All Balls Don’t Bounce

Completely Random Sports Non Sequiturs From A Completely Random Hip Hop Head

Posts Tagged ‘pistons’

Kings of Detroit

Posted by hiphopmama on March 26, 2009

"Welcome to the new world, Detroit Rock City"

"Welcome to the new world, Detroit Rock City"

LA Lakers 92, Detroit 77

(57-14)

Who the fuck is Will Bynum, and how can we sign him? In all seriousness, we need one of those monstrously quick little dudes on the perimeter. Don’t get me wrong. I love Farmar, but when paired with Fish they’re not dynamic enough to match up with some of those spark plug guys other teams have in the backcourt. 

The game itself was a mixed bag, which translates to a typical Laker affair. We jumped out quickly on them, building a 13 point lead by the end of one, but then we faded into nothingness in the second quarter. The Pistons literally scored the first 17 points in the second before we ever got on the board. It was pure disgusture from the second unit (plus Pao, who is a part of every unit at this point). It’s not even worth pretending this bench so much as resembles what we saw earlier in the year, but it’s not entirely their fault. We have to remember that the first two guys off the pine – Odom and Ariza – are now in the starting line-up, meaning that our first-choice subs are now Farmar and Vujacic. Or maybe Powell and Walton. Either way, it’s a considerable drop-off, and it means that we are going to give up leads like this pretty regularly when the starters need a rest. 

Giving up leads is one thing. Complete capitulation to the forces of doom is another, and that’s what the team showed in the second quarter. It wasn’t just that they couldn’t run the offense – and they definitely couldn’t, make no mistake about that – but they also couldn’t defend for shit. We only gave up 12 points in the whole first quarter, but we let Detroit score more than that in the first five and a half minutes of the second. Will Bynum, the plucky little point guard forced into starting by AI’s absence, ate us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including aperitif and digestif. I guess you could say it’s a good sign that we haven’t seen that in a while, but it’s still a familiar pattern that I hope we don’t revert to.

The third quarter started to slip further away from us as we fell behind by 10, and then they pulled an us and disappeared for the remainder of the quarter. Phil uncharacteristically called a timeout to regroup, and they came out gangbusters after that. Kobe got aggressive without sacrificing the flow of the game; Ariza added a few hustle points; and Sasha capped it all with a three. But the real savior of the quarter was Derek Fisher, who exploded for 10 points in the third, including two three’s and a few free throws. He is so steady out there it’s ridiculous. He even had an ugly airball go wide, got heckled by the crowd, then ran right back up and nailed one. Farmar might be quicker, but he doesn’t have half the steadying influence Fish does and you can see it in how ragged our play gets when the veteran is out of the game. Someone find this man a philosopher’s stone.

Now that I have outed myself as a nerd, I will note that we finished the third on a 30-5 run after having trailed by 10, and we took a 15-point lead into the fourth. That proved to be enough to get us to the finish line, as Detroit was never able to climb closer than 10 after that. I don’t know if Phil was trying to enact some weird form of punishment, but the starters played the whole way down the stretch, even when the outcome was decided. He did eventually take Kobe out with a minute left, and Fisher and Odom followed shortly thereafter, but it was kinda bizarre watching them out there in garbage time when we have another game tomorrow in New Jersey and four more left in this road trip. Was he sending a message to the subs? Punishing the starters for past blown leads? Losing track of time while Twittering from the bench? I don’t know the reason, but any of our big guys picking up a knock in that situation would have been pretty hard to take, so I hope he’s gotten it out of his system.

While I was happy to see us pull out a good road win after looking so hapless, it should be noted that the Pistons were down three former All-Stars in Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, and Allen Iverson, all of whom were out with injuries. That we couldn’t put them away in the first half, after jumping out to an early lead, without their three best players is a little troubling. But I guess I’ll let it slide since we haven’t won in Detroit in nine years. Now if we can just get a win in Portland, we can shed that last monkey.

Game recap:

Highlights:

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Lakers Bits

Posted by hiphopmama on November 17, 2008

The Lakers have a tough schedule coming up, with five games in eight days, including match-ups with Chicago, Phoenix, and Denver. Perhaps it’s for the best after the loss to Detroit. They got a few days off to mull it over and presumably come back stronger, and now they have a run of games to get back on track. In the meantime, we are left with some random developments on the Lakers front, including some typically funny but nonsensical comments from Shaq.

