Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Z-Bo Question

Winning the number 1 pick in the draft did big things for the Trade Zach Movement (I've spent a lot of time trying to convince people that this is in fact a movement, people seem to like joining movements). Finally, more fans seem in favor of sending Zach somewhere else and allowing our young core to develop. So the question is, whats the best option?

Some speculate a trade to Chicago, some hope for a kind of deal for Rashard Lewis. Rashard would probably come with a contract similar to Zach’s (very long, very expensive), I’m not really sure Portland tying up that much cash long term would be wise when they will have to re-sign these young stars in a couple years.

I’m for using Zach as a means to increase financial flexibility in the future. After all, when Portland is fighting to get over the hump and become a real championship level team (wow, I’m all giddy now), wouldn’t it be nice to have that leeway to sign a good complimentary free agent?

Also, with Oden or Durant on the way, Portland doesn’t really need Zach’s talent anymore, in fact Zach’s offensive style (holding the ball until it becomes flat, then shooting) could stifle the development of such players.

Which is why I’m in the camp of trading Zach for some expiring contracts. You could get some vets that are good character guys and hardworkers who could come off the books soon. It might sound odd, and Portland would very likely be giving up the best player in the deal. I think its worth it. Also, Zach is good enough to warrant an overpaid vet and a decent draft pick(s!), either this year or in the future.

You can bet I was pumped for the latest rumor I saw pop on hoopshype.com, Z-Bo for Theo Ratliff and Boston's number five pick (that pick speculated to be in order to secure Conley, I'm not so sure). Theo probably wouldn't be too happy, but he would be a professional (like he was during his first stint in Portland) who sets an example for the younger guys. Not only does Ratfliff makes slightly less than Randolph on a yearly basis, he only has two seasons remaining as opposed to Zach's five. Its also very possible that Danny Ainge is a very desperate man at this point, and might be looking to bite on a big deal. Zach and Pierce could theoretically be pretty lethal, maybe even enough to overlook what the tandem could accomplish off the court.

Of course this is all speculation, but its the kind that sounds very, very good. Will it happen? Will something better come along? Would this deal just be carried out in order to set up another crazy Pritchardizing of the league?

In Kevin Pritchard we trust.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

In Kevin Pritchard We Trust

Oden....or Durant....or Oden...or Durant

Unlike some people I've talked to, I don't view Oden as the automatic pick. Conventional thinking may have you take the big guy, but there's also mounting evidence that Kevin Durant is one of those guys that is wired to dominate. At this point, we've all heard rational reasons to pick either one.

I've also noticed a lot of folks summing up the dilemma by saying something along the lines of "I trust Kevin Pritchard with the decision." I was one of these folks.

After all, Kevin Pritchard is our new can't-miss GM. He hoodwinked the league in last year's draft and ended up with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. That Spanish Chocolate pickup wasn't so bad either. He must have a superior eye for talent. Whatever the mystical statistical and scouting system is that he uses, it works. If you picked up a paper lately, you would know this is all common knowledge.

Let's take a step back. The man was promoted to GM on March 29, 2007. We certainly have signs that he is very good at his job, but he hasn't even had his 90 day performance review. Are we basing our unquestioned faith on one draft? I think I was. I took the promotion of Kevin Pritchard as another sign that the Blazers are moving in the right direction and (finally) making the right decisions.

There was a team of Blazer's management (and as much as I hate to say it, an owner) that made the decisions last draft day. When did we decide to heap all the credit on Kevin Pritchard?

My theory for the KP Love? Two names: Bob Whitsitt, Steve Patterson. The last two GM's of the Portland Trailblazers. Not the most popular guys in Portland. Although one can certainly make the argument that these two did some positive things while on the job, you will never here any of that come up in a sportsbar. Neither one ever had the fan support of Pritchard, we're not even sure if they thought that was important.

They were tough guys to relate to. Whitsitt was like a corporate CEO nobody is ever able to see or talk to, but is definitely afraid of. Steve Patterson always struck me as having a politician-like phony way of trying to connect, which got painful to watch at times.

Enter Kevin Pritchard. A personable guy that has been around the team for a while and (as far as we know) performed his duties well. This may not sound like much of a compliment, but when I see him in an interview he seems like a "person." Patterson seemed more like somebody trying to be a "person," and I'm not sure Whitsitt was ever seen enough to formulate an opinion one way or another.

