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Archive for October, 2009


Video: Manu Ginobili catches rogue bat during Halloween game

October 31st, 2009

Video: Manu Ginobili catches rogue bat during Halloween game: “

Tonight’s Halloween game between the Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs was delayed when a bat began flying around the court — that is, until Spurs guard Manu Ginobili(notes) whacked the bat out of midair with his hand like a freakin’ cat! (‘Manu who catch bat with hand accomplish anything.’Mr. Miyagi)

With the bat dazed and confused, Manu calmly picked up the flying mammal, walked it over to an usher and delivered his kill. After a quick squirt of hand sanitizer the game was back on. No bat, no problem.

The NBA: If it’s not one thing, it’s a flying hawk, you know?

And oh,’just in case PETA is reading, my sources tell me the bat was released outside the arena.

UPDATE: The bat is dead. Long live the bat!

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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Video: Hawks’ A-Town Dancers, mascot perform ‘Thriller’ tribute

October 31st, 2009

Video: Hawks’ A-Town Dancers, mascot perform ‘Thriller’ tribute: “

Step aside, bored Filipino prison inmates

Last night, the Atlanta HawksA-Town Dancers and Harry the Hawk mascot paid tribute to Michael Jackson’s popular Halloween staple during halftime of the Hawks-Wizards game.

The only thing missing: Zombie Zaza Pachulia(notes), of course.

Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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Mr Perfect – Felton Spencer WWF/Basketball vignette

October 31st, 2009

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Ron Artest’s “Afghan Women”: Lakers Star Releases New Song (VIDEO)

October 30th, 2009

Ron Artest’s “Afghan Women”: Lakers Star Releases New Song (VIDEO): ”

Ron Artest of the Los Angeles Lakers has released a new song and video. ‘Afghan Women’ is a four-minute ode that showcases the small forward’s international interests.

Artest is no stranger to the world of music. In 2006 he released his first album, My World, and his jersey now sports the number 37 in honor of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, which was No. 1 for 37 straight weeks.


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The Recruiting Game

October 30th, 2009

The Recruiting Game: “

by Steve Brodzinski

With the ‘09-10 college basketball season underway, we will once again be introduced to another star-studded freshman class, spread across some of the top programs in the country. For these All-American athletes, the path toward stepping on campus and actually playing for tJohn Henson, Dexter Strickland & Leslie McDonaldheir respective universities may seem long overdue.

In today’s recruiting landscape, top 100-level basketball players are hyped up from the time they are in 8th grade. The pressure mounts for these young superstars to step on campus and perform from day one. And every October, after years of recruiting battles, coaches will finally get to see their prized recruits in action. But after putting four to five years of recruiting in on these athletes, how many coaches will actually get to keep them in their program for all four years?

The 2009 freshman class is showered with big time names like Dexter Strickland, John Wall, Derrick Favors and Renardo Sidney. With their first games just around the corner, it leads us to wonder which path they will follow. Will they be freshman phenoms who take their teams to the promised land? Will they bail for the NBA after one year? Will they simply not fit into the program and be wearing a different school’s uniform in two years? Every college coach in America wants to keep his guys through graduation, but it definitely doesn’t always happen like that.

Names like Kevin Durant, OJ Mayo, Michael Beasley and Greg Oden ring synonymous with players who were able to make huge impacts as freshman, but left for the NBA. Yet, think about what they could have achieved as sophomores. This is the game within the game that high major Division 1 coaches play each year. They go after that top 20 player, knowing that he may be gone after a year. How do you convince a kid who averages 20 a game and has pro scouts drooling over him to stay?

Think about Blake Griffin for a second. As a sophomore he may have been one of the most dominating power forwards ever to play college basketball. Yet we may have never had the pleasure of experiencing this dominance had he made the quick jump after 14.7 ppg and 9.1 rpg as a freshman. He was first team All-Big 12 and was surely on many different NBA Draft boards. In his freshman season, Oklahoma goes 10-8 in conference play and makes it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Now compare that to his 22.7 ppg and 14.4 rpg as a sophomore, with a 13-3 record in the Big 12 and an Elite 8 appearance against UNC. Not to discount any of the other Sooner’s play, but let’s face it, Oklahoma was probably a .500 Big 12 team without Blake Griffin. The importance of keeping guys in the program for more than one year mMike Rosarioakes a huge difference.

There is a category of freshman who are surrounded by hype, have great freshmen seasons, but don’t have the overwhelming ability to turn a program around in one year. Take Mike Rosario of Rutgers for instance. Coming out of the famed St. Anthony’s program in Jersey City, NJ, Rosario was a McDonald’s All-American and the No. 16 player in that class. Rosario seemed like a godsend for a Rutgers program that had been floating on the bottom of the Big East for a number of years.

As well as Rosario played as a freshman (16.2 ppg), he was unable to help turn around a team that finished 8-10 in the Big East and 11-21 overall. Rosario falls into that category of freshman who are good, but not good enough to change an entire program in a year, or maybe for that matter, ever. Going into his sophomore season, Rosario’s Scarlet Knights are picked preseason 13th out of a possible 16 Big East opponents. It is a very young team with only one senior, but even if Rosario scores 30 a game, I don’t see him being the difference maker. This is a guy who will most likely be a four-year guy, and hopefully get them going by the time he gets that diploma.

Then there are the unhyped superstars who slowly make their presence felt among high major programs. Take Luke Harangody of Notre Dame. Coming out of high school he was just outside of the top 100 player recruiting circle (No. 103 He was not a McDonald’s All-American, but definitely a very good recruit forLuke Harangody Notre Dame. Probably not a guy they thought would carry their program for the next four years. But Luke cames in and averaged 11.3 as a freshman in the Big East. The big boost came as a sophomore where he jumped to 20.4 ppg and 10.6 rpg, only to increase both statistical areas as a junior.

Now, going into his senior year he is the preseason Player of the Year candidate, in what may be the toughest conference in all of college basketball. While Notre Dame is only picked 8th in the Big East, Harongody helped them remain a top 40 program with trips to the NCAA and NIT Tournaments in the last two years. Harongody is a kid who has NBA potential, but definitely needs all four years to get there. In his case, there were at least 80 or so guys who were recruited in front of him but can’t claim to have close to the success Harangody has had.

Last, there are those dreaded words, ‘transfers’ and ‘busts.’ Between guys who end up leaving one school for another, and those that just fade into obscurity, each top 100 recruiting class is good for about 10 of these freshman. I never want to use the word ‘bust,’ when talking about an 18- or 19-year-old kid, especially when they have four years to make their mark. Yet, there are always a certain number of kids who ‘don’t live up to their potential’ on a yearly basis.

Transfers can be even more disappointing than busts, because they can eventually go to another program and live up to their true potential. Look at Elliot Williams, former Duke Blue Devil. Coach K gets the No. 4 shooting guard in the country in Williams, who makes his mark in their starting lineup late in the season. Williams shows great potential for helping the 2009 Blue Devils get back to the Final Four. Yet, due to a family medical problem he transfers to Memphis, and, just like that, Duke is left scrambling.

