NBA Coaches No Longer Allowed to Wear Mock Turtlenecks

29 09 2010

Five years ago, David Stern rocked the NBA established by instituting a new dress code on NBA benches. No longer would players be allowed to dress like teenage kids in track jackets and baseball caps. In the wake of the Palace Brawl, the league had an image to improve, and Stern was going to do something about in the most superficial way possible.

In focusing on the players, though, the commissioner neglected a hidden sartorial evil lurking on the sidelines: coaches in mock turtlenecks. As noted in this AP piece on Stan Van Gundy’s approach to coaching the Magic this season (via Skeets), the league has now disallowed the more sensible alternative to a turtleneck for coaches:

And those trademark turtleneck shirts complete with the same few sport coats on the sideline are gone. New NBA rules require coaches to wear collared shirts during games.

“I want them to at least name the rule after me,” Van Gundy said. “Somebody has their Bird rights. Larry Bird got that rule named after him. I want it to be the Van Gundy Rule.”

Van Gundy is a bit mistaken. As you can clearly see from the photo above, the new rule should be called the Don Nelson Gut Visibility Ban of 2010. It’s now obvious why Nellie quit the Warriors. The breakup wasn’t about money or the new ownership’s unhappiness with his coaching style; it was simply an issue of Nelson not being able to roam the sidelines with his neck at maximum comfort level. Under these grueling conditions, it’s no wonder he decided to go back to Maui, where there are no draconian restrictions on an adult’s wardrobe. If Nelson wants to where half-shirts on the beach, then by golly he’s going to do it.

In all honesty, I have no idea why Stern would create this new rule. The t-shirt-and-blazer combo has become a legitimate option for young urban professionals and older businessmen alike, to the point where only the most conservative men in American commerce demand suits from their employees at all times (or so I’ve heard from people who make more money than I do).  If Van Gundy has looked unprofessional as a coach, it’s because of his constant yelling and wild gesticulating, not his clothes. But don’t tell that to Stern, who has been photographed without a tie approximately once in his life.

He’s just asking for a problem here. What if a player on the Magic — most likely Ryan Anderson — can’t play in a game and shows up with a mock turtleneck. Will SVG get jealous and never play him again? That’s a player-coach argument you don’t want to have happen in view of cameras.

Surely the coaches and league can reach a compromise. Otherwise, I think everyone should wear bolo ties on the sidelines as a show of solidarity. A man’s clothes are his own form of expression, and that outlet should never be shut down.


Just Wright Proves That Love Is Just Like Basketball

29 09 2010

Last May, audiences around the world were treated to the defining romantic comedy of our generation. Shockingly, I speak not of Sex and the City 2 or even Shrek Forever After (in 3D!!!), but rather the NBA-themed Just Wright, starring Common and Queen Latifah. If they were to have a real relationship, they would be the Bogie and Bacall of our time.

The film is now out on DVD, which means that its special features are leaking like a faucet in need of significant repairs. Above, check out my favorite one (I own the DVD and have watched every part of it many times, no duh), in which three lovely ladies teach us how basketball is like dating. It’s a known fact even if you haven’t seen Love and Basketball.

But this featurette only scratches the surface of correspondences between the two different types of one-on-one (or whichever numbers you want — I am accepting of alternative lifestyles). Below, check out some other terms that apply to both worlds.

Flagrant foul: Making improper physical moves on your date. Let her tell you how far she is ready to go. Be a gentleman, guys!

Incentive-laden contract: Any first date. Your performance is dependent on whether or not you will reap the benefits of intimacy down the road.

Over-and-back: In relationships, there is often a point of no return. Once you’ve told a woman you love her, you owe certain things. Don’t act like things are the same as always. You’re committed now, and you can’t just return to where you were before.

Free agent: A single person. But when you choose your next partner, don’t team up with a hot, smart, funny person. Then people will resent you and call you evil.

Eight-second violation: If there is ever an eight-second period of awkward silence during a first date, you are probably not doing well. Don’t be reckless in conversation, but move quickly.

Goaltending: When your friend has broken up with a girl, don’t swoop in right after to take her. You have to wait until their relationship is out of the cylinder (of love)!

Player efficiency rating (PER): A complicated metric that measures how well a ladies’ man plays the field. Don’t take too long to woo a lady or jump from one to another without closing the deal. It’s about efficiency, not volume.

Agent: A wingman prone who makes absurd yet effective claims about his friend.

