Monday, July 23, 2007

Eastern Conf. Summer Transactions

Below is a rundown of significant transactions made since July 1 by East Conference squads. At this point, most all of the major free agents are locked up, and really only back-up caliber players are left on the market. Varejao is the only remaining free agent left who could command more than the MLE, but only the Bobcats have more than the MLE, & I imagine their summer spending spree is over. Chris Webber is still out there, but he is only interested in a few title-contending teams (Dallas & Detroit have been mentioned), or he might retire. After that a few solid wingman remain on the market like M. Pietrus, M. Barnes, J. Posey, C. Bell, R. Patterson, Pavlovic, Ed Jones & J. Hayes. Very little to choose from if you are still searching for PG or bigs.

After having a successful draft for once, Atlanta has been quiet on the free agent front. They could still look to deepen their center spot, though very little remains on the market.

Still have all of their MLE, and could definitely use some frontcourt help. The problem, as mentioned above, is there ain't much of anything out there on the market that will make much of an impact. Maybe a guy like Melvin Ely or Rafael Araujo could provide some depth. Yeah I know, nothing to get excited about. Will probably have to trade to get viable frontcourt help--Ainge should look to use Ratliff's expiring deal as bait.

BOBCATS: Re-signed Gerald Wallace & Matt Carroll
Have one of the deeper wing rotations in the league. Really kept Wallace at a bargain rate--half the price of Lewis. Yes. Lewis is a better shooter & offensive player, but Wallace might be the better all-around player, and by no means is Rashard worth twice as much as Gerald. Why they thought they needed to give Carroll a 6-year deal, I'm not sure. Carroll has had only one good season, and should have been given 3 years at the most. Plus, the Bobcats just brought in JRich & had solid back-ups to fall back on with Morrison & Herrmann if they lost Carroll in free agency. Why they felt the urgency that Carroll had to be locked up so early in the summer is beyond me. The good thing for Charlotte is they still have roughly $8-10 mil left under the cap, which can come in handy either to facilitate trades or later in the season if certain players are waived.

BULLS: Signed Joe Smith; Re-signed Andres Nocioni
Some people think that Paxson shelled out too much green for Noce, but I think $6-7 mil per is about right for his skill level. Now it might be slightly too much for the Bulls since Noce is a back-up in Chicago, but this guy could start on a lot of teams & is now a valuable trade option for Paxson. Don't forget Andres was huge in the playoffs in '06 & was playing pretty solid ball before the fascitis set in--he was pitching around 15ppg & 6 rpg. Noce rebounds well for a natural SF, has improved his shooting, and is one of the few Bulls who will drive deep into the lane to draw fouls. Joe Smith might not really answer their low-post scoring needs, but he still is a solid vet who should be a steady contributor. The Bulls might be the deepest team in the league right now having 2 quality players at each position, and I'm leaning toward Chicago as my Eastern Conf. favorite right now.

CAVS: None
Sort of disappointing that a team that made a Finals run this year really can't make significant changes because they are held hostage by the lux tax. Will see if Dan Gilbert really does loosen the purse strings. The one good thing for them is no teams will offer more than the MLE to Varejao, so the Cavs have the ability to control the negotiations easier. And same goes for Pavlovic, so you can keep his pricetag down as well.

PISTONS: Re-signed Chauncey Billups; Re-signed Amir Johnson
Pistons retained Billups at a pretty reasonable yearly rate--about $11.5 mil & are only obligated to 4 years. Not too shabby. Dumars lucked out because there was very little competition for Chauncey's services, besides Milwaukee, so they could keep Billups' price down. Amir Johnson was also retained, which seems to be a nice move since he tore up the NBDL, and he can provide a jolt of youth to the Pistons frontline. Pistons were able to keep their core intact (Webber's status is still uncertain), and they added some much needed youth on the bench, so they still should be considered a strong contender for the East title.

PACERS: Signed Travis Diener; Signed Kareem Rush
Pacers had a big need for a back-up PG, so Diener was a decent grab. The Pacers also have a crushing need for a 2-guard, so going after Rush might be a good gamble. Rush is probably not starting-caliber, but he does have a picture-perfect jumper that Coach O'Brien should love in his 3pt-happy offense.

HEAT: None
Have to strengthen their PG spot, so guys like Boykins, Smush, & Brevin Knight are really the only options out there. Heavily rumored to be after Navarro, which is a savvy move since Juan can play a little PG in a pinch & could play alongside Wade well for extended minutes; just not certain Miami has much Grunfeld will want in return for Juan's rights. Also looking for a SF, but not really sure why they just don't re-sign Posey. It would allow them to hold onto their MLE, and there really not many better options than Posey on the free market.

