Oak Hill Academy at the Wolstein Center in 2002, his first playoff game in 2006 when he put up a triple-double against the Washington Wizards, and his immortal 2007 Game 5 against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. It will also include several never before seen feature programs and culminate in the Cavs' game against the Heat on Dec. 30, James' birthday. NBA.com will also have special series of stories and features."
  • John Denton of Florida Today: "Mickael Pietrus was angry Monday and it had nothing to do with him losing his starting shooting guard spot with the Magic for the time being. Instead, Pietrus wasn't happy with how ESPN overlooked his incredible alley-oop dunk Saturday night against the Lakers. Pietrus caught Rashard Lewis' pass several feet away from the rim and because he was so high in the air he was still able to finish off the dunk. 'I'm going to have to call ESPN because they aren't showing me any love,' Pietrus said with a laugh. 'That should have been No. 1 (on the top plays of the night).'"
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Another Rocket has received the 'Yao Ming bonus.' Forward Ron Artest became the fifth Rockets player to endorse Chinese basketball shoes. Shane Battier also wears Peak. Luis Scola and Steve Francis wear Anta. Chuck Hayes had endorsed a Chinese shoe but recently switched to Nike. Artest wore the Peak shoes for the first time Monday, with plans to move to his own signature shoe next month. 'These are not mine, but they're cool,' Artest said."

First Cup: Monday

December, 22, 2008
12/22/08
8:27
AM ET
  • Chris McCosky of The Detroit News" "Like the Lions, the Pistons remain perfect on Sunday -- perfectly winless, 0-6."
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "LeBron James was asked when he started tossing up rosin before games. 'I always put the chalk on my hands, for whatever reason, to get my hands ready for the game,' James said. 'I don't know why I started throwing it up, but it's definitely trademarked.' James has a new Nike commercial where he tosses the rosin in the air. 'We have a really, really good, deep relationship (with Nike),' he said. 'It's not an endorsement deal. It's a partnership. We feed off of each other. Things that we think can be hot and people can relate to, we feed off of that.'"
  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal- Constitution: "Go ahead, close your eyes and count to 10 and then open them. It's not a mirage. That's your Hawks sitting in the fourth slot in the Eastern Conference standings with Christmas just a couple days away. I know, I know. You didn't see this coming did you? You didn't know they'd get here this fast did you? But are you watching this franchise renaissance take place before your very eyes? The Falcons aren't the only ones that can rise from their own ashes (and kudos to the other birds for giving their haters the business and the gas face and making the playoffs -- I'm never mad at anybody for proving their haters wrong). The Hawks want in on this thing, too."
  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "Pau Gasol remains the most consistent player to wear a Grizzly uniform. Consistency is what defines true professional athletes. It's why Patrick Ewing (then a Seattle SuperSonic) received a bone-chilling reception during his return to New York, and why Bobby Jackson's return to Sacramento as a Grizzly created shivers. With apologies to the still greatly embarrassed Shane Battier, no one is asking Memphis to bestow poster-sized appreciation on Gasol. Just a show of thanks for another good guy who made the Grizzlies relevant."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "A year ago, when Yi was with the Milwaukee Bucks, there was a sense of occasion when they met for the first time in an NBA game. Available live on networks throughout China, it was hailed as the most watched basketball game ever. There were news conferences and photo ops. There even was fun to be had in the novelty of a game that featured players from six continents -- Asia (Yao and Yi), Europe (Dan Gadzuric), Australia (Andrew Bogut), Africa (Dikembe Mutombo), South America (Luis Scola) and North America (everyone else). The whole thing was reprised later in Milwaukee. A season later, Yao seems barely to have noticed. 'I don't think the game the same way as the others,' Yao said. 'Others will think this is a game between two Chinese players, but I am thinking how to win this game as a team. Devin Harris and Vince Carter are the main players of New Jersey, so they will be our main focus. ' That might seem like typical Yao, but it might also represent the declining novelty of the occasion. Yao was not the first Chinese player in the NBA (Mengke Bateer and Wang Zhi Zhi came before him, and he seemed more nervous for the first NBA meeting with Wang than Yi). Yi is not the last, with Sun Yue having taken a place on the Lakers' bench."
  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "Brook Lopez looked up at the locker room ceiling and did the math in his head: Only 10 months to go. 'Oh, God, let's see ... it's going to be about Oct. 29th of next year?' he asked. 'Then I'll be a second-year player. That'll be great.' Yes, sir -- no longer a rookie. No more taking unnecessary abuse from veterans, who command you to fetch them a beverage whenever the mood strikes. What else? 'It means not getting bashed in the face, and getting a whistle,' Lopez said, with both amusement and exasperation. Right. That too."
  • Kyle Hightower of the Orlando Sentinel: "What's indisputable is that Jameer Nelson was right and the doubters were wrong when Nelson decided at the end of November that resting a sore hip flexor would pay off in the long run. Since returning to action he has been on one of the best scoring streaks of his career with team centerpiece Dwight Howard's scoring hampered recently. Heading into tonight's game with Golden State, Nelson is averaging 23.2 points per game over his last five outings, including a big 27 in the Magic's 106-103 win over the L.A. Lakers. It has pushed his season scoring average to 16.8, well above his career average of 12.0."
  • Tom Powers of The Pioneer Press: "Timberwolves fans, get a grip. You don't ask a kitten to pull a plow, and you don't ask an old, gray mare to curl up in your lap. The Wolves are what they are. Don't fight it. Embrace losing. Losing is your friend. Just remember that defeats equal pingpong balls. And perhaps the next general manager will know what to do with a high draft pick. Besides, we are on the verge of a historic event. These Wolves can make history, and you can say you saw it. The lads are just four defeats away from a franchise-record 16 in a row. Chances are fans never will see another Wolves team in position to attack the record book so ferociously, assuming Glen Taylor cleans house in the front office next season. Minnesota lost its 12th in a row to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. Afterward, coach Kevin McHale had that same tortured look previously worn by Randy Wittman."
  • Chris Perkins of the Palm Beach Post: "Antoine Walker considers himself fortunate today on two fronts: No. 1, he got a contract buyout from Memphis on Thursday; and No. 2, he didn't have a gun handy that summer day in 2007 when he was duct-taped and robbed at his Chicago home. 'I think sometimes not having a gun helps a situation,' the 13th-year forward said. 'I came out of it and wasn't harmed in any physical way. Everybody is not that lucky.' Walker isn't anti-gun. 'If you have a permit and have one in your house it's not that bad,' he said. But he thinks if he'd have pulled a gun at that particular time on that particular day, 'it would have been a bad situation. It turned out being a better situation.' Walker, a key contributor on the Heat's 2006 title team, is hoping to find a better situation with a playoff team or title contender."
  • Chris Tomasson of the Rocky Mountain News: "It's tough to tell who's more excited about Dick Vitale coming to Denver, Vitale or Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. 'My man, Vitale,' Anthony said. 'I've always liked him, just how much fun he brings to the game.' The ESPN analyst did Anthony's first college game, a 70-63 loss to Memphis in November 2002 at New York's Madison Square Garden. And, thanks to an ESPN maneuver in which college and pro announcers switch places for a night, Vitale will work Denver's Jan. 7 home game against Miami. 'I'm
    looking forward to doing my first NBA game in two decades,' Vitale, a former Pistons coach who last did one in 1984, said by phone. 'Let's have some fun. Carmelo vs. Dwyane Wade. Great collegiate duo. Now, superstars at the pro level.'"
  • Michael Hunt of the Journal Sentinel: "In the NBA, only the Celtics, Trail Blazers (10), Suns (nine) and Knicks (eight) have retired more numbers than the seven sent to the rafters by the Bucks: 1 (Oscar Robertson), 2 (Junior Bridgeman), 4 (Sidney Moncrief), 14 (Jon McGlocklin), 16 (Bob Lanier), 32 (Brian Winters) and 33 (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Even so, Glenn Robinson once campaigned to have his No. 13 retired. ... The decision to retire a number apparently rests with a one-man committee, owner Herb Kohl, who was very fond of Robinson. No doubt it broke the senator's heart when the Bucks were put in the position of having to trade him, not only because of the bad publicity from the arrest but also because Robinson's career was in decline. Time has a way of softening the past. But as for Robinson's play, it would have to be on scoring alone because the rest of his game was limited at best. Had he made that open shot against Philadelphia to get the Bucks to the 2001 Finals, maybe it's a different conversation. A better conversation for the Bucks is how wide, or limited, the field should be. If Robinson, why not Ray Allen? Better yet, why not just add No. 8 and No. 10 and keep it to that for the foreseeable future?"
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant will unveil his first signature shoe, the Nike KD1, in his hometown of Washington, D.C, on Saturday against the Wizards. Durant's shoe won't officially be launched until All-Star Weekend in February, but Durant is planning to wear the shoe a few more times before then."

