February 27, 2009
Photo found at You Decide Politics
Photo found at You Decide Politics
In the very first installment of The Brook & Ryan Show Nets All-Star Rookie Challenge participant Brook Lopez and rookie teammate Ryan Anderson hit up the New York City Comic Con which took place here just a few weeks ago – and after seeing this I’m an even bigger Lopez fan. The 20-year-old Lopez gets completely starstruck meeting Jim Lee, but I can’t really blame him for that. Seeing Anderson don the Chewbacca costume is worth the viewing alone. At 6-10 he’s a pretty good Peter Mayhew facsimile, even if the original Chewie had a good five inches on him. Nerds? Yes. I dig.
Hearty hat tip to Fear the Beard on the find.
I’ll be the first to admit that the headline is a bold, excessively optimistic statement for the youngest player in the NBA. The fact is, Anthony Randolph is a 20-year-old rookie forward on a bad team that hasn’t accomplished a thing yet. The native of Wurzbach, West Germany played just one season at LSU and wasn’t exactly a nightly fixture on SportsCenter while he was there. He slipped all the way to 14th in the draft and now he’s averaging just over 6 points and 4 rebounds on the season.
Randolph has even had difficulty cracking the rotation for a 20-37 Warriors team in the midst of rebuilding despite being their lottery pick over the summer. And he may stand 6-11, but an imposing figure he is not – the kid is rail-thin. Casual fans can be excused if their initial reaction to his visage is to wonder how Monta Ellis underwent such a spectacular growth spurt.
Seriously. Dude looks like a tall, lanky Monta.
Even with so little on the resume, just last week a Contra Costa Times piece bore the headline, “Warriors’ Randolph a Hall of Famer?” The article discussed a 129-121 Warriors’ loss to the Lakers and included the following glowing quote from one Lamar Odom, a guy who knows a little something about untapped potential:
“It’s like looking in the mirror a little. He’s also 6-11, he’s left-handed and he can put the ball on the floor. He’s two times as athletic as I was at that age.
He should set his goals high. He has All-Star potential, Hall of Fame potential, with that size, his ability to put the ball on the floor, he can shoot the three, he can pass. If he stays focused, the sky is the limit for him.”
That’s some effusive praise for the kid. Granted, Randolph had just had the best game of his professional career manning up against Odom and done an admirable job despite giving up about 30 pounds and 10 years of experience to the Lakers forward. Given a rare start with Andris Biedrins on the sidelines, the rookie had played long, physical defense, pounded the glass, run the floor well and knocked down his open looks. It resulted in an impressive all-around line of 14 points, 12 boards (6 offensive), 1 steal and 2 blocks on 7-of-13 shooting and +10 in the plus-minus.
Still, I’m not going to kick off a HOF campaign just yet. I will say this though: Anthony Randolph will be an All Star in this league within four years.
Why Anthony Randolph has earned such praise after the jump…
Having been thrown into the fire as the Detroit Pistons starting PG in just his second NBA season, Rodney Stuckey has lately been burned by the heat.
It’s hard to believe the 6-5 Stuckey could have so much impact on a team laden with All-Stars and at least one future Hall of Famer, but as his game has gone south, so has the Pistons’. After being inserted into the starting lineup shortly after Chauncey Billups was traded to Denver, Stuckey burst onto the NBA scene in his first two months in this new starring role, averaging 16.4 points on 50% FG, 5.6 assists, 3.8 boards, and 1.2 steals. That included a dazzling 40-point effort on December 23 against the Chicago Bulls.
The Pistons are banking on Stuckey developing into the new face of the franchise. The talent and potential to be a special player are there, but there’s denying that he’s run into a brick wall.
Over his past 10 games, Stuckey’s production and effectiveness have dipped dramatically. In terms of raw stats, he’s averaged just 8.7 points (on 36% FG), 3.7 assists, 3 rebounds, and 0.4 steals; he’s not going to the free-throw line, either, attempting just 2.3 per game. Getting to the hole and drawing fouls was one of his greatest strengths coming out of Eastern Washington, so that’s just as troubling a statistic as the rest of them.
Head coach Michael Curry has repeatedly said that Stuckey is the engine that makes this team go. He’s called on him to be more aggressive, and to worry less about getting his teammates involved and more about playing his style of basketball. Well, it doesn’t seem like anybody on the Pistons is listening to anymore: it’s been 2 weeks since he attempted 10+ shots.
