Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ones and One Point Fives

I was reading reviews of Bill Simmons’ gargantuan Book of Basketball at NY Mag and couldn’t help but peruse the comments section. I find that some of the most profound ideas and insights can be found not in the reviews themselves, but website viewers reviews of the reviews – that and dick jokes and homophobic insults. After reading Tommy Cragg’s backhandedly positive assessment of the Simmons’ NBA magnus opus, I couldn’t help but have my interest peaked by the following comment from Sam Anderson:

“This whole "1.5" thing is fascinating. I want a list of all the true 1s in the league (LeBron, Kobe, Wade, et al) & then a list of all the 1.5s (Nowitzki, Pierce, Garnett, Roy...). And then I want a compatibility list showing which 1.5s would fit together to win you a championship, & which pairings wouldn't work. E.g., who (just hypothetically) would be the perfect 1.5 to help Nowitzki win a title? Brandon Roy? Deron Williams? Heat-era Shaq?”

I thought to myself that one: I can’t believe no one has done this before, and two, I am going to do what a good writer would do and steal this idea. A Simmons column about the subject would of course be more popular and get roughly three quarters of the USA reading it, but I think I could do a much better job, as I am without the Beantown bias and, unlike Bill what with his man-crush on Kevin Durant exposed, I have an affinity for players who know how to play defense.

I am going to take what Sam Anderson wants and accomplish it. First of all, I am going to take the true franchise players in the league and then match them with their ultimate 1.5 guys to create the best possible pairings, some of which may already be in place. What I am trying to do is piece together dynasties. You can have a championship team with no true number 1, exhibit A the 2004 Detroit Pistons, but a dynasty requires at least one number guy. Let’s get started shall we.

The True Franchise Players

Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
Dwyane Wade
Chris Paul
Dwight Howard
Carmelo Anthony

Honorable mentions and omissions:

Tim Duncan - No longer a guy you can presumably built a championship team around.
Dirk Nowitzki - I have always seen Dirk as a 1.5 guy. He lacks the mental toughness to be a number 1.
Kevin Garnett - Offensive game, defensive prowess and leadership make him a no-brainer. A gimpy knee does not.

Anyways, here is the fun part, matching our Franchise Guys with the best possible 1.5er. I have put a lot of thought into these pairings and taken into account style of play, amount of touches needed, etc. which is why you won’t see silly pairings like LeBron James and Steve Nash – they both control the ball too much to a be successful pairing.

Kobe Bryant – Pau Gasol

First up is a bit of a cop out. Kobe has found his 1.5 guy - its none other than Pau Gasol. Who better complements Kobe’s game right now? Pau doesn’t require 20 shots a game, hits a high percentage of the shots he does take, is an incredible passer for a big man, and is the Lakers’ best rebounder. He seems to be ego-less, never complaining or slouching when Kobe is having one of his 40 shot bonanzas and gives max effort, all while looking completely calm and collected. Not only have the Lakers built a championship contender with these two, but they have the makings of a dynasty.

LeBron James – Dirk Nowitzki

Now who would fit best as LeBron’s partner in crime? They would have to be able to hit the three, taking advantage of James’ ability to get into the lane and draw defenders. They would have to be fine in the role as second option, even relishing the fact that they don’t get called out and blamed for losses. His second-in-command should be able to fill it up on a regular basis, allowing LeBron’s talent for passing to flourish. This has to be Dirk right? And if LeBron ever developed a post game, can you imagine Dirk giving the entry pass and either letting Bron go to work or awaiting the kick out? Disgusting.

Dwyane Wade – Kevin Garnett

Many would say Chris Bosh, but Bosh’s allergic reactions to defense wouldn’t fit with Wade’s gambling in the passing lanes. KG would be the perfect companion to Wade’s offensive prowess. Could you imagine having to gameplan for these two? They would be like Bryant and Gasol but better, because Garnett is miles ahead of Pau as a rebounder and defender. At this point in his career, KG lacks the offensive game that Gasol carries, but who cares! Wade would fill it up, and Garnett would scare Wade into staying at home on defense. You know who else would work great alongside Wade? Tim Duncan.

Chris Paul – Josh Smith

Right now Josh Smith isn’t quite there as a 1.5 guy, he’s more of a 1.75. But could you imagine Chris Paul being able to run an uptempo offense with a guy like Josh Smith on the wing – it is absolutely frightening and also quite funny, because if Atlanta had done the right thing, this would be a reality. I could see Josh Smith putting up 25 points per game with still being able to swat 2 or 3 shots and get 2 steals a game. Paul has never had anyone like Josh Smith before. He would turn J-Smoove into a superstar and they would win a TON of games. Instead of this being real, I have to watch Paul carry David West, Emeka Okafor, and the corpse of Peja Stojakavic up and down the court for 48 minutes – 3 guys who are the complete opposite of the type of players who should be flanking CP3.