Now, you can’t fault a kid for moving home due to a family medical problem, but it shows how the loss of just one recruit can lead your program back at the drawing board. This isn’t the first time Duke Eric Boatenghad to deal with transfers. In recent years Duke lost the No. 3 center prospect in Eric Boateng, No. 24 small forward in Jamal Boykin, and the No. 15 small forward in Taylor King. Arizona State, California and Villanova were the lucky recipients in each respective case. Out of the three, King may be the biggest loss, and is now playing for a preseason top 5-ranked program in Villanova. This is a kid who scored over 3,000 points in high school, but lacked the necessary freedom he needed at Duke. Boateng is about a season away from being labeled not just a ‘transfer’ but also a ‘bust.’ After leaving for Arizona State, he has averaged 3.9 and 1.8 ppg in his last two seasons. We are talking about a guy who was the No. 3 center prospect in the 2005 Class, with names like Andrew Bynum, Amir Johnson, Tyler Hansbrough and Jon Brockman. Needless to say, these were guys who Coach K put a lot of stock into, and it just did not work out.

Coach K has been criticized in the last couple of years for bringing in safe recruits, or guys who would need to stay for four years. During this time, Duke has fallen from prominence. Just last week, however, the No. 6 player in the country, Kyrie Irving, verbally committed to Duke. Maybe Coach K is willing to play the game within the game again — bringing in a stud who may only be at Duke for a couple of years. Maybe he is willing to go after the Will Avery, Elton Brand, and Corey Maggettes again, even if they can only give him one good year.

So it leads us back to the 2009 recruiting class, and the questions surrounding these top recruits. Will John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins lead Kentucky back to prominence? Will Renardo Sidney be good enough to turn the Mississippi State’s program around on his own? Will Dexter Strickland make an impact and be happy on a big man-dominated UNC team? Will any of these guys stay four years? Only time will tell which of these blue chippers live up to expectations, and which coaches spent four years playing the recruiting game, and lost.

Steve Brodzinski played basketball at New York University and served as a Division 1 and 2 assistant coach. He currently runs Maximum Hoops doing skill development work with high school and college athletes.

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Naismith Trophy 2009-10 Preseason Watch

October 30th, 2009

Naismith Trophy 2009-10 Preseason Watch: “

The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced yesterday it’s Naismith 2009-10 Men’s College Player of the Year preseason watch list. It consists of 19 seniors, 14 juniors, 12 sophomores, and 5 freshmen. The Big East and the ACC each have nine players on the list while the Big 12 and SEC each have eight. The Kansas Jayhawks had the most representatives with three. There were six schools with two candidates. The Big 12 conference has had two winners in the last three years in Kevin Durant (2007) and Blake Griffin (2009). Who do you think will be this year’s Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year?

The following is the complete list of candidates:

Last Name

First Name   School Posotion Class
Alabi Solomon Florida State Center Soph.
Aldrich Cole Kansas Cener Junior
Aminu                 Al-Farouq Wake Forest Forward Soph.
Anderson James Oklahoma State   Guard Junior
Babbitt Luke Nevada Forward Soph.
Battle Talor Penn State Guard Junior
Booker Trevor Clemson Forward Senior
Bouldin Matt Gonzaga Guard Senior
Brackins Craig Iowa State Forward Junior
Bradley Avery Texas Guard Freshman
Butler Da’Sean West Virginia Forward Senior
Christopher Patrick California Guard Senior
Collins Sherron Kansas Guard Senior
Davis Ed North Carolina Forward Soph.
Downey Devan South Carolina Guard Senior
Dyson Jerome Connecticut Guard Senior
Ebanks          Devin West Virginia Forward Soph.
Favors Derrick Georgia Tech Forward Freshman
Harangody Luke Notre Dame Forward Senior
Harris Manny Michigan Guard Junior
Hayward Gordon Butler Guard/Forward   Freshman
Hayward Lazar Marquette Forward Senior
Henry Xavier Kansas Guard Freshman
Hummel Robbie Purdue Forward Junior
James Damion Texas Guard/Forward Senior
Jordan Jerome Tulsa Center Senior
Landesberg Sylven Virginia Guard Soph.
Lawal Gani Georgia Tech Forward Junior
Lucas Kalin Michigan State Guard Junior
Mitchell Tasmin LSU Forward Senior
Monroe Greg Georgetown Center Soph.
Ogilvy A.J. Vanderbilt Center Junior
Patterson Patrick Kentucky Forward Junior
Randle Jerome California Guard Senior
Reynolds Scottie Villanova Guard Senior
Samuels Samardo Louisville Forward Soph.
Sanders Larry VCU Forward Junior
Singler Kyle Duke Forward Junior
Smith Tyler Tennessee Guard/Forward Senior
Thomas Isaiah Washington Guard Soph.
Turner Evan Ohio State Guard/Forward Junior
Ubiles Edwin Siena Guard/Forward Senior
Varnado Jarvis Mississippi State Forward Senior
Vasquez Greivis Maryland Guard Senior
Walker Kemba Connecticut Guard Soph.
Wall John Kentucky Guard Freshman
Warren Willie Oklahoma Guard Soph.
White Terrico Mississippi Guard Soph.
Wise Nic Arizona Guard Senior
Wright      Chris Dayton Forward Junior

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The Big Shaqckle

October 29th, 2009

The Big Shaqckle: “

I’m not saying the Cavs should hit the panic button, but after the 0-2 start, it might be time to give Shaq a new nickname.  What do you think of  ‘The Big Shaqckle’?


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Excerpts From The Book The NBA Doesn’t Want You To Read [Nba]

October 28th, 2009

Excerpts From The Book The NBA Doesn’t Want You To Read [Nba]: “

As promised earlier, here are a handful of excerpts from David Stern’s favorite book, Blowing the Whistle, by Tim Donaghy.

On gambling refs:

To have a little fun at the expense of the worst troublemakers, the referees working the game would sometimes make a modest friendly wager amongst themselves: first ref to give one of the bad boys a technical foul wouldn’t have to tip the ball boy that night. In the NBA, ball boys set up the referees’ locker room and keep it stocked with food and beer for the postgame meal. We usually ran the kid ragged with a variety of personal requests and then slipped him a $20 bill. Technically, the winner of the bet won twice-he didn’t have to pay the kid and he got to call a T on Mr. Foul-Mouthed Big-Shot Du Jour.

After the opening tip, it was hilarious as the three of us immediately focused our full attention on the intended victim, waiting for something, anything, to justify a technical foul. If the guy so much as looked at one of us and mumbled, we rang him up. Later in the referees’ locker room, we would down a couple of brews, eat some chicken wings, and laugh like hell.

We had another variation of this gag simply referred to as the ‘first foul of the game’ bet. While still in the locker room before tip-off, we would make a wager on which of us would call the game’s first foul. That referee would either have to pay the ball boy or pick up the dinner tab for the other two referees. Sometimes, the ante would be $50 a guy. Like the technical foul bet, it was hilarious-only this time we were testing each other’s nerves to see who had the guts to hold out the longest before calling a personal foul. There were occasions when we would hold back for two or three minutes-an eternity in an NBA game-before blowing the whistle. It didn’t matter if bodies were flying all over the place; no fouls were called because no one wanted to lose the bet.

We played this little game during the regular season and summer league. After a game, all three refs would gather around the VCR and watch a replay of the game. Early in the contest, the announcers would say, ‘Holy cow! They’re really letting them play tonight!’ If they only knew…

During one particular summer game, Duke Callahan, Mark Wunderlich, and I made it to the three-minute mark in the first quarter without calling a foul. We were running up and down the court, laughing our asses off as the players got hammered with no whistles. The players were exhausted from the nonstop running when Callahan finally called the first foul because Mikki Moore of the New Jersey Nets literally tackled an opposing player right in front of him. Too bad for Callahan-he lost the bet.

I became so good at this game that if an obvious foul was committed right in front of me, I would call a travel or a three-second violation instead. Those violations are not personal fouls, so I was still in the running to win the bet. The players would look at me with disbelief on their faces as if to say, ‘What the hell was that?’

