- The Season's Over -

NBA Photo Friday – Karl “JCVD” Malone

April 10, 2009

Karl Malone Fight


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3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 10, 2009 at 3:01am in NBA

Will Bynum Giving Detroit Pistons Fans at Least One Reason to Keep Watching

April 7, 2009

Will BynumI’ve been waiting to wake up to the following headline for over a month now: “Detroit Pistons Ink Will Bynum to Two-Year Extension.” Blessed with a fortuitious team option on Bynum of just over $825K for next season (one which they’ll surely exercise), perhaps that’s why the team has been loathe to move hastily, but it’s a move they absolutely should make before Bynum’s pricetag gets any higher.

A month or so stretch doth not make a career, but the 6-foot guard who entered the season as little more than an afterthought at the end of Detroit’s bench not only made the season-ending shutdown of Allen Iverson entirely palatable, but has by many accounts upstaged Rodney Stuckey, the team’s self-appointed point guard of the future.

That’s not to say Bynum is a better player than either of them–he’s not–but he’s been more effective than Iverson was at any point this season and the team’s most electric offensive presence over the past 13 games.

During this stretch, the second-year pro has averaged 14.1 points and 4.8 assists, which was capped off by a brilliant, game-saving effort on Sunday against the Charlotte Bobcats when he set a new franchise high for most points scored in a quarter (26) in finishing with 32 points, 7 assists, 4 boards, 1 steal, and a staggering 14-16 mark from the free-throw line. With Raja Bell out of the lineup, there was simply little to nothing the Bobcats’ weak perimeter defenders could do to stay in front of Bynum and keep him out of the lane.

Bynum’s low center of gravity and quickness off the high pick-and-roll has given many teams a fit, though. We saw it a few weeks ago when the Miami Heat’s usually defensively sound Mario Chalmers was repeatedly broken down by Bynum’s dribble… and we’ve seen it basically anytime this Chicago native has had extended action. His lack of size will always be somewhat of a liability in a league that’s gotten bigger at his position, but his elite speed helps make up for it.

At 26 years old, Bynum’s route to NBA relevancy has been a long one. He came into the league as an undrafted free agent back in ’05, getting waived during the preseason by the Boston Celtics before latching on with the Golden State Warriors towards the end of the season after being named the D-League’s Rookie of the Year. He spent the next two years in Israel playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv, and finally made his way back to a NBA roster with Detroit–and he’s certainly made the most of the opportunity.

I don’t know that Bynum is or ever will be NBA-starter material, but unless the Pistons decide to pull the plug on The Stuckey Experiment, they don’t need him to be. With Iverson donezo and no other PG currently on the roster, though, they do need a backup and Bynum has proven, at least to me, that he’s the right man for the job next season and, perhaps, beyond.

Look around the rest of the league and you’ll see a majority of teams–even ones considered contenders–with a glaring hole at the backup PG position. When there’s an opportunity to square that role away, wise teams jump on it. That’s why Bynum’s stock continues to rise with each passing impact performance, and why the Joe Dumars would be wise to extend him to a modest number while he still has the chance to.

Will Bynum Photo Credit: Icon SMI

3 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 7, 2009 at 6:11am in NBA

60 Losses Deep, Kids in DC Still Having Fun

April 6, 2009

I said I wanted to see more of JaVale McGee two weeks ago, and now I have. And Andray Blatche. And Nick Young. And Mike James (No, this isn’t an NBA version of Which One of These Things Is Not Like the Others).

The below video has been making the rounds this morning. I first saw it on Mr. Irrelevant, who found it on the always solid Bullets Forever. I’m not sure what to make of it to be honest, but I like it. They’re clearly spoofing the Nike commercial from a few years back, but to what end? The kids are rocking Undrcrwn so it could be a spot for them, but the old man is sporting Sean John so that would seem to nix that idea – unless James just showed up and insisted he be included, which would actually make perfect sense.

In any event, as I said, I like it. The video just highlights the group of fun, young kids they have down in The District, the guys who have made Wiz games (sorta) worth watching despite this unmitigated disaster of a season. Their clowning definitely comes off a lot more genuine and genuinely fun than a certain Wizards ex-blogger.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 6, 2009 at 1:53pm in NBA

Welcome Back, Shaun Patrick Livingston

April 6, 2009

Shaun Livingston ComebackShaun Livingston is back in the NBA, and we at ETB couldn’t be more pleased.

In the middle of the decade there were only a handful of young basketball players on the planet more intriguing than Livingston. It’s difficult to over-emphasize just what a tantalizing prospect he was heading into the 2004 NBA Draft. After transferring to Peoria Central High School in Illinois Shaun led his team to Class AA state titles in 2003 and 2004 before starring in the 2004 McDonald’s High School All-American game where he was named Co-MVP of the contest.

Livingston was selected with the 4th overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2004, but just as he was starting to break out in his third season on a woeful Clippers team, disaster stuck. The Peoria, Illinois, native suffered one of the ugliest injuries you will see in all of professional sports. Seriously, it made Joe Theisman’s epic fracture look not so bad. Watch at your own discretion, it is not for the faint of stomach.

