Podcast #1: Hardly Harden

The first of what will hopefully be many podcasts focuses on Mike D’Antoni saying James Harden is the best offensive player he has ever seen. I am not a D’Antoni hater by any means, but I did take “offense” to this one.

Brandon Armstrong impersonating James Harden.

Armstrong on Kimmel.

James Harden basketball reference page.

ESPN basketball history is all about promotion like usual

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/page/nbarank22932314/nbarank-game-changers-25-most-influential-basketball-players-ever

It was painful to even re-open this page to look at this list because of how wrong it is. Rather than spend all day ripping on this without having created my own yet to show them how it’s done, let’s hit on the top 5 most egregious points of this and simply move on.

  1. Pistol Pete is not in the top 25. If you don’t understand how this is a big deal, simply stop reading here and instead brush up on that. Steve Nash is more influential? Clearly the people who did this article know nothing. And I love Nash but he’s not going down in the history of basketball lore like Pistol.
  2. Dr. J at #8. Wow. As a cultural icon, he is the primary reason the NBA was forced to merge with the ABA. And the merger saved the league. He caused the Afro to go in style and was an ambassador off the court. I don’t know how in either area, on or off the court he could be outside the top 5.
  3. George Mikan #25. He is the reason people realized tall people could actually be good and dominant at basketball. It took 50 years for that to happen, so what is more game-changing than that?
  4. Wilt Chamberlain at #5. On the court, there is no one other than MAYBE Mikan or Dr. J that you could even argue was close to as influential. No single player caused so many rule changes in NBA history. People showed up just to see the man.
  5. On the court, I’m not sure how LeBron James really would be in the top five for on court influence. If you say he’s Wilt but as a forward, then Wilt needs to be above him. Teams may have changed their offseason strategy to be able to sign him so I see some off court influence.  “The Decision” is your evidence? If Pat Riley is given credit for the superteam LeBron gets credit too?

Honorable mention: AI at #13. There is no player who had more kids wearing his jerseys at one time.

Miller: Halladay an example for a generation of pitchers

Roy Halladay brought himself back from one of the worst seasons on the mound by making himself a possibility model other pitchers have emulated ever since.

Source: Miller: Halladay an example for a generation of pitchers

It’s incredible how young pitchers simply did not develop at all really in the 90s, except for Roy Halladay (with minor consideration to CC). This article makes a ton of great points.

NBA On NBC Theme 1991-2002

NBA will be back next week. If this doesn’t get you pumped, what does?

Perhaps it’s nostalgia, but this is back when players still had pride in winning regular season matchups, especially on national TV.

Many fans just wait for their teams to tank out or the playoffs to begin. Here’s to all those fan bases somewhere in the middle. Say a Glen Rice Charlotte Hornets versus Detroit Pistons Grant Hill back in 1997 …

Why do all of Dusty Baker’s Octobers have scary endings?

The veteran skipper has led four different teams to the postseason, but something big goes wrong each time, and the 2017 Nationals could be next.

Source: Why do all of Dusty Baker’s Octobers have scary endings?

This is curious, but part of it is luck. There is enough data to indicate more than that though. It’s worth a read just to realize how many of these playoff games Baker has managed.

McCloskey, ‘Bad Boys’ architect, dies at 91

Jack McCloskey, who was the architect of the Detroit Pistons’ back-to-back championship teams in 1989-90, died Thursday afternoon in Savannah, Georgia. He was 91.

Source: McCloskey, ‘Bad Boys’ architect, dies at 91

NBA all-time great GM Jack McCloskey passed away, the day the nation watched it’s two heavyweights square off in Game 1 of the NBA finals. He will be missed. “Trader Jack” attended the University of Pennsylvania where he played hoops before taking his talents to the NBA. You can read more about him, but what makes this so topical is that Jack built a team ready to be a championship contender once the two heavyweights of the 1980s faded out.

So the question is who will be the 2019? 2020? version of the Bad Boys Pistons? A team with one superstar (debatably a transcendent talent) in Isiah Thomas, a Klay Thompson prototype in Joe Dumars, an even more physical gifted version of Draymond Green (Dennis Rodman), a stable of inside players to protect the rim, and of course niche players to fill out the rotation, many of which chased titles late in their careers. The Pistons are surely not a team that would win a 16 team tournament featuring 7 game series at each stage against the top teams of all-time, but they definitely deserve to be in the field. Back to back titles when there were plenty of teams that were true contenders (unlike the 2.5 we have this season), when Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, AND Michael Jordan were all in the NBA at that time is pretty special.

Normally this is when I act all smart and tell you are the short list for that perfect marriage of GM and franchise, but at this point, I really don’t know. Instead let’s remember the Bad Boys for the accomplishments they achieved whether you agree with the methodology and style of play or not. Rest in peace, Jack.

 

Michael Jordan was Overrated Part 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5oCGz32_Zg

I am not as much of a Michael Jordan criticizer as the poster of this video, however there are many facts in this video that are not “alternative” in any way. For any true basketball fan, familiarizing yourself with many of these will help you understand more about the game, but still draw your own conclusions. It is true that there were a lot of pretty good teams in the 90s, but very few true contenders. There were few “superteams” at any point, and perhaps this is covered in part 1, but the 80s Jazz were better than the 90s version for sure. Bailey and Eaton or Ostertag and Russell? C’mon!

