Duke's Kyrie Irving Already Better Than John Wall Was As A Freshman

  • Wednesday, December 8, 2010 2:28 PM
  • Written By: Jordan Schultz

Share:

In front of a nationally televised audience in the most highly anticipated early season match-up in recent memory, Duke point guard Kyrie Irving absolutely lit up All-American Kalin Lucas and his No. 6 ranked Michigan State Spartans in an impressive 84-79 win.

While everyone knew the Blue Devils would be back with vengeance this season, perhaps nobody figured just how dynamic their young point guard would become this early on.

To put it mildly, the 6-2 Irving is a revelation. His ability to run a team this talented with star upperclassmen at such a young age is remarkable. As a result, it can’t help garner comparisons to lead guards of the past three years, all stellar freshmen – Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall.

The great thing about Irving is that while he is aptly quick and gifted as a scorer, he does so in such a decisive fashion that it’s hard to fathom this was just his seventh collegiate game.

Against a superb college point guard and senior with two Final Fours under his belt, Irving took what was supposed to be either a Spartans advantage or at least a draw and made it into a convincing Duke advantage.

Where Irving stands out and is most impressive is the pace and control he plays with.

Most young point guards have no problem in the open floor. The transition game is something they’ve been doing forever: Pushing tempo and finishing on the break or finding a teammate. And make no mistake, Irving made every right decision in the open floor against Michigan State.

Irving separates himself from Wall (whom we’re using as a comparison because he was the No.1 pick in the draft and arguably better than Evans and Rose in college,) by how he is running his team in the halfcourt set.

While Irving is a dynamite scorer – 31 points against MSU – it’s his understanding of the game and willingness to dictate the offense that makes him so special. On any great basketball team, the point guard is the heartbeat of the team, the extension of the coach on the floor. Against Sparty, Irving patiently dictated the offense to a tee.

When Kyle Singler, who struggled for much of the affair, called for the ball on the right wing late in the game, Irving had the trust and understanding to find him on the wing for a crucial three. When proven senior Nolan Smith wanted the ball at crucial moments down the stretch, Irving obliged, and Smith in turn, iced the game with a three.

Simply put, these are winning basketball plays. Nothing that makes you say “wow,” but ultimately, what leads to victories. Irving, despite his youth, seems to possess a natural feel and perception of

how to find guys at the right times. He also knows when to attack the paint, how to change direction, when to pull up, how to avoid the charge and finish with the left and when to just slow things down.

If you remember, these are just the types of things that inhibited Wall during the NCAA tournament last season. After a dominant regular season, Wall had Kentucky flying high – quite literally – with his infusion of alley-oops and acrobatics. But as we know, the tournament, similar to the NBA playoffs, is less about flair and more about steak and potatoes. More specifically, can you execute in the halfcourt?

When Wall and the Wildcats matched up against a disciplined and well-coached West Virginia team in the Elite Eight, they were not allowed to get up and down the floor at the type of warp-speed pace they had been doing all year long. West Virginia slowed down the game and forced Wall to beat it by actually running an offense. Against both zone and man-to-man, the normally cruise-controlled freshman was clearly perplexed and frustrated.

His inability to get into the gaps and create for others became evident as he made one poor decision after another. Perhaps more importantly, his failure to knock down open shots from the perimeter led to a loss. While he did manage to put up 19 points and 5 assists, he shot just 1-5 from three and 4-8 from the line, and had 5 turnovers. Now part of that blame is put on John Calipari’s refusal to abandon the dribble-drive offense even against the zone, but much of it is on Wall, who, for the first time in his life, couldn’t get to where he wanted on the floor. Once again, let’s not forget that Wall was a great college player. That said, Irving is already better.

The two biggest reasons why? 1) Irving can really shoot and 2) He is excellent in the pick-and-roll -- two strengths that will serve him very well at the next level.

Irving’s compact jumper, a quiet, well orchestrated stroke, is consistent in look and execution. He has a knack for finding space to shoot and while he is remarkably quick and explosive, he has the rare ability to slow it down when he stops on the dime to shoot, something Wall continues to struggle with in his early NBA career.

With the pick-and-roll, the two biggest keys are timing and understanding. You don’t have to be super quick or shifty to run it, just smart and steady like Steve Nash. The guy has made a Hall of Fame career by being the single best at running it for the past decade. John Stockton is another example.

Irving, although not the sheer athlete that Wall is, has an exceptional first step. He doesn’t however, do what most young guards do when a screener comes to set a pick. Instead of speeding up and going too early, he calmly waits for the screener to get set, and then begins to make his move. This does two things: It virtually ensures his teammate won’t get called for a moving screen (hugely important considering Duke's lack of depth on its frontline), and it allows Irving to read the defense and decide how he wants to attack. He also knows when to attack the paint, how to change direction, when to pull up,

how to avoid the charge and finish with the left and when to just slow things down.

