- The Season's Over -

Dale Hansen to Jerry Jones: Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?

April 25, 2008

The Dallas Cowboys have signed troubled cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones. Dale Hansen, the sports anchor for Dallas WFAA, doesn’t take the news so well. In fact, he kinda loses it. Over the course of this three-minutes diatribe he manages to work in McCarthyism, African American men in prison, Osama bin Laden, the hypocrisy of the rich, white, Southern man and race relations… just watch the clip.

PS: Mr. Hansen, please do not in any way construe this post as a threat.

Tip of the hat to Deuce of Davenport for the find.

4 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 25, 2008 at 4:39pm in NFL

What a Difference a Day Made for… the Houston Rockets

April 25, 2008

Jose Calderon sparked the Toronto Raptors' Game 3 win

Houston Rockets Photo Credit: Icon SMI

He’s not off ETB’s hook just yet, but for one night at least, Tracy McGrady came through in the fourth quarter.

With his team facing the prospect of an insurmountable 3-0 deficit in their matchup against the powerful Utah Jazz, McGrady led his team into the teeth of Salt Lake City and emerged victorious with a nail-biting 94-92 win. There were many heroes for Houston (and I’ll get to all of them in a minute), but T-Mac was perhaps more individually motivated than any of his teammates since, ya know, he’s still never advanced past the first round in the playoffs.

On the night, McGrady fought tooth-and-nail with Andrei Kirilenko, again, finishing with a well-earned 27 points (11-26 FG), 7 assists, 5 boards, 1 steal, and 1 block, but it was his big plays in the game’s final 4 minutes that stand out most. During that span, the seven-time All Star sank three crucial free throws, knocked down two buckets, grabbed two rebounds, and blocked a shot. That’s the kind of performance expected from franchise players: not a stat-stuffing one, necessarily, but a winning one.

Of course, it takes more than one man to beat Utah on their home court. Rookie Luis Scola came up big yet again, going for 16 points and 10 boards, while perhaps more than any other player not named Tracy, Rafer Alston was the key to victory. After missing the series’ first two contests due to injury, Alston bagged 20 points, including 4 triples, to go with 5 assists and just 1 turnover. He gave the Jazz another capable long-range shooter to worry about, and allowed backup Bobby Jackson to re-assume his role off the bench and to focus more on scoring, which is what he does best.

And how about that Carl Landry? He rejected Deron Williams’ attempted game-winner at the end, and in just 23 minutes of action, the 6-7 rookie finished 7 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks, and one knocked-out front tooth… a tooth he says he won’t get fixed until the team travels back to Houston. Awesome.

Winning two in a row in Utah is a tall task for the Houston Rockets, but then again, so was winning 22 games straight.

Tags: Tracy McGrady, Rafer Alston, Houston Rockets, Luis Scola, Carl Landry

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 25, 2008 at 2:26pm in NBA

What a Difference a Day Made for… the Toronto Raptors

April 25, 2008

Jose Calderon sparked the Toronto Raptors' Game 3 win

Sam Mitchell, Jose Calderon Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Hold off on writing that epitaph for the 2007-08 Toronto Raptors.

The Raptors were literally on point from start to finish in Game 3, a convincing 108-94 win that pulled them back into their series against the Magic and highlighted how dangerous they can be when the PG tandem of T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon are both clicking (and not worrying about who starts and who doesn’t).

In Games 1 and 2 at Amway Arena in Orlando, the Raptors looked up at the scoreboard after the first quarter facing 20- and 17-point deficits, respectively, leads that proved insurmountable even as they matched or exceeded the Magic in the ensuing three quarters in both games.

There was no such problem this time around.

With rookie Jamario Moon back in the starting lineup (where he should have stayed all along, Sam Mitchell), the Raps reeled off a 16-3 run in the first that led to an 8-point lead after one. That was as close as the Magic would get, as Ford and Calderon exhausted Jameer Nelson and the out-of-gas Magic to the tune of a combined 39 points on 13-22 FG (including 5-9 on three-pointers) along with 16 assists, 12 rebounds, 2 steals, and just 4 turnovers. Moon was also a difference-maker, playing excellent defense on Hedo Turkoglu and chipping in his first-ever postseason double-double with 11 points, 10 boards, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block—it’s these kinds of across-the-board contributions that made Moon so valuable during the regular season and continue to make him crucial to the Raptors’ chances of evening the series at two games apiece on Sunday.