Tuesday: First Cup

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
9:09
AM ET
  • Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "Two weeks into the NBA season and already I'm disgusted by a lack of respect shown to fans. I'm talking about a new trend of players on the bench feeling an inexplicable need to stand up for long stretches of games. The Cleveland Cavaliers provided an atrocious example of this on Saturday at the United Center. Their entire bench, which included 7-foot-3 center Zydrunas Ilgasukas at the time, stood for most of the fourth quarter, thoroughly blocking the view of a couple hundred fans who spent a hard-earned $155 for their tickets ... Now, I can understand players jumping up if one of their teammates makes a great play or if it's the final seconds of a close game when everyone in the arena is standing. But there should be an obvious line between supporting your team and being a jerk. The Cavs surely aren't the only team guilty of this practice, but it needs to stop. Maybe it's inappropriate to fine the team unless a warning has been issued. So this would be a good time for Commissioner David Stern to stand up for the fans and make these self-absorbed players sit down."
  • A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "Despite helping Denver to 50 regular-season wins a year ago, much of the talk surrounding Allen Iverson and his former team was how they collapsed in the playoffs. In Detroit, making a deep playoff run isn't enough. It's an NBA title or bust. 'I like that,' Iverson said. 'I like that atmosphere. I like the whole idea of that, just for the fact that people saying if we don't win a championship, it's a bust. I haven't been on any teams like that in my career. That's new to me. It's a different challenge, but it's one that I want to take on.'"
  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It has taken the Hawks awhile -- four years, to be exact -- to embrace the defensive principles Mike Woodson preached the moment he became head coach. There's no doubt Woodson's fifth team is living up to his defensive-minded standards. The Hawks are off to a 5-0 start, largely because of a suffocating defense. And, it's easy to pack. ... 'Our defense is the one constant, the one thing we've been able to count on every night so far,' Woodson said. 'It's not always the prettiest thing to the casual eye, but it's what wins in our league.'"
  • Chris Herrington of The Memphis Flyer: "From the day O.J. Mayo was drafted, there have been three primary questions: How good can he be? What position will he ultimately play? Can he and Mike Conley thrive together in the backcourt? I've been agnostic on the question of whether Mayo would ultimately move to point guard and, to a degree, I remain so. But after eight games, I've seen enough to say this: Even if Mayo doesn't become a point guard, he does need to be this team's lead guard. That means that regardless of whether he technically starts at the one or two, he's going to be the team's primary ballhandler and playmaker. If he's not Chauncey Billups, then he's Dwyane Wade or Gilbert Arenas or Brandon Roy or Allen Iverson. He'll control the ball and he'll need a backcourt mate that meshes with him. And I don't think that's going to be Mike Conley."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, and Shane Battier thought that perhaps his son would never feel the sting of childhood labels, would never deal with the awkward uncertainty, never ask the questions that filled his father's childhood. 'I think I share a very similar experience to Obama from the standpoint we both grew up mixed in a black and white world,' Battier, 30, said. 'It's a very different experience, and it's something my white friends don't fully understand and something my black friends don't fully understand. It's about being sort of in between always.' Battier, though usually decidedly non-political, felt proud on Election Day, and again last week when Obama referred to 'mutts like me.'"
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Dino Radja made his first visit to the Garden in 10 years last night. The former Celtics [team stats] forward, now president of the professional team in his home city of Split, Croatia, played four seasons (1993-97) for the C's. The passion the 6-foot-10 post player has for his former team hasn't died. 'I watched every game,' he said of the C's run to the NBA title last season. 'It wasn't easy to watch sometimes, but this is my team, my city. I'll always be a Celtics fan. All of the playoff games started at 2 a.m. my time, but that was OK. I'd wake up and then stay awake from 2 to 7 for every game. That's not easy. But I do it for all of the Boston teams. I follow the Patriots and the Red Sox -- every one. My old friends here keep me up on it.'"
  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: "There is even a belief in some quarters that the Bucks would be better served without Michael Redd, that the Bucks would be a more-balanced scoring team, that other players like Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson would get more touches and be more productive. That belief is simply misguided. And the record shows it. Back in January of 2007, the Bucks were playing quality basketball and positioned to be in the playoffs. But then Redd got hurt. He suffered a strained patellar tendon in his left knee. The injury forced him to miss 20 games. The Bucks lost 17 of them, their playoff hopes shot. Now fast forward to today. Redd is bothered by a right ankle sprain and has missed the last three games. The Bucks lost two of them and, as Bucks coach Scott Skiles frankly admitted, they were lucky not to have lost a third game as well."
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Shaquille O'Neal has played in 60 games in only one of the past three seasons -- barely eclipsing the mark with 61 last season. By sitting him out of the second game of back-to-back sets, Porter said the idea is to avoid injuries and get 60-plus games out of O'Neal. But the Suns must learn how to play without him better than they did in Friday's loss at Chicago. 'People talk about the old Suns teams,' Porter said. 'Name one of those teams that had a 7-2, 300-pound guy that played in the middle. It's totally different. Just the whole makeup of this team is different. People like to compare them to up-tempo. It's a different team. Can't even come close to comparing Shaq in the middle as opposed to Amaré (Stoudemire) and having Shawn Marion spaced in the corner.'"
  • Jeff Eisenberg of The Press-Enterprise: "Phil Jackson found an interesting way to describe Trevor Ariza's innate ability to make plays off the ball, whether it's tipping passes in the lane, slipping between defenders for offensive rebounds or cutting to the basket for layups. 'He's like a ghost out there,' Jackson said. 'Like a shadow. Just all of a sudden he shows on a screen and he's gone. He'
    s a blip and he's away. He runs the court like that. He's a stealth player more than you'd say (of) a person that infuses the team with energy. But his presence is certainly felt.'"
  • Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News: "In the NBA, just like any other professional sports league, players come and go through cities like they go through money. Most just float right through. Rarely does a player make an impact in such a relatively short amount of time as Kyle Korver did with the Sixers. In parts of five seasons with the franchise, Korver made a positive impression on his teammates, coaches, training staff, and most important, on our fair city. You could see it in the parade of people who came over to offer well wishes at practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine yesterday. Korver, who is in town with the Utah Jazz for his first matchup in Philadelphia since the trade last December, earned the respect of everyone around him. 'It was very weird,' Korver said. 'I saw the trainer [Kevin Johnson] and he was standing there and I gave him a hug. It's still bizarre to me. I've never been in the visitors' locker room before.'"
  • Mike Dougherty of The Journal News: "Long before Elton Brand's signature basketball shoe landed in stores, Duane Lawrence was charged with capturing the heart and sole of the former NBA All-Star on paper. It's a fairly involved process, mixing science with art to come up with a workable blueprint. Lawrence is a confessed 'sneaker head' who's been designing shoes for Converse since 2004. He is the creative force behind the EB1, which debuted earlier this month at J.C. Penney. It's a fashion statement Brand has always wanted to make. 'Getting my own shoe has always been a dream,' Brand said. 'And being a part of that long tradition at Converse, I think I fit in well.' Brand started this makeover by signing a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia 76ers this summer."
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Danny Granger is giving back to New Mexico. Granger, who went to the University of New Mexico, is sponsoring an AAU basketball team, the Granger Hurricanes, in Albuquerque. 'They asked me in the summer time if I would be interested and told them yeah,' said Granger, who donated $40,000 toward the program. 'I had wanted to do it before and now I'm getting a chance to do it. I'll get to coach in the summer some time, and that's right up my alley.'"
  • Don Seeholzer of The Pioneer Press: "As the Wolves' only rookie, Kevin Love was forced to sing happy birthday to forward Craig Smith in front of the entire team after practice Monday. Let's just say his voice never will be confused with that of his famous uncle Mike of the Beach Boys. 'He has no singing voice, no rhythm at all,' Wittman cracked. 'It's hard to believe that he's got a relative that seemed to have that.' Love, in his defense, said happy birthday isn't his song and that he would have nailed the Star-Spangled Banner. Asked if that was his first and last singing gig, he said: 'No, I'm going to have to do it again. They're going to make me dance, too, so I've got to figure out what new flavor I'm going to bring next time.'"
  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: "There is plenty of good stuff in the film 'Mania,' a reflective on the Trail Blazers that premiers at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Whitsell Auditorium in the Portland Art Museum as part of the 35th Northwest Film and Video Festival. ... Harry Glickman reveals that the Blazers paid Cleveland $250,000 to take Austin Carr with the first pick in the 1971 draft, leaving Sidney Wicks to Portland -- a story I had not heard. ... I most enjoyed, though, the insight provided by long-time trainer Ron Culp, who delivers inside stories that true fans will appreciate, such as the psychology of coaches Lenny Wilkins and Ramsay. Culp was honest when he said of Bill Walton, 'He didn't alienate the city of Portland, but he certainly had people scratching their heads.'"

