Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

by Mauricio Rubio Jr.
Email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
Twitter: MRubio52 

The Chicago Bulls have amassed a rather impressive record without their star recently, showing the trademark determination that has made them a force in the regular season over the past 2 seasons. It’s been an odd year, and most teams have been bit by the weird season bug. The Heat have lost big in back to back games; the Knicks went through their odd mid season crisis when Melo came back to play with Lin, Vinny’s Clippers hit a mid-season mire that might cost him his job. All in all, teams have gone through slumps and at various points their local medias have hit the panic button.

I guess it’s Chicago’s turn.

The Bulls got drubbed by a faster, more willing Denver team which came after the Bulls barely escaped with a win against Toronto (thank you Deng). After an 8-0 run to start the game the Bulls were outscored 108-83. Usually this is a game where Derrick Rose comes in to completely bail you out or does enough to keep it close. As well as Lucas and Watson have played of late, Rose has a tendency to control the tempo. He understands what pace the Bulls need to play to be successful, and regardless of what out-of-town-stupid talking head says about his game, the ball moves better when Rose is out there.

That’s what it looks like when Rose isn’t out there to bail you out. Anyone that is mitigating the importance of Rose to this team because they’ve shown great determination in winning without him is delusional. Deng is hurt, and his shot is pretty much done for the season. Rip Hamilton will likely never be healthy this year. Brewer is inconsistent offensively. Noah has an ugly jumpshot that does go in sometimes, but he gets to passive on defense sometimes. I’m taller than John Lucas III.

Let me break some news here, the Bulls need Derrick Rose if they want to do anything significant. Don’t listen to the bullshit arguments about him not being a true point or whatever people want to say to be controversial. Understand that Rose is the best player on the floor most nights and that the Bulls won 6 rings without a traditional point guard before, and they can do so again. The best players in this league have the ball. Basketball is a sport where you can do that relatively easy and on a consistent basis.

The Bulls have designed an offense where the point guard carries the scoring load, yet Rose was still at 8 APG on the nose. I can’t believe that I have to sit here and type that Derrick Rose makes his team better, but damnit people, stop listening to stupid and understand that Rose makes his team better. The myth that the Bulls move the ball better without Rose started most likely with Skip Bayless, and it’s been growing some odd support as detractors pointed to the Bulls record and their win over the Heat as proof that they’re better without Rose

Stop being stupid.

What you need to understand is that Tommy Thibs is the best damn coach in the game, he should win his second Coach of the Year award. His end of game substitution patterns have been masterwork all year long. He’s unafraid to bench the highest paid players on the team if they aren’t performing and his defensive teachings have turned the Bulls into a juggernaut defense. It’s impressive when it’s on.

There’s only so much energy you can expend in a game before it starts catching up to you. The Bulls have grinded out maximum effort wins lately, but last night the Nuggets beat the shit out of them. We all need Rose to come back healthy, because the playoffs are looming and this team can’t be exhausted then.

As I write this, the 2 AM breeze hits me with ease (yes, the windows are open in March. Yes, it is glorious), and I continue my mini Woody Allen binge with another half-hearted attempt to take in Manhattan. It’s a good enough movie, but Woody himself even said it was his least favorite of those he’s made. In other news, the Bulls set a franchise regular season record earlier tonight for points allowed by holding D’s Nuts (my new, failed(?) nickname for Dwight Howard) and the Orlando Magic to an embarrassing 59 points. That’s what happens when you have every member of your team ready to play every night. Thanks Thibs.

You're welcome.

All Bulls euphoria, Woody Allen rambling, and summer in March hysteria aside, the sands of the NFL hourglass have shifted. Time has caught up with the city of Denver. It has bitten the asses of San Francisco and Tennessee. Yes, Peyton Manning will take snaps for the Denver Broncos next year, and the time-challenged task of replacing legendary #7 has ended. No matter how nice the Bay Area weather may be at times, real deal free agents don’t base their decisions on such things. The players who matter go where they think they have the BEST CHANCE TO WIN. Look at Mario Williams. He could’ve signed with Da Bears, won a few ball games, maybe contended for a title or two. Nope, he took an extra ten million or so to sign with the Buffalo fucking Bills. Not a player who matters. Good riddance. As you may sense from this somewhat bitter sages tone, we good sports fans of Chicago have been burned by high profile free agents in seemingly every major professional sport since free agency became a thing. I won’t bore you with the list of free agents who chose to sign elsewhere over the years, but it’s long and odd that none of them would have liked to live here in Chicago. I like to think we have a great culture here, not only sports culture, but culture in general. Why wouldn’t someone want to sign here? Is it really the shitty, unpredictable weather? If you’re not used to it, maybe it’s a little overbearing. But if you’re from here, the weather shifts are a thing of beauty to be appreciated and celebrated. The extreme cold builds character and toughness, and the hot summers (and springs now, apparently) are our reward for bundling up the rest of the year. No reward in the sports free agent signing world though.

