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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Rookie Celtics Look Stellar in D-League Debut

By Rob

No, this isn't a sports blog. I haven't always posted about sports and it's not my intention to keep strictly to sports. But with the recent performances by rookies Bill Walker (SF) and J.R. Giddens (SG)... I just had to spread the good word.

On Friday, Bill Walker (47th overall pick in the 2008 draft; traded from the Wizards to the Celtics for cash) and J.R. Giddens (Celtics 1st round draft pick in 2008; 30th pick overall) made their debut for the Utah Flash; a Celtics D-League affiliate.

It's hard to say who outperformed who... 6'5'' shooting guard J.R. Giddens hit the game-winning shot in overtime, and 6'6'' small forward Bill Walker, who played alongside Michael Beasley at Kansas State, had 5 steals and went 5-for-9 from beyond the arc.

Bill Walker (SF) played 41:03 minutes and, despite foul trouble (4 PF), had a tremendous stat line:
23 PTS (9-19 FGM-A; 5-9 3PM-A; 0-0 FTM-A), 8 REB (1 OFF, 7 DEF), 4 AST, 3 TO, 5 STL, and 0 BLK.

J. Giddens (SG) played 45:21 minutes and also put up solid numbers:
19 PTS (8-18 FGM-A; 1-4 3PM-A; 2-5 FTM-A), 12 REB (4 OFF, 8 DEF), 1 AST, 4 TO, 1 STL, 2 BLK, and 2 PF.

I know a lot of people consider the D-League a joke, and I wouldn't completely disagree. But after producing assist wiz Ramon Sessions, I think they've made a huge leap in proving to be a viable source of talent. If the D-League turns out to be the equivalent to the MLB's farm system, then NBA executives will look like geniuses. If not, what do they have to lose? I love the idea of bringing the NBA -- in some form -- to rural areas that would otherwise be uninterested in professional basketball.

The point I was trying to get at is this: don't discount Walker and Giddens, who could act as quality role players for an NBA team in the near future. And if you're one of the many who are quick to dismiss the legitimacy of the D-Leaguers... give it some more time.

Here's something to keep you entertainment while you wait:

An introduction to Bill Walker (interview footage mixed in with great in-game footage)



Now that you've been acquainted, here's Bill Walker's nasty slam dunk in an NBA pre-season game against the 76ers. I thought Theo Ratliff was a shot blocker... If anyone knows where I can buy the poster, please let me know using the comment section.



You may want to click on the videos so you watch them on YouTube in "high quality"

Boston Celtics: Playing Defense Like They Never Beat L.A.

By Rob


Opposing Team Stats are a solid indicator of how strong a team is performing defensively. The Boston Celtics were the best defense in the NBA last year. Anyone who considers themself to be a fan of the NBA knows this, because it was one of the best defensive seasons in NBA history.


How are the Celtics faring defensively this year? Have they lost a step? At least from a statistical standpoint, it'd be difficult to argue otherwise.

Opposing Team FG%
1. BOSTON CELTICS - 40.8%
2. Cleveland Cavaliers - 42.1%
3. Dallas Mavericks - 42.1%
4. Houston Rockets - 42.8%
5. Los Angeles Lakers 42.9%
6. Orlando Magic 42.9%

2007-2008 Season: Opposing Team FG%
1. BOSTON CELTICS - 41.9%
2. Houston Rockets - 43.3%
3. Detroit Pistons - 43.7%
4. Dallas Mavericks - 44.3%
5. San Antonio Spurs - 44.4%

Opposing Team 3PT%
1. Dallas Mavericks - 29.0%
2. Houston Rockets - 30.2%
3. Orlando Magic - 30.5%
4. Milwaukee Bucks - 30.8%
5. Denver Nuggets - 32.0%
6. Los Angeles Lakers - 32.0%
....BOSTON CELTICS rank 16th (35.6%)

2007-2008 Season: Opposing Team 3PT%
1. BOSTON CELTICS - 31.6%
2. Detroit Pistons - 33.2%
3. San Antonio - 34.2%
  • If the Celtics finished the 2007-2008 season with 35.6% opposing team 3PT%, they would have tied for 8th best in the NBA. Not too shabby.

