The Wild Wild NBA Jam West

14 09 2010

I have now returned after an extended absence. Last week, I didn’t write much because of preparations for a weekend trip to Los Angeles (more specifically the Valley, but whatever), where I met such stars as Timothy Busfield, the star of Meet the Spartans, and Elaine’s communist boyfriend on Seinfeld. I also late lunch next to Corbin Bernsen yesterday. Try not to be too jealous or assume that I am now too big a star to care about the little man. Consider this weekend my Pisgah vision — I have merely glimpsed the Promised Land.

Segue Alert! Earlier today, Marc Stein gave us another look at a forthcoming bounty: the rosters for West teams in the new NBA Jam. Last week, I broke down the East teams in sparkling detail. Let’s do the for the rest of the teams right now.

Dallas Mavericks
Players: Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Caron Butler
Mascot: Mavs Man

Dirk will be one of the best players in the game provided the developers match his height with possibly undeserved strength. If Shawn Marion had been his teammate, this would be one of the best squads in the game, but Kidd and Butler should be tolerable as lieutenants.

Denver Nuggets
Players: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin
Mascot: Rocky The Mountain Lion

You heard it here first: Kenyon Martin will be one of the more underrated players in the game. Add in the fact that Melo should have quality strength and all scoring prowess and Billups will be an excellent shooter, and you have quite an excellent team. Sadly, as noted by Stein, J.R. Smith will not get to participate in a video-game world that perfectly suits his offensive abilities.

Golden State Warriors
Players: Monta Ellis, David Lee, Stephen Curry and Andris Biedrins
Legends: Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin

Don’t ask me why Biedrins was necessary to include, but he will team with Lee to create a tough big-man duo. Ellis and Curry should be stars, too. This is going to be a formidable squad, clearly.

Houston Rockets
Players: Kevin Martin, Yao Ming and Trevor Ariza
Legends: Hakeem Olajuwon and Kenny Smith

This team is all about the legendary Hakeem, the best player in the original NBA Jam and a potential game-changer in this one. The combination of speed, blocking ability, scoring, and virtually every other skill in the game makes him a beast. Approach with fear, even if he doesn’t have quite as perfect a teammate as Robert Horry in Tournament Edition.

Los Angeles Clippers
Players: Baron Davis, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman
Legend: Danny Manning

Baron should be excellent, and Kaman will be strong and slow. The x-factor is Griffin, who could combine athleticism and power to strike fear in the hearts of virtual opponents. If he doesn’t, this team is mediocre at best.

Los Angeles Lakers
Players: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom
Legends: Magic Johnson and James Worthy

No weak links. Kobe will be Kobe, with excellent scoring and overrated athleticism relative to his advanced age. Gasol should be both spry, powerful, and skilled. Artest will simply be one of the best players in the game, an absolute wrecking ball with enough skill to not be a liability in any categories. Odom should sparkle, too, based on his all-around talent and height. Magic Johnson could be the best legend in the game, unless Bird bests him.

Memphis Grizzlies
Players: O.J. Mayo, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay
Legend: Bryant Reeves

Average in every way. Each of the three current players will be perfectly solid but unspectacular. The good news is that Big Country will make me laugh forever. Too bad EA couldn’t get the rights to Tony Massenburg.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Players: Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn and Michael Beasley
Legend: Chuck Person

Jefferson’s inclusion brings up an interesting question: Should rules of decency disallow gamers from playing guys no longer on their teams? If not, then Jefferson and Love is quite a combo of strength and scoring. Plus, even if Beasley fails in Minnesota, he should shine in this game, where his offensive skills and reasonable height should make him a valuable piece of any championship squad.

New Orleans Hornets
Players: Chris Paul, David West and Peja Stojakovic
Legend: Larry Johnson

A sleeper team despite the real franchise’s precarious situation. Paul will be a star, obviously, West will score with some ability to push, and Peja should nail threes with no problem. Also, congratulations to Larry Johnson for being a legend with both the Hornets and Knicks, even if EA totally screwed up by putting him with the Knicks in the first place.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Players: Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook
Legend: Rumble The Bison

Durant’s level of excellence will depend almost entirely on his strength rating, but he will be a star if only because of his shooting and blocking abilities. Green could be the Horry-esque secondary star this team needs. In an accurate game, Westbrook would be terrific as one of the strongest guards, but I’m worried they’ll make him relatively weak and boost his steals rating.

