Archives For June 2005

Fast Break

Kurt —  June 3, 2005

For the record — I did not shoot Biggie Smalls, the LAPD was just trying to frame me. Now, on to some basketball thoughts.

• Let me start out bragging, I think I am the Michael Jordan Mattel Classic Basketball. Sure, there are far more modern hoops video games complete with Amare Stoudemire’s 360 dunks of flaming basketballs, but I’ve been hooked on the Mattel game since I was in elementary school — where my friend John and I played all the way through recess ever day. I hadn’t seen the game in years but got a re-release as a gift from my brother last Christmas and I’m hooked again. I can make the little red LED light drive the lane like Kobe with the clock running down — I am unstoppable. There needs to be a world championship for this.

• According to Larry Stewart at the LA Times, Joel Meyers is the new TV voice for Lakers. Hopefully he’ll have a more interesting season to call than the ousted Paul Sunderland did last year.

• Whether you’re optimistic about the Lakers this summer or pessimistic, Eric Pincus has a piece up at Hoopsworld that backs you up. This is the usual gret work from Eric, it will get you up to date on all the rumors out there.

• Two potential Laker draft picks, international forwards Fran Vasquez and Tiago Splitter faced each other in a recent game and Draft City has the play-by-play. Not a lot there but what is basically confirms the existing rumors — Vasquez can come in now and play (with good defense and rebounding) but Splitter has more potential. Other reports out of the European playoffs rave about Vasquez. More and more mock drafts have Vasquez gone before the Lakers draft at 10.

• Including the Hoopsworld piece above a couple of stories now have the Lakers looking to trade up in the draft. While a number of scenarios are out there, the only one that makes sense to me is trading Caron Butler and the 10 to New Orleans for the 4th overall pick. I don’t love it but if they can get Chris Paul the Lakers will have the point guard of their future, so it may be worth it (it’s going to be hard to resign Butler at the end of the year and if he’s gone we need to get something for him, and the Hornets need a three). This trade wouldn’t happen until draft day — if Bogut or Williams fall to them New Orleans isn’t giving up that pick.

• Shaq, good on ya.

• Looks like expected #1 pick Andrew Bogut and Kobe won’t be having a couple beers together soon:

Bogut was asked for specifics of the American attitude toward the game, what he does not like. Guess who’s name came up?

“There’s no one I really hate, but Kobe [Bryant] had a demeanor of being very cocky,” he said. “What happened with Shaq. . . . If I had a chance to play with Shaq or Tim, if they told me to buy them groceries, I don’t care, I buy them groceries. It’s a gift to play with somebody like that. Kobe is probably one of the guys that, everybody knows it, he’s got that cocky arrogance to him, everything has to surround around him the whole time.

Remembering George Mikan

Kurt —  June 2, 2005

Every time I’ve looked up into the rafters at Staples Center (and before that at the Forum) and seen the retired jerseys, I’ve been amazed at the legendary NBA talent that has played for the Lakers, many I’ve been fortunate to see play — Wilt, West, Baylor, Magic, Kareem, Goodrich, Worthy.

But there’s always been one jersey missing — George Mikan’s 99. He led the Lakers to five titles, was the game’s first superstar and was a member of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time list. He was voted at the time as the best basketball player of the first half of last century.

Now, that number will need to be retired posthumously as he passed away Wednesday, finally succumbing to a long-term battle with diabetes.

Mikan played eight of his nine seasons with the Minneapolis Lakers, retiring before the team ever moved to the sunshine (which is why Jerry Buss has never let his number be retired by the team, he was never a Los Angeles Laker). Yet Mikan was the first in the tradition of dominant big man to don a Laker uniform.

Back before World War II, the conventional wisdom was basketball was a sport best left to the small and quick. Then came the 6-10 Mikan, who was as athletic and coordinated as men a foot shorter, and he was intense. He could shoot over anyone in the league averaged 23.1 points per game in his career at a time when the average team scored in the mid 80s. In 1951 he averaged 28.3 PPG — 34% of the teams scoring. While he was at it he averaged 13.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists for his career. If you want to used the advanced stats (and you only can for the last few years of his career due to what stats were kept), in 1951-52 he had a PER of 26.6, followed by a 28.5 the next year and a 29 the year after that (for comparison, Neil Johnston was second in the NBA that last year with a PER of 25.8 — more than three points behind. That 29 is better than any NBA player had this past year, Garnett led the way with 28.8.).

But to tie Mikan just to his stats would be to miss the big picture — like all the greats he changed the game.

The reason there is a goaltending rule is George Mikan. The NBA widened the foul lane so he couldn’t hang out so close to the basket. Some say he invented the hook shot, and while that may be in question he was the first to use it regularly and effectively. He was the games first big star and drew countless new fans to the game — when his Lakers came to play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden the marquee read “George Mikan vs. Knicks” (thanks to Gatinho for reminding me of that one). He played a hard-nosed style in a hard-nosed era and had 10 broken bones in his nine-year career, but that never slowed him down or the rush of people who came to see him play.

Some people also forget that long after his legendary playing days, Mikan was the first commissioner of the ABA and is the person credited with coming up with the idea of the red, white and blue ball.

He was inducted into the first class of the Basketball Hall of Fame back in 1959. He is a legend enshrined everywhere basketball greats are recognized.

Except in the rafters at Staples Center.

So Few Things, So Much Time

Kurt —  June 2, 2005

Wait, strike that, reverse it.

• The latest Carnival of the NBA is up at the usually hockey (but I’ve got some time on my hands) Off-Wing Opinion. This is one of the most extensive carnivals to date with links to what NBA bloggers all over the Web are saying about the playoffs, Larry Brown, just how good Ginobli is and a phrenological study.

• This is a must read: One of best discussions of the NBA’s culture clash — between the urban players/fan base and the suburban people and companies expected to shell out money for the expensive seats and luxury boxes — and how that tied into Nash’s MVP win is up over at Knickerblogger.

Undeniably constructed to run fast and jump high (but apparently not shoot straight), the Olympic team’s failure turned what was a simmering cultural conflict into a full-blown cultural crisis over how the game “should” be played.

This kind of work is why Knickerblogger is the gold standard for NBA blogs.

• One of the interesting things about the hit counters for this site is they tell me what Google/Yahoo searches people use that bring them here. I haven’t kept the stats but if I had to guess I’d say the all time leader is some version of people trying to find out about Kobe’s shoes — the Air Zoom Huracahe 2K5. Recently Nike took a few people off its sweatshop Zoom LeBron II manufacturing line and had them make 1,000 pairs of Kobe’s shoes and those are available as of today. There are 500 pairs at Los Angeles area shoe stores or you can buy one of the 500 pairs offered online through the above link. It shows you just how far Kobe’s marketing stock has fallen that they are making and selling just 1,000 of these and doing so when he is not playing.

• I really am not fond of all the bullet point entries on this site recently, it’s not my preferred style. That said, I’m not going to turn this site into a Phil Jackson Where’s Waldo (who is Phil having lunch with today?) and there has been little to analyze. Starting next week, when reports start coming out of the Chicago pre-draft camp, we’ll really start to do draft thoughts.

• This sounds a like a sports talk radio bit, but the on-the-way NBA lockout frustrates me because it’s hard to watch millionaires battle billionaires over how to divide up the money I give them.