The overarching lesson of the 2011 NBA Lockout was that money talks. While “system issues” were important to both sides, the overwhelming sticking point was the drastic cut in revenue share that the league owners demanded of the players union. Grey-haired billionaires were fighting over piles of cash with their young, millionaire employees. When the two sides fight tooth and nail for every dollar in the pot, it’s natural for both to seek ways together to expand the pot. An idea floated by Bill Simmons months ago that is now picking up steam is corporate sponsorship of jerseys. Back in April, Amos Barshad of Simmons’ Grantland site advocated for jersey sponsorship: Continue reading
Monthly Archives: October 2012
The nice thing about preview/prediction posts is that they come at a time when fan interest is high. No matter if you’re a Heat fan, still relishing last year’s title and looking forward to a possible repeat, or a Hornet supporter eagerly awaiting The ‘Brow, if you’re a fan of an NBA franchise, you’re probably excited for the season to begin next week. Preview posts whet the appetite by laying out the issues and a framework for a debate. For talking hoops.
That’s the nice thing about them. The bad thing about predictions posts is that nobody really cares what I (or most others) expect to happen. Frankly, I have no idea what the Wolves are going to do this year. (But please keep reading!) It’s difficult to predict player improvement or regression. Aside from having watched a few preseason games, there are questions about new players–how they fit and how much playing time they’ll see. And most problematic are injuries. Fortunately for purposes of this post, I waited until the Wolves’ best player broke his hand by
punching a wall doing knuckle push-ups. (And that there is the ONLY sentence in which a Wolves fan could possibly combine Love’s injury with the word “fortunately.”) But despite these huge problems that double as caveats, I’ll give er a go, and make some predictions for how this season will shake out. This is Part 1. Part 2 will be Pat’s reaction to mine. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts after this one, or wait until we’ve both put ourselves on the record.
What happens without Love and Rubio?
Minnesota lost one of its basketball legends yesterday with the passing of Slater Martin. He played decades before I was born, but I remember my dad talking a lot about seeing him face off against Bob Cousy, so I emailed him to describe Martin and his Lakers for those of us who don’t know what kind of player he was and what kind of basketball was played in Minneapolis in the 50′s.
What do I remember about Slater “Dugie” Martin? He came from the University of Texas and was a terrific 5’10″ guard on four of the five Minneapolis Laker championship teams. He then won a championship with the St. Louis Hawks. My favorite player in the 1950s was fancy Boston Celtics playmaker Bob Cousy. But Martin’s great defense drove Cousy nuts. Martin seemed to hold the edge but both were terrific ball handlers. In about 1959, the Lakers were playing their final season in Minneapolis. The venue was the armory near the Metrodome. I sat in the front row under the basket. Now a Hawk, Martin had lost a step but would slow down an opponent by grabbing his jersey. The game was extremely physical back then. To dunk would risk being undercut.
There seemed to be some negative racial attitudes, as well. The Hawks’ Cliff Hagan, who had played college ball for the all-white Kentucky teams of Coach Rupp, squared off directly in front of me against Laker rookie Elgin Baylor, a black man. I had never witnessed a fist fight in a basketball game. They obviously didn’t like each other. Neither player was ejected. Slater “Dugie” Martin will be remembered as one of the greatest defensive guards in NBA history, winning five NBA championships. With the Lakers, he played with one of the best front courts in basketball history — the greatest player of that half century from DePaul University, George Mikan; “The Kangaroo Kid” from Stanford University, Jim Pollard; and the tenacious defender brought in to protect Mikan, from Hamline University, Vern Mikkelson. With the Hawks, Martin played with wonderful players, as well, including Bob Pettit, former Laker Clyde Lovellette, and Cliff Hagan.
For more, the New York Times ran a nice story about Martin.
Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard round the world” to win the 1951 National League Pennant is the most famous highlight in baseball history. But Thomson wasn’t a one-hit wonder. He was an All-Star outfielder for the New York Giants in 1948, 1949, and 1952. In 1953, his final season in New York, Thomson hit .288 with 26 homers and 106 RBI’s. That is why it seemed like terrible news for his new team, the Milwaukee Braves, when he broke his ankle in spring training in March 1954. The veteran–the known commodity–would be replaced by a skinny 20-year old minor leaguer named Henry Aaron.
Of course, Aaron became an all-time great. “Hammer” made 21 All-Star Teams, won 3 Gold Gloves, won an MVP and World Series in 1957, and hit more steroid-free home runs than any player in the 100+ year history of the game. It would be easy to assume that a player this talented would have made it whether Thomson hurt his ankle or not. But consider that Aaron’s rookie numbers were relatively modest. He hit a respectable .280 with 13 home runs and 69 RBI’s in 122 games. Aaron was worthy of a starting outfield spot, but not exactly making the decision to call him up a “no-brainer.” It was in his second season that he broke out, hitting .314 with 27 homers and a .540 slugging percentage. By that time, Hank had arrived and he’d begin that incredibly-long run of All-Star appearances.