On star treatment:

Relationships between NBA players and referees were generally all over the board-love, hate, and everything in-between. Some players, even very good ones, were targeted by referees and the league because they were too talented for their own good. Raja Bell, formerly of the Phoenix Suns and now a member of the Charlotte Bobcats, was one of those players. A defensive specialist throughout his career, Bell had a reputation for being a ‘star stopper.’ His defensive skills were so razor sharp that he could shut down a superstar, or at least make him work for his points. Kobe Bryant was often frustrated by Bell’s tenacity on defense. Let’s face it, no one completely shuts down a player of Kobe’s caliber, but Bell could frustrate Kobe, take him out of his game, and interrupt his rhythm.

You would think that the NBA would love a guy who plays such great defense. Think again! Star stoppers hurt the promotion of marquee players. Fans don’t pay high prices to see players like Raja Bell-they pay to see superstars like Kobe Bryant score 40 points. Basketball purists like to see good defense, but the NBA wants the big names to score big points.

If a player of Kobe’s stature collides with the likes of Raja Bell, the call will almost always go for Kobe and against Bell. As part of our ongoing training and game preparation, NBA referees regularly receive game-action video tape from the league office. Over the years, I have reviewed many recorded hours of video involving Raja Bell. The footage I analyzed usually illustrated fouls being called against Bell, rarely for him. The message was subtle but clear-call fouls against the star stopper because he’s hurting the game.

If Kobe Bryant had two fouls in the first or second quarter and went to the bench, one referee would tell the other two, ‘Kobe’s got two fouls. Let’s make sure that if we call a foul on him, it’s an obvious foul, because otherwise he’s gonna go back to the bench. If he is involved in a play where a foul is called, give the foul to another player.’

Similarly, when games got physically rough, we would huddle up and agree to tighten the game up. So we started calling fouls on guys who didn’t really matter-’ticky-tack’ or ‘touch’ fouls where one player just touched another but didn’t really impede his progress. Under regular circumstances these wouldn’t be fouls, but after a skirmish we wanted to regain control. We would never call these types of fouls on superstars, just on the average players who didn’t have star status. It was important to keep the stars on the floor.

Allen Iverson provides a good example of a player who generated strong reaction, both positive and negative, within the corps of NBA referees. For instance, veteran referee Steve Javie hated Allen Iverson and was loathe [sic] to give him a favorable call. If Javie was on the court when Iverson was playing, I would always bet on the other team to win or at least cover the spread. No matter how many times Iverson hit the floor, he rarely saw the foul line. By contrast, referee Joe Crawford had a grandson who idolized Iverson. I once saw Crawford bring the boy out of the stands and onto the floor during warm-ups to meet the superstar. Iverson and Crawford’s grandson were standing there, shaking hands, smiling, talking about all kinds of things. If Joe Crawford was on the court, I was pretty sure Iverson’s team would win or at least cover the spread.

Madison Square Garden was the place to be for a marquee matchup between the Miami Heat and New York Knicks. I worked the game with Derrick Stafford and Gary Zielinski, knowing that the Knicks were a sure bet to get favorable treatment that night. Derrick Stafford had a close relationship with Knicks coach Isiah Thomas, and he despised Heat coach Pat Riley. I picked the Knicks without batting an eye and settled in for a roller-coaster ride on the court.

During pregame warm-ups, Shaquille O’Neal approached Stafford and asked him to let some air out of the ball.

‘Is this the game ball?’ O’Neal asked. ‘It’s too hard. C’mon, D, let a little air out of it.’

Stafford then summoned one of the ball boys, asked for an air needle, and let some air out of the ball, getting a big wink and a smile from O’Neal.

On his fellow referees:

Dick Bavetta

Crawford wanted the game over quickly so he could kick back, relax, and have a beer; [Dick Bavetta] wanted it to keep going so he could hear his name on TV. He actually paid an American Airlines employee to watch all the games he worked and write down everything the TV commentators said about him. No matter how late the game was over, he’d wake her up for a full report. He loved the attention.

I remember one nightmarish game I worked with Joe Crawford and Phil Robinson. Minnesota and New Orleans were in a tight game going into the last minute, and Crawford told us to make sure that we were 100 percent sure of the call every time we blew the whistle. When play resumed, Minnesota coach Flip Saunders started yelling at us to make a call. Robinson got intimidated and blew the whistle on New Orleans. The only problem was it wasn’t the right call. Tim Floyd, the Hornets’ coach, went nuts. He stormed the court and kicked the ball into the top row of the stadium. Robinson had to throw him out, and Minnesota won the game.
Later that week, Ronnie Nunn told me that we could have made something up at the other end against Minnesota to even things out. He even got specific-maybe we should have considered calling a traveling violation on Kevin Garnett. Talk about the politics of the game! Of course the official statement from the league office will always read, ‘There is no such thing as a makeup call.’

That very first time Jack and I bet on an NBA game, Dick was on the court. The team we picked lost the game, but it covered the large point spread and that’s how we won the money. Because of the matchup that night, I had some notion of who might win the game, but that’s not why I was confident enough to pull the trigger and pick the other team. The real reason I picked the losing team was that I was just about certain they would cover the spread, no matter how badly they played. That is where Dick Bavetta comes into the picture.

From my earliest involvement with Bavetta, I learned that he likes to keep games close, and that when a team gets down by double-digit points, he helps the players save face. He accomplishes this act of mercy by quietly, and frequently, blowing the whistle on the team that’s having the better night. Team fouls suddenly become one-sided between the contestants, and the score begins to tighten up. That’s the way Dick Bavetta referees a game-and everyone in the league knew it.

Fellow referee Danny Crawford attended Michael Jordan‘s Flight School Camp years ago and later told me that he had long conversations with other referees and NBA players about how Bavetta propped up weak teams. Danny told me that Jordan himself said that everyone in the league knew that Bavetta cheated in games and that the players and coaches just hoped he would be cheating for them on game night. Cheating? That’s a very strong word to use in any sentence that includes the name Dick Bavetta. Is the conscious act of helping a team crawl back into a contest ‘cheating’? The credo of referees from high school to the NBA is ‘call them like you see them.’ Of course, that’s a lot different than purposely calling more fouls against one team as opposed to another. Did Bavetta have a hidden agenda? Or was he the ultimate company man, making sure the NBA and its fans got a competitive game most times he was on
the court?

Studying under Dick Bavetta for 13 years was like pursuing a graduate degree in advanced game manipulation. He knew how to marshal the tempo and tone of a game better than any referee in the league, by far. He also knew how to take subtle-and not so subtle-cues from the NBA front office and extend a playoff series or, worse yet, change the complexion of that series.

The 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings presents a stunning example of game and series manipulation at its ugliest. As the teams prepared for Game 6 at the Staples Center, Sacramento had a 3–2 lead in the series. The referees assigned to work Game 6 were Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney, and Ted Bernhardt. As soon as the referees for the game were chosen, the rest of us knew immediately that there would be a Game 7. A prolonged series was good for the league, good for the networks, and good for the game. Oh, and one more thing: it was great for the big-market, star-studded Los Angeles Lakers.

In the pregame meeting prior to Game 6, the league office sent down word that certain calls-calls that would have benefitted the Lakers — were being missed by the referees. This was the type of not-so-subtle information that I and other referees were left to interpret. After receiving the dispatch, Bavetta openly talked about the fact that the league wanted a Game 7.

‘If we give the benefit of the calls to the team that’s down in the series, nobody’s going to complain. The series will be even at three apiece, and then the better team can win Game 7,’ Bavetta stated.

