Tuesday, May 28, 2013

If Spurs Win Title ... Was This The Kobe Era or Duncan Era???

*Full disclosure: I've been a Laker fan since the early 1980s when Showtime took the league by storm. 

On Monday night, the San Antonio Spurs swept the Memphis Grizzlies and will head to their fifth NBA Finals.  There they will meet the winner of the Miami-Indiana series.  If the Spurs win that, it will be their fifth title since 1999.  Only the Los Angeles Lakers have won that many during that span.

If the San Antonio Spurs win their fifth NBA Championship ... does Tim Duncan have a better grasp of the "Player Of His Time" as Kobe Bryant does?  I mean, during Kobe's career, he has five rings.  As far as superstars go, Tim Duncan has four as did Shaquille O'Neal.  Kobe's status and amount of rings gives him the belief that the 1996-2013 timeline is his era.  A fifth ring for Duncan, however, could mean that he has a right to claim that thrown.

But can he claim it?

Well, let's look at this era.  From 1999-2013 (this would be under the assumption that the Spurs win the 2013 championship which would be a bit of an upset.  But let's assume it for this argument), the Lakers and Spurs combined to win 10 of the 15 championships.  Only the Pistons (2004), Heat (2006, 2012), Celtics (2008) and Mavericks (2011) have won titles in this Spurs/Lakers era. 

Heck, if you realize the fact that these two are in the same conference, these two have represented the West in 12 of the last 15 NBA Finals.  Kobe's Lakers have gotten to seven Finals and Duncan's Spurs have reached five.  Only the Mavericks (2006, 2011) and Thunder (2012) have broken through these two juggernauts. 

That's something.

So how do you determine if this was the Kobe Era or the Timmy Era?  Well, Duncan was the Finals MVP three times.  Kobe just twice.  Tony Parker won the Finals MVP award for the Spurs last title and would be the favorite to do so if they win it this year.  Shaquille O'Neal dominated the Finals MVP award during the Lakers three-peat in the early 2000s with Kobe winning it in their titles in 2009 and 2010. 

Overall MVP awards?  Duncan has two awards (2002, 2004) to Kobe's one (2008).  Interesting to note that neither won a title in their MVP seasons.  All-Star games?  Kobe has 15 to Duncan's 14.  All-NBA First team?  Kobe has done so 11 times to Duncan's 10.  Defensive first team?  Kobe has done so 9 times to Duncan's 8.  Not as relevant, but Kobe has two Gold Medals (Beijing, London) to Duncan's bronze medal in Athens. 

Both are among the greatest players to ever lace them up.  Kobe is near the top of the all-time scoring list while Duncan is regarded as possibly the best power forward in history.  Sheer greatness.

How about who these two beat in the Finals?  The Lakers beat the Pacers, Sixers, Nets, Magic and Celtics for Kobe's titles.  Not the greatest of teams, but that does include Reggie Miller, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd, Dwight Howard and a Boston team that had won a title two years prior.  The Spurs beat the Knicks, Nets, Pistons and Cavaliers for their titles ... and would've beaten the Heat for this argument to take place.  New York was an 8th seed in the Finals, the Pistons were defending champs and though the 2007 Cavaliers weren't that great, this would mean the Spurs have knocked LeBron out in the Finals twice.  Beating this Heat team would beat the best win of all of them.  Still, that doesn't mean a ton since it is opportunity more than a take on how good they really are.

Both won an NBA Finals Game 7 as well.  Kobe's Lakers beat the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals, while Duncan and the Spurs beat the Pistons in a Game 7 of the 2005 Finals.  Duncan was huge in that Game 7, scoring 25 pts and grabbing 11 rebounds while being clutch in the 4th quarter.  Kobe didn't have as good a game in his showing.  He hit just 6-of-24 shots, but did score 10 of his 23 points in the final frame and did nab 15 boards.

One thing that helps settle this is the fact that these two have faced off SEVEN times in the Western Conference playoffs in the last 15 years ... including five times in the period of 1999 to 2004.  The results?

1999:  Spurs 4-0 in semis
2001:  Lakers 4-0 in WCF
2002:  Lakers 4-1 in semis
2003:  Spurs 4-2 in semis
2004:  Lakers 4-2 in semis
2008:  Lakers 4-1 in WCF
2013:  Spurs 4-0 in first round

Head to head, the Lakers have won 4 of the 7 series.  As far as games, Lakers hold an 18-16 lead.  It is that close. 

You can also bring up the timeframes they won their titles.  The Spurs have never won consecutive championships.  Again, they won in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and (for this argument) 2013.  That means Duncan's Spurs won in three different decades, 15 years apart.  The Lakers won in spurts.  During that "drought" between the Spurs' first and second titles, the Lakers won all three (2000, 2001, 2002) and went to the Finals between the Spurs' second and third rings.  Since the Spurs last title in 2007, the Lakers have won the Western Conference three times (the following three seasons of 2008, 2009 and 2010) while winning two championships in the latter two seasons.

