Monthly Archives: July 2011

ESPYs Running Diary

Tonight is the 14th annual ESPYs… a very underrated awards show if I do say so myself. Seth Meyers is back to host the show, and I hope you guys enjoy the show as well as my second-ever running diary.

This Guy.

This Guy.

8:11: Brian Wilson and his beard has already stolen the show. Not only is he rocking his now one-year-old beard and a mo-hawk, he’s also in a “seal skin tuxedo suit” (which more closely resembles a uni-tard) with an orange bow-tie. His built-in gloves are “a little dirty because (he got) a little awkward out on the carpet.” He’s also rocking a cougar cane, or his “plus one.” Brian Wilson is something else.

8:14: When asked if he would have done anything differently when he threw and swung at a Gatorade cooler, Wilson said “I would have asked for a metal bat so I could have launched the cooler a little further.” He needs to host SportsNation with the sliding closer Heath Bell some day.

8:16: He just keeps it coming. Wilson was asked if he would be shaving his beard soon and he said, “I probably should shave it soon because I’m probably scaring all the kids at home.” I home he never shaves.

8:17: Mike Greenberg announced Jimmie Johnson is in the running for Male Athlete of the Year. I have a problem with this. Shouldn’t his car be the one up for the award?

8:20: Our first Cam Newton sighting! Looking dapper if I may say so myself. I love how the sideline reporters are asking if they’re more nervous now or during championship games. Really?

8:24: They’re now interviewing the Wounded Warrior Project, who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’d love to think I could do that, but I can’t. The view from the top has to be incredible, but after reading Into Thin Air, there’s no way I’ll try that.

8:27: Erin Andrews is interviewing Kevin Love and Blake Griffin talking about….. FASHION! And Brian Wilson, of course. Dapper seems to be a popular word tonight because I’ve heard it at least three times in the last 15 minutes.

8:33: Does anyone who watches ESPN want to see an interview with Justin Bieber? Anyone? Nobody? That is, unless A.J. Burnett is coming from behind to pop him in the face with a shaving cream pie. Not that he needs shaving cream.

8:40: By the way, Justin Bieber had the most fraudulent MVP award ever. Worse that Kobe “6-24” Bryant. He scored 8 points on 30% shooting, including missing the game-winning 3-pointer. Not only that, but Scottie Pippen had a couple massive blocks (including one on Bieber), 17 points, and a victory. I hate 12-year-old girls.

8:43: How can Jon Barry be Dirk Nowitzki in Role Play without using a German accent. This is a disgrace…

8:50: No Miller, the best lemonade is not beer lemonade. It’s lemonade lemonade.

8:52: The US Women’s soccer team is going to win so many awards tonight. Thanks, prisoner of the moment fans. No, Abby Wambach is not an American superstar. You wouldn’t recognize her if you passed her in the street. Plus, can you name the player who shot the game winning goal at Lake Placid? Didn’t think so.

9:05: I wonder if Seth Myers will go for any Tiger Woods jokes. Or maybe they’re just too easy. Or Tiger’s just too sympathetic a character at this point for that.

9:07: How did ESPN show Auburn’s championship run without showing Cam Newton? I guess getting on the ESPYs wasn’t part of his $200k deal.

9:09: A lockout joke to open the show. How appropriate. Follow it up with a Brian Wilson joke? I think so.

9:11: “If you remember, last year’s show came days after LeBron James’ decision to go to the Miami Heat, so to make a joke about that would be too easy. So here I go. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh have nicknamed themselves the Big Three because that’s how many quarters they play.” Seth Myers is the man.

9:17: Super happy to hear that the proceeds tonight go to the Los Angeles Dodgers of America. Seth is just rattling off Dodgers jokes… Mark Cuban is really getting a good laugh out of jokes about his future team.

9:21: Lady Gaga’s Born this Way does not belong with Cam Newton, Jose Bautista, Blake Griffin, and Arian Foster. I really want to punch somebody now. Too bad there aren’t any Heatles in the building.