As history shows, Sacramento lost Game 6 in a wild come-from-behind thriller that saw the Lakers repeatedly sent to the foul line by the referees. For other NBA referees watching the game on television, it was a shameful performance by Bavetta’s crew, one of the most poorly officiated games of all time.

The 2002 series certainly wasn’t the first or last time Bavetta weighed in on an important game. He also worked Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and the Trail Blazers. The Lakers were down by 13 at the start of the fourth quarter when Bavetta went to work. The Lakers outscored Portland 31–13 in the fourth quarter and went on to win the game and the series. It certainly didn’t hurt the Lakers that they got to shoot 37 free throws compared to a paltry 16 for the Trail Blazers.

Two weeks before the 2003–04 season ended, Bavetta and I were assigned to officiate a game in Oakland. That afternoon before the tip-off, we were discussing an upcoming game on our schedule. It was the last regular-season game we were scheduled to work, pitting Denver against San Antonio. Denver had lost a game a few weeks prior because of a mistake made by the referees, a loss that could be the difference between them making or missing the playoffs. Bavetta told me Denver needed the win and that it would look bad for the staff and the league if the Nuggets missed the playoffs by one game. There were still a few games left on the schedule before the end of the season, and the standings could potentially change. But on that day in Oakland, Bavetta looked at me and casually stated, ‘Denver will win if they need the game. That’s why I’m on it.’

I was thinking, How is Denver going to win on the road in San Antonio? At the time, the Spurs were arguably the best team in the league. Bavetta answered my question before it was asked.

‘Duncan will be on the bench with three fouls within the first five minutes of the game,’ he calmly stated.

Bavetta went on to inform me that it wasn’t the first time the NBA assigned him to a game for a specific purpose. He cited examples, including the 1993 playoff series when he put New Jersey guard Drazen Petrovic on the bench with quick fouls to help Cleveland beat the Nets. He also spoke openly about the 2002 Los Angeles–Sacramento series and called himself the NBA’s ‘go-to guy.’

As it turned out, Denver didn’t need the win after all; they locked up a spot in the playoffs before they got to San Antonio. In a twist of fate, it was the Spurs that ended up needing the win to have a shot at the division title, and Bavetta generously accommodated. In our pregame meeting, he talked about how important the game was to San Antonio and how meaningless it was to Denver, and that San Antonio was going to get the benefit of the calls that night. Armed with this inside information, I called Jack Concannon before the game and told him to bet the Spurs.

To no surprise, we won big. San Antonio blew Denver out of the building that evening, winning by 26 points. When Jack called me the following morning, he expressed amazement at the way an NBA game could be manipulated. Sobering, yes; amazing, no. That’s how the game is played in the National Basketball Association.

In a follow-up email to the referee staff and the league office, Crawford railed about the lack of respect players had for referees and the NBA’s failure to back him up. Then, in a direct shot at the league’s embracing of referees like Dick Bavetta, he fired a sharp rebuke:

‘I also told [Stu Jackson] that the staff is an officiating staff of Dick Bavetta’s-schmoozing and sucking people’s asses to get ahead. Awful, but it is reality.’

Crawford also touched on the fact that he was being excluded from working the playoffs that year:

‘Look on the bright side everybody, MORE playoff games for you guys and Dick, maybe you will get to be crew chief in the 7th game of the Finals, which is a travesty in itself you even being in the Finals.’

Tommy Nunez

My favorite Tommy Nunez story is from the 2007 playoffs when the San Antonio Spurs were able to get past the Phoenix Suns in the second round. Of course, what many fans didn’t know was that Phoenix had someone working against them behind the scenes. Nunez was the group supervisor for that playoff series, and he definitely had a rooting interest.

Nunez loved the Hispanic community in San Antonio and had a lot of friends there. He had been a referee for 30 years and loved being on the road; in fact, he said that the whole reason he had become a group supervisor was to keep getting out of the house. So Nunez wanted to come back to San Antonio for the conference finals. Plus, he, like many other referees, disliked Suns owner Robert Sarver for the way he treated officials. Both of these things came into play when he prepared the referees for the games in the staff meetings. I remember laughing with him and saying, ‘You would love to keep coming back here.’ He was pointing out everything that Phoenix was able to get away with and never once told us to look for anything in regard to San Antonio. Nunez should have a championship ring on his finger.

Derrick Stafford and Jess Kersey

Of course, Stafford had some friends in the league, too. I worked a Knicks game in Madison Square Garden with him on February 26, 2007. New York shot an astounding 39 free throws that night to Miami’s paltry eight. It seemed like Stafford was working for the Knicks, calling fouls on Miami like crazy. Isiah Thomas was coaching the Knicks, and after New York’s four-point victory, a guy from the Knicks came to our locker room looking for Stafford, who was in the shower. He told us that Thomas sent him to retrieve Stafford’s home address; apparently, Stafford had asked the coach before the game for some autographed sneakers and jerseys for his kids. Suddenly, it all made sense.

Referee Jess Kersey was another one of Isiah Thomas’ guys. They’d talk openly on the phone as if they had known each other since childhood. Thomas even told Kersey that he was pushing to get Ronnie Nunn removed from the supervisor’s job so that Kersey and Dick Bavetta could take over. This sort of thing happened all the time, and I kept waiting for a Knicks game when Stafford, Bavetta, and Kersey were working together. It was like knowing the winning lottery numbers before the drawing!

Steve Javie

And then there was the ongoing feud between Javie and 76ers superstar Allen Iverson. The rift was so bad that Philadelphia general manager Billy King often called the league office to complain about Javie’s treatment of Iverson during a game.

Iverson was eventually traded to Denver, and in his first game against his former team, he was tossed after two technicals. Afterward, Iverson implied Javie had a grudge against him, saying, ‘I thought I got fouled on that play, and I said I thought that he was calling the game personal, and he threw me out. His fuse is real short anyway, and I should have known that I couldn’t say anything anyway. It’s been something personal with me and him since I got in the league. This was just the perfect game for him to try and make me look bad.’ The league fined Iverson $25,000 for his comments, but most of the league referees thought the punishment was too lenient and were upset he wasn’t suspended. As a result, we collectively decided to dispense a little justice of our own, sticking it to Iverson whenever we could.

Shortly after the Javie-Iverson incident, I worked a Jazz-Nuggets contest in Denver on January 6, 2007. During the pregame meeting, my fellow referees Bernie Fryer and Gary Zielinski agreed that we were going to strictly enforce the palming rule against Iverson. Palming the ball was something Iverson loved to do, but if he so much as came close to a palm, we were going to blow the whistle. Obviously, our actions were in direct retaliation for Iverson’s rant against Javie. True to form, I immediately excused myself and made an important phone call.

Sticking to our pregame pledge, each of us whistled Iverson for palming in the first quarter-we all wanted in on the fun. The violations seemed to affect Iverson’s rhythm and he played terribly that night, shooting 5-for-19 with five turnovers. After getting repeatedly whistled all night long, Iverson approached me in an act of submission.

‘How long am I going to be punished for Javie?’ he quietly inquired.

‘Don’t know what you’re talking about, Allen,’ I responded.

EARLIER: The Book The NBA Doesn’t Want You To Read

(Via Deadspin.)

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Video: LeBron pins Rondo’s dunk attempt

October 28th, 2009

Video: LeBron pins Rondo’s dunk attempt: “

Memo to NBA players everywhere, courtesy of ‘LeBron James had 22 JP Morgan Chase down blocks last season. At this point, it’s child’s play.’ So if you see him coming in your rearview mirror, slow down, dribble out to a corner, and take a fadeaway three in front of the bench.