The Magic rely on the longball more than any team in the postseason, and last night their failure to knock down their triples went a long way towards sinking their prospects of forging a series-sealing 3-0 advantage. Maurice Evans, who’d gone 5-8 in the first two games, was 0-3. Turkoglu was 0-2, Rashard Lewis was 3-8, and as a team the Magic finished just 6-27 from behind the arc, good for 22%. While each of Orlando’s Big Three managed to shoot over 50%, they were the only Magic players to make any kind of impact on either end of the floor.

And Orlando’s lack of depth, especially in the frontcourt, is starting to be a problem. Lewis and Howard have both averaged over 42 minutes/per over these first three games; after playing 41:39 last night, Turkoglu’s average was upped to nearly 40, and he was clearly running on fumes as early as midway through the third quarter, frequently allowing his man to get wide-open jumpers as he huffed and puffed his way through perimeter screens. Now, that’s not a criticism—all three of these guys are giving it their all out there. They’re doing all they can to get their team a victory. And they were the only ones who got it done on any level last night.

But the Raptors have to see blood in the water. They damn near stole Game 2, when Chris Bosh’s potential buzzer-beating winner harmlessly clanged off the rim. And now, with their red t-shirt clad hometown fans going bonkers and surely planning to amp up the noise factor even further Sunday afternoon, the Raptors know for sure now that they can play with the Magic, that they can even this series up, and that they can, in fact, rely on each other to step up, a confidence that has been lacking in recent weeks.

Yep—these Toronto Raptors aren’t dead just yet.

Tags: Jose Calderon, T.J. Ford, Hedo Turkoglu, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 25, 2008 at 11:41am in NBA

What a Difference a Day Made for… the Washington Wizards

April 25, 2008

DeShawn Stevenson has helped keeped the Wizards from coming unglued

DeShawn Stevenson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Understatement of the Year: a 36-point thumping of the Cleveland Cavaliers is just what the Wizards needed.

For all the confidence this squad has in itself, and for all the trash talk and hard fouls they’ve been dishing in abundance since this series kicked off last weekend, Eddie Jordan’s Wizards had done very (very) little to distinguish themselves as anything more than talented-but-underachieving blowhards. LeBron James was effortlessly reassuming his postseason posturing (and dominance) of ’07. Zydrunas Ilgauskas was making mincemeat of Brendan Haywood and the rest of Washington’s big men. And Cleveland’s defense was suffocating their opponent into an average of 86 points and 38% FG over the first two games in Cleveland.

Not so last night in Washington.

Energized by their rabid, color-coded hometown fans and led by humble outspoken SG DeShawn Stevenson (19 points, 5 triples, 3 steals), the Wizards started slowly but got the blowout going in the second quarter, when they outscored the Cavs 28-16 in building a 16-point lead at the half. It was a laugher by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, with James the only Cavalier finishing with a semi-respectable line (22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers), though for him that’s a sub-par postseason performance at best.

In what we’re hoping becomes a major storyline as the series heads towards the pivotal Game 4 Sunday afternoon, Gilbert Arenas logged just 10 minutes before succumbing to a knee bruise. He’s considered day-to-day at this point, but we wouldn’t be surprised if he misses at least one game. Fortunately for the Wizards, and contrary to popular belief, Arenas’ absence hardly dooms his team to a first-round exit. The Arenas apologists (of which there are still a surprisingly large number) will angrily disagree, but right now, this season, the Washington Wizards are a better team without Gilbert Arenas in the lineup.

Sure—Arenas is a late-game clutch performer who can knock down the big shot, he forces the defense to always account for him when he’s on the floor, and when he’s healthy and able to drive to the basket can create open perimeter shots for his teammates. But he’s not healthy. He’s not making his teammates better. And his poor shot selection and need to dominate the ball was bogging down the Wizards offense. Andrew made an interesting observation last night in the comments section of his feature about Arenas and Tracy McGrady:

I think it’s interesting that Gilbert was injured this game and played his fewest minutes of the series — and the Wizards won by 36 points.

