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We are all Ron Artest

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

We are all Ron Artest…I mean Metta World Peace.

It’s no secret that I’m a basketball fan (NBA and DLeague). It’s also no secret, now that the lockout is over and games are underway, that Ron Artest has officially changed his name to Metta World Peace.  It was funny hearing the commentators on the first game struggle to get his new name down and to call him that instead of Ron Artest. Of course, he trended on twitter that day and of course, I searched for his name. He was the brunt of many a joke, some very cruel. It’s easy to get on the bandwagon and make fun, far too easy. I even tweeted that the whole thing is weird. But then I wanted to know more about this dramatic change to see what’s in this name.

Let’s let Ronnie, I mean Metta, tell you himself:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/30/ron-artest-metta-world-peace-pti_n_887577.html

Of course “Metta” is a buddist term (though he is not buddist) that means friendship, love, kindness, and togetherness– traits he wishes to be known for, and world peace (though a sort of pipe dream) speaks for itself. So is this name change going to reflect a change in Ron’s (ahem Metta’s) behavior and on/off court antics? Is it going to tame the man who has rightfully acquired a reputation of being a brawler and thug? Well, since the change he has not punched any fans. That’s gotta count for something. And it sure beats Ochocino!

In all seriousness, though it IS weird, I applaud his desire to have a real turnaround, and think it is sincere. It sounds like he’s really trying to do some good now. He knows it’s not going to bring about world peace or anything. I hope he finds true peace in heart.

Let’s cut him a break. And give him the benefit of any doubt. And though I can’t speak for everyone, I’d like to think that we are all Ron Artest.

We’re just people trying to become better versions of ourselves.

Agree or not?

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Following the DLeague

May 13, 2011 2 comments

Basketball is almost over for the year. Of course I’m following Derrick Rose and the Bulls’ #1 seed playoff run. Hoping they continue their regular season trend and beat the Heat.  It’s a tall order, but if they play like they did towards the end of the Hawks series, they can do it!  I’ve always been a Bulls fan, even after Jordan. My dad grew up in the Chicago area, so since I’ve been a basketball fan, I’ve been a Bulls fan.

But lately, I’ve gotten more into the DLeague than the NBA even. I like being able to see the up and coming talent and NBA prospects, before they really make it big. They work hard to get those few and elusive call ups.

The last few years I’ve really enjoyed proximity to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers NBA Development League franchise. They are a good hour away from our house, but it’s been fun to drive out for some good basketball. Last year, they won the championship. I was there for most of the playoff games including the sweep of the Tulsa 66ers at State Farm Arena. This year I got a season ticket seat. I enjoyed taking friends and kids and down the stretch my wife liked going with me to the games. With a brand new roster they actually made it back to the Finals (an amazing accomplishment for Coach Finch and the staff). Sadly they lost to the league’s #1 seed the Iowa Energy. I was at the viewing party with my wife and all the dedicated fans for this sad moment!

I’ve blogged a lot about the playoff run (you can read the posts under the “sports” category). Back in January I saw a lot of DLeague action when the annual Showcase was at South Padre Island. This is even closer to me than the Arena, so I took a vacation day and saw as many games as I could that week. It was great.

Among the highlights for me were meeting a lot of people. There were scouts and GMs from all teams. I told Danny Ferry “God bless you”, well because he sneezed a few rows up from me. The cool thing is that you could sit wherever you wanted to. And at most games, it was very open, with the exception of Viper games. So that meant I could be right behind the bench. For one of the Vipers game and others I did just that. I yelled at the players “swing it” and Coach Finch, right in front of me yelled “swing it, swing it” right after I did.

Who else did I see and interact with?…Chris Ford, Randy Brown, Dee Brown, Spud Webb! Of course, DLeague players, and assignees. I sat by DLeague all-star and former Nets first round pick, Sean Williams. He loves popcorn! No really…he LOVES popcorn. He’d down one bag, and go get another. Even the next day, he recognized me in the stands from when I helped turn his iphone from Spanish back to English and sure enough, he had a bag of popcorn he was downing. Popcorn and a gallon of water.

