December 2004 - Posts

Earlier this month EA announced that it had signed an exclusive licensing deal with the NFL allowing NFL teams, players, and stadiums to be used exclusively by EA football games (namely their Madden series).  This, of course, will greatly hamper competition, supposedly, because (in theory) very few people will purchase a video game that doesn't have real team names and players, especially when there's an exisiting game on the market with the real teams/players.

Not surprisingly, EA approached the NBA with a similar offer.  Thanksfully, EA has been rebuffed by the NBA.  There's enough competition in the NBA console market that the NBA makes more money licensing out their teams and players to all of the competition than they would selling the rights exclusively to EA.

All I can say is, “Phew!”  This will keep EA baseketball alternative games alive and the more games around, the better the competition, the better the game innovation, the better the pricing, etc., etc.

Posted by Scott
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The Phoenix Suns upped their record to 22-3 tonight with an exciting win over the Nuggets, 107-105.  They are on pace to win 72.16 games this season, if they can keep up their frantic pace.  Could the Phoenix Suns do the unthinkable and break the Chicago Bull's record of 72 wins in a season?  I highly, highly, highly doubt it - in fact, I'd wager that they won't top the Bulls/Lakers second best season-wins record of 69 - too many variables come into play: injuries, cold streaks, hot streaks from other teams.

Regardless, the Suns have made a very profound statment to the League thus far through the season: they are for real.  They have the best record in the Leage with a couple more wins than the Spurs, and the Sonics, who started off so hot, have been in a mini-slump as of late, losing 2 of their last 3.  The Suns, though, are as hot as the celestial body that bears their name, having won nine straight, many of those wins against decent to strong teams (Seattle, Washington, Cleveland, Utah, Orlando, etc.).

I'm really looking forward to the Lakers/Heat matchup coming on Christmas day.  In part because of the drama - Shaq issued a “warning” to Kobe on Monday - but also because I'll be with my brother and Dad, a duo I've not watched a basketball game with together since back when I was in high school and the Bulls still had MJ.

Posted by Scott

According to ESPN.com, the Raptors and Nets have worked out a trade that would send VC to the Nets in exchange for:

  1. Alonzo Mourning
  2. Eric Williams
  3. Aaron Williams
  4. Two first-round draft picks, with one of the picks protected

This trade is still waiting League approval and physicals, but assuming those issues work out, it's (supposedly) a done deal.  I guess this is the Nets way of telling Kidd that they are serious (or something), which means I guess we won't see Kidd sneak out West to the Lakers or Mavs this year.  I think this trade makes business sense for the Nets - VC can draw the crowds - but does it make basketball sense?  This trade further weakens the Nets front court, and who can say how well VC and Kidd will gel?  On the flipside, I think the Raptors will benefit from this trade, basketball wise.  It might be a couple of years, but I think by moving VC they got rid of a distraction and are ready to build around Bosh.

Interestingly, once this trade goes through the Nets will become one of (currently) six teams who have two or more players whose jersey's are among the top 25 selling jerseys.  Prior to this trade the six teams are:

  1. The Heat - Shaq (#1) & Dwayne Wade (#16)
  2. The Rockets - T-Mac (#2) & Yao (#13)
  3. The Knicks - Starbury (#3) & Houston (#22)
  4. The Nuggets - 'Melo (#5) & Martin (#19)
  5. The Celtics - Pierce (#14) & Payton (#23)
  6. The Kings - Webber (#24) & Peja (#25)

With this trade, the Nets will be on the list with Kidd (#15) and Carter (#17).

Posted by Scott

Jason Whitlock wrote a great article recently called, Kobe, Keep Your Mouth Shut.  Jason's a bit hard on Kobe in certain spots, but his basic premise is that Kobe needs to put his head down and play hard rather than appearing on air or in the papers with quotes that only get him in trouble.  He further postulates that Kobe's biggest mistake was admitting to his wife that he did bonk that schitzo hotel clerk in Eagle (don't know if I agree with that, though).  His most insightful comments, though, come when talking about what he forsees Kobe's future with his wife to be: one of his wife causing trouble, trying her damndest to exact revenge on her husband who can't seem to keep his hands off the chemically-unbalanced white girls from hick towns.

Vanessa is going to be pushing your buttons for the rest of your married life. She's not letting it go. She can't. Karl Malone did not try to get with your wife. Your wife baited Karl into some harmless flirtation.

"Whatcha huntin' Cowboy?"

What was Karl supposed to say? He thinks he's jabbering with a friend so he cracks a joke. Vanessa blew this thing out of proportion because she's still angry with you. A $4-million ring doesn't take the pain or embarrassment away. The only things that will ease that pain and embarrassment are a divorce and half of your money.

