I think we can kinda stop the "Metta World Peace" stuff. Seems more than a little done after his complete decking of James Harden.
First, can we get this out of the way?
Yes, Ron Artest (I think "Ron" has been playing for a few weeks now) deserves a suspension. Absolutely. That was an abhorrent act that has no place on the basketball court. Ever. I in no way, shape or form condone what he did.
But calls for "20 games", "a whole season"... and even "a lifetime ban" are so idiotic that they are ludicrous.
Are you people trying to assert that it was any where near the ballpark of Jermaine O'Neal's role in the Malice in the Palace? Or worse than those that ran up into the stands (yes, it's not lost on me that Ron Artest was one of those)? Or how about bringing GUNS to an arena, and threatening a teammate with their use???
Some perspective please.
Some have stated that it's similar in severity to Andrew Bynum's smackdown of JJ Barea last season, and should be assessed as such. Well... that's kinda wrong on three levels: 1) as severe and stupid and out of line as that play was, it was during play. This wasn't. 2) Bynum was hit with 5 games due to similar incidents during that season. 3) Bynum lined Barea up, and completely understood what he was doing. I do not believe that Ron Artest fully comprehended what he was doing.
Still... I'd guess 3-5 games is what should be the penalty. I lean towards 5.
The only issue will be if David Stern bows to the pressures of media/social media, and gets hysterical about it. If it's in double digits, that is exactly what has happened.
On Ron... quite a few have written, "What was he thinking?"
That's just it. He wasn't.
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Well, only games away from the end of the season. End of season awards will soon be announced (LeBron almost sure to win his 3rd MVP), and that includes the All NBA teams.
For the most part, it's pretty clear-cut. Generally speaking, the 1st team's easy. Almost. Sports betting has it a certainty of LeBron/Durant/Kobe making the 1st team. There's some contention at the other guard spot... and I believe that there should be some contention at center.
Anyway... my teams:
First Team All-NBA
Guard: Russell Westbrook
Guard: Kobe Bryant
Forward: LeBron James
Forward: Kevin Durant
Center: Andrew Bynum
For all the panic surrounding Dwight Howard at the trade deadline, the Lakers and fans should be absolutely stoked that a deal never went through. I think Bynum's playing at a level on a par with Howard, and whilst Drew can be immature at times, none of his behavior could be considered as franchise-destroying as anything Howard's undertaken this season. Guy is an amazing basketball player... but a complete and utter flake. Westbrook gets the nod ahead of several other highly-touted guards, no-one on his level tho'. There are some that have had Love in the 1st team, ahead of Durant. Despite the excellent season Kevin Love is having, would be stupid.
Second Team All-NBA
Guard: Rajon Rondo
Guard: Chris Paul
Forward: Kevin Love
Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge
Center: Dwight Howard
Whilst there's altogether a very good chance that it is Bynum here rather than Howard, the level of play since the All Star break has been almost identical... yet with Howard the drama's been there on a far grander scale. Most seasons, Kevin Love would be a first team lock. However, versus LeBron or Durant this season? Sorry K-Love. Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul find themselves in a similar position. Almost epic seasons, but Westbrook/Bryant are better.
Third Team All-NBA
Guard: Tony Parker
Guard: Dwyane Wade
Forward: Pau Gasol
Forward: Dirk Nowitzki
Center: Marc Gasol
Tony Parker. Other seasons, he'd be in 2nd or even 1st teams - but the reality of the NBA at the moment is that it is point guard heavy. At the top end, it's very competitive. Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki get the nod ahead of Blake Griffin (who just misses out), because other than some thunderous dunks, Griffin simply doesn't have much to offer. No jump shot to speak of, and almost a liability on defense - both of these guys are better options. DeMarcus Cousins has also been great this year, but misses out on the strength of Marc Gasol's season.
Front page of ESPN: WHAM! Dunk of the Night: Blake on Ibaka. Except it wasn't. Griffin should have been called for an offensive foul on that play.
