Friday, December 26, 2008

Towel Wavers Recap of the Day 12/25/08

Welcome to the first ever Towel Wavers Recap of the Day. Here we do a rundown of the best and the worst of each gameday. The Towel Waver of the Day is the end-of-the-bench player that stepped up the best during the day and the Towel Waver Wannabe is the highly-regarded player that played like he deserved to be buried in the back of the rotation the most. Yep, this is Towel Wavers, where we honor the meek and mock the mighty. So without further ado, the Towel Wavers Recap of the Day.

Towel Waver of the Day

Mike James
Washington Wizards
26 pts
10-14 FG, 5-8 3pt
4 reb, 3 ast

Our first ever Towel Waver of the Day is Wizards PG Mike James. Though James is technically a starting guard in Washington, it's probably the only place he'd be a starting guard in. Before he was traded by New Orleans, he had appeared in only 8 of the team's 17 games, where he averaged 2.5 points and 1 assist per game. He hadn't played in the last 6 games, and had given his team no points in the last 10 games (9 of which he sat out). He actually played quite decently in his first seven games in Washington, where he was putting up 10.8 points per game (and 14.5 points in the last four games). None of them were wins.

Today, he gave the Wizards a fighting chance in a near upset of the unbeaten-at-home Cleveland Cavaliers. He shot about 70% from the field and over 60% from three point range as he dropped 5 threes on the Cavs. LeBron, who had 18 points on 6 of 13 shooting, and the Cavs pulled off the 93-89 squeaker, but Mike just may have been the better James out on the floor tonight.

Towel Waver Wannabe

Greg Oden
Portland Trailblazers
4 pts, 5 reb
2-6 FG
0-3 FT
3 TO

It's never a good thing when you have more missed shots (4 from the field and 3 from the charity stripe) and turnovers than you have points and rebounds. Even more when you're a former number 1 overall draft pick facing insurmountable expectations from the entire basketball universe (save the front office of the Blazers, they want to be patient with you). Oden also committed 4 fouls and wasn't even on the floor for the final minutes of the 102-94 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What's Up With the Lake Show?

It's been a bad month for the Lakers. It wasn't long ago when they were being primed as the team that could challenge the 96 Chicago Bulls record 72-10 mark. In December, they're a mediocre 7-4. And that record isn't even what's worrying - it's how they accumulated it that's got the Laker fans sweating.

Losses to under-.500 teams Indiana and Sacramento. A blown 20-point lead to Eastern Conference-worst Washington. They even had to scramble to beat the rebuilding New York Knicks after being down 15 points at the half. Now, their first losing streak of the season. Back-to-back losses to Miami and Orlando.

The Lakers' vaunted depth? Missing. Kobe has taken 55 shots in the last two games. Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom are averaging a combined 7 points in those two games. So-called MVP candidate Pau Gasol is averaging just 12. And the greatest closer in basketball? Mamba missed two at-the-buzzer shots that could have sent either game in overtime.

Meanwhile, their rivals from Beantown are on a 17-game winning streak and are at 25-2. The Lakers have dropped down to 21-5 and are now third (behind the 22-4 LeBronaliers) in the league.

Have they been overlooking the past few games - excited for their Christmas Day rematch against the Celtics? Or have they been exposed? That they're essesntially the same team that lost to Boston last year, so expecting this year to be any different is wishful thinking.

Guess we have to wait til Christmas to find out.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tough Enough

The Houston Rockets have been all about their big two the past few years. Ever since they brought Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady together, expectations have soared. And why wouldn't it -- with two otherworldly talents like Yao and T-Mac together?

However, this is what their dynamic duo has given them: a first round loss to the Mavs in 05, missed the playoffs in 06, and a pair of first round losses to the Jazz in 07 and 08. Oh, and 154 missed games between them. I'm talking regular season here - not counting the playoffs.

So far, McGrady and Yao have shown two chinks in their armor. The first is durability. Both players have had to carry the Rockets on their shoulders all by their lonesome for long stretches because of injuries to the other. They rarely ever get any real momentum as a team because one of their stars is always in street clothes. The second weakness is mental toughness. T-Mac is a guy who can do this, but never when it really matters. Yao has a size advantage on maybe about... yeah, 100% of the league and yet he's had issues with agressiveness. He's only averaged double figures in rebounds twice in his career. At his size, he should be putting up Shaq-in-his-prime numbers, not Shaq-at-age-32-or-33 numbers.

