Monday, October 8, 2007

Triangle Offense

The offensive strategy created by Tex winter that help Phil Jackson earn accolades of "best coach ever" and 9 championship rings

The biggest difference in triangle offense comparing to other offensive strategies is that it is never a set play. The ball goes to the skill player (usually into the high post [ most difficult place to defend]) and a couple of guys would start cutting through screens to get open and the player with the ball gets to make a decision each time, 1) which of the two guys coming out of the screens to pass to, 2) if the screener get open, pass to them or 3) create a shot himself. So triangle offense really depends on the skill player to make the correct decision and since it is not a set play, his teammates wouldn't know where the ball would go and shot come from so they need to react quickly to know where and when to attempt to get the offensive rebound and who to run back to prevent fast break opportunity from the opposing team.

The triangle offense really stress passing and players movement without the ball, and again since it is never a set play, this causes problems for the opposing team. Players' basketball IQ and chemistry within the team are also very important.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Why is basketball only the #3 sport in US

Just a quick/short article of my interpretation on why the sport I love so much is only the number 3 sport in US

because fat people cant play
football need to be strong or heavy - a lot of fat guys - #1 sport in US
baseball don't need to run very fast - don't need to be fit - #2 sport in US
basketball need speed and endurance - something fat people lacks - #3 sport in US
hockey need good balance to stay on your feet - enough said - #4 sport in US

This may sound mean but the truth stinks most of the time.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The San Antonio Spurs, a boring team?

The TV ratings of the 2007 NBA Finals dropped significantly. One of the suggested reason was that a lot of people thinks the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers are the two most boring team in the NBA. Well, whoever believed in this, does not consider the bad teams as boring. It would be more valid, if they say the most boring playoffs teams. But in my opinion, then this statement is only half true, the Cavs is boring but the Spurs is quite exciting to watch. It is my believe that whoever think the Spurs is a boring team are not real basketball fans, they don’t care about winning but only enjoy highlights real plays, they would probably enjoy watching street ball more, which I consider as crap. Those are people who only watch the NBA occasionally (probably only the All-Star game and the playoffs) but do not actually play and cannot play the game of basketball.

Its true, Cleveland Cavaliers is a boring team to watch!
Yes, they have LeBron James, but that is all they got. The Cavs is a solid defensive team, with a couple of solid big men guarding the paint and LeBron’s athleticism to defend the perimeter. Of course, playing in a weak eastern conference help pad the statistics too. In the offensive end, the Cavs got nothing, they basically have only two plays, dump the ball down to Ilgauskas and let him post up, find the open man if double teaming by opposing team. The other play is give LeBron the ball and let him go to the hoop, pass to open man for shot if double teamed, pull up jumper if can’t shake the defender or hope the referees bail him out and get to the free throw line. Are they a boring team? Hell yeah!

Why are people considering the San Antonio Spurs a boring team?
There are only two generic reasons only, really. The Spurs only plays defense and a slow half-court game offensively. Which is true, if you watch a Spurs game, you are guaranteed to see the Spurs plays well defensively and they will dictate the pace of their game to their liking, which they tries to eliminate fast break and easy basket opportunities for their opposing team and plays a slow half-court game.

Why is it enjoyable to watch the Spurs then?
Fast break opportunities usually generated from opposing team’s misses and turnovers. Very few teams, only Phoenix Suns to be exact, can run and fast break on other team’s makes. But this exactly what the Spurs defense causes, turnovers and misses then they have one of the fastest point guard, Tony Parker, he may not dunk but seeing him blew by other NBA players is pretty amazing. The Spurs also have Manu Ginobili, who is one of the best in the open court and hitting circus shot, and get by defenders with some somewhat weird moves, which is also pretty interesting and enjoyable to see such creativity. As for the Spurs half court game, their attention to detail and ability to make the right pass to get a good shot is just fun to watch. I think this requires the viewer to be a basketball player, who had played a lot of basketball and been to similar situations, to know how difficult this is. Fortunately, I am such a basketball player/viewer to be able to enjoy the Spurs’ game.

I know this is a very short argument and probably can’t convince the Spurs haters to like the Spurs but there is no point to type 5 pages to do so. Because I am not a Spurs fan, I just think they play the game right and well, so I don’t need to defend them to death to convince people who don’t understand basketball to appreciate the Spurs’ playing styles.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Houston Rockets 07-08 Season

With the addition of Luis Scola, I was so excited about the upcoming season for the Rockets. But today the Rockets sign Steve Francis to a 2 year contract, I just don't have any words to describe how disappointed I am right now. Now I must not cheer for the Rockets until Francis leave the team.

Off Season Hopes
2 months ago, I hope the Rockets will get an active power forward, one that can get offensive rebound and finish around the basket, because of all the attention that Yao and T-Mac get. Marcus Camby would be awesome and he is available for trade due to Nuggets high payroll from the addition of AI and big contract of Nene and K-Mart made these two un-tradable. Instead the Rockets gave up nothing to get Lusis Scola in return, a talented Argentine power forward, which the Spurs just don't have enough cap space to sign, after drafted him 3 years ago with a second round pick.

Then they need to add another player that could drive to the basket and finish to lighten T-Mac's load. Ideally, this would be a good point guard, but that is hard to come by and Juwan Howard for Mike James isn't so bad. At least James could play some solid "D" with his size as a point guard. Also Aaron Brooks was drafted, developing a young point guard, that would work too.

