Where Damon Stoudamire gets his pot.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


My brother just said: "I hate Steve Nash." Not a good way to start the holidays in my family.

Today I'll be running a live blog on the upcoming Lakers/Celtics match. Currently Phoenix trails by one and Tim Duncan - during the past two minutes - has objected to 41 questionable calls.

Tony Parker just received a technical foul with a minute left to play. Duncan looks like he wants to murder the next ref who crosses him.

My brother: "You know what looks bad, white people with cornrows." Agreed, Charlie. Agreed.

Mike Tirico's hairline has regressed quicker than the lawn at Wimbledon's Centre Court by the second week of play.

The Suns run a beautiful play to Grant Hill for the go-ahead bucket. I thought Stoudamire was going to blow it, as he has down the stretch this game. I was even yelling at the television.

Roger Mason nails a three-pointer to win the game after Richardson comes in to defend to Parker drive. Please check the archives, where I've hyped up the Spurs acquisition of Mason in the early season. (It's Christmas, let me take the opportunity to talk myself up a little.)

Spurs 91 Suns 90

The NBA really favours those low-angle shots of players. Yeah ABC, these NBA players don't really look tall enough. More low-angle shots to spike the inferiority complexes of NBA fans.

ABC clearly put their top broadcasting crew on this game. No disrespect to Hubie Brown or anything.

Really hope we see those phony Christmas sound bites of Kobe wishing Merry Christmas to his competitors. As if he cares whether Kendrick Perkins had a nice day. Two quick fouls on Rondo.

Rondo has burned Kobe twice for open lay-ups. Then he throws a wicked baseline behind-the-back bounce pass to Perkins.

I like the Lakers feeding Kobe in the post with Ray Allen guarding him. Allen's quickness has regressed quicker than Ben Wallace's popularity.

Hey look, it's the Pandering Populist Trio sitting courtside: Mark Wahlberg, Adam Sandler, and Kevin James.

Luke Walton nails a corner three to tie the game. I had a mini-stroke during that one.

ABC just showed a Los Angeles cityscape, flanked by a mountain range behind the skyscrapers. Since when did LA have scenic beauty? That video looked like a tropical climate Vancouver.

Man, NBA players have a lot of charity responsibilities. I can't remember the last time I heard about NHL players handing out turkeys.

End of First Quarter: Boston 24 LA 23

Kevin James and his hair piece have a new movie coming out. Yawn.

The Machine vs. Eddie House. A three-point shooting orgy.

Kobe Bryant has it going early. I really think they need to establish a second offensive option quickly.

Jeff Van Gundy is a phenomenal basketball commentator. Strangely I agree with everything he says.

Derek Fisher going to the line as the Lakers open up their biggest lead of the game, 32 - 26. The Machine drives the lead to 9 points. The Celtics have gone stone cold on offence. (Note the spelling of offence, which indicates how Canadian I am.)

Kevin Garnett goes back-door for the alley-oop from Rondo. This is followed by a back-door lay-up by Rondo from Garnett. Beautiful passing.

The lead in the Notorious B.I.G. biopic might be Glen 'Big Baby' Davis.

Van Gundy: "Garnett just took a cheap shot at Vujacic running down the floor."

Garnett has started to establish himself in the second quarter, perfect from the field.

At the Half: LA 51 - Boston 45

Pierce is getting hot. That's one of the more dangerous things that can happen in an NBA game.

Andrew Bynum's D looks pretty suspect.

The Chris Paul anti-perspirant ad is terrible. Don Draper never would've let that one reach the air.

Elton John's "Benny and the Jets" melody might be the most classic in-game instrumental. Beats the Ying Yang Twins "Whisper Song" any day.

Tie game after a Ray Allen lay-up.

Pierce gives the Celtics their first lead since early in the 2nd quarter.

Play has been a little chippy at times for the past couple quarters. Lamar Odom hits a three-pointer to put the Lakers up 4. Back-to-back threes by Odom. Robert Towne - easily the coolest guy in the arena, even when Jack is there - must be pleased. May Chinatown forever live on in screenwriting workshops.

End of the Third Quarter: LA 71 Boston 67

Get ready for an intense finish. Andrew Bynum finally clocks in with a block. Unfortunately, this comes against Tony Allen, perhaps the worst player in this game thus far.

Tony Allen has two consecutive baskets. Maybe we'll undo that last comment. We'll pass off the worst player monker to, hmm, Eddie House.

