Friday, July 20, 2007

Random NBA Summer Musings

Hello there. Feeling a little punchy here in midsummer, so let's run through some random thoughts for no particular reason.

PHOTO FAVES
Let's get it going with a rundown of recent images that we've liked:


I love press conferences held by Utah owner Larry Miller because there's an approximately 250% chance that he will cry at some point.



Wait a minute - did Karl Malone hunt down and kill Jazz mascot Bear?!?!?! Maybe that's why Larry's crying!



I'm not certain, but these photos of Dikembe in Kinshasa indicate that he may in fact now be the President of Congo.


Zo's Summer Groove was last weekend - I think the unis always look sharp there. He should sell those things - looks like merch is "coming soon" on ZSG.com


I love that Zaza was there, and I have no idea what Sam is doing.


Love this shot of the Sonics' past and future - assuming there is a Sonics future, of course.


"Best wishes, dishes, and swishes, Walt Frazier"

One last one: man oh man do I love these
rookie caricatures from The Blowtorch.


NBA <--> EURO WACKINESS
There's all sorts of weirdness in the comings and goings across the Atlantic Ocean this summer.

-First, you've got longtime Euroleague star Juan Carlos Navarro surprisingly getting out from under his huge buyout with FC Barcelona to get a shot at the NBA.

Yet, I'm still reeling at the sheer strangeness of the headline from this story from Sport.es, which reads:
"Navarro cenarĂ¡ con Woody Allen y Pat Riley"

Hoops Hype reported this from the body of the story via translation:
"Juan Carlos Navarro will have dinner with Pat Riley and Woody Allen in Barcelona."
Yes, of course he will.

-Then, on the flip side, we're increasingly seeing NBA-quality Europeans decide to go back to their native continent for a variety of reasons.

Some are lifestyle-related: Vassilis Spanoulis was so scarred by his year with Jeff Van Gundy that he's foregoing an opportunity to be the backup PG on the ideal team for international players, San Antonio.

Some are money-related, as Euroleague teams are increasingly able to offer contracts which are lucrative enough to compete with NBA offers (a ridiculously strong euro probably doesn't hurt, either).

For example, FC Barcelona drew Ersan Ilyasova back with a 2-year deal worth about $5 million (he made just $664K in Milwaukee last season). At just 19 years old in 2006-07 (though some question if that's his actual age), Ilyasova showed signs of being a pretty decent NBA prospect.

And my goodness, if Ersan isn't ever excited to be joining up with Barca:





-And then, of course, we've got Stephon Marbury claiming that he wants to play in Italy in two years at age 32 so he can "spread the Starbury Movement so people all around the world can benefit." God bless his crazy-ass heart. More Steph thoughts below.

SPORTS MEDIA WATCH
- One of my favorite blogs, Sports Media Watch, offers Eight simple rules for fixing the NBA (mainly from the perspective of improving the TV ratings). The sensible suggestions include getting rid of early start times on Sundays, avoiding March Madness as much as possible, and one that I esp. agree with: get more Conference Final games back on network TV:
    #5 - Pick your playoff spots.

    Unlike ESPN and TNT, ABC can essentially pick and choose what games it will air during the playoffs. With that being the case, why not air fewer first round games and more games during the Conference Finals? The Conference Finals draw decent numbers on cable, but can still draw big ratings on broadcast; if Game 6 of the most recent Eastern Conference Finals could draw a 4.5 national rating on TNT, imagine what number it could have pulled on ABC.

    ABC could air Games 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the Conference Finals without interrupting its primetime schedule. Games 3 and 4 could air in the afternoon on the Saturday and Monday of Memorial Day weekend. Games 6 and 7 would air on the Friday and Sunday of that week, in prime-time and the afternoon, respectively. While some might think that ABC would be hesitant to spare a night of prime-time for the Conference Finals, keep in mind that the network has been scheduled to air Game 7 of the Conference Finals in primetime on a Sunday night each of the last three years.
Remember that, back in the NBC era, all conference final games from Game 3 on were on NBC - I would argue that it doesn't even interrupt the primetime schedule b/c the TV season is over by the time the playoffs get to this point (usually around Labor Day).

EARLY SUMMER MEDIA MVP: STARBURY
Last summer, I thought that Gilbert Arenas was the NBA media MVP of the offseason. Gilbertology was everywhere, most notably in these Mike Wise features (Part I, Part II) in the Washington Post and on his NBA.com blog.

This summer, Stephon Marbury is the clear clubhouse leader so far. He kicked it off with his plum damn goofy interview on a NY-area TV show:


Now he's in the process of giving us his delightful blogs on the NY Post web site as he takes a bus across the country promoting his low-cost sneakers, highlighted of course by the entry where he claimed he wants to go to Italy when his contract is up in two years. I particularly enjoyed the passage where Steph talked about his trip to Italy in May:
    Some fans might be surprised I'd want to leave the NBA after 13 seasons when I'm a free agent. But I fell in love with Italy like I love New York. The people are so chill there and laid back. My wife loves it too. We recently went to Italy and it changed my life.

    We drove an hour and a half from Milan to Biella to see my cousin Jamel Thomas play. It's like playing at Duke's Cameron Indoor Arena. The fans go crazy. They have a lot of passion and energy like you've never seen.

    We went to Luca and got exclusive cheap watches. I played with a 6-year-old kid who loved basketball but said nobody would play with him. So I played with him two straight hours. We also went to Puzza, Montejachina and Tuscany. Tuscany was fly. The architecture and designs were incredible. I call Florence the shoe capital.
    Wifey and I did the 50-cent window shopper.

    After that we went to Venice. We strolled with the "Gondola man" singing and pushing the boat. They told me 400 people take classes to steer them and only 100 people pass. I fell in love with wifey all over again. We took the boat to the casino.

    Everything is on water. You have to take taxi boats. It was set-up like the movie Casino Royale, one of my favorite flicks. We ended our trip to Rome. We went to Pentium and the Coloseum. The high note was our visit to the Sistine Chapel. It is incredible. You walk in one door and out the other and you become free in mind, body and spirit. That's when I knew I was free. I flew home a free man and my life got turned around.

    That's why I want to go back to Italy after winning the championship with the Knicks.
(Uh, I'm thinking he meant to say "Pantheon" rather than "Pentium", but whatever.)

Steph's only in Cleveland, so hopefully we've got several more blogs coming before he hits Cali.

Also, I thought that this post was thought-provoking, as it wondered why Marbury's $4M worth of donations to NYC workers drew barely a peep of media attention compared to all of the coverage of darker deeds by athletes this summer.

THE LAST SEASON
I inexcusably and mistakenly forgot to include The Last Season by Phil Jackson (2004) on my list of 25 Intriguing Hoop Books published since 2004, so make it 26.

Sure, the quality of the writing was closer to Dennis Rodman than Ernest Hemingway, but the candor that Phil displayed was truly staggering. I'm still somewhat shocked that he is back coaching - and coaching Kobe no less - after The Last Season. I was certain he was retired for good after seemingly shattering the sanctity of player-coach confidentiality.

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