The Spurs can say they have five rings in 15 years, showing their longevity.  The Lakers can say they won 5 titles in 11 years, showing their might.  So is it Kobe's or Tim's era?

I guess you have to craft your answer around which of these stats you put the most stock in.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Charlotte Gets The "Hornets" Back ... Now What???

"We Beelieve That The Bugs Are Back!" was a slogan used
in the 1990s for the Charlotte Hornets.  The name is back, but
what else does the franchise need to do?

Michael Jordan made official what everyone knew:  the Charlotte Bobcats want to change their name to the Hornets.

A little history for those who somehow don't know.  The Charlotte Hornets entered the NBA in 1988 and the city led the league in attendance in 8 of their first 10 seasons (the expansion Minnesota Timberwolves led the other two seasons when they played in the Metrodome).  Original franchise owner George Shinn ... who was beloved by the city ... got into some hot water for some extra-marital affairs and a sexual harrassment suit.  The city soured on him and he ended up bolting for New Orleans.  The NBA let it happen, though they immediately gave Charlotte another expansion franchise, which would become the Bobcats.  Shinn sold the New Orleans Hornets to the NBA, who sold it to Tom Benson, who changed the name to the Pelicans.  With the Hornets name available, Jordan (who now owns the Bobcats), claimed the name.

Got it?

Now that it has happened, let's look at some other aspects of what should take place.

TEAM COLORS:  Jordan said that they hadn't decided on the team colors.  I'd bet nearly everything that the teal, purple and white will be back with the Hornets.  After all, the "Bring Back The Buzz" campaign that the Bobcats/Hornets have been pimping out there has those original Hornets color schemes.  Remember that it was the Hornets that turned the sports world onto teal in 1988.  No one had it.  After the Hornets, the San Jose Sharks, Florida Marlins and Jacksonville Jaguars had a bit of teal in their logos. 

It belongs back in Charlotte.  But let's just think for a second if they went another direction.  What could it be? 

They could continue to use the dark blue, Carolina blue and orange that the Bobcats currently use.  That way it could meld the franchises together.  I'm not a big fan of that, but I can't blame the Bobcats/Hornets if they did it.  It keeps the Bobcats fanbase a bit happy that the orange they've been used to would be there if the name wasn't.

Original logo
Outside of that, nothing makes sense.  If you were going to go away from the Bobcats current colors, then you may as well stick with the teal and purple.  No one else in the NBA has those colors.

LOGO:  No one in the city would object to the new Charlotte Hornets using their old logo.  Not only is the logo a favorite, but it has been popular in retro gear.  I mean, you could buy Charlotte Hornets merchandise over the last decade even though there was no Charlotte Hornets. 

I do understand a tweaking of it.  After all, the Hornets logo underwent some changes when they moved to New Orleans.  I don't see anything too wholesale being changed.  I think we'll see a fluttering hornet dribbling a basketball just like we always have.  I doubt we'll see it look exactly the same as the old logo, but I don't think they will go off the wall.  Maybe something like this.

UNIFORMS:  Now, I can see anything happen here.  There's is no way the unis will look the same as what Larry Johnson, Alonzo Mourning and Muggsy Bogues are wearing at the top of this page.  Those uniforms will make appearances as a retro jersey of some sort.  Believe that.  But Jordan and the Bobcats spent a lot of time changing the Bobcats look over the last two years that some of those ideas could be incorporated.  I don't see the pinstripes returning, for some reason. 

Still ... and this goes back to the logo and colors as well ... why even bother changing the name "back" to the Hornets if you don't stick to the main focus of the original Hornets?

BOBCATS FANS:  I know it doesn't seem like it, but there are some pissed off Bobcats fans that don't like this change.  Some may not remember the old Hornets.  Some may have bought completely into the Bobcats clothing and merchandise.  I mean, what are you going to do with all that Bobcats stuff?

That's where Jordan and the team should really tread lightly.  Give into those fans.  Sure, some like this change, but treat all your ticket holders respectfully.  Throw them some bones.  Maybe invite fans to exchange certain Bobcats gear for Hornets stuff.  Give away a lot of Hornets stuff, especially at the games.  Possibly even during the upcoming season (they will be the Bobcats for the 2013-2014 season before most likely becoming the Hornets in 2014-2015).  Give stickers, hats, towels, whatever to these fans so they can stock up on things.

EMBRACE THE OLD:  Dell Curry is the TV analyst for the team.  But Jordan needs to reach out to the other ol' skool Hornets.  Bogues still does a lot in Charlotte and is possibly the most popular Hornets player.  Maybe Kelly Tripuka can make an appearance.  Or Rex Chapman.  Or J.R. Reid.  Or LJ.  Incorporate some of the things Hornets fans loved about the original franchise that made them yearn for those memories to come back. 

