Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Dr. Demands a Recount!

Far be it from me to just be blatantly pissed about something, but this cannot stand. As the NBA Las Vegas Summer League came to a close last week Clippers forward Blake Griffin was named the camp’s MVP. I’ve talked about at length about the kind of disrespect the Warriors get, and this is just another example.

Without a doubt everything that happens in Summer League should be taken with a giant grain of salt. The games are unorganized and helter skelter, with many of the teams’ rosters filled with guys who may never see a second of action in the NBA. Thus being named MVP of something so elementary is not necessarily that big of an honor. However, Anthony Randolph took the league by force, thanks largely to a brutal summer workout routine, and has nothing to show for it. The numbers were there, the voters were not.

In looking at both Randolph and Griffin’s performances, how could it not have been the former? Golden State’s roster was littered with far more Summer League All Stars than the Clippers and Randolph still managed to lead the league with 26.8 points per game on 60 percent shooting – much greater than Griffin’s 19.2 points on 50 percent shooting. In slightly less minutes Randolph bested Griffin in free throw percentage (74 to 45), blocks and steals. He also had fewer turnovers. In the big picture, Randolph led Golden State to a 4-1 record while LA finished 2-3.

The only statistical category that Griffin “won” was rebounding, outgrabbing Randolph 10 to 8. But surely a 2 rebound differential doesn’t automatically garner MVP honors.

But the Clippers are hot right now. They nabbed a very, very good player by picking number 1 overall. They are also in a bigger market in LA, recently unloaded Zach Randolph’s monster deal, and have been involved in Allen Iverson talks.

In the grand scheme of things, this MVP award is not what will be remembered from Summer League. It will be recalled for Randolph’s development and posting of 3 consecutive 20-10 games preceding a 42 point outing. It also marked Blake Griffin’s first steps towards becoming the savior of the Clippers that everyone thinks he will be. But this tiny little MVP trophy matters to Golden State’s fans, who after enduring a brutal decade and a half of false hopes can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Dr. Murphy out

***This week’s trivia - drop your guesses/answers in the comments section

Since the tracking of steals and blocks as a statistic 4 players in NBA history have netted a quadruple-double including Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson and Hakeem Olajuwon. The 4th player got it in February of 1994; who was it?

***Last week’s answer: Kenyon Martin was the last American-born college senior to be selected #1 overall in the NBA draft. The Nets picked him in 2000 out of the University of Cincinnati.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Madden Curse 2.0

Since the dawn of modern technology, one thing that has been synonymous with sports is video games. Short of actually making a pro roster, this is the closest fans can get to playing and managing a team in their sport of choice. From the Tecmo Bowl to Tiger Woods, sports addicts can find a way to virtually participate in pro sports.

Everybody under the sun has heard of the Madden Curse – lying in its wake are standout footballers such as Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, Shaun Alexander and Marshall Faulk. However, there is another curse that has kept a much lower profile but has been equally as harmful to the cover athletes and their teams.

Said curse is linked to NBA games and their cover stars. Both the NBA Live and NBA 2K game franchises have indirectly led their spokesmen (and their teams) to disappointing seasons after their likeness was dawned on the games’ package. The following is a simple breakdown of the curse divided between the two games since their 2005 installments.

After winning a championship and Defensive Player of the Year with Detroit in 2004, Ben Wallace was featured on NBA 2K5. The curse effect was not immediate (he repeated as DPOY in 05) but nonetheless he has met injury woes and has yet to return to the finals. Big Ben was recently traded to the Suns, who are in the process of paying him to go away.

Shaquille O’Neal received back-to-back covers for NBA 2K6 and 2K7. Certainly well deserved as he brought a championship to Miami. However, the next season he was plagued by injuries, fouls and a diminished role. In addition, his run of 14 consecutive All-Star appearances ended and he was shipped to Phoenix. As a Sun in 2009 he failed to make the playoffs for the first time since he played in Orlando.