Subtraction by Addition

The Rockets sign Steve Francis, who was recently traded by the Knicks to the Trail-Blazers and the T-Blazers bought out his contract to clear cap space afterward.
The Rockets don't need Francis, he might came at a bargain price but the Rockets don't need him. The Rockets is now loaded with too many point guards - Rafer Alston, Mike James, Steve Francis, John Lucas III and rookie Aaron Brooks is now destined for the NBDL. Look for the Rockets to swing another deal to trade away Rafer Alston and/or John Lucas to get more depth on the two forward position (possibly the center position instead, but big man is tough to come by). The Rockets would probably play some small ball when Yao goes to the bench with Francis at shooting guard and Battier plays power forward at times, but that would also mean Francis already not a particular good defensive player to play as an under size defender on the other end. This is something that Francis is used to but that doesn't mean that it is a good thing.

With the addition of Scola already, the Rockets need other players (role players) to play solid "D" to be able to complete with the likes of the Spurs and the upcoming Jazz. With Francis, the Rockets might get caught up to try to outscore the other teams, they will get by the first round and maybe the second but will end up like the Mavs and Suns, a great season record but can't win the championship. With Yao and T-Mac, Francis would only be the third option at best and need to give Scola some touches, but the Rockets don't have a good distributing point guard, there just might not be enough shots to share.

Bottom line, the Rockets don't need Francis and now I can't cheer for Rockets anymore, even Yao Ming, my current favourite NBA player, is on the team, because of the signing of the Vancouver Grizzlies destroyer, my all time most hated NBA player.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Yi Jianlian

Yi Jianlian is a 7-foot power forward from China. Yi was drafted 6th overall on the 2007 NBA entry draft by the Milwaukee Bucks

As a Chinese Canadian I have to like him. But as a basketball fan, particularly, still a Vancouver Grizzlies fan and a Memphis Grizzlies hater, I very much dislike Yi's and his agent's comments and action of demanding a trade. The reason given was that Milwaukee do not have a large enough Chinese community and they felt that this maybe more difficult for Yi to get use to the American culture.

I dislike this action as a basketball fan, because this brings back so much bad memories of the Steve Francis fiasco, when Francis was drafted 2nd overall by the then Vancouver Grizzlies and refuse to sign with the Grizzlies and force a trade that see Francis sent to the Houston Rockets. Two years later the Grizzlies was relocated to Memphis.

My advice to Yi is, at least give the Bucks a chance for a year. Doesn't matter where he plays in the NBA, if he plays well, he will get use to the American culture in a hurry, because everyone in Milwaukee will love him. On the other hand, if he doesn't play well, it doesn't matter where he plays the home crowd will get on his back and criticize him, and having a bias Chinese fan base wouldn't do him any good. So just sign the contract with the Milwaukee Bucks and get on with it. I really hope he could have a nice career in the NBA.

Yi Signed with the Bucks on Aug. 29
After reading more about the situation in the past month and a half, apparently the only person that cause this mess was Yi's agent
Dan Fegan. Because of the low Chinese population in Milwaukee or the state of Wisconsin in general, Fegan wanted to force a trade with a larger Chinese market, in hopes for more and fatter endorsement deals. But this backfires a bit as this situation upsets the largest Chinese population of all, the people in China. This is a fight that Fegan will never win, as long as the Bucks don't panic and stay tough, because Yi wants to play in the NBA, and the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) wants Yi to play in the NBA, so as long as the Bucks say they won't trade Yi, Yi would sign with the Bucks.
Facts to consider in this situation are
1) Beijing Olympics next year, the CBA wants Yi to play in the NBA in the 07/08 season and further develop his skills for the Olympics
2) As long as Yi has a contract outside of North America, the Bucks retain Yi's rights, so unless Yi sits out for a full year, the Bucks could still sign him later, with the Olympics coming up, Yi can't sits out for a year
3) Sitting out for a year, means lost a year worth of commission for Fegan and give Yi a bad name, which will limit his endorsement deals as well
4) Money for Yi, doesn't matter how much endorsement deals he sign, just playing in the NBA, Yi would make more money than playing for the Gongdong Tigers just by signing with the Bucks
With these important factors, Fegan was in a fight that he never had a chance.

Monday, May 21, 2007

High School Players List

Here is a list of players that were just out of high school or under 19 when they were drafted. This list of players could prove that the NBA begun to draft players too early and waste a lottery pick. It started off fairly well with 1 or 2 players each year to 8 in 2004, the NBA decided to step in with the age minimum or 19 and 1 year out of high school regulation. I believed that this is a good move for the NBA as a whole.
(btw, it is possible that I may missed some players)

The First and Successful Group
Kevin Garnett~19~1995~Minnesota (very successful with the Timber Wolves)
Kobe Bryant~17~1996~Lakers (very successful with the Lakers)
Jermaine O'Neal~17~1996~Trail Blazers(didn’t have much playing time for 2.5 years with Portland, traded for only Dale Davis to the Indiana Pacers)
Tracy McGrady~18~1997~Raptors (finally played well in the 3rd year with the Toronto Raptors, only left and signed with the Orlando Magic and the Raptors got nothing in return)

These 4 players became very successful in the NBA, but only KG was an important contributor in the rookie year. And 2 of them left the team that drafted them with almost nothing.

The Second and very average Group
Al Harrington ~18~1998~Pacers (became a decent starter)
Korleone Young~19~1998~ Philly (played summer league for the 76ers, but never made another NBA roster)
Rashard Lewis~18~1998~Supersonics (bad rookie year, but became pretty good)
Jonathan Bender~18~1999~Pacers (forced into retirement due to chronic knee pain, yet to sign retirement papers)

Leon Smith~18~1999~Supersonics (signed by them, but only played one game)
Darius Miles~18~2000~Trail Blazers (ok player but injuries slow him down already, lost the entire 06/07 season)
DeShawn Stevenson~19~2000~Jazz (playing off the bench right now, and not expecting anything more from him)

This group isn’t doing very well in the NBA.