Coming soon to a television broadcast near you: ABC's Homeland Security U.S.A., the biggest piece of 2009 propaganda. Watch old white guys bust Mexicans at the El Paso border.

Damn it. Eddie House just gave the Celtics the lead with a three-pointer. Worst player on the floor? Toss-up between Kevin James and Penny Marshall.

Trevor Ariza might have an angel tattooed on his neck. Very festive Trevor.

With five minutes left, the Lakers have a two-point lead.

Garnett converts the alley-oop for a Celtics lead.

Gasol hits the floater to give the Lakers a four-point lead with two minutes remaining.

Pau converts a three-point play to put the Lakers up five.

Ariza makes a ballsy reverse dunk. I would've gone for the Karl Malone special.

God bless the Celtics for not drawing out the end of the game with unnecessary fouls.

End of Game: LA 92 - Boston 83

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Walk It Off

Tomorrow I hope to live blog the Lakers/Celtics Christmas Day match because: (a) this is the best holiday game we've seen from a pure basketball standpoint; (b) my undergraduate degree has been completed and affords me an inordinate amount of time to dedicate to basketball; and (c) I have nothing better to do on Jesus' birthday.

(As a little sidenote I'm staying with parents and our basement is outfitted with a large flat-screen television, a serious upgrade from the used television I bought in September and the crumby streaming video I watch online. Plus we get ABC in High-Definition. I might have to move back in with my parents.)

I can't think of a more hyped regular season game - one in which the two teams have a combined record of 50 wins and 7 losses - than tomorrow's Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers tilt. Right now head honcho David Stern must be licking his chops in anticipation. The only thing which could wipe the miniscule smile from Stern's face is a potential Garnett/Vujacic fourth-quarter throwdown in which Garnett yanks the Slovenian machine by his dark locks.

Coming into this game you can't deny that the Celtics remain the favourite to beat the Lakers. They have the better record, a mental edge from last season's win, and improved play from their role players. But I'm going to make a case for the Lakers as the better team. (Make note that I cringe at this thought, but as somewhat of a closeted Lakers fan - and someone who has a growing disdain for Garnett's posturing - I'll play the role of Devil's Advocate.)

Deeper Bench. The Lakers have gotten considerably deeper with the improved health of Andrew Bynum and Trevor Ariza, the latter of whom provides a nice pop of offense at 9 points per contest and a shade under 2 steals. With Bynum you get the low-post presence sorely missed when the Lakers got manhandled in the Finals.

When Farmar gets healthy - and he'll be missed tomorrow against a surging Rajon Rondo - the Lakers can throw both a veteran point guard and young guy with enough quickness and energy at Rondo. It's quite easy to make the case that Rondo's the best guard on either teams. But I think Farmar - who possesses truer point guard instincts and a far better jumper than Rondo - has the mental fortitude to play on Rondo's level and exceed it. Plus who backs up Rondo? Eddie House? His ballhandling abilities are more suspect Michael Jordan's managerial decision-making.

When you look at the Celtics roster, the only players who have made a leap in their play are Rondo and Kendrick Perkins - both starters propelled to the level of fellow starters Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen. But guys like Leon Powe and Glen Davis haven't made any big leap. Who is the Celtics best bench player? Tony Allen? I can't find a star player on that bench, just a couple guys who sometimes have a break-out game.

The Lakers, on the other hand, can throw out Lamar Odom as a sixth-man when most teams in the NBA would use him as their de facto second-option. (I really hesitate to call Odom a big factor for the Lakers after his levels of Romo-esque choke jobs, but I do like him taking on a lesser role in their game plan. Mentally Odom is missing something - as opposed to, say, Garnett or Kobe - thus less pressure to perform will probably help him.) Mid-way or far down the bench you'll find two three-point specialists in Vladimir Radmanovic and Sasha Vujacic, both of whom would see significantly more burn on a team with Boston's depth. Throw in Ariza and, hopefully, a healthy Farmar and you've got a ridiculous amount of bench versatility.

Age. Yes, Rondo and Perkins have improved their play and clock in at youthful ages, but the undisputed top three players - Allen (33), Garnett (32), and Pierce (31) - carry major mileage (this is Garnett's 14th season) and probably face upwards of 100 games this season. This all becomes problematic when you factor in a weak bench which requires Allen - the most ravaged veteran from an injury perspective - to play upwards of 37 minutes per night. If Allen goes down you end up losing 19 points per and I hardly see Tony Allen filling that role with any success.