So what’s going on? I think the gravity of being the point man on a team going nowhere is getting in his head. The point man on a team that’s been a traditional powerhouse but is coming up alarmingly low in the wins department for the first time in a long time. Filling the shoes of an All-Star floor general like Billups is not an enviable task, especially with expectations set so high.
It’s more than that though. He’s playing more minutes and more games than he ever has, and like most young players it’s catching up to him; learning to better deal with that and prepare himself for the mental and physical grind of an 82-game regular season should come in time.
The more pressing concern is that opposing teams have figured out how to guard him, how to limit his penetration and force him into settling for difficult shots or jumpers (and he’s still not a great jump-shooter). It’s a lot more difficult to score at a high efficiency when there’s a game plan focused on stopping you rather than one largely zeroed in on your teammates.
This may sound strange, but I think Stuckey will benefit from a clean roster slate. This in-between transition period in Motown is an awkward one for all parties: the vets, the youngsters, the management. Gone next year will (probably) be Rasheed Wallace, Allen Iverson, and Antonio McDyess; maybe even Tayshaun Prince. And though GM Joe Dumars will likely seek new All-Star talent to bring in, this team will be even deeper in Stuckey’s pocket than it is now.
For now, however, the education of Rodney Stuckey, starter, will continue to be a learning experience with mixed results.
Rodney Stuckey Photo Credit: Icon SMI
His return to the court after missing 44 games due to injury was a quiet one statistically, but that was to be expected. In the bigger picture, a healthy Carlos Boozer is enough to push the Jazz back into serious contender status and give the Lakers another run for their Western Conference money.
Boozer did his best to keep expectations low for his first start since November 19, warning that he’d probably play just 5 minutes a quarter at first and slowly work his minutes back up from there.
True to his word (and probably mandate from coach Jerry Sloan and Jazz brass), he logged just over 21 rusty, ineffectual minutes, finishing with just 2 points (1-5 FG), 5 boards, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Fortunately for the Jazz, they hardly needed even those minimal contributions to blow out the Atlanta Hawks 108-89.
That marked the fifth straight win for the streaking Jazz, who pulled their record to an underrated 34-23 and are now just three games back of Northwest Division-leading Denver Nuggets; expect them to catch up soon. I call the Jazz’s record “underrated” because of how successfully they’ve weathered the tide and kept their collective head above water after being dealt one blow after another (read: injuries) to some of their key cogs.
That they’re 11 games above .500 and still well within striking distance of a 2- or 3-seed speaks volumes about both their depth and the outstanding coaching, yet again, from that old bore Jerry Sloan. Take a look at their litany of games missed:
Carlos Boozer – 44 games
Andrei Kirilenko – 15 games
Deron Williams – 14 games
Mehmet Okur – 9 games
Paul Millsap – 6 games
This team has been on the cusp for a few seasons now, advancing to the Conference Finals in ’07 then bowing out in the Semifinals 4-2 to the eventual Western Conference champion LA Lakers. The roster remained largely unchanged headed into this season, with the idea that past playoff battles and the ongoing development of Williams, Millsap, Ronnie Brewer, etc. might be enough to finally push them over the top.
The spectre of injury looms largely over this team given their recent history, but I’m starting to think this team does indeed have what it takes to come out on top–if Carlos Boozer returns to form and stays there.
More about Carlos Boozer’s importance to the Utah Jazz after the break…
- Pistons Blog – Don’t expect Joe Dumars to pull a Steve Kerr on Michael Curry.
- MLive.com – Meanwhile, Antonio McDyess says Detroit has no leadership.
- Forum Blue & Gold – 25 random thoughts about the LA Lakers.
- Bust a Bucket – The truth about Greg Oden and his balky body.
- Deuce of Davenport – Jason Kidd, circa ’94, as faux-West Coast rapper.
- The Boston Globe – Mikki Moore is coveted in Boston (and elsewhere). No, really.
- What Would Oakley Do? – Nate Robinson does it again for the Knicks (41 points!)
- Detroit Bad Boys – Former Piston project Cheikh Samb could be on the move again.
- Hoops Addict – Five questions with the San Antonio Spurs’ Matt Bonner.
- Thoughts from the Jock Strap – The 15 ugliest NBA jerseys ever.