The Third and Drafted too high Group
Kwame Brown~19~2001~Capitals (didn’t worth a 1st overall pick, lets just say, he is still not very good)
Tyson Chandler~18~2001~Clippers (solid defensive player, but offensive game never develop

Eddy Curry~18~2001~Bulls (doing good in offense mainly due to his big body, slow defender and do not rebound)
DeSagana Diop~18~2001~Cavaliers (only used to play defense with his big body)
Tony Parker~19~2001~Spurs (good choice for a 28th overall pick)
This group all get to play and will continue to play but only Parker had became a major contributor for his team, but Parker had play professional b-ball since he was 14 in Europe. Tyson Chandler still has a lot of potential, could build off his defensive ability. With Brown, Chandler, Curry and Diop being the the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 8th pick, they were picked way too early.

The Fourth (old age Amare) Group
Amare Stoudemire~19~2002~Suns (won Rookie of the Year award)
He was over 19 when he was drafted and 20 within 1st month after the 03/04 season began.

The Fifth (LeBron and the others) Group
LeBron James~18~2003~Cavaliers (he has a NBA body out of high school, became very successful)
Darko Miličić~18~2003~Pistons (didn’t have a chance to play in Detroit and still hasn’t shown his potential)
James Lang~19~2003~Hornets (sidelined by back injuries, and didn't show the potential of being put on an "active roster)

Kendrick Perkins~18~2003~Celtics (still a bench player, even with the injury problem that the Celtics had this 06/07 season)
Again only 1 player lived up to potential and James was the fist player to have a major impact to his team in the rookie season since Kevin Garnett.

The Sixth and Getting Out of Control Group
Dwight Howard~18~2004~Magic (this guy is huge, good defensively but lack offensive moves)
Al Jefferson~19~2004~Celtics (played very well this past season [06/07])
Shaun Livingston~18~2004~Clippers (may be out 8-12 months after suffering a severe knee injury)
Josh Smith~18~2004~Hawks (very good jumping abilities, also very inconsistent, has lots of potential, but still need time to develop)

J.R. Smith~18~2004~Hornets (played for 3 teams in 3 seasons, playing well with the Nuggets but again prove my point of a wasted pick for the team that draft the high school player)
Robert Swift~18~2004~Supersonics (out for this season, torn ACL)
Sebastian Telfair~19~2004~Trail Blazers (not a bad player when he plays well but getting into law trouble and the Celtics don’t plan on keeping him around)
Dorell Wright~18~2004~Heat (played well at the beginning of the 06/07 season but quickly back to the bench and lost playing time)

Ridiculous number of high school player drafted in 2004, and most of them aren’t that good and should have went to college and play in NCAA for at least a year. I believed that this draft triggered the age minimum regulation.

The Seventh and Final High School Players Group
Andrew Bynum~18~2005~Lakers (show promising signs early on 06/07 season, but faded away by the end of the season)
Monta Ellis~19~2005~Warriors (played very well in his 2nd year, but wasted the 1st season, a solid pick in the second round)

Gerald Green~19~2005~Celtics (won the slam dunk title but don’t get much playing time with the Celtics)
Martell Webster~19~2005~Trail Blazers (had a solid rookie year, but with the addition of Brandon Roy, Webster’s development halted in his second season)

This group has potential but again need a couple more years to develop.

Interesting numbers
33 players
9 all stars (Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Rashard Lewis, Tony Parker, Amare Stoudamire, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard)
2 slam dunk champs (Kobe Bryant and Gerald Green)
3 don’t get past first year (Korleone Young, Leon Smith and James Lang)
4 out of NBA already (Korleone Young, Leon Smith, Jonathan Bender and James Lang)
4 with serious injury that had lost an entire season within 4 years (Jonathan Bender, Darius Miles, Robert Swift and Shawn Livingston)
Only 3 had impact on team in rookie year (Kevin Garnett, LeBron James and Dwight Howard)
16 played for only one team (12 of them were drafted after the 2002 season, so only 4 of them stay in original team for more than 4 years at this moment)

Most of these guys do not develop in time (within 3 years rookie contract) for the team that drafted them, so why do it, the NBA had the right idea of stopping teams from drafting players that are under 19 and within 1 year out of high school.

New Age Minimum in the NBA

With more and more teams drafting players right out of high school and many of them seemed to be a wasted pick after a few years. In 2005, the NBA decided that the 2005 draft is the last that players under 19 or within 1 year out of high school are allowed to be drafted.

Tom Heinsohn on BDSSP said: ”when he was playing there were 80 players in total, now a days there are 150 starting players...Back then players were sign with teams knowing that they could play and now players are sign based on their potential.”

The Problem

LeBron was a special case on how successful he was right out of high school. KG, LeBron and Dwight Howard were the only three who played significant minutes in their rookie season. LeBron’s and Howard’s physical strength were just amazing when they were 18, but the rest of the high shoolers do not have a NBA body like these 2 had.

Most of the players that come out of high school, teams are banking on their potential only, look at Kobe, T-Mac and J O'Neal they all had limited minutes and didn't show their talents until 2nd and maybe later years. Then there are Kwame Brown Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, who still have yet to live up to their hype and many more who are even worst then these three. Even Greg Oden right now, watching the NCAA tournaments, the analyzers said his offence is still raw and need a couple of years to develop when he goes to the NBA but without the age limit, Oden would had been1st pick last year or even the year before when he was 17.

The problem of picking players based on their potential is that most of them do not develop in time and get traded or sign with another team before they become a good player, not to mention those who don't develop, therefore most of them are a wasted pick.