Dwight Howard – Carmelo

I know, I know they are both franchise guys. But it’s been done before (i.e. Kobe-Shaq) to fantastic results. Carmelo can score more ways than anyone without the middle name Bean. Dwight is the bestbig man on D in the league. If these two ever got together I would say 4 championships would be within reach. They would be unstoppable. If I was Orlando I would do anything to wrangle Carmelo away from Denver. Of course it will never happen but one can dream.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The End of an Era - Allen Iverson to Retire

Breaking news from the Iverson camp came crashing down today, the Answer is retiring, presumably not because he can't play, but because nobody wants him - a sad and undeserved ending for such an iconic player.

Here is the news from the man himself, courtesy Stephen A. Smith's website:

I would like to announce my plans to retire from the National Basketball Association. I always thought that when I left the game, it would be because I couldn’t help my team the way that I was accustomed to. However, that is not the case.

I still have tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank. I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level.

Stepping away from the game will allow me to spend quality time with my wife and kids. This is a reward that far exceeds anything that I’ve ever achieved on the basketball court. I have prayed for this day and I see it as my greatest gift.

I want to thank the people of Reebok International Ltd., for always allowing me to be me and for supporting me my whole career through all the ups and downs. I have enjoyed 13 wonderful seasons in the NBA, and I am grateful.

I want to first acknowledge my fans everywhere, who have been with me throughout my entire career. Without you, there would be no me. You should all know that I appreciate your support from the bottom of my heart. Thank you!

To Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, you guys gave me the vision to play the game that will be forever in my heart.

To my Mom, who encouraged and inspired me to play every day, and to all of my family and friends who stood by me from the beginning. Thank you!

To my high school coach, Michael Bailey, Coach John Thompson at Georgetown University, Coach Larry Brown and to all of my other coaches, teammates, administrators, owners and staff who’ve been a part of my career, Thank you as well!

I’d like to give a special thanks to the people of Memphis. I never played a home game for your beloved Grizzlies, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity given me by a great owner in Michael Heisley, and the support of the city. I wish the Memphis Grizzlies’ organization all of the success that the game has to offer.

And finally, to the city of Philadelphia: I have wonderful memories of my days in a Sixers’ uniform. To Philly fans, thank you. Your voice will always be music to my ears.

God Bless all of you,


I have a lot to say about this news, but will save that for a full article.

To Iverson, I bid you a fond farewell. You were one a kind and the NBA may yet see another Michael Jordan, but I can almost guarantee there will never be another Allen Iverson.

End of an era indeed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Honest Confession

I have something I need to get off my chest. It will only take a moment, but it is something that I need to say and something I just realized. It may seem as though I hate LeBron James. I bash him and the Cavs constantly on my Twitter account (@midrangejumper), I tell everyone who will listen that Kobe is better, I convince myself that Carmelo is superior; it goes on and on. I am sick of everyone crowning him "The King" when he hasn't won anything. I hate the whole "he makes his teammates better" blabber, and when the Cavs lose, his teammates catch all the blame. Wait, I though you said he made them better? Why doesn't he ever get any blame.

Just a few weeks ago I realized what my problem was. Watch the video below:

Do you see what I see? At the conclusion of the first NBA game of his career, I was geeked about the possibilities that young LeBron had. I saw a young Magic, mixed with a little Dr. J, and maybe some Jim Brown thrown in there. But mostly I thought I saw Magic. And this is where my disappointment came in. LeBron did not turn out the way I wanted him to. I thought he was going to be Magic 2.0, a pass-first point guard with big-man size who could also get to the hoop whenever he wanted. Numbers and visions danced in my head. I wanted to see his averages more Magic than MJ. I thought we would see something like 25 points, 13 assists and 8 rebounds per game. I was ecstatic: a new era. Instead we get seasons like this: 30-7-7. I'm heartbroken.

Too often now we get players coming into the league emulating Jordan. Glory in points, breathtaking dunks. It's not a bad thing, because, as you may have guessed, my favorite current player is in the Jordan mold, Mr. Kobe Bryant. But LeBron was supposed to be something new, something fresh. Magic for Millenium. Instead he kind of turned into another player in the Jordan ilk.