Kobe reportedly took the loss in stride, feigning surprise when being told that they no longer had a chance to go 82-0. As always, he mentioned his favorite term, “execution,” and claimed that it comes down to “little tweaks you make as the season goes on, so when the playoffs come around you’re clicking on all cylinders.” Lamar Odom, on the other hand, acted much testier in his post-game comments, storming off mid-interview and reflecting the anger I felt while watching the game. I get both sides: Odom was understandably frustrated with the team’s performance, but it’s Kobe’s job to keep his head about him and respond appropriately, which he did. Hopefully stable leadership will filter down and help the team down the line.

Bill Plaschke of the L.A. Times echoed my sentiments in more way than one. First, the Lakers lack that vaunted toughness they worked on all off-season and still got shoved around by an aging Pistons squad. Second, that Vladimir Radmanovic is all but invisible out there. And third, that, despite this being just one loss in a long season, the team would do well to take it seriously and remember exactly how and why they lost. It was, as Plaschke noted, “the same tired song we heard last June in Boston” when “the Celtics controlled the Lakers’ inside presence and easily won the game.” Bynum and Gasol must not be such pushovers inside and play like the seven-footers they are. 

Finally, the Big Aristotle is running his mouth again, in alternatingly entertaining and bizarre fashion. His most recent claims are that Phil Jackson fueled his rivalry with Kobe to elicit better performances out of the two superstars due to their competitive natures. He rightly remarked that Phil could have called them to his office and told them to cut it out but never did. Whether that gets either player off the hook for their childish antics remains doubtful, however. Shaq also expressed a possible desire to return to the Lakers when his contract is up in 2010. Um, first of all, no. And second of all, mm-mmm. I find it extremely unlikely that both Kobe and Phil would want to take all of the baggage on board again, especially if they continue to play well (fingers crossed). I wouldn’t say no outright to the idea, but Shaq was always out for about a third of the season before. Now, with his knees and feet aging exponentially, it seems dubious that he’d last for an extended run, unless he pulled one of his patented stay-hurt-till-the-playoffs stuns. And if that’s the case, he’ll probably be more expense than he’s worth.

That’s all the news for now. Tomorrow night we have the Bulls at home. Chicago is 5-5 and led by Ben Gordon’s 21 points a game and rookie Derrick Rose’s 5.6 assists. I’m eager to see whether we can stop another slasher from tearing us to bits.

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Schuster Gets “Vote of Confidence” – Only In Soccer

Posted by hiphopmama on November 17, 2008

After another disappointing loss, their third in four games, the Real Madrid coach was rumored to be on the hot seat for not getting the desired results from his all-star squad (read here about his stay of execution). The loss to Valladolid was indeed painful, in a different way than those losses to a resurgent Juve team, as Real once again looked hapless at the back and frankly uninterested in doing anything about it. It was a listless effort against a spunky team that, no matter how spurred on by their home fans, Real should have beat.

Still, when I heard about Schuster facing possible dismissal if his team lost that game all I could think was, “Only in soccer.” (Or football, or top flight European football – take your pick.) There is lots of talk about the “coaching carousel” in certain U.S. sports, particularly basketball, but it doesn’t even come close to approaching the kind of musical chairs that goes on in the big European leagues. Real Madrid is a case in point. Fabio Capello is brought in for ’06-’07, and he leads the team to a title. It was a grind, and it came down to the last week, but the team got it done. It wasn’t enough, though, and he was fired ostensibly for not playing the kind of football the Real Madrid faithful were used to seeing, adopting a more defensive style that was less flashy than the (notably title-less) Galacticos teams. So next up is Bernd Schuster, who brings back the razzle-dazzle (thanks, Ray Hudson) and leads the team to its second title in two years. So now, early on in the year and after the team’s first league loss, he is potentially on his way out, because these clubs operate on the Janet Jackson principle: what have you done for me lately?