T-Mac, J O'Neal, JR Smith, Telfair, Curry, Chandler were wasted picks, Rashad Lewis(I think he is leaving the Super Sonics this year and he) as well. Robert Swift had not done anything yet, the Celtics had Jefferson, Green and Perkins and only Jefferson is playing well. None of these players had a good rookie year. And did you see what happened to Shawn Livingston?

Why do teams draft them?
Most of these players were not ready yet but NBA teams were willing to pick them hoping for a big paid off in the future. Because they still make money when their team do not make the playoff next year and get another high draft pick, they don't want to see a potentially good player go to another team.

So if you look at the NBA as a whole, one year in college is a good decision, since almost all the prospects out of high school are players who have potentials only, they are not necessarily better player then those who are drafted behind them at the time. NBA teams are only picking these players because if they don’t, someone else will. Therefore, the age minimum is good for the league as a whole but not necessarily good for any individual team. The NBA is just forcing teams to pick the more NBA ready players.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

International Basketball – Part 2 – The Greatness of the Original Dream Team and the not so great recent Dream Teams

In the 1988 the USSR basketball team, lead by Arvydas Sabonis, beat the US team in the Olympics final, this would mark as the last time that the US send out their best college players to play in the Olympics. Due to the lack of success in the Olympics, United States began to use players from the NBA to represent the country in 1992, also known as the dream team. The first few Dream Teams had great success and winning with a dominant fashion. The recent Dream Teams however are not so great and were not able to come out with the gold in recent Olympics and World Championship play.

Why are the recent Dream Teams losing?
There are several reasons why the recent Dream Teams are losing in the world stage. With the lack of commitment of the players being the most important factor, which trigger a domino effect that lead to the other factors such as lack of team chemistry and the players are more focus on individual play instead of playing as a team. Another factor is the lack of focus or being overconfident.

Lack of commitment
There are many reasons, the players want to rest over the summer, let lingering injuries heal or do not want to risk injury. But the bottom line is although the US still has the most elite players in the world, not all of them want to play on the Dream Team every year. This lead to a change in team roster virtually every year and many times, the team is mostly made up of second tier players. Also due to the change is in roster every year, the players are not familiar with each other’s and the coach’s playing style and cause a lack of chemistry. When playing the game the players do not know their teammates tendency, where the teammates would go and how they would react in different events of the game, thus force a shot up instead of making the extra pass, because they do not want to force the issue and end up turning the ball over. Whereas the international teams, their players really take pride in representing their county and commit to the team. Another thing is that the other countries do not have as many elite players so the top group could join or at least practice with the national team at a young age and learn how to play with each other.

Lack of Focus and being Overconfident
The Dream Team is always label as the team to beat and gets the most attention out of all the teams that are involve in the tournament, and it is just easy for the players to lose their focus, thinking that they are the best, they will just roll by and get the gold medal. Because the Dream Team usually are so confident about themselves, they don’t play hard from the beginning of each game, if the game is close, they always felt that they can tighten things up in the final minutes of the game and win the game. Unlike the original Dream Team, which compose with the most stars and the best of all Dream Teams in my opinion, they are very competitive, they know that they are the best and wan to show that they are the best, a win would not do it for them, every win need to be a blow out and just had an absolutely amazing performance in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The Dream Teams – the results of each tournament for Dream Team I – VII (1 – 7)
In 1992, the original Dream Team were formed, this team included 10 of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time, selected in 1996. The dream team dominated the tournament and had trailed only once in the whole tournament, happened early in the gold medal game. This team cruise by their opponents and easily won the 1992 Barcelona Olympic gold medal. Even though they won every game by blowing out the other team, none of the players take a single second off, they play tough defense every procession. This is simply the best basketball team that had ever been put together, and I doubt that we could ever match the talent, skills, intensity and competitiveness of that team ever again.

Since then the US had continue to send out top NBA stars to represent the country in 1994 World Championship in Toronto and 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, winning both events easily. But each time the team was consisted with a different group of players.

In 1998, due to the labour dispute in the NBA, no current NBA player were used in the 1998 Athens World Championship, and the US team finished 3rd in the tournament.

In 2000, there are now more players from around the world joined the NBA, this Dream Team face more pressure to proved that the US team is the best, although they won the gold medal in the Sydney Olympics but this dream team do not dominate their opponent like the previous teams do, including three games in which the margin of victory is 10 points or less.

In 2002, many of the top NBA players decline to participate in the Indianapolis World Championship, because many felt that they had a long season in the NBA and require some rest, as well as not to risk a major injury that could damage their season’s play. With mainly second tier players, this Dream Team finished 6th at home in Indianapolis, losing the final 5 games of the tournament. This marks the first time that the US had failed to capture the gold medal, or simply loss a game, with NBA players’ participation.

The US team was seemingly back on track in 2003, after they finished easily in first place in the Tournament of Americas to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics. However, in 2004, 10 of the 12 players on the 2003 team decided not to participate in the Olympics and force USA Basketball to scramble for players and form the Dream Team VI filled with young and un-established stars. At times this team was labeled as the “Nightmare Team” instead of the Dream Team, and once again, they fail to win gold, finishing 3rd after losing to Argentina in the semi-finals.

Due to the lack of success of the Dream Team, USA Basketball felt that their failure is due to changes in players of each team, this causes a lack of chemistry in the team and players showed that they were not comfortable to play with each other and essentially caused players to play a more individual style of basketball instead of team basketball. After pinpointing out this issue, to correct it, players were asked for a three-year commitment, which include the 2006 Worlds and the 2008 Summer Olympics.