9:25: Just kidding, I love the Heat. How can you ever blame a guy for leaving Cleveland for South Beach…. to play with his best friends. The only thing that made the whole deal better was how angry owner Dan Gilbert’s 13-year old son got when he wrote a letter in Comic Sans to LeBron. Wait, Dan wrote it?

9:31: Chris Boomer’s hairline is really going back, back, back, back…

9:35: I must be the only person who doesn’t like Tim Lincecum’s hair. It’s just really getting out of control. Maybe its the only thing that separates him from looking like a 15-year old.

9:45: Is it really an upset if no one knows what’s going on? Horses shouldn’t be in biggest upset.

9:51: As crazy as Ron Artest–I mean Metta World Peace–is, I think he needs to be a sideline reporter instead of Heather Cox. How much fun would that be? I know he has much more exciting questions that “So Phil, Dirk scored 26 in the first half, do you plan on slowing him down in the second half?” “Uh, yes?”

9:54: Andre from The League is here as the man from the Canadian Kissing Couple! Except he has hair….. but still as creepy!

9:58: In the Top Male College Athlete, they have a hockey player named Dan Niele. I still don’t know what school he played for. And Jimmer won? What did he do? Put up 28 points against Northwest South Dakota Tech?

10:00: The unintentional comedy of Jimmer Fredette’s girlfriend’s outfit is almost unbearable. A black, loose-fitting t-shirt that’s cut off around her neck.

10:01: Our first sideline reporter! Brian Wilson declares he’s a cyborg and “doesn’t need a computer to log on to vote for the Top Play because (he) can do it with (his) brain. It’s science.” I told you he and Ron Artest need to do television!

10:19: Not to sound racist, but it really messes up your motivational speech when you say “I aksed myself…”

10:26: That ESPN commercial about all the Jeff Gordon fans doesn’t make sense. It says “It’s not crazy. It’s sports.” Yet, they’re talking about NASCAR… am I the only one who’s confused?

10:29: Hey NASCAR announcer, is it really unbelievable that Jimmie Johnson won again? Because he’s been cleaning up for the past 5 years. That’s like Nick Faldo two years ago saying he was shocked that Tiger won a tournament. Or this year Nick Faldo saying Tiger is twelve strokes back. Is that really so surprising?

10:36: All respect lost for Lindsay Vonn. She just asked Justin Bieber for a picture for her Facebook page. What did she even do this year? Not win 90-some-straight games…

10:39: Random, but Charlotte has never had so much starpower. Cam Newton. Kemba Walker. Who knows, maybe this city could be the next Detroit. Wait. Nooooooo!

10:47: Dude I can’t wait to sign up for Dirk Nowitzki’s Awkward Basketball Camp. SNL strikes again!

10:49: Butler over Pitt should not be in the conversation for best game. It was the dumbest game. Pitt out-dumbed Butler. Dumb playcalling. Dumb foul calls. Not a Top Game.

10:52: Wait, why aren’t any Giants going up for the Eagles-Giants Top Game? Shouldn’t the Giants punter be up there?

11:03: You’ve got to wonder whether having one leg was ultimately an advantage for Anthony Robles. He can be so much bigger than his competition since he’s missing 15% of his total body weigh.

11:11: I wish that Eduardo Najera would go away!

How can play this not win?!

How can play this not win?!

11:13: If you haven’t seen this YouTube commentary about Marshawn Lynch’s run, you’re really missing out.

11:15: No America No! I shouldn’t be so surprised that you’re such Prisoners of the Moment, but Abby Wambach’s goal was not the best play of the year. It just wasn’t. Oklahoma State’s combo interception was much better, and Marshawn’s is just out of this world.

11:19: Paul Rudd needs to cut his hair. And I’m not going to watch My Idiot Brother.

11:20: Tweet of the Night: this gem from @dougabeles “Giants pitcher Brian Wilson looks like a polaroid negative of Frederick Douglass.”

