Tag Archives: Shane Battier

Sorry Duke, Virginia is the New Taste in College Basketball

Reading some of national reporting on college basketball, particularly Virginia basketball, it might be easy to conclude that there was a crisis in college basketball. It would be easy to conclude that Virginia basketball was an infection slowly killing college basketball. It would be easy to conclude that Virginia was leading NCAA basketball down the path to attention deficit disorder-driven doom.

Such a conclusion couldn’t be more wrong.

I watched Duke play Florida State the other day. It is hard not to be impressed by the embarrassment of riches Coach K has brought to Durham. Duke starts 4 freshmen. At least 2 of those 4 will be one-and-dones. The other 2 could spend a second season in Durham pretending to be college students, but it is not likely. Smart money says all four call it quits on going to class in January and conclude their stints at the NBA’s minor league franchise-in-residence at Durham after March Madness concludes.

As I watched the track meet with FSU, I couldn’t help but wonder what Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer and Jay Williams thought. I can’t imagine what Bobby Hurley, Christan Laettner and Grant Hill think. I am sure they are happy with the continued success of the program. Duke is an unquestioned big dpg in NCAA basketball. However, watching Duke play basketball today has very little in common with Duke basketball that put the Blue Devils on the map. It looks nothing like the game that Battier, Booozer, Laettner, and Hurley played. Funny, I don’t remember many reporters griping about too much defense when defense was Duke’s calling card.

The Duke of old was known for discipline. Hard-nosed, aggressive man-to-man defense was Duke’s differentiation. While Duke had very talented players back in the day, they lived and died with their defense and the offense it so frequently spawned. Prior to the current incarnation of Duke basketball, players went to class and graduated with college degrees.

Not any more. The Duke of today is a staging area for NBA players. A way station, a holding bin. Duke no longer has a brand or calling card other than a roster stacked with kids who have no interest in a Duke education. Instead, they have every intention of leaving Durham before the first commencement ceremonies of their college “careers.” Remember when Coach K wouldn’t raise a championship banner in Cameron Indoor if a player on his team had not finished his degree? Yeah, those days are over.

Watching Duke play these days is like any other play ground game. it is festival of 1-on-1 moves and dunks. Duke’s defense is more happenstance than strategy & execution. When ridiculously talented players log enough minutes, eventually they will be in a position to make a remarkable play. Duke’s defensive success is more like looking down and finding a 4-leaf clover than the result of a well deployed plan.

On the other hand, I just got back from the Virginia/North Carolina game in Charlottesville. UNC came into today’s game averaging 85 points per game. They scored just over half of their average today as Virginia dominated the Tar Heels for the second year in a row in John Paul Jones Arena.

In past two games combined against Virginia, the Heels have scored 92 points for a per-game average of 46. That doesn’t happen by accident. It also is not a result of Virginia’s roster being stacked with 5-star, future NBA lottery picks. Rather it is the result of a program that is committed to winning differently and generally has its way setting tempo and controlling the pace of play.

Unlike Duke, Virginia wins based on stellar execution at both ends of the floor. They win by playing the best defense in the country. They win by frustrating offensive juggernauts used to having their way running up and down the court doing tomahawk and windmill dunks. UNC didn’t have any windmill jams on Saturday. Instead they got their butts kicked at both ends of the court by a team that, on paper, had no business staying within 20 points of the Tar Heels. What’s not to love about that?

David slaying Goliath has always been a popular theme in college athletics. Until Virginia started averaging close to 30 wins a season, no one ever evaluated David’s style points for how he slew Goliath. That Virginia fans went as crazy over 3 uNC shot clock violations as they did for De’Andre Hunter’s thunder jam over Joel Barry shows me that Virginia fans appreciate the full breadth of the college game.

Virginia can’t win playing UNC or Duke basketball, so they don’t. Instead, they play aggressive defense. They make the extra pass on offense. They play Virginia basketball. True basketball fans should at least appreciate if not relish the fact the Coach Tony Bennett has found a way to run with and beat the big dogs by intentionally not playing their game. Strategy and execution should be as appreciated as a part of college basketball as a break-away slam.

I suspect those who grimace at the way Virginia has creeped into the top tier of basketball programs are the same folks who like to see a winning score at the US Open of -20. On the surface a birdie-barrage looks more entertaining than hacking out of knee-deep cabbage.

