Acclaimed Actor Rick Fox to Appear on Dancing with the Stars

30 08 2010

Big news, dance fans! As reported tonight by every entertainment news outlet imaginable, widely loved actor Rick Fox will appear on the next season of Dancing with the Stars, premiering this fall. A fine thespian who’s made a career out of playing athletes (typically basketball players), Fox will attempt to master the tango and foxtrot just as he’s owned Hollywood for more than a decade.

Athletes have often performed quite well on DWTS, but we’ve never seen an actor famous for playing athletes try out the show. Perhaps the training he underwent for films such as He Got Game and Eddie will serve him well on another kind of wooden floor — the dance floor!

At the very least, you know that Fox will use this opportunity to learn more about the world of sports for his next role. Now-retired quarterback Kurt Warner will be on the show, so Rick will surely pick his brain and get inside the head of a world-class athlete. Then again, perhaps Fox is past playing athletes now that he’s 41 years old. In his next film, he even plays a coach! Given his intellectual approach to his craft, it should be a natural fit.

Other stars participating include Bristol Palin, Audrina Patridge, and Mike Sorrentino of Jersey Shore. Keep your hands of those two, Mike. If a love triangle starts, that might be one “situation” you can’t talk your way out of.

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Suns to Play Great On-Ball Point Guard Off the Ball?

30 08 2010

It’s no secret that Steve Nash is one of the best point guards in the world. But unlike a player like Jason Kidd, who makes decisions so quickly that he doesn’t actually have to handle the ball very much, Nash thrives when he can dominate possessions. He’s at his best when probing the defense with dribble-drives and creating openings that didn’t exist before.

In other words, if you have him on your team, you want him to have the ball as much as possible, which is exactly what the Suns have done for six seasons. Except, if you take Alvin Gentry at his word several months before the season, Nash might play off the ball at times this year. Here’s what he told local radio station XTRA 910 (via PBT):

“I think for Hedo to have Steve Nash out there and for Steve Nash to have Hedo out there, you’re talking about a guy, he really is a facilitator Hedo is and we will put the ball in his hands. For the first time since I’ve been here we can use Steve as an off the ball shooter which he is great at. Probably one of the top five shooters in the league, but we just never had the opportunity to put him in that position.”

I also recommend reading the rest of the interview, because at one point Gentry uses the phrase “na-na-na-na poo-poo.” Apparently getting to use that phrase will be his primary method of motivating the Suns this season.

By all accounts, Gentry intends on starting Turkoglu this year, working under the assumption that his horrific season in Toronto was a blip rather than a sign of a downtrodden career. For Hedo to be as successful as possible, he needs to handle the ball — otherwise he’s just a lumbering shooter. Yet there’s something bizarre about asking Nash to play off the ball in order to accommodate a player who was the biggest free-agent bust of 2009-10.

However, it’s simply the position that the Suns find themselves in this season. Several weeks ago, I wrote that Phoenix’s summer moves showed little sense of purpose or direction. Now, Gentry finds himself in the unenviable position of sorting out a roster short on big men and long on wings and shooters. Playing Nash off the ball is just one example of the creative ideas Gentry will have to employ to make this work.

I doubt that Turkoglu will ever be the team’s primary ballhandler, and this plan might not work at all. But it’s a necessary step for Gentry as he tries to figure out what the Suns will look like without Amar’e Stoudemire. Last season, he mixed the Suns’ bench and starters to great effect. This challenge should prove to be much greater.





A Look Back at NBA Weakest Link

27 08 2010

Let me take you back to June of 2001, when Steely Dan ruled the airwaves after winning Album of the Year at the Grammys and the hilarious Rush Hour 2 owned the box office. It was a simpler time, full of wonder and love.

In the wake of the success of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, it was also a moment in which every broadcast network was trying to find the next game show hit. NBC tried out The Weakest Link, a team-based game with painfully simple questions in which a series of high-school graduates nevertheless failed to make impressive amounts of money. In order to promote the show, NBC made it a part of their halftime program during the Finals, just with basketball personalities instead of regular Americans just trying to grab a buck.

Apparently they had trouble finding willing participants: three of the five contestants are employees of NBC Sports. Plus, Baron Davis has since proven that he’s willing to do anything for publicity and Lisa Leslie was trying to promote the fledgling WNBA. Clearly, this lack of interest spelled doom for The Weakest Link, which NBC canceled just a year later.

Still, if you watch, you learn some things about the contestants. Bill Walton, who we often think of as interested in things other than basketball, plays for the charity of the NBA Retired Players’ Association. Bob Costas seems rather intelligent, but he gets voted off first and uses the word “surmise” in his exit interview to seem smarter. Baron Davis is supposed to struggle in a team atmosphere, but he makes it to the end, only to fail completely in the 1-on-1 finals.

It’s exciting stuff, outside of host Anne Robinson’s put-upon villainy and forced antagonism. We get it, Anne, you think you’re above shilling for NBC’s sports product. But look on the bright side: at least they’re not Welsh!





Updates

26 08 2010

Apologies for the relatively low number of posts this week. I’m trying to make moves, I have a hard time concentrating when it’s hot, and there’s just not that much interesting stuff happening in the basketball world right now. I’m sorry that I have not been updating you on all the latest happenings involving Baron Davis’s morbid obesity.

However, you can still check out some of my work daily at FreeDarko, where I’ve been posting the highlights of the NBA Twitter world just as I used to at The Baseline. It’s now called “Days of NBA Lives,” and you can enjoy it most every weekday. Here’s today’s post, which has a nice update from Danny Granger about eating dinner with a cat in Greece.

