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Why The NBA Is Now A Small Man’s Game

The NBA is now a small man’s game.

In the 90s, the NBA was known as a big man’s league. With superstars like Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson and Alonzo Mourning roaming the paint, the prevailing thought was that if you didn’t have a dominant – or at the very least, a capable – centre on your roster, then you were going to struggle to compete with the league’s elite teams.

Either that, or you needed Michael Jeffrey Jordan.

Not only was there a number of great players at the ‘C’ position, but the second and third tier of centres in that era were also very good players. Rik Smits, Brad Daugherty, Dikembe Mutombo, Vlade Divac, Arvydas Sabonis, etc, were no slouches.

In fact, if any of those players were playing today, they would probably be ranked in the top 2 or 3 centres in the game, rather than being placed much further down the pecking order, like they found themselves in the 90s.

Such a sentiment highlights a not-so-subtle shift in the NBA in recent times. Though there remain a number of very good low post players in the league, the position with the most superstar depth at present is actually point guard.

While in the 90s many believed that you simply couldn’t do without an elite centre, that narrative has now changed to having a high caliber point guard on your roster.

Which suggests that the NBA is now a small man’s game.

Actually, that line – and the heading – is a little misleading. It’s not that the NBA has suddenly shifted to being a league for midgets, but rather that there is a feeling that you need a playmaker to be truly successful in the modern NBA.

In essence, the belief is that you need a point guard if you want to win, because it seems like every NBA team has a good-to-great one calling the shots at present.

Photo Credit: www.kaskus.co.id

Photo Credit: www.kaskus.co.id

At the elite level, there is Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo.

On the second tier, there’s John Wall, Mike Conley, Damian Lillard, Ty Lawson, Jrue Holiday, Eric Bledisloe and Ricky Rubio.

Behind those players, there is a solid cast including Jeff Teague, Jose Calderon, Andre Miller, Kemba Walker, Jarrett Jack, Brandon Jennings, Jeremy Lin, Raymond Felton, Steve Blake and Jameer Nelson.

You also have this season’s rookies with amazing potential, Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo.

That’s 27 quality point guards, and I haven’t even considered primary ball-handlers like LeBron James, Andre Iguodala and James Harden, who aren’t listed at ‘PG’, but very much play that role for their teams.

Another player absent from the list is two-time league MVP Steve Nash. Considering how quickly he has succumbed to Father Time, there’s a good reason he has his own paragraph: he still deserves a mention, but he’s no longer anywhere near elite, and there have even been whispers he may retire at any moment due to his injuries.

With so many quality floor generals, NBA General Managers now treat the ‘1’ position the same way they did the centre spot in the 90s. In other words, their thought process is “I gotta get me a point guard!”

The NBA has always been a copycat league. As soon as a team has some success with something slightly different, everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

Such trends have included: getting a center, needing 3 All-Stars, going small, going big, pressing, Twin Towers, building around one high volume scorer, tanking, going ten deep, implementing run & gun offenses, stretch 4s, building through the draft, hiring a college coach, playing zone, corner threes, recruiting international players, rough and physical defense, and the list goes on.

Photo Credit: www.projectspurs.com

Photo Credit: www.projectspurs.com

And so we come to point guards, somewhat the 2013 phenomenon.

Though the desire to have an elite level point guard is born out of the depth at the position at the moment, it’s always made sense to have a good NBA quarterback.

Good point guards handle the ball, display leadership ability, control the flow of the game, get all their teammates involved, play the role of ‘coach on the floor’, initiate the offense, break down the D if the offense falls apart, get easy buckets, push the fast break, and generally run the team.

Without all those qualities, most teams today – and throughout history – would struggle to win basketball games.

Though many will disagree, I personally think the point guard is the most important position in basketball. Of course, I would say that as an ex-point guard myself.

Yet regardless of your own opinions on which position in basketball is the most vital, one cannot deny that it is currently the era of the great point guard in the NBA, and it’s making for some highly enjoyable play.

This content was first published on The Roar at www.theroar.com.au



Is Hack-a-Dwight Bad Sportsmanship?