However, what the run-and-gunners  and birdie fanatics miss is an appreciation for the strategy options and execution that turn an expected outcome on its head. Maybe what irks Virginia’s detractors the most is that Virginia wins enough big games now, that after a beatdown of UNC, no one even considered storming the court…since Virginia has now done this 5 times in a row.

I am not asking everyone to be a Virginia fan. All I am asking is for an accommodation, for a grudging acceptance that there is more than one way to succeed mightily in college basketball. Virginia might be an acquired taste, I understand that, but so is good bourbon, good scotch, and stout beer. Beating the tar out of the Heels two years in a row is a great reason to celebrate the acquired tastes in life, wherever we find them.

NBA Finals Player Power Rankings

With only two games left in the NBA Finals, and with the Heat on the brink of elimination, I thought I would share with you my rankings of each player in the series.

Without further ado, here are my NBA Finals Player Power Rankings.

24.       Rashard Lewis –When the Heat signed the former Magic star, many people thought that he would be the icing on the championship cake. That is not the case. Lewis has disappointed the front office as well as the fans, averaging less than 2 points per game in less than 5 minutes per game in the 2013 playoffs. I can see why people would have misjudged Lewis’ potential impact, as he was a pretty solid player at one point in his career, averaging 22 points per game in the 2006-2007 season. Now, he can’t even sniff the court. That drop off is really bad; it has to be the worst for any player in these Finals…

23.       Tracy McGrady – Whoops! I spoke too soon. Technically, I have him ranked at 23, but that’s just so I don’t slight any of the other players who are, in fact, better than Mr. McGrady. Rumor has it that T-Mac has been “Lebron” during Spurs practice, and that alone tells you that the guy has still got “it”.

22.       Matt Bonner – Like T-Mac, “The Red Mamba”, is way more famous than he is good at basketball. The three point specialist is averaging less than one three pointer per contest , and is absolutely horrific on defense. He also has an ugly release on his jump shot that, coupled with his fame in the Caucasian community, could sabotage young white ballers for years. However, he does have red hair and Kobe likes him, so that counts for something.

21.       Joel Anthony – Joel Anthony is the best Canadian player on this list. Cory Joseph is from Canada? Nevermind that. Joel Anthony is the best undersized, scrappy, hustle-oriented center who is in the game for rebounding, defense, and that’s it. DeJaun Blair is on the Spurs?

Joel Anthony is the best player in the NBA who can’t make layups. Whatever. Who am I to talk? The guy hustles and tries his best, what more can you ask for? (Any amount of basketball IQ, the ability to catch passes under the basket, whatever trait you need to stop getting dunked on.)

20.       DeJuan Blair – DeJuan Blair is one of the more likeable players in the NBA. He doesn’t have an NBA body (shorter and fatter than most) and he doesn’t have an NBA anatomy (missing his ACL on both legs). What he does have is heart and determination, and he is just a little better than Joel Anthony, so that’s why he finds himself at this point on the list.

19.       Cory Joseph – I don’t really know all that much about Cory Joseph. I know that every once in a while he will steal major minutes away from Tony Parker, and will look a lot like Tony Parker, which is saying a LOT. I also know he doesn’t play a lot and hasn’t done enough to be higher on this list.

18.       Shane Battier – I’m pretty sure Shane Battier is the only human being on the planet who could handle what’s been happening to him with so much class, grace, and professionalism. For those who live under a rock, Shane Battier went from averaging 25 minutes a game and being an important piece for the Heat, to being benched and averaging less than 10 minutes a game in the NBA Finals. Battier hasn’t complained and has acted like a real pro through it all. As a hooper, he just isn’t what he used to be. The historically great lockdown defender isn’t quick enough to stay in front of guys and isn’t big enough to bang with the big boys. He can shoot three-pointers, but not at the level of Ray Allen and Mike Miller. Battier has been great, but is on the wrong side of 30 and isn’t going to get any better from here.

17.       Udonis Haslem – UD is a fan favorite in Miami and for good reason. He grew up there, went to the University of Florida, and returned to his city. He is scrappy, plays with a chip on his shoulder, and is absolutely automatic with his short to mid-range jumper. He’s tough, smart, and and brings a nice pick-and-pop game to Miami.

16.       Boris Diaw – I was struggling with how to rank Diaw/Haslem, but gave Diaw the slight edge. Diaw’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) was about 2 points better than Haslem’s and his True Shot Percentage was a whopping 7% better. He is a quality shooter who knows his role and does it well.

