Posts Tagged ‘Dwyane Wade’

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 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.




 

They’re being overlooked. Again. I guess there’s good reason for that. The Knicks have a sensational story, the Heat are tearing the basketball universe a new asshole, and the OKC Thunder are playing fun, aggressive, and winning basketball. Don’t sleep on the Spurs either, Pops has that team humming at the right speed.

That kind of leaves the Bulls out of the championship picture, oddly enough. At the start of the season it seemed a foregone conclusion that we would see a Bulls/Heat rematch in the ECF, pending the injury story late in the year. I happen to still believe this is the case, but for some reason, people are starting to forget about Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls. They’ve become an afterthought this season, which is strange given the storyline that was developing all last year.

I mean, Bulls/Heat should still be the premiere match up of the East, but as Linsanity has taken over rational minds, people are overlooking the Bulls. That’s cool, write in the Knicks as ECF contenders, let me know how that works out when they run into a team that specializes in stopping the pick and roll, the Knicks only offense. I wonder who drills pick and roll defense over and over and over again until it’s second nature?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE7jx3E39S8] [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5x_aPyvrJs]

Oh right, those assholes.

Look, Lin is a good story, he’s doing some incredible things, but what gets overlooked is that the Knicks play absolutely zero defense, and Lin turns the ball over a lot. He’s scored the most points to start a career, yeah yeah, whatever. He’s also turned the ball over the most to start a career as well. That shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re matching the Knicks up with the Bulls and the Heat, two teams that defend pick and roll like a motherfucker. Especially the Heat. Because bad things happen when you turn it over against them.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pya4txb73sU]
have fun, you fucking turnover machine.

Which kinda leads me to my real question, can Derrick beat the Heat? Is 1>3? I already know that Rose is better than Linsanity, no matter what people want to start believing. The Bulls will beat the Knicks in the playoffs. The Knicks are still the Knicks, they still suck ass and need to bow at the alter of Michael every time they take the court.

Who's your daddy, and what does he do?

All Knick hate aside, they still suck ass and the only team that Bulls fans should be aware of are the Heat. We’ll probably get scared in the playoffs, the Hawks can be a pain in the ass, the Pacers are still annoying, the Sixers are getting that Doug Collins bump, but it’s still Bulls/Heat.

I don’t think it can happen. I’ve been saying this for awhile, but as much as I love Deng/Rose/Noah the Bulls don’t match up well with the Heat. Deng can’t cover LeBron, nobody can. Wade is a bitch of a match up, Bosh will eat up whoever is on him, it’s not looking too good for the Bulls. Chicago will have to execute a perfect defensive game plan to compete with the Heat, and even that might not be enough. The fan in me rebels against the notion that the Bulls can’t beat the Heat, but my head refuses to go along with my heart.

I’ll be rooting hard for the Bulls, I always do, but I’m not very optimistic that 1>3.

In lieu of a Bulls Week in Review, here is a recap of the very entertaining Bulls-Heat matchup.

It was an expected outcome. The Heat are better than the Bulls right now, and with Deng sitting on the sidelines the 97-93 final score was pretty indicative of how the game felt. It was extremely close, but always out of reach for the Bulls, until the 4th quarter. A myth is building in Chicago, centered around #1. Rose is certainly more than willing to carry a team to victory, and he’s put together an impressive body of work showcasing the ability to will a team to victory. On Sunday, however, his two costly misses at the free throw stripe erased all of his hard work. The Bulls were kept at an arm’s length, but Rose’s ability to split double teams, penetrate the lane, hit layups and get to the free throw line were the grand equalizer.

Rose scored 34 points for the Bulls. Chicago’s next highest scorer was Rip Hamilton with 11. That is an issue. While Miami was showcasing it’s high flying offensive style the Bulls were once again grinding possessions and exerting maximum effort on offense to get a shot off. Those possessions usually ended in Rose driving the lane and forcing contact before getting a shot off. Rose was 12-14 from the charity stripe, Noah shot the second most free throws on the team with 6.

