Weekly Countdown (cont.)
On to the rest of the Countdown ...
4 Questions rescued from the spam
Note: Due to an abundance of mail I received about my midseason awards and All-Star selections, I'll respond to more of your questions Monday in a mailbag. Until then, here are a few to keep you occupied:
What happened to Monta Ellis of Golden State? He should have made your top five surprises for All-Star selections. Your thoughts?
How could you leave David Lee off your All-Star roster? His stats are better than Al Horford's across the board, and he's become a legit 20-10 guy.
You said the only meaningful competition for Al Horford at backup center for the East side is Kendrick Perkins. I know he's not on a winning team, but wouldn't you give Andrew Bogut a lot of consideration for the backup spot as well? Statistically speaking, he has performed better than both of them with averages of 15 and 10. And wouldn't it be safe to say that he has had as much or greater of an impact on his team than Perkins or Horford? When he scores 17 points or more, the Bucks are 11-2. Doesn't this show that he has been more valuable and important to his team than the other two?
I should have mentioned Ellis as a candidate because of the impressive numbers he's compiled. But there's no way a guy from such a bad team should displace someone like Steve Nash, Chris Paul or Deron Williams.
Horford is a center, while Lee is listed on the ballot as a forward and, therefore, is competing against a larger pool of candidates. It's hard to argue that he should be an All-Star ahead of Gerald Wallace.
You make a lot of strong points, Matt, and I did consider Bogut. But the East is so bad this year that I decided to focus on teams above or near .500. Shouldn't there be minimum standards for excellence? The simple answer to your question is that Bogut needs to score 17 points more often in order to drive his team to more wins and drive himself to the All-Star Game, and I believe someday he'll manage to do all of that.
Would you agree that Andrea Bargnani is closing in on All-Star level in the Eastern Conference? After Dwight Howard, who else is there in the East? You could make an argument for Al Horford, I suppose, but, really, is Bargnani not worthy of All-Star consideration?
I think you put it well: Bargnani is closing in on that level. To get there he needs to rebound closer to double figures (right now he's at a lowly 6.4 per game, and 18th in rebounds per minute among Eastern centers), as well as develop more of an inside presence as a scorer. The other consideration when it comes to Bargnani as a future All-Star is whether Chris Bosh remains in Toronto. If Bosh leaves, then Bargnani may ultimately shift to forward, which will raise the standards he needs to achieve.
Do you expect the next collective bargaining agreement to result in a proportional decrease of salaries and regular-season games? In my view, that would benefit the quality of play (back-to-backs should be banned, they are frankly unwatchable), the length of the players' careers and, given the ever lower attendance rates, the owners' pockets. Your thoughts?
The number of regular-season games will not decrease because fewer games would mean less revenue. The owners are demanding more revenue from the next CBA; they'll want a larger share of revenues overall and shorter contracts for the players. As much as the quality of play might improve without back-to-backs, the league is going to avoid any move that brings in less money.
Ian, I'm wondering where things stand right now on the NBA's deal with Seattle that settled their suit against the Thunder ownership and the NBA. It appears to me that the NBA and Thunder are going to make out like bandits, since the economic downturn would dictate that Seattle will be unable to uphold its end of the bargain so the NBA will have no need to give Seattle a team and the Thunder won't be on the hook for another $30 million. Do you think this is correct, or is it still too early to tell?
You're right that the Thunder won't owe the $30 million now that that the Dec. 31 deadline has passed without the Washington legislature approving upgrades to KeyArena. The other part of the equation is something the NBA would like to reverse: The league would like to move a team back into Seattle, a large market with a long-term following for basketball. But it's going to be a rough sell because of the bad feelings that followed the Sonics' departure to Oklahoma City. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a hard time imagining anyone of political power pushing for the return of the NBA to Seattle anytime in the near future.
3 Aspects of a new career
Shareef Abdur-Rahim played 12 seasons with four teams, appeared in one All-Star Game and signed his name to more than $100 million in NBA contracts. He is in his second season as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings, working longer hours than he experienced as a player on their roster (through 2007-08) and for a much smaller salary (in the low six figures).