What it all boils down to is this. When LeBron James gets a fastbreak he goes straight for that tomahawk power-filled throwdown we have all come to know. But, in that first game of his career, he got a fast break and did something I loved: he turned around and shoveled it off to a teammate. It said "let him have the highlight, I'm good." Can you remember how refreshing that was? How many players of his caliber go for the dunk? 99.9%. MJ did it, Kobe does it... How many pass it off so their teammate can have the glory? I thought it was going to be LeBron. But its not.


Monday, November 2, 2009

Crystal Ball-Gazing

I am a huge fan of premature prognostication so it should come as no suprise that I felt the need to write an award prediction peice just one week into the 2009-10 NBA season. Of course it is ridiculously early to be predicting anything, but you have to admit; it is fun as hell to do. There have been some early suprises and disappontments, rookie heroes and veterans making a leap - but who is getting the nod for some hardware? Read on and you will find out.

Sixth Man of the Year - Lamar Odom

His off-court newsmaking has not made a dent in his production; in fact, he has been playing fantastic all-around ball. Once Pau Gasol comes back, Odom will make his move back to the bench, and if h can keep up this level of play he is lock for the 6th man hardware. In other news, I am extremely disappointed in his choice of women. I mean, come on, if you are going to be banging a Kardashian, at least make it Kim, and not only that he wifed the ugly sister. Disappointing Lamar, very disappointing.

Coach of the Year - Noone

I hate the way the way this honor has been awarded, and hence I think it should be abolished.

Most Improved Player - Trevor Ariza

He has gone from great role player to scoring machine in the span of a few months, and it is just what the depleted Rockets needed. Its exciting to watch guys grow before your very eyes, so keep yours glued to Ariza this year, because if he can keep this up, the ultra-athletic forward is going to be special.

Defensive Player of the Year - Greg Oden

Stop laughing please. Give me a chance. Before you call me crazy consider the following: Oden is averaging 10 boards and leading the league in blocks with 2.8 in just 24 minutes a game. Average that out to a regular starter's minutes at 40 per contest and his averages are 16 boards and 4.5 blocks per game. By the midpoint of the season he will probably cut down on the fouls and be on the court for longer and by the end of the year his averages will be close to 15 rebounds and 4 blocks per game. Sick.

Rookie of the Year - Brandon Jennings

Can a supposedly immature and too-flashy rookie point guard be a team's best player, leader, and clutch performer? In Jennings case, yes he can, with averages 20 points, 6 assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game to go along with a steal and half so far in 2009. He also dominated in the second half against the Pistons and lead the Bucks to victory, showing both style and substance. Blake Griffin's injury blew the race for ROY wide open, and Jennings is leading the way so far.

Most Valuable Player - Carmelo Anthony

113  points in 117 minutes. 37.7 points per game. Improved on D. Conditioning no longer an issue. Pounding the ball in the paint and not settling for jumpers and 3 pointers. I could keep going. Carmelo Anthony is the talk of the season so far, and rightfully so. A step below Kobe, LeBron, and Wade no longer.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

One Man's Legacy

Ever since Kobe Bean Bryant arrived in the National Basketball Association as a precocious young phenom, there have been enduring themes to his career which have gotten continous play on ESPN, SI, and the like. The love/hate relationship with the fans, the comparisons to Michael Jordan, and the whispers of Kobe's awkwardness are just a sample of this seemingly complicated man's life. Another theme that has continued in his now storied career is the potential for greatness, and if he would ever harness that potential and turn it into reality. Some wanted him to fail, some wanted him to succeed, but we all wanted to see exactly where this cocky kid would end up. We are now getting a look at the homestretch of Bryant's career - and it is a glimpse of what we had always hoped for (or against).

When Kobe, at the tender of age 23, was in the middle of the Dynasty Years with Shaquille O'Neal, Magic Johnson was asked how many rings Kobe could retire with. Magic, who is no slouch with 5 championships under his belt, was thoughtful for a moment, his eyes glancing towards the roof, perhaps thinking back to his days as young star with endless posibilites. He settled on 2 staggering numbers for Kobe's ring potential - 9 or 10. At that time, Magic Johnson, one of the greatest who ever lived, predicted that Kobe would finish his career with 3 more rings than Michael - at least. Quite amazing praise when you think about where Kobe's career has gone since then - the twists, turns; highs and lows.