The NBA 2K8 and 2K9 athletes, Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett, had the curse strike their teams as much as the individuals. After a cover-worthy season the Hornets emerged as contenders in the West. However, they came up short. Paul finished second in MVP voting and the Hornets fell just shy of a Finals appearance. Since then New Orleans has been exposed as a team that relies solely on its two stars who have little to no help anywhere else in the lineup. Garnett’s case mirrors that of Chris Paul. He adorned the 2K9 cover after bringing Boston a championship. The next season though Garnett missed the entirety of the Playoffs as Boston failed to contend with the Orlando Magic.

The NBA video game curse does not stop with 2K Sports as the EA franchise NBA Live has seen a similar effect.

NBA Live 05 cover athlete Carmelo Anthony has never been hurt by the curse statistically, yet it was only the beginning of 5 years of consecutive first round playoff exits for the Nuggets (that they finally shook with the addition of Chauncey Billups – who has never been on either games cover). It was also followed by some controversy as Anthony was cited for marijuana possession, threatened Baltimore resident’s in a video, and was involved in an on-court fight with the Knicks.

The next 3 editions of the Live series (06, 07, and 08) brought up a classic Madden-esque scenario. After winning the championship and the cover, Dwyane Wade missed 62 games over the next 2 seasons while the Heat posted only 59 wins during that time. 07 cover athlete Tracy McGrady has missed 84 games since being featured (that number doesn’t include him missing the entirety of this year’s Playoffs).

Gilbert Arenas is undeniably the pinnacle of the NBA video game curse. He made the Live 08 cover in the summer of 2007 and has hardly picked up a basketball since. Nagging knee injuries and multiple surgeries have limited Agent Zero to a whopping 15 games since being on the cover of Live 08.

It will be interesting to see where the curse goes from here. Tony parker was only slightly affected as the cover of Live 09 (slight injury woes, 1st round playoff exit). The question begs, what will become of our upcoming ballers? Kobe (2K10) and the Lakers look locked in to repeat with Captain Ron onboard, yet have not come to terms with a new contract for X-factor Lamar Odom. Dwight Howard (Live 10) has the toughest road ahead of him; despite acquiring Vince Carter, the Magic will return next season without Hedo Turkoglu who arguably was their best player in this season’s unexpected Playoff run.

***Don’t forget about Trivia!! Drop your answer in the comments section.

Who was the last American-born college senior to be selected #1 overall in the NBA draft?

***last week’s answer: after playing together at North Carolina, Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter were selected 4th and 5th overall by the Raptors and the Warriors, then immediately traded for each other.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Revisiting the Media Debate, with Some Free Agency Sprinkles

Happy New NBA Fiscal Year!

Believe it or not the new NBA season has begun. David Stern and his crew are currently working on establishing the new salary cap figure which will dictate the exact monetary terms of soon-to-be-signed contracts. July 8th is the date to watch as all of the free agent rumors will begin to take some form of reality.

First, let’s circle back quickly to add to the previous discussion about how local media measures up to the national guys. The main issue is that one is not necessarily better or worse all the time. The heavy hitters like ESPN and TNT sometimes miss the green in reporting on less successful teams because they simply don’t see them that much. On other side of the coin, while the smaller local reporters are in constant contact with hometown franchises, their information isn’t always accurate as it is sometimes influenced by over-speculation and tainted with misinformation from agents. It’s sort of like David vs. Goliath – except Goliath isn’t even paying attention and David is getting duped by other shady biblical figures.

The main point to take from the entire issue is that the burden falls on readers and fans to seek out complete and accurate information on the organizations they follow. Which can be very difficult seeing as the average fan is on the outside looking in.

In other NBA media news – maybe a little late on this – Stephen A. Smith is no longer with ESPN. It was noticeable at the NBA draft, where Smith was absent from his usual duties of interviewing the green-room draftees after they were selected. As of May 1, 2009 he was officially “let go,” with the LA Times reporting that “[ESPN] decided to move in different directions.”

And on to off-season news and notes. I know this is the only site you use for breaking NBA news so be sure to check back throughout the summer for the latest in NBA player movement.

