Wednesday, February 27, 2008

great piece on the Nuggets

Nuggets: Pick Up Team or Playoff Team?

Go to any park or playground in any major city in America – from D.C. to Memphis to L.A. – and you will see pickup games with a style and rhythm of basketball unique to the outdoor run.

Or, you can watch the Denver Nuggets.

This team is super-talented and entertaining. However, their resemblance to a team getting a run on the blacktop might let them hold the court for a few hours or get regular season wins, but it won't lead to any success in the NBA playoffs.

In the tough Western Conference, it may even keep them out altogether.

These characteristics of the Nuggets pickup mentality were on full display in their home loss to the Detroit Pistons Monday night, and anyone who has ever hooped at the park could have easily recognized the signs:

Too Much One-on-One Play

No one can argue the individual offensive abilities of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. But, their monopolizing of the ball and forays to the basket against one, two or three defenders hurt their team's offensive development – and it will kill them in the playoffs.

The Nuggets have good perimeter three-point shooters in J.R. Smith, Linas Kleiza and Eduardo Najera, but they often find themselves standing all alone watching Iverson and Anthony take on the whole team. Stop the tape at any time at the end of an Iverson or Anthony move, and you will see them surrounded by defenders while shooters are standing all alone.

You see it at the park all the time.

Dependence On "Bail Out" Calls

The Nuggets depend entirely too much on calls by the officials at the end of plays. From Allen Iverson sticking out his legs and hitting the deck or flailing his arms on a drive to Carmelo yelling " OHHHHH!" every time he goes to the basket, Denver relies on the officials to bail them out of many bad or forced shots.

A lot of these calls they get are weak at best; the kind of calls that at the park lead to arguments ("That's a bull---- call") and altercations.

One typical reaction for the pickup defender getting chumped on calls is the universal "take the ball and heave it over the fence" – which has been perfected in cities across the country.

Every playground in America has a guy who bails himself out with weak calls when he misses shots. The Nuggets have a team full of them. These guys would be a nightmare at the park – every game would end in an argument, a fight, or the ball bouncing through the intersection down the block.

If they don't get the call, there is a momentary delay in getting back defensively – even players standing and glaring or arguing the no call. This leads to poor transition defense and last night led to some easy baskets for the Pistons, who don't exactly race down the floor 100 mph.

Anthony, Iverson and Kenyon Martin were all guilty of this last night, and Detroit time and time again got easy scores on the break.

In a pickup game, this happens all the time.

In an NBA game, it is inexcusable. And it leads to an early exit in the playoffs – or a failure to qualify.

Poor Overall Defensive Effort

Defense is first and foremost about effort and hard work. Forget blocked shots and steals – those are the "Sportscenter" moments of defense – which take brief, momentary effort. Good athletes can get these in their sleep. These plays are usually the result of "early" or "late" defense – going for a steal on the first or second pass, or reacting late and getting a blocked shot at the rim.

Stand outside the fence of any pickup game with good athletes, and you will see plenty of these.

Good, consistent team defense requires constant effort and communication on every play – which means running the floor, picking up men early and helping teammates.

Pickup 5-on-5 tends to become a lot of 3-on-2, 4-on-3, and 5-on-4. Every team seems to have a guy or two who just doesn't seem to have much interest in getting back. Either that guy is out of shape, doesn't care, or well…maybe a little bit of something else. These are the same guys who all of a sudden "come alive" on the offensive end.

When arguably the most athletic starting five in the NBA – which means on the planet – is consistently beaten down the floor by speedsters like Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, your team is in trouble.

Inability To Defend Key Situations

Check out the local five-man outdoor run or game at the rec, and there's also not a whole lot of team defensive rotation or communication on key possession or in certain offensive situations.

There is always increased effort on "game point" or "point game" (depending on your city of origin), but usually the execution isn't there from the local pick up squad.

Ditto for the NBA's Denver Nuggets last night.

In Detroit's halfcourt sets, the Nuggets got picked, rubbed off and lost on possession after possession.