Tuesday Bullets

October, 14, 2008
10/14/08
1:06
PM ET
  • In the New Yorker, Malcolm Gladwell writes of different kinds of genius -- some that work quickly in youth, and others that take time to sort themselves out. Sometimes there are NBA players, I think, (Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace come to mind) who figure out their careers in the same way that Mark Twain would write a novel: "Galenson quotes the literary critic Franklin Rogers on Twain's trial-and-error method: 'His routine procedure seems to have been to start a novel with some structural plan which ordinarily soon proved defective, whereupon he would cast about for a new plot which would overcome the difficulty, rewrite what he had already written, and then push on until some new defect forced him to repeat the process once again.' Twain fiddled and despaired and revised and gave up on 'Huckleberry Finn' so many times that the book took him nearly a decade to complete."
  • Antawn Jamison tells his teammate Oleksiy Pecherov on video that he has had a Russian sandwich, and didn't like it. Pecherov says Jamison has never had one, and has never been to Russia. Jamison, trying to win the argument, says that he has been to Yugoslavia. Round one to Pecherov.
  • A big question of this season is whether or not healthy Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Michael Beasley, and Udonis Haslem will be enough to win. Right now, it's not looking promising.
  • The history of basketball sneakers, in about two minutes, from Nelly.
  • Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm on different kinds of NBA fans: "Spurs fans are critical and reserved. Warriors fans are like Tiny Tunes characters. Mavericks fans are like Cowboys fans that need another outlet, that is, insane. Celtics fans and Lakers fans are remarkably alike. Passionate, devoted, self-entitled, and obnoxiously obnoxiously blessed. Meeting a Bucks fans was fascinating. Frank (from BrewHoop) was like most great NBA fans, particularly the ones devoted enough to run blogs. Passionate, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, involved. But to a certain degree, there's a certain sense of reality that sneaks in. A few times when discussing free agency or the viability of Andrew Bogut as a franchise player, he'd mention, 'Well, we're the Bucks.' In a way, this is reflective of what has to change. It's not unique to Milwaukee, the Bucks, or Frank. Charlotte and Memphis face the same issues. But it's something that has to shift for the Bucks. The organization, for its part, seems to be dedicated to the same goal."
  • Magic Johnson, part owner of the Lakers, is drinking the Trail Blazer kool-aid, saying Portland will make the playoffs this year, and make a run at a title in a couple of years.
  • TrueHoop reader Guy e-mails: "After seeing a few plays from [Rudy Fernandez] in the preseason game against the Kings I decided to watch the Olympic final again because all I could actually remember from the game was his dunk on Dwight Howard. I began watching and at the start of the second quarter it hit me: Rudy Fernandez did not play at all in the first quarter. I know the Olympics are long gone and the USA players have finished celebrating, but after seeing his destruction of Team USA after this point it lead me to wonder: What if Rudy Fernandez had played in that 1st quarter and started the game? Would he have given Spain the boost they needed? It may be nothing, but I just wonder how a player of his quality could be on the bench for the first quarter. OF THE OLYMPIC FINAL. Where they are playing for GOLD and keeping the cockiness of USA basketball at bay until their next road to redemption."
  • Scoring more points from the free throw line than the field can be called, I just learned, a Dantley. Adrian Dantley did it many times. And how about Dwyane Wade in his famous ref-friendly 2006 NBA Finals? He must have had a lot of Dantleys, right? Wrong. Not a single one.
  • These are stretches and exercises you can do with a big inflatable ball. What they don't tell you, unfortunately for Eddy Curry, is that really big guys can, apparently, cause those inflatable balls to explode. (Via Slam)
  • Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer: "Through the first three pre-season games, rookie O.J. Mayo struggled a little with his shot, going 14-41 from the floor and 2-14 from three-point line, a string of performances that didn't look much like the deadly shooter seen in summer league and again in practice. But he found his stroke tonight. Mayo scored 26 points in 30 minutes on 10-17 shooting and 6-8 from downtown. Not only was every make a jumper, only one of the 17 attempts was from within seven feet of the basket, and it was technically a jumper."
  • A journal from the road, traveling through China with the Bucks. It's a long way to go, and the final destination of all that flying is Yi Jianlian's hometown. Too bad he's not a Buck any more. Two highlights from the layover in Anchorage: They ate hot dogs made of reindeer, which is news if your team mascot is a deer named Bango. And Luc Richard Mbah a Moute got to see snow falling for the first time in his life.
  • Portland-based rapper with Down's Syndrome. He got his nickname, Laz-D, from high-school classmate Salim Stoudamire. (Thanks Benjamin.)
  • Remember when Michael Jordan used to be super skinny? Back in the day, in terrible clothes, he made an amazing chip shot on the golf course.
