Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Best Part of the 2012 Playoffs

The best part of the 2012 playoffs was not the Sixers brutalizing the Bulls.  It was not the improbable Celtics run, or Rajon Rondo's ascent to godhood and near defeat of the Heat before the forces of history overwhelmed him.  It was not the tough, 80s like basketball that made up the Heat-Pacers series.  It was not the San Antonio Spurs, a team that should by all rights have been a fourth seed but who, through 10 glorious games, played like the best team in the NBA; a team so well coached, it functioned not as a collection of players, but a living organism, evolved to mindlessly dominate.  It was not even LeBron James' rise to the top tier of basketball players.  His unstoppable effort to be included in the list that reads Jordan, Russell, Bird, Robertson, Chamberlain, Kareem, and now and forever going forward, James.  Good as all that was, it was nothing compared to the look on Durant's face at the close of Game 5 and his subsequent meltdown in the arena tunnel.  This was a look of sheer failure and misery.  A look that said that Kevin Durant would never forgive himself for what had transpired during the series and would work every day to guarantee it never would happen again.  That was the best moment in 2012 because it means that good as this year was, 2013 will be even better.  The sheer basketball beauty of these finals: the unbelievable effort, the swarming defense, the display of athleticism at its peak, the repeated presentation of the human body being used as perfectly as it can be -- all this is prelude.  Barring any unpredictable injuries or James Harden deciding that his pathetic finals performance should earn him a max contract in 2013, we will be seeing these two teams face off repeatedly in the years to come.  Only next time, Kevin Durant will play with scorn.  He will be the one trying to secure his place among the top echelon of basketball gods.  He will not be forgiving.  I cannot wait.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Most Important Day of The Season

Tomorrow (or today on the East coast if I don't finish this post in the next 7 minutes) is the most important day of the season for the Utah Jazz.  The team is playing the Phoenix Suns.  Currently the Jazz are a game ahead of the Suns and just barely in contention for the playoffs.  If the Jazz win this game they are guaranteed a playoff spot as both teams only have a game left after tomorrow.  If the Jazz lose they could still get into the playoffs by beating the pathetic excuse for a northwestern team the Portland Trail Blazers.  For this to work the Suns would have to lose their final game to the Spurs.  That's pretty unlikely, as the Spurs clinched the top Western conference seed tonight and are highly likely to kickback, relax, and let Cory Joseph and Kawhi Leonard do the heavy lifting necessary for a 60 point game.  Since the Jazz have already lost twice to the Suns, the Suns have the tie breaker.  So tomorrow the Jazz, in front of a fully charged and terrifying home crowd, will likely play the game that will determine whether or not they will have the honor of losing in 5 to Joseph and Leonard.  But due to the whims of a mad, Caligula like despot, the Jazz owe their draft pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves if they make the playoffs.  This being a year that pretty much everyone agrees is ripe with draft talent, this might not be a trade worth making.  Although the playoffs would shore up this young Jazz team and provide them with some maturity on which to build, maturity can only get you so far.  What the team needs is a point guard and with both Kendall Marshall and Damien Lillard potentially in play, I'm not sure if a brief trip to the playoffs now is worth losing out on this golden opportunity.

Fear not, Jazz fans/others who come to join in my wisdom!  The Jazz still have a shot at a draft pick, and one significantly higher than the 14th or so that they would get based on their own mix of skills and ingenuity.  By some twist of fate too crazy for the Marvel Universe, but barely comprehendible in a universe with this, the Jazz also have the Golden State Warriors' draft pick.  The Warriors, you say.  They're terrible.  Ah, but hopefully they're not too terrible, as this pick is, my uninformed friend, protected if the team gets any of the first 7 draft picks.  Currently the Warriors are the 8th worst team in the league.  But two of the teams with worse records than them are the New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors.  These horrible teams will play each other on Thursday.  Although everyone who watches this game will lose, one of the teams will have to win.  The Warriors are currently only one game back from these two teams, and they lose the tie breaker to both teams.  The Warriors have currently been on a tanking tear, which shows little sign of slowing down, despite their accidental win yesterday against the Timberwolves.  But the unstoppable momentum of this gleeful tanking may soon come up against the immovable object that is the New Orleans Hornets, playing in Oakland.  The Hornets are truly awful this year, and it is not at all clear to me that you can lose to them on your home court even if you try.  That game is also going down tomorrow.  It is possible that the Warriors could lose it, but still come away as the 8th (or even 9th, as they win [or for them lose] the tie breaker with Detroit) worst team in the NBA.  The team also plays the Spurs on the last day of basketball operations.  This Spurs team will be resting its starters and playing off of a back to back in Oakland.  But still.  I feel like with the Warriors with their tanking tanks on full can still outlose the Spurs, who won't be trying to lose just, you know, to nap.