Oh ... AND HUGO BETTER BE BACK!!!!  He is loved in this city. 

UM, THE TEAM:  None of this will mean anything if the club doesn't get better.  There will be a very short honeymoon for these Hornets.  The original Hornets got a standing ovation after losing to the Cavaliers by 40 points in their first game.  They had a parade after the end of the first season.  They were rabid as the franchise rose to the playoffs with Johnson, Mourning, Bogues, Dell Curry, Kenny Gattison and many others.  Remember that the Hornets didn't have a losing season their last 10 years in Charlotte.  The Bobcats, by comparison, have had just one winning season in their 9 years of existence.

There isn't much on this roster.  The upcoming draft offers little help.  Somehow they have got to at least show they can turn it around and get on a winning track. 

If not, then what's the point.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kings Stay In SacTown; Seattle Should Be Angry

The NBA has made it clear: the Kings are staying in Sacramento.  To make a long story short, the Kings owners are losing money and want a new arena to replace ARCO (or whatever it is called this week).  They had a deal to sell it to an ownership group that would move the team to Seattle and rebirth the SuperSonics.  The NBA was on board until Sacramento mayor and former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson got together an ownership group that would keep the team in town as well as the funding to finally build a new arena.  Kings owners didn't care and still wanted to sell to Seattle.  NBA owners and Commish David Stern shot it down.

Let me state my top opinion on this.  I agree that the Kings should stay in Sacramento provided they replace ARCO Arena (I just looked it up -- it is Sleep Train Arena.  Yeah).  I agree with Stern that this was a win for the small market cities and that the NBA has been good to those markets.  That's all good to me. 

I grew up in Charlotte, NC and saw how the Hornets turned the town into a city.  I also saw how greedy, down-on-their-luck ownership can shop their team to the highest bidder and screw over the people who support them.  Charlotte saw all sides of it.  They were the small market like Sacramento who saw their owner (George Shinn) become a pariah and do everything to make a windfall of money with a move (the Hornets would ultimately move to New Orleans).  Charlotte was also in Seattle's shoes, a city who lost their team but was promised a replacement would be coming (the Bobcats started play two years later; Seattle holds the rights and history for a new Sonics team). 

Seattle deserves to feel upset.  Back in 2008, Seattle watched their team move to Oklahoma City without the same kind of care that the NBA gave Sacramento.  Sure, in both cases, arena financing was the major issue for relocation.  However, the Sonics move to OKC smelled extremely dirty.  There seemed to be a hidden agenda by Clay Bennett, who bought the team, to move the team no matter what. 

So if you are Seattle, you are wondering why their team ... which was in that city for 41 years ... was easily swept away but the Kings (who have been in California's capital for 28 years) had the NBA's support to find ways to keep the team.  Again, I'm not slighting Sacramento, Seattle or Oklahoma City.  All three deserve NBA teams.  The way both situations were handled seem bogus to me.

I also agree with Stern.  Small markets are a big thing for the NBA and a reason for their success.  The NBA is the only major pro franchise in Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, Orlando, Portland, Memphis and San Antonio.  They were the first pro franchise in Charlotte, Indianapolis and Phoenix (and Seattle).  Still, the feeling that the people of Seattle have for the commissioner is valid.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Andrew Wiggins Decision Says More (Bad) About Fandom Than Anything

Recruiting is different now.  There's always been elite players (think how Lew Alcinder's recruitment would be handled today) and great coaches selling great programs (imagine UCLA's John Wooden, UNC's Dean Smith and Kentucky's Adolph Rupp going after you).  But today there is access to it unlike any seen before. 

Sure, there is the media that's greater.  That's a given, but there has been massive media for quite some time.  No, there is the availability of fans to (a) the media and (b) the information or misinformation that has gotten this out of hand. 

In Andrew Wiggins' case, it was bad.  Here was a kid that did the exact correct thing in each and every way.  He never promised any fan base -- he was considering Kentucky, Florida State and North Carolina before ultimately picking Kansas -- that he was leaning their way.  He never lied to anyone.  Never showed his hand.  When asked about it, he either deflected the question or gave a blunt "I have no idea" response.  He took his time so he could make the correct decision for himself.  He actually signed the letter in virtual privacy and not on an ESPN set or in front of a packed gymnasium filled with cameras where he put on a hat (like they did in the old days) or via Skype (as Harrison Barnes did) or even with a school's mascot.  He did this thing perfect ... which may actually did more damage in the social media-sphere. 

Kentucky fans were convinced he was coming to Lexington.  I mean, they are "Kentucky".  They have this awesome class coming in.  Their fans will elevate you into a star even though you really aren't one (right, Josh Harrelson?).  Despite all the signs, Kentucky fan knew he was coming.