BUCKS: Re-signed Mo Williams; Signed D. Mason; Signed J. Voskuhl
Bucks had to keep Mo since there was very slim pickings for PGs in the free agent market & Mo was clearly the best option out there. The Bucks also needed to address their SF position since they passed on Corey Brewer to immerse themselves in the Yi debacle. So Mason should be a value pick-up at $5mil per for only 2 years. He can't shoot & he turns the ball over at an alarming rate for a non-primary ball-handler, but can provide a much needed defensive presence for the Bucks. Voskuhl gives the Bucks a servicable big body, and a little insurance if Harris can't bring Yi over.

NETS: Re-signed Vince Carter; Signed Jamaal Magloire
Re-upping Vince was a must since the Nets have to look to win now. And to be only responsible for 4 years of contract... have to think the Nets made out pretty well. I like the pick-up of Magloire; basically no risk involved by signing him to just one year. The guy has shown he can be a pretty valuable post presence in the recent past (All-Star in '04). Still shows the ability to pound the boards (especially the offensive), and has the physical tools to be a solid defensive presence in the painted area. Some might be not as high on Jamaal because of his lackluster play the last few years, but you have to give him some leeway since for the last 2 years in a row he knew he was not long for his team & would be traded in the near future. That can't be good for anyone's psyche, especially for someone as surly as Magloire.

Also have their full MLE, but they might sit tight since they have so many guys under contract (15 at last check). Still have not addressed their need for a defensive-minded big, an issue that is now exacerbated by teaming Randolph & Curry together to form the worst defensive backline in the NBA.

ORLANDO: Sign/Trade for Rashard Lewis
Chad Ford's piece on this deal pretty much covered all the bases. Orlando still has a few more holes to fill on their roster but with all the money they've thrown at Rashard & the recent extension for Dwight, they really boxed themselves in in O-Town. They still need to add some depth to their frontline & they still might need to find a viable starting option at the 2-guard--sorry but I'm not sold on Redick as a NBA starter.

Not really sure if it even matters if the Sixers use their MLE at this point, because it really should not make much of a dent in their woeful prospects for next season anyway. Plus, Philly is right at the lux tax threshold thanks to still paying Webber's & Aaron McKie's deals. Not really sure how this team is gonna score points outside of Iggy next year, especially on their frontline. Not to mention, I don't expect their putrid defense to improve much either. Should be bad times all around next year. They only have the MLE to use, and still need a quality back-up PG & veteran help at PF. And as mentioned above, the remaining free agents at both positions will not have much of an impact anyways, so may be better that King sits on the MLE, and just concede the fact that the Sixers will mostly likely be the worst team in the East.

RAPTORS: Signed Jason Kapono; Signed Maceo Baston
Not really liking the Kapono deal. Is he really worth the full MLE? There's no doubt he is a dead-eye shooter, but he has only one good year under his belt after bouncing around the fringes of the league for a few years. He really might be better suited as a back-up, and think Delfino has more all-around talent & Carlos is the one who should be projected as the starting SF instead. Even though they lost Mo Pete, they still have Parker & Bargnani (who at this point is really just SF on offense anyways), so another shooter was not a crushing need--getting some rebounding help with the MLE was much more important. Maybe they answered those rebounding issues somewhat with the solid addition of another battle-tested Euroleague vet, Maceo Baston.

WIZARDS: Re-signed DeShawn Stevenson
Good move holding on to DeShawn. Even though they just drafted a promising 2-guard in Nick Young, think the Wizards had to keep someone around who actually plays a modicum of defense. And by re-upping DeShawn, the Wiz still have some of the MLE to go after some defensive help on the frontline--though the free agent big guy pool in rather shallow--or just throwing the money at Andray Blatche.

USA Basketball Scrimmage Analysis: Kidd Runs The Show; Kobe v LeBron; Can Durant Make It?

After the absolute bodyblow to NBA fans that was the Donaghy bombshell on Friday, it sure was a welcome treat to get back to the game itself on Sunday with essentially a midsummer mini-All-Star Game (played with greater defensive intensity than the midseason game) in the USA Basketball intrasquad scrimmage.

As an overview, there were 17 players who participated in the team's minicamp over the past few days, competing for 12 roster spots on the Team USA squad which will compete in the Olympic qualifying tournament for the Americas from Aug. 22-Sept. 2.