Could our love and devotion for Kevin Pritchard be due to the unpopularity of his predecessors? I think we can say that at least partially, yes. Deciding to give him a bulk of the credit for last year's draft certainly didn't hurt (and could very well be deserved) things either. Whatever all the reasons are, he has an aura right now that he can do no wrong.

So, Oden or Durant?

In Kevin Pritchard we trust.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Dream

With all the playoff hype and lottery excitement, one could have easily missed the blip of time given to Hakeem Olajuwon's recent visit to Houston. There were some shots of him in the crowd at a late series home Rocket's game. A couple articles came out. Sadly, we don't see much much of Hakeem these days. When he does grace the Basketball World with his presence, why not take a little time and revisit his greatness?

To my knowledge, The Dream spends most his time with his family in Jordan. But when he does stop by the NBA, its profound. Apparently, he convinced Dikembe Mutumbo to stay on another season. Even more intriguing is his mini-coaching session with Yao Ming. There is some great video of the session at the team site, you won't regret checking it out.

It's pretty amazing to see Hakeem still moving as graceful as ever. In my opinion, this is evidence of greatness that never quite seems to get the proper recognition. A lot of that could be due to the fact that he he pursues some of his passions additional to basketball, like his family and his religion. He is definitely not caught up with whole legendary-NBA player-celebrity life.

In addition to his game, I think he deserves more respect in the life department as well.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god!

Did that really happen??!?!?

As it happened, I found myself standing and cheering in the bar. As the text messages and phone calls rolled in, I was trying to remind myself that I cannot do backflips, so ignore the urge to attempt one. I high fived everyone in the place, whether they wanted to or not. I was drinking iced tea.

I immediately paid my bill and fled the scene. Every crappy song that came on the radio was my favorite. I left a crazed screaming message on my girlfriend's voicemail (who by the way, isn't a huge fan). Friends called and couldn't stop talking about the surrealness of this. It was a struggle to keep the speedometer around a legal level. I will admit, I felt a little wetness in my eyes. Unbelievable. How good can things get?

There will be much banter coming about who to pick, what this means to the franchise and the fans, and where to go from here. One of my first logical thoughts is that now I hope we can really trade Z-Bo without fear of talent loss (YES!). This can change everything. I will try to get to more thoughts when my feet touch the ground. Savor this Rip City.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Please tell me there's a pill for this...

I continue to suffer from this sickness. It makes me feel terrible, definitely not like my normal self. I like to view myself as more than a casual fan of basketball. Sometimes I like to say I'm a connoisseur of the game, but not too much, because connoisseur is hard to spell and I have to look it up every time. Anyways, its the playoffs, and I should really be glued to my television watching every single game and following every plot line and story angle I can. I should be directing conversation about everything from Craig Seger's outfit to the always comical sideline reporting. About half the time, I have been.

None of this occurs when the Eastern Conference Playoffs are happening. I'm not here to be another guy talking about how the East sucks, I'm here to seek help. I've really honestly been trying to care about these games and I can't. Anyone know a good faith healer?

We all know there's no sexy juggernaughts out East (sorry Detroit). Even worse, the crowds seem less lively, as do the players. There is a lot of things in the East that should make things interesting. The analysts say Detroit is focused "like they were when the won it all." Sweet! Remember how ridiculously well Jason Kidd was playing? Awesome! How bout those interesting Raptors in the playoffs? Yay! Still nothing.

Its been like my brain is trying to convince my heart that this really is something I want to see. Its not just me, NBA.com's narrative recap of a Cav's semi-finals game featured a few quotes from LeBron, about what he thought of the Diaw/Amare suspensions. Ouch. A game not even interesting enough to dominate its own recap.

Speaking of, remember how captivating LeBron was in the 2006 playoffs? The dishing, the jumper, those awe-inspiring runaway freight train drives to the bucket (I think I stole that description from Bill Simmons). Ah, precious memories. For whatever reason (to me it looked like he was just a little flat all year), this was the first season he wasn't must see TV. I'm not a LeBron hater, those are already out in full force (King James is gonna have it rough for a while after tonight). I do know that if he really wants to be a global icon, he should probably look like he cares out there.

