By Vincent Thomas
Sometimes, there’s just too much stuff going on to select one topic and roll from there. This is one of those weeks. So, I’m introducing The Memo. It’ll be a periodic feature that appears under The Commish umbrella. The look/focus/approach/scope might evolve, but, for now, I plan to use The Memo to include a number of bulleted thoughts – some quick, some lengthy, some random, some pointed – that don’t warrant a full column devoted to that specific topic. You can also email me any questions or assertions and if they don’t sound as if they were spouted from the mouth of a rube, I might include it (and a response) in some of the upcoming Memo editions. With that said, let’s get it…
$$$ It’s crazy to watch 50-year-old Dikembe wagging his decrepit, arthritic index finger after pinning some young buck to the fiberglass. Can this dude really still be playing ball on that, very functional, level? Kidd is getting toasted by the young-stud point guards these days, but he’s still flying up the court, throwing no-looks and oops. He’s 35. How is he possible? How is Nash possible? Grant Hill, Sam-I-Am, Functional Finley – all of these dudes are cryogenic. I swear that team execs are cryogenically freezing these dudes during the offseason as a preservation practice. That’s how a dude, like Big Shot Rob (37) can come back swingin’ like Austin Powers in the postseason. Cryogenic: it’s a new adjective I’m droppin’ on y’all, one we can use to describe any athlete, over 33, that’s still balling on a non-Eric Snow level — Snow’s not cryogenic, he’s geriatric. Scott Pollard (33) is geriatric. Ben Wallace, however, is cryogenic. Not just Horry, but the whole Spurs roster is cryogenic, except geriatric Jacque Vaughan. You don’t have to be a 34-year-old All-Star to be cryogenic – you just can’t ball like Kevin Ollie. Right now, Deke is carrying the cryogenic torch – hard. By the end of his career, however, Sheed will be the cryogenic poster-boy.
$$$ Speaking of cryogenic athletes…so, Brett Favre is hanging it up, huh? Dude was 38 years old. That’s ancient, for an athlete. I like how his career ended, winning 13 games, having one of his best seasons and having fun, too – dude was slinging snowballs after touchdown passes in Lambeau during a playoff win. Joe Montana and Dan Marino didn’t go out like that. But he needed this last season as a fitting end, otherwise we’d remember the 2005-2006 Favre, the one that played like steamy, hot piles of dookie. It makes me think of Shaq; as in: I hope Shaq’s career can end like Favre’s. I don’t even really dance with Shaq too tough, but I respect the grandeur and impact of his career and it’s uncomfortable to watch the way his time is ending in the NBA. These past two seasons have been kind of jokish and they can definitely tarnish his legacy. I was part of the “Hang It Up Shaq, Before You Start Balling Like Mark Eaton” chorus, but now I want to see The Big Timberrrrrrr stop falling all the time, get healthy, drop 15 pounds and come back for one more strong season, then leave $20M on the table and ghost-out.
$$$ I love both the Dallas/Tyronn Lue and Boston/Sam-I-Am signings. Boston needs someone to play a solid 15 minutes of backup point-guard to spell Rondo and/or step in when the young boy is having problems. Have you seen Eddie House try to play point? It’s despicable. He, along with Damon Jones, should be playing in rec-leagues somewhere in Toledo, Ohio or something. Boston needed another point … bad. Now they have one. And, of course, Sam is the best kind of insurance in case Rondo tanks when it counts in May and, possibly/maybe/perhaps, June. You’re blind and naïve if you don’t, at the very least, wonder how Rondo is going to handle a tight Game 6 against Chauncey in Eastern Conference Finals. Sam was made for the postseason. This is a good look.
Lue is a slick pickup for Dallas, too. Kidd, in cryogenic splendor, has withered under the heat of these Western Youngsters. First Lil’ Chris smoked him; then Deron flambayed him. Enter Lue. He wasn’t exactly balling-out this year, but, during the previous two seasons, he averaged double-figure points, provided solid outside shooting and, most importantly, played some of the most annoyingly-pesky-perimeter defense in the league – which Dallas desperately needs.