In 2006, this new group appeared to have new attitude and played great at the beginning, averaged a margin of victory of 25 points going into the semi-finals in Japan. However, they fall to the hands of the European Championship winner, Greece in the semi-finals and went to only a 3rd place finish.

Although the Dream Team VII didn’t win the gold medal in Japan but year one of the three-year had already shown a promising start, but could the players really follow up on their words and commit to the team, we will have to wait and see. On the other hand, the other teams around the world are improving in a rapid rate, the future Dream Teams, if they don’t drop the name, need to show more respect to all other teams and be ready to play hard start to finish each game in the tournament. Because in World Championship and Olympics, when you get to the knockout rounds, it is just one game, win or lose, unlike a seven games, first to four wins series in the NBA playoffs. With the US still has the most elite players, the individuals that are and will be selected for the Dream Team should still be the best of all national teams around the world, the US team should still be the favourite entering the Olympics in 2008, but the players must find a way to play together as a team to win.

This link give the roster and result of each Dream Team.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

International Basketball – Part 1 – The International Players

In the last decade, basketball has seemingly gone from a sport dominated by the Americans to a sport that everyone in the world could play. With recent setbacks of the US Dream Teams losing at the 2004 Olympics and 2006 World Cup, and the MVP of the NBA in the last two seasons being Steve Nash (Canada), and this year’s MVP top contenders being Dirk Nowitzki (Germany) and Nash once again. Nash and Nowitsky are considered the top point guard and power forward in the NBA right now and Yao Ming (China), the top center. United States still have the best shooting guard and small forward, with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Although the US still has the most top 1% players in the world but why do they lose, when they have to put a team together against other international team that only have 1 really good player and maybe 2 or 3 other players that play in the NBA?

The first wave – Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania), Valde Divac (Yugoslavia), Rik Smits (Netherlands), Luc Longley (Australia), Toni Kukoc (Lithuania)
In the late 80s and early 90s, top European players began to come to the NBA. At that time, most of the players that were able to come are mostly 7 footers, because we will never have enough of these giants in basketball in any period of time. Two things that all of them have in common are: they are not as physical as the other center and power forward in the NBA, and they could all shoot 15 foot jumpers or further, something that no big men in North America could do at that time. Sabonis and Divac are also good passer and Kukoc could shoot further and was pretty good at driving to the basket even at 6’10”.

Arvydas Sabonis was the best European player at the time. At 7 foot, he had been known to be able to dribble, occasionally shoot from 3-pt range and pass like a point guard (if not better). Sabonis led the USSR to win the 1988 Korea Olympics. However, due to the political circumstances, Sabonis was not able to come to the NBA in 1988, the year that he was drafted by the Portland Trail-blazers. When Sabonis was cleared to go to the NBA in 1989, he elected to stay and play professionally in Europe instead, and did not join the Trail-blazers until the end of his prime in 1995..

Toni Kukoc was perhaps the first non-7 footers that made a splash in the NBA. Who was a key player for the Chicago Bulls, when they won the NBA titles in 1996 / 97 / 98. At 6’10”, Kukoc shoot from beyond the 3-pt arc regularly and drive to the basket when guarded by a power forward. On the other hand, when he was defended by a small forward, Kukoc would be posting up, and at 6’10”, Kukoc could shoot over a smaller player from the outside at any time he wish. With his versatility, Kukoc revolutionize the playing style in the NBA, not just opening up the door for other European big men, but we see players like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber and Chris Bosh, American big men that could now add a shooting touch to their arsenal on top of their post up game. And in the long term, at the end of Kukoc’s career, we see the Phoenix Suns, which has an Italian coach in Mike D’Antoni, play the fast pace European style of basketball, which stress passing and shooting from every player on the court, including the center and power forward that could also dribble and move the ball on the run.

The Second wave – led by Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Pau Gasol (Spain), Toni Parker (France), Manu Ginobili (Argentina) and Yao Ming (China)
Well, these are the group of players in the NBA, they are not just good players, but are considered as some of the elite players in the NBA right now. And now, not only big centers and power forwards are going to the NBA due to demand of big men, the overall skills of international players had improved. Big or small players became more athletic and are better suit for the North American style of basketball.

Nowitzki is a bigger, stronger version of Kukoc. Who is a MVP candidate this year, and finished 3rd in the voting in the past two seasons. Making him the first international player, who dominate the game regularly in the NBA.
Gasol is another Valde Divac, who could extend the other team’s defense, and play solid defense himself. Gasol has a better offensive skills set and more offensive moves, but not as good a passer as Divac.
Yao is just a good center that could shoot a little further away and dominate the paint area mainly because of his 7’6” frame.
Then there are Parker and Ginobili, they are the first international point guard and shooting that made a difference in the NBA. Parker uses his speed, quickness, as well as his basketball intelligence that a point guard requires, which he gain on the benefit of beginning playing professional basketball when he was 14. Ginobili is known to play tough defense, going strong to the basket and finding different ways to get to the basket in the most unusual/unbelievable ways. I guess it is just a matter of time that there are some good players in the pg, sg and sf positions from around the world to crack into the NBA.

Why is it good for NBA teams to draft / sign international players?

The advantage that international players have over players that grew up in North America is that, rather than learning to play basketball from the street and high schools, because the international style of basketball is less physical, they get a chance to play profession basketball beginning at a young age. This way, they get to learn the fundamentals better and become a more complete basketball player, thus higher basketball IQ, whereas the North American players are more athletic and could produce more spectacular plays. The international players are better passer and have more big game experiences in general.