No clear view from that angle, but in all likelihood Griffin uses his off-hand to clear obstacles. That's his 'modus operandi'. Have a look at the supposed "Dunk of the Year" on Pau Gasol:
Griffin clearly uses the off-hand to push Gasol down - this one ended up basically strikes Gasol in the face with an elbow. That's an offensive foul.
Additionally, look at the much-publicized dunk on Kendrick Perkins. Foul.
The dunk on Channing Frye. Another Foul.
Even the dunk on Mozgov is pretty bad.
Griffin's dunk on then-Knick Gallinari was egregious - he actually grabs Gallinari's attempt at a block, and pushes it aside... yet no foul called. Look for yourself:
There's no doubting that Blake Griffin's an amazing athlete, and that he does do some amazing dunks. But as often as not, these high-flying aerialist dunks, are an example of how the NBA have become a slave to the hype.
Decide for yourself.
It is a pretty interesting interview.
Some thoughts... but first: full disclosure. I do not like what Abbott's become. At one point in time, Henry Abbott was inventive, creative - and had a very good mind for basketball. No doubt, those things are still true - but he's also become far more more obsessive about being anti-Bryant, and generally anti-Lakers. Obviously, that's going to stick in my gullet.
- Haven't read the book. That said, I think the premise is pretty amazing... in that I'm astounded (like most of you) the degree of hate LeBron James generates. Sure: I don't like the guy, but it's not like it really matters to me.
- Does start with a misnomer tho'. To declare that this is a bigger story than Michael Jordan, or even Kobe Bryant - because of internet traffic - ignores the reality of the growth of the internet over the past few years. Definitely not a bigger story than MJ, and not even a bigger story than Kobe - Kobe saw far more hate in the mid-2000s... unless LeBron doesn't win the MVP this season.
- Abbott comes across pretty poorly. He has his mind made about Scott Raab. Even the initial picture they use for Raab is absolutely unflattering. He cuts Raab off, speaks over the top of him - Abbott goes out of his way to make the interview confrontational. The way he conducts the interview is disappointing, even if he doesn't agree with Raab.
- Henry Abbott's being obtuse if he thinks that if Larry Bird wouldn't have been drawn & quartered had he worn a Yankees cap to Fenway for the opener of a playoff series.
- Abbott completely dismissive of the notion that players have a responsibility to the team, to the locale to be *part* of that area. I agree with Raab in that I do think a pro-athlete should be supportive of other teams in that area. You really do have to become vested in that area. Or at the very least: be politic about it.
- Despite my dislike for the concept of the book, I think Raab comes off pretty well. At least he's honest about who he is: he describes his book as "a crazy, bitter fan's memoir". He even states that "...the book became unfair to LeBron. There's no question about that." He is absolutely honest about the fact that his despising of Miami #6 says more about him, than it does about LeBron. He is astute, intelligent... and comes across as such during the interview.
- Abbott questions whether that's an ok thing for a fan to do, only a minute or so after stating that it's fine for an athlete to not be at all vested in the city/area they play for. That kinda surprised me. Even if it's not somewhat a double-standard (and I think it kinda is), it's odd.
Andrew Bynum is an amazing basketballer. He has strength, size rarely seen, and can actually play rather than just be 'big'. And there's no doubting his passion for the game. He wants to win badly, and wants to be The Guy... however before this can occur he needs a good dose of "grow-the-f**k-up".
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Of late, we've seen him be incredibly disrespectful to his coach, his teammates, and his team. Getting benched because he's taking stupid shots - 3pt shots no less. Then mouthing off to the press to the effect that he'll still continue to shoot them.
Now? Ejections for stupidity - talking back to referees, and generally being far to 'talkative' unnecessarily. In a game that nearly costs LA a win, he kinda gets away with it. But in a game where LA are in a tight battle against a Houston team are fighting for playoff position... and then the Lakers lose by 5? Just bone-headed stupidity. Follow that one up with a game where he shoots 10-27... ugh.
The thuggery displayed over the last few seasons could be attributed to "youthful exuberance", and "frustration"... but I think it's all part and parcel of the same problems we've seen of late. Immaturity.