11:23: Quick question: how was Nick Barnett hoisting a newspaper that said the Packers were champs during the celebration, just moments after the game?

11:25: People really do hate the Heat; Dallas wins another ESPY. You know, there’s really no need to LeBron. He’s not a sellout. He’s a businessman.

11:27: What did we learn tonight? Seth Meyers is hilarious, Brian Wilson is the man, and people still hate LeBron.

I hope you all had as much fun as I did tonight. Look for a post on how to tweak MLB’s All-Star Weekend in the next few days.

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Categories: Running Diary | Leave a comment

A Way Out of the Lockout

As a passionate baseball fan, I love this time of year. Football and basketball are out of season, and America’s pastime rules supreme in the world of sports. But this year things are a little different. After the Commissioner’s trophy is lifted and a new World Series champion is crowned, I’m not sure if there will be an NFL or NBA season. We might be on the brink of the quietest sports winter in decades.

But being the eternal optimist that I am, I don’t think we’ll miss a single Tom Brady pass, a single LeBron James alley-oop. With so much money on the table, things should work themselves out sooner rather than later. Now I have no facts to back this up, no inside sources to fall back on. I just have to hope for the best and wait it all out.

As of this morning, however, the previously dismal NBA lockout situation looks to have taken a sudden turn for the better. As first reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Deron Williams will be taking his talents to Istanbul. For about $5 million, the All-Star point guard will play with Besiktas until the lockout ends, when he can opt out of his contract.

We’ve seen American players make the pilgrimage to Europe (most recently Josh Childress and Brandon Jennings), but never before have we seen a star make the move. Kobe Bryant has talked about playing across the pond, and the Greek club Olympiakos reportedly considered offering LeBron upwards of $50 million annually. But that was all chatter. Deron Williams is the first star to walk the walk.

The name of the game in negotiations is leverage. Says filmmaker Brett Ratner, “No matter how successful you are, you are not invincible. The studio is writing the checks. It`s all about leverage and who has the power. The goal is to get the biggest deal you can, because you are going to have to give something back to the studios anyway.” I’m not sure if Mr. Ratner has ever picked up a basketball in his life, but that sure applies to this lockout.

Before the NBA Players Association had the threat of star players leaving to play overseas, there’s not much they had to hold over the heads of the owners. Sure, owners would be missing out on selling $50 nosebleed tickets and $8 dollar beers, but when the minimun-salary players started missing paychecks, they would cave quicker than the billionaire owners. But now? Not so fast.

Do you think a team with Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant might win the Turkish League?

Do you think a team with Deron Williams and Kobe Bryant might win the Turkish League?

Expect more and more players like Deron Williams to start heading to the Euro League and Asia. The level of risk remains low–the injury risk is the same as if they’d be practicing in the states–and they’ll be making money playing basketball. They’ll stay in better shape that if they just ran organized practices like many of the NFL teams, and they have no commitment to their team once the lockout ends. Really, what is there to lose?

The trump card the owners had was that the bottom half of the league would start severely missing their paychecks around November. But now, these Garrett Temple-type players can make the move to a Spanish League team and make some money until the league opens back up.

For now, I have to believe that the momentum has swung towards the players. Remember, in the NHL lockout, over 350 players went overseas to play. Now of course, the percentage of foreign players in the NHL far exceeds that of the NBA, but there is still a major foreign influence across the league. Williams’ new team has made it known that they will target more NBA players, specifically Kobe Bryant. And once the dominos start falling, a mass migration of basketball players is not out of the question.

Williams’ move is the first of many to come. Will two All-Stars playing in Turkey make the owners rush to a less friendly deal? No. But could half the league playing overseas massively expedite this painful process? Absolutely.

The ball is now in the court of NBAPA executive director Billy Hunter. If he can encourage players to leave for Greece, Spain, China, and Israel, he could amount enough crucial leverage to end this lockout before the momentum of last season is gone. I’m not rooting for the players, and I’m not rooting for the owners. What I want to see–and what I’m guessing most fans want to see–is a resolution and more basketball. And if playing in Turkey is what it’ll take, I’m fully on board.