Whether is was Wallace or McDyess catching at the elbow and reading cutters and screeners, or on screen/rolls for Chauncey Billups, Detroit got whatever they wanted. Only a poor shooting night kept them from winning by double digits.

In defending screens on and off the ball, sometimes Denver switched, sometimes they sort of switched, sometimes they thought they were switching but both defenders went with the same guy, and sometimes they just didn't do anything.

Switching defensively takes the least effort, and Denver does that a lot on screening situations. Guess what most guys do at the park in those same situations?

But, it creates horrible mismatches in the NBA good offensive teams just destroy.

On double-teams and rotations, Denver usually had three or four guys who did, and one or two guys who didn't – leading to easy jump shots and lay-ups for Detroit all night.

This was especially true at the end of the game when team defense wins and loses games.

With under three minutes to play and the Pistons up 88-85, Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess worked a ballscreen on the left side. J.R. Smith and Marcus Camby failed to communicate, both stayed in no man's land – not really guarding either guy - and Billups rifled a pass to McDyess for the baseline jumper to put the Pistons up five.

On the next possession, Billups came off a high ballscreen, the Nuggets let him turn the corner and Camby switched onto him. Billups ate him up with a snap-back three putting Detroit up seven.

Switch your center onto an All-Star point guard and that's usually what you get. Good defensive teams hedge, force and recover. Bad defensive teams switch and hope.

Denver has as much talent as anyone in the NBA. They could be one of the top teams in the league at both ends of the floor. They could beat any team in the league in a seven-game series.

They would never lose at the park.

That kind of talent will get them lots of wins in the regular season, but as long as they play more like a pickup team and less like a playoff team, they will be much more feared at playgrounds across America than in arenas around the NBA.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clay in '08!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Newsweek: Hillary should get out now


If Hillary Clinton wanted a graceful exit, she'd drop out now— before the March 4 Texas and Ohio primaries—and endorse Barack Obama. This would be terrible for people like me who have been dreaming of a brokered convention for decades. For selfish reasons, I want the story to stay compelling for as long as possible, which means I'm hoping for a battle into June for every last delegate and a bloody floor fight in late August in Denver. But to withdraw this week would be the best thing imaginable for Hillary's political career. She won't, of course, and for reasons that help explain why she's in so much trouble in the first place.

Withdrawing would be stupid if Hillary had a reasonable chance to win the nomination, but she doesn't. To win, she would have to do more than reverse the tide in Texas and Ohio, where polls show Obama already even or closing fast. She would have to hold off his surge, then establish her own powerful momentum within three or four days. Without a victory of 20 points or more in both states, the delegate math is forbidding. In Pennsylvania, which votes on April 22, the Clinton campaign did not even file full delegate slates. That's how sure they were of putting Obama away on Super Tuesday.

The much-ballyhooed race for superdelegates is now nearly irrelevant. Some will be needed in Denver to put Obama over the top, just as Walter Mondale had to round up a couple dozen in 1984. But these party leaders won't determine the result. At the Austin, Texas, debate last week, Hillary agreed that the process would "sort itself out" so that the will of the people would not be reversed by superdelegates. Even if you include Michigan (where Obama's name wasn't on the ballot) and Florida, Obama has a lead of 925,000 in the popular vote. Closing that gap would require Hillary to win all the remaining contests by crushing margins. Any takers on her chances of doing so in, say, Mississippi and North Carolina, where African-Americans play a big role?

The pundit class hasn't been quicker to point all this out because of what happened in New Hampshire. A lot of us looked foolish by all but writing Hillary off when she lost the Iowa caucuses. As we should have known, stuff happens in politics. But that was early. The stuff that would have to happen now would be on a different order of magnitude. It's time to stop overlearning the lesson of New Hampshire.