Another choice quote from the article:

Kobe, you need to learn to keep your mouth shut. You talk too much. Damn, dude, when the police asked you what happened between you and a 19-year-old, you ran off at the mouth and dragged Shaq's reputation through the mud. You're making a fool out of yourself, Kobe.

Despite his off-court mishaps, Bryant is, not surprisingly, bringing the numbers to the hardwood.  In last night's W over Sacto, Bryant poured in 31 pts and 12 dimes, leading to another double-double this season.  Comparing this season and last, Kobe's currently scoring more than 3 ppg, dishing out rougly 2 apg more, and 2 boards per game more.  Of course, he's playing more than five minutes more per game now.  So he actually scored more per minute last year than currently, which makes sense - the less time on the court, the more rested you'll be and the more productive your on-court minutes will become.

Bill Simmon's latest article had some commentary on the Lakers and Bryant's contribution, which I'll leave you with:

There's comedy, there's high comedy, there's transcendent comedy ... and then there's Kobe's contrived attempt to be the outgoing leader of this Lakers team. ... At this point, the Lakers should just put the Odom trade on their season schedule.  Believe me, I've been watching them all season -- partly because I'm so fascinated by Kobe's surreal attempt to be gregarious and supportive, partly because it's so darned enjoyable to root against them -- and poor Lamar is slowly getting the Private Pyle Face. During the Clips game, with Kobe on pace for a shot a minute -- he finished with 32 shots in 37 minutes -- Odom snapped in the third quarter and started screaming at everyone: Kobe, Rudy T., Atkins, you name it. "GET ME THE (EXPLETIVE) BALL!" How could you blame him? He knew he could take Moore off the dribble. So they ran a few plays for him and Odom scored eight of the next ten points: Easy points, too. He could have scored 40 against this Clippers team; nobody could guard him.  Well, guess what? Kobe didn't like that. He launched the final three shots of the quarter.

Needless to say, I don't see this ending well. Odom proved in Miami that he's one of the top-25 players in the league. He isn't someone you want standing 25 feet from the basket watching Kobe going one-on-three. It's a waste of his considerable talents. That's why he's going to snap soon. I wish there was a way to wager on this, but I bet Odom will start bitching about Kobe behind closed doors. Then Kobe will react poorly, start pulling his puppet strings to get Mitch Kupchak to do something ... and suddenly you'll see old Lamar heading somewhere else for 75 cents on the dollar. If Odom is smart, he should speed the process up and hit on Kobe's wife after a game. Somebody needs to send him a cowboy hat and some boots.

Posted by Scott
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This ought to nip Malone's retirement/not coming back to the Lakers in the bud: Kobe Bryant has accused the Mailman of hitting on his wife.

"Karl and his son were at the game sitting in the front row," Pelinka[, Kobe's agent,] said. "Vanessa was on the cell phone talking to Karl's wife, Kaye, and Vanessa said that her son looked bored. Kaye told her to call Karl to have her son join her in her seats. Kaye gave Vanessa Karl's cell number and she called him. When she called, Karl's response was, 'Why don't you come over here and sit next to me and give me a big hug?' Vanessa said, 'Why? For what?' And Karl replied, 'If you do that it will be on the cover of every magazine in the country.'

"Vanessa didn't know what to say because this was the first time she had ever spoken to Malone without Kobe or Kaye being around. Karl continued. 'Do you like me?' Malone asked her, to which Vanessa said, 'As my friend, Kaye's husband,' " Pelinka said.

"From there Malone asked Vanessa if she could keep a secret, and that he would like to tell her something. At which point Vanessa told him she was a married woman and he was a married man who was old enough to be her father. To which Malone replied, 'Oh, like your daddy?' At that point she told me she ended the conversation," Pelinka said.

In the second half of the game, Malone sent his son to sit with the Bryants.

"Vanessa told me that she just was very uncomfortable at halftime and that Karl was acting and saying weird things." said Pelinka. "When the game ended, Vanessa walked Malone's son back to Karl. She told me that she asked Malone why he was wearing that [cowboy] hat. His response was, 'I'm hunting for young Mexican girls.' At which point Vanessa just walked away."

It's like our very own soap opera here in LA-LA land.  David Stern has gotta be loving this season.  If there's any truth in these claims, at least Malone can take solace in the fact that he hits on hotties while Kobe has no problem picking up unattractive bipolar girls from hick towns.

Posted by Scott
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There have been a gaggle of professional basketball games played over the years, so it's not surprising that there have been some amazing endings to games.  Last night, Tracey McGrady provided such an ending, helping the struggling Rockets overcome the Spurs.

The Spurs were up by 7 with under a minute left, but lost it thanks to a barrage of 3s by T-Mac.  McGrady started his spree with a four-point play, getting fouled by Duncan and hitting the three.  Rockets down by 3.  The Spurs score, so Rockets down by 5, now.  Perfect time for T-Mac to launch up another three, which swishes in, Rockets down by 2.  Spurs call timeout and advance it to half court.  They inbound, but the ball is lost, T-Mac comes running down the court and heaves up a three with two guys in his grill - swish!  Rockets win by 1, 81-80.  Insane. 