- Raptor Blog – Three misconceptions cleared up about Shawn Marion.
- Lake Show Life – Lamar Odom has been absolutely killing the boards lately.
- The Hoop Doctors – Allen Iverson as The Answer in Detroit, not the problem.
- Dime – I thought Antoine Walker would weigh 300+ pounds by now.
- The Sports Hernia – Nobody creeps out a photo quite like Ronald McDonald.
Finally, check out New Jersey Nets PG Devin Harris (who’s made Nets fans quickly forget about his predecessor, Jason Kidd) crush the 76ers on Monday night with this miraculous game-winner from half-court. Best shot of the 2009 season? You be the judge:
Success can be fleeting in the NBA. For proof, look no further than this year’s disappointing version of the Detroit Pistons.
Many of the faces from the Pistons’ half-decade plus of Eastern Conference dominance are still the same, but this lineup bears little to no resemblance to those teams to which wins often came all too easily. They were hungry, they were underdogs, and they were cocky. Sometimes too cocky, in fact, an attitude which manifested itself in increasing amounts of chirping and barking at referees and a palpable disdain for opponents they deemed lesser.
Despite it all, they were winners. Heading into this season, the Detroit Pistons had been to six straight Eastern Conference Finals, including that ’04 title that effectively ended the acrimonious Shaq & Kobe Years and a repeat Finals appearance the next season which they lost to the San Antonio Spurs in a grueling seven-game series. Many, including myself, would argue that a lack of urgency combined with untimely mental lapses, amongst other things, potentially cost them one or two more titles in this era. But hey, there was always next year.
Well, there’s no more “next year” this year.
I don’t know who these Detroit Pistons are anymore… and I don’t think the players do either. Gone are Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups, Larry Brown and Flip Saunders, and in are Allen Iverson, Rodney Stuckey, and Michael Curry. Perhaps most notably, however, gone are the days when the Pistons could bully their way to a win almost despite themselves. The days when most teams penciled in a “L” on the calendar when it was time to travel to the Palace of Auburn Hills. And, yes, the days when the Pistons were a near shoo-in for a Central Division crown and a trip to the Conference Finals.
This year, at a shocking 27-27 following Sunday’s sixth straight loss (a blowout affair at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, their successors atop the Central), they’ll almost certainly be considerable underdogs in whichever first-round matchup they draw come the playoffs… assuming they actually make it in, which is looking less and less likely with each passing defeat.
Here’s four factors in the Detroit Pistons’ fall from grace in 2009:
Sorting through the chaos of yesterday’s deadline-day dealing doesn’t reveal too much to get excited about. Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Shaq, Gerald Wallace and the other high-profile names being thrown around as the deadline drew near all stayed put. But one move has flown under the radar that caught our eye. Chicago’s Thabo Sefolosha was shipped to Oklahoma City for one of the Thunder’s five stockpiled first-round picks from the next two drafts.
It’s probably ETB’s favorite move of the day – although it should be noted that we’re unabashed Thabo Sefolosha fans. We’ve listed him as one of the ten players in the league with the most untapped potential. We’ve said on two occasions that we think he has a breakout season in him. It’s safe to say we have a little man crush on 6-7 “shooting” guard out of Switzerland. The kid just oozes potential.
His offensive game is still raw, although he hasn’t been given much opportunity at that end of the floor, but he’s a purebred athlete who can earn his keep with defense and energy. Last season then-Bulls coach Scott Skiles, who’s known for his focus on defense and hustle, had this to say about Thabo:
“Thabo’s got great physical gifts that, frankly, a lot of guys in the league just don’t have. He’s got tremendous length and has really quick hands. He grabs your attention whenever you watch him play. It’s easy to see that he knows what he’s doing out there. You can tell he likes to play defense, too. He’s eager to get after it.”
