Sports Opinion & Analysis

Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Garnett’

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

In NBA on July 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm

By Chris Hallenbrook 

Those of you who read my last post know I think that the Celtics are doing the right thing by blowing it up and rebuilding through the draft. Accordingly, this time I’ll steer clear of the business side of basketball and speak with the heart of a fan, a fan who bleeds green.

This one hurts folks, it really does. Paul Pierce has been around this team for so long that I don’t remember what life was like in this town before the Celtics drafted him. He’s given his entire NBA career to this franchise and this city. He played his heart out for the Celtics and their fans for 15 years. As a result, he is the second highest scorer in Celtics history behind only John Havlicek, as well as 3rd in games played, 3rd in minutes, 4th in assists, 7th in rebounds, 1st in free throws made, 1st in steals and 4th in blocks. But Pierce’s place in franchise history, and fans’ hearts, transcends the numbers. He was one of the last players the franchise had who knew the legendary Red Auerbach, and the last one who was close to the King of the Basketball Gods. At the beginning of the horrendous 2006-2007 season, on the night that the Celtics observed the passing of Red and dedicated the season to his memory, an emotional Pierce took the microphone and proceeded to dedicate every moment of every game of the rest of his Celtics career to the memory of the Celtics’ legendary patriarch. There isn’t a Celtics fan alive who doesn’t wish Pierce had ended his career as a Celtics lifer.

Garnett may have only played six seasons in Boston, but he has forever carved out a place in Celtics history. His intensity and defensive presence are at home with the greats, as evidenced by his fast friendship with the incomparable Bill Russell. The stares, the blocks, the 18 foot jumpers, and especially tossing Pau Gasol around like a rag doll in the ’08 Finals will always play over and over again in the minds of Boston fans, inexorable parts of Banner 17.

So while my head may know this trade will further the rebuilding process, my heart doesn’t want to come to terms with the fact that The Big Ticket and The Truth won’t be coming out of the tunnel in green anymore. No matter what happens going forward, no matter whose jersey they wear, they will always be Celtics in my heart and in my memory. If I were to have the opportunity to say just one thing to them as they leave it would be this: “You’ll be welcome back in this town any time KG. Paul, there won’t be a dry eye in the house the night we raise 34 to its rightful place in the rafters.”

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The Celtics Finally Blow It Up

In NBA on June 24, 2013 at 9:59 am

By Chris Hallenbrook

Well folks, Danny the Dealer has struck again, with Ainge trading releasing Doc Rivers from his contract with the understanding that his new employers, the Los Angeles Clippers, will compensate the Celtics with a first round draft pick in 2015. This move serves as acknowledgment as what became painfully obvious as the aging Celtics got smacked around by the New York Knicks in the first round this postseason, the Big Three’s run was fun, but their window for winning Division Titles, let alone NBA Championships, has slammed shut.

It should have been evident to anyone watching this past year’s Boston Celtics, even shameless homers like the late Johnny Most, that this team is past its prime and no longer ready for prime time. It would be easy to blame the season-ending injury suffered by Rajon Rondo, but when he went down this team was 20-23. Having gotten “younger” with 35 year old Jason Terry and 27 year old Courtney Lee just wasn’t getting it done. The Celtics have to go into a rebuilding period, the sooner the better.

So if Doc was lukewarm about rebuilding, moving him (and his $7 million annual salary), is a good idea. The Celtics need to rebuild about Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley, while continuing to add young talent. The best avenue to do that is through the draft, and with the Celtics currently stuck in mid-to-late first round purgatory, stockpiling additional picks is a no-brainier. But the Celtics have limited assets with which to collect picks, Doc being one (Rondo, KG and Pierce being the others). So dealing him and hiring a cheaper coach to teach the younglings is a shrewd business decision.

My only complaint from a business standpoint is that the Celtics didn’t get enough for Doc. In exchange for one of only four active NBA coaches to have won an NBA Title (along with Popovich, Spoelstra and Carlisle) they received a single first round pick, and it isn’t until the 2015 draft. That’s right, it’s not in the draft this coming week or even next year; it is two years down the road. This means the badly needed young help that an extra first rounder can provide is three seasons down the road. Unfortunately for Celtics fans like myself, this likely means that Danny anticipates a lengthy rebuilding process. Furthermore, the location of the pick will be determined by the results of the 2014-2015 Clippers, who if they resign Chris Paul next month can be expected to make a deep run into the playoffs, making this nearly a second round pick (although I have a bad feeling that the Celtics’ own pick will be much higher, perhaps making up for it).

