Posts Tagged ‘NBA Basketball’

College Basketball is my favorite sport to watch on TV without exception. I’ve started to think bball thoughts as my favorite bloggers have begun to ratchet up their coverage, so I’m going to give you a troika of pieces you should read to whet your appetite:

MCBias interviews WNBA player Erin Buescher. Part onePart two.

Marco at Storming the Floor says students at Davidson are camping out for tickets this year. And they should be.

The CAA: Life as a Mid-Major is running a new collaborative feature that includes moi and some other mid-major-heads. In this edition, we re-write the first CAA poll.

Man, I can’t wait…


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philpaulshirley.jpgEveryone knows what the end of summer means. That’s right – book reports are due. “What I Read This Summer”. Well, I’m no different.

This summer I read Phil Paul Shirley’s book Can I Keep My Jersey?. And rather than give you some kind of boring New York Times-style folderol, I’m going to have a little fun with Phil Paul’s work.

First, I’m sure you’re wondering why I can’t remember Paul’s name. That’s not the case at all. It just so happens that Phil Paul and I are from the same area of the country – the northeastern corner of Kansas. I went to school with a guy named Phil Shirley, who, to the best of my knowledge, has played for zero professional basketball teams and written zero books. And yet, I met him first, so his name comes to mind every time. So forgive me. I mean, they’re probably at least distantly related, right? Besides, I’m one of only 5,949 people who can claim to be Paul’s close internet MySpace friend.  I’m sure he’ll cut me some slack, right?

Anyway, Phil Paul is one of those guys we call a benchwarmer or scrub. Don’t worry, he calls himself that, too. He played for eleven teams in various corners of the world after graduating from Iowa State with a Mechanical Engineering degree. A lot of messed up stuff happened, and fortunately, since Phil Paul has a brain, he wrote most of it down (still can’t remember his hotel room number though, so he can’t be that smart).

The book is funny, and it offers insights into the nomadic life of a marginal pro that one might never hear about otherwise. But rather than spoil the book for you, I’m going to give you an example of some questions that the book will answer for you, to pique your interest:

  • What are NBA players really looking at while the coach furiously diagrams plays during a TV time out?
  • How and why did Austin Croshere try to kill Phil Paul? And, more importantly, did he succeed?
  • Does anyone, players included, care what happens in the third quarter of a professional basketball game?
  • How low do you have to sink before you agree to play for the EA All-Stars?
  • Can a jellyfish sting cause a man to leave a topless beach in Spain? (Trick question, the answer is, it depends on where it stings you)
  • Is it wise to pay a six-foot-ten human being an exorbitant sum of money to play for your team and then book him into a hotel where he has to sleep on a mattress on the floor?
  • Do you remember Jake Voskuhl? Should you?
  • Who made Phil Paul’s All-NBA Ugly Team?
  • Is this any way to end a book?
  • And, perhaps most importantly – Did Phil Paul Mr. Shirley ever get to snort cocaine off of a groupie’s ta-tas?

You will answer these questions and more by reading this book. As a fellow Kansan with a similarly dour outlook on life (and yet a sense of humor… how does that work?), I enjoyed it more than you will. But still, you should check it out.

Next week, I will write 100 times on the virtual blackboard “I will not pour tempra paint on Jimmy Denson’s head”, until I’ve learned my lesson.

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The A-plus #1 photo from last night’s NBA Draft


My gut reaction is to not like Joakim Noah very much. I think he pulled a few whiner maneuvers during his college career, and nobody likes a whiner. Especially a two-time national championship whiner.

But for this? For standing next to David Stern with the cheesy smile, ugly bowtie, poodle hair, and peace sign? I have to admire this for pure subversiveness. He may be a douchebag, but he made me smile with this one. I just wish he had switched teams with Julian Wright in the draft, is all.

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Check this out:


The man on the left is my favorite musician of all time, John Coltrane. The man on the right is Kevin Durant, who is about to find out which city in the Pacific Northwest he will set on fire for the next few years.

The thing that has always appealed to me about Coltrane is that his music hits all the important places: the head, the heart, and the soul. If we’re all lucky, we’ll be able to say the same thing about Kevin Durant’s game at the next level. The physical resemblance that strikes me between these two men is primarily in the eyes – a strong and direct gaze, and a confidence that says “I am about to righteously blow your mind”.

Coltrane had a vision for music that sounded like noise to those who were unprepared to hear what he was laying down, but he could play sweet enough to make a woman swoon when he wanted to. Perhaps one day Kevin Durant will have that same command of his instrument.