On his pay cut. "An NBA coach makes pretty good money," he said. "There are not a lot of jobs where you can make the money that NBA coaches make. You look at the economy right now and the kinds of jobs people are going for ...''
He feels fortunate. "I did well when I played," he said. So well that he doesn't worry so much about how much money he is making now. "Someone was telling me the other day, if you can find something you enjoy doing, then you do that. And I enjoy doing this.
"I never really thought about doing it before. The organization asked me what I thought about it. I was in a situation where physically I couldn't play anymore [because of chronic knee problems]. I had been around the younger guys and maybe I had made an impact on them, so maybe I could try it and see."
On adapting. "Sometimes you see guys doing things or not doing things, and as a player you were used to being able to physically make a difference in a game," he said. "But as a coach, you don't have that same impact anymore. So that's tough."
It isn't easy to persuade players to behave differently than he himself behaved when he was a player. "When I was a player, I picked up stuff at my own speed and matured at my own speed," he said. "And now I see guys doing the same thing."
On getting players to listen. "I'm just enjoying learning and picking up different aspects of the game -- things I wish I would have learned or picked up when I played," Abdur-Rahim said. "If I'd done that, I think I would have done a lot better.
"It's just understanding the game and seeing the game in different ways -- what works, what doesn't work, ball movement ... all of the little nuances of the game that coaches talked about, but you didn't really appreciate how important they were. I watch the game from a different perspective now."
2 Things you might hear over a cup of coffee
From an NBA personnel scout: "When Stephen Curry went to Golden State, I think he went to one of the worst places he could possibly go. He's such a good kid, he's a student of the game and he really wants to be good, but I just think it's an emotional roller-coaster to play for that team right now. On the one hand, I can't see him being dragged out of his positive frame of mind, no matter how bad the situation. On the other hand, he's one of those guys you pull for. He comes from a disciplined system at Davidson, and even though his family had money and his father was a player, he's not a prima donna. So it's just too bad that someone with so much going for him is in that kind of situation they're in right now."
From a GM: "It's obvious that a lot of teams are losing money. My understanding is that if you came in with a good-sized check, you could buy something like 12 teams in the league. The question is how big of a check you'd have to write. But I think if you were looking to buy an NBA team, now would be a good time, because you'd have a lot of owners who are willing to listen."
1 Worthwhile question about officiating
What's the best way to develop young referees? Lately, I've been hearing complaints about lopsided officiating crews in which one senior ref is paired with two inexperienced refs. Naturally, I sought the counsel of Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the leading expert on NBA officiating. Though Cuban would not comment, he did confirm that he has noticed this trend. In fact, a game protested recently by the Mavericks -- a 116-108 OT loss to the Rockets in December -- was officiated by respected senior referee Ken Mauer, who is working his 24th season, and John Goble and Brian Forte, each in his second NBA season.
After that game, Cuban argued the referees improperly called a second technical foul on center Erick Dampier in OT, resulting in his ejection. Commissioner David Stern disallowed the protest because the technical was viewed as a judgment call.
I am told the NBA has been calling up officials from the D-League over the first half of this season to referee games as part of a program (written into the collective bargaining agreement) to prepare them for eventual careers in the NBA. The program will conclude this month, with no more call-ups for the rest of the season.
No one is against the idea of working younger officials into the NBA. The worries come when two younger officials are gaining on-the-job experience while making (in theory) two-thirds of the calls in an important game. On Wednesday, Goble and Forte were paired with 17-year referee Monty McCutchen at the Atlanta-Sacramento game.
A league insider said four referees retired before this season and were replaced by younger officials, further increasing the need to work new refs into the rotations. Even so, wouldn't it be in everyone's best interest to enable inexperienced referees to learn without having their presence dominate the game? In addition, wouldn't it be better to schedule them to games at the end of the season involving non-playoff teams? This is not meant to turn into a criticism of promising young refs like Goble and Forte -- on the contrary, this is about improving a system designed to help them.
NBA Truth & Rumors