Categories: NBA | Leave a comment

NBA Draftermath: The Most Sneaky Good Pick of the Night

Finding someone who thought the 2011 NBA Draft was a good one is harder than finding someone who thinks Casey Anthony was innocent. Whoops. But just because it was a historically weak draft, that doesn’t make it short on talent, as discussed before.

One thing that really made this draft stand out was the influx of foreign talent. Six of the first seven draftees were born outside of the US (Kyrie Irving – Australia, Enes Kanter – Switzerland, Tristan Thompson – Canada, Jonas Valanciunas – Lithuania, Jan Vesely – Czech Republic, and Bismack Biyombo – Congo). This made for an even more confusing draft because no matter how many scouting reports and grainy YouTube videos you watch of these foreign talents, it’s near impossible for the average fan to gauge how bright their futures will be.

Luckily for the fans, however, the NBA teams know what they’re doing when it comes to the draft. They pour hour after hour and dollar after dollar into scouting to figure out Donatas Motiejunas will be Darko Milicic or Nikoloz Tskitishvili. I mean Mouhamad Sene or Yi Jianlian. I mean Yaroslav Korolev or… gah I give up. Teams shell out hundreds upon hundreds of man hours to find out who will be the next star in each draft. At least, that’s what we’d like to think.

Some front offices are what I like to call “fundamentally challenged,” for example Minnesota. Fundamental stuff like, you know, don’t draft two point guards in the top five of the same draft.

Some front offices are what I like to call “needy drafters,” like Philly and New York this year. Each team had a need they desperately needed to fill (size and defense), so they both reached for borderline first-round players (Nikola Vucevic and Iman Shumpert) while drafting in the teens. Tell me when reaching ever worked out.

So here we have arrived at the 2011 NBA Draft, full of intrigue, promise, and mystery. The draft is undoubtedly most important for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who look to finally be able to turn the page from LeBron’s Decision to the new chapter in Cleveland Sports. By hook or by crook, the Cavs landed the first and fourth picks in the draft, which, again, comes in the worst draft potentially since 2000.

The first pick was easy. Sure, they really hurt on the wings and could use the potential of a Derrick Williams, but there’s no way they could pass on Kyrie Irving, the scintillating point guard out of Duke. But as Williams and Enes Kanter came of the board 2-3 to Minnesota and Utah, the Cavaliers were suddenly faced with a tough choice with the fourth pick.

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Even if Valanciunas wouldn't help the Cavs this year, were they really going anywhere with him?

Everyone agrees that this draft is chock full of international talent. Not everyone agrees, however, with who the best player from overseas is. Some, including myself, like Kanter. He’s big. He’s rough. He’s polished. Some like Jan Vesely, an extremely athletic forward who has everything you look for in a perimiter player except a jump shot. But as the draft drew closer, eyes started turning to Lithuanian seven-footer Jonas Valanciunas.

Just 18 years old, Valanciunas started putting on a show for his Euro League team and has all of the physical skills to find success. With a great motor, proficiency in the pick-and-roll game, and a soft touch around the rim, there’s not much to dislike about him. But there’s just one problem–he has a sticky buyout situation that will prevent him from playing in the 2011-12 NBA season.

So here sit the Cavaliers. They had reportedly fallen head over heels for Valanciunas, even putting him above Kanter on their draft board, but the buyout could pose a dilemma. Which is more important: taking the better player and waiting a year, or taking a lesser talent who will help out immediately.

The Cavaliers made a mistake. Not only did they pass up potentially the best player in the entire draft, but they reached a good bit to take an even riskier player, Tristan Thompson. If you told someone at the beginning of the college basketball season that Tristan Thompson would be the fourth pick in the draft, you’d be laughed at. If you told someone during March Madness that Tristan Thompson would be in the conversation for the top five draft picks, you wouldn’t have even been dignified with a response.

