Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 4:53PM; Updated: Thursday November 16, 2006 9:40AM
Grant Wahl will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
What should we know about Greg Oden?
Put it this way, says Roy Williams: "Greg Oden is as good a prospect as I've seen in 15 years." The big question now is whether the 7-foot Ohio State center will make much of an impact on the college level. Surgery on his right wrist has kept Oden on the shelf all summer and fall, but his perpetually positive coach Thad Matta is trying to focus on the benefits. "Greg's left hand looks great," Matta says. "He has really worked on his left hand, and his conditioning has been good, since it's not ankle injury where he can't run. In my mind I'm saying we hope to have him back by Jan. 1."
What should we take from the Bob Knight fireworks this week?
Ever since he was fired at Indiana, the struggle for Knight has been to put the focus on his coaching success instead of his tirades/meltdowns/etc. So far he has been relatively successful doing that at Texas Tech, but incidents such as the one this week don't help. The story of the season's first half should be Knight's pursuit of Dean Smith's record for all-time wins, but if Knight doesn't watch out the story could morph into something else entirely.
Who do coaches consider to be a top innovator in the college game?
I asked several coaches about innovators, and one coach who got a lot of votes was West Virginia's John Beilein. Listen to one Beilein admirer, Wichita State coach Mark Turgeon: "Offensively, he's put his own spin on the Princeton series, and his 1-3-1 zone is creative and tough to get used to. I'll study his films and try to learn from him. In the past it's always been the Princeton family that's been innovative. We've always tried to copy them in one form or fashion, but right now I'd say Beilein because of what he's doing in his program."
Who is Ndongo?
Above the dry-erase board in the Gators locker room, Joakim Noah has hung an elaborate African wood mask named Ndongo that serves as the Gators' talisman. The back story: earlier this year Noah got his girlfriend and roommate Taurean Green to believe the tall tale that his Cameroonian grandfather had arranged for him to marry an African princess. "What's her name?" asked Green? "Ndongo!" replied Noah, which naturally sparked a "Do it for Ndongo!" rallying cry during team huddles. "We're the Ndongo Warriors," says Noah, and you can almost hear the whir of namesake T-shirts being printed already.
Which national team does Noah plan to play for: France or the United States?
The answer (France) may surprise you less than the reasoning: Noah doesn't think he's good enough to play for the Americans. "I'm not even hiding it: I don't even think I have a chance to play on the U.S. team," Noah says. "It would be an honor, but you're playing against guys like Kevin Garnett ... Do I feel more French than American? No, not really. I feel American, French, Swedish, Cameroonian. That's just a weird concept to me. But the French team seems like a great group of guys with Tony Parker and Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf, and they like to run the floor, so I could fit in their system."
The Hoops Lingo Corner
In honor of The New York Times' longtime "On Language" scribe William Safire, the 'Bag is inaugurating a new weekly feature in which we'll examine the origins, meanings, etc., of peculiar hoops terms (e.g., mid-major, Dukie V, "score the ball"). Feel free to suggest a candidate for the Lingo Corner and we'll track it down.
This week's expression is motor, which we've been hearing the last two years as the buzzword of the NBA Draft. What the heck does motor mean?
"I would say highly energized, someone who's constantly running," says Florida coach Billy Donovan. "Like, Renaldo Balkman's got a motor. Joakim Noah's got a motor. Guys that just play with great energy and enthusiasm for a long period of time. Like, you've left the car running, the motor's gonna keep on going."
We did a Nexis search looking for all the instances in which an article had "NBA Draft" in the headline and the term motor in the story. A couple of examples:
"Motor and determination." -- ESPN's Chad Ford as quoted in a June 28, 2006 Baltimore Sun story on the reasons why Rudy Gay had fallen in his draft ranking.
"While scouts love [Guillermo Diaz's] athleticism and motor..." -- Palm Beach Post, March 30, 2006.
Origins of motor: most likely in the speech patterns of NBA scouts. It's descriptive and concise at the same time. The first example we found of its use came on June 15, 2000, in an NBA Draft profile of Eduardo Nájera on The Sports Network: "... non-stop motor is a huge asset."
Picks From The 'Bag
In theaters: The Science of Sleep. We figure most of you have already seen Borat, so the 'Bag and 'Bag Lady recommend this trippy film from the imaginative mind of Michel Gondry (who directed one of our all-time favorites, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and featuring Gael García Bernal as an artist trying to make a go of it in Paris. There's not a lot of plot, but that hardly matters when you've got so many memorable images on the screen.