These 17 players were split into two teams -- Blue and White -- who competed on Sunday, with Blue fighting back from a 99-89 deficit late to win 105-104 on a jumper by Kobe Bryant.
Box score

All in all, it was a really fun game - here are our observations:
- Jason Kidd's numbers (2 pts., 6 reb., 7 asts., 1 TO) hardly stand out in the box score, but he was clearly one of the standout players of the night, as the catalyst for the White team. He ran the show and pushed the pace beautifully.

Kidd worked especially well with LeBron in the open floor - the two combined for some spectacular fast breaks (once again prompting me to ask myself what the Cavs can be possibly be thinking in building a team that plays at such a slow pace when they have the best fast-break finisher in the league).

- Kobe vs. LeBron battles were an interesting subplot of the night. LeBron blocked a Kobe reverse dunk attempt in the third quarter, but then Kobe took the game by the throat down the stretch:
• Kobe hit a step-back three over LeBron to tie it at 101
• LeBron made a poor TO in the halfcourt
• Kobe hit a fadeaway J over LeBron's contest to make it 103-102
• A LeBron-Bosh PnR went nowhere - it was well-defended, but it seemed odd that Kidd wasn't the decision-maker on the play
• After a Durant floater missed, Kidd took it all the way (his only shot of the night) to put White back on top 104-103
• Then Kobe knocked down a jumper over Prince after a pump fake (it was a 1-4 iso play on top) that proved to be the game-winner with 6.6 left
• White ran a similar 1-4 iso with LeBron on top, defended by Kobe. Bron got into the lane, but Kobe defended him well (there was a little contact) and LeBron's shot wasn't close.

- There were a couple of times I began to wonder if Kobe's brand of one-on-one play was the wrong fit for such a star-studded national team, but each time I had the thought, Kobe convinced me. In the first half, he knocked down a couple of long threes and other baskets to keep Blue afloat after White had built up a good lead.
And then he absolutely took the game over down the stretch as described above. I am convinced; he will fit. Kobe ended up with 26 pts and 6 stl on an efficient shooting night of 10-22 FG and 4-9 3PT. He looked very slim, too, as he's apparently dropped 15-20 pounds since the end of the season.

- Kevin Durant looked GREAT. Forget about those summer league numbers, tonight Durant went up against some of the best players in the world, and more than anything, he looked like he belonged. His numbers were 22 pts., 5 reb. 4 stl. on 9-14 FG and 2-5 3PT in 24 mins., but that doesn't even tell the whole story as he was getting his points every which way - threes, follows, a gorgeous spinning move over Battier - just like he did at Texas. Also had a nice strip of Michael Redd in the open floor. I had assumed that Durant would clearly be one of the cuts, but now I'm not so sure - he really looked like he deserved a spot based on tonight's performance (more on that below).

- One problem from last year's team that reared its head again was that these guys were taking WAY too many 3's (White went 11-40, Blue went 8-27). What's worse was that so many of the 3's were just pull-ups or 1-on-1 shots, rather than drive-and-dish kick-outs which are much higher-percentage shots. Team USA is just playing into the opposition's hands when they jack up those quick threes. International teams cannot keep these guys out of the lane - they should be penetrating at will, and kicking out to open shooters if they can't get to the rim. Tonight's percentages were so low not b/c they don't have shooters who can make these chip-shot 20-ft threes, but b/c they were taking such poor-percentage shots from downtown.

- It was great to see both White and Blue get out and run. Team USA has two huge advantages in international competition - athleticism and depth of talent - so they should be running and pressing and trapping all night. The 2006 team started off playing this way in its exhibitions, but didn't sustain it during the World Championships. Hopefully this team will - I'd love to see them throw some traps and presses on other teams as well. They clearly have the personnel for that style.

- One other thing... Steve Jones made the call tonight on NBA TV, along with Joel Meyers - with so many of ESPN's TV analysts offering little more than inane jibber-jabber, how is it that Snapper doesn't have a national job? He's still the consummate pro - concise and articulate in making sound points, and great at understanding how to work with his play-by-play man - just a solid hoop analyst in every way. The only problem I had was when Snapper called Kobe "the best player on the planet" at the end of the game. I'm sorry, but that would be Tim Duncan.

- OK, let's talk about cuts a little bit:
D. Williams

- Kidd is the no-brainer starter, esp. with the way he looked tonight. D-Williams looked very good, too, with 6 pts/13 ast (though 5 TOs).

- Billups also had 9 ast in 18 mins. You'd have to think that Hinrich is the odd man out here. I might rather have him as an alternative to Billups as a 3rd PG b/c Hinrich is more of a stopper, but I think Chauncey is the man in the end.