In the offseason, the Rockets acquired defensive superstar/rapper/headcase Ron Artest in a trade. Now Artest is best known for his toughness, something they hope he can impart on the rest of this team. But it's been less than 20 games into their season and it looks like T-Mac is already shutting it down. He's missed the last 5 games, and still out indefinitely.

This is what the Rockets starting five looked like before McGrady got injured:

G Alston, Rafer
G McGrady, Tracy
C Yao Ming
F Scola, Luis
F Artest, Ron

and after the injury:

G Alston, Rafer
G Artest, Ron
C Yao Ming
F Scola, Luis
F Battier, Shane

Now, it looks to me that this second lineup looks a lot tougher than the first. NOTE: NOT NECESSARILY BETTER. But tougher. It may be the insertion of the tough-as-nails Battier. Or maybe it's addition by subtraction (sorry, Tracy) but it just looks tougher physically AND mentally. Plus it's not doing a shabby job. When Rockets coach Rick Adelman has used this starting lineup, the team is 2-1 with that one loss being a one point heartbreaker to the Pacers. Sound familiar?

Yao has upped his scoring from about 17 points per game to 21. Artest has raised his from 14.5 to 19. Alston is averaging about 15 points and 6 dimes since Tracy went down. And with the depth this team has (remember their record 22-game winning streak last year with many of the wins without Yao?), well, it looks like it can survive without the talented but frail T-Mac. With him on board, they always seemed like they were a team that could collapse under extreme pressure. The new starting unit (plus bench players Carl Landry, Aaron Brooks, Luther Head, etc) seems like they're tough enough to just want to get the job done in the playoffs. No excuses.

They're the big three now, sure. But should the front office consider trading T-Mac and get some value in return (maybe someone like Detroit's Rip Hamilton, who has struggled to fit in with Allen Iverson)? Or should they just reduce his role and move from the Yao and T-Mac era to the Yao and Artest era. The latter pair seems like it has the necessary toughness to push past the first round, something the former pair has never done. Addition by subtraction? When it comes to mental toughness? Nothing against McGrady but the team might do well in fashioning its personality after newcomer Artest over its resident leading scorer. Then maybe they can finally get something done in the playoffs. It's been long overdue.

They've always been good, but never tough enough. Until now. But can they have T-Mac log heavy minutes without compromising their toughness? Maybe we have to wait one more first round flameout to find out.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Bulls are Driving Me Nuts

It's always tough to get an accurate read on a team that you root for. One minute you think they're ready to crash the playoffs party, maybe get an upset in the first round and with a little luck, maybe the second round as well -- the next minute your overly-critical mind can't get over how badly your team stinks. It's hard enough to do that for any team you like, but it's even harder when the team you like is the Chicago Bulls.

In 2007, you take out the defending champions in a first round series sweep and take the Pistons to six games. Then, with practically the same lineup, you go out and lose 49 games and miss the playoffs one season after -- a season where a few experts expected you to be the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference.

Everyone expected a rocky start to this season (Derrick Rose being a rookie point guard and Vinny Del Negro a rookie coach) but could anyone have expected this? You blow out the Phoenix Suns (tied for 2nd in the West) in a game where you lose starter Kirk Hinrich to a injury that has him out three months. Then after losing games you were expected to (CLE and ATL) and winning games you were supposed to (DAL and IND), you set out on the dreaded annual circus trip.

You alternate between staying competitive with the freakishly dangerous Lakers, then get blown out of the building by the Blazers. Win against the Dubs, then have a fourth quarter meltdown at Denver. Suck at Utah before pulling off a win at the buzzer in the same game (that's not even alternating -- you sucked and won in the same game). Then you lose by 10 at San Antonio. Everytime the Bulls give their fans any hope that things are getting better, you lay an egg to remind us of how far there is to go.

During the Utah game, I was all set to write about how the more Bulls games I watch, the more I come to the realization that the team, outside of Derrick Rose, really isn't very good. Sure, Ben Gordon is a 20-point guy, and Drew Gooden puts up decent numbers but neither of them play much defense and give up almost as much as they score. I wanted to make a case for more playing time for Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha, and yet every time they step on the floor, they make a stronger case against it. And what's up with Luol Deng this season? Then Larry Hughes hits a game winner. Larry. Hughes.

These guys are driving me nuts.