And how is it that Danny only got one pick for Doc? The three years remaining on Doc’s contract gave the Celtics plenty of leverage and with the non-compete clause they did not have to do this deal or risk losing him to “retirement.” Why not say “two first rounders or bust,” or stand firm on the original demand that they take a bloated contract (Lee/Terry) off Boston’s hands, given that the Celtics best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) was having a great coach? My best guess is that the Clippers used their continued highly public interviewing of other quality candidates to single to Ainge that they also viewed their BATNA favorably and were willing to walk away from the deal. So at the end of the day, I have to accept that two first rounders, or a salary dump, just wasn’t going to happen, but I can’t shake the feeling that while this is a good business decision for my Celtics, they sold too low.

Let’s Be Done With One and Done

In College, NBA on April 4, 2013 at 6:23 am

By Kevin Wolfman

Hit to Left Field’s own Jonathan Danielson put it well last week: the quality of play in this year’s NCAA tournament has kind of stunk. Marquette just scored 39 points in the Elite Eight, a shot-clock era low. Florida, a 3rd-seeded major conference team, got blown out by Michigan, a 4th-seeded major-conference team that many predicted would get dropped by VCU (not a major-conference team by any means) on opening weekend. The Final Four includes two four seeds and a nine seed. UCLA, perhaps the most famous program in college basketball history, got bent over by Minnesota. Minnesota!

To be fair, with a face like that, how could those Bruins resist?

To be fair, with a face like that, how could those Bruins resist?

What’s going on here? The simple answer is “parity,” which by itself sounds fine—commendable, even. But the reason for parity is disturbing, and gets to the root of college basketball’s problem: Parity isn’t at an all-time high because the so-called mid- and low-major programs have gotten markedly better—it’s because many of the traditional powers have gotten visibly worse. The top-3 of the national rankings was a Roulette wheel this year because no team truly deserved to be there the whole time.

You can blame the NCAA and the NBA for the Mister Magoo routines performed by so many “name” programs throughout the season and in the tournament. More specifically, you can blame the “one-and-done” rule.

Basketball, perhaps more than any other major American sport, highlights the abilities of individual players. A single star playing out of his mind can drag an entire team to victory. You don’t see this in, say, football, where a single star playing out of his mind gets concussed in the first quarter because his O-line makes sloths look quick on their feet.

That said, basketball is still a team sport. While individuals can do great things in single games, over the course of a season it takes a skilled, cohesive team to truly achieve on-court greatness. And there is little cohesion to speak at major-conference programs right now. Rosters are not teams; they are groups of talented individuals who don’t know each other very well. The most glaring example is Kentucky, where Coach Calipari’s experiment in bringing AAU ball to college beat the odds last year and ran headfirst into the brick wall of reality this time around. UCLA is another one, with the age-faking Shabazz Muhammad and his nuttier-than-a-box-of-almonds dad lying and scheming their way onto NBA draft boards everywhere.

When the nation’s best incoming freshmen have little intention of becoming sophomores or juniors, the major programs that recruit them have no time to develop team chemistry. Starting fives becoming a rotating cast of one-and-dones “doing time” in their non-paying collegiate prison, while the benches stay filled with the patient, team-oriented players dedicated to the program who lack the raw talent to jump to the next level at the first opportunity. The result is a glaring collection of chemistry-related flaws in many major-conference teams, flaws which the smaller programs—who do stay four years, grow with their teammates, and learn to execute their on-court roles precisely and without ulterior motives—exploit happily in March.

Pictured: An honest-to-goodness team.

Pictured: An honest-to-goodness team.

There are at least two possible solutions to this mess. The first is what Jonathan Danielson proposed last week—make college players stay on campus for three years before entering the NBA, just like the NFL does. This would certainly solve the major programs’ crippling attrition problem. On the other hand, many observers (including myself) are uncomfortable with the idea of keeping future professionals in school for years when they have no desire to be there and aren’t making any concerted use of the valuable (and expensive) academic offerings available to them. They’re just taking up spaces on class rosters that could be used by “real” students who are honestly enrolled in school to get a degree.

The second option is more attractive—just let the high school studs jump straight to the pros if they want to (again). Will this result in a lot of guys entering the draft prematurely and festering on NBA benches for several years before dropping out of the league altogether? Sure. But that’s their decision. They are adults, so let them make adult decisions. Leave college for the ones who actually want to, you know, go to college.

If an eighteen-year-old graduates high school and goes to work on a construction crew, or joins the military, or starts a landscaping business, nobody has a problem with it. But if that same eighteen-year-old is great at tossing a rubber ball into a hoop instead of drilling metal screws into wood or shooting M-16 ammunition at terrorists, and wants to make a living doing that, suddenly lots of people cry foul. This makes zero logical sense. If the young man thinks he has the skill and maturity to “make it” in pro basketball, and a pro basketball team agrees enough to hire him, what’s the issue?

For the NCAA, it’s obviously money. If the best high school talent in the country doesn’t play NCAA basketball, the NCAA’s product loses some of its luster. For the NBA, it’s expedience. Why take the time to develop 18-year-old talent when the college ranks are there to serve as a willing de facto minor league system? The education of young minds, naturally, comes into play for neither party.