D. Howard
T. Chandler

- Quite a night for D-12, as he went for 21 and 9 on 9-9 FG and 3-3 FT. Bosh looked great with several gorgeous moves en route to a 13-12 night, while Amare complemented that with a 12-13 game.

- All three of those guys should be locks - I'd think the main question here is whether Tyson Chandler will make the team. Even though Chandler looked brutal on offense at times, put me in the camp of those who think Tyson deserves a spot because of his presence on D and the boards - and b/c I think that carrying three big men would leave Team USA perilously thin. I thought that Chandler (5 pts., 13 reb.) really played nice team D tonight - he was consistently showing well on PnR D.

- Nick Collison and Greg Oden will be joining the team for its training camp on Aug. 14, but I don't think either of those players will deserve a spot over Chandler.

M. Miller

- So, if we think Hinrich is the only guy from the 8 players in the first two pools who deserves to be cut, then that means 4 of these guys need to go. Redick is a no-brainer cut, so that gets it down to 3 cuts needed. Kobe/LeBron/Carmelo (who had an efficient 28 pts on 24 shots) are locks, so that leaves us with the other 5 guys for two spots.

- STOPPER: Prince or Battier? Tay played 26 mins to Battier's 17 tonight, and Chris Sheridan also suggested on that Battier might be an odd man out. But I still wouldn't be surprised if Shane makes the club, not just b/c he's pretty much Coach K's all-time favorite player, but also b/c he really did play exceptionally well in last year's Worlds as a glue guy taking charges and getting loose balls all over the place. I would take Battier over Prince.

- SHOOTER: Redd, Miller, or Durant? Miller had a somewhat ridiculous 22 pts tonight, as he attempted 15(!) threes (making 5), with many of those attempts being the product of horrendous shot selection. Redd was not much better, as he scored 17 pts on 4-11 3PTers, including two bad airball misses.

I dunno, I think that "lack of shooters" has been overrated as a reason for why Team USA hasn't won a major international competition since 2000. It hasn't been borne out by my observations of the many international games I've watched, or by the statistics overall. I think Team USA has plenty of guys who can hit the 20 ft. three if they get good shots, and I don't think they need a designated shooter on the roster.

Frankly, I'd take Durant over Redd and Miller b/c I think he is a better player right now, I think he brings a wider variety of skills to the table, and oh by the way, he can hit the 20-ft three as well. That said, I think they'll go with the veteran Redd.

Stick with The Painted Area as we'll be covering Olympic qualifying throughout the summer.

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.

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

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.

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, 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.

- 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).

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 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.

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.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Summer Reading: New Golden Age of Basketball Books?

With summer upon us, we here at The Painted Area thought it might be a good time to cobble together a reading list of basketball books.

In doing so, what struck us more than anything is that it seems like we might be in the middle of a Golden Age of basketball books - we came up with no less than 26 hoop books which have been published since 2004 alone that we've either read or are interested in reading.

It remains to be seen if there are enough truly memorable books to make this period as fertile as, say, 1972-76, when enduring classics such as David Wolf's Foul!: The Connie Hawkins Story, Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, Rick Telander's Heaven Is A Playground and Phil Jackson's Maverick (a must read to get a more unvarnished, acid-tinged perspective on the Zenmaster before he was a superstar coach) were all published, plus autobiographies from Rick Barry (Confessions of a Basketball Gypsy) and Wilt Chamberlain (Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7-Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door). But all I know is that my reading list keeps growing much faster than my slivers of personal reading time allow.

Without further ado, here are our 26 Intriguing Hoop Books published since 2004:
Seven Seconds Or Less, Jack McCallum (2006)
This one's received plenty of (largely positive) publicity, and was thoroughly covered on True Hoop, so you probably already know that longtime SI NBA writer McCallum followed the Phoenix Suns around for the 2005-06 season, and that this book is every bit as much worth reading as the one produced from the last time he followed a team around for year: Unfinished Business, which chronicled the Boston Celtics near the end of the Bird era in 1990-91.
Simon & Schuster: Excerpt
True Hoop: Seven Seconds or Less in About 20 Minutes

The Show, Roland Lazenby (2005)
A definitive oral history of the Los Angeles Lakers by a prolific author of quality basketball books. True Hoop ran a compilation of short excerpts and also another juicy bit delving into the origins of why Phil Jackson and Jerry West don't get along.
LakerNoise: Excerpt

Red Hot and Rollin', edited by Matt Love (2007)
Blazermania, baby. As the subtitle says, it's a retrospective of the Portland Trail Blazers 1976-77 NBA Championship Season, an anthology which seems by all accounts to capture the magic countercultural symbiotic relationship between team and fans which swept through the state of Oregon in 1977. Blaze of Glory (with links to excerpts) Guest blogger Matt Love

The Last Season, Phil Jackson (2004)
[Note: I mistakenly forgot to include this one when I originally posted.]