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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David Stern talks

October 27th, 2009

David Stern talks: “By J.A. Adande

A quick Q & A with NBA commissioner David Stern, who was in L.A. for the Lakers’ ring presentation ceremony at Staples Center.

Q: Everything we hear is about the economy. We’ve already seen teams trying to save money with smaller rosters. Will the economy affect the product on the floor?

Stern: No chance. We’ve got the same pool of players. Most of our teams, even though they want to have 30 players on their roster, some go with a 10-person rotations, some take it to nine. Of course by the playoffs some shrink it to four — that’s a joke. But, no, it will not affect the product on the floor.

Q: What about the competitive balance, with trades?

Stern: That happens every year. Certain teams make moves for salary cap reasons and the like, but the next year they swing back, they have room under the cap. I don’t see the economy impacting the product on the floor.

Q: With Delonte West going through what he has in the preseason, we had Michael Beasley go to rehab over the summer … Are these mental health issues something that the NBA can take responsibility for and have an impact?

Stern: Number 1, we’re looking for the union to play an active role in this. But No. 2, when it comes to issues that are like bi-polarity or what have you, these are serious medical issues that require medical expertise and understanding by the league and the teams. To me this is where you defer to the team and the doctors. But overall

I think this is a place where the players association, with us, have to step up and try to be as compassionate and helpful as can be.

Q: Does the recent collective bargaining agreement with the officials in time to get them on the court for the regular season portend anything for the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations with the players?

Stern: Nothing one way or the other. We had an expiring collective bargaining agreement. We were lucky to have a successor agreement to get our very good officials back on the floor.

Q: What are you looking forward to this season?

Stern: What I’m anticipating — I’ve always been wrong in every one of my 26 seasons — is despite the fact that everyone’s talking about these five teams [Lakers, Celtics, Cavaliers, Magic and Spurs], each of which has gone the extra step, I’m wondering if from the pack someone emerges and says, ‘Hey, what about us? Are we nothing?’ Denver or Chicago or Utah or Atlanta, go down the list. I’m looking forward to, really, a season for the ages. We’ve had so many teams make one more step, either by the growth of young players or the addition of a star, they really think they can compete. It’s going to be the most competitive season I can imagine.”

(Via – TrueHoop.)

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NBA Still Responding to Slow Economy

October 27th, 2009

NBA Still Responding to Slow Economy: “Matt Watsonby Matt Watson

Filed under: ,

If you make your living as a quick change artist or riding a unicycle while balancing bowls atop your head, you might want to consider a second job.

Due to the economy, one of the many cost-cutting tactics adopted by NBA is to reduce the number of prominent halftime acts, opting against booking high-priced traveling acts in favor of more affordable local options, Fred Whitfield, chief operating officer of the Charlotte Bobcats, told David Biderman of the Wall Street Journal.

NBA Still Responding to Slow Economy originally appeared on NBA FanHouse on Tue, 27 Oct 2009 15:50:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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The First Dime of ‘09

October 24th, 2009

The First Dime of ‘09: “

Even with DVRs, League Pass and (gasp!) torrents, it’s still possible to get overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of basketball being televised every week. And there’s still no way to watch it all. So, in order to maximize your viewing pleasure, we present Doobie’s Dime, your one-stop stop for hoops viewing prioritization. Trust this man’s judgment, and you won’t miss an important game all season! -Ed.

by Doobie Okon

Sports are not part of a math equation. Wins and losses are not something one can accurately calculate or predict based on the past. No matter how much time us sports aficionados spend analyzing statistics and draft picks, the beauty about the beginning of a new season is you just plain don’t know. Nobody really knows how anything will play out and that’s why we watch the games.

That’s why I bring you the inaugural Dime of the week—the ten best and most intriguing games of the NBA’s opening week. And in such a long season, all the first week can really do is test—how certain teams will gel, how some stars will play with new teammates, if rookies will actually have an impact on their clubs—and give the fans and media more of an idea about how the season will unfold. Plus, the first week plays host to a bunch of captivating revenge games, and revenge games always brew the best story-lines. Therefore, each team faces its first few tests starting Tuesday and hopefully we shall have much to talk about in a week’s time.

Celtics Versus Cavaliers

1 ) Celtics at Cavaliers: Tues. 10/27, 7:30 (ET), National TV: TNT

The Scene: First game of the season is a gem, folks. The Eastern conference’s two best teams from the past couple of a seasons go head-to-head in a clear must-see nationally televised game. Doesn’t get much better than that. All bets are off when both teams are healthy, and some new faces will take part in this great modern rivalry. Hell, they’re already fighting in a preseason game…

Celts’ Tests: Is Kevin Garnett healthy? KG’s not getting any younger and his knee injury was serious enough to keep him out of the playoffs and required complicated offseason surgery. That’s no joke and it’s never easy to predict how a player, much less a 34-year-old one, will return from that sort of injury. So a first game against the Cavs will surely test just how effective KG will be.

Meanwhile, as if the Celtics weren’t already archaic, they go out and sign Rasheed Wallace, another ager (35 years young to be exact). With Sheed’s age, mobility and mentality remaining questionable, this game will be a good test to see if Sheed will contribute mainly to the offense or defense, or if he’s still good enough to excel at both for a team already full of stars.

Cavs’ Tests: Ya had it on a silver platter, LeBron. Garnett was out. The stage was set for Cavs-Lakers and you still came up short. Listen, I admire Bron-Bron as much as anyone, but I hope he knows that before he is actually mentioned up there with Jordan, he’s gonna need to bring home a title. So, LeBron, your test is simple: dominate your nemesis in the opener and show the country that you’re ready and motivated to win it all this year.

As for Shaq, his mission is also quite simple: Be effective enough to win a championship with LeBron, and keep him in Cleveland. We get to see just how well this scary duo will coexist against one of the few teams that has the ability to stop them.

Prediction: LeBron and Shaq won’t let Cleveland down as the Cavs pull away in the end of a back-and-forth thriller. Cavs by 5.

2 ) Clippers at Lakers: Tues, 10/27, 10:30 (ET), National TV: TNT

The Scene: Let’s be honest, this game’s appearance on the Dime is strictly due to Blake Griffin. While it still might remain a laugher, it’ll be interesting to see how the Clippers’ front-court stacks up against the best team in the NBA.

Clippers’ Tests: Show me what ya got big boy. Griffin is a prototypical power forward and was an easy choice at number one overall for the Clips. No better way to introduce yourself to the world than on national TV against the Lakers. So, let’s see if the Griffin/Thornton front-court combined with Baron Davis can make a run at the defending champs at all in this one.

Lakers’ Test: The Lakers are a well-oiled machine, yet again. Though Trevor Ariza played a substantial role in their championship run, the addition of Ron Artest could pay huge dividends. Re-signing Lamar Odom was very important; Bynum should get even better; and Kobe and Gasol should dominate their positions once more. Their test is easy: they should beat the hell out of the inferior Clippers.

Prediction: While the Clippers are moving in the right direction with Griffin and Thornton manning the forward spots, the Lakers have too much fun in this one at the Clips’ expense. Lakers by 16.

3 ) Rockets at Blazers: Tues, 10/27, 10:00 (ET)

The Scene: A great first game for both clubs. In short, you have one team, Houston, who’s facing a fistful of questions against another team, Portland, whose plan has gone more accordingly than that of the Rockets and is only expected to get better this year with their multitude of young talent.

