- The Season's Over -

Chris, Gary and Shaqawockeez in Rare Form

February 18, 2009

There’s simply no topping Ernie, Kenny and Charles when it comes to studio teams. They’re the best of all the major studios in any sport right now, hands down. That said, the boys working the desk for NBA TV have been surprisingly entertaining all season.

Chris Webber makes love to the television audience with his eyes every night and makes Gary Payton more comfortable than he should probably be on national television. GP’s incoherent, incomprehensible and bitter tirades are always a treat. And the girthy Ahmad Rashad indulges the two but keeps them on task just enough to make it watchable. The trio was in rare form last night to kickoff the post-All Star break season and Didn’t Draw Iron captured the highlights.

First up we have the crew talking to Shaqawockeez O’Neal about his dance performance from Sunday – and we find out why they weren’t asked to participate. Then Shaq requests GP and C-Webb drop down a little Planet Rock beatbox, and of course they’re all to happy to comply.

Good times.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Feb. 18, 2009 at 3:02pm in NBA

The Thunder Finally Get Their Center

February 18, 2009

**UPDATE** According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune Tyson Chandler has failed his physical and his trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder has been nullified. Chandler will return to the Hornets and Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox will return to the Thunder for the time being. It makes for an awkward situation for all involved, and we can’t help but think the Thunder missed out on a long-term solution at center by being overly conservative here.

Tyson Chandler Joins the ThunderAs Thursday’s 3 pm trade deadline approaches we can expect to see a few deals go down. For the most part they’ll be salary dumps and won’t be of significant interest on the court. It’s extremely difficult to integrate new pieces mid-season into a successful, championship-contending rotation. With the firing of Terry Porter likely meaning Amare Stoudemire stays in Phoenix for at least a few more months, this year’s trade deadline will likely pass with more of a whimper than a bang – as we’ve come to expect.

However, yesterday we saw one significant move that was not only a financial maneuver but will also have big implications on one team many considered a title contender and on the long-term plans of one of the more exciting young teams in the league.

Yesterday afternoon the New Orleans Hornets agreed to send Tyson Chandler, their starting center, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the rogues’ gallery of Joe Smith, Chris Wilcox and the draft rights to DeVon Hardin, who was selected No. 50 overall by OKC in the 2008 draft.

Let’s take a quick look at the ramifications of the swap for both teams.

Tyson Chandler Photo Credit: Icon SMI

New Orleans Hornets

It’s a curious move from New Orleans, and clearly one with more of an eye to the pocket book than the low post. Chandler was their best interior defender, best rebounder and only true starting center on the roster. For a squad that many think should have serious title aspirations, dealing your 26-year-old starting center is a major blow. It seems to signal a throwing in of the towel for a team that stands at 31-20 in the standings, good for the sixth seed out West. I feel for you, Hornets fans. But it’s not all bad.

Chandler was also one of the most injury-prone players on the team, an offensive liability and the second-highest paid player on the roster. He’s battled injuries all season, missing twelve straight games with a sprained ankle heading into the All Star break. He’s damaged goods right now, and his ability to stay healthy over the long haul was in serious doubt. New Orleans was also looking at a payroll of nearly $67 million this season and was scheduled to reach almost $77 million next year. Joe Smith’s $4.8 Million and Chris Wilcox’s $6.8 million come off the books this summer, bringing next season’s salary figure down to approximately $65 million and their 2010-11 number all the way down to $52 million. They should now be big players in that ultra-rich free agent market – and who wouldn’t want to come to the Big Easy and play alongside Chris Paul?