Maybe the problem is me, I could have gotten so swept away by all the basketball deliciousness of the West that the East seems pretty vanilla. I've said before that if a freak tsunami happened in the Great Lakes that ended up swallowing the Palace at Auburn Hills, I probably wouldn't notice. I have been interested in one Pistons game for a period of a few minutes because Rasheed Wallace was having an emotional outburst. This was more for nostalgia reasons, I started musing over the good old days when he threw a towel in Arvydas Sabonis's (who by the way, I want to start calling "stArvydas Sabonis") face. Oh the pain.

Unless something truly crazy happens, this will probably be my last blog entry about the Eastern Conference Playoffs. I just can't do it. I have spent more time researching Yi Jianliang than watching the 2007 Eastern Conference Playoffs. There is no end to this downward spiral.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Robert Horry, we may thank you yet!

While checking out Truehoop at work today, it wasn't very surprising to see lots of outrage over the suspensions of Amare and Diaw. People are mad for a variety of reasons, but the basic undercurrent is that these suspensions just don't feel right. The biggest losers in the deal (um, after Phoenix) really could end up being fans of basketball, who might miss out on what has been a great series up to this point.

Then some ideas came to me, and since I can't openly blog at work (although I obviously manage to read blogs, I am deceptively hardworking), I wrote down some things on a post-it note:

Game 5 will begin shortly, and this new positive attitude has me even more interested in watching now. This suspension incident could ultimately just be another contributing element to a series for the ages. Amare and Diaw will be back for Game 6 (here's praying we get a 7!). I believe both teams in general are going to some how manage to play even harder than before as a result of this. I'm really hoping that Barbosa will look step up, we have yet to see some true Brasilian Blowuptuation in the playoffs. This incident could simply be marking a rivalry heading to a legendary level.

So please hoops fans, just remember not to bag on Horry or the League too hard. You may be thanking them in the long run.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Can't we just play basketball???

Watching Golden State/Utah, things are getting chippy, passed chippy actually. Its been going on a lot in the playoffs. I like when guys are really trying to win, and I love hard basketball, but this is wearing on me. You know when a perfectly good pick-up game gets ruined by a fight between a couple idiots? I always have to ask, "Can't we just play basketball?" How about it NBA?

The second season

I used to think it was an exaggerated way to describe the playoffs. After all, its the same players and teams, they're just trying harder. But seeing things play out so far its hard to ignore the huge differences between the two. I'm a believer now, the playoffs aren't just a higher stakes continuation of the regular season, its an entirely different animal. For evidence lets review some regular season award winners:

MVP: Dirk Nowitzki

Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Camby

Most Improved Player of the Year: Monta Ellis

Coach of the Year: Sam Mitchell

Sixth Man of the Year: Leandro Barbosa

How have these fine hardware collectors fared in the unregular season? Its not so pretty:

Dirk had a historically rough first round and the way some people freaked out, you'd think he was atrocious (just my opinion: he was bad, but not as bad as the hype would have you believe, sort of the basketball version of Gigli. It seemed to me his team just ran into a hot team, and a Boom-Dizl, that his team couldn't match up with. Heavy lies the MVP crown. )

Anyways, comparing his Roland Rating at 82games.com, there's that big statistical drop from a +15.7 regular season rating to a +9.6 rating in the playoffs. Ouch.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Another regular season prize winner, another first round playoff exit. Camby's regular season Roland Rating of +4.4 dropped to +1.3 in the playoffs. Its interesting to note that both Camby and Dirk both posted significantly higher averages in one area, rebounds (Dirk was +2.4 in the playoffs, Camby was +3.1).

Most Improved:
Monta had the biggest drop in Roland Rating (+1.1 reg season to -9.6 playoffs). He's not the battle tested veteran that Dirk and Camby are, so maybe the difference between the two seasons is magnified even more.

Coach of the Year:
We were all excited about seeing the Raps team in the playoffs, but Sam was working with players who had a breath-taking lack of second-season experience (especially when compared to the team they were facing). It showed.

Sixth Man:
I always cheer for players that seem to play the game with some uniqueness. Barbosa comes in and makes you think you're watching something straight from an X-Men movie. While he hasn't been horrible in the playoffs (and with some key players gone, I'm giddy for Barbosa Blowuptuation in Game 6), his Roland Rating has also dipped from a +4.9 regular season to a +3.8 in the playoffs.

Seeing these drop-offs, I think I have to start using that "second season" phrase. That says something when the best of this bunch is someone who's productivity has only dropped a little. Maybe they should have another round of awards for the second season (although in fairness, Luol Deng would still contend for the Sportsmanship Award).