15.       Norris Cole – I absolutely love Norris Cole. How many guys could shoot as much as he does while on the same court as LeBron James and Dwayne Wade? Seriously, that level of confidence and self-righteousness is uncanny. But, guess what? Cole isn’t really wrong in taking the shots. He deserves them, as they often go in. (Side note: Norris Cole is the only good young player on the Heat. That’s kind of scary,)

14.       Chris Anderson – The number one player on the “Players Who Your Mom Has the Most Questions About” list is also the single greatest offseason move the Heat have ever made, outside of getting the Big Three together. Birdman has been a game changer for the Heat, shoots at a very nice percentage, plays defense, and can run at essentially any pace. He is a really valuable asset to this squad.

13.       Ray Allen – Ray Allen’s release is remarkably quick and his shooting is on point. I cringe every single time he steps inside the three-point line, but he often proves me wrong and makes a little runner or leaning pull up jumper. All in all, Jesus Shuttlesworth is still a quality baller and an ideal sixth man for Miami.

12.       Mario Chalmers – Mario Chalmers could be the most underrated player in the series. He can quietly go off for 20+ points in one game and silently help the Heat win in the next. He is insanely clutch, (see his last college basketball game), and is a great defender. When Mario Chalmers goes to play for another team, don’t be surprised to see him breaking out as a quality NBA player.

11.       Mike Miller – Mike Miller’s new role has been a game changer. He is a high-energy player with the purest jump shot in Miami (Ray Allen is quicker with his release but isn’t as pure as Miller). He’s been contributing at a level that is pretty remarkable for a guy with a broken back.

10.       Gary Neal – Who is Gary Neal and why is he the best shooter in the NBA?

9.         Danny Green – Who is Danny Green and why is he the best player in the NBA? I don’t understand where Danny Green or Gary Neal came from, but they are making it rain. Danny Green is shooting 54% from the floor and 66% from beyond-the-arch in the last 5 games. Neal is shooting 46% from the field and 52% from deep in the same stretch. When you have role players producing the way these two guys have been, the Spurs are going to be tough to beat.

8.         Kawhi Leonard – Leonard has done a spectacular job when faced with the single hardest task in the NBA: guarding LeBron James. No one can stop LeBron, except for LeBron himself, but Leonard has certainly slowed him down. Leonard’s freakish wingspan, hand size, athleticism, and upside make him the best young player in this series. The Green/Leonard/Neal threesome could be pretty formidable in the future.

7.         Tiago Splitter – Yeah, he got blocked really badly by Lebron. Yeah, Steven A Smith would laugh and call me names if he saw me putting Splitter this high on the list. Splitter is actually really good. He has a great PER and is a quality low-post center. He catches the ball and finishes well at the rim. I know that putting Splitter above Leonard may be controversial, but I gave him the nod due to the fact that he is a center and quality center’s are more rare, and therefore more valuable, in the NBA. Defense and three wings like Leonard are a dime a dozen, (granted Leonard is a good one).

6.         Manu Ginobli – Here’s a secret about Manu that most people don’t notice. He is a great ball-handler and passer, as the backup point guard for the Spurs. That’s why he can’t start. He is still killing it at his old age. Also, if you have some free time, watch a YouTube video of Manu’s best passes. They are phenomenal and fun to watch.

5.         Chris Bosh – I’m going to hold off on the dinosaur jokes and go straight to the “Chris Bosh isn’t the type of player I would want on my team” jokes. He is a power forward who doesn’t bang and, as a result, kills the Heat with his lack of rebounding. He is really good, even though I don’t see why, so we can call it a push.

4.         Tim Duncan – Timmy Duncan is incredible and doesn’t get near the praise he deserves. He won an NBA Finals MVP 14 years ago. Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joeseph probably didn’t see it because they were 7 and had to go to bed. His game is the ultimate “old-man game” and I’m pretty sure that he could play for another 20 years. A real basketball fan has to love Timmy.

3.         Dwayne Wade – I was one of those people who said Dwayne Wade had lost his edge. Too many years of banging and recklessly throwing his body around finally caught up to him. A player who had, for so long, relied on his athleticism to get to the basket and score had lost that athletic edge. Due to age and injury, he was no longer the elite basketball player he once was. I was very wrong.

2.         Tony Parker – Parker is the best point guard in the NBA and there is a lot you can say about him. I will focus on the fact that he got hit by a bottle thrown by Drake at Chris Brown. Imagine if Parker’s injury had been worse. That could have been a top 10 craziest sports story of all time.