Phoenix Suns
Players: Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Jason Richardson
Legends: Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson

Nash and Richardson make a formidable tandem: that’s speed/shooting and amazing athleticism in the same package. If Amar’e were still with Phoenix, they would be one of the best teams in the game, but Grant Hill just won’t be able to cut it with his “all good, no great” ratings.

Portland Trail Blazers
Players: Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden
Legend: Clyde Drexler

Be afraid. Yes, Oden gets hurt a lot in real life, but this is NBA Jam, where he should be a defensive stalwart with the ability to clean up around the basket. Aldridge will be able to push and block, too, which means they’ll have the ability to get on fire as long as their speed ratings are decent. Oh, and then there’s Roy, a strong guard who should be able to shoot with no problem.

Sacramento Kings
Players: Tyreke Evans, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins
Legend: Mitch Richmond

The prospect of three athletic big men is downright scary — if even two of them have any speed, they’ll be tough. Evans is in the Roy mold — great scoring with above-average strength for a guard. Expect them to be one of the better teams in the game.

San Antonio Spurs
Players: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili
Legends: David Robinson and George Gervin

David Robinson was one of the best players in the first incarnation of the game. Duncan should be the Hakeem of this version — a relatively quick shot-blocker who contributes in every aspect of the game. If you really wished there had been an NBA Jam in 2001, this is your lucky day. The game’s best twosome, bar none. If you have a problem with playing legends and current players, have no fear: Parker and Ginobili should be great, too. Gervin, sadly, may be too skinny for this game. Smoothness is not one of its virtues.

Utah Jazz
Players: Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur
Legends: Karl Malone and John Stockton

The legends are obviously awesome, so let’s move on to the current trio. Williams will be excellent, particularly with his strength, and AK should be a great shot-blocker. The team’s ceiling will be defined by Okur. If EA makes him a tall shooter, they become less formidable. But if he’s a shooter with great strength, look out.


A Too Long Review of NBA Jam Rosters

7 09 2010

When I was a child, I played the original NBA Jam for years. As a collegian, my roommates and I used to project NBA Jam Tournament Edition onto a wall and have long, trash-talk-fueled battles that we took much too seriously.

So I consider myself something of an expert. And while I have no Wii, I have become very interested in the new incarnation of NBA Jam, which hits stores in about a month. Which players would be picked to represent their teams? And how would a game whose reputation is mostly built on nostalgia update itself for a new generation of consoles?

Today, Marc Stein unveiled the rosters for the East, and I have to say I’m quite disappointed. In many cases, teams have four current players instead of the assumed three, due to what’s described as fan voting that’s too close to call. If you’re going to do fan voting, EA Sports, then at least treat its results with respect instead of creating a competitive imbalance. The same critique goes for the legends and mascots, which often leave teams with a lack of history shorthanded.

Still, it’s early September, and this is all there is to talk about in the NBA world. So look below for my thoughts on the rosters. Just keep in mind that in a game where the goal is to catch on fire as soon as possible, shotblockers (including goaltending, unless EA has bastardized that part of the game, too) and fast guys who can push are the most valuable players in the game. This game is not one with dazzling dunks, but with brute force.

Atlanta Hawks
Players: Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Mike Bibby
Legends: Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb

Somehow, Mike Bibby made it in ahead of Al Horford, who would have made Atlanta the best team in the game while teaming with Josh Smith. With this lineup, though, they are quite formidable with JJ’s outside shooting and Smith’s defensive abilities. Much will depend on his strength rating.

Boston Celtics
Players: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen
Legends: Larry Bird and Kevin McHale

Garnett figures to be one of the best players in the game; his reputation will result in overrated strength and shot-blocking stats even though he’s lost a step on the non-virtual court. Rondo figures to be relatively useless with his lack of shooting, although he will probably have a top speed rating. The legends will be formidable as both Bird and McHale figure to have comically high speed and strength ratings. This version of NBA Jam lacks the original’s casually racist preponderance of white players, but you can safely bet that the ones who are involved will all be excellent players.

Charlotte Bobcats
Players: Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas
Mascot: Rufus Lynx

Stephen Jackson will be decidedly average in most categories, but you can bet that Tyrus Thomas will be one of the most underrated players with decent strength, speed, and blocking stats. Gerald should also be formidable, although they will likely not have enough pure power to be one of the better teams. Still, expect a solid squad. No legends, but Rufus Lynx certainly fits in with the game’s approach to race relations.

