- The Season's Over -

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – Lee Grammier of The Dream Shake

August 28, 2008

Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon

Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon Photo Credit: Icon SMI

The Houston Rockets’ season ended in heartbreaking fashion, felled once again by those vile Jazz of Utah. After knocking the Rockets out for a second consecutive season, one of the best rivalries in basketball has been reborn – one that started with The Dream versus Stock and The Mailman (1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998 playoffs). But Houston made the biggest offseason splash this side of Philadelphia with the acquisition of controversial forward Ron Artest, and they’re hoping his addition will push Houston past Utah and deep into the postseason.

You won’t find a better blog chronicling those playoff dreams than The Dream Shake, named in honor of everyone’s favorite Rocket. The Dream Shake is curated by David Clark and Lee Grammier, two rabid Rockets fans who live and die with their team and know as much about them as anybody in the blogosphere.

ETB is proud to present ten questions and ten answers with Mr. Lee Grammier.

Empty the Bench: Tracy McGrady: vent or defend him. Is T-Mac just a loser?

Lee Grammier: Tracy is a very capable player, one of the greatest talents the NBA has ever seen. And I truly mean that, his skill as a basketball player is up there with the best of all time. Why hasn’t he made it out of the first round? In Orlando his team sucked, they were there solely on his back, you can’t pin that on him. In Houston, we’ve run up against a Dallas team that we should have beaten and Utah twice, a team the Rockets have not matched up well with. Is Tracy a loser for not making it out of the first round? I say no. His playoff stats are better than his regular season stats and that says a lot about him. Is his career legacy at stake if he doesn’t get out of the first round this year? Yes. [Ed. Note: That sounds familiar... ]

ETB: Who would you rather keep: Tracy McGrady or Shane Battier? Salary — and who else it could be used on — is a factor.

Grammier: With the addition of Artest, the answer is to keep Tracy. Without Artest, I’d lean towards keeping Shane. Seems crazy, but the real reason is the “salary is a factor” part. If I can spend $20 million on someone else, or $10 million on two someones, I think it’s almost a no brainer to do that. With Artest the Rockets have three legitimate stars, and luckily we don’t have to get rid of any of them if we do not want to.

ETB: What does Rick Adelman do for the Rockets that Jeff Van Gundy didn’t? Given your druthers, who would you rather have coaching the Rockets?

Grammier: He taught them offense. I have mad man love for JVG but he was not in any way an offensive mastermind. The knock on Adelman was always that his defense was somewhat lacking. So what does Adelman do? Tell them not to change a thing on defense, keep up the intensity. To go along with that he taught them how to efficiently play offense. It wasn’t always pretty, and until 2008 came around, it was pretty ugly, but the defense was there while they worked through the offensive kinks. Once the offense started rolling, the Rockets won 12 in a row. Then disaster struck and Yao went down. I’m still hoping we see a full NBA season without a major injury for the Rockets. If that happens, look out league!

Talking Yao’s health, Rafer’s shooting, and Hakeem Olajuwon memories after the jump…

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5 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 28, 2008 at 12:59am in Interviews, NBA

Hakeem Olajuwon is Funky, Funky, Funky…

August 27, 2008

We’ve got a very special interview with Lee Grammier from The Dream Shake coming up tomorrow morning, but I just couldn’t wait to get this up. Browsing through the (H)Akeem Olajuwon videos on YouTube I stumbled across this gem from the NBA Superstars series. Enjoy The Dream in all his glory, with some of his greatest highlights set to the funky-fresh stylings of Kool Moe Dee pumping out his jam “How Ya Like Me Now.”

2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Aug. 27, 2008 at 2:30pm in NBA

The 2008 NFL Offseason Police Blotters – Drugs, Alcohol, and More Drugs Edition

August 26, 2008

The 2008 NFL season is almost upon usThe NFL season is nearly upon us… and to be honest, it’s the most unenthused either of us here at ETB have felt about it in quite some time. Maybe ever.

It could have something to do with the excruciating “stop, go, stop, commercials, go, stop, commericals” that is the NFL broadcast experience we’re not especially looking forward to… one that always makes us feel a little dumber afterwards. Perhaps it was the dismal, inexplicably bad fantasy seasons we collectively experienced last season.

Or it could just be that we’re not keen on switching gears from the superior product and athleticism that is the NBA to the bloated, overrated league known as the National Football Association.

Don’t get us wrong—we’re still football fans; just a little less so compared to previous years. Last season felt like a neverending slog through 10 feet of mud with weighted boots on, and a lot of it had to do with our relatively hardcore fantasy football coverage. Every day, every week, we were knee-deep in fantasy muck.

It was fun for awhile, but it really wore us out. We know you understand.