He’s a great fit with the youthful Thunder squad and fills a need at the two. We’re assuming that OKC GM Sam Presti sees what Skiles and we have seen in the young man and that head coach Scott Brooks will give him significant run down the stretch. The 13th pick from 2006 doesn’t look for his shot, but he plays a heady game and he can get up and down the floor. Just 24 years old, he’s still got plenty of room to grow. On a team that has been surprisingly good on offense and poor on D this season his lanky presence on the perimeter is a welcome addition. Sefolosha should take a lot of defensive pressure off of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. And he can also do this…
Thabo Sefolosha photo credit: Icon SMI
A day before the flurry of mostly mundane trades that went down prior to the trade deadline the Chicago Bulls, Portland Trailblazers and Sacramento Kings pulled the trigger on a mildly interesting three-way swap that will put six players in new uniforms. Portland was at the forefront of rumors heading into the deadline with names like Caron Butler and Gerald Wallace to fill their hole at small forward, but they ended up being relatively quiet despite the chatter. Meanwhile the Kings were the biggest players in the market and made several moves, though none of them were earth shattering – this was the biggest.
You know the drill, let’s take a look at it from each team’s perspective:
Portland Receives: Michael Ruffin
It’s hard to get excited about the move from Portland’s perspective no matter how you look at it. Ike Diogu was a non-factor in their rotation and that didn’t figure to change any time soon. Michael Ruffin comes into town and will do little more than occupy Ike’s vacated chair at the end of the bench. The 1999 second-round pick is in his ninth season in the league, Portland will be his sixth team, and the journeyman has never even averaged 3 points per game in any season. He’s stayed in the league this long by being a rugged, physical defender who is willing to hit the boards and will never look for his own shot. He’s a hard worker, but a complete liability on offense.
Portland pulled the trigger because Ruffin makes nearly $2 million less than Diogu, which will save the team $4 million now that the Darius Miles fiasco has put Portland over the luxury tax. The trade also gives Portland a $3 million trade exception that they can use anytime before next year’s trade deadline.
Sacramento Receives: Ike Diogu, Andres Nocioni and Drew Gooden
The Kings were in full salary-dump mode, and that’s the only real reason they pulled this deal off. It’s a shame to see John Salmons go so cheaply – in terms of bang for the buck he’s been one of the most productive players in the NBA this season. Salmons has an extremely reasonable $5 million salary for a guy putting up an efficient near 18-4-4 line on the season, but he was the bait needed to make Chicago swallow Brad Miller’s contract that pays out $23+ million this year and next.
In addition to getting rid of Miller’s deal they take on Drew Gooden’s expiring $7 million contract and Diogu’s expiring $3 million contract – neither will be back. It was a straight salary dump from that perspective, as Miller and Salmons are clearly the most valuable pieces in the deal for this season. The final piece headed to Sac Town is Andres Nocioni, an intriguing combo forward who plays scrappy defense and can hit the outside shot. He’s an interesting trade chip going into the offseason and next year, but the contract is less than ideal: nearly $21 million in the three coming seasons with a team option for 2012-13. I’ll be surprised if he’s around that long.
Chicago Receives: Brad Miller and John Salmons
The Bulls come out of this deal smelling like roses. It is, by far, most beneficial to Chicago. They finally land that true center they’ve been lacking for years (Ben Wallace doesn’t count). Brad Miller has his warts, but the guy is a legit seven-footer who can shoot the basketball, passes well, and is a decent rebounder. He’s no stud, but it’s difficult to find a real center who can produce across the board as Miller does. Working some combination of Drew Gooden, Joakim Noah, and Aaron Gray at the five simply wasn’t going to cut it. Playing alongside the more defensive-minded Noah and Tyrus Thomas will play to Miller’s strengths as well. Currently sitting on the ninth seed, Miller’s interior offense will give this team the boost it needs to vault into the playoffs in his second stint in the Windy City. And even more convenient, his fat contract comes off the books just in time for the summer of 2010.
The final piece, John Salmons, has been perplexing in his seven seasons in the league. The 2002 first-round pick never produced consistently in his four seasons in Philadelphia, though he flashed offensive brilliance from time to time. Over the years Salmons has also earned a reputation as a selfish player who can be an acrimonious presence in the locker room. He’s slowly blossomed since coming to Sacramento though, and is having by far the finest season of his career. Thus far he’s posting 18 points, 4 boards, nearly 4 assists, 1 steal and 1.5 threes on a very efficient 47% FGs and 82% FGs. He’s a better player than the departed Larry Hughes on offense without question, though Hughes is the superior defender. In the locker room they’re a wash. That Salmons’ contract pays just $5 million this season, $5.4 next and $5.8 in 2010-11 is the icing on the cake. He does play a very similar role to Ben Gordon though, so look out for some potential strife over minutes.
Brad Miller photo credit: Icon SMI