Magic, Nash and Some Blog Talk

Kurt —  February 14, 2007

There is so much great and interesting stuff put out in the basketball blogsphere the last couple days that to just talk about Lakers’ lack of focus on defense last night seems masochistic. So today bask in the sunshine, the darkness may creep back in tomorrow.

Let’s start with friend-of-this-site Nate Jones of Jones on the NBA, who takes a look back at Magic Johnson’s 1996 comeback (read the entire thing, this is just an excerpt).

Magic would return to the Lakers as a 6th man on January 30, 1996 against the Golden State Warriors. After not playing in an NBA regular season game for almost five years, Johnson came back and had a tremendous impact on the team. The Lakers planned to use Magic as a back up power forward/6th man for the young Laker squad. In his first game back he played 27 minutes, scored 19 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and dished out 10 assists. He would have his down points (such as the drubbing he and his young teammates took at the hands of the mighty 72 win Chicago Bulls), but for the most part had the Lakers rolling.

They were 13-5 in his first 18 games back with the team when the jealousy of the younger players started to set in. Cedric Ceballos, an All-Star the year before, became upset that he had to give up some of his minutes to Magic and decided to take out his frustrations partying on a lake in Arizona. Despite the Lakers victory against the Western Conference leading Seattle Sonics, Ceballos bailed on the team, upset that he only played 12 minutes and scored 2 points while Magic played 34 minutes, had 14 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds. With Ceballos missing and controversy hanging over the team’s head, the Lakers would end up losing their game two nights later (against Seattle again). Ceballos would join the team again in Orlando (where they upset them at home…a big deal considering Orlando was undefeated at home up until that point), but the team was never the same. Guys like Nick Van Exel started to join Ceballos in their jealousy of Johnson. The team was winning, yet the young guys were too worried about their minutes and who the leader of the team was to enjoy it. The Lakers got through the regular season going 22-10 during Magic’s return. But by the time the playoffs rolled around the fight over team leadership had torn the team apart. Despite having home court advantage in the first round, the Lakers would eventually lose to the defending champion Houston Rockets in four games. Realizing that he wasn’t cut out for playing with young players Magic left the Lakers for good.

I was at that Golden State game and it is one of my fondest memories as a Laker fan. The building was electric, like a playoff game but one you just knew was going to go well. I remember Magic setting up in the low post then making brilliant passes out of it that left Golden State looking like a YMCA pickup game team on defense. It was, well, magical. And thanks to Nate for bringing up those fun times.

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Kevin Pelton has put up a story talking about just what Nash — and his absence the last few games — means to the Suns.

Over the last two-plus seasons, Nash’s primary backup has been Barbosa. Barbosa has matured into an explosive scorer with lightning quickness, but he is no Nash, particularly when it comes to distributing the basketball.

Phoenix’s ability to play without Nash can be evaluated by Nash’s net plus-minus rating over the last three seasons – the difference, measured per 100 possessions, in Phoenix’s play relative to opponents. As the table at right shows, the Suns have become more dependent on Nash this season. Only two players in the league (Washington’s Gilbert Arenas and Dallas’ Devin Harris) have higher differentials. Most of the difference, predictably, is on offense: Phoenix’s Offensive Rating drops from 119.6 with Nash to 105.4 without him.

What’s interesting is that Nash missing games, and the struggles the Suns had in his absence, two years ago helped him to the first MVP trophy. That could happen again, which I will add I think is grossly unfair — you are punishing Dirk for not getting hurt (or Kobe or Wade or whomever). Long way to go in the MVP race, but this will be interesting.

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The biggest news in the NBA blogsphere, which many of you already know about, is that the amazing True Hoop is now part of ESPN.com’s empire. I can tell you this has bloggers buzzing.

I think it’s fantastic — both for Henry and the multitudes of NBA fans who didn’t know what they were missing. His is the best basketball blog out there, leading the field like Secretariat at the Belmont. He deserved to get paid (and get paid, well, one could hope). Also, credit is due to Royce Webb (I assume he pushed for this) at ESPN.com for pulling together a bunch of diverse basketball voices at his corner of the Web. You may not love Hollinger or Stein or Ford, but what you get at the site is not the same old talking heads saying the same old stuff. They get it; there is a diversity of voices.

True Hoop’s move has a lot of bloggers wondering what the next step is for the NBA blogsphere in general, and how they can get paid (at least something) in particular. And I’m really a guy without good answers to those questions. I think I’m just starting to get my head around the niche of blogging about the NBA (and in my case an NBA team) fits into the larger blog and online media as a whole. I’m behind on that learning curve. I’ve tried to broaden out doing more mainstream-style blogging at LAist — I don’t really question my ability to write well enough for a more mainstream audience, but to do that well without dumbing down the content is another matter. I think I’m getting better at it. I hope I can take better advantage of future opportunities that roll my way.

But here’s the bottom line — I started FB&G with no expectations. No expectations of readers, certainly no expectations of income. What this has grown into (a community of smart, thoughtful and passionate basketball and Laker fans who can have civilized discussions) is beyond what I dreamed. And I guess what that means is this — I’m not changing the style here. There are professional bloggers doing Laker blogs that are fun and a more mainstream. If I’m going to get paid for this site, well I guess the mountain will have to come to Mohamed (so to speak). Because I like it here.