They had 20 assists and shot 52.1% FGs, this after Washington failed to eclipse 16 assists or shoot better than 40.2% FGs in either of the previous games. Every Washington player who played 20 minutes made at least half of their field-goal attempts.

Antonio Daniels had 6 assists, three times what he had in the previous two games combined and equal to Gilbert’s combined total from those games. The Cavaliers point guards Delonte West and Daniel Gibson were held to 9 total points and 3 total assists. That pair combined for 43 points and 16 assists in the first two games.

Surely, it’s just a coincidence… right? And I’m sure it’ll be another coincidence if the same thing happens again in Game 4 with Arenas watching from the bench.

UPDATE: “Actually, I missed the last two practices because I had achiness,” Arenas said afterward. “I knew I wasn’t going to play more than 10 or 15 minutes. I just wanted to get out there energize the crowd.” There you have it: Gilbert saves the day, again, for his teammates, his fans, his franchise, his world by making an appearance. He didn’t want the attention. He just did it for his fans.

Tags: Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, LeBron James, Washington Wizards

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 25, 2008 at 11:04am in NBA

Reading is Great! Thursday’s NBA Links

April 24, 2008

The NBA Read to Achieve program makes reading FUN!

- Detroit Bad Boys – Hillary Clinton wouldn’t qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
- Houston Chronicle – We’re now accepting RSVPs for Tracy McGrady’s pity party.
- Upside and Motor – And speaking of players who’ll never make it out of the first round…
- The Rap – Sam Mitchell decides to throw it on the wall and see what sticks.
- D.C. Sports Bog – Perhaps new haircuts will cure what’s been ailing the Wizards.
- The Onion – Isiah Thomas’ psychological study of New York City has been completed.
- Sport Sayers – All this postseason smack talk isn’t working out so well.
- Hardwood Paroxysm – The final votes are in for the 2008 NBA Blogger Season Awards.
- HOOPSWORLD – The Shaquille O’Neal and Jason Kidd trades aren’t failures… yet.
- YouTube – Nobody in sports does local, low-budget commercials better than the NBA.
- The Big Lead – Don’t expect to hear DJ Augustin’s name early in June’s NBA draft.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 24, 2008 at 4:47pm in NBA

In the Great Tradition of DeShawn Stevenson and Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood Pours More Gasoline on the Cavs-Wizards Fire

April 24, 2008

Big Z and Brendan Haywood get all warm and fuzzyMaybe it’s time for Washington Wizards head coach Eddie Jordan to issue his players a gag order on trash-talking. All it’s accomplished thus far is waking up last year’s Eastern Conference champion from its late-season slumber just in time for them to thrash the Wizards to the tune of a two games to none lead in this increasingly heated series.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Brendan Haywood Photo Credit: Icon SMI

That’s not to say we don’t enjoy these pithy back-and-forth exchanges between the Wizards and Cavaliers. Because we do. And if the Wiz can somehow get back on track and emerge victorious in Game 3 this evening, you can bet there’ll be some loose lips on both sides.

But for any of it to actually mean anything, the Wizards need to first do something they haven’t done yet: back up their trash talk on the court. Win a game. Beat the Cavaliers.

DeShawn Stevenson’s comments about LeBron James are well-documented; so are Gilbert Arenas’ musings about how he was hoping all along to face Cleveland in the first round (refresher, if you need it). While they both get an “A” for entertainment value and successfully adding a good dose of hype to the matchup, they also have both earned a “D” for on-court performance thus far. In the first two games, Stevenson has combined for 5-16 FG, 15 points, 30% from behind the arc, 1 rebound, 7 assists, 1 steal, and 2 turnovers. Arenas actually had a solid performance in Game 1 (24 points on 50% shooting in just 27:47), but followed it up by laying an egg in Game 2: 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 20% FG.

Now, following the rough-and-rugged play that characterized Monday’s game, one that saw James and his teammates hit the deck—hard—after a series of fouls that bordered on cheap shots, Wizards starting center Brendan Haywood has joined the trash-talk fray:

Find out what Haywood had to say, and our reaction to it, after the jump…

Read the rest of this article »

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 24, 2008 at 1:13pm in NBA

Postcards From LA, Vol. 2: One Lakers Fan Tracks His Team Through the NBA Playoffs

April 24, 2008

Postcards From LA

Los Angeles Lakers Photo Credit: Icon SMI

As long as the Los Angeles Lakers survive through the 2008 NBA playoffs, Empty the Bench’s West Coast correspondent Christopher Thell will be submitting a local fan’s take on his beloved Lakers postseason trials, tribulations and successes. In this edition he’s pleased with the win, but left wanting more (or less).