His entire knee was destroyed. His kneecap was dislocated, causing the leg to fully snap laterally. The anterior cruciate ligament was torn. The posterior cruciate ligament was torn. The lateral meniscus was shredded. The medial collateral ligament was warped. His patella and his tibia-femoral joint were dislocated. And we all thought that was the end of the young man’s professional basketball career. I was convinced I would never see him in an NBA jersey again, and that it was a tragedy not just for Livingston and his family but for basketball fans everywhere.

6-7 point guards with his fluidity and skill set just don’t come along very often. And it wasn’t a novelty act: the kid had the tools and mentality to be a true point at that size. He thrived as a playmaker and didn’t look for his own shot, unlike many combo guards masquerading as points. He always possessed a handle, court vision, and mastery of passing that was often jaw-dropping for any player, let alone a guy his age and height. And on defense Livingston’s height, length, and fast hands had people seeing him as a potential nightmare on that end of the floor.

Talking to NBA draftniks in 2004 it wasn’t uncommon to hear people calling Shaun Livingston the best long-term prospect out there – and this was the same year guys like Dwight Howard, Devin Harris, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Jameer Nelson and Kevin Martin were flying off the board.

But after suffering that brutal knee disintegration Livingston missed the last 38 games of the 2006-07 season and all of the 2007-08 season. His contract with the Clips expired after that, and LA renounced their rights to him. After finally be cleared by doctors to hit the court again in mid-2008 Livingston began showing up on NBA radars again, trying out for teams like Minnesota and Portland, but finding no offers. The Miami Heat eventually signed him, but oddly they didn’t appear to give Livingston any serious consideration as he appeared in just four games before they shipped him to Memphis for a conditional 2012 second-round pick.

If that’s not a slap in the face, what is? Being dropped by Memphis the same day.

Enter the enterprising young Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that seems intent on compiling the best young collection of elite talent in the NBA. On March 7, the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA D-League, owned by the Thunder, inked Livingston to a deal. After three weeks with the 66ers (where he averaged 9.5 points, 6.0 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 29.4 minutes in 11 games) the Big League club signed Shaun to a multi-year deal.

It’s a fantastic move. Livingston may already be more of a pure point than Russell Westbrook, whom I love but wonder if he will ever be a true point. And at just 23 years of age and impressively recovered from that career-threatening injury, this is a low-risk, extremely high-reward type of move. The early results have been positive, with Livingston dropping 10 points, 3 boards, 1 block and 1 assist on 5-of-6 shooting in his Thunder debut on April 3rd followed by an impressive 10 points, 7 boards, 5 assists and 2 steals on 5-of-7 shooting on Sunday.

If the signing had taken place before I released my lists of 30 players I want to see more of down the stretch, Livingston would have trumped Thabo Sefolosha as the Thunder’s representative. He’s that interesting a prospect, and that compelling a human-interest story.

I’m looking forward to watching him the rest of the way and for years to come.

You should be, too.

Related Reading:
- 30 Players I Want to See More of, Oklahoma Through Washington
- Who Should Be the 2009 NBA Rookie of the Year? Part I
- Russell Westbrook Giveth, and Russell Westbrook Taketh Away
- Thabo Sefolosha Moseys Down to Oklahoma
- Counting Down the West’s Worst – OKC Thunder

Shaun Livingston Photo Credit: Icon SMI

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Apr. 6, 2009 at 1:40am in NBA

ETB Seeking Talented Contributing Writers

April 3, 2009

Seeking Writers

In the words of Greg Graffin, “come join us.”

Since we launched back in February of ’07 (has it really been over 2 years?), Empty the Bench’s award-winning* content has remained under the exclusive direction of myself and my esteemed colleague, Mr. Andrew “Buttercup” Thell. As I said in a recent interview over on Basketball.org, however, we’ve recently been entertaining the idea of bringing in some regular contributing writers to help us fill in the gaps and to help give you, dearest readers, more fantastic content about the NBA, NFL, and fantasy sports.

To all the writers out there in the audience, whether you consider yourself aspiring or established, that’s where you come in. We don’t care whether you’ve written 1 article or 100 articles: if you’re talented, reliable, insightful, and compassionate about your work, we’d love to hear from you. We’re specifically looking for contributors to provide content in the following areas:

- NBA & NFL Analysis with a Slant Towards Stats
- Weekly NBA & NFL Columns
- NBA & NFL Fantasy Sports Advice, Tips, and Rankings

Here’s How to Apply:

- Send an email to both [email protected] and [email protected] (subject line: “Contributing Writer”), telling us a little bit about yourself, your writing background, and what you feel are your areas of expertise. Be sure to include a link or two to published content if you have it, or to paste a sample of your work directly into the email. ALL ATTACHMENTS WILL BE DELETED.

- If we’re interested, we’ll follow up as soon as possible and take it from there.