Sure, the quality of the writing is 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. Extended excerpt

Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, Mark Kriegel (2007)
Maravich, Wayne Federman and Marshall Terrill (2006)
Dueling Pistol Pete bios which came out within months of one another. Kriegel wrote a highly regarded bio of Joe Namath a couple years ago, and he's apparently working his way through iconoclastic athletes of the late '60s/early '70s, as he's now tackled Pistol Pete.

Federman is actually a comedian by day (I respect him greatly for having credits on both Larry Sanders and Curb Your Enthusiasm) who apparently started working with Terrill in 2000 on their tome, which was done in concert with Pistol's widow, Jackie, who provided lots of access.

As Bill Simmons noted in ESPN Magazine, the books are fairly complementary and each has something to offer:
    Pistol had an impact on me. And that's what the two Maravich books are about -- not his legacy as much as his impact. Kriegel delivers a lyrical look at Pistol's life that is well-written and weighty. It's a little full of itself, but big-picture biographies work only when they're written that way. I really liked it. The Federman/Terrill effort isn't crafted as well, but it examines Maravich's life more comprehensively (better research, better detail, tons of pictures). I liked it, too.

    It comes down to what you're looking for in a Maravich book. For instance, I couldn't wait to relive Pistol's stint with the Celtics, which Kriegel glossed over and Federman/Terrill recounted in more detail. Any Maravich junkie should read both, but the casual fan curious about Pistol's mystique might be better off with the Kriegel book.
True Hoop liked the Kriegel effort better than the Federman/Terrill book, and one thing I'm wondering is which one was Steve Nash reading on the Suns' team plane?
True Hoop: Mark Kriegel on Pistol

Wilt: Larger Than Life, Robert Cherry (2004)
Wilt, 1962, Gary Pomerantz (2005)
Two Wilt Chamberlain books, both very well-reviewed, yet it seems like the Pomerantz book (which is centered around the night Wilt scored 100) got all the hype while the Cherry book (a fuller biography) gets slept on a bit.
Hoops Hype: Wilt: Larger Than Life excerpt
Hoops Hype: Wilt, 1962 excerpt

The Rivalry, John Taylor (2005)
Out of the books on this list that I have yet to read, this is probably no. 1 in my queue. It's the story of the Chamberlain-Russell rivalry, while also more widely depicting that era of the NBA, in the context of the civil rights era.
NPR: Excerpt

Cousy, Bill Reynolds (2005)
A thorough bio of one of the NBA's first superstars by this Providence Journal columnist who is also known for writing Fall River Dreams.
Simon & Schuster: Excerpt

Let Me Tell You A Story, John Feinstein and Red Auerbach (2004)
I have to admit that I'm not a big Feinstein guy, but this makes the list because it's just about as bankable a basketball topic as you can ask for: sit around with Red, listen to his endless trove of stories, and relay them to the world.

As far as Feinstein, I mean, I respect Season on the Brink and all (as well as the underrated A Season Inside), but I think his work has gotten a bit tired as he's continued to pump books out, and he was never the greatest writer to begin with.

When I was researching whether his 2006 book The Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four was worth reading, I seemed to find several reviews with this sentiment, so I passed.
NPR: Excerpt

When Nothing Else Matters, Michael Leahy (2004)
Michael Leahy was essentially the Michael Jordan beat reporter for the Washington Post when MJ was a Wizards player. I have not yet read this book, but judging by the exceptional, thorough pieces from Leahy which periodically ran in the Washington Post Magazine while Mike was in D.C., I'm hoping that I'll find this worthy of being the third installment of the essential Jordan trilogy, along with The Jordan Rules (Sam Smith, 1991) and Playing for Keeps (David Halberstam, 1999).