Dwight and Shaq. Shaq and Dwight. You cannot talk about one without the other. Both played at Orlando. Both at one stage or another were the poster child of what a big man should be. Both played under the bright lights of LA. Both cannot shoot from outside 3 ft from the hoop, but Dwight, did you really have to be a terrible free-throw shooter as well? By shooting less than 50% (give or take) from the free-throw line you automatically become a target for the other team to foul during clutch situations. Foul the terrible free-throw shooter. Watch him hit one shot at best. Score at the other end and repeat. Simple formula and many teams have adapted it. Originally touted as “Hack a Shaq” but now Dwight has stepped up and taken over the reigns and “Hack a Dwight” has reared its ugly head again but is it bad sportsmanship? (more…)



2013/14 Champions and Award Winners*

Consider this an experiment. Take one Playstation 3. Insert one NBA 2k14 game disc. Enter game modes. Choose season. Simulate. Sit back and watch the 2013/14 season unfold before your very eyes. Check out what my season entailed below. Results may vary… *May or may not be actual winners (more…)



What were they Thinking?

NBA stars are a multi talented bunch. Many have branched into other forms of entertainment (TV, Movies, Rap). Others have had a dig at fashion and starting their own brand. Some have become heroes of the humanitarian world. And some have even had a crack at different sports. Right here and now we are going to look at the best and worst of the NBA Slashies (that’s an actor/NBA star and not the other way around).

Let’s start with the biggest slashie of them all. Big Shaq Diesel. I’m not sure there is a career he hasn’t tried his luck at. Shaq has been panned for his acting and movies he has starred in. In Kazaam Shaq was a 7ft genie. This classic was rated 1.5 stars on IMBD. Blue Chips saw Shaq star with Nick Nolte as a college basketball recruit who was being paid under the table. O’neal has had small roles in the Scary Movie franchise, Grown Ups 2 and the worst movie I have ever seen Freddie Got Fingered (every terrible movie that I watch is compared to this howler). None of Shaq’s movies have a rating of over 50% so Shaq might need to try something else. Other hoops heroes to star in movies have been Kevin Durant in Thunderstruck (terrible). A plethora of ballers in Eddie which starred Whoopi Goldberg (mediocre) and Ray Allen as Jesus Shuttlesworth in He Got Game (amazing).

For every NBA star or basketballer who has released a rap album you can blame Shaq. As a rapper the Big Diesel has released five albums, with his debut album ‘Shaq Diesel’ unbelieveably earning platinum record status. For me there is only one highlight in Shaq’s rap career and that is his song Shoot Pass Slam. This is the influenza of raps… It’s catchy. Watch it below.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBXvNGdjM8E]

Shaq also had a crack at a professional wrestling career.  At one stage he was a special guest general manager for the RAW show and has often been touted as a future opponent for the Adonis that is The Big Show. Shaq also trains in MMA and even appeared on the UFC Undisputed video game as an unlockable character. He has fought ‘The Golden Boy’ Oscar De La Hoya on his television series ‘Shaq Vs’ but my favourite of all time was watching two other NBA mega stars enter into the WCW wrestling ring. Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman took trash talk to the next level and ‘fought’ each other on a WCW show. Check it out.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN2ffgG9ANM]

NBA ballers have also shown that they have big hearts. Helping out people in need wherever they can. Dikembe Mutombo started a self named foundation to improve the living conditions in his homeland of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has been awarded numerous humanitarian honours and even started a hospital near his home. I’m not sure if the hospital was for victims of his blocked shots but that could be an idea for future Mutombo. Manute Bol was another legend of the NBA humanitarian game and, rumour has it, once killed a lion with a spear in Sudan while he was looking after his family herd of cattle. What a change that must’ve been for the big man. Killing lions one day and swatting shots in the USA the next. Manute had a huge heart. He helped out Sudan however he could. He wanted reconciliation in his home and spent and raised a great deal of money trying to do so. Eventually it was his big heart and an unfortunate gambling addiction which left him with nothing. This did not stop him from fundraising. At one stage he even became a jockey to raise money. Sadly Manute is no longer with us and in the cruellest of ironies contracted a rare skin disease while on a trip to Sudan which lead to the deterioration of his health and eventual death at just 47. On a lighter note, Dikembe fans have to play this game. It’s a game sponsored by Old Spice where you play as Dikembe and get to save the world. Amazing…

http://kbhgames.com/8790/old-spice-%7C-dikembe-mutombos-4-1-2-weeks-to-save-the-world/