As for the Lakers, most of their key guys - Kobe (30), Gasol (28), Bynum (21) - fall on or below that 30 years of age threshold, which, in the world of basketball, is a pretty good barometer for a player's decline.

Slipping under the radar. Many of these historic regular season teams end up accumulating so much hype and expectation that crumbling under its weight becomes inevitable. The Mavericks recent 67-win season didn't end up going so well. The Pistons in recent memory posted a mid-60s win total but also bowed out early. Look at other sports too. Last year's Patriots team had so much expectation thrust upon them after going undefeated in the regular season, yet, when it comes down to it, the regular season doesn't mean jack if you can't win in the postseason. You can't look at that Patriots team and call it a success because they loss when it mattered.

With the Celtics posting the greatest start in league history and closing in on a 20-game win streak, Boston is poised to become a national story. To sustain that expectation for upwards of 100 games will be a difficult task for a team with aging stars and a shallow bench. Perhaps for the first time in ages the Lakers will end up going under the radar, an enviable position when they head into the playoffs. All the distractions that come along with being the NBA's top team - and a historic one to boot - could end up crippling a The Big Three who, combined, has as many rings as Kobe. Both teams know what it takes to win a championship, but only Kobe, at this time, knows how to repeat. (Although he did ride Shaq's coattails to an extent.)

Please. Argue with me on this.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Well folks, it's official. The Jay Triano era has officially hit new levels of disappointment.

The Toronto Raptors dropped a game to the Oklahoma City Thunder this evening by a score of 91 - 83. Yes, the same OKC Thunder who have appeared in numerous sports websites under speculations of being the worst team in NBA history. With the victory OKC improves to 3 wins and 24 losses on the season.

A couple years back, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Hornets played a fair share of games in Oklahoma City as a test-run before Seattle got absolutely ransacked for their beloved franchise. This is like the basketball equivalent of foreplay with Joan Holloway of Mad Men only for Kathy Griffin to come in for the real deal.

For the Raps to lose to the lowly Thunder doesn't bode well for Triano, the first Canadian to coach in the NBA as the head guy. Bosh looks disgruntled. Bargnani remains inconsistent. The wing players are severely outmatched. Jermaine O'Neal is an absolute shell of his former self. But in short, the motivation and hunger has been replaced with apathy and complacency. This team, given the way they've performed since Sam Mitchell's departure, is destined for the draft lottery.

Yet the season is barely past the quarter mark. The playoffs remain a reasonable expectation, but management needs to act now. Which is why I propose two names to take over in Toronto: Eddie Jordan and Avery Johnson.

To start, I realize Avery Johnson's reputation in the league took a serious hit after the 67-win Dallas Mavericks bowed out in the first round to the Nellie-ball G-State Warriors. People say he's too much of a hard-ass, he's too controlling, and with the emergence of Devin Harris as an elite-level point guard, that he stifles the development of young players. All of this is true, to an extent, yet you can't deny that Johnson's Mavericks played wildly successful basketball during his brief tenure. Outside of Don Nelson sticking it to him in that opening playoff round, the Mavericks were greatly improved with Johnson's arrival as opposed to Nelson's former loose style. The Raptors could use some discipline. Triano, like your typical Canadian, seems like a mild-mannered, patient fellow. Sorry, but that's not going to work with this sack of unmotivated guys (save for Bosh and a couple other exceptions).

Eddie Jordan is another name which could help the sorry state in Raptorland. Over his tenure in Washington Jordan has repeatedly extracted maximum results from injury-depleted teams. The make-up of those Wizards teams was never built for success - rather based around two or three big-time players - yet Jordan could take them to the second round of the playoffs. Finally, this season, he met a situation which he couldn't remedy and received a pink slip. But he remains a bona fide leader and motivator, both characteristics which a future head coach in Toronto should exemplify. (Something tells me his style would take really well to the college game...)

So please, for the sake of Raptors fans, let Triano slip back to the outside of the huddle as an assistant. Plenty of talented NBA coaches have drifted from their professions and need to be dragged from the commentator's booths. Either one of these two guys will suffice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Rainbow Aims

There are few more pleasurable or infuriating looks than the patented Vince Carter sulk. After quite possibly one of his worst games as a professional basketball player Friday night against the Raptors, he had that look going for two hours-plus. The look of a kid whose Power Ranger was stolen by a bully in the playground. Or worse, the look he might display after discovering a ding on his Mercedes in the parking lot of a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.