1.         LeBron James – Its Lebron. He’s the best player in NBA history. He scores at will. He is unstoppable. He will win the NBA Finals. And be Finals MVP.

Tell me your thoughts on my list!

Do I have someone ranked too low? Too high? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @Tiboofy!

What Happened to Believeland?

More Than A Fan has lost it’s second Tweeter in June.

Damien Bowman is giving up Twitter for the month of June, and I’m joining him… sort of.

I am quitting Twitter until the Indians get back to .500.

It’s not just a slump-buster, although if it served as a slump-buster I certainly wouldn’t mind. I am done with Twitter because I am upset with the Cleveland fan-base, at this very moment.

Cleveland is supposed to have a tough-nosed, weathered, and loyal fan-base. We’ve experienced the lowest of lows, yet we survived and continued to love our teams anyways. Our passion is supposed to surpass that of any other city, even to a fault.

Lately, however, the Cleveland fan base has upset me greatly.

When did we become so whiny? When did we become so soft? When did we begin to give up so easily?

Cleveland fans on Twitter have seemingly given up, already, on two things that I can’t seem to understand.

First of all, the Indians. Two games under .500, 5 games out in the division, and the season is over. Never-mind that there are 100 games left. Never-mind that there are three months left. Never-mind that we have a two-time World Series winning manager.

The Indians are done, so they say.

Let me ask you a question, all of you Tribe “fans” that are “done”. Are you kidding me?

This team was built to compete now and in the near future.The Dolan’s didn’t spend the money just to spend it. He spent the money, brought in the players, and brought in the manager, to compete. You think that just because this team is struggling that he won’t continue to improve it? Even if the Indians continue to struggle, (and they won’t), this front office and ownership group is going to continue to add pieces to make this franchise a contender again.

So why would you be done? With so much time, so many possibilities, and so much fun left to be had? It baffles me. Of all the times to be fickle, and you seemingly never have, why now? Why on the cusp of a great summer?

I understand the frustration, but I can’t understand the quitting.

I know you’ve all heard this before, but keep this in mind. The Indians have a very easy schedule in July, August, and September. That’s when they’re going to compete. Not now. Not in the midst of a nine-game road trip to three of the toughest places to play in baseball. I wouldn’t expect them to win many games. The schedule-makers, while screwing us now, set us up for success near the end of the season. That’s when I expect us to pull within a couple of games of the AL Central and Wild Card. Ultimately, that’s the goal: to compete.

I don’t think anyone expected the Tribe to be World Series contenders this season. I, like many, thought that they could contend for the division and wild card, but they would ultimately fall short and miss the playoffs.

Next year, I fully expect them to compete for the World Series.

The expectations are what baffles me. Many of you expected the Tribe to be a .500 ballclub, and yet, at two games under, the season is over. You’re done. You’re in Milwaukee or Detroit for the rest of the season.

I don’t understand.

You can leave the bandwagon now, but their may not be room come August and September. I would advise, and hope, that you stay on.

The other thing that upsets me greatly about Cleveland fans lately, is the thoughts on the return of LeBron James.

There are those that want him back and those that don’t. I happen to be in the former category, but I can certainly understand the feelings of those in the latter.

What I don’t understand is the sentiment that LeBron James WON’T come back.

Again, I ask, are you kidding me?

Are you really tangled that deeply your cynical and pessimistic web that you are now blind to the facts?

LeBron James has been playing with a team that resembles his old Cavaliers in 2007. Dwyane Wade is a shell of his old self. Chris Bosh has become more like Zydrunas Ilgauskus than anyone would ever like to see. (Love you Big Z, no offense man.) Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Birdman are all about ready to hit the retirement home.

LeBron didn’t go to Miami to live the Miami lifestyle. LeBron went to Miami because that’s where Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh wanted to play. LeBron wanted to play with them, and that’s what brought him to Miami. You think that LeBron didn’t want to bring Wade and Bosh to Cleveland? You’re crazy.

Now that LeBron is seeing that Wade and Bosh weren’t as he expected, (not one, not two, not three…) he’s already planning his escape from South Beach.

The Cavaliers are, by far, his number one option, and why wouldn’t they be?

They have the number one pick in this year’s draft, some intriguing cap-space, and a gaping hole at the small forward position that LeBron could over-flow. The Cavaliers hold a special place in his heart, regardless of his “hatred” for Cleveland.