There is no doubt, however, that supporting cast is crucial. Trane had a rhythm section of McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison on many of his truly classic recordings, including his magnum opus A Love Supreme. Later he even brought in fellow saxophonist Archie Shepp when he was ready to get really radical. It wasn’t always the same guys, but it was always someone who knew how to play within Trane’s groove.

The most crucial aspect of the coming years for Kevin Durant will involve the selection of sidemen for his upcoming tour de force. Perhaps he can reach a place where that fiery ebb and flow will be his to command, just as it once was for John Coltrane. When he finds that ability to play something old in a new way, and something new in an earth-shattering way…. well, look out, NBA. That’s all I can say.

(Props to Free Darko, where Basketball is Jazz every day of the year)

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Kevin Pritchard’s Long and Winding Road

pritchard.jpgI’ve been hearing Portland GM Kevin Pritchard’s name bandied about for some time now, thanks to his immense good fortune in having to decide between Greg Oden and Kevin Durant come Thursday of this week. It feels very, very strange to me to hear his name so often, because for the last 15 years or so, if I had mentioned him to just about any sports fan I know, I would have received a blank stare in response. I felt like a fan club of one.

Why do I love Kevin Pritchard? Easy answer – I was a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1988, and he was a key player on that famous Danny and the Miracles team that won the championship and turned Lawrence, Kansas upside down for several days. Since that team changed my life, I remember all kinds of absurd things about it. For instance, backup guard Clint Normore, who played crucial minutes in that game, was a varsity linebacker defensive player for KU’s gridiron team. Compared to that bit of ephemera, remembering Kevin Pritchard is easy. He went 6 of 7 from the floor and scored 13 that night, one off his jersey number.

pritchardmaddox.jpgPritchard also made one of the finest hustle plays I’ve ever seen in person. Back in those days, I couldn’t afford to go to many live KU games, but I often picked off undesirable tickets from my friends who were going home for winter break. One such event was a dismal Arizona State at Kansas game that was relatively meaningless. It was Pritchard’s senior season, if I remember correctly, and the Jayhawks were not having a difficult time with the Sun Devils. Nonetheless, when a maroon-and-gold clad guard stole the ball from Kansas and streaked away for the easy layup, Pritchard chased him down and blocked the kid’s shot cleanly from behind. The moral of the story? Don’t sleep on Kevin Pritchard. In addition to being a damn fine player, he made the Big 8 all-academic team for three years running.

Pritchard’s post-Kansas career was nothing to write home about. He was the 34th pick in the 1990 NBA draft, going to Golden State, where he started once. It was the only start of his NBA career. He played a few games over the next handful of seasons before moving to the now-defunct CBA, and then went overseas. When playing opportunities dried up, Pritchard sold mutual funds for about a year, before landing a front-office gig with the ABA’s Kansas City Knights, where he wore many hats, including GM, Director of Player Personnel, and Head Coach. He won an ABA championship in those roles in 2000-2001.

pritchard_kevin.jpgThat was his entree back into the NBA ranks, as he joined the staff of the San Antonio Spurs. As a scout, he once again worked with Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford, who knew Kevin from their days as assistants on Larry Brown’s staff at KU. Two years with the Spurs led to the Director of Player Personnel job with Portland, which led to the Assistant GM spot, and then to the enviable position he is in today.

Oddly enough, he is not the only player from that 1988 Kansas team to find success in a suit. Milt “Alfreeka” Newton is VP of Player Personnel for the Wizards. The small matter of a long NBA career got Danny Manning a late start, but he currently serves as an assistant coach at his alma mater under Bill Self.

Can Pritchard bring that Miracle magic to the rainy Pacific coast? Who knows. Luck has already played its role for Pritchard, handing him the #1 pick and two franchise players to choose from. The rest will come down to the same thing it always has for the kid from Tulsa – hard work.


Crucial Source: Groomed for Success [Portland Tribune]

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As most of you probably already know, the Sacramento Kings will unveil William ‘Bill’ Fuller as their new head coach in a news conference this morning. Fuller is the former head coach of the Deering Tornadoes, a high school team in Indiana. He left that position after three seasons to become the head coach of the University of South Florida. Coach Fuller is a players coach to say the least. His in game strategies often times take a back seat to his players learning life lessons along the way. It should be interesting to see how Ron Artest responds to this type of mentor. While some pundits remarked that it seemed a huge jump for Fuller to make going from head coach of a high school team in Indiana to the head coach of a Big East team, others might feel that the jump is nothing compared to transitioning from a sub-par NBC saturday morning sitcom star to coach of the NBA Sacramento Kings.