And there are few things more hilarious than watching Jermaine O'Neal decide that he'll take Devin Harris one-on-one for a possession.

After watching the Raptors completely demolish the Nets the most glaring thing - outside of putrid performances from the Nets' starting guards - might be that New Jersey really doesn't give a rip about basketball. With a potential move to Brooklyn on the horizon, and more competitive professional sports franchises in the area, you could see that sports apathy has reached East Rutherford in a big way. Tons of empty seats and little fan involvement. The game could've packed more excitement in a local YMCA. Not to mention that eight-foot nets could've helped Carter immensely.

One thing I took away from this non-game (and I say that in the most caring way) is that the Raptors need to make Jason Kapono a pivotal player in their offensive attack. And it looks like Jay Triano might do that. Sure, Anthony Parker rode the bench in his CNN political correspondent duds, and Kapono remained lukewarm from the field for most of the game, but when he started nailing shots he injected the Raptors with a surge of potency like few players on their roster are capable of. Shooters like Kapono keep shooting until they start to fall. And that's what he did.

Another note: does Izod really have enough money to buy the namesake of the Nets home arena? Do people wear Izod? I suppose they do if Izod is still affiliated with Lacoste, but even still, they make golf shirts. It's not like they're making Pepsi.

Despite Devin Harris's lack of offensive output, you can plainly see that Lawrence Frank has done an impeccable job in making him their number one option and unleashing his offensive arsenal. That step-back jumper is deadly.

Another Triano positive has to be the play of Joey Graham. For the first time in years Graham looks like he belongs in the NBA.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Visualz

It's been more than a minute since I last posted. I could blame clinical depression from the Raptors' horrendous slide of late, but that would be a cop-out. My (hopefully first) degree has taken precedence in its waning hours. As it should.

(Outside of final touches on a degree, I've written a few things for the Martlet: a dated article on the Suns; some thoughts about the 2010 Lebron sweepstakes, most of which manages to slander King James despite the fact that he's playing basketball better than anyone in the world; and a review of Q-Tip's latest album, The Renaissance.)

I'll toss a couple links your way:

Malcolm Gladwell, via an old article from the New Yorker, tackles the age-old question: why are African-Americans kicking such serious ass in professional sports? Now I'm sure some of his facts could be disputed on several grounds - as is common with his articles - but there's some good reading here. And it's nice to have a sports writer who may have been a good athlete. Not that Mike Toth doesn't dominate his rec league squash tournament or anything.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a solid young writer I recently got hip to, has a friendly discussion with John McWhorter over hip-hop and society, via BloggingheadsTV (fantastic site). McWhorter takes a black conservative approach and states that hip-hop, beyond its role as music genre, does not inspire constructive thinking in poor black culture, but rather influences its followers with a message of cynicism.

So while McWhorter makes some valid points, I must lean to Coates' side of the debate. Sure, a lot of music which comes out of political inequality uses a cynical tone, but cynicism doesn't necessarily beget cynicism. There's a reason why Chuck D called himself and Public Enemy the 'Black CNN.' And that was the need to present black history from an African-American perspective. You can inspire people even when your work uses a jaded tone, and that's what socially-conscious music has done across more genres than rap.

On the first day of a poetry workshop our professor told us not to assume that the speaker in the poem is the writer. This is the type of thing you need to tell undergraduate writers or they'll start thinking that half their peers are doing smack or come from abusive households. (ie. Many student writers write about incredible sex, only most of them are quiet and solitary and write a fantasy land to dwell in. So yes, do not make assumptions about someone's personal life from their poetry.)

Hip-hop is probably the closest in mainstream music genres to poetry, from its rhythms to line structures, and like poetry, the writer can and will access different states of emotion and/or write from another perspective. Do not assume that Big Boi in "Ms. Jackson" (by Outkast) is referring to himself when using the 'I'. The song is an examination of custody battles, money, and post-relationship frustration from the perspective of a slightly angry young man. The song succeeds in part because of Big Boi's ability to juxtapose down-tempo vitriol with Andre 3000's falsetto-laced fairy tale hook. A reproduction of these emotional states through hip-hop seems like an awfully constructive activity.

I could go on forever about, what I believe, are faults in McWhorter's argument, but I'll leave with one thought: how terrible would popular music be without cynical artists?