Are the expectations different here the way they’ve been for Denver quarterbacks since the turn of the century?
The timing for the departures of legends like Jordan and Elway lend themselves to a comparison of sorts. Denver hasn’t had a legitimite quarterback since then, and we’ve had so many unGodly horrible shooting guards grace us with their absence since the premature dismantling of our beloved dynasty. The difference seems to be that we have the good sense not to expect anone to ever even come close to accomplishing what Jordan accomplished…ever. It’s an exercise in futility. But for whatever reason, Denver quarterbacks and their fans have been repeating the third grade for the better part of fifteen years. Now they have one of the greatest to ever throw the ball leading their team. His reads are unbelievable. His command of the offense is unparalleled. His football IQ is a mile high. His name is Peyton Manning, and he is a Denver Bronco. Appreciate it, football fans of Denver.
Here in Chicago, we know a thing or two about filling the shoes of a legend. Chicago shooting guard will never ever…ever (ever) be as it once was when #23 graced the hardwood, not even close. We know this. The quarterback position holds a similar standard in Denver since Sir Elway left town (only to return in full decision making mode in their front office). Jay Cutler came to Chicago partly because he couldn’t fulfill the snap-taking expectations in the Mile High City. Tim Tebow (yes, he does have a first name) never had the backing of the Broncos brass. Jake Plummer had a couple above-average seasons, but since Elway won back to back titles and saluted his way out of the NFL, Denver had yearned for an MVP under center. They got him. 

Peyton Manning is an MVP in every imaginable sense: on the field, off the field, in the film room, on TV, whatever the challenge may be, #18 will beat it. He made Marvin Harrison Marvin Harrison. Same goes for Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and every Peyton-made Pro Bowler who played for the Colts. He’ll more than likely do the same for the young core of receivers in Denver. Just go ahead and pencil them in for an AFC West title and a trip to New England for the AFC Championship where the Brady vs. Manning rivalry will resume.
Tebowmania will rightfully relocate to the Arena League next year. 

ALL RIGHT EVERYBODY COME IN LET’S HAVE A TEAM TALK. FIRST OFF, YOU’RE ALL DOING A MAGNIFICENT FUCKING JOB OF NOT FUCKING LOSING WHILE OUR FUCKING STAR IS OUT WITH A FUCKING GROIN PULL. THAT LITTLE SHIT BAILS ALL OF YOU OTHER ASSHOLES OUT ALL THE FUCKING TIME WITH HIS BULLSHIT PHYSICS DEFYING ACROBATICS IT’S FUCKING AMAZING THAT WE HAVEN’T COMPLETELY GONE IN THE SHITTER BY NOW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uh, hey, thanks coach, I think.

SHUT THE FUCK UP. YOU’RE THE FUCKING HEART AND SOUL OF THE TEAM AND I’M VERY PROUD OF YOU BUT I NEED YOU TO KEEP YOUR TRAP QUIET RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.

YOU OTHER SHITS, GOOD JOB BEATING THOSE FANCY FACED FUCKHEADS. I FUCKING HATE THE FUCKING HEAT WITH A FUCKING PASSION.

[youtube http://youtu.be/JMmNatOo9a4]

SERIOUSLY, LUCAS YOU LITTLE CHUCKER, YOU’RE USELESS DEFENSIVELY BUT FUCKING THANK YOU FOR SHOOTING US TO A FUCKING WIN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coach, uh, Skip Bayless said that I moved the ball and that I’m a real PG not li-

DON’T YOU EVEN FUCKING THINK ABOUT IT YOU LITTLE SHIT. AND FUCK SKIP BAYLESS TOO. IF I HEAR YOU SPOUTING THAT BULLSHIT AGAIN I HAVE A SEAT RIGHT HERE NEXT TO ME THAT HAS YOUR FUCKING NAME WRITTEN ALL OVER IT, RIGHT SCAL?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
It’s good to be the White Mamba.

ARE YOU FUCKING HIGH RIGHT NOW, YOU WOULDN’T GET RECOGNIZED AT A FUCKING APPLE STORE IF YOU WERE PROMOTING THE NEW ISHIT 4GSHIT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Uhh, actually this dude asked me for my auto-

FUCK YOU AND YOUR MOTHER YOU SHIT. NOW WE HAVING LOST BACK TO FUCKING BACK GAMES IN OVER A FUCKING YEAR AND THAT’S WITH Deeeeeeeeennnng…ohhh Luol…how I love thee…How my heart sings of the grace of your defense, how my stomach churns at the thought of you not being on the roster, oh Luol, how hot burns my appreciation of your game, how lost I would be without thee to lean on, in my times of need, through your defense, we are a team complete wi-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Uh, coach, this is getting a little weird.

SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD! I’M TRYING TO TELL YOU THAT I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU ASSHOLE.

That’s cool, I guess…

WITH FUCKING DENG BATTLING THROUGH A WRIST INJURY, ROSE GETTING MURDERED EVERY SINGLE FUCKING DRIVE TO THE PAINT

ref: NO FOUL!
THIBS: FUCKINGFOUL!
ref: NO FOUL!
THIBS: FUCKINGFOUL!
ref: NO FOUL!
THIBS: FUCKINGFOUL!
ref: NO FOUL!
THIBS: FUCKINGFOUL!

AND GETTING HURT IN THE PROCESS EVERY SINGLE FUCKING TIME! SERIOUSLY I HATE THE REFS MORE THAN I FUCKING HATE THE FUCKING HEAT…

OK MAYBE NOT BUT STILL FUCK THE REFS THOSE LITTLE USELESS SHITS! OUR DEFENSE IS SHITALL AT THIS POINT AN-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Uh, Thibs, I’m hurt too…

FUCK I FUCKING FORGOT YOU WERE A FUCKING PLAYER ON THE FUCKING TEAM. WHAT’S YOUR FUCKING NAME AGAIN?