Lastly, when he does, he continues to make one correct decision after another. One play, he comes off hard left and pops from 12 feet, the next he accelerates to the basket and finishes with either hand amidst contact, then he goes right, scares the defense and draws two defenders, and finds Mason Plumlee for the dunk, and finally, out of nowhere he zips a beeline pass to the corner to a teammate whose defender vacated him on his rotational duties.

These things may seem simple, and in truth they are, but basketball is a simple game. Such a skillset is highly unusual for a point guard as young and talented as Irving is. He didn’t get quite the fanfare entering college as Wall did, but this kid is really special. If the NBA goes through with the lockout, he could very likely stay for his sophomore year and become even more seasoned.

He hasn’t even played an ACC game yet, so it is a little early to fully buy into Irving, but it’s just so hard not to. Even against Kansas State and its senior All-American point guard Jacob Pullen, Irving looked to be the seasoned vet. While we haven’t even mentioned his defensive prowess, it is worth noting that like Lucas, Pullen struggled mightily with Irving’s hounding defense. In the loss, Pullen finished the game with a measly 4 points, 4 turnovers and just one assists while shooting 1-12 from the floor. Irving, meanwhile, tallied 17 points and 6 assists in the win.

Was Wall a good defender in college? Yes, he was, especially on paper. But Wall, with his near 2 steals per game last season, gambled in the passing lanes far too often, leaving his team in helpless 5-4 situations. Irving in a sense is much more of a true lockdown defender. He moves his feet well, hardly ever reaching, and actually seems to enjoy guarding his man 25 feet from the basket. In the Mike Krzyzewski system, he will only improve, both as an on-ball defender and as a helper.

Sometimes statistics can be misleading, but Irving’s show the efficiency and effectiveness of how he operates a team. He is averaging a team-high 17.4 points, 5.1 assists (second), 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals (first), and is shooting an insane 53.2 percent from the floor and 89.6 percent from the line. Wow. Throw in 45.2 percent from three and all of Irving’s shooting numbers are far better than where Wall finished his freshman campaign.

Not only is Irving already the best player in college basketball, he is already better than John Wall was at any point during last season.

Follow me on Twitter @206Child

9 Takes  Submit Your Take   |   View All Takes

The Final Four: Tune In Or Else

  • Friday, April 2, 2010 5:06 PM
  • Written By: Jordan Schultz

Share:

“This is going to be the worst Final Four of all time.”

That’s what I heard just seconds after West Virginia secured its first bid to a national semifinal since some guard named Jerry West donned Mountaineer gold.

Admittedly, I agreed at first, whole-heartedly in fact. After all, what type of Final Four would it be without No.1 seeds Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse and their bountifully talented pod of lottery players? George Mason’s Cinderella run was a wonderful story four years ago, but when Florida waxed them in the Final Four we saw the problem of having the ultimate dark horse reach the apex of mid-major glory. But there isn’t a George Mason this year nor is there a Florida. All four teams have a legitimate shot.

Common belief and Nielsen ratings tell us that traditional powers with marquee names and players provide more entertainment and produce better games. But I say, bigger isn’t always better.

Say for a second – or perhaps a long weekend – that we venture away from such a sentiment and consider that not once in NCAA Tournament history have two five seeds advanced to the Final Four, let alone played each other. Butler and Michigan State I give you. You talk about a rousing coaching match-up: Baby-faced Brad Stevens (he was mistaken for a player by security) versus a Hall of Famer (honestly, is there anyone better than Izzo?).

West Virginia, with its heavily maligned “graduation-abort” coach is a football school masquerading as some sort of basketball powerhouse. Meanwhile, Duke has finally restored its traditional dominance, reaching its first Final Four since 2004, and proving that once again Mike Krzyzewski is an unstoppable force of coaching nature. The Blue Devils are seeking to give the Crazies its first national championship in nine years, seemingly an eternity for the good folks of Durham, North Carolina.

From now until tip-off, Dick Vitale will chronically pester us with his love affair for Duke, storylines will center on the real-life Hoosiers drama of the Butler Bulldogs returning home to play just six miles from campus, Tom Izzo will devise a perfect blend of schematics and planning, and Hubert Davis will give us a steady diet of the words “tremendous,” “outstanding” and “terrific” to describe the length and dexterity of West Virginia’s frontcourt.

All of this makes for great TV.

And the match-ups aren’t bad either. Actually, there pretty good. Butler-Michigan State will be a steadfast dogfight, a true test of Midwest strength versus Midwest strength. Sparty can run with the best of them, but for the most part, both teams want to grind and stay in the half-court. They also share huge question marks at point guard; the Spartans without Kalin Lucas and the Bulldogs with Ronald Nored, who turned the ball over six times against Kansas State although it seemed like 15.

Ironically the least known team from the smallest conference - Butler – has the best NBA prospect in junior swingman Gordon Hayward. We have alluded to him earlier, and you saw his wide range of skills during the Kansas State game, most evident when he crossed over a bigger defender on the perimeter, went back between his legs and drilled a three-pointer. Michigan State will throw both Durrell Summers and Raymar Morgan on him. Summers was a monster recruit three years ago, and is just now playing his best basketball, averaging 20 points in the tournament and proving to be the one go-to scorer Sparty has. Morgan is an excellent defender with strength and lateral quickness, who will present problems for Hayward as he attempts to drive the lane.