The Bulls are at a surprisingly decent 7-9, 10th in the East, especially considering the tough schedule. They're in contention for the low playoff spots in the conference and they've got a light schedule coming up: PHI (7-9) twice, MIL (7-12) and WAS (2-12) to end the week. If you asked me where I wanted the Bulls after 16 games, this wouldn't be far off.

So yeah, I can't make heads or tails off it. One day I'm asking to blow up the roster and fire the coach, and the next I'm perfectly content where we stand. Heck, I'm even optimistic about the near future. Darn you, Bulls. You guys are driving me nuts.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Marbury Refuses To Play...Again!

Stephon Marbury

Stephon Marbury refused Head Coach Mike D'Antoni's offer to play in their game against the Pistons. The Knicks organization has been fed up with Steph's antics that one source said Marbury will be suspended immediately.

Marbury has no right to demand not to play. Any NBA player doesn't have that right. Marbury is being paid almost $20 million by the Knicks, and he can sit if management asks him to work? And for those who say that its just fair because Steph was treated badly by being benched in other games, its the company, in this case the Knicks, who decides what's best for them. Marbury doesn't fit D'Antoni's system, and they should've bought out his contract at the start of the season. Marbury's ego will just destroy a locker room. Yes he can score 20+ points in a game, but that doesn't make you a good player. If there is some people to blame, its Donnie Walsh and Jim Dolan. D'Antoni asked them to buy this player out because he is not going to use him anyway, but the owner refused. I don't get how you could pay so much to make your team worse (acquiring Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, Jerome James), but can't buyout Marbury's contract to make your team better?

To the Knicks management, I hope you learned your lesson with this recent chapter in the Marbury Saga. LeBron or Bosh wouldn't want to join a team this chaotic, so you guys better clean this whole mess up before 2010.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Did Detroit Get The Raw End Of The Deal?

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Many reactions to the Chauncy Billups-Allen Iverson trade had the Pistons getting the upper hand in the deal. Some say that inserting an elite scorer in the Pistons' sound defensive system can win the Pistons a championship. Some say Billups has lost his touch to win games for the Pistons. But from the start, my reaction to this trade was this: The Nuggets had traded a big time scorer for a WINNER!

Yes, Allen Iverson can score 30 points a night for you, but that doesn't guarantee you a win. Iverson carried the Philadelphia 76ers to an NBA Finals appearance, and that was about it when it comes to team achievements that AI had been involved in. But Billups had been in six straight Conference Finals appearances, and two stints in the NBA Finals. You can say that Detroit has other players to support Billups. Denver has the same quality of players talent wise.

One reaction I got to this trade is "Iverson wasn't winning in Denver because they were badly-managed and badly-coached." Well, here is my answer. If the Nuggets' being badly-coached is the reason for their losing, how can they have a 9-3 record, which included a win over Boston, after the Billups-Iverson trade? The Pistons are at 5-5.

And now, what everyone in Detroit feared already happened - The Answer missed practice. Iverson chose to be with his family while the whole team was sweating their butts off in the gym. Coach Michael Curry said that Iverson will definitely be fined and won't start in their next game.

The way I see it is that this trade will have mixed reactions or grades until we reach 2010. The Pistons claim that they did the trade to net LeBron James in free agency. So if that doesn't happen, or the Pistons don't win a championship from now until that time, I think they wasted a high value player, a leader, and a WINNER in this trade.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Wolves point guard Randy Foye - one of only three players on roster who was present for the Kevin Garnett era in Minnesota - hasn't really been himself since the Big Ticket punched out of the Twin Cities. Leading up to their game against the Celtics, the first that Garnett was to play in Minnesota against the team he led for 12 years, Foye had these things to say about his old teammate:

"One thing I miss about him is, he just let me go. That's why I was so successful my rookie year,'' said Foye, who has sputtered in the season-plus since. "No matter what happened, if I made a mistake, I'd look at him and he'd go [Foye balls up a fist and pumps it], like 'It's all right. Keep your head up.'

"It makes you feel better. It'd be like that for anyone in their work, if there was a legend who pumped you up. For a young player, that just boosted my confidence. Sometimes, in my rookie year, I felt like an All-Star out there because he let me do what I wanted and when I got it going, he let me go.''