UPDATE: I'm watching Monta Ellis ruin everything I've said. Still, he had a bad first round, maybe he just needed a little adjustment time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Who can stop Detroit?

Just a thought I haven't heard a lot of elaboration on. Detroit has hardly had to break a sweat, will the Nets or Cavs give them a challenge? I'm not convinced. The way Detroit is looking, I can see them breezing into the Finals. There they'll meet a torn and tattered squad that makes it out of the West (Phoenix to be specific, keeping with my post on Change).

Playing a beat down Western team certainly would help Detroit out, they really could win this thing. Not that there's anything wrong with that...Right?

If this happens we should all rally around the elimination of the conferences and divisions system (for real this time!) for playoff match ups. Everyone plays everyone an equal amount of times, and we seed 1-16 for the playoffs.

From the opposing side of this I've heard that the league likes the current set-up as it contributes to rivalries resulting from geographic closeness and from teams playing each other more frequently.

This reasoning is shaky, rivalries don't happen just because the teams play each other a lot, or because they are roughly in the same area on a map. Exhibit A for this is our Blazers and the Sonics. Our cities are close to each other. We play each other all the time. Yet all I think of when I see "Blazers vs. Sonics" on the game schedule is "Oh, here's one I can miss." Sorry NBA, its true.

The current system doesn't neccessarily manufactor rivalries. The playoffs do. Want to make groups not like each other? Those ingredients include high competition and scarce rewards. The playoffs reward is the Larry O'Brien Trophy, and competition for this one prize is a given. When thinking through the great rivalries, don't most if not all come from classic playoff battles? I wish the NBA would actually take a serious look at this, I've seen enough Blazers vs. Sonics to last a life time.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Deceptively Responsible:

Since the playoffs are in full swing, I figured now is a good time for a mostly unrelated post. While wasting away in a cubicle today, I thought up some summer goals for Deceptively Quick:

BREAKING NEWS! As of May 8th, (a day after this original post) Deceptively Quick has moved up to #6! They can't stop us now!

  • Come up with some sort of banner/graphic/logo/thing to replace that horribly boring thing up there.

  • Do an actual interview. Hopefully in the coming weeks this can happen, there's currently somebody playing for a small professional team in town who the world knows about, and who we all need to know more about.

  • Increase my efforts on the Trade Zach Campaign.

  • Finally promulgate the details of my anti-Blaze the Trailcat stance. Did you know it has an email address? Blaze@Blazers.com...Ugh.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


Boom-Dizl is helping bring iconoclast Don Nelson closer to mainstream, or bringing mainstream closer to him...

With Golden State putting the finishing touches on a historic upset, I can't help but think about how this will further the cause of neo-offensive ideology in the NBA. Drastic change only happens overnight if you're a gremlin, what we're watching now couldn't have happened without the likes of the Phoenix Suns and other pioneers (including a the one currently pacing the sidelines of the winning team) who held their philosophies while the slow-down-feed-the-post-bigger-is-better method still dominanted. Unfortunately, however clear the Warriors and Suns can make it seem, many in the NBA will cling to their post-centric values until something undeniable prys them from this belief. That something would be a new school offensive team taking the title.

Modeling happens in many walks of life, the NBA is no exception. Most teams look to see what is most successful and set out to emulate. This is why I've spent the last couple of seasons hoping for a Phoenix championship. I'd venture to say that we all should do this for the common good of basketball. If the Suns win the title, the old paradigm that such a free flowing team cannot climb to the very zenith will be obliterated. The shift in the dominant thinking of the NBA would be complete, and we would all benefit. The NBA would certainly enjoy the increased viewership.

Of course the truth in all this is that there probably isn't one single style that is much better than all the others, its all about having the right mix of talent and personality for the system. The Spurs are so good because their system fits their players (and vice versa), as are the Suns and Warriors, as are all successful teams. Still, it seems the preference is to copy what seems to work well for others. Because of this, the success and failures of teams that symbolize either change or the establishment are linked to mainstream thought in a big way. For a while we only had the Suns, but their success has helped the ascension of the Warriors. With the Warriors win tonight, the philosophy is beating on the door and demanding to be let in. To witness the door being knocked down completely, watch for the Suns (change) over the Spurs (establishment) in Round 2. Want to see somebody walk through the door and change everything? Suns NBA Champs 2007, we're ready.