Quite an exciting ending last night, but where does it rank on the All-Time List of Exciting Endings?  Clearly it can't be ranked too high, since this was just a regular season game.  No, for a game to make the All-Time list the ending would not only need to be exciting, but also be a game that means something.  And also have an effect past the game (such as Fisher's 0.4 second shot that sucked the life force out of the Spurs for that series).  Without giving it too much thought, here's my list of All-Time Most Exciting Endings for NBA games (and, yes, it's biased to the Bulls and Lakers, because those are the teams I've followed over the years):

  1. Jodan's Second to Last Shot, Steal from Karl Malone, and Final Shot (Game 6, 1998 Finals) - this will, likely, be the #1 exciting ending for me, personally, because I was watching that game with five die-hard Jazz fans.  The Bulls had struggled with the Pacers in the ECF, going to 7 games, and the word was that they were too tired to beat the Jazz.  The Jazz took their Finals loss last year, but '98 was supposed to be time for the Jazz.

    Going into Game 6, the Bulls has a 3-2 lead, but had lost the last game.  And Game 6 (as well as Game 7) were to be played in Utah.  These Jazz fans I was watching the game with started talking real smack as the Jazz lead throughout most of the game.  Late in the game, just before this sequence, one friend said, “Looks like we're going to a Game 7, and the Bulls look too tired to win that one.  No Three-Peat this time.“  Perhaps that single line jinxed the Jazz, because following that Jordan came down the court and hit that running layup.  This is when I stood up... HERE WE GO.  Down on D, Jordan runs past Malone, only to pop back and strip the ball.  THERE'S NOT GONNA BE A GAME 7, FOOLS!  Jordan, comes down the court, and pops a shot (after giving Russell a slight shove) - swish!  (Man, why did Jordan have to come back, that memory was the perfect ending to his career for me......)
  2. Fisher's Three to Beat San Antonio (Game 5, 2004 WCSF) - 0.4 seconds, need I say more?  What made that especially exciting was the fact that the Lakers had a sound lead going into the 4th - which they squandered - and Duncan hit that impossible shot over Shaq from the top of the key to put the Spurs up by 1 with 0.4 second.  And then my man, D-Fish, hits that crazy shot with less than half a second.  Wild.  Not only was this an exciting finish in its own right, but it managed to also take the wind out of the Spurs' sails, allowing the Lakers to advance to the WCFs and, eventually, the Finals.
  3. Horry's Three-Ball to Beat the Kings (Game 4, 2002 WCF) - I think last second threes where the guy gets to setup are probably more exciting that seeing the guy running around with the ball at the top of the arc, and then heaving a shot up.  Why?  Well, when that guy gets the ball behind the arc, there's that sucking in of air, that nervous pause, as he squares up and lets it fly.  There's no preparation for it, like with T-Mac's last second three last night (you knew as he ran down the court he was going to shoot a 3) - it just goes in the shooter's hands and all of a sudden it's an, “Oh my God, this is it“ moment.  Had Horry missed that shot, the Kings would be up 3-1, but with the make the series was knotted at two a piece, and the Lakers did go on to win (in seven).
  4. Paxon's Three Against the Suns (Game 6, 1993 Finals) - Another one of those “Oh my God“ moments, as Grant kicks the ball out to Paxon for the open three.  This setup is somewhat similar to Game 6 of the '98 Finals - the Bulls were trying to Three Peat, they were fatigued, were in Phoenix for Games 6 and 7, were down by 2 to the Suns late in the game... it was shaping up for a disaster, but Paxon's shot saved the game and brought the first Three Peat in over a decade to the city of Chicago.
  5. Reggie Miller's Barrage of Three's (Game 1, 1995 ECSF) - This was the game where Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds.  This was made possible by Reggie's sharpshooting, but also because the Knicks blundered down the stretch, making a couple bad passes/decisions.  But still, Reggie was on fire and was not going to miss.  The Pacers went on to win the series in seven games.

Any games I've missed?  Care to add your own?  On an aside, I found the following page - http://www.nba.com/germany/sharpshooters/three_debut_040908.html - which has footage of the Top 10 3 Pointers in the Last 25 Years, and includes Reggie's shots as well as Paxon's three to win the '93 Finals.

A few nights ago Kobe Bryant, while being interviewed by a local radio station here in SoCal, commented about how Malone's non-commital to coming back was causing some problems with his teammates, having these young kids looking over their shoulders, thinking that they PT could be drastically cut if Mailman returns to the court.  He also prognosticated that he didn't expect Karl to come back this year.