D-League: Middle school. A place for learning and not being afraid to make mistakes.

WNBA: The belief that women can treat the opposite sex just like men do. It’s all about equality in the new millenium.

Try your own in the comments.

Otis Smith Criticizes Miami’s Depth

28 09 2010

Everyone hates the Miami Heat because they are no-good bullies who just want to team up with other superstars to win a championship and not actually try hard like real tough guy athletes of the ’80s and ’90s. Just ask Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. They know competition, what with their multiple Hall-of-Fame teammates in an era before the salary cap.

Sorry, I blacked out there for a second. The point is that while the Heat have received a lot of criticism for the way they created this particular incarnation of the roster, they typically haven’t been criticized for how they’ll perform on the court. You know, because they have two of the three best players in the league, not to mention three of the 15 best.

But Magic GM Otis Smith is not so shy about knocking the Miami roster. Just check out these comments courtesy of Tim Povtak at FanHouse:

“They’ve got a good three (players). I’ve got a good 12. We’re as deep as any team in the league, probably deeper,” said Magic general manager Otis Smith. “They’ve got three, and we’re solid 1-12. Until they start playing the games, it’s just a team on paper.”

Smith is absolutely right: the Heat are still just a team on paper. But so are the Magic, sadly. They proved exactly as much last season, when several starters and bench titans underperformed on the way to a conference finals exit at the hands of the Celtics. Plus, they had trouble finding a steady rotation throughout the season, in part because they have too many good players making rotation-player money (the very same 1-12 mentioned by Smith, in fact).

So yes, the Magic are better 1-12. But you also only play five guys at a time, and when three of those players are stars used to playing around 40 minutes a night, the 4-12 dudes don’t matter so much.

It’s hard to get to upset at Smith for these comments — the Magic are trying to create an in-state rivalry with the Heat, and you do that by creating some bad blood before they even tip off. But real rivalries are only forged in the crucible of battle, and as of now the Magic look like a real underdog in those matchups.

The Magic want to stay big-time players in the East this season. But you do that by winning important games, not by needling a squad that’s expected to pillage our nation’s arenas from the fall to the spring.

Monta Ellis Leaves the Womb

21 09 2010

I am something of an apologist for Monta Ellis. I love his supremely athletic and reckless offensive game so much that I usually stand up for him in the case of all criticism, no matter if it relates to his perceived ballhoggitude, love of mopeds, or penchant for alienating teammates before they even suit up for the Warriors. But I am committed. Some people get dogs to see if they’re ready for children; I decided to become an unconditional fan of Monta.

He hasn’t always made it easy. On a terrible Warriors team last season, Monta’s +/- numbers were among the worst on the roster, and he lost his status as Face of the Franchise with the emergence of the positively adorable Stephen Curry. There were rumors Ellis would be dealt this summer. Heading into the offseason, his career was quite obviously at a crossroads. That’s only more the case now that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have orchestrated the sale of the team and the end of the Chris Cohan era.

Ellis wasn’t traded, but he obviously realized that something needed to change. So, as reported by Sam Amick in several articles for FanHouse last week, Monta has become more mature. A few important bits:

“It starts with me, so I wanted to come back a month before training camp and get real close with my new teammates, to have that bond and make this whole thing as one and try to win,” Ellis told FanHouse in a 30-minute, sit-down interview this week. “It’s a new beginning. That’s how I look at it. I’ve wiped everything else away from the past. We have a new logo, a new team. We’ll just move forward, and it starts with me.” […]

Ellis ignores trade rumors unless they come from his agent (he hasn’t heard any lately) and is employing the safest mental approach there is when it comes to worrying how his bosses view him: “I’m paid to play basketball,” he says. He has grown to be appreciative of Curry instead of apprehensive, a development that even he admits was too slow to unfold. He points to a rock-solid personal life as the reason for his newfound maturity.

The moral of the story is that Monta is now an adult and committed to making it work with Curry and the rest of the Warriors this season. Whether or not he’s doing so because of a need to impress the new bosses is unimportant — no matter the cause, the effect is the same, and it means that he’s shifting from a rising star into a dependable veteran. The road to that destination might be bumpy, but he’s at least trying to change his personality for the better.

Unfortunately, the realities of basketball have already doomed Monta’s career in Oakland. While he got flack last fall for suggesting that he and Curry couldn’t play together, it’s the truth, especially once Don Nelson is deposed as head coach. The Curry/Ellis tandem only works if you forget about defense entirely; no amount of extra commitment or improved maturity will change that. It’s a weird backcourt, the kind that can be offensively explosive but give up even more at the other end. Lacob has already said he prefers a tough, defensive-oriented team, which can’t happen if this backcourt sticks together.