The other key match-up is down low between Matt Howard and Draymond Green. Howard has endured a frustrating season mostly due to an inability to keep out of foul trouble. Green is one of the most intelligent and alert players around, and at 6-6, 235 lbs. with great skills, he will have the wherewithal to go right at his counterpart and force him out of the game. If Howard establishes a low-post presence early though, kick-outs to both Heyward and Shelvin Mack will be prevalent. Mack is a wonderfully gifted shooter who has lit up the tournament, totaling 13 threes. Whichever team wins two of these three match-ups should have the upper hand in advancing to the title game.

On the other side of the bracket, WVU-Duke will be a chess match between two of the game’s brightest coaching minds. Bob Huggins will try and use the superior length of West Virginia (see extended zone traps) to clog the passing lanes of Duke’s guards. Krzyzewski will attempt to free up Kyle Singler (5 points against Baylor) and limit De’Sean Butler while finding ways for Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer to have driving lanes available to either score or kick out for threes.

The key player in this game may be Brian Zoubek up front, who must combat the offensive rebounding prowess of the Mountaineers for Duke to move on. West Virginia shot lights out against Kentucky, converting on 10 of 23 threes. Duke and its ferocious defense simply will not allow this. If Duke – specifically Zoubek – can corral rebounds and limit WVU to one shot per possession, it will win the game. If, however, Zoubek gets into early foul trouble as he did against Baylor, the Mountaineers – who are second in the nation in rebounding - will have the advantage on the glass with their superior length and athleticism, most notably from Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Wellington Smith, and the aforementioned Butler.

Both of these games will be great, as will the national championship next Monday night. Why? Because for once, there isn’t a clear-cut favorite, or one team that just doesn’t belong. This isn’t 2009 when North Carolina was an unstoppable juggernaut forcing everyone else to play for second. We may never see John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins or Wesley Johnson wear a collegiate uniform again, but then again, we may never see another Final Four this wide open and dependent on the essence of team. This is the parity of college basketball, and for once, anyone can win.

Do yourself a monumentally sized favor: Don’t miss it.

The NBA’s All-Busts Team

  • Tuesday, February 9, 2010 10:04 AM
  • Written By: Jordan Schultz

Share:

(I try not to be too mean, but it can prove quite challenging).

A lot is made about busts, so I have to ask, what exactly is one? To me, a bust is a very specific type of player, the guy that fans think is the savior of their franchise and more importantly, the player scouts dub as "can't miss prospects" - the next big thing.

The thing about football or baseball is that each team is loaded with bench players. MLB rosters have 25 guys, while NFL rosters keep 53. NBA rosters are only permitted to have 15 (12 active). In other words, the “scrubs” on an NBA team have a much less likelihood of making the league than those at the NFL or MLB level.

All of this in mind, the nature of a bust is undeniable.

Chronic under-achievers – fair or unfair – are a part of the game, just as much as pick-and-rolls and the up-and-under. Some are bigger than others, but the following list is composed of the players analysts thought as the truest gems of the future, and in turn, the guys who failed to realize their potential on the grandest stage of all. Let’s go…

Felipe Lopez – Heralded as the second coming when he landed the cover of SI and committed to St. John’s in 1995, Lopez actually had a very solid career for the Red Storm.

He was named to the All-Big East First Team as a senior, but he never realized his vast stardom, despite being the No. 24 pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. Lopez’s career as a pro was a failure, playing on three NBA teams and averaging just 5 points and 2 rebounds. Word is, he’s still playing overseas, which I commend. It’s very tough swallowing your pride like that.

Jason Williams – Not the guy involved in the shooting of his limo driver charge and not “White Chocolate,” but the All-American Dookie, who was selected second overall in the 2002 Draft, and the guy everyone thought would be the next great point guard in the NBA. The man made a bad choice and never recovered from a career-ending motorcycle accident. I remember this especially well, because I was at Duke Basketball Camp when it happened. Coach K came in to speak to the kids, and appeared about as devastated as a human being can look. It would have been special to see J-Will play in the NBA. The former Naismith, Wooden and Oscar Robertson Award winner, was recently named to the Sports Illustrated All-Decade Team in college basketball, and deservedly so. His orchestration of the 10-point-comeback with 1 minute left versus Maryland in 2001 will always live on.



Greg Oden – Injuries, injures, injuries. Although it’s still too early to call him another Sam Bowie, we’re definitely getting closer. I hate to include him on this list because Oden was actually having a very good season, averaging nearly 9 points and 11 rebounds, but let’s face it, for a guy as hyped as he was, he has been a monstrous disappointment, especially when you consider the start to the career Kevin Durant has had. Unfortunately for Oden, he seems to lack the smoothness and sheer understanding of the game the upper echelon of big men have - for example, his teammate LaMarcus Aldridge. He’s still not even 22 years old, but unless he dramatically alters his approach to the game and figures out a way to stay healthy, Oden is definitely on his way to becoming a major bust.