I will now finish with the ultimate in all things outside of NBA. Let’s forget about MJ when he tried to play baseball. Let’s forget about all his ‘retirements’ and terrible draft choices. Let’s remember the finest moment of his life outside of the NBA… Space Jam. The greatest basketball movie of all time. Somehow this movie has a rotten rating from critics on rotten tomatoes. Just 35%. 35%!. I am outraged to say the least. At the top of the official website under the rating there is a quote. ‘A harmless mishmash of basketball and animation that’ll entertain kids but leave adults less than thrilled’. Did these reviewers watch the same movie as me? I was enthralled. This movie had it all. Basketball. Cartoons. The Looney Tunes. Good Vs Evil. Bugs Bunny falling in love with Lola Bunny and the numerous sexual innuendos that went over the heads of the children who watched. Shawn Bradley. Charles Barkely. Larry Bird and Bill Murray. The real Bill Murray. The word legendary gets thrown around too much but I’m going to use it now. Space Jam and MJ’s performance was and still is legendary. Even the website is amazing. It has not changed since the movie was released. It’s like jumping in your own internet DeLorean… In other news apparently Jordan has some brand that’s pretty famous as well.

http://www2.warnerbros.com/spacejam/movie/jam.htm

Nathan Darby



USP NBA: TORONTO RAPTORS AT WASHINGTON WIZARDS S BKN USA DC

Five underrated teams for the 2013/14 NBA season

Miami Heat
The Heat have made three straight trips to the NBA Finals, won the last two NBA championships, have the greatest basketball player on earth in his prime, and have completed some shrewd off-season moves.

So it’s bewildering to hear people say that their successful run may come to an end this year. Why? Because people are simply bored of them winning?

I haven’t heard one logical, rational or believable reason to suggest why the Heat shouldn’t start overwhelming favourites to once again take home the NBA hardware.

The signings of Greg Oden and Michael Beasley are low risk/high reward, and if they come off towards the latter, the Heat will be near unstoppable.

Yet, even if both players flame out, a nucleus of LeBron James, (a healthy) Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chambers, Chris Anderson, Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, etc, should be expected to win the title.

I personally am not underrating the Heat, as I think they will three-peat, so it feels strange to put them on this list. But for all those that think their championship run is over, this selection is for you, because I think you’re madly underestimating them.

Minnesota Timberwolves
This was actually a popular pick last season, when many thought the combination of a healthy Ricky Rubio, the All Star play of Kevin Love, the return of Brandon Roy, and the emergence of Nikola Pekovic, would combine to see the Twloves sneak into the playoffs.

Sadly, injuries to key players cruelled their season and the team never recovered. However, I’m going to roll the dice again this year, and believe that if the roster can stay healthy, the team can create some noise based on everything in that first paragraph.

The key difference is that Kevin Martin replaces Roy in a sneaky good move by the organisation. Martin will give them reliable offense from the backcourt, along with experience and a level head.

I also like some of Minny’s role players a lot, especially Alexy Shved and Derrick Williams, both of whom I feel have the potential to have somewhat breakout years.

There is a lot of ‘ifs’ with this team, but if (there’s another one!) everything falls into place, I could see this team qualifying in seventh or eighth place in the West.

Washington Wizards
I must be mad selecting this perennial underachieving team to be underrated.

I won’t lie, I’ve been seduced by John Wall’s second half of last season, in which he looked like an out-and-out superstar. It remains to be seen whether or not that tremendous run was an aberration or a sign of things to come, but I’m banking it was the start of Wall fulfilling his potential, which will make the Wizards a dangerous team this season.