  • And, remember that skinny Michael Jordan played with George Gervin? The Good Point's Austin Kent recently talked at length with the Ice Man, who is campaigning for people like you and me to get checked for high blood pressure, about his playing days. Kent writes: "... a 1985 trade saw him wrap up his final year with a young Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. 'Michael, I think was a second year guy at that time. That's when I was practicing with him everyday and started seeing that potential and that drive that he had,' Gervin recalls. 'He was unbelievable. We kinda got along, but it was his turn and I knew it. We had some good battles in practice, like the old bull against the new bull, but I knew I was on the downward part of the hill. I knew I had to sacrifice'. Jordan, of course, would succumb to an injury that season, limiting him to just 18 games on the year, 11 in which he came off the bench. From there he could look o
    n as Gervin brought an end to a brilliant tenure in the NBA. 'We were in Dallas and he was sitting on the bench and I scored 35 in the first half. At the end of the game I only had about 40 and he started laughing, saying 'old man, you ran out of gas'. I said [back] 'I was just showing you how it used to be''. Though the pair never dominated the league the way one, looking back, would have hoped, considering Gervin was years removed from his prime and Jordan yet to reach his, the fact that the two coexisted on the same franchise is, if nothing else, one of the best 'what if?' paper combinations of all time."
  • The Onion recently weighed in on the WNBA, with an article called "Breast Cancer Launches WNBA Awareness Month." It begins: "Leading representatives of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation announced Wednesday that the month of October would officially be known as WNBA Awareness Month, and commemorated the occasion by donating $80 million of their funds to promote the early detection and ultimate eradication of the all-female basketball league. Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker of the Komen Foundation was accompanied at the press conference by WNBA survivor Rebecca Lobo, long-suffering WNBA president Donna Orender, and Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie, who has been battling the league for 11 years. Brinker noted that the WNBA has always been a primary concern for the breast cancer community, and said she is committed to using the full force of her breast cancer organization to rid the nation of the dreadful professional league at its every stage -- from its earliest possible appearance in training camp, to preseason and the playoffs, and even during its more-invasive Finals stage when the league is at its most aggressive."
  • Donte Greene, who plays for the Maloofs who are as invested in Las Vegas as anyone, says he hates Las Vegas. I applaud the honesty.
  • Bud Poliquin of the Syracuse Post-Standard quoting Steve Nash: "I would have loved to have played for Coach Boeheim and for Syracuse. You have to realize that I was under-heralded when I was in high school and not recruited, so to play for Syracuse would have been a dream come true for me. But we didn't get close at all. Nobody with the Orangemen cared or even saw me play."
  • Brent Barry to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "It's depressing that there is no trip to Seattle this year and there is no team in that city. There is a great history and they certainly had some great players there. And now, there is no team left. It's sad."
  • I like this from a point guard. Jason Quick of the Oregonian on how Steve Blake -- who is about to return -- has handled his injury time:  "Blake eschewed the normal place for injured players at the end of the bench and instead sat next to assistants Dean Demopoulos and Joe Prunty. 'I didn't get to run any plays, so the way I'm learning is by watching the guys, and listening to the coaches,' Blake said. 'I'd watch to see where the guards are setting screens, seeing the angles they would take to set screens, and I would listen to Dean, who would turn and make comments to me. And just being up that close, I could hear Coach say things like 'Push it!' ... so I know what types of things he's thinking about.' In fact, McMillan said in the heat of one exhibition game he mistook Blake for an assistant. He turned to him and made a comment about a player, only to do a double-take and notice he said it to Blake."
  • PG-13 venting at the trials and tribulations of being an NBA fan in England.
  • Donald Hunt is a very nice man who writes for the Philadelphia Tribune. He's part of a special project, and e-mails: "The Philadelphia Tribune, the country's oldest African American newspaper is leading a grassroots effort to get NBA leggend Wilt Chamberlain on a commemorative U.S. postage stamp. The Tribune is looking to get 100,000 signatures of support with hopes of Chamberlain getting his postage stamp. The newspaper has a petition on its website where fans can go and sign he document online. The petition will be sent to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. The CSAC is responsible for selecting the postage stamps. So far, the campaign has received support from NBA commissioner David Stern, Philadelphia 76ers owner Ed Snider, 76ers President and General Manager Ed Stefanski, Miami Heat President Pat Riley, former Golden State Warrior head coach Al Attles, NBA legend Earl Lloyd, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and others. Chmberlain is the only player to score 100 points in a game. He is the only player to average 50 points a game. He played for the Philadelphia Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. Chamberlain led the 1966-67 76ers to the NBA championship. He also carried the 1971-72 Lakers to the league title. Chamberlain would be the first basketball player to have his photo on a U.S. postage stamp."