 

 

 

 

 

 
Who is that masked m-

DON’T YOU EVEN DARE FUCKING FINISH THAT FUCKING LINE YOU FUCKING LINDSAY HUNTER WANNABE! MEETING FUCKING ADJOURNED, I’M FUCKING PROUD OF ALL OF YOU AND IT MAKES ME HAPPY TO SEE YOU GUYS SUCCEED, GREAT FUCKING JOB AT NOT BEING SO FUCKING USELESS WITH Deeeeennnnng…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Uh coach, still weird

OH WHAT? FUCK YOU YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!

-Coach Tom Thibodeau, probable 2011-2012 coach of the fucking year.

If you had told me that LeBron James would be helping trap John Lucas III in late, critical possessions I would have made a bad joke referencing the absurdity of that statement and then I would have punched you straight in the face. All Brandon Marshall like.

The Chicago Bulls just plain outworked the Miami Heat en route to an improbable 106-102 victory. They did it with the reigning MVP on the bench too. I have to be honest, I was…less than optimistic about this game.

A pg by any other name does not smell just as sweet. No Rose sucks.
I might have to stay away from the Internet for awhile.
On my way towards drunken anger.

But I’ll be damned if those underdog assholes didn’t prove me wrong. It did take a remarkably efficient night by the most unlikely hero. We know him by many names, the Third, Carlton, LeBron’s hurdle, but for today we can simply address him as “Giant Slayer.”

Suck on that, you dancing assholes. This dudes doppelganger just whupped your ass.

How crazy was Carlton’s night? He doubled Bosh’s point production while taking 3 fewer shots. John Lucas III was 9-12 for 24 points. That’s clownshoes ridiculous. The degree of difficulty on his shots seemed to increase as the game wore on too. Lucas had open looks to start the game, he started 4-4 and mixed in a few threes when he first came off the bench.

He also did this.

The Heat’s interior defense was porous to start, the Bulls designed plays and took advantage of lazy rotation on the inside and did yeoman’s work inside the paint. Luol Deng played the warrior once again as LeBron was taking every chance he could to slap at Luol’s gimpy wrist. The total team effort by the Bulls was greater than the individual efforts of Wade and LeBron.

It seems that the Thibs gameplan was to single cover Wade and LeBron and shut down the help. James and Wade had big nights, 35-5-4 for LeBron, 36-7-1 for Wade, but the rest of the Heat seemed to be spectators. They combined to score only 31 points. Bosh in particular had a rough night. He was 3-15 and if not for some bailout calls, his point production would have cratered by an even deeper margin.

And then there was that 4th quarter thing with LeBron again. James was outscored by another James in the final frame. The Heat designed plays that used LeBron as a decoy twice in the closing seconds to get an open look for noted superstar, James Jones. LeBron didn’t show up on the screen on the offensive end in the 4th, doing nothing to help the unfortunate reputation he has built up for himself. Wade closed the gap and kept the Heat close, leaving the door open just a crack, but James was noticeably absent for most of the quarter. He did have a great steal on an ill advised pass, but for the most part he was invisible in the closing minutes.

So what can you take from last nights game? What does it all mean? It’s a confirmation of what we’ve believed from the start. The Heat have Talent (yeah, capital T talent, it’s that good) on their side, the Bulls have heart on theirs. This isn’t to say that the Bulls lack talent, rather it means that for the Bulls to beat the Heat, they’ll need to outwork them in every phase of the game like they did tonight. The defense was superb. The Bulls won the rebounding battle. The Bulls limited the bad shots early in the shot clock. LeBron disappeared in the 4th quarter. Wade hit tough shots. Bosh Boshed.

Offensive patience will help the Bulls, and while they are still the underdogs in what should be an eventual rematch in the ECF, there is some hope to be gleaned from this game.

It can be done.

And Fuck LeBron.

LOL

It really is a contrast in styles at this point. It was somewhat evident last year, but the Rose MVP talk mitigated the stark contrast somewhat. It’s pretty clear now though, the Heat are cutting a path of destruction through the NBA, they aren’t quite an unstoppable force and there are some dents in the chassis, but the Miami machine is a sleek one.

LBJ-Wade-Bosh still need to figure out who’s taking the shot in the closing minutes, but most nights it simply doesn’t matter. They can annihilate a team in 3 quarters and make the 4th irrelevant. Yeah, Wade is a step slower, but he’s still a top 5 player. He’s shooting 50% from the floor this year as a guard, which is pretty hard to do. LeBron is having a historic season and Bosh is finally doing some of the dirty work that Heat fans have been begging him to do since the free agency coup of the century.

The Bulls grind their way to victory. Every night is a seemingly maximum effort affair in which the Bulls outwork and outhustle their opponents. This was clearly evident in Monday’s tilt against the Knicks. The Bulls had significantly less talent on the floor than NY did. Deng-Rip-CJ were all hurt and the Knicks still boast a trio of Chandler-Melo-Stoudamire that should have been enough to beat the Rose-led Bulls.

Chicago works hard on the boards, Taj had a great hustle night even if his shooting numbers weren’t there. Rose had a productive night despite spotty shooting and carelessness with the rock. The Bulls grind, and even though the defense wasn’t great on the whole, they looked great in spots. Butler’s work on Melo was surprising and important. Lin was not shut down, but he was limited as the Bulls dared him to dribble with his left hand all night.

The Heat crush opponents with flashy play, the Bulls pound opponents into submission with tough defense and #1 shredding defenses.