Don't get me wrong: after the wringer Dwight Howard has put his team through thus far this season, both with the "I-want-out-no-I-don't-well...-maybe" crap, then the submarining of Stan Van Gundy (and THEN the audacity to be pissed with SVG for being honest about it with the press!), I'd prefer not to have Dwight on the Lakers... but if Bynum's going to be the guy that LA is going to construct their future around, he needs to step up and be better than this. When Kobe Bryant sits out with an injury, and LA is playing against a Phoenix team barely able to keep their head above .500 (28-27 prior to the LA win), then you'd THINK Andrew Bynum would be able to hoist the team onto those massive shoulders and say "Here, ride me for a game".
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And upon first glance, a 23 point, 18 board game (7 offensive boards!) is pretty similar to what's required. Except... TWENTY SEVEN shots to get that 23 points??? Matched with going 3-9 from the charity stripe? Not a single block, not a single assist.
Simply not going to get it done.
Road to the playoffs is fraught with some very tough matches. However, the Japanese kanji for crisis can be loosely interpreted to be a combination of "danger" plus "opportunity". Amidst the difficulties on the road to the playoffs, there is great opportunity waiting for those willing to seize it. Take a leaf off Kobe's webpage Mr Bynum: Carpe Diem...
A question of identity. Who are they? Are they the team that breezed past Dallas, or are they the bumbling fools who dropped a lead that appeared to be insurmountable against the Wiz?
Here's my take on the Lakers... basically my reasoning why their immediate-future-game could be one of two extremes.
Last season, they'd basically sold out on Phil. There was a lot of lip-service there, but they basically weren't doing what they were supposed to be doing. Ron Artest was in the process of becoming Metta World Peace (at least mentally). Gasol was frustrated, yet not really being the guy he was in 2009/10. Bynum was champing at the bit to be more than he was being allowed to be... and worst of all: Kobe was doing whatever the hell he wanted. And getting pissy at everyone when the Ws didn't come.
The reality was that this team had basically finished being effective proponents of the triangle... and any change from that was going to be a very, very large change. Which leads to Mike Brown.
Now, on the surface, he looks like he's failing dismally. Which I don't think he really is (well, he could try and reign in Kobe a bit, but let's be realistic: how effective do you think that would be?).
No matter what offense was installed, it was never going to be 'more effective' than what had proceeded it. And sticking with what they had wasn't going to be effective either, as the players had both finished *really* buying into the triangle, and let's be honest: a lot of the components aren't what they once were, so the effectiveness it once had wasn't there (we saw this last season). Move to a more traditional offense. But any shift takes time, and as a unit a lot of the parts simply weren't up to it. Thus... Sessions. That single purchase, and the moving of Fish to allow Sessions to become all he can be, could be the turning point (slight pun intended) for LA's season.
This could cop some flack, but I honestly believe that getting Sessions whilst being able to keep Gasol, could be a better deal than had LA managed to get Chris Paul. Simply put, I see Gasol/Sessions > CP3.
Defensively, this team has made strides since the last few seasons. LA's a better defensive team than they were, and (apparently) that's largely on Brown.
LA did well with their support staff too. Quin Snyder, Chuck Person, John Kuester and Darvin Ham are a pretty good support. Add Ettore Messina (full time 'consultant' ) - he's supposed to be an offensive wiz.
The defense is there, but the offense is going to take a bit of time - both with regards to continued transition from triangle to traditional, and hopefully getting Kobe to believe. Sessions' presence should make that easier. I *believe* he will have his best years thus far, in LA. He's clearly playing with the best players he's ever played with.
Hiring Brown was a good idea too, long term-wise. Following in Phil Jackson's footsteps was always going to be a job with some very large shoes to fill. Whilst short-term I believe that Rick Adelman would have been a better choice, I think Brown's more expendable should the wheels fall off. That's extremely cynical... but also simply a reality of the world the NBA has become.