Emeka Okafor – The former Wooden Award winner and another member of SI’s All-Decade Team has not lived up to the billing he garnered out of UConn. Okafor was a shot-blocking machine when the Bobcats selected him second overall behind Dwight Howard in the 2004 NBA Draft.

He ran the floor, rebounded the ball, and displayed an uncanny ability to time his blocks. But since coming into the league, Okafor has failed to make an All-Star team and doesn’t appear to ever materialize into elite status.

Tyson Chandler – Staying on the topic of under-achieving centers, Chandler is certainly at the top of the list. Although he’s been to the playoffs four times and has had some decent seasons, Chandler was thought of as an absolute lock. The 7-footer has an abundance of tools and should be a dominant player, but he hasn’t ever come close. Despite having a premier point guard in Chris Paul for several years and an All-Star forward opposite his block in David West, Chandler never became a consistent go-to guy with his back to the basket. While he did highlight many of Paul’s alley-oops, he failed to put on the bulk or develop the touch necessary to translate into the type of player he should have been. His career statistics stand at 8 points, 9 rebounds and just 1.4 blocks, hardly justifiable for a No. 2 pick with his size and athletic ability.

Kwame Brown – Perhaps the ultimate bust of this decade, Brown represents the beginning of the end for Michael Jordan as an NBA executive. Heralded as a future All-Star, the big man spurned his commitment to Florida to become the No. 1 overall pick by the Washington Wizards in 2001. His career statistics include averages of 7 points and 6 rebounds, and a 58 percent FT percentage. Worse, he may be the most booed player by home fans I’ve ever witnessed. Side Note: I wonder what he’s doing these days off the court in Detroit? Wouldn’t that make for some good reality TV?

Darko Milicic - Darko should have his own category – that’s how much this dude has underachieved. The astronomical hype around him began when he was just 17, at the height of America's love-affair with another teenager, LeBron James. When Joe Dumars selected him second overall (after James) in the 2003 NBA Draft, he passed Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Chris Kaman, David West and Josh Howard. (Wow, I swear I could be an NBA GM). Since entering the NBA, Milicic has averaged 5 points, 4 rebounds, and shot 59 percent from the line. That means that combined, him and Kwame Brown are averaging 12 and 10 for their careers. There is some solace in that right? Okay, you’re right, maybe not. In a recent interview, the outspoken Serbian swore about 30 times while complaining about his career and lack of opportunities to play. This 2007 exchange though - after an international affair between Serbia and Greece - is absolutely priceless:



We wish him well on his pending voyage back to Europe. Thanks for the memories Darko!

Darius Miles – Thought by some “experts” to literally be the second-coming of MJ, Miles has “slightly” underperformed. Now out of the league, the No. 3 pick in the 2000 draft by, of course, the Clippers, D-Miles averaged a staggering 10 points and 5 rebounds throughout his un-illustrious 9-year-career. At least he has maintained a viable career as an actor, most notably in “The Perfect Score” (2004), where he plays the role of a high school hoops star that needs to steal the SAT scores in order to qualify for college. Other than the stealing part, this is a direct parallel to his life, where he struggled mightily in his SAT bout. Miles is undoubtedly one of the worst picks of many by the Clips – a truly disturbing notion when you consider their history of clouded judgment.

Mike Bibby – This is a little tricky because Bibby has had a rather successful career, just not the type of one many people thought. One of the most decorated stars in Arizona high school history with the pedigree of Henry Bibby and Point Guard U, the former collegiate All-American reminds me a lot of Reggie Bush, an under-sized but effective player, a No. 2 pick, and a guy that will always – if unfairly - be thought of for what he didn’t do, not what he did do. Strange to think he’s never been named to the All-Star team. Even so, I felt it necessary to include him on this list.

Kenyon Martin – Another excellent college player who never became the star in the NBA many figured he’d become. Martin won every award possible during his tenure at Cincinnati, yet the top pick of the 2000 draft has failed to reach this level of success as a pro. A one-time All-Star, he has had a productive, yet unspectacular career, playing for both the New Jersey Nets and Denver Nuggets. He has however, found himself mired in several on, and off the court issues, where the volatile forward has been known to receive many fines, technicals, and flagrant fouls and infamously mock the kidney condition of Alonzo Mourning. Despite all of this, K-Mart’s real value stems from his “lips” tattoo on the left side of his neck – it’s glorious really. A true piece of art.

Eddy Curry – Forget the fact that he could never keep in shape. Weight issues are just the beginning for Mr. Curry. He is the first player I’ve seen where it actually seems like he’s doing you a favor by just showing up at the gym. Just watch him in pre-game warm-ups or in huddles during time-outs. He literally looks bored, as if to say, “I’m just hear to collect my check. I could give a shit about basketball.”