Something’s gotta give tonight.

Pregame Music

[youtube http://youtu.be/2Q9WDaCVDe8]

Yeah, basketball is usually associated with Hip-Hop/Rap, but Bulls/Heat sounds like metal to me. I can imagine a mash up of LBJ/Rose highlights set to this track for some reason. I feel like it fits.

What To Pay Attention To

  • What do the Bulls do when LBJ guards Rose? Who is the second option with the gimpy unit they are running out there?
  • Deng and his wrist. How will it affect his defense and his shot. He can be deadly from the mid range, and if it’s hurting him badly, it could spell disaster for the Bulls.
  • Will Boozer get anything going towards the rim tonight? He’s the ultimate wildcard in all of this. If he can manage to have a decent stretch against the Heat, it could mean the difference between winning and losing. He’s in love with the fade away, and it needs to stop.
  • Will the Bulls use zone? We know it’s somewhat effective against the Heat, but Thibs doesn’t use it often. Theory is that Thibs wants to limit the tape the Heat have on the Bulls zone D, and Thibs generally doesn’t use zone anyway.
  • What’s LBJ up to in the 4th quarter? Is he being passive and deferential? Is he slinking in the corner, letting Wade carry the offensive workload? What’s underrated about LeBron is his clutch defense. He’s a bulldog on the defensive end.
  • What the hell is Thibs gonna pull out of his ass this time? The Knicks game was a coaching clinic with the cross match ups on offense and defense. Thibs is maximizing his roster in very interesting ways lately. He’s turning in another solid year as a coach.
  • Will the Bulls stop taking quick shots early in the shot clock? This is an issue against a team that loves to run, like Miami. Married to this point are the turnovers. The Bulls need to value the basketball to win this game. If they don’t it can get ugly.

The Edges

PG – Rose v. Chalmers

This ain’t close. Rose is clearly better than Chalmers offensively, and is fairly close to him defensively. Rose doesn’t get the steals that Mario does, but he plays the type of defense Thibs requires of him. Chalmers is a fine NBA PG, but he’s not on the level that Rose is. The Bulls have the clear edge here.

SG – Brewer v. Wade

Brewer is a decent defender. He has good length and he’s quick on his feet. He won’t shut Wade down, I don’t think, but he should be able to do yeoman’s work on him. I don’t expect Wade to have a big night, but he’s still dangerous when he wants to be. Brewer needs to find offense to close the gap. His game is inconsistent at best. There have been stretches where his 3 pt. shot looks solid, and then the arc on his ball goes flat and he can’t buy a bucket. Brewer is a solid finisher, but he’s no Wade. The Heat have a clear edge here.

SF – Deng v. James

Deng’s hurt. I don’t know how it will affect his defense, but we’ve seen what it can do to his jumpshot. The wrist is a serious concern, and you have to wonder how much he’ll want to test it against 275 lbs of LBJ. I think they have to force the ball Wade’s way early in the game if they can. Somehow. It’s unlikely, but it’s a thought. James is an absolute match up nightmare. He can defend all 5 positions on the floor, against the Lakers he went from defending Gasol, to Bynum, to Kobe. That’s ridiculous and scary. The Heat have a huge edge here.

PF – Boozer v. Bosh

Lord Boozington sucks defensively. This is not breaking news. I would put Jo on Bosh and let Boozer flail at Haslem for 25ish minutes and let Taj do the dirty work. Boozer needs to get moving to the basket more often, that jumpshot is going to get swatted by James more often than not. If Booze gets hot, James will guard him. I don’t see it happening, Boozer has difficulty guarding anything, and his offense struggles against height and size. And talent, can’t forget that he does poorly against talent. Bosh is enigmatic, but he can still put up good numbers offensively. The Heat have an edge here.

C – Noah v. Haslem

Noah is back to being the loveable grinder that we grew to appreciate. I wasn’t sure about him when he was drafted, but he changed my mind. Haslem looks much better without the braids, his game is funky, but all he needs to be is a solid interior defender and a sometimes offensive option. Noah is better, but if Haslem gets hot, it creates a problem. Noah can only guard one person at a time, and Boozer can’t guard a damn thing. The Bulls have the edge here.

Bench – The Bench Mob v. The Extras From Miami Vice

You know, the Miami bench is actually better this year. Battier is a good addition, Mike Miller is playing better, Norris Cole was a fine draft pick, but the Bulls bench is still better. The gap has closed a bit in this department, and it’s closer still with Watson hurt and Korver losing his jumper for spots, but this is still an edge for the Bulls. If Deng can’t play heavy minutes, the Bulls bench will be tested to the max. Korver and Brewer are not an effective defensive tandem. Jimmy Butler had a good game against the Knicks, but he’s still a relatively unknown commodity. Asik will be huge, ditto with Taj in this game.

Synopsis And Predicted Outcome

The Bulls are underdogs in this match up. The Heat have the better starters, and depth only matters so much. The Bulls will have to play a brilliant defensive game to win tonight. The offense needs to find easy buckets somehow, and it’s clearly not coming through Boozer. Rose can get to the rack, but for some reason he’s hesitant to do so against the Heat. Miami has a real ass team now, and it’s going to be hard to win this game. I do predict a Heat win, but it’s not impossible for the Bulls. In the regular season, funny things can happen. If the Bulls win, it won’t change much. Ditto if they lose. Perhaps they can find some confidence in beating this team, but it’s more of a hope than anything. I hope they win, I hope Boozer gets his head out of his ass, I hope Deng escapes with his health and I hope Rose gets over his “fear” of the Heat.