I don’t want to knock Mr. Thompson too much because I believe he can be an effective roll player. With that being said, I think Cleveland could have gotten the exact same productivity with the man who was drafted 22nd overall, Kenneth Faried. Thompson will never make an All-Star game. He’s a little to small, a little to offensively inept. If he waited until next year to enter the draft, he’d need an incredible amount of luck or a preposterous string of injuries to make it back to the lottery.

Just hours before the draft commenced, word came out of the Raptors’ camp that they thought they had found their franchise center, a mysterious young international player with huge upside: Bismack Biyombo. There’s no way they thought Valanciunas would still be on the board; they had already looked ahead for the next best option. To their utmost surprise, their man was still on the board–I’m sure they wanted to send in their pick as soon as they heard Thompson’s name announced by David Stern.

Some Raptors fans will complain about their newest player. After all, he won’t score a single point, grab a single rebound, or block a single shot for the 2011 Raptors. But I actually think this is a good thing. I can’t think of a better scenario for the Raptors.

It’s been said by many basketball experts, “The worst place you can be is in the middle of the pack. You need to get bad to be good.” To use the phrase first used by Bobcats Baseline‘s ASChin, every team needs to escape the Nottery, a place where franchises go to die: Not good enough to be good and not bad enough to get good.

As long as you’re stuck in a small market, the only way to improve is through the draft. And as long as you’re stuck at the back of the lottery, you’ll never find a franchise-changing player. You need to become very bad to get good, or just very lucky.

Right now, I would classify the Raptors as very bad. If Andrea Bargnani is their signature player, I think that’s all that needs to be said, but just a quick perusing through their roster should probably upset your stomach. Amir Johnson. Ed Davis. James Johnson. Ugh. Even Lindsay Lohan has more talent. (Side note: is she talented in that she’s rich because she has no talents? Does that count as a talent? Hand me an Aspirin, please).

Now that the Raptors essentially added no players for next season through the draft, they immediately become the worst team in the league, just a level above the Bobcats, Raptors, Cavs, and Kings. They’ll presumably end up with another top-five draft pick–likely even higher–in the best draft to come around since 2003. Genius. Now the Raptors will have a stud center and a stud wing (Harrison Barnes or Perry Jones, perhaps) starting on a rookie contract next year.

Now let’s imagine Cleveland remained patient and took Valanciunas, while the Raptors snatch up Biyombo. The big man from the Congo immediately makes a difference on the defensive end and allows Bargnani to roam freely around the perimeter, where he is more comfortable. All of a sudden, Toronto isn’t a bottom-five team any more. Harrison Barnes isn’t coming north of the border. Suddenly, the Raptors are getting stuck in the Nottery. They’re just good enough to be bad, not bad enough to get good.

I’d also like to point out that this in an ingenious way to hold onto your job if you are a GM on brink of losing your job (cough cough Brian Colangelo). Toronto can’t fire him at the end of the season, his stud prospect hasn’t come over from Europe yet. The Raptors aren’t bad because Colangelo made a bad move, they’re bad because Valanciunas hasn’t arrived yet; you can’t fire a man who’s plan hasn’t yet been played out.

Is the a passive-aggressive form of tanking? Maybe. But who’s going to be laughing when the Raptors trot out a lineup of Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Harrison Barnes, Andrea Bargnani, and Jonas Valanciunas? Give Toronto a few years and GM Brian Colangelo’s patience will pay off with a young, talented roster headed to the playoffs instead of another fruitless trip to the draft lottery.

Categories: NBA | Leave a comment

NBA Draftermath: Getting to the Point

Many people like to say that love is a battlefield. I, however, like to think of the basketball court as a battlefield.

You need to out-duel the opponent, which is best done with teamwork and preparation rather than a loose group of rogue combatants. The field general in nearly every scenario is the point guard making him the most important player on the court.

The field general is not the most powerful soldier. In most cases, you won’t see him shed a drop of blood–but he calls the shots. Likewise, the point guard is rarely the leading scorer on his team–just four teams’ leading scorers played the point last year–but they are the primary ball-handler and distributor.