So I think tomorrow is make or break for this Jazz team.  They could end up going to the playoffs AND getting a great draft pick.  They could go to the playoffs with no draft pick.  Or they could miss the playoffs and get the crummy remnants of a once deep draft.  Of course, the Warriors could always win tomorrow and then win the luck of the draw and end up as one of the teams with a top 3 draft pick.  But barring any unforseen insanity, like Joseph and Leonard overperforming against the Suns or underperforming against the Warriors, tomorrow will determine the fate of the Jazz's future.

And wouldn't you know it, it takes me too long to type.  Tomorrow is already today.  It will likely be one of the most important for the Jazz since they traded Deron Williams and for many years to come.  Let's hope it's a kind one.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bolerjack post of the night

"The other end, playing the cherry pickin' game, is Camby."

--Craig Bolerjack, 1/30/12

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fans of the Northwest

The Northwest Division has been one of the most exciting in the NBA for the past half-decade. It has produced four strong teams (Blazers, Jazz, Nuggets, and Thunder) that have featured prominently on the national stage and in the playoffs. It also has some of the most fervent fans in the Association. As such, we have decided to rank the fan experience of each in order from worst to first. Unfortunately, due to insufficient funding, TGRTNS has only been able to attend games in three of them, but that will not stop our pontification.

5. Minnesota Timberwovles

Although they are a pretty exciting young team and should receive a lot of views from league pass this season, their crowd appears modest in comparison to the rest of the division. This is understandable, given the fact that David Kahn has consistently killed any hopes for a good team and that the modern NBA is not conducive to starting five point guards. The fans are just not rowdy enough to knock the Wolves from the bottom position.

4. Denver Nuggets

Having witnessed the spanking of division rival Utah at the Pepsi Center earlier this week, I can say definitively that this is a pleasant place to play basketball, although not much else. The fans cheered loudly as the Birdman entered the game and were happy to see the Nuggets work the weave drill against one Utah defender all night, but this stadium lacked the intimidation that some others exhibit. Teams need not be afraid of playing in Denver come April and May.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder*

Placing the Chesapeake Energy Arena third in the division will almost certainly infuriate our Thunder readers, but please hear me out. This stadium has undoubtedly become one of the most exciting places to play in the NBA and brings the Ruckus daily. It loses points on three accounts, though. First, Thunder fans have never had to suffer through an extended rebuilding process, and have instead only witnessed its success. It is a lot easier to go nuts for Kevin Durrant than it is for Steven Jackson. Second, this team is stolen property, and will always be asterisked as such. Third.

2. Portland Trail Blazers

Blazers fans are extremely loud and incredibly engaged, and often for good reason. The PTB have started this season by winning three straight games and they are consistently a playoff team (unfortunately one that consistently loses in the first round). They earn extra points due to the amount of frustration they have had to endure with the Brandon Roy's early retirement and Greg Oden's imminently following.

1. Utah Jazz

In addition to being a homer, there are some legitimate reasons that the experience in Salt Lake City tops the division, and potentially the NBA. As opposed to the Thunder, this veteran fan base has experienced losing seasons before and will again for the short term future. As opposed to the Blazers, fans continued to flock to the stadium to watch the Jazz even when they were horrible. If you need more convincing, just listen to this.