In general, it might take a little longer for a young player from other countries to adjust to the more physical NBA basketball. But once they are used to the physical play, they began to excel and show their talent, and most of them become fairly successful in the NBA. This is because only the top prospects were drafted and since they began playing professional basketball at a young age, the level of competition that the European players had been through are higher than those who play in college in North America. So when they were drafted, NBA scouts know those players could play and it is just a matter of time on how long it would take for them to get use to playing in the NBA. So there are fewer busts in drafting international talents in comparison to drafting college players from NCAA.

Another advantage of international players is free agency, it is not necessarily to get young international players through the draft, NBA teams could sign a veteran player from any of the European league to help out their team right away. And with the continue increase popularity of basketball around the world, we could see more and more good international players joining the NBA in the future. All this would do is increase the overall entertainment level of the NBA, it is great for the true basketball fans.

In the next article, International Basketball – Part 2, I will talk about why the recent U.S. dream teams were failing to win in international tournament in the recent years.

BTW – When talking about great international players, we have to mention Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), Dekembi Mutombu (Congo) and Steve Nash (Canada), but these guys are not mention above because they all had went to different universities in the U.S. and play in the NCAA. And of course, there are other international players that were not mention in this article such as Detlef Schrempf from Germany and Peja Stojakovic etc...

Monday, April 16, 2007

What I like(d) and dislike about the NBA

Everyone has their own opinion on each thing in this world. You might love something very much but something else might just don't care about it. And there is also something that everyone seems to like but you just don't have the vibe for it. So even though I love basketball and is one of the biggest NBA fans, there are still somthing in the NBA that I don't like.

Lets begin with What I like(d) about the NBA
10. Marc Cuban-I was going to list a group of my favourite players in the lower part of this list together, but decided to only list Yao Ming and Scottie Pippen at the end. Marc Cuban is probably the most popular owner of any pro sport in North America
9. Little Penny-a great creation in the 90s for the best NBA related commercials ever
8. Power Dancers (cheerleaders)-unfortunately not all of them are beautiful, so I only like a few of them from each team each year
7. Amazing athleticism-this is what everyone likes, including those who don't watch basketball regularly, all the spectacular dunks and circus shots (I don't like the lucky ones though, just the ones that the shot came out exactly as planned by the player)
6. A great pass-whether it is Steve Nash on the run or Shaq on the post, when a nice pass occurred, I love it. There are fewer good passer than dunker in the league.
5. Toronto Raptors-they are the only team left in Canada
4. Yao Ming-the "Great Wall" has a bright future ahead of him
3. Vancouver Grizzlies-I will always be a Vancouver Grizzlies fan and never a Memphis Grizziles fan
2. Scottie Pippen, Air Pippen II and Air Pippen IV basketball shoes-my favourtie player of all time because of his ability to do everything that could help a team win a basketball game. These two pair of shoes are simply the coolest looking shoes ever designed and I personally own a pair of Air Pippen II retro, they are so comfortable
1. nba basketball game-I liked every game, even blow outs(for those I only like the part before the losing team gave up) just the best sport in the world

What I Don't Like about the NBA
10. Imbalance of power-the two best teams don’t always meet in the NBA Finals. I don’t know what the eastern conference’s G.M.’s were doing. Hopefully, well Brian Colangelo going to the Raptors is a start. But since the western conference is so strong, their weaker teams seem to have the worst record in the NBA and have the best chance in winning the draft lottery for the best rookie, the Portland Trail-Blazers last year and the Memphis Grizzlies this year. What I don't like is that, in where I live, I get to watch the eastern conference teams play more often on tv and I want to see the western conference games
9. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant-they are like the New York Yankees and Manchester United, you either love them or hate them.
8. The James family-those commercials are so lame
7. long range buzzer beater-being half of the top 10 plays of the week, every week, is just un-acceptable. I don’t think a long range buzzer beater is a spectacular play in general
6. “Everybody clap your hands”-most use by the Charlotte Bobcats, it just sound so stupid and incredibly annoying
5. Isaiah Thomas-he just shouldn’t be a G.M., not just wasted the Knicks' money but ruining the younger players' career that are with the Knicks organization. He just keep on trading in bad contracts with the Knicks' high draft pick then over paid for free agents in the off season. The Knicks will struggle in the years to come
4. biased home team commentator-they are so brain washed, sometimes sound like a complete idiot
3. when referees call a blocking foul inside the restricted area-read my other article "The "no-charge" zone"
2. I don’t live in a NBA city and don’t get to watch the games in person
1. Steve Francis and the Memphis Grizzlies (especially David Heisley)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The "no-charge zone"

In the 1997/98 season, the four foot radius “no-charge area” was first introduced. This was intended to promote freedom of movement and driving to the basket like the NBA in the past, before less offensive talented teams start winning games simply by working on their defense. And eventually evolving into all teams needed to play well defensively to win the NBA title, and taking a charge in the lane to prevent the highlight real dunk is an essential part of the game.
The “no-charge area,” formerly a two-by-six foot box where an offensive foul is not called if contact is made with a secondary defensive player who has established a defensive position, will be expanded to the area consisting of a half circle with a four-foot radius measured from the middle of the goal. –

The Rule
An offensive foul should never be called if the contact is with a secondary defensive player who has established a defensive position within a designated "restricted area" near the basket for the purpose of drawing an offensive foul. –

Why this Rule
This rule originated to open up the lane, in the hopes of more (spectacular) dunks or encourage the players to go to the basket more often instead of settling for a jump shot. The NBA was doing this to generate more excitement in the game because they were losing they were losing fans during the regular season. This is due to a) the lack of excitement in the NBA because the season is too long, so each game do not count as much comparing to college basketball, b) improving technology, there are more affordable computer and video games and other sort of entertainments.