Rockets’ Tests: They’re endless. Houston’s potent formula of Yao/T-Mac/Artest hasn’t exactly panned out. McGrady is ready to return from injury, but at what percentage of his old self? Artest is gone and Yao’s tragic injury will keep him out indefinitely. Is David Andersen too European-soft to play in the trenches against more aggressive post players? Can Luis Scola’s play resemble his great showing in the postseason? Is Trevor Ariza a star, or was he just a product of an unstoppable Lakers’ team? It’s easy to say Houston will fall off this year, but a good showing against the Blazers in its opener could demonstrate that they are still playoff-worthy.

Blazers’ Test: Are they ready to take the next step? Simple as that. With an impressive roster of Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless, its hard to argue a better team exists in the league, talent-wise. However, they’re still a very young team which played a part in their first round loss to the Rockets last year. That’s where Andre Miller comes in, an effective veteran point guard who can be a leader for this youthful and exciting squad.

Prediction: While I don’t believe the Rockets will fall off as much as other people might, they will struggle early in the season to find their identity. Blazers should handle this one in front of their home crowd. Portland by 8. (Note: Blazers travel to Houston on the 31st in a quick rematch…Blazers should take that one also.)

76ers Versus Magic4 ) 76ers at Magic: Weds, 10/28, 7:00 (ET)

The Scene: The Eastern conference is made up of three elite teams, about three or four ‘middle’ teams that are sure to make the playoffs but aren’t close to elite, and then the bottom-dwellers who fight amongst themselves to maybe get the eighth seed. This game is simple: it’s an elite team hosting a ‘middle’ team in a first round rematch from last year.

76ers’ Tests: Two glaring questions: Can Elton Brand be a franchise player? You know what you’re getting from Iguodala and Thaddeus at this point, but Brand’s injury-riddled season made it impossible for anyone to get a good read on the impact he’ll have on this team. Secondly: Will the departure of Andre Miller leave too big of a hole at the point-guard position? Andre Miller was arguably the best player on the Sixers last season, and though Lou Williams has the tools, it is too early to still say what he’ll mean to the Sixers in the long run. Interesting offseason with the hiring of Eddie Jordan, the acquisition of Jason Kapono and the drafting of Jrue Holiday. Philly’s season is up in the air.

Magic’s Test: They proved last year that they should mentioned in the argument of the East’s best with the Cavs and Celts, but now are they ready to be the best? Despite a Finals run, the Magic stayed aggressive and traded for Vince Carter in the wake of trading Turkoglu and Courtney Lee. Brandon Bass was a great signing to sure up the frontcourt alongside Superman. The starting five of Jameer-Carter-Lewis-Bass-Howard is as good as any other quintet in the league.

Prediction: The 76ers stole two games last year in the playoffs without Elton Brand, but Andre Miller played a huge part in that. Sixers should play tough and fast, but the Magic have too much. Magic by 6.

5 ) Hornets at Spurs: Weds, 10/28, 8:00 (ET), National TV: ESPN

The Scene: Ooooooweeee…this matchup’s a doozy. Also, kind of an ironic one as well. You see, it was in the 2008 playoffs that the Hornets lost an incredible, yet heart-wrenching seven game series against the Spurs in the second round. Everyone applauded Chris Paul and his team for their heart and effort in the series, and predicted that they would be around the top in 08-09. Maybe New Orleans made the mistake of listening to the media too much, because they came back listless for most of the year. Their talent alone carried them to the playoffs, but New Orleans suffered a first round exit against the Nuggets in only 5 games, which included an EMBARRASSING 58 point loss at home. So if the Hornets hope to make an early statement, San Antonio is the perfect team to do it against.

Hornets’ Tests: Best trade of the offseason: Chandler for Okafor, in favor of New Orleans. What a steal…and that’s their test: Can Okafor hang with Duncan and the other dominant post men in the West? Okafor has been steadily improving but in the Eastern conference, so this first game should be a sign of how he’ll matchup against the West’s bigs. I’m not really worried about the play of CP3, Peja, and David West. Okafor’s the key this year.

Spurs’ Tests: Just as the 2009 Hornets were affected by the 2008 postseason, the 2009 Spurs also have regressed since those playoffs. The Spurs have won 4 championships in the last decade and reached the conference finals in ’08 but lost to a better Lakers team in five games. A respectable finish. However, last year, as a number three seed, the Spurs finally looked their age in the playoffs in an easy 4-1 victory for the Mavericks in the first round. The Spurs had a solid offseason though, acquiring the quick and versatile Richard Jefferson and a solid forward in Antonio McDyess. The Spurs are the Patriots of the NBA, essentially. They know they are still an elite team and perhaps the best organization in sports, but their test is: are they still savvy and healthy enough to make a deep run? Good first test against a very talented New Orleans squad.

Prediction: Fantastic game definitely worthy of a national televising. Spurs might hit a wall again, but that won’t be at the beginning of the season. Spurs stay proud at home in a down-to-the-wire thriller. Spurs at the buzzer.

6 ) Pistons at Grizzlies: Weds, 10/28, 8:00 (ET)

The Scene: Are you thinking I’ve lost it? I’ll explain: If it weren’t for the fact that AI’s first game with the Grizz is against the team, Detroit, that ‘mistreated’ him so much last year, then this wouldn’t be on the Dime.

Pistons’ Tests: Wha…Wha happened? The Pistons are no longer elite, they’re not even in the middle. They are now one of those teams fighting for 8th in the East. Not a good position to be in. Lost McDyess and Sheed and added Ben Gordon to play behind Rip and Rodney Stuckney. Interesting. Their test is depressing: It’s hard to imagine they’ll finish anywhere above 7th seed, so are they still good enough to handle a much inferior team in the Grizzlies, or are they reallllly in trouble?

Grizzlies’ Test: Can AI do it? He got his wish: he wanted to lead a bottomdwelling team whom he believes is on the rise: So is it all just going to lead to a quiet finish to Iverson’s career, or can he surprise us and make this Memphis team respectable? Memphis actually had one of the better drafts in my opinion with Thabeet, Carroll and Sam Young, and already are home to many talented but young players in O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay. Also dealt for Zach Randolph who will remain an enigma for the rest of his career. Many good pieces, but nothing’s quite gelled yet. Can AI and Randolph lead this team of youngins? A good start would be a victory at home against Detroit.

Prediction: I think Memphis has it in them. Detroit is still much better, but I think the Grizzlies pull this one out. AI will put up around 26-28, and the Grizz take this one by 4.

7 ) Jazz at Nuggets: Weds, 10/28, 10:30 (ET), National TV: ESPN

The Scene: Could be argued as the best game of the first week. An important season for the Jazz kicks off against an improving team in Denver hoping to take the next step towards becoming a truly elite West team.

Jazz’ Tests: For all of Utah’s talent, last year went into the crapper for Jerry Sloan’s boys. Boozer got injured, Deron Williams played hurt all year and they looked quite mediocre in a quick first round exit to the Lakers. I love that they held on to Millsap and the prospect of a Okur-Boozer-Millsap-Koufos frontcourt is dominant and deep. If Boozer is kept happy and the Jazz can stay off the injured list, they should stay competitive in the West all season long. Also, they’ve been downright awful on the road the last few years, so this road test against a strong Nuggets team could demonstrate what we should expect from this year’s Music Men.