Overall, the message wasn't too bad, I heard it replayed on a local radio show the other night.  The only thing that sounds a bit weird is Kobe keeps referring to his teammates as “my guys,” and the Lakers as “my team.”  I guess it is your team and the guys are his when the owner is turning over $130+ million to Kid Kobe, but it still seemed a bit out of place.  Anyway, Karl Malone's agent responded the following day, saying the Mailman was pissed, saying this opened the possiblity of him playing elsewhere.  Assorted quotes from Malone include:

I wish them the best.  Whether I play or not, I wish them the best. And I was seriously, seriously considering coming back.  ...  I didn't come to take anybody's glory, anybody's accolades, anybody's anything. But if it seems to me that that is what I'm doing, then I would rather move on and turn the page in my life.  If that's your star player, you want him to want you on the team, right? I don't want to be anybody's distraction.  ...  Is there any way I can come back and play for the Lakers?  You gave a person 100 percent control of an organization -- 100! -- and that person don't want you there. ... How can it be a way for me to play for the Lakers?

Kobe has officially gone back on air and tried to straighten this out, saying he wasn't saying he didn't want Malone back, his players were just wanting some more detailed knowledge on if the ol' veteran was coming back or not.  Kobe contends that he tried to contact Malone privately to hash things out.

In the end, I think Kobe shouldn't have made his comments on air, he should have been discussing this directly with Malone and his agent.  But I think Karl wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy over-reacted.  As one sports commentator on local radio here put it, he thought that Karl really doesn't want to come back to play with the Lakers, seeing as they might not even make the playoffs, and that his strong reaction is just to give him an excuse to get out of dodge.  As he put it, it's Malone's way of saying, “I'm taking my ball, and going home.”

There's a good article by Ric Bucher on Karl Malone being the real drama queen here, overreacting and demanding attention and glorification.  I agree with a good chunk of it, it's a great read.

In the end I think both Kobe and Karl are two of the less likable guys in the league.  I mean, there are certain players I think you see and hear talk and you say to yourself, “I could see myself hanging out with someone like this.”  But Kobe and Karl have never come across this way to me.  Kobe seems too much a perfectionist, too awkward in social situations.  Like he doesn't seem to be the kind of guy who could crack a joke, or just make small talk.  He's too stoic, perhaps.  Karl Malone seems a bit of an egoist, a bit too sensitive emotionally, and, perhaps, insecure.

Who would I most like to hang out with?  I think Jordan and Barkley would top the list.  Jordan is probably an ass in real life, due to his intense competitiveness, but I grew up idolizing the guy, so I'd like to play horse with him.  (I don't have a problem with losing, so perhaps I could mesh with Jordan better than those folks who are intensely competitive themselves, or who let others get under their skin too easily.)  Barkley just seems like he'd be a blast, cracking jokes, helping himself to seconds, etc.  Kind of like that fun uncle that shows up at family reunions that everyone wants to hang out with.

Posted by Scott
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After a couple days of rumors, it's now official: Lakers guard Kareem Rush has been traded to the Charlotte Bobcats.  For giving up Rush the Lakers received Charlotte's second-round draft picks for 2005 and 2008.  This trade makes sense, in theory, since Rush is seeing so little playing time this year (averaging 6.5 minutes per game compared to 17.3 minutes per game last season).

Kareem will likely never a great player, but I think he has as much potential as Luke Walton.  He did have a 30+ point game last year, in Kobe's absense, reached 18 points in a playoff game, and did hit some big threes in big games.  He also got some invaluable PT last year during the playoffs, experience not many third year players in his league have. 

So now he's off to the Bobcats, moving from a potential playoff team to a team that's going to be lottery bound for at least the next three years.  I can see things unfolding in one of two ways:

  1. Kareem gets increased PT, but his numbers don't improve drastically.  He plays the next several years as an average player for a piss-poor team, falling off of every team's radar.  He'll be one of those guys whose name gets mentioned 10 years from now and no one will remember who this kid was.  If this route unfolds, he could either be a perennial Bobcat or one of those NBA journeymen, who bounce around the second rosters of assorted NBA teams, never staying for more than a year or three.
  2. Kareem gets increased playing time and steps up, big time.  He starts having great numbers because he is playing with other average players (no Shaq or Kobe to outshine him).  This could take one of two paths:
    1. Kareem becomes greatly overrated and signs with some team for a ludicrous amount of money later in life, and becomes a big disappointment.
    2. Kareem sticks with the Bobcats for many years, and becomes one of those players who kind of remember as that guy who had a lot of points but never really did anything worth remembering.  Like a Mitch Richmond, or Antwoine Walker.

Since Kareem and I have the Missouri connection, I'd like to see him do well, as well as he can.  The best situation for someone like Kareem, IMO, would be a solid contributor on a team with some talent, like he was with the Lakers prior to the Shaq/Kobe breakup.

Posted by Scott
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