I’ve always been a proponent of giving coaches time to prove their worth, especially if they come in with proven track records to back them. I’m admittedly a noob when it comes to European football, but my experience with the NBA tells me that you have to be patient. It takes time to come in, get a feel for the team culture, assemble the players you want on the roster, institute a new system (if necessary), and change the established mentality, all before you can expect to start winning. It doesn’t always take this long, but when it doesn’t, you can be assured that the system and players were already mostly in place before the new coach swept to power. Larry Brown ended up leading the Pistons to their first title in 14 years, but he did so with a team that Rick Carlisle assembled and brought back from the abyss and into contention. The addition of Rasheed Wallace in Brown’s first year was the thing that probably put them over the top and helped them beat my beloved Lakers. Similarly, when Flip Saunders came in and instituted a more open, offensive style – which was what management wanted from Carlisle all along, in addition to a more personable attitude – he led essentially the same group to the NBA Finals only to see them lose a tight battle to the Spurs. Jon Gruden propelled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a championship in 2002 on the back of Tony Dungy’s grunt work bringing that group together and instituting their renowned defense. Rotating new coaches in and out of already solid teams – as all of these big clubs are – is bound to be a 50-50 endeavor, yielding results as often as “disappointments,” however psychos like Ramon Calderon define those terms.

Thinking about these various coaches leads me to the conclusion that European football coaches are simultaneously more and less valued than coaches in the big sports in the U.S. Coaches in Europe are often superstars to the same extent as their players are, and their every move is scrutinized by the press and rival teams. Phil Jackson is only half jokingly self-dubbed the “Zen Master,” but it doesn’t approach the level of devotion that trails “The Special One” who currently resides in Milan. Despite this, even these larger than life coaches are rather easily disposed of and often for reasons that are entirely foreign to a stateside fan like myself. The Pistons ditched Carlisle partially for his surly demeanor as well as for a difference in opinion over team strategy, but it’s rare for feuds between coaches and team managers to be nearly as direct or as public as they are in Europe. Mourinho chafed under Abramovich’s insistence on Shevchenko’s position with Chelsea and was fired after taking the club to two consecutive league titles, while Capello was unceremoniously disposed of by Madrid for winning the title with less style than the Madridistas demanded. It’s hard for me to imagine an NBA or NFL coach sacked immediately after leading a team to a championship, no matter what justifiable reasons team management or owners might have. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it makes more sense to me that, if you’ve just come off a good performance, you might not want to shake things up. Then again, when you have the ability to just buy and buy and buy more talent, you have no incentive to work on building from what you already have, as happens in U.S. sports with at least a pretense of a salary cap. Instead, you can just ditch whatever doesn’t instantly work and move on to the next quick fix. Unfortunately, it seems like you might get just that – a QUICK fix that doesn’t serve your long-term interests.

But what the hell do I know? I’m just a dumb Yank.

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Lakers Finally Lose to A.I. And Pistons

Posted by hiphopmama on November 14, 2008

AI Pistons Lakers

Detroit 106, LA Lakers 95

(7-1)

This is the first game I’ve watched front to back, every last minute. Apparently I picked a bad game to start paying attention because the Lakers played like garbage tonight. I have lots of thoughts on our performance, too irritated to be contained within a normal narrative structure and hence presented as bullet points, but I’ll start off with some comments on the Pistons:

First off, the Iverson trade looks great from the Pistons perspective. This win brings them to just 3-2 with him in the line-up, but the Pistons’ play tonight was nothing short of superb and I think it’s indicative of how they will be able to go forward. I’ll admit I was critical of the trade for both teams, but watching Denver beat Boston while the Pistons knocked off the Lakers made me withhold final judgement on the deal. Iverson looked like the A.I. of old – half a step slower but considerably wiser out there in his decision-making on the floor. I know they won two titles with the superstar-by-committee approach, but I’ve always felt that the biggest teams need that one guy to rely on and look to when the going gets tough. Billups filled that role somewhat, but Iverson is a true big game player with experience coming through down the stretch. If he can play anywhere near this level, they will be serious contenders to unseat the Celtics as leaders of the East. 

Detroit looks extremely well coached. Michael Curry is taking over an already successful team, but his players looked disciplined and confident tonight, never getting ruffled or ditching the plan in any way. The Lakers made an occasional run, but they held firm and never gave an inch. Flip Saunders always had the feel of a fluffier coach than a team from Detroit required, but Curry may succeed by moving the team toward a more solid, if less physically overbearing, style of play.

And now to the game itself:

Iverson absolutely torched us in the first quarter. He was responsible for the Pistons’ first 10 points, scoring 6 and assisting on the other 4. We had nobody who could contain his speed or prevent him from getting into the lane or on the baseline to either create his own shot or find an open teammate. Fisher is a hard-nosed defender who will work valiantly all night against anyone you throw at him, but he’s simply not quick enough to match up with the likes of Iverson. Hell, Stuckey ran all over us too, and we couldn’t keep these pesky little dudes from getting under our skin.