It’s impossible to know how his career would’ve played out, had Thomson not been hurt in Spring Training ’54. An injury creates an opportunity.
One afternoon in college, a teammate of mine showed up at practice with his arm in a sling. Coach delivered the news that he had slipped on an icy sidewalk. It would’ve made sense except that I already knew the real story, which involved no ice–perhaps save the cubes keeping his drinks cold on Saturday Night at the bar. A different teammate, at a different practice, was sidelined with “turf toe.” Again, this would’ve been plausible (I think? Can you get “turf toe” from playing basketball?) except that I watched him drunkenly kick a microwave down a flight of dorm stairs. (BREAKING: College kids do stupid things.) Well behind Coach’s back, we joked about his “microwave toe” injury.
With this background of experience, I sent Pat a short email a few days ago with a link from espn.com:
The possibilities for how O.J. seriously cut his hand in Europe are truly endless.
He sent a brief reply:
Hehe, I can only imagine. Story would’ve been better had the accident occurred in AMSTERDAM. Continue reading
In what was either a coincidence or something related to the dismal crowd that showed up to face an Israeli opponent on a Tuesday Night when a 50/50 presidential election had a debate (okay, definitely the latter), I was able to sit close to the floor for the second straight [preseason] game. This time, that meant seeing star defensive lineman, Kevin Williams, in the beer line. It meant an up-close look at new Timberwolf Andrei Kirilenko (the guy never stops talking and moving–fun to see in person), and the unexpected meeting of Brandon Roy’s family. His mom, wife and kids were all cheering for “Bran Bran” which tipped us off quickly who they were. Super nice people who seem to like Minnesota.
A few things about the game:
Okay, so I'm seeing Iguodala at 1/125 for MVP. Among fool's bets, it's the wisest—
Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) October 15, 2012
Ethan Strauss is the best in the [NBA writing/tweeting] business at provoking strong reactions with what can seem like crazy, “contrarian” takes on pro basketball issues. (I say “seem like” because ESS almost always explains what he means with nuance that can elude the more passionate/less detail-oriented readers. When he’s trashing Kobe Bryant, I sometimes find myself in that camp of spazzes. When the victim is Rajon Rondo, I happily nod in agreement.) Today, he posited that the best “long shot” MVP candidate for basketball bettors is Andre Iguodala. He didn’t say that Iggy will win MVP, or even that he thinks he has a good chance at it or would ever deserve it. Just that, “[a]mong fool’s bets, Iguodala for MVP is wisest.” The thinking goes something like this: Denver has a chance to win a ton of regular season games (some predict upwards of 60), that MVP voters sometimes use a “This team won more games that they were supposed to, so [Player X] deserves the credit!” logic (Steve Nash cited as an example), and that Iggy should see a scoring/production bump as he transitions from Doug Collins to George Karl, a shift that would be akin to a McDonald’s All-American transferring from Bo Ryan’s Wisconsin Badgers to Kentucky or North Carolina.
Still, even if you’re talking long-shots, that’s crazy isn’t it? I mean, Iggy has played eight years in the NBA, made only one All-Star Team (2011), and made ZERO All-NBA Teams. The team he joins would’ve been expected to make the playoffs, Iggy or not, and they’ve been universally considered a “team’s team” with more credit going to the coach than any individual player. Furthermore, Iggy’s points per game (a stat overrated by many, but certainly a factor in a wing player’s MVP candidacy) has dropped in each of the past four seasons, (probably) bottoming out last year at a measly 12.4. Even assuming a numbers bump in George Karl’s uptempo system, an Iggy MVP seems as unlikely (or even more) than the 125:1 odds that Strauss found when preparing his piece.
But I appreciate the bold proposition, so I’ll see Strauss’s Andre Iggy and raise him one Ricard Rubio. Continue reading
Sometimes you just want to know what the future holds. You look into your crystal ball, but all you see is fog, so you ransack your house looking for that Ouija board you got in college. You don’t find it, so you go on a peyote-fueled drive through the deserts of Mexico, looking for that shaman who your buddy says changed his life. You make it back into the States in one piece.
It’s three games into the Wolves preseason, and you’re now wondering if the Wolves are going to be any good this year. “Will they make the playoffs?” “What will Adelman’s rotations look like?” “Will Nikola Pekovic raze a village in frustration after a tough loss and get slapped with a season-long suspension?“
At Punch-Drunk Wolves, we have the answers. A few emerging impressions about this year’s team are below the fold.
An hour before tipoff, a fellow Zumbrotan (where I’m from and my dad drives up from) saw us sitting near the court watching Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah shoot around and offered us an extra pair of tickets in the second row. Typically we sit in the upper corner of the lower bowl. Sitting (basically) courtside has its obvious advantages like viewing player-player and player-ref interaction, better “scenery” including what looked to be a Bull’s girlfriend or wife seated next to me, and just being up close for a better view of the crazy athleticism and skill of the players. But for someone who typically sits further back, I was a little distracted by the foregoing and didn’t digest the hoops action like I normally think I do. So here’s what I *think* I took away from a preseason game versus the Bulls. Continue reading