So did Florida State fans.  I mean, his mom and dad went there.  It is in the state of Florida ... which is a lot more fun than Kansas, Kentucky or North Carolina.  And why else would the Seminoles be on a recruiting list along with those three heavyweights?

Kansas and North Carolina fans also had their own factions who were convinced that Wiggins belonged there.  Great coaches, great arenas, great traditions and great rosters were waiting for them in Lawrence and Chapel Hill, respectively. 

But if you were a Kentucky, North Carolina or Florida State fan ... Tuesday was a tough day.  Wiggins used that day to select Kansas as his stop gap to the NBA and those other fanbases didn't take very kindly to it.  Sure, there were many fans who moved on without vitriol, but there were also tons of them who took it too hard.  Hard enough that some even went to Wiggins' Twitter account with some very harsh things to say to the 18-year old.

Given what we've seen about Wiggins' maturity in a very wild world of both recruiting and college athletics, I hope that he understands that this is just a bunch of scum who have no self worth in their lives aside from the success of their teams.  He should also know that those people reside in every school's fan base ... though some schools have more than others.  He should also tell himself that those same people would fawn over him if he attended their favorite university ... meaning that those people don't have HIS well-being at heart but that of their school.  To know that you won't represent those folks at all should make him feel even better about his decision.

The fact of the matter is that fans can get where the feel soooooo close to the recruiting scene than they really are.  And people who are in that scene are way more media savvy than you realize.  Every other day, somebody was going on Kentucky sports radio stations and giving hope to Big Blue Nation that Wiggins was a lock to go there.  That same guy could go to a station in the Triangle and sell the same plot to North Carolina fans.  Then head down to North Florida and say he's following his parents' footsteps to FSU.  From there, fans hearing that get on Facebook or Twitter or their blogs and buzz it around.  If you hear it from enough "sources", then you start to actually believe it.  I mean, why else would four fanbases enter Tuesday feeling as if Wiggins was set to sign with their school?

Wiggins just did what millions of kids do each year: choose the college that best fits them. 

Which is also what fans usually do as well.  I mean, why are you the fan of the school you are a fan of?  Maybe you attended that school?  Maybe someone close to you went there?  Maybe you happen to be born in the city or state that the school hails from (or in Wiggins' choices, were the Big State School)?  Maybe you are just a bandwagon fan that just picks the best or most popular team?  Maybe daddy passed on the love for that school ... just as Wiggins' daddy had done for Florida State. 

And if Wiggins' mother and father can support his decision to attend Kansas, then why in the hell can't you?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sportz'NBA Second Round Predictions

Well, I went 6-2 in the first round predictions ... surprising losing the Nuggets over the Warriors as well as the Bulls over the Nets (I had the Nets winning that Game 7).  I did predict a Heat sweep and the Pacers winning their series in six.

So let's move on to the second round.

#1 MIAMI HEAT vs #5 CHICAGO BULLS:  The Bulls have played the Heat tougher than anybody this season.  However, these two teams are on different ends of the spectrum.  The Heat are healthy, rolling and easily dismissed the Bucks in a sweep.  The Bulls are decimated by injuries, illness and had to go the distance before finally knocking out Brooklyn.  And they will be on a quick turnaround while the Heat had about a week off.  Heat in 5.

#2 NEW YORK KNICKS vs #3 INDIANA PACERS:  Like the Heat-Bulls, this is another great throwback to the late 1990s.  The Knicks had some surprising struggles against the Celtics in the last round and J.R. Smith is having a tough time with his shot.  The Pacers are a physical team that will try to knock the Knicks out of rhythm ... which Boston was able to do.  However, Carmelo Anthony can't let us down for a possibly epic Heat-Knicks conference final, can he?  I'll take the Knicks in 6.

#1 OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER vs #5 MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES:  When we last saw the Thunder, they had Russell Westbrook.  He's out for the rest of the postseason and OKC is a noticeably different team.  Memphis looked great by winning four straight over the Clippers after falling down 0-2.  Memphis isn't the team that the Thunder want to face right now.  While nobody can stop Kevin Durant, Tony Allen can at least slow him up a bit.  Zach Randolph did a number on Blake Griffin in the first round that it will be interesting to see how he fairs against Serge Ibaka.  I feel the Grizz are up to the challenge and will upset the Thunder in 6.

#2 SAN ANTONIO SPURS vs #6 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS:  G-State is hitting right now.  The Spurs just dispatched the wounded in every way Lakers.  This should be a whale of a series.  I just don't like a team that relies on the jumper making in past a Spurs team that can beat you with so many different ways ... including with experience.  I think the experience of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker along with Greg Popovich gets them by the Warriors.  Spurs in 6.