The Problem of this Rule
In this rule, it never said that a blocking foul should be called, therefore, it should be a no call. But, when I am watching games on tv, when a supposively charge occurs in the restricted area, a blocking call is almost always made by the referees. But in such situation, a no call should be more appropriate, if it is interpreted as defined by the rules.

To be fair, charge and block are the toughest calls to differentiate in basketball, the referees call charges and blocks wrong half the time anyway, regardless if the play is in the restricted area or not. But sometimes, really the refs intend to call a charge, and then they saw that it was obvious that the defensive player is in the restricted area, but they had blown the whistle already, thus they decided to make it a blocking foul instead of admitting their mistake and it is an inadvertent whistle and a jump ball to follow.

In my opinion, many NBA players and coaches think this way too, it should be a no call if they took a charge inside the restricted area and if their feet are outside of the semi-circle, then a charging foul would be called on the offensive player. But you won’t see too much arguing made by the defensive team anymore, because they are now used to this being a blocking foul, although this is not stated in the rulebook, and this is called consistently both ways by the referees. Unfortunately, you will actually see the offensive player get more upset and continues to argue after the play, when a no call was made by the referees. And the referees explanations is simply, the defensive player got the position, it is not a charge because he is inside the restricted area, certainly it is not a blocking foul. Hah!!!

This rule really works is in a contradiction to its original purpose of opening up the lane for spectacular plays for the offensive players. Even though the referees are calling most of the contacts inside the restricted area as blocking fouls, every team have players that would continue to step in underneath the basket. They are doing this because a) they are preventing the spectacular to change the momentum of the game, b) making the offensive player to earn the two points from the free-throw line. Therefore, other than giving the offensive players a couple of free-throws and maybe increase the scoring a little bit (not really! just a couple of free throws). Therefore, this rule fail of its main purpose.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My all time NBA dream team

Enough about me, lets begin to talk about basketball.

How the players are selected
As we see in the olympics and world championships, top players don't result in best team, that is why the American team is losing. I am too young to judge players from the 80s and before, so I am picking the more recent players. I want this team to be a team that could work together as a team and win against any other team that you could think of so I am picking players with the original dream as the base (starting lineup) and then pick some unselfish players.

Starting Line up
pg: John Stockton => most assist and steals ever in the NBA
sg: Michael Jordan => best basketball player of all time
sf: Scottie Pippen => my favourit player, the ultimate team and winning first mentality
pf: Kevin Garnett => better than 20ppg / 10rpg / 5apg for 6 straight year when
had some decent teamates
c: David Robinson => great defensive and offensive center, tough call for Hakeem Olajuwon
In this starting line up, there is plenty of offence and top defencive players of respective positions too. Basically all five could do it all, post up(except stockton), shoot from the outside and run the floor as well as players that could score but do not need the glory of scoring (Stockton, Pippen and Robinson). Jordan, Pippen and Garnett are triple-double threat, Stockton and Rbinson get double-double regularly. Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan are tough to cut from the starting line up but I thought "The Admiral" is a little taller than "The Dream" and "The Big Ticket" is better on fast breaks than "The Big Fundamental"

The Back Ups
pg: Steve Nash => great on the open floor, not as good defensively but other players in this
team will be able to cover up his mistakes
sg: Kobe Bryant => one of the great offensive player of all time, don't like his personality, but
no doubt about his basketball ability
pf: Tim Duncan => great all around player in a great system, always pick up his game in the
playoffs, the only thing I don't like is slacking off a bit during season
c: Hakeem Olajuwon => same as David Robinson, and better shot blocker
util: Shaquille O'Neal => he is the diesel, no one could stop him since Robinson and Olajuwon retired
util: Penny Hardaway and sf: Grant Hill => these two were great players prior to their injuries and I had always liked them but unfortunately they were injuried at their prime and
would be replace by LeBron James and Chris Bosh/Dwayne Wade in a few years

Teams and Players that I like(d)

Players that I like, on top of being a good offensively, he also need to be a good defensive player as well and bring his defense every minute of the game, not just the last few pocessions. This is because when I first starting to enjoy basketball, I get to watch Scottie Pippen play.

At the beginning of my basketball career (12 or grade 7)
That was the 1995/96 NBA season, so naturally I am a Chicago Bulls fan. That is the first full year that MJ came back to basketball and the Bulls went on to a best regular season record ever (72-10) and won the championship. I began as a MJ fan but midway through the season I quickly became a Scottie Pippen fan and Scottie is now my all time favourite player, because of his ability to do everything, and willingness to sacrafice his offensive statistics (mainly points production), he let Jordan get the necessary scoring but Pippen would do everything else. I was further drawn to become a Scottie Pippen fan in the 97 and 98 NBA finals when Pippen would start by defending Greg Ostertag (7-foot center) then defend John Stockton during line up changes due to substitutions between 1st and 2nd period as well as 3rd and 4th period, and finally in the closing stages of a close game, Pippen would get the assignment of Karl Malone. Who else could defend Stockton and Malone, these two play a completely different role, let alone both are in the list of 50 greatest player of all time, who knew every trick in their position. Who else would ever have such versatility?
Another team that I liked at that time was the Vancouver Grizzlies, I just came to Canada so I figured I will take a new Canada base team as well. Even though they always had a losing season, I always loved them. And naturally I very much dislike Steve Francis, I hated him till this day and I am very happy to see him "sucking" with the New York Knicks.