He and his coach, hall of famer, and queen of the DLeague, Nancy Lieberman were cheering on their team’s Booker Woodfox in the 3pt contest.  I saw him hit the game winner against the Vipers earlier in the season on NBA Futurecast so he was my pick, and he won. Earlier I had congratulated the first female coach of NBA players, Lieberman, on a great first season. She thanked me, shook my hand and proceeded to ask me if I played “point”. At this I laughed, and wanted to say “look at me”! My form ain’t what it used to be. That was not necessary since she was joking anyway. But with Antonio Daniels injured at the time, she was being serious when she said she needed players!

It was a great experience seeing  the all-stars, the call ups, the hard-working players showcase their talent. Every one had their phones out taking pictures and video of their favs. I got on my phone and called home, had my wife turn on NBA TV and every time the camera would go to one side they could see me right behind the bench, so once while on the phone I waved at my son. He thought that was so cool! The dunk contest was really good. Dar Tucker kinda had an off night, but Chris Johnson was great and of course LD Williams did his coach, Dee Brown’s dunk, who was in the building 20 years after winning with the same dunk. Here’s my video from this contest which was aired in its entirety on Versus.

The rest of the season was great too. You can follow several players on twitter as well! Through being a season ticket holder, I got to take the fam bowling with the Vipers. I got to meet and bowl with Duke Champion, Jon Scheyer. [Read story]

Clyde Drexler and Moses Malone were in attendance for one of the games. I got their autographs on glossy pictures of them in Rockets action.

So check out the DLeague sometime if you haven’t already. During the season, every game is streamed live on NBA Futurecast, so you can follow teams wherever they are. If you’ve got a team nearby, go catch a game. You just might find a great new hobby, like I have!

Dunk Contest- DLeague Showcase

My video of the NBA Development League’s Dunk Contest at the Showcase in January of 2011 at South Padre Island.

LD Williams, a player on Dee Browns’ team at the time, performed and won with Dee Browns’ signature dunk 20 years after he won the NBA dunk contest with it (as seen here too: http://youtu.be/TDWtJ1XcO3I)

VanderMeer or VanderFlop?

April 28, 2011 3 comments

Scott VanderMeer has been playing really well for the Iowa Energy. After backing Courtney Sims most of the season, now he is coming into his own. More specifically, he has made his presence known down low in the Finals series agains the RGV Vipers. However, I have to take issue with him on one thing, and not only him, the whole league and the NBA, but especially him, for Flopping. Since VanderMeer is a serial flopper, I’ll refer to him throughout this short post as VanderFlop. I know others do it, including the Viper’s McNeal, last night, and Iowa’s Hannah, but these guys are not 7 foot towers.

It seems as though this is VanderFlop’s game plan. Well, buddy, I got your number back in game 1, and it seems now that the refs and the Vipers got it too. Let me break this down. There’s a lot of physical play going on, and commentators talk about Scott taking a beating. His hard fall came from his own hanging and slipping off the rim. The foul was not hard. This guy is big and tough and strong. But he’s playing like a pansy when it would benefit him. I think Stan Van Gundy would agree with me- (http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2011/04/stan-van-gundy-wants-the-hawks-to-stop-flopping/).
 
In game one, he had a rare and almost unheard of 7 blocks. He also “forced” 5 charge calls against the Vipers. He was in foul trouble and ended with 5 fouls in both games. However, if one of those 7 blocks was not clean (and several were not- McNeal only shot 4 free throws with a 9 average and 13-13 in game 2) or if one of those offensive fouls is actually a block or a flop (duh!) then he’s out of the game. 12 calls went his way in game 1!- calls that affected many points for RGV. Game two was a different story (thank goodness, I mean, come on!).
 