It sounds to me like he wasn't really over that time. It's hard to blame him. Sure, it's been over a year, and KG has surely moved on (especially after winning a ring in his very first season outside of Minnesota). Sure they played him once in Boston last year, but never at the Target Center - where even the crowd still loves him, maybe even more than they love the Wolves. Well, after stinking up the gym in the Boston game (4 points on 2 of 12 shooting, 1 assist to 2 turnovers), it may have finally sunk in that Ticket is gone and Foye has to do things his way now. It just may be the most important game in Foye's young career. It might be the game he finally lets go of Garnett.

He seems to have moved on now - and how. On his very next game, he torched the Pistons with 23 points and a career-best 14 assists in 106-80 rout of the Iverson-led unit; the Wolves' first road win of the season. He's finally playing like someone you'd trade Brandon Roy for (although technically, Roy was traded for Randy and a million dollars - so if Foye can be worth at least that, it'd be fine). The game against KG may be a turning point. I won't be putting my money on the Wolves (still just 3-9 this season) anytime soon, but I sure will be keeping an eye on Foye in the coming weeks.

(Update: In the four games Foye has played since, he's been averaging 17 points and 8 assists.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Phoenix center Shaquille O'neal doesn't seem quite ready to pass on the big man torch. In his first matchup with Blazers rookie sensation Greg Oden, Shaq showed why he was the best center of his time - posting 19 points on 8 for 12 shooting, 17 boards and 2 blocks. Oden, meanwhile, finished with just 5 points and 5 fouls. Guess he was the Big School Bus tonight, the way he took the young one to school.

Many have started to brand the Marion-for-Shaq trade, and the subsequent let-go of coach Mike D'Antoni as failed moves for the Suns, especially after the team burned out of the first round of the playoffs last year. Some have started to count the team out as contenders - with Shaq, two-time MVP Steve Nash and on-borrowed-time forward Grant Hill all aging another year. Phoenix, though, is currently 9-5, good enough for a three-way tie for second in the West (behind just the powerhouse Lakers). More than that, it's starting to look as though their new commitment to defense might be key in making a deeper run into the playoffs - just as Suns GM Steve Kerr predicted when he agreed to end the Fun and Gun era in Phoenix.

What's behind the newfound relevance? Part of it is Shaq. In the new offense installed by coach Terry Porter, he's finding more and more touches. And he's responded. After averaging 12.9 points for the Suns last season, he's upped his scoring to 15.4, with a team-high 8.6 boards and 1.2 blocks. He's had some pretty dominant games this season - dropping 29 and 11 on Milwaukee last November 8, and a 29-point, 13-rebound, 6-assist effort in a close win against Sacramento six days later.

Nash isn't having a particularly great year numbers-wise - but I think that speaks more of the offensive philosophy than his losing a step. They've been making the most of Shaq's talents, unlike last year where the offense was leaving him behind. I think there's a better balance this year, and I'm sure Nash wouldn't mind if it can get them back into contention. The addition of Matt Barnes gives their lineup a little more depth now, something the Suns sorely lacked last season. It might be too early to tell, but I think the Suns are for real this year. I'm not saying they're going to beat the Lakers, or that they're even making it to the second round.

I'm just saying - don't count them out yet. Not if Shaq can keep turning back the clock.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Open Letter to Mr Dwayne Wade

Dear D-Wade,

There's been all this talk about LeBron bolting the Cavs in 2010 and going to New York. They're saying it's better for his career to go to a big market team, where his talents will be showcased to a larger and more valuable audience. It's a business move - and no one can blame him if he leaves his hometown for the bright lights of New York. There might be only one thing that keeps this from happening, they say. And that's if the Knicks can't put together a competitive product to challenge for a title. That's how the careers of most legends are judged, after all - how many rings were won before the end.

Well, he isn't the only one with a career crossroad to consider that summer. You have one, too. And yours might end up more important in the long run. How's this for a proposition: Dwyane Wade to the Chicago Bulls in 2010.

King James might be the most marketable NBA player this side of his Airness, but you're no slouch yourself. Going to a bigger market team may be as beneficial to you as it is to him. Chicago isn't just about the size, too. It's one of the most relevant franchises in NBA history. And it also happens to be your hometown. It won't be like LBJ and his search for greener pastures. Hey, we just want you to come home.

What's going to be waiting for you? Two words - Derrick Rose.

He's a hometown kid, like you. And he's a superstar, just like you. He's the first Bulls rookie to score in double digits in his first 10 games since number 23 himself. He's averaging a gaudy 18.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists in close to 50% shooting through his first 13 games.