-the big name right now in free agency is Hedo Turkoglu. Orlando acquired Vince Carter, essentially paying for Turk’s ticket out of town. Portland thought they had bagged him when he suddenly skipped town for what is supposedly a much bigger contract in Toronto.

-the Piston’s are looking to retool. Rasheed Wallace is pretty much out the door and Detroit has reached verbal agreements with Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

-the Lakers and Rockets have swapped forwards with Artest coming to terms with LA and Ariza on his way to Houston. Next up for the Lakers is to re-ink Lamar Odom.

-Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur and Kyle Korver hosed Utah’s salary cap by not opting out of their contracts. The Jazz still can match any offer to Paul Millsap, but now they have much less cash to work with.

-the Celtics have not made a qualifying offer to Leon Powe and are reportedly chasing Rasheed Wallace (who is also being courted by new Magic G/F Vince Carter).

-other free agency chatter from all over the web has David Lee looking at the Blazers, Grant Hill heading home to Orlando and Allen Iverson possibly ending up in Memphis. Other big names to watch are Anderson Varejao, Shawn Marion, Andre Miller, Jason Kidd and Mike Bibby.

***Gonna give some NBA trivia a try – with every article I will post a new question as well as the answer to the previous article’s question. Drop your answer in the comments section to prove how smart (or not-smart) you are. Here ya go…

In the 1998 draft the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors drafted 4th and 5th overall and after the selections immediately swapped the players. Who were those two players? (Hint: they were college teammates)

Dr. Murphy out

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The National vs. Local Media and a Golden State Case Study

One of the most interesting things about observing sports media (in my case the NBA media) is that the opportunity presents itself to look at the differences between national and local coverage. The Golden State Warriors, who have made a few national headlines recently, are an excellent case study of how two different mediums report on the same subject in contrasting ways.

Talk around Golden State’s draft centered mostly on the idea that they would send the 7th pick and a package of players to Phoenix in exchange for Amar’e Stoudemire. Of course anytime All-Star talent is being shopped, the media will jump all over it.

Actually, leap and lunge are probably more appropriate verbs. The ESPN bottom line was frequented with updates in addition to the Bay Area media funneling news to local fans. Now cue the inherent differences between the national giants and local outlets.

Many on the national stage theorized the best way for the Warriors to get the Amar’e deal finalized. They drooled over how Don Nelson would love the athletic big man. Recently on PTI, Mike Wilbon and Bob Ryan didn’t need more than a second to decide the deal would be great for the Warriors, attributing Biedrins supposed lack of upside and how Stephen Curry has yet to prove he is NBA-ready. The deal was met with far more skepticism in the Bay. Writers such as Ray Ratto, Bruce Jenkins and Monte Poole questioned Stoudemire’s health, willingness to sign an extension and his compatibility with the coaching staff. Same story – two very different sides.

KC Sports Rant recently had the opportunity to speak with a well known Bay Area sports journalist – who respectively wished to be anonymous – and examine more in depth how differently the local and national media cover teams who are either in small markets or are less frequent on ESPN airwaves (or both).

And the differences are distinct. Our guest attributed those differences primarily to not observing these teams as much as the local media does. According to the interviewee “the local media sees these people every day,” even getting the chance to travel with the team and players for the majority of the year. The guest went on to say that “unless these teams are in the playoffs, they don’t register.”

There are concrete examples of this. In the case of the Warriors, the national media has many misconceptions and cases of incorrect reporting. During the NBA Draft, viewers are thrown images and charts of various facts about each team. Included in these are projected starting lineups and key reserves. Our guest spoke about when those came up for the Warriors, Corey Maggette was listed in the starting lineup despite in reality being the 6th man for almost the entire season. Furthermore, he described to me how Ronny Turiaf was left out of the key reserves despite being “one of the better backup centers in the league.” Quite frankly these are things ESPN should know, yet because the Warriors were a 29 win team, the reporting on them was blatantly wrong.