It’s gonna be a bitch though.

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about baseball games these last couple of months. It’s only natural. Baseball is my favorite sport after all. I don’t feel like I’m doing anyone a disservice by writing solely about baseball, but a little variety now and then can’t hurt.

Basketball is not my game. I tried playing it when I was a kid and found that my two main skills, free throw shooting and fouling other players, weren’t a recipe for a star hoopster. Subsequently, I only enjoyed it when winning or losing didn’t matter to anyone involved. I loved playing 21 and horse during PE in both elementary and high school and to this day still love the idea of just shooting a ball around, not that I ever do. At the end of the day basketball is just a fun game that I can’t take seriously. At least I can’t take it seriously enough to watch others play.

That’s why I love NBA Jam.

It’s a basketball game that doesn’t take the sport seriously. While winning and losing may be a personal matter within the game, there’s no season riding on it. There are no teammates to ridicule or be ridiculed in the locker room after a blowout loss. There isn’t a shred of remorse or hurt feelings when a game is over. Just another couple of coins dumped into the slot. There have been several games released with the NBA Jam name, and many more similar games of varying quality under different titles. All hipster douchebaggary aside, the original arcade cabinet is still the best version available if you can find a place that has one. It had balanced teams and it just sounds and feels right. Plus it had Shaq and Barkley so there.

When you play NBA Jam on the original arcade cabinet, you are playing a caricature of one of the most exciting and storied times in basketball history. It was a time when old greats faced off against young new stars, new dynasties were being formed as old standbys crumbled, the NBA was taking chances by drafting new talent from Europe and for the first time sent its top stars up against the increasingly tough talent in the Olympic games. That’s not even mentioning that Micheal Jordan had just forced his name into the world’s collective consciousness, whether they liked it or not, by winning his third consecutive championship ring and five MVP awards in the process. (Two regular season, three finals.)

So why is NBA Jam still such a popular game? How has it endeared itself to so many fans? What’s the magic? What’s the trick? The gimmick? What’s the secret?

For one, it’s fast. The 3 minute quarters blink past without a care. It’s really a testament to how great a game is when people don’t even realize they are being duped into dumping extra coins in a game due to a fast counting clock. Then there’s the gameplay. Through all the shoving, turbo passes, flaming dunks, and shattered glass you don’t even realize how much time really goes by or how many games you’ve played. You put in your first quarter, you play, you look up and your pockets no longer jingle and its been three hours. What the hell?

Another reason people like NBA Jam is the flamboyantly comical art style and presentation. Between the static player photographs put on what seems to be a single body that is repeatedly pallet swapped and re-sized, and commentary provided by Tim Kitzrow it’s hard not to smile while you watch and listen to the game. Everything is so over the top that there’s no room for rational basketball rules. I mean, how do you call a foul in a game where you can set the net on fire with a dunk? How could you allow the game to stop just because the ball goes out of bounds when any given player jumps higher than the rim? You just can’t. It’s an arcade sports game at its core and NBA Jam does it so right, there’s no way to really improve it. Even the newest version on the Wii, PSN, and Xbox Live is just the same game with updated rosters and visuals.

There is, however, an underlying theory as to why people love NBA Jam. One that is buried within the confines of sports history and the evaluation of what was happening in basketball between 1991 and 1993. The 1980’s were a period of rising popularity for professional basketball. Starting in 1979 when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entered the league, star player after star player emerged culminating in a virtual renaissance in the NBA. The 80’s saw the retirement of some of the game’s most storied players including Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Julius Irving, and Walt Frazier. But while these greats were taking a seat players like James Worthy, Isiah Thomas, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullen, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, and Micheal Jordan were easily making names for themselves in a sport that was fast becoming a contender for the worlds most popular sport. Basketball was clearly evolving and it would take a loss on the world’s stage for America to understand just how far the sport had come.

In 1988 the US men’s basketball team finished third in the Olympics. Third. They lost to Russia and Yugoslavia. What was happening? All the time the US was sending college kids to play in the Olympics in basketball the rest of the world was sending its best players to compete and they were getting better every year. The best players from the United States were in the NBA and weren’t allowed to play in the games due to their professional status. In effect, that gave the US a huge disadvantage. Sure nine of the players on the Russian and Yugoslavian teams that beat the American team ended up playing for the NBA at some point and with varying success, you may remember Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, and Drazen Petrovic, but that was no excuse. So in 1989 when the worlds governing body over international basketball, the FIBA, decided it was cool to allow professional players to compete the stage was set for something crazy to happen.

The 1992 US men’s basketball team featured eleven NBA players and one guy from Duke (pfft they couldn’t get one more?). Not only did they tear up the world qualifying tournaments, beating the six teams they played by an average of 52 points, but they flew through the Olympics with ease. They averaged 117 points per game and beat the opposition by an average of 44 points per game to win the gold medal that year. It was a great moment in sports history and The Dream Team is one of only eight complete teams to be elected to the basketball hall of fame. Combine that with basketball’s general rising popularity and you have a country ready to eat up anything basketball related. NBA Jam couldn’t possibly fail in at atmosphere like that.

NBA Jam represents a time in sports history where everything was on an upswing and a time in video game history when new avenues of game development were being explored. These two elements combined to bring about a classic game that painted a bombastic and flashy picture of American culture. One that I dearly miss and has yet to be matched.