Breaking down the Thunder’s end of the deal after the jump…

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2 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Feb. 18, 2009 at 11:28am in ETB Articles, NBA

Reading is Great! Monday’s NBA Updates, Rumors, Shakeups and Dance Revues

February 16, 2009

reading-with-brook-lopez

- The NY Times – No-Stat All-Star: Is Shane Battier one of the best players in NBA history?
- AOL FanHouse – Forget Superman and Krpto-Nate, James White’s dunks reigned supreme.
- The Oregonian – Greg Oden isn’t proving the doubters wrong about his health.
- Ball Don’t Lie – Not gonna lie, Dwyer’s right: the ASG was a bit of a snoozer.
- ESPN – Marc Stein has all your trade buzz as the deadline approaches.
- AZ Central – Hit the road Porter, welcome back Gentry. Nice work, Steve Kerr.
- Talk Hoops – We present to you the first annual Ben Wallace Award for futility.
- NESW Sports – Dwight Howard had fun behind the scenes, too.
- Basketbawful – Finally, the true originator of The Big Balls Dance is revealed.
- SA Express-News – It’s official: Duncan the most boring man on the face of the planet.
- Yahoo! Sports – “We are not going to go back to the room and watch ‘Steel Magnolias.’”
- Denver Post – Chauncey Billups has won respect for the Nuggets around the league.

And finally, the highlight of Sunday’s big game. In what turned out to be a pretty average All Star weekend, the best moment for me was a pass from the most unlikely of sources. In the third quarter last night Shaquille O’Neal, determined all evening to have fun and entertain the fans, found himself matched up one-one-one with Dwight Howard on the perimeter.

The new Superman versus the old Man of Steel.

Howard, also doing his best to inject fun into the festivities all weekend, began wagging his tongue and bobbing his head in Shaq’s face. What happens next is priceless, especially the Dwight’s reaction:

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Feb. 16, 2009 at 2:29pm in NBA

Let The 2009 All Star Festivities Begin

February 13, 2009

All-Star weekend kicks off this evening, and we’re eagerly awaiting the Rookie Challenge starting at 9:00 PM EST. Set your TiVos – despite the notable snubs of Ramon Sessions and Kevin Love it should be a high-scoring affair, featuring explosive youngsters like Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Greg Oden, Rodney Stuckey and Thad Young.

What better way to ring in the weekend than with The Temptations classic take on the Star Spangled Banner from the 1984 All Star Game. Hopefully we get some performances on Sunday to match Isiah Thomas and Dr. J in that 154-145 classic.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Feb. 13, 2009 at 1:07pm in NBA

NBA Photo Friday – True Love Waits

February 13, 2009

Charles Barkley Hits Bottom

Charles Barkley Hits Bottom

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Feb. 13, 2009 at 1:00am in NBA

Little Nate Robinson Delivering a Big Hurtin’

February 12, 2009

New York Knicks Guard Nate RobinsonUntil this point in his four-year career, Nate Robinson had largely distinguished himself for the following:

- Winning the 2006 Slam Dunk Contest, a contest in which deserved-winner Andre Iguodala was essentialy robbed of victory because his opponent measures just 5 feet, 9 inches (“Oh, look at that! He’s so short but he can dunk! And he jumped over Spud Webb!“)

- Being a punk-ass bitch. During his rookie season he clashed early and often with teammates both in the locker room and on the bench, and was nearly sent to the D-League despite his obvious skills being sorely needed on the talent-strapped Knicks.

The next year he was one of the main knuckleheads in the brawl at Madison Square Garden between the Knicks and Nuggets which resulted in all kinds of suspensions; his cheap shot on Carmelo Anthony was the lowlight of the whole affair. We also saw him openly feud with Zach Randolph last season during timeouts, though something tells me both were to blame for the childish petulence.

It hasn’t been all bad for Robinson, however. Hardly. Drafted by the Knicks in the first-round out of Washington back in ’05, he hustles and brings boundless energy to the court, is quicker than most, plays surprisingly solid defense for a man his size (don’t forget he once blocked a shot by 7-6 Yao Ming), and can put big points on the board in a hurry. When he’s hot, he’s usually really hot, and as Knicks fans have come to know this guy is hardly afraid of shooting the ball whether he’s in a groove or not.

And speaking of Knicks fans, in general they love him: we caught about 10 or 11 games last year at MSG, and Nate was consistently the one player most capable of waking up the sluggish fans with his tenacity and big-play ability. So, please understand that I’m hardly painting a picture of Robinson as an entirely ineffective, disruptive teammate. Yes, he’s a punk, but he gives it all he’s got every night.

