...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
5/29/06 - Pistons 78-89 Heat - Heat lead 3-1
It's times like this when I wish I really knew basketball. I mean, I know that if you shoot from behind the line it's three points and you have to shoot within 24 seconds and all that stuff, but that level of knowledge is insufficient to explain what's going on in Miami. Watching the Pistons go down fairly helplessly in the last two games -- trailing the whole way, making one push that only serves to increase the pain of the loss -- would be somehow mitigated if I could whip out some obvious reasons. This is probably an after-effect from football season; in retrospect Michigan's losses were more tolerable when one could scream "ack! Pat Masssey." With the Pistons I am forced to shrug and blither, which is no fun at all.
I do know these things:
- Emotionally, I have turned against Flip Saunders something fierce. The ABC/ESPN coverage is wont to linger over the coaches' expressions after every play of consequence, and when they do Saunders gives off a very Bobby Williams-esque vibe. He appears pensive, biting his lip, probably thinking "God, I hope they don't fire me." By contrast, Riley looks like he's going to order a hit on the refs and Shandon Anderson, but not before he gets in some good Joe-Pesci-in-Casino bat action on them. This is where the knowledge would come in handy, as with it I could confirm or dis-confirm my emotional reaction.
- The Pistons are not in a shooting slump any more than the teams the Pistons faced when Carlisle and Brown found suddenly found themselves in a shooting slump. They're not getting quality shots -- no fast break points, lots of contested jumpers, seemingly all of them from Lindsey Hunter, and very few easy buckets at the rim. I don't know if it's the players or the coaching, but the offense has devolved into a one-on-one thing where the Pistons are often faced with an iso way away from the basket with the clock running down.
- Ben has not impacted the game and his free throw shooting has gone from atrocious to a war crime. He's hired an agent. He's offering snippy comments to the press. I need a hug.
- This does not feel like a series the Pistons can come back from.
That last comment is the most telling and disturbing. I hate this losing stuff on a variety of levels, but since people actually started reading this thing the worst part is having to sit down and not call for assassinations. I try to keep an artificially even keel when things are in progress but going badly; when the need for a post-mortem arises one shall be given. This is not that time. Yet.
4/27/06 - Pistons 83-98 Heat - Pistons down 2-1
I only just resisted titling this post "Is Flip Saunders An Idiot?" because it seems clear that a man who is paid more money than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes can't be all 'tard, but... there's a strong chance Flip Saunders is an idiot in some sense. If you did a Family Feud-style survey with the question "Who Is Going To Defend Dwyane Wade in the conference finals?" survey would say:
- What are you talking about? You want a mango? I am from France. (37)
- Um... I don't know his name, but probably the guy who looks like a heavily abused Stretch Armstrong doll? (34)
- Tayshaun Prince, you idiot. (31)
The third opinion would be given to you by anyone with even a smattering of NBA knowledge all the way up to, say, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant, players of Wade's bionic shooting guard ilk who have run up against Stretch and who -- if not exactly stopped -- have been decently contained. Tayshaun is popularly regarded as the Kobe-Lebron-McGrady-Wade stopper, one of the few players in the league with both the size and the quickness to stop the NBA's unstoppable. Only an idiot or an expert would do anything other than stick Tayshaun on Wade and forget about it.
An expert? Si. A while ago, Bill Simmons sat down to talk/email($ -- archive) with writer, public intellectual, and spectacular jew-fro* possessor Malcolm Gladwell for his "Curious Guy" series. During this exchange the curious blindness of expertise was brought up during a discussion about -- you guessed it -- Isiah Thomas. Gladwell immodestly proposes that he would be a better GM than Thomas. He backs up his assertion like so:
So why do I think I would be better? There's a famous experiment done by a wonderful psychologist at Columbia University named Dan Goldstein. He goes to a class of American college students and asks them which city they think is bigger -- San Antonio or San Diego. The students are divided. Then he goes to an equivalent class of German college students and asks the same question. This time the class votes overwhelmingly for San Diego. The right answer? San Diego. So the Germans are smarter, at least on this question, than the American kids. But that's not because they know more about American geography. It's because they know less. They've never heard of San Antonio.
And now horrible, horrible San Antonio intrudes upon us once again whenever Dwyane Wade is astounded to find Tayshaun Prince guarding someone else.
In last year's conference finals, Dwyane Wade shot 44 percent and scored just under 24 points a game with Prince checking him every step of the way. That's good, though it was probably aided somewhat by Wade's rib injury. But Wade is a scary mofo who shot 48 percent from the field a year ago and 49.5 this year. If you can get 44 percent you take it and run. Go ahead, guess at Wade's shooting percentage through three games in the conference finals. No, that's too low. That's also too low. Just give up.
68.8 percent. Sixty-eight point eight.