This year we’re going to be significantly scaling back our NFL coverage in case you haven’t already noticed (and we know some of you have—please stop sending angry emails and envelopes full of anthrax). We’ll still weigh in on news and views related to football from time to time—and we might even post weekly positional rankings to aid your quest for a fantasy football title—but we just can’t do it all again this year. If we did it’d be half-ass, and we try to keep the half-assing to a minimum around here.

So to celebrate the 2008 NFL season we’re taking a look back at the 2008 NFL offseason, one that was filled with all kinds of zany shenanigans from the hulking beasts preparing for gridiron glory this fall. In fact, there were so many player misadventures that we’ve decided to break them up by category.

The entire 2008 NFL Offseason Police Blotter series has been posted (links to all at the bottom of this post). Here’s the Drugs, Alcohol, and More Drugs Edition.

- Matt Jones, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars – Was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. Police allegedly found Jones in his car chopping cocaine with a credit card. In addition to cocaine, Arkansas police allegedly found possible marijuana residue on a jar when they arrested him. Police claim Jones admitted to possessing cocaine and say they had to pull their guns on the 6’6/238-pound receiver after he initially did not show his hands.

Many, many… many more drugs and alcohol-related arrests after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 26, 2008 at 8:45pm in NFL

The 2008 NFL Offseason Police Blotters – Kicking, Punching, and Choking Edition

August 26, 2008

LenDale White Gets Testy

LenDale White Photo Credit: Icon SMI

It goes without saying that football is a fiercely violent sport… and it seems to get moreso during every successive season. Linebackers, safeties, and cornerbacks launch like heat- seeking missiles towards WRs, QB, and RBs who very often find themselves in defenseless positions. In the trenches, massive lineman weighing 300+ pounds push and shove and punch their way down the field inch by inch.

It’s no surprise that some of these hulking behemoths have difficulty winding down into normal, everyday life during their short offseason.

- James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Was arrested for simple battery and criminal mischief, charges that were pursuant to Harrison hitting his girlfriend. He completed an anger management course and had the case dismissed.

- Bryant McKinnie, LT, Minnesota Vikings – Was arrested for and charged with aggravated battery, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest without violence.

- LenDale White, RB, Tennessee Titans – Was issued citations for destruction of property, disobedience to a lawful order, and interference and resisting. ETB could not confirm the dispute stemmed from a disagreement about whose Twinkies were whose.

- Cedrick Wilson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – Was charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend at a Pittsburgh restaurant. Wilson allegedly entered the establishment, and upon seeing his ex approached her and punched her in the face.

- Reagan Mauia, FB, Miami Dolphins – Was arrested on charges of misdemeanor battery. Mauia was accused of punching a man in the face, causing him to “pass out and fall to the ground.” Before doing the deed, Mauia allegedly asked the victim “what the fuck he was looking at.”

Many more violence-related arrests after the break….

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No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 26, 2008 at 8:45pm in NFL

The 2008 NFL Offseason Police Blotters – Cedric Benson Edition

August 26, 2008

Better days for Cedric BensonYou remember running back Cedric Benson:

- Fourth-overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears
- Slow as a pregnant mule after taking hand-offs in the backfield
- Never rushed for more than 674 yards in a single season during his three-year career
- Finished his tenure as a Bear with a career 3.8 yards per carry average.

You may have even taken him in the second or third round of your fantasy draft last year (click here if you drafted him).

Cedric Benson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Well, it was a summer of discontent for ol’ Ced Dog. His career already on thin ice because of sucking, Benson had a few run-ins with Johnny Law that ultimately helped tip the scales towards his release from the Chicago Bears franchise. He’s currently a free agent and will likely resurface at some point in the CFL.

Godspeed, Cedric, godspeed.

- Cedric Benson, RB, ex-Chicago Bears – Was arrested for operating a boat while intoxicated and resisting arrest. He had to be pepper sprayed.

- Cedric Benson, RB, ex-Chicago Bears – Double dip! Benson was again arrested and charged with drunken driving in downtown Austin, Texas. After being stopped for a traffic violation, Benson failed a field sobriety test and subsequently refused both a breathalyzer and blood test.

- Cedric Benson, RB, ex-Chicago Bears – Triple dip! Appeared in court to pay a $510 speeding ticket for going 77 mph in a 45 mph construction zone after 3am.

More 2008 NFL Offseason Police Blotters:

- Kicking, Punching, and Choking Edition
- Random Silliness Edition
- Drugs, Alcohol, and More Drugs Edition

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 26, 2008 at 8:45pm in NFL

The 2008 NFL Offseason Police Blotters – Random Silliness Edition

August 26, 2008

Denver Broncos WR Brandon MarshallHumans do silly things. They get hit in the groin by errant baseballs, balance things on their noses, sometimes even fall flat on their butts!