Opposing Team Rebounds (Offensive/Defensive; Total)

1. Portland Trail Blazers - 9.3/27.1; 36.4
2. Cleveland Cavaliers - 11.2/26.1; 37.4
3. Utah Jazz - 11.2/26.4; 37.6
4. New Orleans Hornets - 9.3/28.7; 38.0
5. Milwaukee Bucks - 9.3/30.2; 39.5
6. Phoenix Suns - 11.9/27.7; 39.7
7. BOSTON CELTICS - 10.7/29.2; 39.9

2007-2008 Season
: Opposing Team Rebounds

1. Utah Jazz - 10.3/27.5 - 37.8
2. BOSTON CELTICS - 11.0/27.9 - 38.9
3. Detroit Pistons - 10.6/28.6 - 39.1

Opposing Team Turnovers

1. Los Angeles Lakers - 16.6
2. Miami Heat - 16.5
3. BOSTON CELTICS - 15.6
4. Utah Jazz - 15.6
5. Denver Nuggets - 15.6

2007-2008 Season: Opposing Team Turnovers

1. Golden State Warriors - 16.2
2. Denver Nuggets - 15.6
3. Utah Jazz - 15.4
4. BOSTON CELTICS - 15.3
5. Indiana Pacers - 15.0

Opposing Team Points Per Game
1. BOSTON CELTICS - 90.1
2. Houston Rockets - 90.2
3. Charlotte Bobcats - 92.4
4. Cleveland Cavaliers - 92.7
5. San Antonio Spurs - 93.0
6. New Orleans Hornets - 93.0

2007-2008 Season: Opposing Team Points Per Game
1. Detroit Pistons - 90.1
2. BOSTON CELTICS - 90.3
3. San Antonio Spurs - 90.6
4. Houston Rockets - 92.0
5. New Orleans Hornets - 95.6
6. Dallas Mavericks - 95.9

Monday, November 24, 2008

NBA Power Rankings

By Rob

Last Updated: November 24, 2008

I don’t want to put too much weight on how teams have played the first 12 or so games of the season, so know I’m not taking the statistics I cite too seriously. Power Rankings generally lack consistency. As I’ll say again, Power Rankings aren’t about the W-L column. Teams lose games by 5 or less points, and that L isn’t the same as one suffered in a 20-point blowout.

TOP TIER

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers

I feel almost as uncomfortable putting the Cavs in my Top 3 as I do leaving San Antonio out of my Top 10. The NBA is, from top-to-bottom, the strongest it has been in years, making the #3 spot a really tough call; especially following two no-brainers like the Celtics and Lakers. But after an impressive 8-game win streak, I'm feeling a little bit more confident about my decision. Let's get one thing straight: I don’t think they could beat the Celtics in a 7-game series. I do, however, think there’s a chance of Cleveland landing the #2 seed in the East, and that they are good enough to secure the 50+ wins necessary to do so.

  1. Phoenix Suns

Eight Suns' players are averaging 20+ minutes per game; all of whom are providing excellent contributions. They'll need their aging stars to be kept around 30 minutes per game if the team wants to be in good shape for a long playoff run. Steve Nash and Shaq are providing tremendously given their respective ages and Grant Hill is doing OK to start, but I think Matt Barnes, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw are going to win them a lot of games. Plus they have this kid, Amare, who is probably the most impressive offensive player west of Ohio.

  1. Detroit Pistons
  2. Utah Jazz

It pains me to put Utah at #6 and I’m sure they’ll make me regret it. They are the best passing team thus far into the season (24.1 assists per game; 6.8 assist differential) despite being without Deron Williams for 10 of their 12 games. Aside from Carlos Boozer (who, by the way, is opening up the season in MVP-form) the Jazz haven’t been a very good scoring team. I’m excited to see how their scoring improves when D-Williams returns.

SECOND TIER

  1. Houston Rockets

Don’t fool yourself: the only Big Three in the NBA is in Boston. But if there is another (and it’s far too early to tell) then it lives in Houston. Ron Artest has shown flashes of brilliance, Yao has been Yao, and Tracy has shown flashes of... well, Tracy. It's tough to overlook the injuries - albeit minor, in some cases - already sustained by Houston's Big Three, and they can't be an elite team until they have a stretch of healthy performances from all 3 players.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers

When they play at their highest level… I cry a little bit. LaMarcus Aldridge showed last year that he’s very capable of scoring big in the paint. Brandon Roy is playing on a level with Danny Granger and Joe Johnson that can only be looked down on by Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. Greg Oden is the tenacious defender. So what if he can’t shoot? He’ll average 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks on 55% FG and 65% FT. Mayo,

  1. New Orleans Hornets
THIRD TIER

  1. Denver Nuggets

The Billups-Iverson trade is still rocking my world. Who won in that deal? It’s too early to tell. It’s clear that Denver has looked like one of top 5 most dangerous teams since. It’s making me wonder if Allen Iverson is a good fit for any team looking to contend.