I respect Leahy for risking the wrath of MJ by portraying him fully as a human being, flaws and all (as distant and aloof from his Wiz teammates as Barry Bonds is from his, really). Sam Smith's the only other writer I've seen who wasn't afraid to do that (even the Halberstam book, for all its rich detail, was an exercise in hagiography).
Simon & Schuster: Excerpt

Tip-Off: How The 1984 Draft Changed Basketball Forever, Filip Bondy (2007)
This is about Mssrs. Olajuwon, Barkley, Stockton, Perkins, and - of course - Bowie in addition to MJ, but hey, Mike's on the cover and he was the primary agent in changing basketball forever, so I threw it in this subsection.
NY Daily News: Excerpt

Can I Keep My Jersey, Paul Shirley (2007)
Everybody's favorite 12th man chronicles 11 Teams, 5 Countries, And 4 Years In His Life As A Basketball Vagabond.
NPR: Excerpt

Man In The Middle, John Amaechi (2007)
This Brit of course made waves by becoming the first NBA player to publicly come out as a gay man. Beyond all of the hullabaloo, I'd always found Amaechi to be a thoughtful cat during his playing days, so I'd have been interested in his take on life in the NBA even without the headline-making stuff.
ESPN The Magazine: Excerpt
Slate: Review by Kevin Arnovitz

Spinning The Globe, Ben Green (2005)
Cue up "Sweet Georgia Brown" and dig into this exhaustive history of the Harlem Globetrotters.
HarperCollins: Excerpt

Tricksters In The Madhouse: Lakers vs. Globetrotters, 1948, John Christgau (2004)
The tale of a fascinating, forgotten game prior to the integration of the NBA, when the Harlem Globetrotters were more than just clown princes of basketball - they were elite players. In Feb., 1948, they matched up against George Mikan's (all-white) Minneapolis Lakers for a thriller at the old Chicago Stadium (aka "The Madhouse on Madison"). I won't tell you who won.
Univ. of Nebraska Press: About/Excerpt

Yao: My Life in Two Worlds, Yao Ming and Ric Bucher (2004)
A more interesting read than the standard jock autobio. It feels like Bucher (whose reportorial skills are underutilized in ESPN Mag, imho) did a nice job of mining material from the big man. I was surprised at how open Yao was in places, such as when he expresses a modicum of disdain for the demands and expectations from so-called "ABCs" (i.e. American-born Chinese); Yao imparts that he's the product of a different cultural experience. Excerpt

Operation Yao Ming, Brook Larmer (2005)
The chronicle of the making of Yao Ming -- all the way back to what the author claims was some genetically motivated matchmaking by the Chinese authorities....
TIMEasia: Excerpt

To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever, Will Blythe (2006)
Any book with cover art depicting Coach K as a rat has gotta be good, doesn't it? The life and times of an inveterate Tar Heel and his hatred of all things Dook.
Inside Carolina: Five excerpts

Blue Blood, Art Chansky (2005)
A more straightforward depiction of the greatest rivalry in American sports. Chansky is a Tar Heel, so I guess as an offering of equal time to Dukies, here's an abundance of heartwarming Coach K books to serve as palliatives if necessary. Excerpt

The Miracle of St. Anthony, Adrian Wojnarowski (2005)
The standout Yahoo! columnist spent a season with legendary coach Bob Hurley's high school team in Jersey City.
Penguin Group: Excerpt

The Jump, Ian O'Connor (2005)
I was reluctant to add this to the list, and I still don't know if I'll ever be able to read it, just because I sort of recoil at the overrated Sebastian Telfair - the most overhyped player in a generation (I mean, the guy was the third-best player in the U.S. at his *position* (Paul, Livingston) as a H.S. senior, yet he was treated like another LeBron).

But the plaudits were too strong for this chronicle of Telfair's senior season - as he became tangled in the pressures and business of making the high-school-to-pros jump - so I had to relent and show respect for O'Connor's work.
Inside Hoops: Excerpt

Eagle Blue, Michael D'Orso (2006)
We could probably do another post on how many compelling high-school hoop books have come out in the last 15-or-so years, but we'll spare you. This is the story of a team from a village in Arctic Alaska.
Bloomsbury: Excerpt

Runnin' Rebel, Jerry Tarkanian and Dan Wetzel (2005)
You know, I'm probably going to go to hell for choosing this over one of the endless array of John Wooden books that is sure to make me a better person, but man, tales from Tark the Shark sure sounds like more fun, doesn't it? And I enjoy the work of Sole Influence author Wetzel, including his piece last year reminding us that a lot of the moralizing from Wooden is a bit rich considering he bought his players just like every other major-college team does....

The Inside Game: Race, Power and Politics in the NBA, Wayne Embry with Mary Schmitt Boyer (2004)
Under-the-radar and quite candid account of life in the front office from the well-respected Embry, the first African-American to become an NBA GM, who most recently held down the fort in Toronto while the Raps were transitioning from Rob Babcock to Bryan Colangelo. Made headlines for Embry's assertion that Don Nelson told him blacks were "not qualified" to be NBA head coaches.
Hoops Hype: Excerpt

Whew. OK, after that roll call of 26, I'd like to add three more upcoming basketball books that intrigue me.