To see this 7 footer’s brute strength you’d have to see the end of the 1st or 2nd quarter of game two, I can’t remember which. Anyway, Terrel Harris was defending, I believe, league MVP Curtis Stinson after a Viper’s make and VanderMeer sets a screen for his point guard. He is like a brick wall- a wall that Harris runs into and goes flying off in the other direction. Scott does not budge. It’s 6 ft. versus 7 ft. burly-man bulk. STRONG. That is until we’re on the other end of the floor and Roby or McNeal or anyone from Red (large or small)  is scoring on this tree of a man, they may redirect themselves, graze him and then with a slightly delayed reaction then the tree comes down…TIIIIIMMMMBBBEEERRRR!!! Over and over again. VanderFlop, we’re not falling for your falling anymore. You’ve proven your strength AND your weakness. We’ve got your number.

 
The Vipers win in extraordinary fashion in front of a DLeague record crowd of hostile (but stunned) Iowa fans. I, of course a Vipers fan, was one of the few on the twittersphere to predict this. Everyone else seemed to be picking the #1 ranked Energy. Now the tune is, well, Iowa’s playing without Sims, Jeffers, Lofton, and Weaver. On the other side, the Vipers too are playing without Shakur, Adrien, and Cousin (due to injury)! I think Iowa’s a great team and not to be underestimated. But I think the same about the Vipers. I predicted them to win game 2 and I predict them to come out and win game 3 too on Iowa’s turf. Be afraid, Energy. Be very afraid.

P.S. Watch VanderFlop in action trying to get the same calls in game 2– :54 second mark- http://www.nba.com/dleague/games/20110427/RGVIWA/gameinfo.html?ls=gt2hp2041000302

Finals Game 1 take aways

April 25, 2011 1 comment

You can’t blame a game on the refs. Especially when you dig a huge hole and only score 9 points in the third quarter. But the refs didn’t help much. In the last ditch effort in the fourth quarter, the Vipers closed the gap to within 4. The fans were into the game and really cheering them on, believing they could do the impossible again. A couple of what seemed to be bogus calls and no calls turned into several 3 pointers on the other end that took the wind right out of the sails. It was felt by all.

I was there and came home to Brownsville, and hour drive and stayed up to watch the Versus broadcast. I tried to watch the referees objectively. They definitely were “letting them play”, well Iowa anyway. Here’s what I saw, and again, I’m trying not to be biased.

Lot’s of Vipers points taken away by offensive foul calls. VanderMeer at 7 ft. getting grazed by a 6 footer and tumbling down should be nicknamed VANDERFLOP. (In the refs defense, Roby got away with a block that was called a charge too, but only once.) VanderFlop had foul trouble early, then with 5 fouls managed to draw several charges, and not foul out, while racking up a rare and impressive 7 blocks! I noticed what a presence he was down there, but come on! Who get’s 7 clean blocks in a game? They were not all “all ball” and if only one was called, he’s out of the game. I bet the refs had an escort out of the building. They got booed a lot more then usual last night and rightly so.

A quick look at the stats and I found out that Iowa went to the line 5 more times than RGV even though the Vipers shot the ball 9 more times than the Energy. A series of no calls, offensive foul flops, not calling a clear shot clock violation of Iowa’s, overlooking obvious traveling, not counting 5 seconds on Stinson, these were places where the refs influenced the outcome. But as I said, you can’t blame the game on the referees. It’s only a factor. The symptoms of the loss were toughness and offense/ defense.

Way too many transition points for Iowa, who seemed to play with more Energy, pun intended. Bad offense must not lead to poor defense, if they are to repeat as Champions. So while the refs can’t be blamed, what can the Vipers do to ensure a better outcome?

Here are my thoughts: McNeal is getting double and triple teamed. That means 1 or 2 players are wide OPEN. He does a good job of feeding others, but they need to get into a good passing lane for Jerel and call out for the ball and be ready to convert.

Get tough, and since it’s a physical finals contest, protect the ball better. Be smarter and limit the careless turnovers. Scheyer and Janning, while faking the three, driving and dishing, know what you want to do before getting in the air. Onuaku also had some uncharacteristic turnovers and missed hook shots, including an air ball. Sullivan had an off night, though Faye was huge.

I mentioned in my last post that Connor Atchley needed to play like a big man, after grabbing an offensive board to take it up strong and not automatically look for the outlet. He did just that, some three times! We need that. Too bad his 3 balls were in and out. Others who struggled lately with 3 pointers started to connect again.