Chicago Bulls
Players: Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer
Legends: Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman

The Boozer/Noah combo is potentially one of the best teams in the game, although one of them probably wouldn’t be here if not for EA’s imbalanced rosters. Regardless, that’s a team with enough speed and strength to dominate proceedings once they catch fire. Rose will be incredibly fast and an excellent dunker, and therefore an excellent third component. As for the legends, Rodman will shockingly be better than Pippen, due to the fact that all-purpose swingman usually don’t do one thing well enough to dominate any aspect of competition.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Players: Mo Williams, Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao
Legends: Mark Price and Brad Daugherty

As in reality, the Cavs miss LeBron James. Varejao should be a capable enforcer, but neither Jamison nor Williams will provide enough offensive punch to carry the team when not on fire.

Detroit Pistons
Players: Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon
Legends: Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer

If any team deserves four players, it’s the Pistons, whose total lack of height among their “stars” demands the involvement of someone like Villanueva. He will likely have too-high strength stats to compensate, but it shouldn’t make a difference. Still, this team could do damage if you want to go crazy and just take threes every possession.

Indiana Pacers
Players: Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy and T.J. Ford
Legend: Detlef Schrempf

Pity Danny Granger, who would be part of one of the best teams in the game if he had a moderately fast big man to team with. Instead, he’ll be left to do everything — including hoist numerous threes — with two weaklings in Dunleavy and Ford. If EA could have acquired the rights to Miller, he and Schrempf would be one of the better legends teams due to Detlef’s shocking greatness in every category in the game. (Note: One of my friends list Schrempf as his favorite player based entirely on NBA Jam. He has never seen him play a real game.)

Miami Heat
Players: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh
Legends: Glen Rice and Rony Seikaly

Forget Wade, LeBron and Bosh is the real power duo here — that’s an insane combo of shot-blocking, strength, and dunking. LeBron is probably going to be the best video game basketball player of all-time here, so much so that EA will probably have to artificially alter his shooting just to make games competitive.

Milwaukee Bucks
Players: Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings and Corey Maggette
Mascot: Bango The Buck

Don’t ask me why EA felt the need to include Michael Redd or Corey Maggette here — I suppose Redd did well in fan voting, but in that case there’s no need to add Maggette. Bogut will be excellent, if a little slow, and Jennings should be one of the faster players in the game to create a nice squad. I am eternally upset that none of the Todd Day/Lee Mayberry/Brad Lohaus troika is involved as a legend — that was always the funniest trio in the original incarnations of the game.

New Jersey Nets
Players: Devin Harris, Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee
Legends: Kenny Anderson and Drazen Petrovic

Brook Lopez will be too slow for his shot-blocking and strength to make much of a difference, and Courtney Lee isn’t even on the team anymore. With Troy Murphy’s strength and shooting, this would be a good team. Bonus points for exposing Drazen to fans who probably never got to see him play, but the fact of the matter is that Anderson and Derrick Coleman was a superior Jam squad.

New York Knicks
Players: Al Harrington, Danilo Gallinari and Amare Stoudemire
Legends: Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and John Starks

I have no problem with the current players, although it’s odd that Harrington is involved when it was always clear he wasn’t returning to the team for 2010-11. The inclusion of Larry Johnson is a disaster, though, because he and Alonzo Mourning were one of the best teams in the original version. Saying that NBA Jam LJ is a Knick is the clearest sign that the game’s designers have no idea what they’re doing.

Orlando Magic
Players: Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis
Legends: Nick Anderson and Scott Skiles

Howard will be one of the best players in the game unless EA acts like he’s slow, which he obviously isn’t. Plus, Vince Carter should be overrated based on his reputation, and Rashard Lewis might be strong just because he’s tall. Watch out for this group.

Philadelphia 76ers
Players: Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Evan Turner
Legends: Julius Erving and Allen Iverson

I don’t care about the current squad — those legends will be extremely fun to play with. Erving should be a master finisher, and Iverson will get pushed around but will be a terror on offense. I’m not sure how they’ll get on fire, but it’ll be fun to play with them.

Toronto Raptors
Players: DeMar DeRozan, Jarrett Jack and Andrea Bargnani
Mascot: The Raptor

Almost as depressing as the real Raptors. Perhaps the mascot can help by mimicking the departed Bosh’s abilities.

Washington Wizards
Players: Yi Jianlian, Andray Blatche, Gilbert Arenas and John Wall
Legend: Manute Bol
Mascot: G-Wiz

A dark horse to be one of the best teams in the game. Yi is tall and should have some strength and blocking ability — the same should go for Blatche. Arenas and Wall will be fast with some shooting, which means that they’ll be able to play various styles. G-Wiz is so goofy looking that it will be fun to see him on the court.

Stein says he’ll unveil the West rosters next Tuesday. I’ll have another post.