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Friday, July 11, 2008

Smush Parker, Kwame Brown and the Kobe Bryant Effect

Yesterday, the Clippers gained some salary cap room by renouncing their rights to Smush Parker, who has played for six NBA teams since 2002-03.

One of the best testaments to Kobe Bryant's greatness is that he led the Lakers to the playoffs twice despite having Parker as the starting point guard and Kwame Brown as the starting center. Point guard and center are arguably the two most important positions on a basketball team and while it is not necessary that the players at those positions be the two best players on the team it is usually vital that a team receives a certain amount of consistent production from those positions.

Parker started 162 of the 164 games that he played as an L.A. Laker but hardly played--let alone started--prior to or subsequent his time with the Lakers. Check out his career statistics; those middle two years should have an asterisk, followed by this designation: "performance enhanced by playing alongside Kobe Bryant."

As for Brown, the statistical story is not quite so dramatic but check out his year by year field goal percentages: they are never above .489 in his non-Laker seasons and they do not drop below .526 in his Laker seasons. Playing with Bryant had a similar positive effect on Pau Gasol's field goal percentage this season; this is because Bryant draws double-teams that lead to wide open shots for his big men, whether or not Bryant makes the final pass that is credited with the assist.

People often talk about which superstars "make their teammates better." I'd like to know which other NBA superstar could carry a team to the Western Conference playoffs twice with Brown and Parker as starters. It will be interesting to see if Brown or Parker ever become regular starters again in the NBA, let alone start alongside each other on a playoff team.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:17 PM

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reebok Releases Yao Ming's New Limited Edition Signature Shoe, the Omni Pump Hexride

Reebok is creating the new Omni Pump Hexride signature shoe in honor of Yao Ming's participation in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. The limited edition sneaker features Reebok's state-of-the-art technologies, Pump and Hexride. Yao's sneaker displays his signature logo on the heel, which encompasses Yao's zodiac sign (the monkey), his jersey number (11), and his initials (Y and M). Inspired by traditional Chinese symbols and colors, the Pump Omni Hexride features bold red and gold colors and a symbolic, intricate dragon design. The dragon represents both Yao's strength on the court and the pride Yao's fans have in him to perform at his best in the games. Some of the shoes feature a number that has special significance to Yao. For example, the shoe which carries the number 1 symbolizes that Yao Ming was the first Asian basketball player to be recruited into the NBA; while the number 11 shoe represents Yao's jersey number, and the number 232 shoe signifies Yao's amazing height of 232cm. Only 2,008 exclusive sneakers will be available for all of China beginning on August 8, 2008 for a suggested retail price of $150. Select retailers in the US and in Europe will carry the Pump Omni Hexride as well but they will not be numbered.

Artist depiction of Yao Ming wearing his new, limited edition shoes

Artist's Depiction of Yao Ming Wearing the Omni Pump Hexride

Omni Pump Hexride

Omni Pump Hexride


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posted by David Friedman @ 8:40 PM

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The Four Words Magic GM Otis Smith Will Not Say

Even before the moment that the Orlando Magic selected J.J. Redick with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, I compared him to Trajan Langdon and questioned whether he could be a starting shooting guard on a playoff team. A couple months ago, David Thorpe of IMG and ESPN directly contacted me to explain why he still thinks that Redick can in fact successfully fill such a role but apparently Thorpe has a lot more confidence in Redick's skills than even the Magic do at this point--and the Magic certainly have a vested interest in seeing Redick succeed considering the valuable draft choice that they used to obtain him, quite possibly the last lottery pick that they will have in the Dwight Howard era.

The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi writes that this whole situation can be simplified into four words that GM Otis Smith will not say: "I made a mistake." Smith drafted Redick but will not admit that the former Duke star is, as Bianchi puts it, "the biggest bust this city has seen since Paris Hilton's nightclub." Instead, Smith insists, "I still think the kid can play for us. I feel no differently about him today than I felt yesterday and the day before. I feel he can be a very good backup 2-guard for us." Keep in mind that we are not talking about a second round pick or a free agent signing--Redick was a lottery pick. Bianchi compares Smith's statement about Redick to "an editor telling a young sportswriter, 'Kid, if you work really hard, you might someday end up doing the bowling roundup for us.'"

Bianchi bluntly notes, "The thing is, Smith has admitted the mistake in every way possible--except verbally. He admitted it two weeks ago when he drafted Western Kentucky shooting guard Courtney Lee. And he admitted it two days ago when he came to terms with (Golden State's Mickael) Pietrus on a four-year, $22 million contract. If you're scoring at home, I believe the Magic now have 11 shooting guards on their roster, and Redick is No. 10 -- one spot behind Nick Anderson, who retired six years ago.

Those of you who believe that Redick will flourish if he is granted a change of scenery should consider this observation by Bianchi: "There is absolutely no other determination you can make on Redick except to say he has been a failure in a Magic uniform. He's played two seasons under two different coaches and still occupies a seat at the end of the bench. He couldn't get on the floor for the defensive-minded Brian Hill and couldn't get on the floor for the offensive-minded Stan Van Gundy. What's it say when Redick, one of the best pure long-range shooters in college basketball history, can't play for Van Gundy, whose system puts a premium on long-range shooters?"