Wednesday Bullets

September, 17, 2008
9/17/08
1:05
PM ET
  • The big PG-13 Esquire profile of LeBron James, Maverick Carter, and their business plans. It's fascinating, and a must-read. Entertaining and surprising. Make you think. And you know what it made me think? I think James and Carter are two decades late. They're building a deity brand, on the Jordan model. But that model needed the world to see you through the adoring eyes of skilled TV producers -- and as long as you wore the right clothes and smiled at the right time nobody would scrutinize your nightlife too much. Now the world knows there are no deities. TV producers aren't sole gatekeepers anymore. Everyone is fallible and human. On the upside, however, these days everyone is also connected -- literally e-mailable. To me the great appeal of athletes in 2008 is that they are human. They are facing the same kinds of hassles we all face. And yet they still manage to fly. That's the story the next great basketball icon will tell.
  • Doubtless some NBA players lost some money in the markets this week. But if you don't need your investment money anytime soon, and plan to do a lot more investing, crashes are good. For a short while, everything you want to invest in is on sale. Buy low and sell high, right? The problem comes if you need to sell now, and young people with big incomes usually don't have to sell. I'm more worried about people who were planning to use the 401k money to pay those medical bills.
  • The Latest Word's Joe Tone rarely gets picked to play pickup at his local gym: "I wait patiently for one of my fellow ballers to invite me to join the game. They rarely do. There is a freakish lack of communication on pick-up basketball courts. Also, I'm a midget. Not literally, but almost literally -- short enough that sperm banks won't take my sperm (seriously; look it up). So I shoot around until they realize that playing with a little person is better than playing with nine people. (Not everyone realizes this, but you only need a majority). Eventually, after much debate over the rules and the duration of the game - how are there no uniform rules for these things by now? -- we play. I drain a three-pointer early, causing one of the black guys to begin calling me by the name of some notable white shooter, usually Steve Kerr. As in: 'Do him, Steve Kerr!' 'You can't leave Steve Kerr open like that, baby!' 'That's Steve Kerr right there!' I never know what to call the black guy back."
  • Gotta learn French.
  • Rudy Fernandez is moving to the U.S.A. with a posse: His mom.
  • Hollis Copeland is a former Knick who made it to a second career on Wall Street. In basketball, his calling card was shutting down big-scoring forwards. On Wall Street, in this market, he's havig to use that same kind of tenacity.
  • Ryan Schwan of Hornets247 just trashes the Grizzlies: "Flat out, the Grizzlies will be pushing to have one of the worst records of all time. Their veterans are the worst sort of dregs: Greg Buckner, Antoine Walker, and Marko Jaric. Useless, Cancer, Slacker. Their frontcourt is horribly weak. Marc Gasol -- if he makes a successful transition to the U.S. -- is a good Oberto-like backup big, but other than Marc, there's no one to rebound or play in the paint. Darko has finally developed ... into a foul- and injury-prone stiff. Hakim Warrick and Darrell Arthur provide no post presence and combined weigh as much as Marc Gasol, and the new Iranian import Haddadi is both raw and twenty-three, a bad combination. The Memphis guards aren't going to be tremendously better. O.J. Mayo was simply not that good in college, and I already have doubts he'll ever be a top tier shooting guard in the league, much less be one in his rookie season. Mike Conley showed last year he was injury prone and merely okay when he wasn't hurt, Kyle Lowry showed he was fierce but limited, and Javaris Crittenton showed ... well not a lot because he played so little -- which is its own indictment. That leaves Rudy Gay. He's a good scorer, but he's not all-around good, and he's probably not even a franchise player. Put him on the Hornets, and I'd rank him as only the fourth best player behind Paul, West and Chandler. And that's my entire problem with these Grizzlies. They have one player who could start for most of the teams of the league(Gay), four players that would be in a nine-man rotation because they are young and show promise(Conley, Lowry, Mayo, Gasol) and that's it. If they break 15 wins this season, I'll be impressed."
  • Bethlehem Shoals of FreeDarko (PG-13) has some talking points about Josh Howard's latest mishandling of his freedom of speech: "I am not suprised that some African-Americans have some animosity toward the United States of America. Are you?" So far, I have yet to see any bloggers really upset at Howard. This is more typical.
  • Checking in on Basketbawful's experiments with strength shoes.
  • David Thorpe is chatting right now, and angered some Kobe Bryant fans by saying that Shaquille O'Neal would go down in history as the better of the two. They responded various ways, then Thorpe said: "Shaq is top 3 all time in terms of pure dominance. His stats are unreal. Here on earth, we consider such things."
  • You want to help your local university recruit a top player? Here's the playbook.
  • Can't give you a great reason why, but I think you might want to read this.
  • Mark Cuban: "Has the irony of 3 of largest companies in the country who make their money giving financial and insurance advice to companies and individuals, are facing ruin from the advice they gave themselves ? If this isnt a lesson to every individual who is taking advice from an investment firm, i dont know what is."
  • Your barber can bring you success. Even an NBA team of your own.
  • Rumblings about Andrei Kirilenko possibly going back to Russia. The Jazz, who are facing tough financial decisions about core players, would certainly love to lose Kirilenko's big contract.
  • Words of wisdom from Coach Wooden. He hates lying. 
  • Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com is watching the Blazers scrimmage, and saw this from LaMarcus Aldridge: "With Steven Hill out of town, Aldridge was the only big available to go up against Greg Oden. No offense to GO, but LA took him to school, at least out on the perimeter. Aldridge, knowing he'd have a tough time going blow-for-blow and toe-to-toe with Oden in the block, took the rook out to the three-point line and started displaying some skills that I had never seen before, namely the cross-over dribble. You ever see Aldridge dance at the three-point line before shaking his man? Me neither, but I saw it yesterday. Aldridge, with the clear advantage in foot speed, beat Oden in a variety of ways by showing off a handle that I didn't even know he possessed. He'd go between the legs over and over, just getting in that cross-over rhythm, before eventually throwing a jab step to get Oden off-balance. Once that was accomplished, Aldridge would either pull up for the long-range jumper (which he hit over and over again) or drive baseline. Think And1 mix-tape, but without the extreme ankle-breaking, and with 6-11 versus 7-0. It's not like Oden was getting embarrassed, but you could tell Aldridge was just feeling it. The highlight of the run was Aldridge crossing over Oden near the baseline, driving to the hoop, avoiding Travis Outlaw's block attempt, then finishing with the reverse layup. So pretty."