And he’s elevated his game to a new level this season.

More on little Nate Robinson’s big hurtin’ after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Feb. 12, 2009 at 11:25am in NBA

Interview Up on Basketball.org

February 11, 2009

ETB under the Basketball.org spotlight

Currently led by four talented contributors as well as former NBA player, coach, and front-office executive George Irvine, Basketball.org publicly launched in May of 2008 with the goal of “enhancing the abilities of basketball players, teams and coaches worldwide through the use of innovative technology.” We discovered them some months ago, and have since become big fans of their consistently smart, insightful analysis of everything hoops.

I had the pleasure to “sit down” with the site’s Jaime Irvine for a Q&A over email as part of their ongoing “5 on 5″ series with various NBA writers and bloggers. Check out the whole interview in its entirety; here’s just an excerpt:

4. This may be somewhat of strange questions. Of the playoff contenders today, who do you see not making the playoffs next year? In other words, which teams do you think have peaked this year or in the past few years and are destined for lottery-ville over the next few years?

There are quite a few candidates given the decline we’ve seen so far this season in perennial contenders and the emergence of young teams who will only get better as soon as next season. Speaking strictly of playoff contenders-not championship contenders-I think you have to count the Mavericks, Pistons, Suns, and Nets in this category, each for various reasons.

The one team in that group that has the “best” chance of missing out on the playoffs not only this season, but next (and who knows how much longer beyond that) is the Dallas Mavericks. The trade for Jason Kidd has long since revealed itself as ill-advised with Devin Harris flourishing in Jersey and Kidd and his massive expiring contract rumored to be on the trading block. Josh Howard seems to have worn out his welcome and no longer carries excellent trade value, and Dirk is growing increasingly frustrated with his team’s outlook as he moves towards the latter half of his prime playing days.

What’s worse, this team has stubbornly refused to nurture any sort of youth movement whatsoever for quite some time now; their top prospects are Jose Juan Barea and Gerald Green. Help won’t automatically be on the way, either, after sending those first-round draft picks to Jersey in the Kidd deal. The current outlook for this franchise is not a good one.

A hearty shoutout to Jaime and the crew at Basketball.org for the opportunity; look for him to be featured during our next TBA round of ETB’s Scribes of the NBA series.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Feb. 11, 2009 at 7:01am in NBA

Muay Thai Boxing and Beer in a Bag at Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium

February 10, 2009

Muay Thai at Lumpini Stadium

Muay Thai Photos Credit: Brian Spencer

Two personal firsts from a recent Friday night at Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium for muay thai boxing. One, as you might imagine, was watching two wiry fighters without a trace of body fat stretched across their 102-pound frames pound away at each other’s midsections, calves, and faces in carefully delivered flurries of kicks, punches, and knees while I sat just a few feet away. The second was slightly less violent but no less jarring–sipping lukewarm Chang beer not from a cool, frosty mug, or even a thin plastic cup, but rather through a straw from a plastic bag with little handles.

Hey, with the humidity rising with each successive bout and bloodthirsty mosquitos nipping at my ankles as we watched from our almost-ringside seats, that beer-in-a-bag couldn’t have been any more refreshing. Chang Draught is, actually, served at Lumpini in plastic cups, but we instead took turns ducking back out into the street and buying our brews from a vendor at more than half the price. That’s where the bags came into play: you aren’t allowed to bring beer cans or bottles into the stadium, but beer in a plastic bag? Mai pen rai (“no problem”).

Lumpini Stadium is located in the Pathumwan section of Bangkok on busy Rama IV Road, where old, overheating buses dumping plumes of thick black smoke in their wake compete with taxis, tuk-tuks, and fearless (read: no helmets) men and women on motorbikes for a spot in traffic gridlock hell. The stadium is about an hour walk from our apartment on Petchaburi Road, but on that night we decided to pay the 25 Baht fare to ride the BTS Skytrain from Siam Square to Sala Daeng station, then walked it from there. From Sala Daeng it’s a brisk 30-minute or so trek down Rama IV, past the sidewalk restaurants-come-beer gardens bordering Lumpini Park and the sprawling, touristy Suan Lum Night Market.