Some of that is a fluke based on small sample size, but when Wade is pulling up for his uncontested WadeJumper(tm) he is not even troubled by Hamilton's presence. Riley is beating Saunders' head in with one simple adjustment: going big. With Antoine Walker and Udonis Haslem in the game, the Pistons line up Rasheed Wallace against Haslem, Prince against Walker, and Rip against Wade. Wade shoots 70 percent; Wallace's role on defense is to watch Haslem do nothing; Prince struggles against Walker like he does against most players who are 50 pounds heavier than him. None of this makes any sense. Gladwell sounds the bell for the sports fan who can't believe how... why... aaargh:
The point is that knowledge and the ability to make a good decision correlate only sporadically, and there are plenty of times when knowledge gets in the way of judgement.
It's a cold comfort.
*(I'm not sure if Gladwell is Jewish or not, but his hair damn well is.)
No column-type thing, as I have many things to say, all of them disjointed. Thus we resort to your standard "musings" or "thoughts" post. No doubt these are "random."
- One is inclined to like the concept of Dick Bavetta. He is an NBA referee at the ripe old age of seven hundred and forty-two. I'm sure somewhere in the Bible it says "And Bavetta begat Hastor." He's the definition of the word "spry," and it's always handy to have a platonic ideal wandering around in case you run into foreigners having difficulty with the langauge. Despite having all the aforementioned oldness about him, though, he makes calls with a simple, childlike enthusiasm. To translate Bavetta into sarcastic internet speak:
OMG OMG OMG Pistons ball out of bounds LOL.
This is all very entertaining.
- HOWEVER, when Cute Old NBA Referee and his merry band of travelling minstrels flash back to the days when there wasn't a no-charge circle under the net, ignore requests for timeout, or pretend to not notice James Posey getting very up-close-and-prison with Chauncey Billups in the waning moments of a game that's within two points because you ignored a request for a timeout, well, it is very annoying.
- The difference was night and day, but then we got quite a bit of night at the end again. What? Compare the Pistons offense from the waning days of the Cavs series and Game 1 with what we saw up until about the third quarter tonight. There's been quite a bit of debate about whether the Pistons were just missing open shots or if they weren't executing their offense as well. I think it's some of both, but with an emphasis on the latter. The Pistons sometimes get into funks where they stand around until the shot clock is down to about ten and then rely on a one-on-one play to score. Since they are not in possession of a Shaq, Wade, Lebron, or any of the other genetic lottery winners that can get something useful at a whim, this is extremely damaging. They require the movement, penetration, and kick stuff to get open shots.
- A side effect of not having a spectacular one-on-one player is that the Pistons seem to have major trouble when opponents switch all their screens, since it lures them into that iso-exploit-the-mismatch game that causes everyone to stand around, watching one guy work.
- 50% less crap... 50% less crap... so you only get a few sentences on Lindsey Hunter and his totally incorrect notion that he should be shooting contested threes with time on the shot clock. For that, Linsdey Hunter, you get this:
- His name is Prince and, as the turbaned man's Best Sign Ever said, he is funky. I don't have much add. I love Prince's quiet efficiency, his range, his swooping drives, and his ability to block everything from three-pointers to the entire Indiana Pacers franchise (seriously: from that moment on the team that seemed poised to dominate the East for five years has slumped to mediocrity). I also love that he reminds me of a pterodactyl.
(Does anyone have that picture somewhere? I desperately need it.)
- They are giving Ben the same respect they gave Jason Collins and are calling Shaq when he attepts to make pate out of Ben's jaw with his elbow. And as a result, Ben is doing a great job on Shaq, stats aside. Most of Shaq's points were off wide open dunks that other players created for him by forcing Ben to rotate. All night Shaq's hooks were six inches to a foot short because Ben had him juuuust that much out of his comfort zone. I have privately worried that Ben has been slipping and have had deeply panicked internal monologues about it: last night was soothing.
- We all know ESPN is violent death as a sports broadcast, but really, that awful camera angle with the sliding camera that's way too close to see the corners and at an angle in which you can't understand anyone's movement is beyond even my expectations for their stupidity. As King Kaufman always says, "show the game."
- Hubie Brown has no short-term memory. That is all.
Most annoying was the Posey stuff, since at any other time in the game he would have been called for a foul and everyone would have been like "yes, that is obviously a foul," but for some reason they got all NHL playoff ref on us.
Also, a note: the pregame/halftime guys annoy me even when I am fast-forwarding past them. (I have had to tape the Piston games the last two nights, as they are being shown simultaneously with Edmonton Oiler games and ESPN keeps telling me what the score is when I try to watch basketball first.)
Seeing someone wearing an OSU sweatshirt in the library is already an alarming experience akin to seeing an Amish elder in an arcade. You cannot use any of the objects in this building, so why are you here?
- To play Oregon Trail.
- To check out the free movies.
- To head to the kiddie section, pull up some porn, and yank it.