Hillary has only one shot—for Obama to trip up so badly that he disqualifies himself. Nothing in the last 14 months suggests he will. He has made plenty of small mistakes, but we're past the point where a "likable enough" comment will turn the tide. When Obama bragged in the Austin debate about how "good" his speeches were, the boast barely registered. He has brought up his game so sharply that even a head cold and losing the health-care portion of the debate on points did nothing to derail him. Hillary's Hail Mary pass—that Obama is a plagiarist—was incomplete.

So if the Clintonites were assessing with a cold eye, they would know that the odds of Hillary's looking bad on March 4 are high. Even Bill Clinton said last week that Texas and Ohio are must-win states. If she wants to stay in anyway, one way to go is to play through to June so as to give as many people as possible a chance to express their support. While this would be contrary to the long-stated wish of many Democrats (including the Clintons) to avoid a long, divisive primary season, it's perfectly defensible.

But imagine if, instead of waiting to be marginalized or forced out, Hillary decided to defy the stereotype we have of her family? Imagine if she drew a distinction between "never quit" as it applies to fighting Kenneth Starr and the Republicans on the one hand, and fellow Democrats on the other? Imagine if she had, well, the imagination for a breathtaking act of political theater that would make her seem the epitome of grace and class and party unity, setting herself up perfectly for 2012 if Obama loses?

The conventional view is that the Clintons approach power the way hard-core gun owners approach a weapon—they'll give it up only when it's wrenched from their cold, dead fingers. When I floated this idea of her quitting, Hillary aides scoffed that it would never happen. Their Pollyanna-ish assessment of the race offered a glimpse inside the bunker. These are the same loyalists who told Hillary that she was inevitable, that experience was a winning theme, that going negative in a nice state like Iowa would work, that all Super Tuesday caucus states could be written off. The Hillary who swallowed all that will never withdraw.

But in her beautiful closing answer in the Austin debate, I glimpsed a different, more genuine, almost valedictory Hillary Clinton. She talked about the real suffering of Americans and, echoing John Edwards, said, "Whatever happens, we'll be fine." She described what "an honor" it was to be in a campaign with Barack Obama, and seemed to mean it. The choice before her is to go down ugly with a serious risk of humiliation at the polls, or to go down classy, with a real chance of redemption. Why not the latter? Besides, it would wreck the spring of all her critics in the press. If she thinks of it that way, maybe it's not such an outlandish idea after all.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Superman: Obama at 10 straight

Poor Hillary here she was approaching the White House from a in-january-when-i-sit-in-the-oval-office standpoint and along comes the man of steel and throws multiple wrenches into that belief. I have to admit that I'd rather disappointed with her 'I'm prepared and he's fluff' spiel as of late. She's had that since day one and not only is it not true (he's had a longer time in public office) but it doesn't work and I held the Clinton machine to a higher standard then that. She's now backed in a corner in which her only way to get even within smelling distance of the nomination is to pull off blowouts in Ohio, Texas AND Pennsylvania -- which is not going to happen. If I where here I'd consider asking for the VP nod from President Obama. It's going to be interesting to see what the Republican's hit him with though.

Gears of War 2

It seems my addiction *scratches* will be here in November and I'm very happy that Epic was nice enough to tell me now so I can use my vacation time accordingly. Now to figure out how to get the mother and child to take a vacation with her parents :-)

Monday, February 11, 2008

daddy and daughter :-)

when a picture is all you need

or poster

Hillary replaces Campaign manager

new manager thinks that they don't have a chance until March.

Meanwhile Obama murders everything in sight and New York Times cries silently over their endorsement of Hillary.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

cracked dot com on the super bowl

So I'll be on TV today

Talking about the election and the Global Primary, which i think is hella cool. If your the anti-link-clicking sort then here's what it is.

- US citizens who live outside of the US can register at the Democrats Abroad polling place and cast their ballot today and Saturday.

- The six million American's living abroad will have 22 delegates which will be sent to Denver for the DNC

I'll see if I can link it a little later today.

18 wins and 1 GIANT Loss

let's just say it was worth staying up the entire night and losing my voice for :-)

Best. Super Bowl. Ever.

so Cindy went to see obama

and said he was a rockstar, like myself.