Stay tuned for part two, The ghosts of Reggie Lewis and Drazen Petrovic.

Boomshakalaka.

“The only difference between myself and a madman is that I AM NOT MAD!” -Salvador Dali

That magical time of year is upon us once again, hoop heads: the most wonderful time of the sports year when everyone becomes a college basketball “fan,” and the bracket racket gets un-drownoutably loud.

This is the best time of year to visit Cad T. Wasp’s The SaniTERRYum. Madness comes into full bloom by the end of March, and sports’ true unpredictable nature is on full display. You go to New England in the fall for the foliage. You leave Chicago in winter for the beaches of California and Florida. You come to The SaniTERRYum in March for the madness. And you stay for the…wait, why are you still here?

Oh of course, The Madness of March! By the time you read this, your bracket could very well be abundantly busted to smithereens. Or you could be on pace for a handsome payout. Here lies the heartbreaking beauty of March’s madness. How many brackets are you filling out? Who’s going to upset who? Yadda, yadda, yadda. Just enjoy the fact that we get a tournament at the end of the basketball season and not some ridiculous math equation that is the bullshit BCS. This is why  they should always play the games. Anything can happen, and you can’t put anything past anyone. I may submit brackets to several sources, but it is usually the same bracket. None of this, “I’ve got so and so in this bracket and so and so in that bracket.” One bracket. One prediction. Why would you get to make multiple predictions? Kind of takes away from the integrity of your selections, no?

I probably get my good sports gambling acumen from my dad. Growing up, he and I would rip out our brackets from the Sun-Times’ sports section and take our picks on every game, down to the NCAA Champion. I have picked North Carolina to win it all every year for as long as I can remember, and the nice thing about that is I end up being right every six to twelve years. Anyway, we’d fill out our brackets, and then we’d determine the stakes. No matter how well you predicted the Sweet 16, the Elite 8 or the Final 4, the only way you won was if your pick as champion withstood the test of the tournament of tournaments to be crowned champ. My prize was always something along the lines of a pullover Starter jacket or a new pair of shoes or a Georgetown Hoyas hat. He’d always end up getting me what I desired as winner of our bet regardless of win or lose, but it was always so much more rewarding when I actually won the whole thing on my own accord.

That’s how March Madness began for me. Father/son bonding over light sports gambling. I was probably eight or nine years old, already a full-blown basketball nerd. I don’t know if my dad ever beat me in those pools, because I definitely don’t recollect him collecting any winnings from me-his only son. To this day though, I still recall fondly visiting on weekends with Dad, catching the Tar Heels with Dick “Yea Bay-Bee” Vitale. They’ll always be my team, and I’m picking Harrison, Roy and The Tar Heels this year to cut down the nets in New Orleans.

And the tournament has its teams, its usual suspects year after year. There’s a reason for that, and it’s called recruiting. There’s a reason Freshman/Player of the Year Anthony Davis spurned hometown Chicago and Illinois schools for Calipari and Kentucky. Same goes for Derrick Rose and all other Chicago prep phenoms. Recruiting is the reason the top seeds go to the Kentuckys, North Carolinas, Syracuses and Michigan States of the college basketball world. There’s a reason Tom Izzo, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, and Coach K perennially attract the top recruiting classes and remain the elite programs of the NCAA

The recruiting process only gets you so far though. Just ask Bill (and his choking) Self. You can practically pencil Kansas in for an early exit every year, no matter how good their regular seasons look. The beauty of a tournament at the end of the season lies in the opportunity for schools like VCU, George Mason, and Butler. The opportunity for the upper echelon schools to prove themselves is a beautiful thing, too. It’s still very survival of the fittest, very only the strong survive.

In The SaniTERRYum, anything is possible and interpretation is open for business. Just like the rigors and excitement of the NCAA Tournament.

Let the madness begin…

First things first: Happy Birthday, Shaq. We’re gonna talk about point guards today. You and Penny should’ve stayed together, man.

Point Guards run the offense, but right now the best ones are running the NBA and dominating debate on who’s number one. While East Coasters praise Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo as the league’s best, and everyone else claims Chris Paul as numero uno, I’m here to point out something that has somehow slipped under the radar of basketball talking heads this year: DERRICK ROSE IS THE REIGNING MVP! Oh, and the Bulls have the best record in the NBA. He put the team on his back again Sunday, but he was still overshadowed by other point guard performances around the league.

Deron Williams put up 57 Sunday (!), but keep in mind that it was against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. And, Rondo needed overtime against the Knicks to assemble that monstrous triple double. Is Danny Ainge serious about trading him? That would be about as dumb as the time he got up in MJ’s face during the ’92 Finals…

The Big O revolutionized the position, but it used to be that you had to have a dominant center to win championships. Magic, still the undisputed best point guard of all-time, had Kareem. It wasn’t until Isiah won twice with his misfit centers and Jordan and the Bulls won six with the likes of Bill Cartwright, Will Perdue, Luc Longley and Big Bill Wennington that teams started to restructure the way they looked at the draft and the way they handled free agency to accommodate this shift in roster power. Teams started to build around game-changing point guards. The 76ers put all their eggs in the Iverson basket (and then subsequently turned him into an off guard). Steve Nash won two MVPs with the Suns (and burned out in the playoffs every year), shoot-first Chauncey Billups led the 2004 rag tag Pistons to a title. Frenchman Tony Parker was 2007’s Finals MVP.