Nuggets’ Test: One of my favorite teams in the NBA. To be honest, I watched the entire Nuggets-Lakers series and was thinking, ‘man they should be winning this series.’ The Lakers are just too stacked, but the Nuggets are almost there. They might be one impact bench player away….but the addition of Chauncey Billups to an already staggering roster was the move of the year. Melo will continue to get better, and J.R. Smith should become a household name this year. Nuggs’ Test? They’re 3-5 the last 2 years against the Jazz, one of the most consistent and well-coached teams for the last two decades. So start your season off the way I think you should…by killing a less-talented division opponent at home.

Prediction: Nuggs by 10. Yup.

8 ) Nuggets at Blazers: Thurs, 10/29, 10:30 (ET), National TV: TNT

Nuggets Versus BlazersThe Scene: If all goes to plan and the Blazers handle the Rockets while the Nuggets beat up the Jazz, then this game sets up as a great early battle between two semi-elite West teams.

Nuggets’ Test: If you want to reach your potential and have a chance against the Lakers in the end, you should be able to beat the Blazers.

Blazers’ Test: If you want to reach your potential and have a chance against the Lakers in the end, you should be able to beat the Nuggets.

Prediction: Probably the two teams I will keep my eye on the most this season…very happy this one’s on TNT. Billups and ‘Melo outplay Miller and Roy, and Denver wins by 4 to go to 2-0 on the season. By the way, talk about home cooking: that’s the first road team predicted to win so far.

9 ) Wizards at Hawks: Fri, 10/30, 7:30 (ET)

The Scene: When both Washington and Atlanta are healthy, they still are light years below the Celtics, Cavs and Magic. However, they are two teams that should be fighting in the ‘middle’ all season, and both are mighty fun to watch.

Wizards’ Test: If Jamison only misses a couple weeks with his shoulder injury, the Wizards should be fine. Arenas should go nuts this season, and I like the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye. They have some talent, and took the first step towards becoming a better team by hiring a solid coach in Flip Saunders. He’s no Jerry Sloan or Larry Brown, but he’s better than most of the league’s coaches. A good first test against an equally-matched Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards’ defense has been awful the last couple of years, so hopefully Saunders can instill a defensive presence in them. Atlanta has a high octane offense so watch out for that matchup.

Hawks’ Test: Atlanta has steadily improved the last couple of years to the point where they are the best Eastern team besides the top 3. Not as good as that might sound, but they kept their core, added Jamal Crawford and drafted Jeff Teague. No surprise here: the Hawks should finish fourth in the conference, and probably should win this first game against a rejuvenated Washington Wizards.

Prediction: I think we see the Hawks offense be all it can be in this game. They wreck the porous Wiz defense and score over a 100. Hawks by 12.

10 ) Mavericks at Lakers: Fri, 10/30, 10:30 (ET), National TV: ESPN

The Scene: The Mavs and Lakers both have cookie opening games in the Wizards and Clippers, respectively. So this will be the first test of the season for both teams.

Mavericks’ Tests: Funny thing about this team is they could finish anywhere from second to eighth. On paper…everything looks great. Dirk, Terry, Marion, Kidd, Gooden is a great core to build off of, but it’s no secret that age and depth are a problem with Dallas. I have a feeling they are going to be major players at the deadline as they will probably be hovering around the seventh or eighth position and might need to make some moves to be in contention. They should lose this game, but it’ll be interesting to see where they are at in their progression early in the season.

Lakers’ Test: I can now say this as a Phillies fan: No matter what team you are, if you are the defending champions, it’s just not as easy to get equally motivated the next year. The Lakers are still the best team in the NBA, but are they as hungry for the title? Is Kobe?

Prediction: If the answer to those questions are yes, then the Lakers should put the Mavericks away in the 4th quarter rather handily. Lakers by 8.

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LeBron: I’d Dunk on George Bush

October 24th, 2009

LeBron: I’d Dunk on George Bush: “

by Dave Zirin

It’s rare when athletes respond to a dreary, clichéd question with a stimulating answer. Thank you LeBron James. Maxim magazine wanted to know who basketball’s King would most like to dunk on. The reigning NBA MVP didn’t name the towering Yao Ming or the ‘Bird Man’ Chris Andersen. Instead heLeBron James said, ‘If it doesn’t have to be a basketball player, George W. Bush. I would dunk on his ass, break the rim, and shatter the glass.’ Damn.

LeBron, the most dynamically violent dunker since Dominique Wilkins, is going out of his way to show that he has a political ax to grind with the man who spearheaded both a war based on lies and the near collapse of our economy. James is clearly choosing to not go the way of his hero Michael Jordan who famously wouldn’t stand up to Sen. Jesse Helms in 1990 because ‘Republicans buy sneakers too.’

My one issue is his choice. Today George W. Bush is a remarkably feeble figure on the American scene. He is even speaking at dreadful, cringe-worthy October 26th ‘business seminar’ in Ft. Worth, Texas called ‘Get Motivated!’ Other speakers include former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw, and ‘America’s #1 Motivator Zig Ziglar!’ But the headliner at this craptastic event will be the 43rd President. Going to George W. Bush for business motivation is like asking Jon and Kate how to raise your kids.

Clearly, LeBron needs to seek a better class of villain for his dunking displays. Unfortunately, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, and the usual braying barnyard of bigots are just too obvious, and frankly their act is getting stale.

Maybe King James should instead start with some of the worst people in the world of sports. After all, there is a reason that Rush Limbaugh felt like he would blend right in to the ownership fraternity. How sweet it would be to see LeBron bring down the hammer on the heads of the following folk:

1-Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. His new 1.15 billion dollar stadium in Arlington comes complete with cage-dancing cheerleaders, the widest flat screen television in the world, and special ‘party pass’ tickets so people can stand outside the stadium and watch the game through osmosis. Jones took $350 million of public money to build Cowboy stadium in a state where almost 1 in 4 children live in poverty. Even worse, Jones believes that just because he knows how fleece the locals, he also possesses the know-how to draft players, hire coaches, and play General Manager. Keep in mind that the last quarterback to win a playoff game for Jerry Jones was Troy Aikman in 1996. Jones needs to get dunked on now.

2-Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder: In the name of all that’s good and holy, we need to petition the federal government to declare eminent domain and take this team out of Daniel Snyder’s hands. We would have one helluva case. There are the off-field reasons a-plenty. This off-season, came the news that Snyder is suing season ticket holders who couldn’t make payments on their season tickets. There is no other franchise that takes this extraordinary step. They are suing people like 73 year old grandmother Pat Hill, a life long Redskins fans, who because of the recession couldn’t keep up with her payments. Hill had been a season ticket holder since 1962 when her daughter danced during the halftime shows. She couldn’t afford attorneys to ward off the team and had to declare bankruptcy. ‘It really breaks my heart,’ Hill said to the Washington Post, through a mess of tears. ‘I don’t even believe in  bankruptcy. We are supposed to pay our bills. I ain’t trying to get out of anything.’ Dan Snyder: the scourge of grandmothers everywhere. Then there is the team he has assembled on the field which is 2-4 despite playing winless teams every single week of the season. The only offense they’ve displayed is their team name.

3-Judge Keith Bardwell: This isn’t someone from the world of sports, but the justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana needs to be served some King James medicine. Bardwell is the Jim Crow Judge who made national headlines by refusing to marry an interracial couple ‘I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,’ Bardwell told the Associated Press on Thursday. ‘I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.’ LeBron: please dunk on this guy’s head and send him back to the confederacy.

4-But maybe the most obvious choice of all is the guy overseeing two wars in 2009; the guy who won’t fight for a health care public option or broader union protections; the guy dragging his feet on LGBT rights; the guy who also happens to play hoops. Watch out Mr. President: here comes the King.

These are my four. If you have your own choices, please let me know. After all, George W. Bush is simply yesterday’s news.