I’ll have more on ETO either tonight or tomorrow, depending on what happens in my life. Stay frosty.





What’s Up with Rajon Rondo and Team USA?

25 08 2010

If you haven’t heard, Rajon Rondo pulled out of consideration to make Team USA’s roster for the World Championships, thereby making the final cut a moot point for Mike Krzyzyzyzewski and Jerry Colangelo. After not seeing any action during Sunday’s exhibition victory over Spain, Rondo decided to take himself out of the running and return home, supposedly to tend to family issues.

It was yet another bizarre episode in what’s become an interesting relationship between Rondo and Team USA. Earlier this year, he’d said he wasn’t interested in representing his country this summer, but that situation changed after discussions with Colangelo, and Rondo seemed committed to trying his best to make the team and star in Turkey. Now, though, he’s chosen to avoid the notoriety of being cut from the team and just go on his merry way.

It wasn’t supposed to work out this way for Rondo, who proved himself to be one of the league’s rising stars this postseason as the Celtics’ best player on their run to the Finals. For him to leave Team USA, or even to be on the bubble in the first place, is something of a black mark on his career progression. It’s not entirely surprising given that the international game doesn’t exactly conform to his strengths, but it’s still goofy that he would have to quit the team altogether.

Then again, maybe it makes perfect sense for a star on the rise to avoid the embarrassment. Over the past month, it’s become clear that Coach K prefers Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups, and possibly even Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry as the main guards for this team. In the postseason, Rondo rose to a step above those players, putting himself just below Chris Paul and Deron Williams as the best point guards in the league. If he were to maintain that status heading into next season, he couldn’t be beaten out by that lesser group on an international stage, even if international ball is very different from the NBA game.

Perhaps this shows a lack of integrity or acts as proof that Rondo is too concerned with his image. But it also shows how much American stars stand to lose when they enter international competition. Winning is assumed, and losing carries a stain. Plus, when you don’t sit at the top of the Team USA hierarchy, you can sometimes seem like less of a star than the NBA has already proven you to be.





Michael Jordan Was Relatively Good at Baseball

24 08 2010

Tonight, ESPN premiered Jordan Rides the Bus, the latest installment in their 30 for 30 series. I didn’t watch it, mostly because the reviews said it was only so-so, but I did want to mention one thing about Jordan’s year-long stint with the AA Birmingham Barons of the Southern League.

It’s commonly said that Jordan’s time with the Barons was a failure — he had trouble hitting breaking pitches and generally looked exceedingly raw in all aspects of the game. The stats show that he was a marginal major league prospect at best: .202 BA, 3 HR, 51 RBI, 30 SB (in 48 attempts), 114 K, .289 OBP, .289 OBP, .266 SLG.

As usual, though, you need context for the full story. At the age of 31, Jordan hadn’t played regular baseball since his time at Laney High. On top of that, he was playing in AA, not A or rookie ball. AA typically doesn’t have as much developed talent as AAA, but it’s often said to have the better prospects (as many high-end players skip AAA entirely between seasons), so it’s not as if Jordan was playing against a bunch of no-talent scrubs. Plus, at 6-6 his size is considered a hindrance in baseball, where tall players have more area of strike zone to cover at the plate.

In other words, the fact that Jordan got a hit 1/5 of the time (including 21 extra-base hits) is something of a marvel considering that legitimate committed baseball prospects often flounder at the same level. He wasn’t a star by any means, but to come to the sport as a blank state and perform at the level he did is an accomplishment. It proves just how great of an athlete he was.

It’s not a controversial statement to call Jordan an amazing natural athlete. Yet his baseball stint is often discussed as if its a black mark on his athletic career. However, it might actually be one of the most impressive things he ever did on a field or court.





FIBA World Championships Could Become FIBA World Cup

23 08 2010

The FIBA World Championships are set to start soon, and I honestly couldn’t care less. Call me a hater, or a pompous American, or just a plain-old jerk, but I like to see the best players play, and there are enough international stars out of competition that the whole thing seems more like a JV tournament than an accurate test of basketball supremacy.

FIBA realizes that there are people like me, though, and they have a plan to make it more attractive: steal FIFA’s “World Cup” name and hope everyone takes it more seriously. From Sports Business Journal (via PBT):

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has been considering switching the name for more than a year, with possibilities such as the FIBA World Cup, the Basketball World Cup or the World Cup of Basketball being discussed. The federation’s board is expected to vote on a name change in 2011.

“It’s a work in progress, and it seems like a likely outcome for the 2014 championship,” said FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann. “It’s not yet a decision, but people are getting more and more friendly with the idea, and that helps.”

Great. Look forward to lots of dives, overtime free-throw contests to decide the winner, and lots of commentary about how the Angolan team is tactically naive.

Enough joking. In a vacuum, this would be a pretty stellar idea, with basketball taking over the world sport calendar for a few weeks. The Olympics are currently the international basketball competition of note, but the sport rarely becomes the big story of the fortnight, what with the swimmers, gymnasts, and other athletes the world only cares about once every four years. A FIBA World Cup wouldn’t be substantively different from the World Championships, but a rebranded event could help make it a bigger deal and draw more NBA stars to the competition.

The problem with this plan is that the Olympics are in fact recognized as the top international competition, and it takes a long time to break that association. For developing basketball nations, that should be a relatively easy sell. But a tournament can’t become truly huge unless it has the best players in the world, and most of those players just happen to be American. Our stars just don’t feel the need to play in these tournaments biannually, so they’ll need some incentive to do so.

Maybe increased pay would do it. Whatever the case, though, a rebranded World Championships won’t become huge unless the Americans play. Unlike in the case of soccer, there just aren’t enough international stars to go around.