Personnel-wise, Kobe is still one of the top 5 players in the game. Gasol is one of the top 3 players at his position. Bynum's easily the 2nd best center in the league, and in all likelihood LA will never face a team with a better guy at the anchor (no-one seriously believes Dwight Howard's Orlando will make the Finals, do they?). Sessions... he at times is going to look like an elite point, even tho' he may not be. He is going to get lots of single coverage, and when doubles come, then he has outlets in the form of Kobe/Pau/Drew - all of whom are offensive juggernauts. Leave them without coverage and they will wreak ruin and havoc upon your team.
Some could consider the 3 to be the team's weak point... but really: do LA need another scorer there? Sure, a little more production might be nice, but I am absolutely comfortable with Ron Artest holding fort there. Ron's always at his best when given a specific defensive assignment, and in the coming weeks/months, there will be plenty of those. It's when the 'Metta World Peace' turns up I worry. I like Ron. I enjoy having a bit of a junkyard dog on the team... both Ron and Matt Barnes provide a bit of that.
There will be hiccups. There will be games where they lose the map, can't find the compass and everyone'll be pointing in a different direction. Welcome to Washington.
So then... there will also be more games like Dallas, where it clicks, works and runs smoothly: and you sit and watch the game and ask 'where the hell did this come from?'
But I believe that this is a team that as currently constituted, can absolutely contend for a title. Not necessarily as favourites, but how they are regarded has already begun to change. Read Hollinger, read Wojnarowski. Hell, read any of your favourite big-time analyst on the NBA - they all agree that the Lakers should be taken seriously.
It's simply a matter of whether the Lakers themselves take their chances seriously.
So a smiling Dwight Howard announces post a win against the Evil Empire Miami Heat:
"Well, I told those guys, I've been telling them for the past two or three weeks now that I want to stay and finish the season. I told them I feel we have a great opportunity to win and I told them that I want to be here and I want to bring a championship here. I told them they've got to give me that chance. They didn't trade me at the beginning of the season and I told them I'd go out and play as hard as I could every night to put our team in a position to win."
Really? Well, I for one am not buying what he's selling.
This new stance after earlier in the day we've been reading that maybe Rich DeVos is wavering on not trading him, and that a deal with the Brooklyn (nee New Jersey) Nets was appearing almost imminent. The deal was reported to be looking like Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks... plus other bits 'n' pieces.
Why on earth would Dwight be keen on that, when he can leave in the off-season and have his new team lose absolutely nothing?
Honestly, even with Dwight Howard and Deron Williams, the New Brooklyn Jersey Nyets would be a less-than-stellar team. That is, unless they can finangle some way to get some other pieces around them.
Hey! Perhaps they'd be able to DO that if Howard could convince Orlando now that there's no reason to trade him!!!
Ok, call me cynical, but in a post-Decision world, anything goes.
Or maybe I'm giving Howard far too much credit for being incredibly devious.
It'll be interesting to see if the NBA will do anything about Dwyane Wade's "hard foul" on Kobe Bryant during the All Star Game. My bet would be "no".
... is more than just a "hard foul". Given the circumstance of the game - a game where the players are actively getting out of the way of offense - I don't think anyone would feel that this foul was a reasonable expectation.
From the NBA rulebook:
Section IV--Flagrant Foul
a. If contact committed against a player, with or without the ball, is interpreted to be unnecessary, a flagrant foul--penalty (1) will be assessed. A personal foul is charged to the offender and a team foul is charged to the team.
I fail to see how could Wade's arms coming down hard from behind across Bryant's arms and face be interpreted as 'necessary', or part of an act of playing basketball. Take into account the situation, and how the rest of the players were conducting the game, it was particularly vicious.
But nothing'll come of it. Hell, it's Miami after all!
Now, maybe it was in error, and I'll give those that are choosing the headlines the benefit of the doubt there, but in that case: how stupid can you be?
Post the loss suffered by the Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks, ESPN's story on it was "Chink In The Armor". I'm kind of aghast that no-one saw the obvious there. It's since been changed to "All Good Things..." - but once it's out there: it's out there.
There are bound to be those that declare this to be a racial slight, but I'll fall short of that. Either way, stupidity. Yes, there have been worse blunders in the world of sports, but heads'll roll would be my bet.
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