(And if you don't count the game that doesn't count, those numbers get bumped up to 19.9, 4.6 and 5.8)

Know what people have been saying about him? Warriors coach Don Nelson said they were big Rose fans and that "he'll be up among the best of them in a really short time." Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said Rose will "blossom sooner than people think he is. He's going to be a great player, maybe as soon as the end of this year." Cavs coach Mike Brown called him "a gem." Suns guard Raja Bell called him "a highlight reel waiting to happen" and Warriors forward Stephen Jackson said he'd "have one of [Rose's] jerseys up in my house." ESPN's David Thorpe, who does the Rookie Rankings, said scouts are starting to call Rose "unguardable."

But a backcourt of you and Rose? D-Wade, THAT would be unguardable. We're talking championships here. You know what it's like to play for all the marbles with another superstar beside you. In 2006, the Big Diesel was still his HOF self. The year after that - not so much. So from experience, you know the difference between playing with good players and playing with great ones. Hey, you need any help you can always ask those three guys in Boston.

10 games into his NBA career, and this kid has already been drawing MJ comparisons. You know that counts for something. We haven't done that since Kobe and Vince. This guy is the next big thing. And for those who will tell you Mike Beasley can develop into a similar player. One, I doubt it. And two, even if he does - consider this. Look at the rosters of the Bulls and Heat. Eventually, they're going to build the team around you and Rose (or Beasley, for the sake of argument). With the Bulls, you're going to be trading guys like Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. These guys (with Ben Gordon) were almost traded for KG (if only Pax were a Celtic during the Bird and McHale days) or for Kobe. The Heat are going to try to move guys like Udonis Haslem, Daequan Cook, Chris Quinn and Mario Chalmers. (Gordon and Shawn Marion don't count since they're both probably gone by season's end.)

Realistically, the current Bulls roster can be traded for a decent supporting cast in return. We can probably get shooters like Kapono and Posey to spread the floor for you to operate. Maybe get a legit 7-footer who can rebound, defend and not screw up too often when you and Rose find him for wide open looks under the basket after you draw double- or triple-temas.

So here's all I'm trying to say: looking for a big market team? Chicago in 2010. Wanting to go back home? Chicago in 2010. Thinking of moving to a team that can offer you a shot at a championship or two? Chicago in 2010.

(It feels a little dirty, openly lobbying for a player currently entrenched in a two-year contract. But heck, if the Knicks can do it for LeBron, why can't we?)

How sweet would it be to win the Larry O'Brien trophy behind two homegrown talents? Man, you and Derrick will be immortal. We might have to build you a statue. And more than that. We might finally forgive the franchise for all the past hurts. For the untimely Jordan-Pippen-Phil Jackson breakup. For the fact that we had Elton Brand and Ron Artest together at one point and nothing to show for it. For trading for Larry Hughes.

So I think I speak for ALL Bulls fans when I ask you and the Bulls management: please bring Dwyane Wade to Chicago in 2010.


A Wade/Bulls Fan

Friday, November 21, 2008


Gary Payton made some comments on NBA TV about Celtics PG Rajon Rondo and his role on last year's championship team, essentially calling the young guard a 'towel waver.'

Yeah, you know the type. The guys on the end of the bench in close games, rooting for their starters to pull through with a W. John Salley on the 1996 Bulls (and 2000 Lakers). That Guy.

Pretty strong words, considering GP's role on the 2006 Heat squad where he picked up his career's only ring.

Check out the numbers...

2006 NBA Finals

Gary Payton, Miami Heat
6 G
22.2 MPG
2.7 PPG
2.0 APG
1.0 SPG
.368 FG%
.143 3P%

2008 NBA Finals

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
6 G
27.0 MPG
9.3 PPG
6.6 APG
3.8 RPG
1.5 SPG

You gotta give the Glove some love, though. He was able to lead his Sonics team to the 1996 NBA Finals when he was in his prime (where they lost to MJ in 6). But the year he won his ring, the man wasn't even starting. Rondo was an important cog in the Green Machine, and was arguably the most important player on his team not named Kevin, Paul or Ray. Don't forget the way he burned the Lakers in Game 6 with a statline that read: 20 points, 8 assists, 7 boards and 6 steals.

Now we don't want to be pointing fingers at anybody, but if someone was qualified to do a little waving during their championship run -- it might not be the kid.