There’s a bagel place across the street from the building I work at in downtown Los Angeles where most mornings I order a cinnamon raisin bagel, toasted, with extra cream cheese.

And most mornings, the same dashing bagel associate fashions my bagel with so much cream cheese that it’s more accurate to say I’m having cream cheese with a bagel.

The thing is, I truly appreciate her gusto – her desire to please the customer, and I’ll be gosh darned if I’ll be the guy who says he wants extra cream cheese, but not too much extra.

You can’t be that guy.

Well, that said, I’m going to be that guy.

The Lakers beat the inferior Nuggets by fifteen on Wednesday night in a game that once again felt sloppy – as if the Lakers haven’t quite forged the proper playoff resolve.

Los Angeles goes to Denver after the jump…

Read the rest of this article »

3 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Apr. 24, 2008 at 10:09am in NBA

Reading is Great! Wednesday’s NBA Links

April 23, 2008

Reading caves make reading fun!

- The Wall Street Journal – Nate McMillan has mastered the art of the NBA timeout.
- MLive – Don’t expect the Pistons to heavily rely on Rasheed Wallace tonight.
- Sixers Journal – Meanwhile, one writer urges his 76ers to keep their foot on the gas.
- Bright Side of the Sun – Manic anxiety is starting to permeate the Phoenix Suns faithful.
- TheStar.com – Speaking of devastating losses, Chris Bosh sounds tired and beaten.
- Basketbawful – The definition, history, and various usages of the “Tim Duncan Face.”
- Celtics 17 – Kevin Garnett won the DPOY this year, but is this just the beginning?
- The Starting Five – In a word, the answer is “yes.” Chris Paul really is that good.
- With Malice… – We’re actually prepping a column on this topic, too.
- The Bratwurst – Guessing game time: which Milwaukee Buck hates Scott Skiles?
- AJC.com – Mike Bibby thinks most Boston Celtics fans are bandwagon jumpers.
- Simon on Sports – A day in the life of disposed Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas.
- Hardwood Paroxysm – A blow-by-blow account of Game 1 of the NBA D-League Finals.
- Hoops Vibe – Forget Dwyane Wade’s shoulder/knee/etc: he may need his head examined.

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 23, 2008 at 3:23pm in NBA

The Beltway Blues: Tracy McGrady Has Been Bad, and Gilbert Arenas Needs to Go

April 23, 2008

Gilbert Arenas: JokerHeading into Tuesday the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets sat as the two 0-2 teams after terrible losses and disappointing performances from stars Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady. Players their teams are supposed to lean on to produce offense when the going gets tough. Arenas and McGrady went a combined 9-32 from the field Monday, with both leaving their teammates high and dry in the second half. Their seasons will end in a few days and they will have made approximately $31 million on the season between them ($11,946,667 for Arenas and $19,014,187 for McGrady). Next year their salaries will be even higher.

There’s simply no way these two are worth it.

Yes, McGrady almost had a triple-double, and yes, he was worn down from playing big minutes, which helps explain why he hasn’t scored a field goal in the fourth quarter yet during the series. But other stars on other teams are playing big minutes, too, and they’re still producing in the fourth. Look at Tim Duncan, Deron Williams (who’s playing hurt), LeBron James, etc. I also understand that Gilbert isn’t at full strength right now. But our body of evidence isn’t just the last few weeks, it’s been building for their entire careers.

Just over three months ago both were on the sidelines with injuries and we opined that their respective teams might just be better without them. There was no question Houston and Washington were playing better, and I’m not convinced an NBA team can win with primary scorers who shoot such terrible percentages from the field and aren’t renowned as top-flight defenders. We don’t have a huge sample size this year, but when healthy Gilbert scored at a gaudy 28.5 points per clip last year. He also took 20.9 shots on an atrocious 41.8% FGs with 3.2 TOs. In his 66 games during this regular season McGrady put up 21.6 points per. He did it on 19.8 field-goal attempts and a paltry 41.9% FGs (including an embarrassing 29.2% 3PTs on 4.5 attempts) with 2.4 TOs. Perhaps worse for T-Mac was the 68.4% FTs on 5.4 attempts this season. Take a look at all the teams that have won NBA titles in the last three decades: which was the last to feature a high-volume shooter who is this incredibly inefficient? That’s not a rhetorical question, I can’t think of any offhand.