Don’t leave the shooters open. At one point Hannah had a good 3 seconds to set up a 3 pointer with Scheyer and Janning both standing together by Stinson. Nobody budged.

We’ve got guys who can attack the rim. McNeal, Roby, Harris, even Scheyer and Janning are. Keep that up and you should be able to get to the line more. Well, you should! (I know, ref complaint, again)

Traditionally we play well in must win situations (5-0 the last two years). I wish it didn’t come to this having to play on the road. But it is what it is. As Coach Mo says, gotta play all 48 minutes. At one point Coach Finch yelled at the players during a time out. Something to the effect of waiting all year for this moment and blowing it. The whole arena could hear him. This got even the complacent fans behind the guys again, showing some encouragement. It was too late. But I believe they can win twice in Iowa. It’s gonna take a “firing on all cylinders” approach.

Last year, with a completely different team, the Vipers had the #1 rank, the coach of the year, the league MVP. This year all those belong to Iowa. This year, we’re the underdogs who usually respond when under intense pressure. The pressure is ON!

What a rivalry! Good friends, now enemies, Coach Finch and Coach Nurse. Curtis Stinson and Jerel McNeal.  Gotta love it. Our guys can play with them, no doubt. I’m sure the hunger will be there. Go Vipers!

(you can see my boys in the fan tunnel)

Did the Vipers do it?

April 21, 2011 1 comment

I blogged Sunday night after the first OT thriller versus the Reno Bighorns. I laid out what I thought the RGV Vipers needed to do to win and thus sweep Reno and proceed on to a chance to repeat with back to back championship appearances. Did they do it? Well, kind of, sort of. They failed to do some of the things that I thought they needed to do, but they advanced nonetheless. It would’ve been much easier the other way, but by some miracle (and I did not say referee goof) they pulled off ANOTHER overtime sensation. And it was crazy!

Still, it’s a major accomplishment to go back to the finals! This is a completely different team than last year’s. At this point no one remains from last years’ championship team. Asumnu was the only one at the beginning, but he’s gone now. Antonio Anderson came back shortly after the season started, but was traded for Matt Janning. Garrett Temple came back, but was traded for Jeff Adrien, who like Mustafa Shakur got called up for the rest of the season to the NBA. With only last year’s coaching staff intact, the Vipers are  off to defend their title. Tulsa had a lot of last year’s players but fell to Iowa. The Iowa Energy have some returning players, including league MVP this year, Curtis Stinson. They are going to be tough. Unlike last year, the Vipers will not have home court advantage, and there’s no homecourt like the Valleys! But there are some great new players, including champion Jon Scheyer in the mix this year to upset the league standings leaders and bring home the trophy again.

Jerel McNeal was huge again! He’s doing a great job of carrying the team when needed, and making others better by being unselfish. Terrel Harris had his best game ever and Richard Roby also contributed in a big way, both off the bench. Janning, Scheyer, and Faye hit a couple of shots after they had been struggling from their usual high percentage. Sully continued to do what he does so well. Onuaku had some nice hook shots, but I think his turnovers kept him on the bench longer.

What did they not do, that I said they needed to? I must be a prophet! I said they must contain Landry. That after being shut down in game 1, he’d come out hungry and have a good game. Well, how’s 35 points for you? Fortunately, McNeal matched his 35. Also, free throws could’ve won the game sooner, though they were a little better, I think. TURNOVERS are still high and out of hand. Cousin couldn’t show us any more, because he was in jeans still hurt from the last game, so no dice there. Hopefully he’ll be ready after an extra day of rest with the rest of the team to bring their energy against the Iowa Energy.

What did they do? Well, Roby seemed aggressive, but more under control. I think he only had one offensive foul. I also saw far less petty fouls that turned into possible 3 pt. plays for Reno. My philosophy is that if you’re going to foul, foul hard. Don’t let them get a bucket and a free throw. Make ’em beat you on the line. I saw a couple of arm wrap-arounds to impeded an easy layup and Reno could not convert the plays.