These generals need three key characteristics: poise under pressure, an ability to make teammates better, and most importantly the winning gene. A sweet shooting stroke is nice. Behind-the-back, no-look passes are nice. But what really matters is the ability to put your team on your back when it matters most and just flat out win the ballgame.

So as the newest draft class enters the now-locked out National Basketball Association, there is, as always, wild chatter about who the biggest flop will be, which team got the best sleeper, and how on Earth you pronounce those Lithuanian forwards’ names (it’s phonetic).

No one can be certain what these players’ futures hold, but what we can do is break down each player’s game to see what will best translate to the next level. The Class of 2011 had four point guards taken in the top ten: Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Kentucky’s Brandon Knight, UConn’s Kemba Walker, and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. The draft as a whole was weak, but I believe the class of 1-guards has some potential. At least, some of the point guards have potential. Let’s dive in.

Kyrie Irving

I wonder if Kyrie will be as good as the last Cavs' #1 pick...

I wonder if Kyrie will be as good as the last Cavs' #1 pick...

Eleven games in college or not, there was little doubt on my behalf that this young man was worthy of the first overall selection in this June’s NBA Draft. He’s got NBA size, NBA vision, and NBA quickness. What’s even more impressive is that he joined a Duke squad fresh off a National Championship with two senior leaders (Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler), yet instantly became the definitive leader and scorer for the team.

Irving withstood a freak toe injury that left him out until March Madness, but when he returned, he seemed to have barely skipped a beat. In just 20 minutes, he scored 14 points on 4-8 shooting (2-2 from three and 4-4 free throws) with 4 rebounds, an assist, 2 steals, and a block in a 42-point romp of Hampton. Irving followed that performance with an 11-2-3-1 line, including shooting 9-10 from the charity stripe. Irving cemented himself as the clear-cut number one pick when he dropped 28 points in 31 minutes–shooting 9-15, 2-4, and 8-9–in Duke’s Sweet Sixteen exit to Arizona.

Yes, the case can be made that entering Irving into Duke’s lineup upset the team’s chemistry with Smith’s suddenly uncertain role off the ball, but that was much more to do with his prolonged absence than any problem with his attitude. At the start of the season, the offense flowed straight through the freshman guard. He was a true leader in every sense of the word: he’s a great distributor, he made every single one of his teammates better, and rarely forced unnecessarily risky passes. Overall, it’s just hard to poke holes in his game.

Kyrie isn’t athletic like former number one selections Derrick Rose and John Wall, but he can more than make up for it with his great quick burst to the basket and elite shooting (he was a 50-40-90 shooter in his limited collegiate career). Irving is most effective when he drives to the left side, but scoring isn’t his biggest threat–he’s most dangerous when he gets his teammates involved.

What makes Irving special is not what makes him unique–there’s not much that separates him from the upper tier of point guards. What makes Irving so great is that he’s such a safe pick–there’s no way he fails in the NBA. We’ve seen his skill set translate to success so many times before (Chris Paul, Andre Miller, and Raymond Felton just to name a few). He’s probably the safest pick in the draft because he will be a very productive pro–likely All-Star caliber, however, with the abundance of great young point guards he may not make too many All-Star appearances–but at the same time he has the potential of a top-5 one-guard.

From what we’ve seen at Duke and just his play in general, we can see that he gets it. He’s a true leader and embraces the team aspect of basketball. As soon as he stepped onto the court, he made each and every one of his teammates more dangerous, and was never afraid of the spotlight at one of college basketball’s biggest programs. Kyrie Irving is the type of player I want in my foxhole. He’s the guy I want on my team.

Brandon Knight

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If you had to trust any type of rookie point guard, wouldn't it be a Calipari one?

Derrick Rose. Tyreke Evans. John Wall. Brandon Knight? The next player in a succession of John Calipari-coached one-and-done guards has arrived, so we can pen him in for a Rookie of the Year, right? Not so fast.