Well, professional football players do all kinds of nutty things too. Like trying to board commercial flights with .32-caliber handguns in their carry-on luggage. Or putting bags over their child’s head to “see if they could get it off by themself.” Stuff like that. Oh, the games these gentle giants do enjoy playing…

For the next installment of our 2008 NFL Offseason Police Blotter series we give you “Random Silliness,” which culls together a few incidents that just didn’t seem to fit anywhere else.

- Verron Hayes, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers – Was sued by a Monroeville, PA, car dealership for allegedly defaulting on payments for a 2001 Aston Martin. He’s said to be $60,000 in debt on the car, having paid only $7,500.

- Darrion Scott, DL, Minnesota Vikings – Was arrested for “probable cause felony assault” in Eden Prarie. Scott will face two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge. The boy’s mother found Scott holding a dry cleaning bag over the child’s head on April 26.

Scott told police the two were playing a game with the bag, and Scott wanted to see if the boy could get the bag off his head by himself. He was also cited last December for misdemeanor marijuana possession and ticketed for failure to signal after being pulled over by officers in Charleston, W.Va. He was cited and released at the scene.

- Willie Andrews, DB, New England Patriots – Was arrested for allegedly pointing a gun at his girlfriend’s head.

Marvin Harrison and Brandon Marshall in random silliness after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 26, 2008 at 8:45pm in NFL

Jameer Nelson Showing Leadership Skills for Orlando Magic This Summer

August 25, 2008

Jameer Nelson proving to be a good teammate in OrlandoI’ve never been much of a Jameer Nelson fan. The 6-0 starting point guard for the Orlando Magic is too erratic, too injury-prone, and entirely unspectacular as a floor general for my tastes. There’s very little range on that jumper of his, he doesn’t play especially good man defense, and he’s hardly an excellent passer.

I could go on, but what it all comes down to is that I just don’t feel like he’s a reliable enough starter for a team entertaining championship hopes to hang their hat on. The Magic obviously feel differently, however, having just awarded him with a five-year, $35 million contract extension last year that doesn’t begin until the upcoming season. Until further notice, Nelson is the man they’re rolling with at the point during the prime of Rashard Lewis’ and Hedo Turkoglu’s careers and the still-formative years for Dwight Howard.

Jameer Nelson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

He may not impress me on the court, but Nelson has sure earned some respect off of it this summer. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Nelson has gathered his Magic teammates in Philly for a week this summer of what he calls “team building.” The team has absolutely no involvement in Nelson’s mini-camp of sorts—which includes seminars on properly managing the millions of dollars these ballers make—and the real kicker is that Nelson is footing the whole bill: (via FanHouse)

It’s the third annual so-called “Building Magic” week. Nelson’s goal, with no input from Magic management, is to build a better team. Eleven-year veteran Adonal Foyle said he had been having a great time. “In the league for a while, you get pretty cynical,” said Foyle, 33, who played one year at Cardinal O’Hara in the early 1990s. For Foyle, Building Magic is an antidote to that because the teammates get to know one another better and learn to work together.

Nelson foots the bill: Flying 10 teammates to town, putting them up at the Marriott in West Conshohocken, paying for training sessions at the Summit Sports Training Center in Villanova, lunch next door at Maia, and fancy Philadelphia restaurants, such as Fogo de Chao, Pod and Table 31, for dinner.

“I wouldn’t do it if I couldn’t afford it,” said Nelson, a Chester native who is entering his fifth year in the NBA. At the same time, Nelson, who would not say how much he is spending this week, is well aware of the risk: “This is a gamble. Who says this is going the make the team better?”

NBA players are under more of a microscope than any athletes in any other major professional sport, and when they screw up it’s amplified ten times more than when, say, a football player beats and batters his girlfriend during the offseason. And even though this isn’t going to change my views of Nelson’s on-court game—it’ll take stats and wins for that to happen—it’s a great story and one that deserves some attention.

Nelson’s show of leadership like this is rare in any pro sport. Whether or not it actually amounts to anything remains to be seen, but either way it’s the thought that counts.

- The Orlando Magic’s Inferiority Complex
- Orlando Magic on Empty the Bench

5 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 25, 2008 at 5:28pm in NBA

Shaquille O’Neal Likes to Breathe Heavily Into His Cell Phone and Threaten Women

August 25, 2008

Shaquille O'Neal has been hit with a restraining orderOh, that Shaquille O’Neal is such a kidder.

You’ve recently seen him jumping onstage at a rap show to belittle Kobe Bryant, heard his hil-arious racial jokes plucked straight out of the ‘50s, and seen him on TV spouting off innumerable quips and one-liners that get the adoring media in stitches.