Talk about a guy who just never figured it out. The fourth pick in the 2001 draft has played in just 69 games over the past three seasons, and is averaging under 4 points and 2 rebounds each of the last two. Keep grinding Eddy…

Jonathan Bender – I just gave major props to Bender for his recent return to the NBA after being out of the league for four seasons, but let’s face it, Bender has unquestionably been a massive bust. The fifth pick in the 1999 NBA Draft out of high school, Bender was seen as a Tracy McGrady – Kevin Durant type, an athletic and long wing who could score the ball and defend multiple positions. He hasn’t been such. Bender’s best statistical season as a pro came during his 2000-01 campaign as a Pacer, where he averaged 7.4 points and 3.1 rebounds. Yikes! Did I mention I could be an NBA GM? Just saying.

Stromile Swift – He may not have been looked at as the brute force of Shaq, but this former LSU big man had all of the aptitude and flair to become an NBA star. Athletic and dexterous, Swift was taken second overall by the then Vancouver Grizzlies in 2000. His career highlights include an 8 point and 5 rebound average, a grossly failed performance in the 2001 dunk competition, and a recent victim of the vaunted NBA release, thanks to the 76ers. See, I told you this was difficult! We got some serious busts on our hands.

Steve Alford – This guy did it all at Indiana. The local hero received cult status when he was named a First-Team All-American as a senior in Bloomington while leading the Hoosiers to the 1987 National Title. The Sporting News ranks Alford as the 35th best college player of all time.

He was picked 26th (second round back then) by Dallas in the 1987 draft, and holds career averages of 4 points and 1 assist. Not quite the bust as his counterparts on this list, who were mostly top three selections, but nevertheless, worth mentioning. His coaching career hasn’t exactly been superb either.

Christian Laettner – Believe it or not, Laettner was a member of the original USA Dream Team in 1992 (as the only collegian) featuring the likes of MJ, Magic and Larry Bird, among others. Laettner is best known for his improbable game-winner against Kentucky in the 1992 regional final, but for me, he just breathes more light into the fact that Duke players are bad pros. Considering the outrageous success of the program, the list is rather freaky: William Avery, Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Jay Williams, Roshown McLeod, Chris Carrawell, Josh McRoberts, Shavlik Randolph, Shelden Williams, J.J. Redick, Daniel Ewing, Bobby Hurley, Johnny Dawkins, Trajan Langdon, Cherokee Parks and Danny Ferry. Now those are some busts! (To be fair, a lot of these guys – Redick and Langdon for example – weren’t projected to be great pros. But still, you can’t ignore the surplus of tarnished Dookies in and out of the league).

Laettner – who is still one of the most celebrated collegians ever with his abundance of awards - was chosen third overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the ’92 Draft, after leading Duke to four straight Final Fours, and back-to-back national titles in 1991 and ’92. He holds career averages of 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists in the NBA; very solid numbers for most, but not for the hype he garnered out of school and not for the player scouts pegged him as. He has since been the benefactor of a role playing none other than himself, in a recent Vitamin Water advertisement. (I advise to watch this with extreme caution, as it may actually make you sick, as it did to me. My proposal? Deem it as inappropriate behavior, and take it off the air forever.



Honorable Mention – Guys who the scouts declared future stars, and guys sure to have you saying, “Who? Oh yeah, I remember him”- Chris Mihm, Antonio Daniels, Shawn Respert, Marcus Fizer, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Raef LaFrentz, Kent Benson, Ed O’Bannon, LaRue Martin, Bill Garnett, Chris Washburn, Joe Smith, Ken Durrett, Denis Hopson, Sam Bowie (he probably deserves his own essay, but I refuse to waste space on him), and Ralph Sampson (not a total bust, and I hesitate to put a four-Time All-Star on this list, but he didn’t revolutionize the game the way many people figured he would).

One note: I’ve left out Michael Olowokandi on purpose, as many scouts – obviously the Clippers not included – felt he was a project nowhere near top pick talent.

So, about that GM job . . .

All-Decade List: The Best Of The NBA (And A Few Other Notes I Know You'll Appreciate)

  • Thursday, December 31, 2009 9:45 PM
  • Written By: Jordan Schultz

Share:

The NBA has given us some pretty special moments. Here are some of the best from the decade. To quote the one and only Adam Sandler in "Billy Madison," "let's go!"

Best Performance Under Pressure

2006 NBA Finals, Dwayne Wade

In averaging 27 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals, Flash led the Heat back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Dirk and his vaunted Dallas squad. I’ve seen some pretty great performances over the years, but never have I seen such a willful and determined effort, where a player took over an entire series for such high stakes. Wade was downright dominant during these Finals - driving, dishing, pulling up, getting in passing lanes, orchestrating the comeback of comebacks. Kobe and Shaq were quite the duo in LA, but Wade carried his big man through this series. He was the culprit of it all.

Best Upset

2007 First Round, Warriors beat Mavericks

I remember thinking to myself how glaringly better Golden State matched up. Baron Davis abused Dallas time and time again, turning the fans at Oracle into a dramatic frenzy, unlike any other early-round series I can recall.