I also think Bradley Beal is a star in the making. Fluid, smooth and with a nice stroke, he could make ‘the leap’ this year, especially with Wall’s penetration setting him up for open looks or easy buckets.

Though Emeka Okafor is currently injured, when he returns alongside Nené, it forms a formidable and underrated frontcourt pairing. And if one other player can step-up and be consistent – ideally at the small forward spot – it will provide the Wizards with a very nice starting five.

Considering how weak the bottom half of the Eastern Conference is, playoff spots are up for grabs. The Wizards should be in the mix to nab one of them.

Portland Trailblazers
The knock – quite deservingly – on the TrailBlazers last season is that they had no depth. In fact, their bench was horrible. Credit must go to the front office for going out in the off-season and recruiting some reserves.

Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Thomas Robinson, C.J. McCollum, Dorell Wright and Meyers Leonard form a very solid collection of back-ups that should allow Portland to rest their starters without fearing they’ll be surrendering the game.

Good teams always have a nice inside/outside combination and Portland are lucky enough to have one of the best in Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Point guard Lillard was the runaway rookie-of-the-year award winner, and earned himself the reputation of a big game player by hitting a number of big shots last year.

Meanwhile, Aldridge is a stud. A beast on the low block, and what sometimes feels like an ‘automatic two points’ shooter from mid-range, he’s one of the best power forwards in the game, and deserves a solid supporting cast.

Considering both stars – plus other starters Nic Batum and Wes Matthews – will be able to have a consistent rest this season, I think Portland will push for playoff contention.

Los Angeles Lakers
I suspect this is more wishful thinking than anything else. Either way, I make this prediction with zero confidence, and 100% bias.

Yet utilising a ‘glass half full’ mentality, let’s assume Kobe comes back 100% and with a vengeance. Let’s assume that Steve Nash overcomes his injury concerns and keeps Father Time at bay for another season. Let’s assume Pau Gasol will be rejuvenated at being reintegrated into the offense. That’s the makings of a pretty dangerous team; I’m not sure I’d want to play them in the first round of the playoffs.

Of course, they’d have to actually make the playoffs in the first place.

That’s a lot of assumptions to rely on, and as my mum used to say ‘assume makes an ass out of u and me’. In fact, forget it. I can’t even delude myself into this pick. I’m off to watch some DVDs of the 2010 NBA Finals.



NBA’s Greatest Rivalries: The Finale

Here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the last part in the trilogy that is the NBA’s Greatest Rivalries. We’ve hit some ones so far but in reality there are still some big dogs to go through yet. Enjoy. (more…)



Kings Packing up Shop; Seattle to Reclaim The Sonics?

sonics

UPDATE 21/01/2013:

Several sources close to the situation have indicated that a deal for the sale of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle’s Hansen-Ballmer Group is imminent. The reported settlement is said to be worth $525 Million and would see 65% of the Maloofs’ ownership go to Seattle. At this stage it is also reported that NBA teams have been notified, but the deal is yet to be approved by the league. More details ASAP.

From January 10th, 2013

Reports emerged on Twitter late last night of a blockbuster move which would see the financially decrepit Sacramento Kings relocate to Seattle after the Hansen-Ballmer Group made an offer to Kings owners the Maloof family to buy the team.

A press conference has been called, but as yet there is no official press release stating the move will indeed go ahead. The Maloofs are notoriously known for changing their minds last minute and the likelihood of them rejecting an offer remains high.

The projected figure of $500 million would see the franchise move to the old stomping ground of the fabled Seattle SuperSonics at Key Arena, before relocating to a new purpose built arena in the SoHo district two years later.

It is also reported that the Maloofs will likely retain a small percentage of ownership, but will ultimately have no say in the directions and choices the franchise takes.

Y! Sports was also told this morning that the buyer intends on reapplying the colors and name of the NBA history with which Seattle is known. Basically, we could potentially see the Seattle Sonics back in the National Basketball Association as early as next season.

More as it comes.

Nick C. (@NickoToGo)

Post Script: A new report has come through which suggests, as stated could happen, the Maloofs have rejected the offer made by Hansen-Ballmer and the deal is yet to be finalised.