Kurt

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10 responses to Magic, Nash and Some Blog Talk

  1. Right on, Special K.
    You’re the reason I’m here.

    Thank you.

    – 5 -

  2. I saw an interesting comment on another site that said that not only will TrueHoop see increased traffic due to its acquisition, the blogs it links to will get more visitors as well.

    What does that mean for FB&G? Hopefully some more “smart, thoughtful and passionate basketball and Laker fans who can have civilized discussions” will be able to find Kurt’s awesome blog.

  3. I am soooo glad this site exists, as a blue and gold forum for rational, intelligent basketball conversation to take place. We’re opinioated basketball fans, and we likely read other blogs to keep the juices flowing, but coming home to FB&G is a treat. No idiots, no babies, no kids crying in their beer they aren’t yet old enough to drink, no extremism, no bashing, no flame-wars. There is a dearth of sensible discourse about sports (and politics and religion), but this has become a place we can depend on.

    Cheers to all the FB&G team.

  4. I wasn’t surprised by the news – it seemed pretty logical considering Simmons (along with Webb) has been pulling True Hoop on occasion as well.

    I’m really happy I found FB&G – it’s added to one of the sites I check out every single day, so Kurt – you are right there with Mark Cuban :)

  5. Another link to Nate Jones, he was at the game last night and did some live blogging via crackberry (I just got one of those and man, they are addictive).


    -Denzel Washington is the coolest celeb that attends Laker games. What other celebrity would come to a Laker game in a black t-shirt, black windbreaker pants, and sneakers. Dude looked like he just finished working out and then headed to the game. I also give him props for always saying what up to all the staples center attendants.

    -Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury really still think they’re back in 1999-2000, when both of them were actually good. Steve has totally lost all of his ups that allowed him to get away with not being smartest basketball player. He can’t jump over people anymore, so these days his forays to the basket usually come up short. I should have known their careers were over when the NBA started cracking down on carrying over. That pretty much took both of their bread and butter moves away.

    -Kobe’s playing smooth as ever, hitting on 18 points in the first half. He closed the half hitting a buzzer beater from 26 feet that had the entire arena buzzing. I’m really impressed with the way he communicates to his teammates. He’s out there directing the entire team on offense and defense. It’s a shame that many of the guys just aren’t capable of being elevated.

    -Game is turning out to be very good, mostly because Smush has allowed the Knicks washed up guards to kill the Lakers. Smush’s new nickname is officially DLeague.

    Read the whole thing, great stuff:

    http://nba.aolsportsblog.com/2007/02/14/blackberry-live-bloggin-note-s-from-the-lakers-vs-knicks-game/

  6. i was at that second game, against the bulls. the game itself was a disaster, but man, what an experience for me. same as you, it was one of my favorite days as a laker fan. the highlights?

    1. i was there with a friend who was covering the game for an east-coast daily, so i was there about two hours early. as i romed the forum, i found chick hearn sitting alone in his bird’s nest, preparing, and i went up and spent a few minutes chatting with him about magic. i told him, “man, it’s a special night, mr. hearn,” and he looked me in the eye and smiled, and said “it certainly is. it certainly is.” man. chills, still.

    2. because i was there with a press pass, i got to hang out at the press conference afterward, but i didn’t have to cover it. now THAT’s fun…

    of course, the lakers got dismantled, but at least i got to see the last time magic and MJ went head-to-head…

  7. Hey guys, first of all, I wanted to thank Kurt for what he does with this site. Its one thing to be a die hard Laker fan, its something much better to be able to discuss with others as well. Every contributor here knows whats up. I never even knew what a blog was until I was reading DIME magazines’ NBA season preview for this year and they pointed out to me in the magazine that blogs are taking over. They had every teams preview in the magazine by their hometown blog, and thats how I first heard about FB & G. So keep up the good work Kurt.

    One quick memory about that Magic comeback game. Remember when he faked the $#!& out of Sprewell with the fake pass out to the corner and went in for the uncontested layup? That was beautiful, it was like Magic had never left.

    As for last night, everybody all over the news and radio has been crying all day about why Kobe didn’t get the last shot. Come on people, dont you see what PJ is doing? Us true Laker fans know that PJ will gladly sacrifice a loss mid season to build a player’s confidence in the long run, and thats exactly what he is doing now. Lamar was having a HORRIBLE game. But PJ still called the play for him, wanted him to be the hero. He missed and PJ and Kobe didnt sound like they regretted the decision. A loss in February to the Knicks is not important… having Lamar know the hes our guy is more important

  8. Kurt,

    Thanks for the love. This is the most straight forward blog on the net, that’s why it’s always one of my first two stops on my daily internet surf.

    I also think for the most part the commenters of your site are well versed and usually say very intelligent things. I think a lot of this can be contributed to your style. Fair weather fans preaching non-sense aren’t really interested in a well maintained, logical site like this…and believe me, that’s a good thing. Anyhow, keep up the good work.

  9. I’m really happy for Henry and all the TrueHoops stuff
    he’s doing a great job in his site and deserves all this

    and about F&G… i gotta be thankful I found this site almost 1 year ago
    damn, just 1 year!
    and it will be more and more
    Keep it real, Kurt

  10. Hi Kurt,

    Keep it as it is–and continue to have fun. You’ll do just fine!