Gilbert Arenas Photo Credit: Mark Goldman/Icon SMI

The Tracy McGrady argument may be moot at this point: he’s signed through the 2009-10 season when his salary will be a whopping $23.2 million. It’s going to be next to impossible for the Rockets to unload that contract, especially for a player who has time and time again come up so small on the NBA’s biggest stage. Houston will likely be forced to work with their flawed superstar and hope that Yao Ming returns healthy next year and ready to lead the offense in crunch time. The situation is quite different in Washington, where Gilbert Arenas can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after the season. He’s almost certain to do so and Arenas is expected to command a max-type deal. If he does so the Wizards need to let him walk. They may be a better team without the loud-mouthed star, and they would certainly be better served spending that money on other players.

More on why Agent Zero needs to take a hike after the jump…

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13 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 23, 2008 at 9:46am in ETB Articles, NBA

The Utah Jazz’s AK-47 is Locked and Loaded

April 22, 2008

Kirilenko is making life difficult for Luis Scola and the RocketsDon’t be fooled by Andrei Kirilenko’s decidedly modest boxscore from his team’s Monday night win over the Houston Rockets, a win that essentially ended the series.

If you missed the game, didn’t see any highlights, and just picked up the paper this morning to check out the stats, you might look at the former All-Star’s stats and think he had an off night. In 34 minutes, the lanky Russian was 1-8 FG for just 3 points along with 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block.

Nothing spectacular, right?

Ask Tracy McGrady how well Kirilenko played. Actually, maybe he’s not the best person to consult: T-Mac is still fuming over what he perceived was a flop late in the game that basically sealed Houston’s fate:

After Williams missed a driving layup, Houston’s Bobby Jackson hit a 3-pointer that would have tied the game but Scola was called for an offensive foul away from the ball when he pushed Andrei Kirilenko.

McGrady blasted official Tony Brothers for the call and accused Kirilenko of exaggerating the contact. “You can’t call that,” he said. “I like Tony Brothers, but that was a bad call. Very, very bad call. Three points down, crucial point in the game and Kirilenko flops. He flops and you call a foul on that? It was a bad call.”

Whether AK-47 flopped or not is up for discussion (if T-Mac thinks that was bad, imagine if he was playing the Suns or Spurs), but either way one questionable play and a little post-game sour grapes shouldn’t take anything away from Kirilenko’s relentless, nagging, irritating defense all night long. Sure, McGrady scored 23 points and came within an assist of a triple-double, but very little of his offensive production came easy. It seemed like every time McGrady tried to drive to the hole in a half-court set, Kirilenko was there swarming his arms, moving his feet, and making life difficult for the seven-time All Star.

Luis Scola, Andrei Kirilenko Photo Credit: Icon SMI

One possession late in the fourth quarter stands out: with the final outcome still very much in the balance, McGrady brought the ball up while his Rockets teammates basically set up on the opposite side of the court to allow their scoring star room to work. He dribbled left, he crossed over to the right, he tried a little shake and bake—Kirilenko didn’t flinch. The shot clock continued ticking down. McGrady tried once more to lose his defender. No luck. Finally, with less than 5 seconds left on the clock, McGrady had no choice but to defer to Bobby Jackson, who rushed a contested triple that clanged harmlessly off the back of the rim.

That was another nail in Houston’s coffin. The Kirilenko-induced offensive foul call on Scola shortly after was the final one. Utah now has a stranglehold on this series, and in all likelihood are poised for a sweep. A lot of the credit goes to the magnificent Deron Williams, his pair of talented bigs in Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer, the deep and effective bench, and of course Jerry Sloan and his coaching staff. But though his boxscore may not reveal it, Andrei Kirilenko has had as much impact against the Rockets as any of his teammates.

Tags: Andrei Kirilenko, Tracy McGrady, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 22, 2008 at 4:25pm in NBA

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