Mr. Basketball: George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers, and the Birth of the NBA, Michael Schumacher (Oct. 2007)
To clarify, this was not written by the Formula 1 uber-legend. Rather, it's an author who has written bios on Allen Ginsberg, Eric Clapton and Francis Ford Coppola. I'm looking forward to it hopefully, as I think that a good George Mikan bio is absent from the NBA literary oeuvre currently.

The Franchise: LeBron James and the Remaking of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst (Oct. 2007)
Man, the Akron Beacon Journal sure is fortunate to have such a dynamic NBA duo in the legend Pluto (Loose Balls, Tall Tales, Forty-Eight Minutes) and the upstart Windhorst, one of the top beat reporters in the league. It's like when the Spurs already had The Admiral and added Timmy... when NBC already had Carson and added Letterman... when The View already had Barbara Walters and added Rosie. OK, maybe not, but I'm still looking forward to their take on the early LeBron era.

Sports Illustrated: The Basketball Book, Rob Fleder
Another in the series of handsome, well-illustrated coffee-table books devoted to a sport, following in the footsteps of The Baseball Book and The Football Book.

And before we go, two more books that I hope we get at some point.

A Tim Duncan autobiography
I know, I know, sounds scintillating at first blush ("So then, I turned on my man, faced up, sized up the situation and hit a bank shot"...), but I hope at some point, perhaps after he retires, that Timmy opens up a little and lets us into his head.

I just always go back to this 1999 piece from the old Sport magazine which True Hoop unearthed -- The Psychoanalysis of Tim Duncan, by Tim Duncan -- as evidence that there's a fascinating guy underneath the vanilla facade, and I think people might be somewhat blown away if he actually let us in.

Too Much Rod Benson
The D-Leaguer is quite simply the most entertaining writer playing professional basketball today.


OK, I know there are even more recent hoop books out there - we had to (mercifully) cut it off at some point. I'm really going to try to make a point of plowing through a bunch of the above books which I haven't yet read in the next few months, and I'll report back with picks and pans along the way.

In the meantime, feel free to let us know your opinions in the comments - what are some of your favorites on this list? Which have no business being here? Which recent hoop books that we omitted should be here?

Finally, we just wanted to acknowledge a few pieces which have given us inspiration and tips:
- Eric Neel, Sacred Hoop Books
- Henry Abbott, True Hoop: Top Ten Basketball Books of All Time
- Adam Beechen, Summer Reading List
- Celtics-related books

And we'd also like to point back to a couple lil' ol' basketball book-related posts that we've done here, in case you're interested:
- Basketball Book Buying Spree
- David Halberstam's NBA Books

Happy hoop reading!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Euroleague Final Four Reunion in Canada

NBA GMs seem to be wising up when it comes to evaluating European prospects, moving away from spending draft picks on very young players with no practical game experience (Milicic, Tskitishvili, Podkolzin) and in the direction of picking up players who have proven themselves in the tough competition of the Euroleague (John Hollinger has shown (Insider) that Euroleague stats can be translated into NBA stats somewhat reliably).

I think that the three international guys drafted at the end of the first round who have experience performing well in the Euroleague - Belinelli, Rudy Fernandez, Splitter - will end up being three of the best value picks of this year's draft when all is said and done, and I also think that Juan Carlos Navarro will be a solid offensive weapon in the league, too (thanks to the guys at Bullets Forever for inviting us yayhoos to offer a quick JCN scouting report in their space).

Of course, no one is taking this concept further than the Toronto Raptors, who - with today's signing of Maceo Baston - are conducting a veritable Euroleague Final Four reunion in Canada.

Check out these box scores from recent Euroleague championship games:
2005 - Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Tau Ceramica Vitoria:
Current Raptors in game: A. Parker, J. Calderon, M. Baston
Also note: Warriors superfan S. Jasikevicious and T. Splitter

2004 - Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Skipper Bologna:
Current Raptors in game: A. Parker, C. Delfino, M. Baston
Also note: A young Belinelli and the ubiquitous Mr. Jasikevicious

2003 - FC Barcelona vs. Benetton Treviso:
Current Raptors in game: J. Garbajosa
Also note: A. Varejao, J.C. Navarro and Jasikevicious yet again (yes, he won 3 Euroleague crowns in a row - I still believe he can play in the League if he finds the right situation); Raptors VP/asst GM Maurizio Gherardini was Benetton's GM at the time, too

Throw in Rasho Nesterovic, who won a Euroleague title in 1998, and that's a full six Raptors with Euroleague Final Four experience, plus Bargnani, who helped Treviso to an Italian League title in 2006 while also getting some Euroleague experience. And Uros Slokar was on that Benetton team as well.