And three cheers to Tyronn for not providing any help for the other squad that pursued him, Denver. I already detailed my disgust for the Nuggs last week and I (firmly) believe that if they make the playoffs it will prove the lack of natural justice in this world. T-Mac: It’s on you to see to it that Denver suffers just punishment. There’s No Room For Squares in the West.
$$$ A few weeks ago I wrote a column documenting the difference between Franchise Players and Max Contract Players, focusing on the innate, transformational qualities exhibited in players that deserve the “Franchise” tag. I had put Melo in the Jury’s Still Out category and AI with the Situational Franchise crew. But you know what? Scratch that. They are the antithesis of Franchise Players and epitomize everything about Max Contract Players. The lifeless, insular, lackadaisical, MTV Celebrity Game performances that Melo and AI continue to turn in happens to be the most disappointing play of any superstars not named Vince Carter. Carmelo Anthony actually basket-hangs, like he’s a high school junior in 5th period gym. AI will literally jog at shooters with his hands by his side. He also refuses to pressure the ball or even attempt to play point guard when called upon. It’s infuriating.
But, Mac? If Mac can carry this Rockets squad into the playoffs, might that be enough to get him a temporary Franchise tag? It just might.
$$$ I’m assuming that a good amount of SLAM readers double as Lost fans. I got hip to the show late – around 2004 – but have been hooked since. I think it’s the best non-HBO drama of my lifetime. Last year, Sam wrote this interesting piece comparing NBA players to Lost characters. On a angrier and more confused note, I think the East-West competitive gap is a disaster not unlike the Oceanic Flight 815 plane crash. It’s also mystifying, much like the “island.” The ill thing about Lost is all the mystic crap that they throw at you. When something can’t be explained or defies logic, the “island” is the answer/explanation. First John Locke is a crip, then he crashes with Oceanic Flight 815 and dude is walking, hiking and cappin’ folks. Jin’s boys couldn’t swim when he was trying to knock up his wife, Sun, in Korea, then he crashes with Oceanic Flight 815 and they conceive a child together. The “island” has those kind of positive, regenerative powers. But the “island” also kills pregnant mothers, houses a menacing black-smoke cloud and tropical, carnivorous polar bears. The only explanation for these things is “the island” and its mysticism.
Well, all this Lost mumble-jumble is germane to the NBA, because I’m struggling to find logical, empirical answers for why the West has been so good, for so long and the East has toggled between levels of mediocrity and where it’s at this season, which we can best describe as “an embarrassing depth of ineptitude and trashness.” Forget steroids. Forget Spygate. Forget Clemens. Forget Goodell. The United States Congress is wasting its time with that crap. This is what needs investigating, because the only way to come to terms with a competitive gap that will see seven to nine 50-win teams in the West and three or four sub-.500 squads in the Eastern Playoffs is to believe that there is some Lost-like mystical powers at work on this land and they reap differing fruits on each side of the Mississippi. West of the Mississippi, your boys can swim again. It’s where young talent blossoms, teams gel, GMs make sound decisions and coaches coach well – for no real, readily apparent reason. East of the Mississippi is where the pregnant mothers die and young teams never develop an identity, coaches are typically clueless, GMs make dumb decisions and teams underachieve as a trend – for no real, readily apparent reason.
The NBA has always been a top-heavy league where each conference has two to four serious contenders, a few middle-of-the-road squads and then scrub-cavalries. But whatever happened to power shifts? Conference jostling is fun. I know we’ve had two Eastern champs since 2004. That, however, doesn’t acurately reflect how sucky the East has been for 10 years and I’m sick of this “Charlotte Can Make The Playoffs at 20 Games Under .500” trash. But look at Charlotte’s roster — they’re talented. This underscores the fact that there’s some mystic outside force that has kept an annoying imbalance of power in the NBA for about ten years now. If the Bobcats roster and management operated out of Kansas City, they’d be 15 games over .500, right now. Seriously. And, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Congress needs to get on this.
$$$ I’ll save a lot of this for my late-season MVP column, but the LeBron-Kobe debate is closer than ever. Kobe’s teammates no longer hate him and he trusts them now. Gone are the days when he plays like a hog on an island. Meanwhile LeBron became a 4th Quarter Closer. And have you seen the way he Ds-up these days? We’re basically dealing with two players that have, virtually, no flaws. So how can we determined who’s the best? I’ll let you know in April. Until then, just know that Kobe is still, hands-down, the best dude doing with a Spalding.
Vincent Thomas is a SLAM Online columnist and a SLAM Magazine contributor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.