There are a few things to remember, this video is not saying Jordan “sucked” but simply is not the Greatest of all-time “GOAT”. It’s like when someone asks you if a particular food is awesome, and you say it’s “good” yet they come back thinking you hate it. No, this is not that Jordan was bad it is that he was not the best ever.

Let me take a moment to highlight some things that were not covered here, pros and cons.

1. Jordan “leading” North Carolina. Forget that Dean Smith led North Carolina, this is not like the Cavs now where LeBron is in effect a player-head coach. JORDAN UP

2. The main way you identify who are good players for a particular team, role players, is to have guys to build around. Jordan gave the Bulls a place to plant their flag and then add pieces around him. Shooters, defenders, big guys, even if he didn’t make them as much “better” as Bird, he did enough to know that Steve Kerr and Kukoc were a better fit on Chicago than elsewhere and therefore worth more to Chicago than Utah for example. JORDAN SLIGHTLY UP

3. Game 7 Eastern Conference Finals 1998. The Bulls were banged up with less depth than the Indiana Pacers a true “team” with Reggie likely at his peak. Jackson, Rose, a 7’4 center in Smits, interior depth, they were a poor man’s 2015 Warriors, yet an aging Jordan and Pippen willed themselves to victory somehow. Not the prettiest game, but the Bulls survived and advanced. They did this better than any team in NBA history than the 60s Celtics, particularly the 69 Celtics in Russell’s last game, who somehow found a way. JORDAN UP

4. The league was watered down for everybody else! You still had the top 16 in the playoffs with plenty of hall of famers in that era. But no, he never had to defeat a superteam like LeBron is facing in 2017. They could have risen up, too! Only one other team did in an 8 year span, the Houston Rockets. If they were so good, where were they for a three-peat in ’96? The Bulls had two 3 peats! This leads to another topic about how in certain eras a finals appearance means more, whereas in the era of superteams it’s Larry O’Brien trophy or bust (aka 2017). JORDAN EVEN

5. Rule changes. This is where if you look at the greatest athletes to ever play, (Wilt, Jordan, and LeBron) the Dipper is WAY ahead of the others. First of all as a young player illegal defense was not the same. Jordan had plenty of time to get a shot before a help defender came. Second, Wilt was able to offensively goaltend and score literally at will, post up in the smaller key which was outlawed, and in effect dunk free throws also outlawed. So three major changes hurt him negatively, whereas the most major rule change in the Jordan era was to reduce handchecking. This was basically done so the 90s stars could score more easily, hurting defensive minded clubs like San Antonio, the Knicks, and ok yea, everyone else was pretty much offense first hence the change! If they didn’t allow handchecking and called the fouls today when Wilt played, or if Wilt played today, he would literally be unstoppable. It would take a flagrant to prevent a dunk (Shaq 2000 but more agile) JORDAN DOWN

6. “Making the team better”, this can mean so many things, passing, attitude, competitiveness, instruction, defensive help, drawing attention. As much as I love Wilt, he did go for stats in regular season which may not have let his teams get as good as they could have been. Bird didn’t take “games off” but he was more assertive at times and in his book admits if they really tried, could have won any game they wanted in the ’85 or ’86 season, but they didn’t. Jordan was able to harness the energy and team buy in for the playoff run 6 out of 7 years basically. Only Bill Russell was truly able to do that otherwise. Throw some of the shooting % out the window, he did win, a lot. How much better can your team get when you won 6 of 7 titles? JORDAN UP.

7. Defense. Sure you could argue Jordan took some gambles, but sometimes it worked, like stripping Malone in Game 6. Bird took gambles too, and those usually worked out. Larry didn’t have the recovery speed of a Jordan either. And on the ball, a clip of Allen Iverson crossing you up, I’m sure every player in the history of the NBA would get their ankles broken by AI at some point. On the ball, no two guard in the history of the NBA was as effective as MJ. And in an era that favored shooting guard, a major reason few others are HOF is because MJ owned every one of them. A similar phenomenon exists today where LeBron wrecked every small forward to the point the position no longer exists, team’s went back to playing 3 guards unless you have KD or Kawhi. Today is a point guard driven league so the equivalent would be if a guy came along and completely shut down Harden, Westbrook, Curry, Wall, etc. Imagine how that would change the game. Jordan did. JORDAN UP

CONCLUSION: Jordan is overrated, but still a top 5 player in my opinion. At absolute worst if we had more advanced metrics that can computer simulate and break down film and re-asses decades of NBA, he’s still top 10. And for entertainment value, he may be number 1. For the casual fan he is definitely number 1.

If the ball bounces a little luckier for the Bulls in ’95, Jordan could be LeBron with 7 straight finals appearances. Even if they didn’t win, it’s 6 titles to 3 (maybe 4 if LeBron goes Superman in 2017). Compare MJ to Kareem and say the Bulls have Magic in his prime instead of Pippen, Bulls still win. Jordan replaces Bird on the 80s Celtics, they still probably win 3 titles, even though they might not have been the same years Larry did. Don’t replace Jerry West with anyone, but simply give the 68, 69, 70 Lakers Rodman as their 3rd wheel, Wilt has more titles. Replace Jordan with LeBron on the 90s Bulls they might not win unless you factor in instead of Rodman, Chicago gets a two-guard defender to replace MJ. So at the end of the day, great players are great in every era and are so versatile that it doesn’t have to be a specific positional swap to work.