As much as I respect the Euroleague, I'm frankly surprised that Mssrs. Colangelo and Gherardini have decided to go *this far* in a Euro direction. I think it will be interesting to see in the future if Toronto starts to become a favored free-agent destination for top European players in the NBA, both b/c of the welcoming atmosphere of the organization and b/c the lifestyle in Toronto is a bit more Euro-friendly and easier to acclimate to than in the States.

P.S. While we're talking Euros, today's Darko signing by the Grizzlies just made this post even more entertaining to us....

Friday, July 06, 2007

Papaloukas Re-Signs With CSKA

The best player in Europe has decided to stay put with CSKA Moscow to accept the most lucrative contract in European basketball (3 yrs at €3M per, which is approx. equal to $4M per), according to Eurobasket. This move effectively eliminates one of the few quality PGs from free agency.

Maybe he was never serious about coming over to the NBA all along, and just wanted to drive up his price tag in Europe. Will be interesting to find out if he was not getting the deals he wanted from NBA squads, or if he just preferred to stay in Europe.

Eurobasket claims three NBA teams made offers:
    The most high paid European player will be continuing his career in the CSKA Moscow untill June 2010! Theodoros Papaloukas became officially the most expensive player (European) with the new contract of 3 million euros (net) per year for the next three years who will be wearing the Russian jersey of CSKA.... Papaloukas had offers from NBA (Lakers, Timberwolves and Miami Heat) and also from Panathinaikos and Olympiakos but he kept his promise to the Russian management as he told them that if not NBA I will be staying in Moscow!!
[Note: Although we were just citing a report, we should note that the Lakers and the Heat refuted the reports that they made contract offers to Theo.]

Would be a big mistake for many teams if they did not offer the full MLE to Theo, considering all the teams in need of quality PG help - and also considering the deals that the likes of Jason Kapono, Matt Carroll et al are commanding.

After Billups & Mo Williams, Theo was the best PG in free agency. And with Billups likely returning to Detroit & the Bucks seeming to be the only team willing to offer Williams more than MLE, Theo was the prized PG on the open market.

We will now more than likely never see Papaloukas in the NBA since he's turning 30 years old & his contract runs thru 2010.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Shaq's Dunk Contest Solution

I was catching up on some reading recently and flipped through the ill-fated May 2007 issue of SLAM magazine, the one which had one Dirk cover and one Shaq cover.

I was reading the Shaq Q&A, and Big had some interesting thoughts about how he'd change the Dunk Contest. I've agreed with those people who've suggested that the NBA should up the grand prize enormously (it's currently $35,000). If the winner's pot were, say, $1M, I think it would not only draw bigger-named players into the competition, but also increase the amount of fan intrigue.

Beyond just having more marquee names in the event, I think there would be a lot of buzz generated in terms of people simply wondering and discussing: "Who's going to win the $1M." It's really the tried-and-true formula for every TV game show ever: people like to watch other people compete for big sums of money.

Lang Whitaker of SLAM was talking with Shaq about whether he might stay in the league in some capacity after retirement. Here's one question from that exchange:
    SLAM: I actually figured the perfect job for you would be Commissioner of the NBA. Because you've got the business side, you've got the popularity, you've played in the League forever, all of the players respect you.

    SHAQ: No, that job is too hard. I would like to be the President of All-Star Relations. For example, this is how I would make the Dunk Contest interesting: David Stern has all these sponsors, right? So, Rolls Royce would be the number one sponsor. First place would win that brand-new Phantom. Second place would be a Maybach and third place would be a convertible Benz or something like that. And then you'll get the Vince Carters and the Kobe Bryants, and then it'll be real.
You know, I actually think that would be kind of cool, wouldn't it? If you had those cars parked somewhere in the arena, and the players could drive away in them at the end, you can't tell me that that wouldn't be compelling to both players and fans alike.

There's pretty much no chance it could happen, though, both because it seems a bit too hip-hop to give away fancy cars for the NBA tastes at this moment in time, and also because it seems like there could be complications for sponsorship reasons -- I'm sure that the good people at Toyota, who are official sponsors of the league, wouldn't look too kindly on spending a lot of money on the league yet not having one of their cars represented as a prize, for example.

Oh well, it's a fun idea to think about, nonetheless, from the man who's given us nicknames like The Big Fundamental, The Truth and Flash.... Keep the ideas coming, Big.