Avery Johnson’s press conferences added an entirely new dimension to this series, as he seemed lost and confused, like he had no idea of the freight train that just hit him.

Biggest Story

Tim Donaghy - Is there really any doubt?



The Donaghy fiasco is the runaway winner here. His antics and controversy have left a damaging perception of the NBA, and his recent book will only make matters worse. Naturally, fans will always criticize officials. It’s a part of the game, but never would we expect a story like this to surface, which is why I refuse to give credence to what otherwise would be my vote for best game-winner, Robert Horry’s three in Game 6 against Sacramento in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. I was at an AAU tournament in North Carolina watching this with my teammates. All we kept talking about was the free throw discrepancy in the fourth quarter, which saw the Lakers go to the line 27 times in 12 minutes, a statistic I still cannot fathom. Which leads me to …

Best Game-Winner

D-Fish!!! The diminutive class act out of Arkansas Little-Rock - and a guy whose pivotal role during the Lakers title runs cannot be understated - hit an improbable flick shot in San Antonio with 0.4 seconds left on the clock to beat the Spurs in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Finals. The Spurs had all but won, as both teams battled back and forth all game long.

But Fisher – who was clearly the third or even fourth option – came out of nowhere to sink a ridiculous, off-balance, running leaner. I remember watching this game at home. I was about to turn it off and head to the gym, but for whatever reason I stayed for the final play, and this is what I was blessed to witness…



Worst Draft Night Trade

2006, Timberwolves

Minnesota traded Randy Foye to Portland straight up for my former AAU teammate Brandon Roy. (Side Note: During my junior year of high school when Brandon was a college freshman, the Seattle PI ran a story on him and his quest to qualify academically at Washington. Anyways, we were working out together that night - as we often did - and the next morning I woke up with quite a surprise. Sure enough, there was a big picture of us joking around in between drills, with a couple captions talking about me as one of the premier guards in Seattle. Needless to say, I saved that paper (just let me know if you want a copy. I'd be happy to accommodate you).

Back to the trade though. Foye is a decent NBA guard who can provide energy and a spark off the bench, but B-Roy is a legitimate top 12-15 NBA player, who is already a two-time NBA All-Star well on pace for number three. Bad move, Mr. McHale.

Worst Trade

2003, Hornets

New Orleans traded Baron Davis to the Warriors for Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis! Whooo, this was a bad one.

Diddy re-established himself as an All-Star and top tier point guard, while orchestrating Golden State's monumental upset over Dallas in the 2006 playoffs. On the contrary, Speedy Claxton ate up cap room, while Dale Davis spent more time in ice than a polar bear, soon being forced to retire.

Honorable Mention: Bulls trade Elton Brand to Clippers for Tyson Chandler and Brian Skinner (2001), Rockets trade Richard Jefferson and others to the Nets for the now late Eddie Griffin (2001), and the Lakers trade Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins to Wizards for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit (2005).

Side Note: I'm not including the Vince Carter trade by Toronto because VC admitted to "tanking" games and had an extremely volatile relationship with the Raptors front office, not to mention the fact he was often booed by his home fans. Clearly his presence at Air Canada wasn't working anymore, and a change needed to be made. The rest of the league knew this, and because of all these factors, Carter's trade value had plummeted.

“Bad Trade” That Really Wasn’t Bad At All

2008, Lakers-Grizzlies

It is annoying how this one gets misperceived. The Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to LA for brother Marc Gasol, the expiring contract of Kwame Brown and others, and two first-rounders from the Lakers, including their 2010 pick.

Clearly Memphis knew something nobody else did. The younger Gasol can play, as in really play. He's averaging a career-best 15 points, 10 rebounds, and more than a block and is a fringe All-Star. Better yet, he's only 24 years old. But perhaps most importantly in this league, the Grizz got a ton of cap room. Obviously, Pau helped anchor the Lakers title last season, so in essence, both parties walked away a winner. Bottom line? People need to stop referring to this as one of the most lopsided trades in history.

Biggest Bonehead Play

2006, Ricky Davis’ Triple-Double Rip-Off

To me, this was indefensible.

How can anyone rationalize such an idiotic move? For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Davis was one rebound away from a triple-double during the Cavaliers' blowout against the Utah Jazz. Instead of being the classy guy he clearly isn’t and walking the ball up the floor, Davis proceeded to purposely miss a lay-up – on his own basket – get the rebound and then act like nothing happened. Good news is he wasn’t credited with the rebound. Of course, after seeing an injured Davis sipping on a certain brand of beverage during halftime of a Clippers game last season, I shouldn’t be surprised. But still, come on, man. Think Jerry Sloan appreciated this?



Most Annoying NBA Head Coach

Ron Jeremy - I mean Stan Van Gundy

His pitiful antics and berating of the Magic has become unbearable. By far, he’s my least favorite coach in the league today. And that says a lot considering that Larry Brown, Mike Brown and Mike Dunleavy are all roaming the sidelines. Imagine what Van Gundy would be like coaching a bad team. Dwight Howard said it all when he told reporters that Van Gundy needed to tone it down and be more positive with the young Magic squad. Uh, ya think?