So one has to go, and it’s sure as hell not going to be the golden child Curry. Monta is a weird player — a small scorer who’s inconsistent as a sharer — but he’s paid like a top dog. At this point in his career, it should be relatively clear that he can’t succeed as the primary scorer on a good team. He’s the asset you trade when you’re trying to create a new identity for the franchise, because he’s valuable but not essential.

Ellis still deserves credit for improving his attitude and coming into camp with a commitment to succeed. It just make more sense to view his new approach as an audition for new employers rather than a show of support for the new regime. He’s going to leave town no matter how impressive he looks this season. Better to prove to other teams that he can fit into any system and do whatever’s required of him. It’s a business, after all, and adults realize that.

Mark Cuban to Make Triumphant Return to Reality Television

20 09 2010

Six years ago, brash Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban changed the face of reality television forever with The Benefactor, a show in which the multibillionaire gave away $1 million based on contestants’ performance in such important challenges as playing Jenga and making sure they didn’t waste Cuban’s time by taking him to a hospital for sick kids (note: these were actual parts of the show, I am not making them up). Yet The Benefactor was too hot for TV and lasted only six episodes, even though it was the lead-in to Monday Night Football on ABC.

Thankfully, ABC has seen the error of their ways and will give Cuban another chance to prove his sound business decisions on the network. From (via Vulture):

Entertainment entrepreneur Mark Cuban is joining ABC’s “Shark Tank” for the show’s second season. The owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks and chairman of cable channel HDNet will be a guest venture capitalist for three episodes.

The pitch-perfect casting has the always-opinionated Cuban joining the regular panel of self-made multimillionaires judging business ventures pitched by enterprising small-business owners.

“Pitch-perfect” (nice pun!) indeed. I always thought Shark Tank was affiliated with Fear Factor or the Discovery Channel’s late-August programming, but apparently it’s about giving away money. And if there’s one thing Cuban has proven during his time with the Mavs, it’s that he knows how to throw cash around like it’s going out of style (unlike his awesome jersey t-shirts, which will always be popular). This is huge news for any entrepreneurs over 6-8 — just ask DeSagana Diop, who now sleeps on a giant pile of Faberge eggs thanks to Cuban’s generosity.

Cuban’s involvement follows up ABC’s prior announcement that Jeff Foxworthy would also serve as a guest judge on the show. After spending time with Bob Odenkirk on Entourage, Cuban will knock heads with another comedy legend, one who even had his own roast on Comedy Central. That’s certainly a more impressive accomplishment than heading up the greatest sketch comedy of all time. Looks like Mark is moving up in the comedy world. Next stop, Dane Cook!

Examining Yao Ming’s Bizarre Minutes Limit

16 09 2010

In the desert, an oasis. Today (more accurately last night, but these are semantics) we were treated with real live meaningful NBA news in the form of Yao Ming’s minutes limit as he returns from a broken foot that caused him to miss the entire 2009-1o season. Here’s the important part of Jonathan Feigen’s Houston Chronicle article, in case you missed it:

Yao will play no more than 24 minutes per game, Rockets vice president and athletic trainer Keith Jones said. There will be no exceptions. If Yao has played his 24 minutes and the Rockets have the ball and eight seconds on the clock to make up a one-point deficit, Yao will not play those eight seconds.

Yao’s playing time will not average 24 minutes; it will end there. If he plays 22 minutes in one game, he will not play 26 the next. For that matter, if he plays two minutes one game, he will not play 26 the next. When Yao reaches his 24 minutes, he will be through for that game.

In other words, the Rockets will be instituting basketball’s version of a pitch count. In baseball, the idea is that a particular amount of body stress in one game carries its own individual risk, i.e. stress does not average out over time. So Yao’s 24-minute limit won’t carry over to other games — it’s not as if playing only 20 minutes in one game make it totally cool for his foot to take 28 minutes of punishment the next time out.

What’s unconventional about this decision isn’t so much the distrust of averages but the belief that it should be the status quo for the entire year. Elsewhere in the article, Rockets trainer and VP Keith Jones notes that the policy could change if/when the team gets into playoff crunch time in April and beyond, but that’s a long ways into the season, particularly for a team that isn’t a sure bet to make it into the postseason. It’s even weirder when you account for the fact that Yao is the team’s best player, at least on paper.