Wednesday Olybullets

August, 13, 2008
8/13/08
12:38
PM ET
  • Michael Lee of the Washington Post has asked team USA about recent talk of their private chef. "Chef Lovie" gets high praise from players. But in the ensuing conversation, Dwyane Wade undermines the work of nutrition experts everywhere by saying that he simply does not eat vegetables. Can that even be true? Lee reports: "'You got to stay with what you know,' Wade said. 'I don't eat seafood. I don't eat vegetables. I don't eat none of that stuff, so I got to really stick with what I know.' What, no vegetables? How does Wade get his nutrients? 'I don't know. I don't eat vegetables,' he said."
  • You know those tables showing how many medals each team has won? I got a very interesting question from a TrueHoop reader Fatih who is wondering if there might be a version of such a table broken down not by nation, but by corporate footwear sponsor. The Nike vs. Adidas medal table, if you will. As the sneaker wars go global, there is a big money riding on that kind of stuff. Hard to believe some intern hasn't put something together.
  • John Branch of The New York Times writes about how there are empty seats at a lot of Olympic venues. And even more curiously, many occupied seats are filled by people who are organized and instructed to be there cheering: "In the first few days of the Olympics, clusters of Chinese fans with matching shirts and cheer sticks have become regular sights at many of the lower-profile venues, particularly prominent at events without Chinese teams. 'Not many people know handball,' said a woman who identified herself as Ms. Zheng. 'That is why we come here - to cheer both sides. We are friendly Chinese.' She stood at the Olympic Sports Center on Monday, amid hundreds of people in matching yellow shirts reading 'Cheering from Beijing Workers' in both Mandarin and English. Some were on their way out of a water polo match. Others waited to enter a handball game. Most wore matching fanny packs filled with cheering props, like deflated cheer sticks and folded banners. They said they were taught at work how to perform several cheers, and some were given DVDs to study at home. Soon after groups were ushered behind the goals of the handball arena for a women's game between Romania and China, it became obvious that they would not fill all the seats. They were rearranged until some sections were tightly filled; others sat empty. They performed chants and greeted the Romanian players with banging sticks during introductions. They politely cheered when Romania scored and offered a heartier response for the Chinese team."
  • TrueHoop reader Noah e-mails: "Is it me, or could Chris Kaman actually be more useful as a twelfth man than Carlos Boozer? If things go as expected, wouldn't you rather have Kaman cheering from the sidelines than Boozer? Wouldn't he be a more eager practice player? Wouldn't it make the Utah Jazz and the Clippers happier? Then, if someone does get hurt, it's not like Team USA is going to want Boozer to come in and score 25 points. If I'm not mistaken, counting on Boozer's offense in the Olympics would mean you're going to lose anyway. So for me, personally, in a situation where Bosh or Howard got hurt, I'd want somebody who can guard the opposing bigs, be a real center, and go out there and play like there was no tomorrow. Somebody who averaged more rebounds and more blocks last season. Call me crazy, but I just realized the American guy I want as Team USA's twelfth man is currently playing for Germany." I can see that point. Although, to be honest, I believe in Boozer on this team, because while he is a star, he's also just a first-class bucket-getter under any circumstances, which means he has a good chance to produce even when the play is not run for him. Guys like that stave off scoring droughts.
  • If you are following the bouncing ball of rumored Milwaukee/Cleveland/Oklahoma city trade, you will be very interested to read this thorough analysis from BrewHoop.
  • David Thorpe now, apparently, has a personal archivist.
  • ESPN's Chris Sheridan has a very interesting preview of Team USA vs. Greece. He quotes Jason Kidd predicting that the Greek team will try to get under the skin of Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony. Then there is interesting talk about defensive strategy: "Interestingly, Krzyzewski said the Americans' game plan going in will not include much use of a traditional 2-3 zone unless the man-to-man defense proves ineffective. That's particularly intriguing given Greece's difficulty scoring against a traditional zone, something the American coaching staff noticed as it was on hand to scout Tuesday's Greece-Germany game. 'If I tell my guys we're going to play a certain amount of zone, it's almost like saying our man-to-man is not good defense. Just psychologically,' Krzyzewski said Wednesday in discussing his tactical scheme with ESPN.com. But if they're no good against the zone, shouldn't you play zone? 'Well, no,' Coach K said. 'They may not be good against our man, and over the years, the championship teams I've had have made teams adjust to them. And if you're constantly adjusting to who you play, then you've got to be careful you never know who you are. But again, zone is part of our repertoire, and I'm not saying we're not going to use it, I'm just saying I don't know how many minutes we'll use it."
  • Eric Musselman on Angola's defense, and how it may encourage Team USA's upcoming opponents: "Only five Team USA players got to the foul line, which had to do with Angola's active zone defense. The idea was to force the Americans to try to beat them from over the top of the zone. It worked as Team USA shot a poor 5-21 from (international) 3-point range. D. Wade made two of the five. Michael Redd, touted as the team's best 3-point shooter, missed both of his attempts. At some point, the Americans are going to have to consistently hit perimeter jump shots, something they've been unable to do for several years now. On the other hand, dribble-penetration and transition offense are so efficient it's incredible. Still, the inability to make outside shots is a concern. Watch for other teams to employ a similar strategy to what Angola used today."
  • Matt Mitten of Opinio Juris (via Sports Law Blog) with a note on drug testing: "... it is important to note that all athletes participating in the Olympics, including U.S. professional team sport athletes, are subject to a drug testing regime based on the World Anti-doping Code, which is more stringent than the current drug testing programs established by collective bargaining between U.S. major professional leagues and the corresponding player unions. Although I certainly hope that no U.S. professional athlete (or any others) test positive for banned substances during the Beijing Olympics, the standard sanction for a positive test (which may be reduced or eliminated based on proven mitigating factors) is a two-year suspension from Olympic and international competition in the sport. One wonders how
    a U.S. professional athlete's club, league, or governing body would respond if he or she tests positive for a banned substance and raises some interesting questions."
  • Satisfaction that Beijing has not been wholly sanitized, and the visitor experience to Beijing still has a strong whiff of the real Beijing.
  • UPDATE: Sneaking an illegal anti-war banner into a women's Team USA game. It's an exciting little tale. (Via Sports NW)