It seems he’s now added another trick to his repertoire of uproarious hijinks—making prank calls to female rappers in which he heavily pants into the phone like a hippopotamus in heat before hanging up:

The Suns center has been slapped with a temporary restraining order by hip hot artist Alexis Miller – known professionally as Maryjane – the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported today. Miller filed the restraining order in Atlanta with Fulton County Superior Court, alleging that O’Neal stalked her, threatened her with bodily harm and made harassing phone calls in which he breathed heavily into the phone before hanging up.

The Journal Constitution reported that Miller, 23, claimed she ended an intimate relationship with O’Neal last month. She alleged he then threatened to pay performers $50,000 each not to work with her.

Under terms of the temporary restraining order, O’Neal is prohibited from having any contact or coming within 200 yards of Miller or her 19-month-old son. O’Neal, who resides in Florida, is not the father of the child, Wolfe said.

The fun just never ends with this gentle ambassador for the NBA. We could not confirm that O’Neal is now available for appearances at your child’s next birthday party.

- Shaquille O’ Neal Still Keeping It Classy
- Does Anybody in NBA History Better Personify “Petulance” than Shaquille O’Neal?
- Dwight “Superman” Howard is That Good

Shaquille O’Neal Photo Credit: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 25, 2008 at 3:04pm in NBA

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – Brian Powell of Awful Announcing

August 21, 2008

Awful Announcing

If something happens in the world of sports media that you absolutely have to know about—ESPN anchors swilling vodka straight from the bottle, play-by-play announcers making incendiary comments on the air, Joe Buck being Joe Buck—you can bet that Awful Announcing will be all over it before most anyone else.

We’re pleased to give you 10 questions with Awful Announcing’s Brian Powell.

Empty the Bench: What initially led you to launch Awful Announcing and what were your main goals of the site? Has that changed over the years?

Brian Powell: Well, the original goal was to just create something that I could use as an outlet to vent some of my frustration regarding the Sports World and various announcers. I never had aspirations of doing it full time or even having readers outside my friends and family.

After gaining a handful of loyal readers early on, the goal changed to just giving people things they hadn’t seen anywhere else. I also wanted the site to be a place where people could go and comment about whatever they wanted to. I know there are some people who like Joe Buck, and while I think they’re all insane, they still had/have a place to express their opinions on the matter.

Even after I started writing it as my full-time job I don’t think that line of thinking has changed. I think most readers respect the honesty and transparency of the site. If someone disputes something that I’ve said they know exactly how to get in touch with me. More often than not I’ll give them a chance to explain themselves.

ETB: You worked for the Washington Wizards in early 2003. Any memorable stories to share?

Powell: I’ve got a few of them, but my favorite was sneaking into the press conference that announced the signing of Gilbert Arenas. The crazy thing about the situation was that I was chided just before it for arguing with a season-ticket holder. A guy was thinking about canceling his package because of the way the team handled the Jordan situation, and I jumped on him for being a fair-weather fan.

I was just fed up with the state of DC fans, and told the guy he was an idiot for wanting a 40-year-old waste of space over someone who “will get us to the playoffs.” My supervisor told me to walk it off and I found myself following a group of people into the media room where Gilbert was speaking.

I walked up to Arenas and quickly gave him a rundown of the story and he smiled and responded, “He’ll be back on board soon. Don’t worry.” I guarantee that someone else got my commission when that guy signed back up a year later.

Other fun times included but we’re not limited to: watching practice in the (then) MCI Center at lunch, riding in an elevator with Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan, and getting Juan Dixon to sign the MD jersey I wore when they won the [NCAA] championship.

Much more from Awful Announcing’s Brian Powell after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 21, 2008 at 12:35am in Interviews, NBA

ETB Welcomes You to the Wild and Crazy World of Ripmaster and His Sidekick Rip Girl

August 19, 2008

Comically blue sports coats lined with unopened packs of basketball cards. Grown men competing with pre-pubescent boys for Rookie Redemption and Refractor cards. Flashing lights and ringing bells and “one of the finest Rip Girls ever,” one who’s donning a pink jersey and giving said boys more of a rise than a Greg Oden rookie.

A bald dude hogging all of the f$^#in#!* premier cards!

Good God–someone please get ETB into the company of Ripmaster for the next “Topps Rip Party.” But first, somebody work with their sound guy on the sound levels. Christ.

Of course, we’re not above the occasional Topps Rip Party here at ETB. And we’re not afraid to nerd out in hardcore fashion from time to time either; to prove it, click on through to see our collective haul of “premium cards” from the past month or so. That’s right kids,we’ve actually taken the time to list ‘em all out, so make sure your Beckett is handy to check out the values!

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No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Aug. 19, 2008 at 10:57pm in NBA

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