Yet, Cavs fans can’t see it. They are so blinded by their love-for-misery that they fail to see the facts. They remember their heart-break and will never trust again. What kind of life do you live if one heartbreak will deplete your trust in another human being? Not a very happy one, that’s for sure.

Of course, I shouldn’t compare your sporting interests to your reality, but more often than not, they mirror each other.

Yesterday, Nick Camino tweeted this:

 

And it put Clevelanders in an uproar. Cleveland fans began attacking Camino. Saying that he did this just for ratings, (which don’t count on Sunday, might I add), mentions, and publicity.

 

 

They want to be miserable, so they don’t believe a word he says.

I listened to his show on WTAM 1100 after the Tribe game, and this is what he had to say:

“This individual is close to LeBron James. The person is in the know in LeBron’s camp. If I didn’t trust this person, I wouldn’t have tweeted about it, I wouldn’t risk my job, I wouldn’t risk my credibility. I’m not trying to get listeners, this is simply what I heard from someone with knowledge of LeBron’s future. Being the nice guy that I am, I figured I would share this with you.”

“When I got this news, I was surprised. I trust this person with my life.”

I trust Camino, and I don’t believe he would do this for personal gain. He’s been right about these things before, so I doubt that he would deliberately put this out there to throw fans in a frenzy.

I understand that LeBron is the most polarizing player of all-time, but I don’t understand how his return to Cleveland can cause such a negative uproar. Sure he betrayed us, but he was ignorant. He didn’t understand the heartache and humiliation he would cause. He didn’t understand that we wouldn’t understand. He made a mistake, but we all do.

Why not forgive? Why not try again? What’s the worst that happens?

He stays in Miami and doesn’t sign here. That’s the worst that happens.

Then, LeBron becomes the biggest villain in the history of sports. If he tempts us again and leaves us empty, the, THEN, all of your hatred towards him will be FULLY understood.

If he lures us in with all of this talk and then, at the last minute, leaves us at the alter, your hatred towards LeBron can bubble, boil, and flow through your veins. You can even spur that hatred towards me, the one who told you to give LeBron another chance.

That won’t happen. Either he’ll come back, or he’ll stay far, far away and let  us know that he’s staying far, far away.

I’m not going to debate on why you should want LeBron back, because you absolutely should, but I will implore you to believe that LeBron wants to come back.

Anything else is just ignorant.

As I ponder these two topics, I wonder. What happened? What happened to the greatest fan-base in sports?

The passion is still there, but when did we become like the people in Miami?

When did we star to arrive to the game late, and leave when there is still LOTS of hope at hand?

My Twitter profile says: Believeland: Believe in God. Believe in Christ. Belive in Family. Believe in Friends. Believe in Dreams. Believe in Cleveland.

That last part is what is missing. People say that Cleveland is “Believeland”, but who honestly believes anymore? When the going gets tough, Cleveland fans get going.

I know I believe. I will believe until the season is over, the game is over, or the play is over.

People need to start believing again, no matter how hard things get.

This is Believeland, not believe-until-it-gets-bad-land or believe-only-when-things-are-going-well-land.
Believe, no matter the circumstances, that Cleveland will prevail. Maybe a change in attitude could change the fortunes of this city.

Just believe fans.

What reason is there to not?

With your help, maybe this city can truly become Believeland.

Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – An NBA Finals Game One Running Account

by Ryan Isley

There are strange NBA Finals and then there are strange NBA Finals. The 2012 NBA Finals has to rank among one of the strangest in recent memory, if only for the rooting habits of two cities who are not even involved in the series – Cleveland and Seattle.

When Kevin Durant was drafted in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics and then had a great rookie season, people started to think of the possibility that one day Durant would be facing LeBron James in the NBA Finals. What we never expected was that when it finally happened, most of the people of Seattle would be rooting for LeBron while most Cleveland fans would be rooting for Durant.

But that is where we are. As we all know, the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder following Durant’s rookie season and then LeBron left Cleveland to chase a title in Miami with Dwyane Wade and the Heat.

So for the most part it is Cleveland and Oklahoma City vs. Seattle and Miami. And of course I am not most Cleveland fans – I have been supporting LeBron for the duration of these playoffs.

Sounded like the perfect time for me to do a running diary of game 1 – Bill Simmons style.

Continue reading Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – An NBA Finals Game One Running Account