Monday Olybullets

August, 11, 2008
8/11/08
11:56
AM ET
  • Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog: "The Olympics are just four days old, but the best quote of the Games has already been uttered, and there is a 0.000000 chance that it will be topped. This from colleague Michael Abramowitz's Style Section story about the Bush Fam this morning. 'Meeting Team USA with Bush 43 before the game, Bush 41 gave a warm hug to Lakers star Kobe Bryant and received an affectionate greeting from Cavaliers hero LeBron James: 'What's up, pops?' the massive James asked.' One way for a 23-year old pro basketball player to greet a former President might be 'Hello, Mr. President.' Another might be 'What's up, pops.' I'm done making fun of LeBron for the crying and the scowling and the wide-eyed disbelief. Anyone who breaks out the 'What's up pops?' line is ok by me."
  • Britt Robson of the Rake: "Even Doug Collins couldn't help but comment that the Chinese weren't even bothering to guard Kidd, who not only didn't shoot in his 13 minutes on the floor, but didn't drop a single dime and tied for the team lead in turnovers (with Kobe, who played more than twice as many minutes). Throw in aged footwork on defense and the mystery deepens as to why Paul and D-Will hug the pine at the onset."
  • Kobe Bryant makes sprinter Tyson Gay's day, per the Associated Press: "He is famous in his own right, the fastest man in America, a world champion and a possible star of the Beijing Olympics. But when Tyson Gay ran into Kobe Bryant at the gym the other day, well, he did what any sports fan would do. He got excited. Star-struck even. Posed for a photo, then text messaged his mom. Bryant asked Gay about his troublesome hamstring. 'He said, 'How's the leg? I'm going to check you out and keep you in my heart,'' Gay said. 'It really meant something to me. Because he's a huge superstar.'"
  • Alan Paul for NBCOlympics.com: "Once the game took its inevitable turn towards U.S. dominance towards the end of the second quarter, the energy level went down a notch and the crowd began to cheer breakaway dunks by Bryant, James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Team USA should have a sizable homecourt advantage through the rest of these games. They were even serenaded by some chants of 'USA Jai Oh' -- add oil, or go stronger -- the chant usually reserved for China, or Zhong Guo. In the fourth quarter, the Chinese made another little run spurred by New Jersey Nets Yi Jianlian and the crowd roared back to life. When it was over and the teams shook hands, the Chinese players looked thrilled to be there, which can't be a good thing going forward for them. Chinese coach Jonas Kazlauskas said as much after the game, in a press conference. Despite the tremendous home crowd, he called this a tough game psychologically for his team. 'The NBA is very popular in China,' he explained. 'You can't see a European game but you see the NBA everywhere and these guys are heroes to a lot of our players. That makes it a difficult.'"
  • Brian from Knickerblogger: "It was a fun game to watch, but there are definitely some worrisome aspects of USA's game (or as worrisome as a 30 point blowout can be) & First off, the three-point shooting by the starters has got to improve. A measly two out of twelve by the starters. Luckily, the bench was 5 for 12 for a not so pathetic overall 7 for 24 (they missed 15 of their first 16 -- Michael Redd, you are needed!) ... The defense was impressive, as Coach K has used his surplus of guards to great effect by having them press on made free throws, figuring if they tire, he only has a gazillion other All-Star guards on his bench to go to to fill-in. Of course, that makes free-throw shooting pretty important."
  • Nike vs. Adidas, playing out in the Beijing retail environment. A likeness of Gilbert Arenas is there, with a chef hat and a hibachi.
  • One of the big games of the weekend was Spain vs. Greece. Two superpowers of international basketball, meeting this early, was a rare treat. And as Marc Gasol started over his brother Pau, and Rudy Fernandez led the team in scoring, Spain dispensed easily with Greece. ESPN's Chris Sheridan quotes the Greek Coach Panagiotis Yannakis, who blames his team's poor performance: "We have to concentrate on our free throws, and concentrate on not throwing the ball into the hands of our opponents. We're going to try next game to not give away so many presents."
  • Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm liveblogged Spain vs. Greece. Great stuff, like this: "Ricky Rubio, in ten words: Great speed. Small body. Young. Quick off pick. Stupid hair."
  • Watching Spain closely have been Portland fans, scouting incoming Blazer Rudy Fernandez. Dave from BlazersEdge: "Rudy has good height and appears to use it. ... He doesn't let grass grow under his feet when there are points to be had. He's also fast getting up in the air. One of the problems plaguing the current Blazer leapers is that their rim finishes take a long time to develop. Rudy appeared to get in the sky in a hurry. I don't have many doubts about him being able to get shots up in the NBA. Everything that's good about him happens fast. ... Creating those openings for himself may be an issue. His offense didn't go anywhere when he was in traffic. His best interior attempts (the highlight reel stuff) came when he had a clear lane. When he was bothered he looked like a float-and-hoper inside. ... The worst part of Rudy's game by far was his defense, which, aside for a couple noticeable moments, ranged from a high of semi-adequate to a low of wholly ineffective. He was reaching, leaning, and getting beat off of the dribble with regularity in the first quarter. He got a little more active in the second quarter but still ended up getting to the spot late, getting out of position, and/or playing with his arms instead of his feet. He ran behind every pick thrown at him when he didn't get rubbed off entirely. ... I feel pretty comfortable saying that if he played that style of defense against any NBA guard he'd get BBQ'ed like a Kansas City rib."
  • Sheridan also describes the basketball play of the tournament so far, which capped Lithuania's win over Argentina: "[Sarunas] Jasikevicius used a high screen to get Fabricio Oberto to switch onto him defensively, then drove the lane and got the defense to collapse just the slightest bit -- but enough to get Linas Kleiza an open look from 3-point range. Kleiza drilled it with 2.1 seconds left, Carlos Delfino turned over the ensuing inbounds pass, and the tournament had its first stunner."
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel: "... don't forget Dwyane Wade, who was, well, perfect, 7 of 7 from the field, 5 of 5 from the line. What Sunday's Olympic victory over China, like so many of the United States' pre-Olympic exhibitions, showed is how Wade flourishes in a team system, when he can be part of something, instead of having to be everything. Does the Heat have that luxury yet? No, not without a dominant rebounder to trigger breaks, not without a proven point guard to guide the offense. But what games such as Sunday demonstrate is how much of a crime it is not to surround Wade with players with such skill sets. As a do-it-all presence, Wade likely will continue to find himself caught amid a swarm of NBA defenders. But as a featured player, on a balanced roster, Sunday showed how special a talent the Heat possesses, in case anyone had forgotten."
  • Yi Jianlian has some doubters.
  • Alan Paul for SLAM: "Some thoughts on the Chinese team: Yi Jianlian looked totally lost most of the game. Sorry Nets fans. Sun Yue, newly signed by the Lakers after being drafted by them last year, looked good. He did not back down against his future teammate Kobe in the early going, made some threes and created open looks for others. Sun's backup Chen Jianghua also looked great, though he is still probably too frail to play real D and his outside shot looks to be severely lacking. He comes in and quickly splits the D, driving in and as the defense collapses, he kicks out to the corner for an open three. The nest time down, he makes a similar move, freezes the D with a fake pass and goes to the hoop for an easy two. ... He's a streetball kid who was supposed to be the first great Chinese PG, but his development ahs stalled a bit and it was touch and go if he would even make the National Team. I'm hoping he keeps developing."
  • Among those Chris Kaman says have not been supportive of his playing for Germany in the Olympics: his dad, and the Clippers. Also, we learn Kaman was personally responsible for shaving Olympic rings into German teammate Dirk Nowitzki's hair.
  • Something about the shape of Carlos Boozer's skull making him more likely to betray people. Honestly.
  • Matt Slater on BBC.com: "The US outscored China 24-4 on the fast break and claimed 60% of their points from inside the paint. Wade (who was perfect from the free-throw line too) was seven for seven from the floor and Chris Bosh four for four. But when all your shots are dunks, they should go in."
  • The Spanish national team doing, I don't know what exactly. Probably means very little, but I'm sure glad that's not Team U.S.A.
  • Chinese police have been urged to smile more.
  • Jennifer 8. Lee of The New York Times: "Late Sunday night I stopped in for dinner at a Chengdu-style restaurant called Wan Liu Yuan in the northwest of Beijing and found the entire staff - waiters, waitresses, even the cook - staring at the television, which was set to CCTV-2, normally the economics channel but now dedicated to the Olympics, as many television channels in China have been. (Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan province, where the massive earthquake took place in May.) Through a combination of the N.B.A.'s efforts, domestic sports marketing and the celebrity status of Yao Ming, basketball has become a national pastime in China, joining table tennis and badminton as a sport that is not only watched but played. ... As customers came in, a waitress would scurry to take the order with her head craned toward the television. The cook would rapidly prepare the order, then come back out and plop down at a table to watch the game."
  • UPDATE: Wow. This is shoddy. Some of the fireworks that you saw in the opening ceremonies were, in fact, not real fireworks, but digital TV effects.