Dave Zirin writes a column in every issue of SLAM and is the author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). Receive his sports column every week by emailing

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Video: Lakers’ bench is a creative bunch

October 23rd, 2009

Video: Lakers’ bench is a creative bunch: “

As you might recall, a new NBA rule this season says that players on the bench must be sitting during the game as to not obstruct the views of rich, short people behind them. This, of course, killed the common team ritual of reserves standing before their respective team’s first basket is made — always a big fan favorite. Or at least it was. Thursday night, during the Lakers-Nuggets preseason game, LA’s bench introduced a new Stern-friendly ‘first basket’ ritual straight from the movie ‘Major League’. Check it:

Yes, Josh Powell(notes) needs more practice. Give him time.

Cheers, Hoopsnotes / Oh Me Oh My, The Jello’s Jigglin’

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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NBA odds and ends

October 23rd, 2009

NBA odds and ends: “

There’s no real reason for this, other than the fact that it’s Friday and numbers are fun to look at, but here, courtesy of Bodog, are some updated 2009-10 NBA odds to chew on, digest AND THEN IMMEDIATELY FLUSH FROM YOUR SYSTEM BECAUSE GAMBLING IS ADDICTIVE AND DANGEROUS!

Yeah, you heard me. If you’re not careful, gambling will kill your dog and embarrass your good name. I mean, why do you think I changed mine to Skeets? Because I wanted to? Please. I used to be a Kennedy, dammit! A Kennedy! With a dog! A nice, happy, golden retriev— I’ve said too much.

After the jump, odds to win the NBA championship, odds to win the conferences, award odds, which coach will get fired first odds, where LeBron will end up next summer odds and a few more.

Odds to win the 2010 NBA Championship
Lakers — 2/1
Cavaliers — 10/3
Celtics — 4/1
Spurs — 15/2
Magic — 8/1
Nuggets — 15/1
Trail Blazers — 20/1
Jazz — 25/1
Mavericks — 30/1
Hornets — 35/1

Odds to win the 2010 Western Conference
Lakers — 2/3
Spurs — 3/1
Nuggets — 7/1
Trail Blazers — 8/1
Jazz — 12/1

Odds to win the 2010 Eastern Conference
Cavaliers — 5/4
Celtics — 2/1
Magic — 3/1
Pistons — 20/1
Hawks — 20/1
Bulls — 20/1
Heat — 20/1

What team will improve the most in number of regular season wins from 08/09?
Wizards — 3/2
Clippers — 2/1
Thunder — 5/2
Field (Any Other Team) — 9/5

What team will have the biggest drop off in regular season wins from 08/09 total?
Rockets — -130
Field — Even

Odds to win the 2009-2010 NBA Regular Season MVP
LeBron James(notes) — 11/4
Kobe Bryant(notes) — 3/1
Dwyane Wade(notes) — 5/1
Dwight Howard(notes) — 9/1
Chris Paul(notes) — 10/1
Carmelo Anthony(notes) — 15/1
Dirk Nowitzki(notes) — 16/1
Brandon Roy(notes) — 18/1
Tim Duncan(notes) — 20/1
Tony Parker(notes) — 20/1
Deron Williams(notes) — 20/1

Odds to win the 2009-2010 NBA Rookie of the Year award
Blake Griffin(notes) — 5/6
Stephen Curry(notes) — 5/1
Jonny Flynn(notes) — 6/1
Tyreke Evans(notes) — 6/1
James Harden(notes) — 7/1

Who will be the first coach fired?
Mike Woodson — 3/1
Vinny Del Negro — 3/1
Don Nelson — 4/1
Mike Dunleavy — 5/1
Lawrence Frank — 9/5

What team will LeBron James be on at the start of the 2010-2011 NBA season?
Cavaliers — 2/5
Knicks —’ 9/4
Field (Any Other Team) —’ 3/1

Shaquille O’Neal(notes)
Over/Under — 14.4 PPG
Over/Under — 8.5 RPG
Total Games Played Over/Under — 60

Greg Oden(notes)
Over/Under — 10.3 PPG
Over/Under — 8.4 RPG

Allen Iverson(notes)
Over/Under — 17.0 PPG
Over/Under — 4.6 APG

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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Another season, another Cavaliers rap song

October 23rd, 2009

Another season, another Cavaliers rap song: “

From the same group that brought you the hit ‘Notorious Cavs’ comes this new club banger set to the tune of Cleveland’s own Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s ‘Ghetto Cowboy’ — ‘A Ring For The King.’ Enjoy.’

As Waiting For Next Year said last season, fan videos are a dangerous thing. ‘Sometimes, they’re very creative and humorous. Other times, they can be downright awful and then stuck on the Internet forever for all to dig up when needed.’ We’ll let you decide where this one falls on the ol’ fan rap scale.

Cheers, Stepien Rules.

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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Video: Anticipation

October 22nd, 2009

Video: Anticipation: “

In anticipation of the start of the 2009-10 regular season, the NBA has awakened the orchestra, handed Kobe Bryant(notes) a dramatic script to read and edited together some nice clips to help fire up you and your loved ones. See if you can find ‘Anticipation’ in each shot. First one to do so wins, um, a gold watch.

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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Video: Anticipation, Part 2: LeBron’s block

October 22nd, 2009

Video: Anticipation, Part 2: LeBron’s block: “

That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! Just wake me when it’s Tuesday.

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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Video: Anticipation, Part 3: Tyreke Evans’ Manu-like slither

October 22nd, 2009

Video: Anticipation, Part 3: Tyreke Evans’ Manu-like slither: “

If I’m ever allowed back into the Kings’ locker room (long story short: Funderburke once busted me for ‘borrowing’ one of Vlade Divac’s cigarettes), you can be damn sure I’m going to give rookie Tyreke Evans(notes) a box of Ladurée macaroons. Is he French, you ask? No. But does his sick step through in transition remind me of a certain international star? You bet. Thus, free sweets for everyone! Do the math.

And yes, I’m still awake.

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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Report: Lamar and Khloe’s pre-nup includes Lakers tickets

October 21st, 2009

Report: Lamar and Khloe’s pre-nup includes Lakers tickets: “

Before we get into the juicy pre-nup details, a quick question: How many Lamar Odom(notes)-Khloe Kardashian posts do you honestly think we’ll run on Ball Don’t Lie this season? Three? Ten? Fifty, including a bonus ‘Kardashians Sit Courtside’ photo gallery?

I’m just curious. You tell me.

Anyway, it’s been about three weeks since Odom and Khloe ‘tied the knot,’ and according to trusty, a pre-nuptial agreement has finally been reached.

The details are hilarious:

In the case of an unfortunate divorce, Khloe wanted: a flat sum of about $500,000 for every year they were married, $25,000 a month in general support, their new house, a new luxury vehicle at the end of every lease cycle, $5,000 a month for shopping, $1,000 for beauty care AND courtside Lakers tickets for everyone in her family.

A ‘insider’ continues: ‘There is a tremendous amount of love between the two, and that will prevail in the end. It might get rocky at times, but Lamar and Khloe are very much in love.’

You hear that, Stephon Marbury(notes)? Love is love … and money.

Look, I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Stacked team or not, there’s no way the Lakers repeat as champions next year with a Kardashian involved. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Phil Jackson demands his power forward to divorce Khloe after, say, a three-game losing streak in mid-March.

That, or she’ll be made the Lakers’ new starting point guard. The Zen Master works in mysterious ways.

(Via Ball Don’t Lie – NBA – Yahoo! Sports.)

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