Message to Stan: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, buddy. Without Superman, you’re working for the Maine Red Claws of the NBDL … as a video coordinator. He only made matters worse for himself when he told ESPN that he “actually feel(s) sorry for people who have nothing to do on Christmas Day other than watch an NBA game.”



(See, there are striking similarities between these two dreadfully handsome individuals. Sorry for the large pic of Van Gundy. I just felt it added effect.)




How can NBA caliber athletes even take this tubby seriously?

Strangest Stories (All Sports)

Andre Agassi, anyone? Crystal meth, check. Toupee, check. Hating tennis, check. This is just too much.



Plaxico Burress – What is wrong with you, bro?

Tiger Woods – What is wrong with you, bro? I know you have more you're hiding man!!!

Duke Lacrosse – The DA in this case should forever be reprimanded from the justice system.

The Michael Vick bonanza. I’m an animal lover, so this struck an especially rough chord for me. Second chances are great, but this is too difficult for me to either accept nor forgive.

Kobe Bryant – Does anyone even remember the rape case? Paging anyone, Bueller, anyone? Have we ever seen an athlete recover from anything as potentially damaging and harmful as this story? This should be best comeback.

Brett Favre – Is there a more maligned future HOF than my least favorite character in “There’s Something About Mary?” “I’m coming back, no I’m not, wait yes I am, okay hi Jets, bye Jets, bye football again, Minnesota? Hell yes”… and those damned old Wrangler Jeans commercials. Seriously, they’ve been on the air for the entire decade. Enough!

Well, there you have it. Three entries of the best off-the-wall and often irrelevant moments of the decade. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you didn't, well, I don't blame you.

Here's to another wonderful 10 years my friends, and as always, thanks for the read . . .

One Loud Bell

  • Friday, October 23, 2009 8:48 AM
  • Written By: Jordan Schultz

Share:

Sometimes the rare talents have a way of falling through the cracks. It’s easy enough to know about the McDonald’s and Parade All-Americans who commit to the Kentucky’s, Carolina’s, and Duke’s of the world. But how about that special player who goes to a smaller school and makes it big? How cool is that?

We witnessed it with Stephen Curry at Davidson and Eric Maynor at Virginia Commonwealth; both first-round draft choices last summer. Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash – who went to Santa Clara – is another example. Certain kids just don’t get the hype during their prep days. Maybe they grow late or develop their games after high school. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I like to say, “I told you so.”

Keion Bell may be one of these kids. The Los Angeles native out of Pasadena High School went virtually un-recruited by the local powerhouses UCLA and USC, and accepted an offer to attend West Coast Conference cellar dweller Pepperdine, a small school that rests beautifully on the Malibu coastline.

Bell, now a sophomore with the Waves, has an unusual blend of power, speed and athletic ability from the point guard position. He is a confident player who attacks the rack with a vicious mentality, and uses his strength to absorb contact and finish around the rim. At 6-3, Bell was the leading guard rebounder in the conference last season, showing he isn’t afraid to mix it up down under with the trees.



The explosive athlete isn’t a consistent outside shooter yet but displays good technique and the ability to develop into one down the road. He must cut down his turnovers (nearly four a game), but this is not uncommon for a young player, especially one who was thrust into the starting point guard position as a true freshman. A source tells me that he is one of the hardest workers he’s ever seen, a true gym rat committed to reaching his ultimate destination – the NBA.

In his first season with the Waves, Bell averaged 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals. In two games against national powerhouse Gonzaga, he totaled 37 points and 21 boards. Another encouraging sign was that Bell produced even more in the postseason, averaging 17 points in the WCC Tournament. Bell understands the game really well as a young point guard, and knows how to control a game on both ends of the floor. He is a tenacious defender who welcomes the opposition’s best guard, even if it means he has to sacrifice some of his offense – something very challenging for players at every level.

Pepperdine is in the midst of a major rebuilding phase. Despite producing 16 NBA players,and having gone to 13 NCAA tournaments, the proud program has fallen on hard times lately, consistently finishing at the bottom of the West Coast Conference. Having to compete with Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, and San Diego for recruits is difficult, but in the case of Keion Bell, they may have found lightning in a bottle. It’s no stretch to say he could lead them right up the totem pole to the top of the league once again.

Keion Bell still has three years remaining, but if he continues to improve at his current rate, he without question has the natural ability to become the 17th Wave to make it to the league.

Don’t say you weren’t warned…



Dream Night

  • Thursday, August 20, 2009 1:31 PM
  • Written By: Jordan Schultz

Share:

The hottest clubs, adoring fans, insurmountable sums of cash – these are perks of being in the NBA. On the road or at home, during the season and in the off-season, the league’s top ballers take full advantage of their stardom. It got me thinking: Of the best players in the league, who would be the most fun to party with, and better yet, who would be the worst? If you could go clubbing for one night with one NBA star …

BEST:

Shaq – “The Diesel” is known for his hilarious pranks (think Kobe Bryant rap) and ridiculous sense of humor (challenging David Beckham to try and score a goal on him). The former star of Blue Chips, which features the charismatic Nick Nolte, is one of the most entertaining athletes of all time. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this film, Shaq got robbed of an Academy Award. “Hey coach, look what I can do.”