Our interview led to talk of more inaccuracies of the Warriors by the national media. One being that “[Chris] Mullin was key figure in turning the franchise around.” Our guest explained to me that it was definitely not the case, citing examples of Mullin’s missteps including the hiring of Mike Montgomery and missing badly on two consecutive lottery picks in Ike Diogu and Patrick O’Bryant. Mullin was painted as a victim on the national stage when in reality did not have a satisfactory track record.

Our discussion then led to the Bay Area media and their coverage of the Warriors. As far as our guest is concerned, all of his reports are based on “well informed opinions” and he always makes the effort to “make sure [the material] is right.” The same can’t be said for everyone, as local media for any team is fed information by agents looking to benefit their clients. Some readers may have trouble distinguishing between what is factual and what is being manipulated by outside sources. I was told how readers “have to look at the motive” because a majority of theorizing by local writers can sometimes be complete fabrication by the writers themselves. “Everybody wants the scoop.”

In returning our attention to the national media I asked my guest who he thought of as the best members of the NBA national media. He was quick to say “lots of good ones out there,” listing off big time names such as Marc Stein, David Aldridge, Mike Breen, Ernie Johnson and the duo of Kevin Harlan and Doug Collins. While ESPN and its affiliates certainly don’t always get the story straight when it pertains to the Warriors, there are reporters out there who get the job done the right way.

Our interesting conversation led me to the conclusion that while the national and local media are very different, one is not necessarily always better than the other. The national media will blunder when underexposed to a team while the local guys tend to theorize slightly too much. In the end it is up to the readers to weed through all media to find the best and most accurate coverage of their team, no matter how small a market they are in or how unsuccessful that team may be.

Lastly, I did ask if our guest had been offered the opportunity to work on the national stage, and if so, why did he decline it? “I have been offered many opportunities” he said. However, it was the prospect of working directly with and being tied to one team that has kept his feet firmly planted in the Bay Area.

***A big thank you goes out to our guest for his contributions to this article and his insight into the vast idiosyncrasies of all levels of sports journalism.

Dr. Murphy out.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Get No Respect (Rodney Dangerfield Voice)

After the disaster that was the last two posts I have decided to go back to what I feel I do best, which is to write candidly about the Royals.

Today los Royals lost again. They did so in routine fashion. Errors, zero offense and shaky bullpen again proved to be the recipe required for another loss. The one glimmer of hope that came out of the game today is that B Pena went 2-4 and continued his campaign to edge John "my only hits are HR's" Buck. Gil is now 4-8 and John Bale again proved he cannot get an out when it counts. I am honestly looking at the box score right now and can only see two players in the lineup who I can envision as being part of the future for the Royals (B But and B Pena). Nobody else in the lineup today looks or feels that of a winner or an important piece for the future. I would much see an entire new lineup of AAA players on this team than watch "major leaguers" lose like rookies everyday.

Which leads me to my next point: there is clearly a respect issue going on in the Royals clubhouse. The problem is that the players obviously don't respect a damn thing the coaching staff has to say. If they did, there wouldn't be the tremendous amount of errors accrued and the players would actually get down on themselves, then try to get better. There is no incentive or for that matter a repercussion for Billy Butler not to throw a ball into CF. Yea he is on TV for a second and probably feels stupid, but this guy has been playing baseball for 3/4ths of his life! Is Trey Hillman now going to let him get away with playing shitty because he is now in the bigs? I don't mean to pick on Billy (it was the last error I saw) because it goes for everyone on this team. Maybe Trey is a puss or maybe Trey is scared Jose Guillen's tiger is going to eat him, but there have to be consequences to playing like a douche. When there are no consequences players don't listen and try to get better.

I know why players don't respect Trey Hillman. All you have to do is watch him not argue a call that is blatantly wrong, in a one run game, with one of your best power hitters up, and realize that he doesn't want to win. Can you respect someone who doesn't want to win in a pro game?

In the next couple days we have a really awesome interview coming. Its a first for the blog and its brought to you by the Dr. Those Bay Area readers should get pumped.