The transition years
Well MJ retire for the second time and Bulls is over in 1998/99 season, Pippen left the Bulls for Houston so I follow him to be a Rockets fan and continue to cheer for the Grizzlies.
After the 98/99 season, Pippen was traded to Portland, so I become a Trail Blazers fan and the Grizzlies drafted Steve Francis with the second overall pick. Steve Francis don't want to play for the Grizzlies and the Grizzlies had no choice but trade him away to the Rockets, I go from a Rockets fan(Pippen factor) to hating them because of that.
2001/02 season, the Grizzlies is moving to Memphis, it was very sad and I will never be a Grizzlies fan no more, I could only follow Scottie Pippen but he is getting old and not a dominant player like he once was. That's when Vince Carter is at his prime with the Toronto Raptors, I could maybe become a Raptors fan, but I didn't, I just never like Carter that much even though he make spectacular plays but he doesn't have the defensive ability and isn't blue collar player that I liked.
2002/03 season, the Rockets use their 1st overall pick to get Yao Ming, I like him because I am Chinese, but he is now playing with Steve Francis, so I was just a Yao Ming fan but not a Rockets fan.

What a year
2004/05 season, the Rockets traded Francis for Tracy McGrady, I could finally become a Rockets fan and now I have a team to cheer for. In the middle of the season VC want out and the Raptors had became CB4's team and I could be a Raptors fan too. What a good year in basketball!!! I like both teams up until now and I think I would continue to like them in the future.

And during those transition years, I start to really enjoy the John Stockton plays, he was so efficient and his decision making on the court is second to none. One thing that people often forgotten about Stockton is how tough he is, he is probably the best at setting screens, I mean he is a 6'2" point guard, who would set screens for Karl Malone. Another player that was not mention but I really like is Tayshaun Prince, he is someone who will do whatever it takes to win games, very much like Scottie Pippen, but lacking the offensive skills a little.
My three favourite players of all time are 1.Scottie Pippen, T-2.John Stockton, T-2Michael Jordan
My three favourite players now are 1.Yao Ming, 2.Chris Bosh, 3.Tayshaun Prince

Other Sports team and players
Football (soccer) the Holland (Netherlands) national team, and my favourite player of all time is Dennis Bergkamp
In hockey I like the Ottawa Senators because I started watching hockey when I decided to join the fantasy hockey league with Yahoo and I win my league due to good statistics of Patrick Lalime. And my favourite player after watching hockey for a bit is Zdeno Chara the big defenceman.

koalabear and basketball

I guess the first article on this blog should be about me and my passion for basketball. I was born in Hong Kong and grew up watching soccer instead of basketball, since there was rarely NBA games being telecast in Hong Kong in the late 80s, early 90s. The first time I play with a basketball would be in grade 3, just some simple dribbling in one gym class and that is it until grade 5. In grade 5 we have more gym classes that we play basketball but the teacher don't teach us anything, he just separate us into teams and let us play, I never learn to shoot, not even lay ups but I was good enounh on everything else that I was picked into the 10 players team to represent our class in the grade 5 basketball league. Our team ended with a fourth place finish out of 8 teams. In grade 6, my family immagrated to Canada and we play basketball on occasional gym class and soccer is still my goto sport.

The Changing Point
Another year past, I start watching basketball on tv in grade 7, this is 1995-96 NBA season, Michael Jordan first full year after coming back from baseball, the Chicago Bulls won 72 games and lose only 10 that year. I began to be a Jordan fan like everyone who don't know anything about basketball would. Change the subject a little bit, one of my two older brothers is almost 5 years older than me and he was a good basketball player in his high school when we were in Hong Kong and basketball had became his number 1 sport ahead of soccer already. That year, he convince our parents to get us a basketbll net to put on the drive-way. Over the snowed in winter months, I had slowly became a Scottie Pippen fan on the style that he plays, during easter break, we build the basketball net and my brother taught me and my other brother how to play basketball. I just fall in love with basketball, I would be playing whenever I have time and the weather permits, finally know how to shoot and start copying moves of Scottie Pippen. In grade 8, I was already the best player on my elementary school team, mainly because our shool won the city title the year before with a full roster of grade 8 players and all of them went to high shools. Our team stinks that year, in 8 games, our teams scores ranging from 19 to 44 points and I score a minimu of 11 points each game including 13 on the game that we had 19.

Bad luck derailed my basketball development
In high school, I went to the junior team tryout and on sign up day, he asked you to write down the name of your elementary school, my elementary school didn't had a good year and I didn't made the first cut. The year after, I try out for the junior team again, this time I was cut in the final round and the explanation I got from the coach was "You had imporved a lot from last year, but ou are not as good as (the two starters' name in shooting guard and small forward, who were in the team the year before), and I want some grade 9's in the team for experience to prepare them for next year". I was so mad, I was better than half of the team but I got cut. I hate that coach. In grade 11, I went to the try out for the senior team, and the team was fixed, basically, if you never play for the junior team, you are out. And I gave up in grade 12, only to know that, our junior coach was a teacher in our school got transfer to a different high school and the new teacher that took over, see the interest we had in our school toward basketball decided that we had enough resource to have 2 junior teams, if we had that earlier, I could had join the second team and be the main man there and show him up (the coach that cut me from the junior team).

Recent years
I played in Campus Recreation basketball league all 5 years that I was there and play regularly every week as well. My offensive game is a bit raw since I never get to improve in the team environment through my high school years, but it wasn't bad and I had always been a great defensive player. If you don't count the university team, just everyone else in the university, I would be rank in about 65th percentile in offence but the 95th percentile in defence. 95th percentile in basketball IQ as well. I got good b-ball IQ mainly because I watch a lot of games on tv and I like basketball players like Scottie Pippen and John Stockton, who are two of the smartest basketball players ever offensively and defensively instead of a top scorer.