We scoped out the scene one week earlier and were prepared for the smiling, English-speaking touts positioned out front offering to help purchase your admission tickets. They’re absolutely harmless, but there’s simply no need to risk paying more than you should or of perhaps being sold a counterfeit ticket that won’t be accepted at the door by the ragtag security team. As of January 2009, tickets for farang (a general Thai term for foreigners of Western descent) run 1,000 Baht for third-class, 1,500 for second, and 2,000 for ringside; Thais will pay significantly less. Most foreigners opt for the priciest tier, but we went with the second-class, where we enjoyed stellar vantage points from our seats on the long, rickety wooden benches that circle Lumpini Stadium.

And what an atmospheric setting this old Bangkokian gem provides for fight night.

Much more from Muay Thai fight night at Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium after the break…

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6 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Feb. 10, 2009 at 5:54am in ETB Articles, Miscellaneous

Reading is Great! NBA Trade Rumors Galore

February 9, 2009

Laura Bush reads NBA trade rumors

- Full Court Press – Are the Raptors, Pistons, and Suns working on a three-way trade?
- CBS Sports – And if so, could Amare Stoudemire be the one who winds up in Detroit?
- WXYZ.com – It sure sounds like he wouldn’t mind playing for the Pistons.
- Chicago Tribune – The Bulls could offer an attractive package for his services.
- Inside the Warriors – But then, the Warriors would love to have Amare too.
- Bright Side of the Sun – As would the Heat, the Hawks, the Blazers…
- Sactown Royalty – Meanwhile, the Spurs may have interest in Kings C Brad Miller.
- Washington Post – The Wizards are talking, but not talking Antawn or Caron.
- MLive – ‘Sheed: “If I get traded, I get traded. Can’t cry over spilled milk.”
- New York Post – David Lee prefers to stay with the Knicks.
- NY Daily News – The Bucks could look to move Richard “Peanut” Jefferson.
- Charlotte Observer – The Bobcats may move either DJ Augustin or Raymond Felton.
- The Love of Sports – The case for Starbury as the Orlando Magic’s fill-in point guard.
- OCRegister.com – Finally, why the Lakers were thrilled to dump Slalom Vlade.

4 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Feb. 9, 2009 at 3:36am in NBA

Where’s the Love – Which Rooks Made the Rookie Challenge and Which Should Have

February 6, 2009

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love at UCLA

Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love Photo Credit: Icon SMI

See also: Sophomore Snubs

The best basketball prospects in the country get snapped up with high lottery picks, and teams with high lottery picks don’t tend to get a lot of nationally televised games. For fans who don’t enjoy the benefits of NBA League Pass, that makes the Rookie Challenge a rare opportunity to see the best and brightest in action on a national stage. Even better, rather than seasoned veterans, they play alongside and against their peers, allowing them to shine. That’s part of the reason the NBA’s Rookie Challenge during All-Star weekend is fast becoming a fan favorite. It’s also just a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

In the last column we discussed the sophomore squad, which was reasonably well constructed. Both teams are voted on by the league’s assistant coaches, and for the most part they got it right. The two big gaffes in their voting were selecting Aaron Brooks of the Houston Rockets over the much more productive, though unheralded, Ramon Sessions of the Milwaukee Bucks and the forgivable mistake of picking high-scoring Al Thornton of the Los Angeles Clippers over the more efficient Carl Landry of the Rockets.

This time around we have at least one very significant bone to pick. As I mentioned last time, the voting system is always subject to politics, oversights and notable omissions. As Wolves assistant Jerry Sichting jokingly put it, “You can never trust assistant coaches. We know nothing.”

Let’s take a look at which rookies made the 2009 team and which first-year players were notably left off.

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1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Feb. 6, 2009 at 5:30am in ETB Articles, NBA

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