Ranked as high as #1 by Rivals.com recruiting, Knight has been closely monitored for the longest time. Immediately as a freshman at Kentucky, he was handed the keys to the Caddy, but the start was a bit rough for him.

In his first seven games, Knight averaged 17 points per game, but totaled just 21 points in losses to UConn and UNC on 29% shooting. Worse yet, he had just 23 assists to 33 turnovers. While the turnover problem slowly started to fade as the season progressed, it reared its ugly head again in the NCAA tournament when he maintained a 17-16 assist-to-turnover ratio against non-Ivy League schools. Therein lies Knight’s problem: he’s not a true point guard.

As a pure scorer alone, Brandon Knight is very impressive. While he can be streaky at times, he’s already fairly reliable from NBA-3-point range and is great in the penetrate-and-kick game thanks to an explosive first step. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have shooting guard size. And he is not a shooting guard. I’m afraid that Brandon Knight is actually a combo guard.

Can you win with a combo guard? Sure. My preferences for point guards aren’t the end-all-be-all, and if in the right scenario, a combo guard can lead a team to a championship. But it’s so much harder.

Positions aside, there’s one thing Knight does do extremely well: he’s cool under pressure. By the end of the season, if the Wildcats were down a bucket in the waning seconds of the game, everybody new who was taking the shot–Brandon Knight. He became so steady at the end of games that even announcers would start to call it “Knight Time.”

There’s a lot to like about Brandon Knight. He’s smart, he’s mature, and he has all the skills in the world. But I’m not sure how much better he makes his teammates. With potentially the most talented roster in the NCAA, he flopped in the biggest game of the season when he jacked up 23 shots and finishing with just 17 points. Not only that, but he had 5 assists to 3 turnovers and took just two free throws. Taking 37% of your team’s shots is fine if you can score in flurries, but that’s not who Brandon Knight is.

I know it’s just one season, and I know he’s just 19, but I don’t see it in Brandon Knight. He didn’t step up when the light shined brightest, and I don’t really think he made his teammates too much better. I’m not even sure if he’s a winner as much as he is a stat sheet guy. One check out of three doesn’t work for me. I’m passing on Brandon Knight.

Kemba Walker

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Every team can use a tenacious leader with a winning mentality, especially the Bobcats.

When asked how to describe himself, Kemba Walker said, “Character, leadership, just heart. All New York City point guards are just tough.” Better words could not have been spoken.

Kemba Walker is one tough dude. I’ll get straight to the point and say that he is a warrior, a leader, and flat out winner. His size (6’1″) doesn’t stop him. His less-than-efficient shooting doesn’t get in his way. Because when the lights shine brightest on the biggest stage, Kemba is always there.

To say the least, UConn’s 2011 Men’s Basketball team was not that high on talent. After Walker, there really wasn’t much to work with. Jeremy Lamb may eventually be a first-round pick, and Alex Oriakhi is a serviceable big man, but there’s a reason why this team did not start the season in the AP Top 25: on paper, they are a really thin team. So off set Kemba Walker to prove to the world just how good his team actually was.

At the Maui Invitational, UConn looked really overmatched. With then-number 2 Michigan State and number 9 Kentucky, UConn was a small fish in a tank of sharks. So how did Kemba respond? 30 points per game, a 54-42-93 shooting line, a 12-6 assist-to-turnover ratio, and more importantly three tough wins.

By the end of the regular season, Connecticut was really being knocked around. A shaky 9-9 record in the brutal Big East didn’t help their 21-9 record, but a strong Big East Tournament run would really have helped their seeding in March Madness. Kemba’s move? Five big wins in five short days in which they played higher ranked opponents in four of the games. Again, Kemba stepped up under pressure for 26 ppg while shooting 47% from the field while gave us the coolest buzzer-beater of the year.