He does not have the bounce he used to, but “The Big Aristotle” still has the fame. In fact, I think his fame has actually grown as his game has deteriorated. For one, his size alone makes him a can’t-miss, and you know you’ll be getting unlimited Goose all night. But as is always the case with the “Diesel,” his personality is what makes him so special. He loves the spotlight – check YouTube for his All-Star dance sessions as evidence - and is known for his out of the box creativity.

I could just imagine O’Neal wearing one of his custom made “Shaq shoes,” screening “Kazaam” on the club’s baby plasma televisions and displaying his very own law enforcement police badge. Who knows what oddly colored suit he’d wear and what type of crowd he associates with. Simply put, “Shaq-Fu” demands attention wherever he goes. A night out with him would be unforgettable.

Gilbert Arenas – Gilbert has grown from second-round pick to bonafide NBA superstar, but his game extends far beyond the hardwood. Gilbert is an avid bowler and gamer – known as Agent Arenas online - which worries me a bit, but his gregarious personality makes him a can’t-miss clubbing prospect. Now when I say "gamer," I mean he loves video games, which is fun if you want to be 12 years old again, but not if you’re looking for a dream night with an NBA superstar.

He is a bit odd certainly. He once infamously took a shower in full uniform during halftime of a game while he was with Warriors and has been known to play online poker during intermission as well but a night with “Hibachi” would be absolutely absurd.

I can see it now: following the game, Arenas takes you out to the local bowling alley for a warm-up. He buys a few drinks, and then heads to the White House to play Halo with President Obama. But seriously, Gilbert’s driver takes us on a nightly stroll in the Lambo to D.C.’s best club. We get the most expensive alcohol at the most expensive table. Money is simply not an issue with Gilbert. Not convinced yet? For his 25th birthday, he threw a million dollar party and called it “Arenas Express.”

Back to your hypothetical night: When the waitress brings the food, Gilbert yells, “Hibacccchhhiii.” Gilbert, wearing a jersey of himself, which is autographed by himself, proceeds to get up on top of the table and starts to sing the Village People’s, “YMCA.” Then he stops, takes off his shoes and emulates his shooting stroke.

I don’t know if he’d help you get girls, but I promise you going out with Gilbert would be an unforgettable evening.

WORST:

Kobe – Since Kobe is one of the most popular guys in the league, I imagine he’d be on the top of many lists. But in reality, a night out with the “Black Mamba” would probably be painfully slow. Ever since the infamous Colorado case, Bryant has been very reserved and is seldom seen going out to parties. Plus, arguably the hardest working player in the association (he even lifts on game day), he doesn’t even drink, I suspect.

Even so, Bryant doesn’t strike me as the type of guy that would make an effort to incorporate you into his world. He may have you rebounding all night while he shoots threes and free throws. That may be your thing, but I advise you to be careful with what you wish for with in this case.

Dwight Howard - Known for his vivacious laughs and creative sense of humor, Howard would have you laughing hysterically all night. Nearly 7-feet tall and one of the game’s bright young stars, “Superman” naturally attracts insane amounts of attention. Okay, so that’s the good part, but here’s the bad. Howard – like Arenas - is a “gamer.” Secondly, I’ve read that his dad is an active Georgia State Patrol Officer. This kid grew up in solid Christian, southern roots. He doesn’t seem to be a high volume consumer of alcohol – good for the Magic, but not for you. All in all, Howard seems like a better candidate to hang out with your 14-year-old son than make your ultimate night a reality.

Anybody from Duke: Honestly every Duke guy is a top contender to be the league’s most boring player. You think it’d be cool to hang out with an NBA player? I actually think the opposite would be the case here. The Duke players would be so juiced that anybody would publicly associate with them that they you would feel like the NBA player, not them. Let me break it down for you.

A night out with Shane Battier means going to museums, talking about Slaughterhouse-Five and researching the Ming Dynasty – and we’re not talking about Yao.

Mike Dunleavy? The guy is always hurt: Mono, knees, fingers, everything. You’d probably spend six hours in physical therapy before watching NBA League Pass on TV.

Grant Hill wouldn’t be much better. Most likely an evening with the former rep of Fila Sportswear would be watching highlights from the Laettner game and texting with Coach K.

I love Carlos Boozer, but he may be the worst of all. You’d probably read bedtime stories to his son or watch old clips of Charles Barkley. Plus Salt Lake isn’t exactly LA.

Now that you’ve heard my spiel, what is your decision? Remember, this isn’t necessarily about your most adored player; you have to be selective with whom you feel would be the most entertaining and inclusive.

My choice? I know it’s cliché, but I have to go with my man Shaq. I just can’t imagine anything better.