  1. Orlando Magic
  2. Toronto Raptors
  3. Dallas Mavericks
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. San Antonio Spurs

If the season ended today, the Spurs would be the #8 seed in the Western Conference. They were 1-4 with Tony Parker, and have been 5-2 without. Was Tony Parkers’ 27.4 points-per-game weighing them down? Of course not! My point is that the Spurs are getting it done without Parker and Ginoboli. Manu has said that he expects to play tonight against Memphis. As of November 7th, Tony Parker’s recuperation time is estimated to last 4 weeks. Say Parker returns for December 9th at Dallas… the Spurs will have played 18 games. If they have a winning record when Parker returns, you could be looking at a Spurs team capable of winning the Southwest division and landing a #3 seed in the playoffs.

My guess is you’re thinking, “So what? The Spurs are 12 games in and at 6-6 are only back 2 games in the division.” I generally can’t find any report on the Spurs that shows my same optimistic outlook, so I feel somewhat compelled to give some reason. The fact is this: when Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan are all playing, and are as healthy as possible… the Spurs are the only other team in the same stratosphere as the Celtics and Lakers. They may even be better than that.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers
  2. Miami Heat
FOURTH TIER

  1. Sacramento Kings
  2. Chicago Bulls
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. New York Knicks
  5. Golden State Warriors

FIFTH TIER

  1. Los Angeles Clippers

Unlike most Power Rankings, I’m not giving up on Chris Kaman, Al Thornton, Baron Davis, and Marcus Camby just yet.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves

Remember: these are Power Rankings, not Win Projections. A team that’s 0-10 can be better than a team that’s 4-6. It’s too early in the season for a team’s poor start to be so strongly indicative of a team’s final record.

Some people just don't understand Power Rankings...

Fox Sports (#28) said: “Yes, they're playing everyone close, but an eight-game losing streak is an eight-game losing streak. That matches Minny's longest skid last year.” Dumb

ESPN.com (#30) said: “Don't want to alarm a fan base still coping with KG winning a title in his first season away from 'Sota . . . but the previous team to lose eight straight after starting 1-0 was the 2003-04 Magic, who went from 1-0 to (gulp) 1-19.” I bet the Suns should be worried too. One time in NBA history, a team opened up 8-3, lost two straight games, and finished the season under .500! No one likes 'Sota, ESPN -- use one of the many good reasons not to.

The only one who seems to get it is NBA.com (#28): “The Wolves had three tough losses this week. They were right there in the fourth quarter of each, but lost at Golden State in overtime, to the Blazers by five and at Denver by six. Seven of their eight losses have come by six points or less. That's how you move up from No. 30 without winning.”

SIXTH TIER

  1. Charlotte Bobcats
  2. Milwaukee Bucks
  3. Washington Wizards

Two All-Star players (Butler and Jamison), one win... What a shame.

  1. Memphis Grizzles

Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are strong scorers. No team with Marc Gasol as their big man can be taken seriously, though.

ROCK BOTTOM

  1. New Jersey Nets
  2. Oklahoma City Thunder

Talk about an exciting season… Sure, Oklahoma will likely finish with the worst record in the NBA. I’d still pay $35 (plus service charge) to see Kevin Durant play from the balcony. There's a reason to see almost every team.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Oscars '08: The Trouble Begins

By Luke

This much we (I) know. Slumdog Millionaire is garbage. Today, prominent Hollywood blogger Jeffrey Wells wrote that he gets the feeling Millionaire is the current favorite for the Best Picture Oscar (he meant in a very gut feeling, not-saying-this-is-the-way-it-will-turn-out kind of way). But the fact that it is crap, and the fact that I have been reasonably happy with the last two winners (No Country and The Departed) leads me to believe something else will win. However, NO upcoming movies are exciting me.

I'll already think 2008 was a banner year even if the last month doesn't produce any classics. Reprise, Mister Lonely, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Be Kind, Rewind, Chop Shop, A Christmas Tale, Flight of the Red Balloon, and Speed Racer are all movies that in my world are exceptionally worthy "Best Picture" recipients. If anything, it is these movies' high quality that makes the actual Oscar seem important...it has to be something at least reasonably representative of the strong 2008.

The Dark Knight continues to get mentioned as a possible Best Picture nominee. I wasn't as blown away with it as a lot of people, but it's definitely a worthy choice. It's epic enough that it isn't "just a comic book movie," and it pulls off its "epicness" more respectfully than even some past Best Picture winners.

But what else lies on the horizon?
-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: The full gist of Wells' post was the advanced word he's gotten on Button is "meh," which makes him think it's no longer the favorite. Obviously, that is way-in-advance word and should be taken with a grain of salt. However, even among people who like it, comparisons to Forest Gump and exclamations about how much they cried seem to dot their praises. I'm worried Fincher, Eric Roth, and Co. overdid it in their effort to make a crowd pleaser and laid on the schmaltz a little too thick. I think everybody involved (Fincher, Roth, Pitt, Blanchett, etc.) are individually great, and that makes Button exciting to think about, but which of those people is going to put the breaks on if things were getting too Gumpy? Fincher doesn't seem to care too much about story, and Roth obviously wrote Gump, so we know he can go there (compare Gump to The Insider or The Good Shepherd, great restrained stories). I'm keeping my expectations low, but this could still turn out to be a masterpiece.