*Stolen property

Best Point Guard of All Time of the Week

In a league dominated by point guards, it's possible that one of the men lacing up today is the greatest ever to play the position. But who that might be can change in the blink of an eye. Thus, we bring you our newest feature: Best Point Guard of All Time of the Week.

Before the season began, it was pretty clear that the best point guard of all time would surely be Chris Paul who, having recently been acquired by the Clippers was about to lob nightly Dunk Contest Winning Dunks to Blake Griffin and remake the ramshackle Clipper offense in his image. And while Paul has thus far played respectably, getting 9 assists in both his games and only turning the ball over twice, the Clippers remain a work in progress that has not yet figured out to use its three decent, though not all greatest of all time point guards (or are they? stay tuned).

If Paul has disappointed a little, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, and Stephen Curry have been The Biggest Letdowns in History by playing on teams that are absolutely horrible, fighting with the talent, and sustaining ankle injuries, respectively. Who then is the greatest point guard of all time of the week? LeBron James? Despite being a top 10 point guard, this wasn't his week. Derrick Rose? Despite putting the weight of a championship run on his back, his horrendous shooting and turnovers as well as the increased attacks you get as the reigning MVP mean that he isn't there, this week. No, the greatest point guard of all time is clearly Rajon Rondo, today.

Although he's fallen off a bit, putting in a dismal performance against the Hornets (possibly the worst ever), his opening night play single handedly kept Boston in the mix, as he scored 31 points on 19 shots, grabbed 5 boards, dished 13 assists, and got 5 steals. Rondo was everywhere and everyone realized just how dominating he was as he put in the best performance I've ever seen. Rondo was floated as a trade rumor recently, but is fast becoming the Celtics' best player as the rest of their roster looses the valiant fight against time. Expect Rondo to take his game to even higher levels in the coming weeks as he continues to play with a chip on his shoulder. He should continue to dominate in assists, steal the ball like a ninja thief, play the best, smothering point guard defense of anyone who's ever lived, and maybe even hit a three occasionally or get to the line and make his foul shots. Mark my words. Rondo's ascent is just beginning, or I have no idea what I'm talking about. Your choice.

If the space jam scenario happens (always a dangerous possibility), and aliens challenge us to a game of 5 on 5 for the fate of the universe, it's pretty clear who will be playing the point. Rajon "Compsognathus" Rondo. That's who. This week.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday's Top Ten

1. A story that I, and I assume every thinking person, thought was just a way to make every one of Bill Simmons' columns 50,000 words long, seems to have materialized into something real. Durant and Westbrook fought and, one can only assume, will take each other out via an elaborate game involving multiple assassins and the Baltimore City special drug investigations police unit.

2. The Utah Jazz had 22 turnovers yesterday, not quite enough to average the record 24.5 of the 1976-77 Nuggets, but the season is still young, and no one can handle the ball, whatsoever, so I'm not giving up hope. These Jazz are in good historical standing, though. Malone is the all time turnovers leader.

3. Sure, he's only played a couple of minutes against the scummiest of garbage time opponents, but Alec Burks' PER of 40.13, along with his passing, jumping, and scoring abilities, tell us that he should be starting, or at least grabbing way more minutes than CJ Miles.

4. Proud losers: A good post on being a Knicks fan and way Jared Jeffries is way more of a Knick than is Carmelo.

5. David Aldridge, as usual, writes a warm and compelling article about the return of the NBA and all of the different things we have to look forward to this season.

6. After never believing in the Mavericks in the past, John Hollinger never believes in them even harder this time around as he draws this conclusion after two blowout losses.

7. Americans and basketball fans everywhere let out a collective sigh of relief after the news broke that Micheal Jordan is engaged (finally).

8. Lost in the shuffle of last year's playoff excitement, Darko was finally freed. Freedom is never really free, however, and with the departure of this blog we have lost our best opportunities to hear podcasts devoted to ghosts, to read posts about the racial structure of the NBA and of America, and to learn about basketball from some fun writers.

9. Here is this video that has been linked to by every other website on the internet. We only ask that you use our link to view it.

10. Another nice piece, this time by J.A. Adande, about why we are so happy this holiday season.