Monthly Archives: October 2012

Endangered Species: NBA Center

Could Smits and Ostertag stay on the floor in today’s NBA?

Howard Beck’s headline was “The All-Star Center is Officially Extinct.”  The news was the league’s abolition of the center from the All-Star ballot.  Rather than force fans to choose between hard-foul specialist X or 14 points and 8 rebounds role player Y, the NBA adapted to style changes and acknowledged that no longer are its biggest players worthy of automatic slots amongst the games best and brightest stars.  Instead of a Center box to fill on the ballot, there will be two backcourt and three frontcourt spots.  In other words, more forwards, fewer centers. Continue reading

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SpreadLove for Breast Health Awareness Month

Kevin Love let Larry Fitzgerald shave his head for breast cancer awareness.  He and Fitz are donating $0.25 for every retweet of their youtube clip, so if you’re on Twitter, go do it!

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Wolves Season Preview, Part 2 of 2

Can Andrei Kirilenko really be the key to this year’s team? Who knows! The season hasn’t started yet!

In Part 1 of our Wolves preview, Andy G delved into several issues that will have key implications for the team’s success this season. I come back with my takes on these topics, as well as a few other things he didn’t look at closely.

Find out what below the fold.

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Selling out?

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

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Wolves Season Preview, Part 1 (of 2)

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?

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Slater Martin: (1925-2012)

Slater Martin: (1925-2012)

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.

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Injury = Opportunity

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.

 

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