What are some areas to improve upon from the last game? A couple of things, from my perspective. The zone seemed to work well for a while, creating some breaks. Except for when someone would sneak back behind it for an easy dunk. Also, many times while in the zone, NO ONE boxed out. This created several points for Reno on second attempts. In man to man, it’s easy to box out. In a zone, you have to intentionally find someone to box them out. They did not. One last little comment regarding Atchley. He’s known as a catch and shoot guy and very effective at this. But at 6-10, he’s got to play like a big man too. A couple of times he grabbed some big offensive boards, and immediate looked to outlet back out beyond the arc. He was open to go right back up with it! Some food for thought.

By the way, the last time the Vipers lost was Thabeet’s 7th and last game with them. Since he was recalled, the team is 4 – 0! (Read my post “Give Thabeet Thaboot” about him.)

That’s about it, for me. I’ll be at the arena for game 1. Put that game in the books with a W, but please, do it in less dramatic fashion! Then I’ll watch on futurecast as you play in Iowa and defend your title. Go Vipers!

What the Vipers must do.

April 18, 2011 1 comment

The RGV Vipers squeaked by the Reno Bighorns in an exciting nail-biter of a game. Round 2 game 1 is in the books and my wife almost had a heart-attack in the stands. The game should not have gone to over time. If my memory serves me, Reno did not ever lead late in the game until 89-88.  This having led 86-73! They were 6-10 points behind the Vipers most of the game. After the game I gave Daryl Morey, the Rockets GM, the “whew” sign. He put his hand on my shoulder. I said, “At least it’s a W!” He said they’d take it.

The good thing is that now the ball is in their court, so to say, as they play on the road in Reno on Wednesday. The awesome home crowd won’t be there, but it’s Reno who will have the pressure of a must win. They’ll come hungry and ready and with the crowd behind them. What do the Vipers need to do to win?

Here are some of my thoughts, in no particular order. Marcus Landry is a DLeague all-star. He had an off night tonight. He looked better down the stretch, but still was off. That usually means that he’ll have a good next game. Contain him again. Don’t let him get hot behind the arc. Similarly, we had guys who had an off night tonight- mainly Matt Janning. Coach Finch has been starting Matt Janning instead of Richard Roby lately and playing well. Tonight, he only had one bucket, a layup.  He needs his confidence back to start draining those 3-balls. Terrel Harris only made 1 of 4 threes, but it was almost like Winder’s game winner in the finals last year! Atchley was cold from beyond the arc and Mouhammad Faye as well. This needs to change. Roby as well needs to attack the rim, but under control. Too many charges.

MAKE FREE TRHOWS! Stay aggressive defensively. Jon Scheyer’s defense is mentioned as being the one thing he needs to improve on.  He and the rest of the team played some very good defense. Connor Atchley fouled out. 2 of those fouls looked like clean blocks! Roby fouled out and 2 of those were offensive fouls with shots going in.  Aggression, without fouling! And if you do foul, foul hard!! Don’t let them make the bucket. So many times tonight, Reno had and 1 opportunities because of weak fouls.

Get Patrick Sullivan going. He plays with passion. He’s been a back seat to Patterson, then Adrien, and sadly to Thabeet for 7 games. They are 3-0 without Thabeet! Move the ball around, take it inside and Sully will put up great numbers for you, whether it be 1st option or trash points.

Jerrel McNeal was great and a leader. Scheyer too. Smart play wins games. Refs will miss calls or botch what should be no calls, but you can’t control that. The Viper had twice as many turnovers than Reno did (18-9). RGV many times this season has built a lead and loss it. Rebounding was good. They out rebounded a bigger Reno team 58-41 and must keep it up.

I think one more thing that needs to happen is to get newly assigned Marcus Cousin involved some more. He’s new to the system. Having played most of the season in Austin, he may not be used to the sets being run by his new team. He is, however, a DLeague all-star, and it’s time to play like one for the Vipers. Hopefully his injury sustained during the game that sent him to the locker room is not one that will have long term effects!

That’s this fans take on tonight’s “ugly” win, but a W nonetheless. Hopefully some of the items I bring up get taken care of in the next game. If so, a sweep of #2 and NBA experienced Reno is a very possible outcome. Go Vipers!

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