Yesterday, I thought I broke my basketball addiction. I got out of work early to watch the Iron Bowl where Cam Newton won the Heisman (unless some goody-goodies refuse to award him the statue on account of the recent scandals). Considering how amazing the Auburn comeback was, I was understandably in full fledged college football mode.
ESPN was also feeling the NCAA. Oregon-Arizona and Boise State-Nevada pushed the NBA to ESPN2. For the 100th time in the week, I checked the schedule. Nope, it still hadn't changed. Houston-Charlotte followed by Golden State-Memphis. Not exactly the match ups I would use to convert people into hoops fans. (Would it have killed them to show Dallas-San Antonio or Chicago-Denver instead?)
The less than thrilling basketball games gave me the perfect excuse to focus on football.
As the Oregon kickoff approached, I was genuinely amped for what was sure to be a high scoring game. If only I saw the kickoff.
Tennessee and Villanova were playing for the NIT tip off title. The game was running over, which always happens. Once the outcome was decided I thought ESPN would switch over to football. However, they thought people needed to see 'Nova foul Tennessee and extend a game that was essentially over.
Thankfully, there was NBA basketball on ESPN2. I figured I could watch a little and turn to football when it was on. That was my mistake. The top ranked team would be no more than entertainment during commercials. Sure, I followed the game, but it took a back seat the Rockets and Bobcats.
Just as Bubbles needed his heroine, I need the NBA. Only for me, there's no support group. Yes, my problems are very real. Oh well, on to armchair analysis.
(And for the record, I finished this after watching the Pistons host the Knicks on Sunday. That's right, I choose a November NBA game over the Falcons-Packers, a game with major playoff implications. I told you I have issues.)
No, but seriously, people really hate LeBron
For the record, I wrote that sentence on November 27, five full days before James returns to Cleveland. After that game, hate may not accurately describe the emotion directed toward LeBron.
When Miami visited Orlando Wednesday night, the Magic fans literally booed every second LeBron held the ball. As soon as he touched it the boos were deafening. First off, props to the Magic fans. It was hilarious and made for excellent television.
Second, I thought LeBron's lack of emotion was troubling. An entire area had singled him out as the bad guy. (Why Wade and Bosh are given a free pass is puzzling. If LeBron played with pretty much anyone else, Cleveland would be the city to boo him.) After I stopped laughing, I thought, As wonderful as this is, LeBron is totally going to destroy Orlando now. I kept waiting for him to erupt and shut up the Amway Center. Every time he got the ball I expected him to drive and finish was a vicious slam dunk, then pound his chest and scowl at the crowd.
While James played well, he seemed detached. The absence of emotion makes me think he's still in shock. The Heat aren't running away with the East, and LeBron is no longer loved. Think about it, no matter how well he played, very few people disliked him. Opposing stadiums would never have been described as being hostile toward him, even as he embarrassed the home team's defense. Now, he's the most hated player in the league.
I was against LeBron taking his talents to South Beach. I still enjoy watching the Heat lose. I just think it'd be more fun if James showed a little rage and played like the two time MVP he is. I want the Heat to play in an epic Eastern Conference Finals against Boston or make the Finals and take the Lakers to seven. Someone needs to let Miami know that we as fans didn't sign up for this barely above .500 crap.
Speaking of Orlando, when are they going to make a trade?
The Magic are a good team that looks great in the regular season. Few teams player better with a lead. It makes sense given their love affair with the three point shot. In a matter of minutes a seven point game becomes a twenty point blow out.
However, Orlando has problems against good teams in close games. When a game is close and each possession more valuable, the three point shot is less attractive. All of sudden, talented shooters hesitate. Unfortunately, due to Dwight Howard's difficulties from the charity stripe, the Magic lack a go to guy when they need points.
I give Orlando credit for not being satisfied after making the 2009 Finals. They looked to improve the team by bringing in Vince Carter. The mistake they made was letting go of Hedo Turkoglu. So essentially they traded Hedo for Vince. I know Turkoglu hasn't played well since leaving the Magic, but honestly, it was an awful swap.
Although Hedo was basically one of many sharp shooters on the Orlando squad, he had an unique ability that they haven't replaced: he could create his own scoring.
Let's be honest, offense isn't a rare commodity in the NBA. Even average offenses will frequently get high percentage shots. The best defenses will break down. Championship teams have someone who can create their own shot on those possessions when the defense plays tough and no one is wide open.
During their 2009 playoff run, Hedo frequently hit jumpers late in the shot clock when the opponent locked his teammates down. He would have been dismissed as lucky if not for the fact that he consistently made big time buckets. He took so many shots that were just plain ugly. His man would be on him and he would contort his body to create enough space to get an attempt.
On paper, it would appear that Vince Carter would be a better creator. After all, he has shown an ability to drive to the hoop. That's the traditional way to get your own offense.
What the Magic overlooked is that Vince Carter is Vince Carter. That's really the only way to put it. While he has the ability to create, he never does it when it counts (like when the shot clock is low or during a close game). Can anyone remember a close game Vince took over? Ever? Has an announcer ever said, "...and a clutch shot by Vince Carter?" Look, he's incredibly talented, but if he's your go to guy during crunch time that's a problem.
The situation is kind of like someone who had a portfolio of only mid cap stocks. They were making money, but wanted to diversify and add stability with a blue chip company. Only, they sold the profitable mid cap for GM. Ideally, one makes money investing in large, stable companies. Ultimately, however, investing is about making money. Performance is more important than theory.
Luckily for the Magic, Vince has more value than shares of the old GM. And really, he doesn't have to be traded. I think he can contribute on a winning team. However the Magic do it, they need to bring in a creator. They are more likely to have a deep playoff run if they can turn some of their depth into a player who can make things happen on the offensive end.
How did Tracy McGrady end up in Detroit?
Every time I watch the Pistons, T-Mac does something that reminds me of the old T-Mac. Obviously, he will never lead the league in scoring again, but he isn't exactly washed up either. He has the ability to contribute to a contender, but instead he plays off the bench for the wingmen heavy Pistons.
Kudos to Detroit for picking McGrady up for less than a million bucks a year. Still, it has to be asked: how come there wasn't more demand for him at that price? I know hindsight is 20/20, but isn't T-Mac the definition of a smart calculated risk?
McGrady being effective off the bench isn't completely surprising. I think it's always worth it to gamble on someone who had and lost if the price is right. McGrady was a super star, then injuries caused him to fall to the point where he makes less than million a year. Is it really that unreasonable to assume this guy is hungry? At the very least, he offers veteran experience.
Beer Review: Stella Artois
For this edition of NBA Addict, I'll move away from my home state micro-brews and across the Atlantic to Belgium. While the breweries of Michigan are among the best in the world, their finest creations don't lend themselves well to prolonged drinking (high alcohol content, dark, and filling).
Stella Artois is smooth and drinkable. It's subtly sweet, and while not a great beer, it has enough character to be passable for beer snobs. Plus, as a sucker for marketing, I find this to be the perfect time of year to enjoy the self proclaimed Christmas beer.
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