Now we’re in an age where the debate rages on as to who is the NBA’s best point guard. Don’t get it twisted: an argument can be made for any of the clear-cut top five. The order in which they are arranged is the topic of discussion. Right now, D-Rose is on pace to become the greatest point guard, not of his era, but of all-time. He was the youngest MVP ever last year. He’s only 23 and in only his fourth season. His potential and unrelenting will to win put him in a class by himself. Some of the shots and layups he has the audacity to not only attempt but then hit are nothing short of spectacular on a regular basis. He hasn’t won a championship (yet), something only Rondo has done out of the group of point guards I’m bringing up in this column. Just to clarify, here’s how my current list of Top 5 NBA Point Guards looks:

5. Chris Paul: Honestly, I can’t stand this guy. The first time I ever saw him play in a game at Wake Forest, he cheap shot punched some kid in the nuts. Not cool, man. Not cool. That turn of events sort of stuck with me as he ascended to the NBA’s upper echelon of point guards. I only have him on this list because I have to. Fuck Lob City. 19.7 PPG, 8.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 2.2 SPG Clippers are 22-14.

4. Russell Westbrook: With Kevin Durant on his side, these two have an opportunity to make Oklahoma City a legitimate contender for years to come. Westbrook’s play is a bit sporadic at times, but there’s no denying his explosiveness. A rare breed and lots of potential to stay on this list for years to come. 23.7 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG Thunder are 30-8.

3. Rajon Rondo: He has the heart of a champion, and that’s something I infinitely respect. Arguably, the best defender on this list, his creativity on the offensive side of the ball has allowed him to spread touches amongst The Big Three and keep them happy since their arrival in Boston. The lone NBA Champion on this list. 14.3 PPG, 10.2 APG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG Celtics are 19-17

2. Deron Williams: It’s too bad things turned out the way they did for him in Utah. Jerry Sloan could have shown him a thing or two. He seems stuck on a crappy New Jersey team now, but that sort of gives him the unparalleled opportunity to prove himself as a leader and a winner. However, since he left Illinois, I haven’t really seen either of those characteristics from him. His combination of strength, court vision, scoring ability, speed, passing prowess and ability to take over any given game make him number two though. 22.6 PPG, 8.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG Nets are 12-26. Ouch.

1. Derrick Rose: Stacey King exclamations and Chicago bias aside, Derrick Rose is the youngest MVP in league history. None of the other members on this list have been MVP. Derrick Rose not only tops this list, but he defines the criteria of what a point guard, a leader should be. Who do you want on your team leading the way? The will to win, loyalty to team and the ability to takeover when need be (as he did Sunday in Philly and in the 2nd half last night against those annoying Pacers). Derrick has stated time and time again that he is about one thing, and that’s winning games and eventually a championship here in Chicago. 22.4 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 0.9 SPG Bulls are NBA best 32-8.

Who’s with me?

Ed’s note.
I am. 

The Miami Heat are the best team in basketball right now. They’ve managed to augment their talent with a modicum of depth. Shane Battier, a healthy Udonis Haslem, ditto with Mike Miller, Norris Cole came out of nowhere to provide meaningful minutes, the Heat have a bench now and that makes them deadly. It’s a forgone conclusion that the Heat will meet the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals once again.

That’s part of the reason the Heat are so criticized. When you add to a core that boasts 3 of the 10 best players in the NBA, you’re supposed to be unstoppable. The roadblocks that remain for the Heat are the same ones as last year. They have difficulty figuring out who will be the man in the closing minutes, you can frustrate them with a zone defense, and they have some difficulty with rebounding.

And there’s that really weird LeBron issue too.

Which of course brings me to Derrick Rose. I have no idea where the excuse of “That’s the proper basketball play,” came from, but it’s complete utter bullshit. The Heat were in trouble last Friday against a tough Utah Jazz team. Yeah, LeBron spearheaded an inspired comeback that came up just short, he was hitting ridiculous three pointers and taking odd shots from odd angles because, damnit, he’s the best damn player on the planet and he should be forcing up shots like that because he can hit them.

On the final play however? “I gotta pass to Udonis. Crunch time.”

Don’t even give me Kerr or Paxson. Those assholes were jump shooters, deadly threats from the outside. It made sense to pass it out to the top of the key when the defense was collapsing on you. LeBron is an absolute force of nature. No one is going to bother him much when he drives the paint. You can’t slow that down.

Look at Rose. In the waning moments of a close game against a tough Philly team, when the Bulls needed a bucket, who was throwing his small frame into the teeth of a pitbull defense that was looking to make sure that it wouldn’t be Rose who scores? Onesanity, that’s who. A stupid, ill-advised shot that makes you go, “NONONNONONONONNO!!!! WAIT WHAT!!!!!! YES! SHIT YES, YOU LITTLE SHIT YOU KEEP DOING THAT AND IT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER GODDAMNIT!”

Well, maybe that’s just me, but Rose is the same guy that dominated a state playoff game and only scored 2 points. He can distribute and he loves getting his teammates involved. Remember early in his career when we were all begging him to quit deferring?

And then he did the damndest thing and quit deferring and became the MVP because of clownshoes ridiculous shot after shot that won the Bulls games? Yeah, it’s crazy but I think someone (Thibs) sat Derrick down and said, “Now, I know that you don’t want to step on any toes, but seriously, asshole, you’re passing to Bogans and Jo for jumpshots. Cut that shit out and just take it to the rack.”