Please be familiar with our tone and style before contacting us, and if you have any specific ideas for columns and/or topics to cover, feel free to include that in your email as well. Unfortunately, we cannot offer payment to contributing writers at this time. ETB is regularly cited on some of the top sports blogs and websites around, so this is a great way to get exposure for your work and some published clips for your portfolio. All regular contributors will have a bio posted on the site.

We look forward to hearing from you.

* may not actually be true

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 3, 2009 at 4:14am in Administrative, NBA

NBA Photo Friday – Double Dribble: Best B-Ball Video Game Ever?

April 3, 2009

Nintendo Double Dribble


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2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 3, 2009 at 3:23am in NBA

It’s Put Up or Shut Up Time for Allen Iverson

April 2, 2009

Detroit Pistons G Allen IversonWe’ve been ardent Allen Iverson apologists for much of his short stint with the Detroit Pistons this season; that is, until recently when my colleague questioned whether or not he’s still an impact player at this late stage of his storied NBA career. (For the record, Andrew’s verdict was essentially “no, he’s a washed-up bum.”)

I’m surely not the only one who’s starting to agree with him. At the very least, since returning from his prolonged back injury that sidelined him for a month, Iverson has only reinforced the notion that he’s a cancer, a team-chemistry killer, and a one-dimensional player (once) capable of stuffing the stat sheet, but not of buying into a team-first mentality and truly adjusting his game for the greater good.

He said all the right things early on this year, but that seems like a long, long time ago, doesn’t it?

You’ve probably already read his recent postgame rants since returning to the Detroit lineup last weekend, a return which saw him starting the game on the bench for the first time in his career. But just in case you missed it:

“How many minutes did I play?,” Iverson said after he scored 11 with three turnovers in 18 minutes. “It seemed way, way, way less than that. Eighteen minutes? Come on, man. I can play 18 minutes with my eyes closed. It’s a bad feeling, man. I’m wondering what they rushed me to get back for? For that? It’s a bad time for me mentally. I am just trying to get through it without starting a whole bunch of nonsense. I’m looking at the big picture. If I vent my frustration then it’s like, given who I am, I’ll be the one everybody points the finger at. I am just going to try to laugh to stop from crying.”

That came following Monday’s loss to the Cavaliers; he wasn’t done though, spouting off again last night after the Pistons dropped to a wretched 36-39 following a loss to the New Jersey Nets:

“I’m in a position now that I’ve never been in my whole life,” Iverson said. “It’s harder than I thought it would be. With the back injury, I have to sit out at the start, then go in, then sit again. It’s tough to really get going. I take my hat off to the guys who can come off the bench and be effective. It’s tough for me. I’m struggling with it.”

“I’d rather retire before I do this again,” Iverson said. “I can’t be effective playing this way. I’m not used to it. It’s tough for me both mentally and physically. If I’m able to go out there, I should be able to get it done and I can’t right now. It’s my fault. I have to be able to overcome the adversity and do what I have to do. I just have to find a way to get it done. Not being 100 percent makes it harder and you can see that I’m not 100 percent.”

He went on to say that despite his claim that he wasn’t at full strength, he wouldn’t use it as an excuse for the fact that he’s stunk up the court since his return: over his last three games, Iverson has shot a combined 9-25 and averaged 7.6 points, 2.6 assists, 1.3 boards, and 2 turnovers. As an unrestricted free-agent-to-be this summer, he’s not doing himself any favors with his poor play, by popping off to the media at a critical stage in his team’s season, and doing little to nothing to shake the stigma that he’s anything but a team player.

It’s time for GM Joe Dumars to step in and send Iverson home. Remove him from the bench. Bid him farewell, adieu, goodbye, have fun spending your $22 million paycheck for this season. There’s no point in having him around any longer: he doesn’t want to be there, something tells me his teammates don’t want him there, and he’s become an unnecessary distraction to a fast-fading team that’s in serious danger of falling all the way out of the playoffs and into the lottery.

On top of that, he’s taking away valuable, earned playing time from second-year man Will Bynum, the Pistons’ backup PG behind Rodney Stuckey while Iverson was out and a guy who’s been one of the most pleasant surprises in the entire league over the past month. For the month of March, Bynum averaged a respectable 11.2 points on 48% FG, 4 assists, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in just under 21 minutes per. As A. Sherrod Blakely recently said, Bynum has outplayed Iverson in Detroit this year.

It’s not fair to pin all of the team’s deep-reaching problems this season on Iverson: he’s but one part of the puke that has become the 2008-09 Detroit Pistons. Still, just as he did in Denver, there’s no question that Iverson has now put himself in a position to be the main scapegoat for another team’s disappointing season.

Related Reading:
- Is Allen Iverson Still a Difference Maker?
- Four Factors in the Detroit Pistons’ Sudden and Surprising Fall from Grace
- What’s Happened to Rodney Stuckey?

Allen Iverson Photo Credit: Icon SMI

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Apr. 2, 2009 at 5:29am in NBA

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