-Milk
like the "seen: I bet Penn's really good. But this just looks-it-before" biopic. Meh. (see Penn below)


-Frost/Nixon: This is definitely a "seen-it-before." Ron Howard won't drop the ball, the performances will be good, but the chances of this movie surprising or exciting me in any way are 0. And yes, I can be certain of that without seeing it.

-Revolutionary Road: All along, this has seemed like a "more-than-they-can-chew" project for Mendes and Co., I feel like there are probably too many great things in that huge novel and the movie will end up just struggling to connect all the dots. But like Button, I'm cautiously optimistic just because of the amount of talent involved.

-Australia: I loved Moulin Rouge! This don't look like no Moulin Rouge!, unfortunately. It looks more like Baz's other two movies, which I've never had the slightest desire to see.

-Gran Torino: No. Just no. I don't see Eastwood surprising anyone anymore. This will be just OK.

-The Reader: "The Reader"? Not even TNT would approve that title. Oh wait, Stephen Daldry, Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes? Sounds stuffy.

-The Wrestler: By all accounts it's great, but Arnofsky has never done it for me. That said, what's it competing against so far? I'm ready to embrace this movie if it's half as good as people say.

-Doubt: Another one I'm counting on at this point. A playwright adapting his own hit play with a great cast sounds dependable to me.




Che
: My most anticipated of any of these, but it's huge length means the Academy would never go near it even if it was getting unanimous praise.








So what does this mean for us? Doubt, The Wrestler, Button, and Revolutionary Road seem like the four movies that could turn out great AND end up being nominated for Best Picture. Throw The Dark Knight in there and I'll definitely be happy. More realistically, two out of those four end up being good enough to deserve it and hopefully they're nominated and I have horses to root for.

Just please no Slumdog Millionaire.

Greg Oden (Part One)

By Rob



I. Love. Greg. Oden.

Consider this part one of a two part post on Oden. (I'm keeping this short because Portland is playing right now and I don't want to miss him swat another shot)

Greg Oden’s first three full games have been excellent...

Averages: 65.2 FG%, 72.7 FT%, 15.3 PTS, 9.6 REB, 3 BLK, 1 STL, 1 AST, 2.3 TO, 4.6 PF

Stat Totals: 15-23 FG, 16-22 FT, 29 REB, 3 AST, 7 TO, 3 STL, 9 BLK, 14 PF, 46 PTS

As I post, his stat line reads:
17:27 minutes, 3-7 FG, 5-6 FT, 10 reb, 3 blk, 11 pt

5-6 FT makes me giggle a little. Man... He's going to be a very, very good player.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Jon Brion/Punch-Drunk Love

By James

No movie in my DVD collection owes as great a percentage of its success (in my opinion) to its score as Punch-Drunk Love. I'm always a sucker for Jon Brion's minimalist ditties, they have a way of keeping any story upbeat and afloat. Because Brion frequently doesn't use conventional "instruments" or crowd his score with more than one or two sounds at a time, he is able to blur the line between the diegetic and the nondiegetic. Heavy, "traditional" scores can distance me from a story, they reinforce the feeling "this is a movie." But Brion's scores have a feeling of spontaneity and awe, as if he's uncertain of of the sounds he's making even as they are coming out. While most scores feel structured and crafted to elicit a certain feeling, Brion's piece together scattered elements and then almost reluctantly declare, "This is music." Not coincidentally, movies like Punch-Drunk Love and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dwell on the intimate, piecing together disparate moments and concluding, "This is life."


Punch-Drunk Love is a movie I was pretty sure I didn't like the first time I saw it, but it's grown to be one of my most frequently watched movies. I guess that means I like it, at least a little. My one hard and fast rule for all my years of movie watching has been not to dwell on whether I like individual "elements" of a movie: score, cinematography, etc. are all irrelevant if you're not wondering what'll happen next (i.e. engaged in the story). And yet, Punch-Drunk Love has such a brilliant score, and cinematography, and staging, that the story's obvious (too obvious?) holes drown in the exquisiteness. I'm never engaged in Punch-Drunk Love's story, but I'm always overwhelmed with feeling, the movie seems to be an experiment in what happens when story "doesn't matter" (relatively, or "conventionally"). The fact that Punch-Drunk Love succeeds for me at this feat is a testament to the overwhelming charm of the score, there are new pleasures and ideas to be uncovered in Brion's scatter every time.