Ultimately, it’s the supreme care the Rockets are taking with their star that makes this decision stand out. Basketball teams (and the players themselves) usually try to get their meal tickets back as soon as possible — for proof, just check Brandon Roy entering the playoffs on a very shaky knee last season. But Yao will play so few minutes next season that he’s virtually guaranteed of not making a huge impact on proceedings. If he only plays 24 minutes, he’s a role player, albeit a very good one.

I wonder if it’s all worth the risk. Yao turned 30 on Sunday and has averaged 32.7 minutes per game in seven NBA seasons (plus his missed season and an unmatched amount of international minutes). Even if he had a perfect bill of health, the realities of big-man careers suggest he doesn’t have much time left as a peak player. Isn’t it worth getting as much out of him as you can before he becomes a non-factor? I hate to discuss this issue as if Yao’s a machine without feelings, and his concerns likely factored into the Rockets’ decision, but at some point a decision has to be made regarding the best way he provides value to the franchise.

Perhaps this won’t matter and the Rockets will take the shackles off if Yao proves himself to be in excellent shape after a month of play. But the Rockets’ window is closing regardless of Yao’s health, and they may regret not taking advantage of an opportunity for the short time it still exists.

The Warriors Are Going to Be Hilarious for a Few Months

15 09 2010

The Golden State Warriors are quite obviously entering a transitional period. Joe Lacob and Peter Guber will officially take over the team as owners some time in October, when the NBA’s Board of Governors will presumably ratify the Chris Cohan’s sale of the franchise, and Lacob has already made it clear that he prefers to field a tough, defensive-minded team rather than the shambling offensive jubilee of the Don Nelson years. Guber, whose Mandalay Entertainment has produced such fine films as Into the Blue, presumably prefers a team of hot women clad in tiny blue bikinis or with their arms bitten off by sharks (whoops, SPOILER ALERT).

Lacob’s vision for the Warriors has already begun to be realized — just look at their recent two-year deal for Louis Amundson. The former Sun was a great energy player off the bench for last year’s Western Conference finalists, but as noted by Tim Kawakami, he’s not Nelson’s type of player. In other words, he can’t shoot at all, and Nellie can typically only stand to play one of those guys at a time. With David Lee and Andris Biedrins already on the roster, it’s likely that Amundson won’t get many opportunities to play.

Of course, Nelson probably won’t be with the team much longer. Lacob and Guber are almost certain to go in another direction, potentially before the end of the season. They don’t owe Nelson anything other than money, and he’s a symbol of the previous regime.

The problem here is that if Lacob and Guber don’t take over until October, that doesn’t give them much time before the beginning of the regular season to find a new replacement. While they almost certainly want to get rid of Nelson as soon as possible, doing it so close to the beginning of the new campaign — and possibly even during training camp — would create a series of unwelcome distractions and problems just as everyone was trying to forge an identity for the 2010-11 squad.

So expect Nelson to run the Warriors for at least a few months. In that time period, expect a lot of comedy, because the NBA’s foremost mad scientist has been given a surprisingly standard roster with which to concoct his lineup experiments.

Nelson loves shooters, and shooters are typically guards. But the Warriors are very thin at guard, with only Jannero Pargo (and the 6-6 Reggie Williams, if you want to classify him as such) standing in as sharpshooting backups to Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. At wing, things are much thinner: prospective starter Dorell Wright took only two threes per game (shooting well at 38.9%) in about 20 minutes of action last season, while likely backup Rodney Carney can’t shoot at all.

So, unless Nelson wants to get completely goofy and play Wright or Williams at the four, the Warriors are almost guaranteed to play two non-shooters on the bulk of their possessions next season. This situation will surely frustrate Nelson to no end; his probable last coaching job won’t allow him to go out with a bang.

There are two ways this could go. On one hand, Nelson will lose whatever’s left of his mind and trot out the weirdest lineups ever seen on an NBA court. I’m talking full-on craziness unseen since the days before the Minneapolis Lakers even decided what positions were. Or maybe Nelson will go in the other direction, realize he has no hope of innovation, and openly weep during games. Fortunately, I hear assistant Keith Smart has a great shoulder for crying on.

I’ll be watching with interest. Here’s hoping local broadcasts train a camera on Nelson at all times, because there’s no telling how he might act before Lacob and Guber pull his plug.