Still, perhaps hedging his bets, Bianchi does leave open the possibility that Redick could at least get off of the bench and play meaningful minutes for another team and he says that the Magic should cut their losses and trade Redick for whatever they can get, even though it will obviously not even come close to matching the draft pick they used to select him. That's the point, though: shooters are at a premium in the NBA and everybody in the league is obviously quite familiar not only with Redick's resume but also with the fact that he is chained to the bench in Orlando. What does that tell you? Either a whole bunch of GMs are missing out on the chance of a lifetime to steal Redick away for a bag of beans or Redick simply is not a legit NBA rotation player.

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:07 PM

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Brand New Day for the Sixers, Same Old Same Old for the Clippers

Now you know why I don't write lengthy articles to analyze "proposed trades" or "proposed free agent signings" five seconds after a "breaking news" banner scrolls across the crawl on ESPN: "proposed" means that nothing has officially happened yet and therefore something else could very well take place. I don't know how much bandwidth, air time and newsprint have been wasted in the past week or so "analyzing" the "new look" Clippers featuring Baron Davis and Elton Brand but the current "breaking news" is that Brand is going to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers, who just shipped Rodney Carney and Calvin Booth to Minnesota in order to create enough salary cap room to offer Brand a five year, $82 million deal that he reportedly has accepted.

After reports surfaced last week that Davis was leaving the Warriors to sign with the Clippers, I wrote a six paragraph post about the proposed deal and devoted exactly one paragraph to the possibility of Brand and Davis playing together in L.A., concluding, "Their potential starting lineup of Chris Kaman, Brand, second year forward Al Thornton--a beast in training--Davis and Cuttino Mobley is quite potent. The main questions for the Clippers are their health, their dedication at the defensive end of the court and the lack of depth on their bench. Still, on paper this looks like a team that could certainly be in the Western Conference playoff mix if those three concerns are properly addressed." Although Brand initially gave indications that he was willing to accept less money to stay in L.A. if the Clippers upgraded their roster he apparently decided upon further reflection that moving to the Eastern Conference has several benefits, including being closer to his home town of Peekskill, New York, a seemingly easier path to the NBA Finals and the supposedly greater opportunity to make the All-Star team (the latter speculation is courtesy of ESPN's Ric Bucher). Of course, the only thing that is really guaranteed for Brand (besides the money) is moving closer to home, because beating Boston, Detroit, Cleveland and/or Orlando in a seven game series will not be easy for the 76ers and LeBron James and Kevin Garnett are virtually guaranteed to be the starting forwards for the Eastern All-Stars (barring injury). In the wake of his Finals MVP performance I expect six-time All-Star Paul Pierce to be selected as an All-Star once again, so that leaves Brand battling with Chris Bosh, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Rasheed Wallace and Shawn Marion for the remaining forward spots.

If he remains healthy, Brand certainly fills the 76ers' glaring need for an effective low post scorer, a deficiency that became painfully--and fatally--obvious during last season's playoffs when they pushed the Pistons to six games but simply could not score enough points in the half court set to keep pace when the Pistons slowed the tempo down and limited their turnovers. The Sixers have several young, talented players plus a very underrated point guard/floor leader in Andre Miller. However, it does not take a basketball mastermind to figure out that unless the Sixers also improve their outside shooting that teams will be able to feed Brand a steady diet of double teams without worrying about getting burned. Still, this is no doubt a major coup for Philadelphia and a major blow to the Clippers, who most likely will be trading tales of misery with the Warriors during next year's Draft Lottery. If Davis stays healthy then this season will be a good opportunity for him to prove that he truly is an elite point guard, because the Clippers will need an All-NBA caliber season from him to have any chance of making the playoffs in the West. The Warriors have enough talent left to contend for a playoff spot--and they will apparently be adding Corey Maggette to the mix as well--but with Portland on the rise and last year's eight West playoff teams looking strong Golden State will probably miss the cut for the second year in a row.

If there is such a thing as karma then what did Clippers' fans do in their previous lives to deserve the ACL tears, ruptured Achilles tendons and assorted other injuries, mishaps and boneheaded moves that they have suffered through in the past 25 years or so?

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:19 AM

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Clyde Drexler Explains How He Developed His Jumping Ability

The April 2008 issue of Dime had an interesting quote from Clyde Drexler. This is what the "Glide" says about his legendary hops:

"There was nothing natural about my jumping ability; it was 'natural' after I spent six hours a day working on it (laughs). I had so many exercises to improve the strength of my legs: sprinting, jump rope, squats, wearing ankle weights two or three days at a time and jumping rope with those ankle weights. I did all that for a 10-year period of time, and during that time I became a pretty good jumper."

It is interesting that Drexler mentions that he put in a decade of work to become a great leaper, because--as I mentioned in a July 27, 2006 post titled Basketball, Chess and Boxing, Part II--there is a significant body of research that suggests that it takes 10 years of "effortful study" to become an elite performer in a wide range of fields, from chess to music to soccer. A lot of achievements that are assumed to be the result of "natural" talent are in fact the product of years of hard work that honed whatever "natural" ability that particular individual had in his given field. Hard work may not guarantee success--particularly at the elite level--but no one gets to the elite level without putting in a lot of hard work over a long period of time.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:01 AM

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