Both our 7-footers need to play like true post players. Bynum is still in the learning process – both learning how to play the post and learning how to exist in that gargantuan body – so presumably he will come around with time. Gasol is a different beast entirely. He has the skills to play on the block and can execute there competently when he wants to, but he occasionally disappears from this role for stretches of the game. Sometimes he seems to suffer from Dirk Nowitzki syndrome, forgetting that he is seven feet tall and trying to use his ample perimeter skills more than he should. At other times he just plain disappears altogether.

We could not guard the three point line to save our lives. Between Rasheed, Prince, and Afflalo, we gave up a whole game’s worth of threes in the first half alone. 

The Lakers still haven’t found the touch on the offensive end. They’ve been scoring enough, but it hasn’t been pretty, and it wasn’t again tonight. 42% from the field, 21% from the three point line? That’s not going to get it done. How many easy lay-ups, put-backs, and tip-ins can they miss? Hubie Brown waxed eloquent many times about the Lakers’ beautiful interior passing, but he failed to note that they rarely converted the shots this passing created. Kobe somehow wound up with 29 points, but that was mostly because he started launching threes in the end when the outcome was all but decided. His 12-for-30 shooting was atrocious, as was the fact that he only got to the free throw line four times. Not every game can be his, but we especially need him when everything else is off kilter, and he wasn’t there tonight.

Exposed: Our bigs’ ability to guard a power forward who can shoot from the outside. Neither Gasol nor Bynum seemed interested in making the trek to the 3-point line to defend against Rasheed Wallace’s long-range threat, and he nailed us accordingly.

Derek Fisher is absolutely critical for this team. He went 1-for-8 in the first half, along with his defensive woes. But when he started picking it up in the second half, knocking down a couple long-range jumpers, the Lakers picked up steam and closed the gap. When the standard starting line-up is on the floor, he is essential as a second perimeter option. Kobe is all over the court; Bynum and Gasol are primarily confined to the paint; and Radmanovic is essentially Nowhere Man (seriously, does he even exist out there? I forget he’s on the floor half the time). This leaves Fish as our only true perimeter player in the backcourt with Kobe, and when he’s not clicking, it makes it extremely difficult to get the mismatches they rely on to run the offense. You can only isolate for Kobe so many times.

It’s nothing new, but I finally found an appropriate soccer analogy for it: Kobe Bryant has the Lionel Messi disease – or perhaps it’s the other way around? – he dribbles the ball too far, for too long, as if entranced by his own ability and forgetting that a) there are other teammates on the floor, and b) there is a bigger purpose to the game, namely to score. It might be a little unfair to bring this up at this point, now that he has grown as a player and does it much less, but I still saw it a few too many times tonight.

Vujacic needs to settle down. I appreciate the intensity, but there’s really no point in guarding Iverson THAT close thirty feet from the basket. He’s faster than you, dude. Getting all up in his ass is not going to off-set that, and it’s usually going to earn you a foul. Getting all pissy about the call afterward doesn’t help, either. He’s got that soccer player repertoire of emotions, overly dramatic in his attempts to draw a foul, feigning shock when the calls don’t go his way. I don’t want to hurt his confidence out there – if that’s possible – but someone needs to put him in his place ever so slightly and tell him that that’s not his role. Let your team leaders plead your case with the officials, and then let the chips fall where they may. Besides, they’re much more likely to listen to the complaints of a Kobe Bryant than a Sasha Vujacic. No disrespect or anything.

Where was the defense? The Pistons, playing the second of a road back-to-back, rarely looked hampered at all in their offensive attack (shooting over 50% from the field and 43% from three), whereas we never really got our offensive game plan going. When Detroit game out of the gate like gang-busters, I told myself, “Don’t worry, they can’t shoot like this all night.” I was wrong. When you can pick apart a defense, find every lane, thread every wide-open needle, shooting isn’t all that hard. Throw in our complete inability to guard against the three, and a few lucky ones thrown in (like Rasheed’s banked-in three – I swear, that shot still makes me think of Antoine Walker and the Celtics), and you have a formula for a depressing evening of basketball. Most of it comes down to the poor perimeter defense. We really miss having someone like a Tyronne Lue coming off the bench, someone who can hound a player like Iverson or Tony Parker and at least slow their moves into the lane. We didn’t have that tonight, so we were appropriately humbled by a team with a superior game plan and superior execution. Plain and simple.

