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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.