Kobe is now 30 - a wily NBA veteran. He is no longer electrically athletic phenom he was in the first act of his career, nor the selfish gunner in his second act. In The Third Act of Kobe he has now entered a sort of post-retirement Jordan phase: using his brains and basketball wizardry more than pure athletics to beat the competition. When Kobe has the ball on the elbow with one defender guarding him, for pure basketball fans, there may not be a prettier thing to watch. The assortment of jabs, fakes, and moves he will use is hypnotizing. It seems as though with every move he is setting the defender up for the final blow. He gets the defenders hips and feet moving in all directions, hands low, hands high, lunging forward, falling back. If LeBron's power drives to the hoop are simple checkers - all athletic ability, not so much artistry, then Kobe is playing chess - and he is a Grandmaster.

Last summer Bryant got his symbolic fourth ring - his first without Shaq. The Lakers then added Ron Artest and let go of Trevor Ariza, presumably reloading for a run at a fifth Kobe championship. The negativity that plagued Kobe during his Second Act - the rape charges, falling out of favor with Nike, losing endorsments, becoming Black Mamba, derision as selfish and a poor teammate - have all but disappeared. The questions we used to ask, way back when he was a young stud on a three-peating Lakers squad, are back: how many rings can Kobe now win? Can the Lakers repeat? Three-peat? Is he one of the greatest of all-time? The questions that had seemingly disappeared for 7 years. If leading the USA to Olympic Gold back in 2008 had brought mainstream America's love affair with Kobe fullcircle, a fourth title sent him to heights uncharted in his career. The question is: what would a fifth title do for the legacy of Kobe?

Will Bryant fulfill his potential, nab 6-8 rings and retire as a top 5 of all time (note: in my opinion, Bryant is top 10 right now)? My answer is this: Bryant will retire with 6 rings. I think this Lakers team is built for another mini-dynasty with Bryant and Gasol starring, Odom and Artest as supporting players, and Bynum as the X-factor who will be better than anyone realize next year. Another 3-peat? Probably not - but 3 titles in 5 years? Maybe so.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The MCP Power Poll

As the internet demands, so shall I heed the call. I will henceforth be trying my hat at premature predictions and crystal ball-gazing, and will publish a little something I like to call the MCP Power Poll, chronicling the trials and tribulations of the top 5 Most Compelling Players for the 2009-10 season. Pretty self-explanatory isn't it? Enjoy.

5. Gilbert Arenas

Bust out your Hibachis and get ready for why-the-hell-is-he-shooting-that 3 pointers, Agent Zero is back. With 29 points and 9 assists in a win against Ze German and the Mavs, he may be returning to the offensive juggernaut from what seems like a decade of injury.

Although he is currently trying pull off an All-Business demeanor, that should fade away and be replaced by the Loveable Clown we all know Gil to be.

4. Stephen Curry

The highly-touted Son of Dell has shown himself as a Warrior of Hope (alongside the Anthonys of the Bay, Morrow and Randolph) in the darkness of Golden State. In a team that seems to be mired in attitudes of a decade past such as selfish, shoot-first whiners Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, and the blackhole of basketball, Corey Magette, the rookie Curry played his first game like a true vet.Dishing the ball, limiting turnovers, hitting big shots, and managing the game beautifully in his first NBA start was compelling television.

It will be fun to watch the growth of this man throughout not just this season, but his likely charmed career.

3. Ron Artest

Can the Lakers tame him? Can he be a valuable peice of the puzzle? When is he going to do something extremely stupid? Can his rapping get any worse? Will he self-destruct in the playoffs? Is he too slow to stay with the marquee wings? I could go on forever.

2. Kevin Durant

Because throughout human history we all love the story of a boy ready tobecome a man. In NBA terms, this means a star ready to become a superstar. What is Kevin's ceiling? Who knows? This guy could become a slightly better version of himself, which would put him as the Carmelo Anthony of 2007, or he could become transcendant. Hang on and enjoy the ride.

1. Carmelo Anthony

If you could name one guy who has been on the tip of everyone's tongue so far in this early NBA season, that guy is Carmelo. Two HUGE games, a slimmed physique, improved defense, and an absolutely scary arsenal on offense. He may have made the much-awaited leap into the Kobe-LeBron-Wade stratosphere - I suggest they make room.

The Inaugural

As with everything, for my first piece on MidrangeJumper I have a choice. Do I go with the “hi everyone! this is my first post on my shiny new blog” post, or do I forgo that option and do a meat and potatoes 1500 word piece on why Brandon Jennings potential for entertainment makes me go full retard. When you think about it, I have already taken the former, something I did not want to do, but cannot undo, simply because I don’t want to start writing all over again.

So there it is. I have done my disappointing introduction post, and will never resort to such boring tactics again. Welcome to MidrangeJumper.