Friday Olybullets

August, 8, 2008
8/08/08
3:35
PM ET
  • Experts from around the globe predict Team USA will win gold
  • The Painted Area has been previewing all the Olympic teams, and has this to say about Spain:" This might be the best Spanish team in their recent vintage, thanks to emergence & growth of guys like Marc Gasol, Rudy & Rubio. Expect to see them in the Gold Medal game, and think they have goods to push Team USA to the limit, and possibly upset them."
  • Hilarious series of fan stalker photos from Team USA's media session. 
  • The Olympics are like global center of sports, and of anti-doping efforts. In the journal Nature, Donald Berry (Ready for his long title? Here goes ... "head of the Division of Quantitative Sciences, chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Frank T. McGraw Memorial Chair of Cancer Research, MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas.") writes: "... when an athlete tests positive, is he or she guilty of doping? Because of what I believe to be inherent flaws in the testing practices of doping laboratories, the answer, quite possibly, is no." The journal's editorial board summarizes: "[Berry] argues that anti-doping authorities have not adequately defined and publicized how they arrived at the criteria used to determine whether or not a test result is positive. The ability of an anti-doping test to detect a banned substance in an athlete is calibrated in part by testing a small number of volunteers taking the substance in question. But Berry says that individual labs need to verify these detection limits in larger groups that include known dopers and non-dopers under blinded conditions that mimic what happens during competition. Nature believes that accepting 'legal limits' of specific metabolites without such rigorous verification goes against the foundational standards of modern science, and results in an arbitrary test for which the rate of false positives and false negatives can never be known. By leaving these rates unknown, and by not publishing and opening to broader scientific scrutiny the methods by which testing labs engage in study, it is Nature's view that the anti-doping authorities have fostered a sporting culture of suspicion, secrecy and fear."
  • Empty Tiananmen Square
  • A funny note from Alan Abrahamson's liveblogging of the opening ceremonies on NBCOlympics.com: Here comes Nauru, nation 186 of 204 in the parade. The tiny island in the western Pacific is but eight square miles. Population: 13,000. That's fewer people than performed in the first hour of the ceremony.  
  • Li Ning, the legendary former Chinese gymnast and current entrepreneur who runs a company that is a significant competitor of Nike in Asia, gets the honor of being the final torch bearer.

Thursday Bullets

August, 7, 2008
8/07/08
1:44
PM ET
  • If you're a Jordan Head, a sneaker maniac, then you really want to know read about this epic meeting of your tribe in Chicago, for the final scene of a documentary on your people. 
  • The Sixers get one last game in the Spectrum -- where Julius Erving did his thing -- before it is torn down.
  • I have read probably 50 different articles or blog posts looking at a team's schedule for the season. (For instance.) They all agree on one thing: [Insert team name here] got a really tough schedule this year. Welcome to the NBA, where there are no easy schedules.
  • Kevin McHale looking at the schedule, weilding a sword.
  • Luol Deng in London, being famous.
  • A fascinating tale of philanthropy, involving a really rich guy and a really poor guy. I'm guessing your typical NBA player can relate to both guys better than most. I wonder if that would make them uniquely qualified to participate in creative giving.
  • Tom Ziller has developed a statistical model that essentially deciphers how "pass-first" a guard is. If you apply those numbers to the last year of college, as Matt from Ridiculous Upside has done, it looks like none of this year's rookies have been at the high-end of the pass-first scale. (And certainly not Jerryd Bayless!)
  • Really big mess of fancy graphs, ranking player production in a newish way, with very thorough explanations of what this brand of stat geekiness is about. "The Arbitrarian" writing on Hardwood Paroxysm, tells the tale in terms of a lemonade stand: "Imagine a lemonade stand owned and staffed by Xavier, Yvette, and Zach. They make money by selling home-brewed lemonade at the end of their cul-de-sac, and only one of them staffs the stand at any given time. After their first month in business, they look at their lemonade sales revenue, and try to figure out which salesperson deserves what part of the income. One option would be to split the revenue into thirds--three employees, three parts. Zach claims that such a distribution is unfair because he worked over half of the total number of hours, while Yvette and Xavier worked about a quarter of the hours each. He claims that the distribution should thus be more like (1/4, 1/4, 1/2). Xavier points out, however, that if they are trying to assess each employee's value, they should try to find a more specific measure of actual revenue generated by each seller. He suggests that, since revenue is generated by lemonade sales, revenue generation should be measured in terms of the number of lemonades sold by each employee. Since they kept detailed records of such numbers, this is easy to calculate: Xavier sold 2/5 of all glasses, Yvette 1/2, and Zach just 1/10. Zach is disappointed that his pay-per-hour gambit was foiled, but must concede that this arrangement is more just--Yvette and Xavier are much better salespersons, and did more to help the company make money, while Zach mostly daydreamed during his hours on the job." 
  • Top European teams could offer top NBA stars more than salary. They could offer them equity in and/or endorsements from the team and affiliated companies. Something to think about if you're LeBron James.
  • The Greek under-18 team dominates, and is loaded with talent. 
  • SLC Dunk lists seven reasons the Jazz need to keep Carlos Boozer. Number 5: "There would be a decrease in funny fan signs at the games. 'I'm a Mormon, but I love my Booze' is nothing short of a riot." Come to think of it, how funny would be if Carlos Boozer had an endorsement deal with Seagram's, or Jack Daniels, or Absolut or somebody like that. That would be hilarious.

There's a feature-length documentary about a lot of the players who were drafted yesterday, including Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Jerryd Bayless, and Donte Greene. (Lance Stephenson, Brandon Jennings, Tyreke Evans, and Kyle Singler are also featured.)

Directed by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, and hosted by Bobbito Garcia, "Gunnin' for That #1 Spot" tells the story of the Elite 24 high-school game two years ago at Harlem's Rucker Park. It opens in theaters in some cities today.

Here's a trailer

Howard Beck writes about the movie in The New York Times. For instance, about Jerryd Bayless:

Bayless comes across as the most conservative and deliberate of the group. He looks both serious and nervous as he reads from a statement to announce his commitment to Arizona.

Bayless plays effectively in the free-wheeling Rucker game, but he comes across as old school in his interview.

"A lot of the players out in Arizona, they're athletes but they don't really work on their game as much as I do," he tells the filmmakers. "I don't really like to go play pickup games after school like everybody else does. I just go into the gym and try to work on my weaknesses. Shoot pull-up 3's instead of just shooting spot-up 3's, working on ball handling, trying to help myself out in the long run."

We always here that these top players know each other from a young age. This is a rare opportunity to see that process on the big screen.

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