The next Jordan

The next Jordan

And for ordinary folks who oppose the prep-to-pros jump, much of it likely boils down to simple jealousy—lots of people don’t like seeing young (and yes, often immature) young men get millions of dollars and a career without earning it the “old-fashioned way.” This smacks of elitism and condescension, and strangely enough, it’s rarely heard when talking about the latest crop of teenagers skipping college to play professional baseball. Why is that? Might it possibly have something to do with the fact that the young basketball players are (generally) poorer, blacker, and “tattoo-y-er” than the baseball players?

It’s time to throw “one-and-done” and all its related forms out the window. The NBA had it right the first time–the time of Teenage Lebron James, Teenage Kevin Garnett, and Teenage Lenny Cooke. Let the players play, and let the chips fall where they may. If someone’s old enough to die for their country on a battlefield, they’re old enough to entertain it on ESPN–or fail trying.

The NBA, Brought To You By___________.

In NBA on July 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

No one’s ever accused the NBA of being fair. Of not favoring certain players or certain teams in certain large markets. Of not putting the integrity of the game or its fans above the almighty dollar.

Yet with Friday’s decision to begin selling advertising space on team jerseys, potentially begining in the 2013-14 season, the NBA has finally lost its soul.

Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics

By selling advertising on uniforms, the league could potentially earn $100 million dollars (only $10 million more than the approximate payroll of the Los Angeles Lakers, give or take a few hundred thousand dollars). This is a necessary evil, Commissioner David Stern claims, because, as was argued during the CBA negotiations and subsequent NBA lockout, the league allegedly isn’t making any money. Its so dire, Stern says, that  the league had to actually borrow $175 million dollars last year, just to support 15 of the league’s 30 teams. If the NBA does not sell 2.5-inch-by -2.5-inch ad space on their jerseys, Stern argues, the league simply will not survive.

Stern and the rest of the NBA executives allege that soccer clubs, worldwide, have profited from massive logos over their entire uniform, and no one has ever seemed to complain. That the WNBA sold advertising space as their primary logo a few years ago, and look at them for how this decision has been beneficial.

But what Stern fails to realize is that the NBA isn’t soccer. And it isn’t the WNBA.

Quick, name three-out-of-five WBNA players. Okay, name two-out-of-five. Okay, name one.

The WNBA wouldn’t even exist without alternate means of revenue, because no one seems to go to WNBA games. Even during the league’s Finals, thousands of tickets are given away, and arenas during WNBA games are almost entirely empty. In fact, if it weren’t for the WNBA’s surmounting losses being subsidized by the NBA, the WNBA would vanish from the Earth, no matter how much money was collected by advertising.

Soccer, on the other hand, has a thirty-year history of advertisements on their uniforms. It’s now the culture of the sport, and has consequently become so accepted, it would be as weird not having ads on soccer uniforms as it would be offensive for the NBA to have them. The cultures of the two sports have gone, throughout their respective lifetimes, in such completely different directions regarding uniform aesthetics that the fans who cheers for the NBA will not accept advertisements like soccer fans have. They are two drastically different fan cultures, and to compare the two is like comparing apples-to-oranges. It doesn’t translate.

Instead, the NBA should look into other methods of securing revenue needed for the league to profit besides advertising. One of the main options they should start researching is parity.

Introducing the Sony-Red Bull-Maxi Pad-Dark Knight Rises-Knicks of New York.

Since the league’ inception, only 18 teams have ever won the NBA Finals, and one of those teams, the Baltimore Bullets, do not even exist anymore. Of all those teams, only ten teams have won a championship more than once, and two teams, the Lakers and the Celtics, have won exactly half (33 titles combined) of all NBA championships. Quite frankly, at the start of any given NBA season, a fan can pretty much count on one hand the teams likely to win it all at the end of that year.

If teams aren’t making money, like Stern claims they aren’t, that’s because practically every team in the league never wins, and their fans have simply (and rightfully) given up knowing nothing changes in the NBA; the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. It’s like, where’s the Occupy Movement when you really need them?

Milwaukee Bucks, meet Los Angeles Lakers.

If the league was really interested in making money, they would abandon the idea of uniform ad sale, and instead create a hard-cap for league payrolls. No longer would big markets get to outspend everyone else, and no longer would Super Teams and Big Threes exist. Instead, every team would have their own star (maybe two), every team would have a chance, and every arena would be sold out, because nothing fuels fans to spend their money more so than hope. Hope that this year might be it. That this year might finally be their team’s year. Hope that someone besides the Lakers and Celtics will finally win it all.

If the NBA is interested in their fans and fan experience, if they really want to create a sustainable product, then they would foster an environment where every fan, not just those in Los Angeles or Boston, Miami or New York, have reason to be invested in their team. Where the small market guys aren’t just fodder for the big guys. Where it doesn’t matter what’s on the jersey, because people are buying it.

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