I personally enjoy all of Coach Fuller’s work dating back to his playing days when he was still known as Reggie Theus. With the exception of Reggie Miller, Theus was probably the greatest Reggie in NBA history. Then again, I’ll have to check with ESPN’s ‘Win Probability’ CWS scale on that one…

Shorty is creator and lead writer of Milk Was a Bad Choice

(editor’s note: We love Coach Fuller around here, and we talked about him during college basketball season, too.)

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markcubanmfff.jpgInstead of looking at the sports implications of Mark Cuban’s proposal for a new professional football league to rival the NFL, I decided to look at the business implications of Cuban’s seemingly blind desire to meddle in sports ownership.

Now, I’m not worth billions of dollars, so who cares if I think Cuban is a good businessman? Nobody, that’s who. But Forbes magazine has written an article detailing Five Marks of a Great Leader, and it is through that prism that I will view the head of the UFL.

From the article:

1. Moral Courage

This matters most. It is the willingness to stick to one’s beliefs, to pursue a course of action in the face of overwhelming criticism, great adversity and, not least, the faintheartedness of friends and allies.

I can give this one to Mark without hesitation. He believed that he could take the Dallas Mavericks from doormat to contender, and he has done so. Along the way, he has made Dallas a destination for free agents by building locker rooms where you can drop the soap without having to check and see if Dirk is about to “post you up” – there are individual shower stalls instead of a group-prison scene.  (speaking of which, the blog Steroid Nation has turned up Mark’s blog about his colonoscopy)

President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair have demonstrated it in standing by their Iraq policy.

Urg. Well, there’s always a downside. This might explain investments like The Benefactor , the toilet seat with a built-in bidet, and the UFL.

2. Judgment

When I need advice, I rarely turn to someone with first-class honors from a top university. I turn to someone who has knocked about the world and cheerfully survived “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

I think Mark is golden here. His parents were working class, he worked as a bartender, a dance instructor, and a party promoter. Cuban is a hustler, plain and simple, and he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Being able to judge well is often linked to an ability to mix with and learn from other people–not so much from experts but from common people.

Yes, from what I hear, Mark Cuban has quite a touch with the common people.

3. A Sense of Priority

Sorting out the truly big from the small takes an innate horse sense that’s not given to most human beings.

Hmm… I’m struggling with this one. Mark seems to have trouble sticking to one thing. If you have a team that’s on the cusp of the NBA championship, do you really need to go tilting at windmills by trying to compete with Roger “The Punisher” Goodell? Just thinking about starting something this risky has to pull focus away from the things he’s already succeeding at – namely basketball ownership, and self-promotion.

Clever leaders often have a habit of pouncing on minor issues and pushing them at all costs, even to the detriment of their real interests.

Yep, this UFL thing has all the marks of arrogance and dilletante-ism. No soup for you, Cubes.

4. The disposal and concentration of effort

Leaders must allocate their time and energy.

This dude is definitely fidgety. He spends too much time trying to live up to the media-promoted image of Donald Trump, fighting with officials, and pulling publicity stunts. He doesn’t really have a core project that defines him – he’s always trying to find the next music-sharing service or toilet seat that shoots water up your bum. At least the Donald always has “Real Estate Mogul” to fall back on when his hairstyle implodes.

5. Humor

A subordinate always serves more zealously and obeys more faithfully a leader who can joke, and the public–painfully aware of the harshness of life–warms to a potentate who can make them laugh.

Here, at last, is the area in which Mark Cuban stands head and shoulders above all other NBA owners. He is quick with a one-liner and has a sense of humor about his own quirks. Some may deride him as an obnoxious nerd, but he brings life to the proceedings, and for that, we can thank him.


I can give Mark Cuban high marks for Moral Courage and Humor. But his Judgment, Sense of Priority, and Concentration of Effort are called severely into question. If the Dallas Mouth had chosen to compete with the NHL, I would have called him brilliant. But to take on the most powerful sports league in America at the peak of its popularity rates really poorly on the wisdom scale. Probably the best thing we can hope for is that Mark will let this one fizzle out and hope nobody remembers that he ever said anything.

But what the hell. If he goes ahead with it, at least we’ll have plenty to write about. Right?

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