This style of offensive play will suck the energy out of the defensive side of the ball. Miami didn’t shoot a great percentage but they got to the FT line 40 times (compared to 28 for the Bulls) as tired legs tend to commit tired fouls. The Bulls did a great job on the isolation offense the Heat run out there in crunch time, but the Bulls supposed advantage in rebounding wasn’t there, they were actually out-rebounded by Miami 48-47. This is an issue. The Bulls did a good job on the first shot, but failed to limit the offensive rebounds, the Heat pulled in 12 of those. Miami will make you pay for giving them the second shot.

As for the free throws, those two misses were reminiscent of Derrick Rose in a Memphis Uniform. Rose has worked on his free throws since coming into the league. He was a 75-76% foul shooter his first two years in the league, he’s increased that number to 86%.

College basketball is only good when it's future pro vs. future pro.

Those two misses were killer. The Bulls had the chance to tie or take the lead with under a minute left in the game and Rose bricked both free throws. Now, LeBron then missed two of his own in the following possession, doing nothing to assuage the belief that he is not a clutch player, but Mario Chalmers put the Bulls away with two made foul shots. It was reminiscent of 2007 when Chalmers hit a clutch shot and Rose bricked some free throws. This is something that will eat at Rose for awhile, he enjoys taking the challenge up. He also has a long memory and will not be forgetting this loss for awhile.

The Dengless Bulls did prove something in defeat, and that’s the ability to beat the Heat. With Deng the Bulls would have a good jump shooter out there to stretch the floor, taking pressure off Rose/Hamilton to score, and one of the best perimeter defenders in the game. The open looks in the lane for LeBron would be tougher to get, and the job Rip’s length did on Wade defensively was something to be optimistic about. Bosh is still a problem, but ideally with Deng out there you can rotate Noah on Bosh and let Boozer handle Anthony/Haslem. Perhaps the Bulls have the blueprint, when they were down 11 the Bulls switched to a zone defense for the first time that I can remember and reeled the Heat back in. Miami’s isolation game was ineffective late in the 4th quarter as well.

Moving forward the Bulls and the Heat will have 3 more regular season showdown before they meet in the Playoffs. And they will be in the ECF pending a major miracle/tragedy for either team. The Bulls lost the game, but it’s not hopeless anymore. They can hang with the Heat without their second best player. With Deng, they can possibly even beat them.

I was first made aware of Shane Battier as he donned Duke blue and played a very bland brand of basketball that didn’t immediately draw me in. I grew up in the era of rarefied air, of vicious dunks and cut throat defense. I was watching basketball’s Golden Age and was slowly coming to terms with the new brand of slower basketball.

Battier’s game, however, while aesthetically unimpressive is undeniably layered. Taken at face value Battier looks like another dookie NBA player. It looks like a game built on reputation rather than substance, but to mistake it for that is to take what Battier does for granted.

The transformation from underground hoopster hero to a well respected defensive maven owes much to 2009 New York Times Article that outlined what he does well and presented it to the masses. Indeed, a burgeoning movement was already underway decrying the Allen Iverson type players, chuckers with little regard for efficiency. Battier’s rise to NBA fan respect is directly correlative with this new line of thinking.

And now Battier has traveled to the much bally-hoed Miami Heat, self titled bad boys of the NBA. The villains have their first glue guy, a hard nosed defender that knows what his role on a team is. The rest of the NBA is taking notice once again as the Heat make an offseason signing that is drastically altering the NBA landscape.

The road to the NBA finals goes through Miami in the East. The super trio of LeBron, Wade and Bosh will not wilt away simply because of the failures of last year. Now the best perimiter defense in the game adds another potent weapon.

The Bulls will have a specifically tough time dealing with the Heat given the current roster. Rose’s squad has no reliable second option that can create his own shot to deal with the multiple match up nightmare of James, Wade and Battier on the defensive end. It’s now up to GarPaxDorf to respond to the move and hopefully bring in someone who can ease the burden that weighs heavy on the reigning MVP.

As the season wears on and the character of teams are tested, remember that the regular season only means so much. Champions are proven in the playoffs, frauds and deficiencies are completely exposed and that the struggle for basketball immortality is a bloody path that is paved with the failures of seasons past.

I can’t wait.