If you chose Door Number C, you are a very, very sick person. You're also absolutely correct:
It's official: I am worried that Flip Saunders is a regular season mirage and he is INFECTING the Pistons with his postseason MALAISE. (Awesome SYSTEM used for EMPHASIS a direct result of Chris RIX making me into a CHAMPION.) Why no the shooty straight? Why all the contested jumpers? Ach.
Update 5/24: Added MI OL Mike VanDerBergen, who has a profile with Michigan leading but still is without an offer -- looks like a make-or-break camp for him -- and OH S Diaunte Morrow. Moved Jerimy Finch to committed (sort of). Linked to article on OH CB Jordan Mabin -- much hype for a guy with only one real offer thus far. Linked to an article on CO WR Drew Davis and some Helmuth track exploits and Marshall Jones profile from Scout.
Editorial Opinion: Many people now have offers who I know nothing about. Marshall Jones, a big-shot safety recruit from Clausenville, previously mentioned a top three of USC, Michigan, and Tennessee but now seems like a safe bet to stay on the West Coast. There is a new, well-heeled suitor:
"I really like Oregon," said Jones, of Oaks Christian High School. "They offered a couple of months ago. I went up there for a visit with my teammate Mike Ebbit last month. The campus is really nice and their facilities are amazing. They're the nicest I've seen by far. The coaches are really cool. I've talked to Coach (Steve) Greatwood a few times and he said I have a good chance to play early there. I'm thinking about taking a couple more visits up there this summer."
Jones now lists a top five of Oregon, USC, Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan. As for Michigan:
"I'm looking at Michigan too. I don't know a lot about the program. I've talked to Coach (Ron) English. He said he's coming out here soon. I haven't been to see the campus yet. I think I'm going to take a visit out there this summer.
Still in it if he visits, but this seems like those guys from Texas on NCAA 2006 that list Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, SMU, and Baylor. Distance, as they say, is a factor.
Colorado wide receiver Drew Davis was very, very interested in Michigan at some point in the middle of his junior year when the sites had a couple articles about him, but Michigan hasn't come through with an offer yet and thus the interest has scaled back. Davis put on an impressive show at some combine or another and was deluged with Pac-10 and Big 12 offers as a result, but appears to be waiting it out:
"I have not really gotten that 'big school' offer I am waiting for," Davis said to Scout.com's Andrew Friedman. "I am looking forward to a USC or Michigan-type offer. Both those schools have told me that they don't like offering guys this early because usually when they offer this early, the kids will commit, and they need to make sure they are offering the right players. I totally understand that so I am being patient."
DE signee Greg Banks was a teammate of Davis.
When FB commit Vince Helmuth says "I trust him as far as I can throw him," he means it as a compliment:
Saline won four events at the River Rat meet, the discus, shot put, and the 400- and 800-meter relays. Vince Helmuth took first in the shot with a heave of 54-11, while the Hornet junior claimed first in the discus with a throw of 182-0.
Returning to the vast, information-laden plains of the Internet after a significant time off is always a terrifying experience, especially when Bloglines shows you posts in the mid-four digits. As such, I am awash in a sea of virtual paper, attempting to figure out just what the hell happened over the last five days, ruthlessly skimming things that deserve much more. I transcribe my attempts to figure out things below.
What did happen?
OMG Pistons. Check. Covered.
OMG Oilers. Up 2-0 and cruising against Anaheim. Edmonton's main drag is mass chaos; Northern Alberta declares martial law; girlfriend endorses playoff beard. Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!
OMG Baseball. Won the Big Ten championship and by virtue of said feat will host the conference playoffs, which start tomorrow. Michigan faces the winner of Minnesota and Illinois at seven on Thursday... MGoBlog field trip?
OMG Softball. Jennie Ritter and company won their regional and now head to the super regional against Tennessee -- EDSBS would like to remind you that Phil Fulmer is very, very fat -- this weekend. Games are Saturday and Sunday at noon and one, respectively, on ESPN.
The softball field will be expanded from its current 1,300 seat base to a whopping 3,100 seats.
Will Michigan be the first school in the country with better average attendance at softball games than men's basketball? And would we get some sort of Title IX plaque commemorating such an achievement?
Just plain OMG. Further proving that no matter the topic, there is a sportswriter somewhere who will take an asinine stance for attention, Matt Hayes gets out his chide-stick and applies it to Michigan fans for being crabby about Carr; Winged Helmet's affiliated blog takes the chide-stick and batters old horseface with it. I'm not against Lloyd Carr, but I am against both ignorance and its earth-bound avatar Matt Hayes.
Not OMG At All. Someone at Michigan State was booted from the team for felony possession of a controlled substance. This time it's defensive back Cole Corey.
OMG Box. Hur hur hur.
Er. The regents approved Bill Martin's diabolical plan to
slaughter an orphanage renovate Michigan stadium. Noted man-who-hypnotizes-newspapers John Pollack: displeased. Joey: ready to defecate down the esophagus of Pollack's beheaded corpse.