Final thought: We still look soft. A number of things were against us tonight. Kobe was off. Actually, most of the team was off with the shot, and they never really got into a groove on either end of the court. But that’s the point. But those are the kind of nights where you have to step up and prove you can win when you’re not at your best. Those old Laker teams could do that – and by “old,” I mean the Shaq-Kobe years (sacrilege, I know). They could gut it out when they were having an off night, scrapping their way through and gritting their way to the win. Tonight proved that this team has yet to learn that vitally important skill. Late in the game, ESPN showed an interview with Kobe where he lamented that his team lost out on a title last year to a team who simply “took it from us,” and he explained all the steps he took to get himself in the kind of shape to prevent that from happening this year. With all due respect to Kobe and his regimen, we’re still a long way off. The team defense needs to be much stronger; we need a solid post player – nothing spectacular, perhaps in the mold of a Kurt Thomas; and we’ve got to be able to keep pesky point guards out of the paint. I know it’s only one loss, and our first of the season at that, but these things need to be addressed. If Phil is as good as he and the rest of the world believe, he’ll find a way.

And highlights, if you can call them that:

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Iverson Officially A Piston

Posted by hiphopmama on November 3, 2008

The trade officially went through, sending Allen Iverson to Detroit in exchange for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and class of 2006 center Cheikh Samb to make the money work. McDyess supposedly has no interest in playing anywhere besides Detroit, so he will be forced to either retire or buy out the rest of his contract with Denver. 

The logic of this really eludes me, from both perspectives. Knowing that McDyess won’t even play for them, I can’t see any benefit for Denver, except that AI was never going to work there when Melo was the primary ball hog. (There ain’t enough room for the both of ’em.) So Chauncey for AI was pretty much a straight swap that leaves the Nuggets down a big time scorer but up a less selfish playmaker with a couple of titles. 

As for the Pistons, the consensus seems to be that they are clearing cap space to make a play after this season for the big name free agents on the market. The most intriguing of these hypothetical scenarios sees Detroit being a prime destination for LeBron James in 2010, with Dumars pulling the strings to perfection behind the scenes. It’s no secret that James wants to go to a team with title aspirations, and Detroit definitely has that pedigree. It’s not quite the big market town he was looking at in New Jersey/New York, but the Jay-Z connection appears to have been faltering of late, making Detroit’s steady hand in management look all the more enticing. 

It’s all just speculation at this point, though. What we do know is that for now, this weird trade has indeed taken place, with the Pistons and Nuggets essentially swapping Billups for Iverson (and McDyess leaving the picture). How it will play out is anyone’s guess. My own take is that it makes little difference for either team over the rest of the season, leaving the Pistons somewhere around the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture and the Nuggets languishing at the margins of respectability. From there on out, who knows.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Iverson to Detroit?

Posted by hiphopmama on November 3, 2008

The latest word is that Denver is working on a deal that would send Iverson to the Pistons in exchange for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess. Iverson reportedly wants to contend for a title late in his career, and Detroit is a potential trading partner that has a chance to do that. 

I’m not sure I understand the reasoning by either side, although I see more benefits for Detroit than Denver. The Pistons team could use some shaking up after falling short the last few years, and switching up the point guard position might be a good way to do that, especially when they can get a Hall of Fame caliber player in return. Billups has been as much of a go-to guy as they’ve had, which might hurt somewhat, but Iverson has been clutch in his career as well and might provide the necessary spark to get them back to the top. McDyess has been a vital piece of the puzzle too, and the lack of depth in the front court is the biggest question mark here. Whether old-ass Rasheed Wallace will hold up with back-ups like Jason Maxiell filling in will be interesting to say the least. Also – and probably most crucially, for the Pistons – Iverson is in the last year of his hefty contract, as is Rasheed, so after the season Detroit will have considerable cap room to work with.

From the Nuggets’ perspective, it’s two-for-one, with the added bonus of getting rid of a player with no desire to continue with the team. Billups is a more traditional point guard who can still step up and hit the big shot, and McDyess will provide some much needed depth up front, where Nene Hilario and Kenyon Martin have been injury prone to say the least. I have a hard time believing the trade will drastically improve their chances, but it certainly can’t hurt. 

We’ll see how it pans out over the rest of the day.

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