Kemba had already lighted up Madison Square Garden, ran through the Big East Tournament, and put himself square in the middle of the Player of the Year conversation, but this was truly the time for him to shine. Did he come through again? I guess you can just ask the net from the National Championship and President Obama.

When the stars shine brightest, you can bet Kemba Walker will be there. In the biggest six-game series of his life, Kemba put up 23.5 points, 5.7 assists, and 6 rebounds, missing just four free throws the entire tournament.

The man is electric fast. The man is clutcher than Kirk Gibson on a broken leg. The man was able to take a ragtag team to a 14-0 record on neutral court and a National Championship. If nothing else, he’s a winner.

There are some doubts that Kemba will ever make an All-Star Game. He’s small for a point guard. He’s shown flashes of being a scorer more than a distributor. But I can see past his small blemishes to see the bigger picture–he has the one thing you can never doubt in any sports: the Heart of a Champion

Jimmer Fredette

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No, Jimmer is not a good comp to (enter white basketball player's name here).

There’s not a single player in the last decade of college basketball who has received as much hype as Jimmer Fredette. Did Jimmer Mania grow to such outrageous proportions because he’s the first white player to dominate the sport in years? Is it because he is one of the few players not to leave after his first season for greener pastures in the NBA? Or maybe it’s just because he has a strangely captivating name and a rarely duplicated game.

I know, I know, how could anyone hate the great Jimmer Fredette? He took BYU, of all schools, to a 32-5 record while scoring 28.5 ppg. But I’m here to burst your bubble. Because Jimmer will not be a good pro.

What if I gave you an offer for a player to add to your team. He doesn’t play defense, he won’t rebound, and he’ll take a third of your total shots. Even if he shoots the lights out, that doesn’t sound like a great team player in my books.

What if I told you now that he’s only 6’2″, can’t jump, is rather slow, and doesn’t see the floor well. Now you’re cornered. You’ve got a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. He can’t defend 2-guards, but he doesn’t have the requisite skills to play the point.

One of the telling signs about Jimmer’s future was in the draft telecast itself. Where it said “Versitile Scorer” for Kyrie Irving, “Defensive Potential” for Brandon Knight, and “Tough Competitor” for Kemba Walker, it said “Capable Passer” for Jimmer. No, not “Good Passer.” Just capable. I’m a capable Bio student. That doesn’t put me in the top level in anything. And a “Capable Passer” won’t put you in anyone’s starting lineup.

With those shots being fired, I do think there’s a place for Jimmer in this league. Just take a look at not-quite-6′ J.J. Barea, who played a vital role in the Mavericks’ championship run. Every team needs a burst of offense off the bench, and I think Jimmer can play a Eddie House-type role. Good enough to help you if his jumper is falling, but if he’s cold, you can just yank him from the game.

I really wish that Jimmer had been drafted by Utah. He could have slid right into that Eddie House role behind Devin Harris with the entire state of Utah behind him. But, no. He ended up in the worst scenario possible: Sacramento.

The last thing Jimmer needed was to be put under this kind of pressure. Already with the pressure to be the next Great White Star–whether or not we accept that this is what we want him to be–he was moved to a team that needs a turnaround city to avoid moving to SoCal. Worse yet, he has been placed with the worst set of teammates to match his style.

Sacramento drafted Jimmer because they needed a point guard to take over now that it’s clear Tyreke Evans isn’t a point guard. The problem is, Jimmer isn’t a true point guard. Jimmer needs his shots to be effective, and so does Tyreke. And DeMarcus Cousins. And Marcus Thornton. And when they don’t get their share of shots, the group of 20-some year olds will pout.

Jimmer is not a point guard. He cannot distribute. He doesn’t make his teammates better. And now that he’s not being fed a steady diet of Vermont, UTEP, and Buffalo, I’m certain he doesn’t have the Winning Gene.

I’ve looked at his game up and down, and I just don’t see a place for Jimmer in this league as a starting point guard. The eighth man on a contender? Maybe. But not worth the tenth pick in any draft.

Categories: College Basketball, NBA | 4 Comments

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