LeBron needs that speech. Yeah, passing to Haslem is the proper basketball play, but everyone needs to shit on that stupid theory. Legends don’t follow the rules. They reinvent the book in their own image by throttling the game by it’s throat and making it bend to their will. “Oh what’s that? I’m too selfish? I’m only a scorer? Here, have some of this 35-8-8 up your asshole. And then I’ll win 6 titles.” “Oh, I can’t win without Shaq? Taste my asshole, I’ll win two more and solidify my legend. And I’ll do it by being a maniacal asshole who makes funny faces and takes a lot of ‘bad’ shots.”

The rules that dictate what is and isn’t a good basketball play are completely open for LeBron to reinterpret and rewrite. Bad basketball plays are good ones for him because he is such a physical freak. The man can do whatever he wants on the court, and if he’s going to shake off the demons, get the monkey off his back, he’s going to have to forget about that “good basketball play” bullshit.

Impose your will asshole, if you don’t, good luck getting by the Bulls.

[youtube http://youtu.be/-i51QLznR2g]
Goddamn that’s an awful shot…awesome.

The 61st Annual NBA ALL-Star game came and went over the weekend. Amidst all the Oscar buzz and red carpet glitz and glamor, did anyone even notice?

Seriously, who is scheduling these events nowadays? The NBA is fighting to regain its fan base and attract new ones simultaneously, and The Commish can’t even get his timing right? Good luck with that whole rebuilding process, Señor Stern. The schedule making powers that be failed to notice that Hollywood’s biggest night took place the same night? Really?

 

So many issues I have with today’s NBA. Lucky for me, the pros always outweigh the cons, and I continue to con myself into believing in basketball.


I heard they’re using this year’s game as a tutorial for young ballers to show them exactly what not to do when they step on the hardwood. Even Luol Deng, a premiere defender in my book, practically sprinted out of the way for Blake Griffin to obtain a perfectly clear dunking lane. C’mon, Lu! It’s your first ASG. Swat that shit to the first row! Seriously, the defense is absolutely atrocious. But you knew that before tuning in to watch. What I don’t know is how they got Thibs to patrol the East sideline with the game’s reputation being what it is. I was taking over/under bets on not if, but how many times Coach T would stroke out due to lack of defense. The West scored 88 points…by halftime (yes, that is a record). The Bulls have held opponents to less than that (in entire games) 18 times this  year! 


The West won the “game” 152-149 if anyone gives a shit. And Kevin Durant was the game’s MVP. He’s so slick.


There was a moment in the 3rd quarter when Kobe took it to the rim, and DWade fouled him. Hard. It was a shot to the nose- a playoff foul. I smiled a little. Actual defense. It was in apparent retaliation to a good defensive stop by Kobe against Wade on the other end of the floor. And then a little bit later, Kobe broke Mike’s all-time All Star scoring record. Damn. I guess I have to come to terms with Kobe being this generation’s version of the one we call His Airness. I suppose it’s better him than LeBron, he of the ringless, opportune turnover variety. A part of my basketball self dies with every MJ record that gets broken. 


Yes, the game actually came down to the final possession(s) and a little bit of my favorite elements of the game: defense and coaching. This reminded everyone watching why Tom Thibodeau is a master of both-reigning Coach of the Year-by ironically exposing LeBron, yet again, for what he truly is: an oligophrenic, overhyped failure when it matters. Why don’t him and overhyped, one dimensional forward  Blake Griffin just duke it out in the sky where they belong, making for a Dunk Contest someone would actually want to watch? That’d be one for the ages. Have Vince Carter, Mike, Dominique and Dr. J judge that shit. I’d watch. 

 

I’ve seen LeBron do things no other player is capable of, and I’ve seen him not do things a superstar of his caliber should be able to accomplish. Maybe he’s just not a professional winner.


And maybe The Flash is turning out to be more of a flash in the pan, after all. I like DWade because he’s a hometown guy, but for us to overthrow the Eastern Conference champions here in The Chi, we need his and LeBron’s weaknesses revealed in May. Too bad Thibs can’t be there to sabotage them again. Or can he? (Insert evil genius laugh here) 

 

When travelling, I often state that no matter how much I love a place that I happen to visit, I always, ALWAYS love returning home to my city of Chicago. I’ve been many places, many cool ass places, but Chicago is where I’ll stay, probably forever. I’ve got the flag tattooed on my arm and the lakeshore wind tattooed on my soul. I felt a similar sensation after watching the ASG on Sunday. I love watching the entertainment value of the game’s biggest stars. Despite all the hate toward it, the dunk contest is still cool to watch. The three point contest is timeless (still bitter about Hot Sauce’s snub). But no matter what (excluding Shaq and Penny in the mid ’90s), I’m never swayed to another team or out of town players. I’ll always bleed Chicago red and black. That’s why Luol’s limited run in his first appearance didn’t bother me. That’s why Derrick’s ridiculously massive shoe deal getting no talk from mainstream media all weekend didn’t affect me (you know if LeBron or Kobe signed that same deal, it would’ve been top news; difference being Derrick deserves every zero in that contract). Humility sort of comes with the territory ’round here, so when Chris Paul, Deron Williams, even Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook get mentioned as the L’s top point guards ahead of Chi Town’s Finest, we remember that it’s all about one thing: winning. That’s what we’re about in The WINdy City.

 

That’s why this is my kind of town.