Sunday, August 31, 2008

Anyway, I just love how Houston . . .

. . . is always expected to be better than / beat the Jazz when it counts. (When was the last time this happened? 1994-1995?)The last two seasons Houston has had home court and still lost. How can anyone forget these moments?

It's on me!
Is it still on him? The stink of being a loser? Yeah.
Where getting out of the first round




doesn't happen.

. . . but wait . . . this season will be different! Honest!

79.2% of people are absolutely insane

ESPN.COM recently asked their 25 member NBA staff to rank the teams from top to bottom in each conference. The Jazz managed to snag the 4th over-all spot and are predicted to win 51 games next season. If this was a prediction for 2006-2007 that would be spot on. How accurate is this as a prediction for 2008-2009? Probably highly inaccurate at best as the Jazz were an absolutely horrible road team last season, were very flawed, and still managed to win 54 games. Furthermore, the vast majority of ESPN's Sportsnation (they allow you to vote on these things, you see) believes that this prediction (51 wins) is either on the money or too high. How many people is this? I don't know, but only 20.8% of people think that 51 wins is too low for the Jazz.

So basically the Utah Jazz are going to regress after being a year older and wiser, and getting a great backup PG (for the price of Jason Hart), and a few young 7 footers -- either that, or ESPN, their "Experts" and 79.2% of their Sportsnation are flat out insane.

Anyway, here is just as a short refresher course on the Jazz' recent history:

* 2004-2005 (26 wins) -- AK and Boozer are injured for the majority of the season, the Jazz end up paying guys like Curtis Borchardt, Randy Livingston, Ben Handlogten and Aleksandar Radojevic money to fill out a roster for a team that is lead (in total points) by Matt Harpring for a season. Among other crazy stats that season the Jazz had 5 different point guards start at least one game: Keith McLeod (47 games), Carlos Arroyo (16 games), Raul Lopez (15 games), Randy Livingston (4 games) and Howard Eisley (1 game).

* 2005-2006 (41 wins) -- Boozer misses yet another season while the resurgent Utah Jazz miss the playoffs by 1 win as they are lead by Mehmet Okur (18.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and the outstanding Andrei Kirilenko (15.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.3 apg, 3.2 bpg, 1.5 spg). Over the summer the Jazz traded up in the NBA Draft and selected Deron Williams with the #3 pick, yet Keith McLeod and Milt Palacio still manage to start a combined 50 games this season.

* 2006-2007 (51 wins) -- The Utah Jazz remain mostly healthy this season and win the division and end up winning 9 playoff games in their first trip back to the post season since the Stockton and Malone days. Carlos Boozer had a great season (20.9 ppg, 56.1 fg%, 11.7 rpg) while Andrei has a stinker (8.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.1 bpg, 1.1 spg) when compared to this production (as a point forward) the previous season. Deron Williams also breaks out for 16.2 ppg and 9.3 apg -- second best in the league that season.

* 2007-2008 (54 wins) -- This past season had the Jazz dominating teams at home, and losing to some absolutely crappy teams on the road -- but still increased their season win total from last season to 54 wins and won another division title. This team finally got rid of Gordan Giricek (good player, wrong fit for this team) and tweaked the line-up a bit as Ronnie Brewer (in his 2nd season) became the full time starter at the two and responded with 12.0 ppg (55.8 fg%) while chipping in 2.9 rpg, 1.8 apg and 1.7 spg in less than 28 mpg. The Jazz lost to the eventual Western Conference Champions in a tough 6 game series in the second round of the playoffs.

Unless ESPN has some sort of parabola idea (i.e. the season after the 51 wins we go back down to 41 wins, and then 26), then this makes little sense. You don't have to be John Hollinger to understand how to read this. How do we go back down to 51?

So . . . it's obvious that the Jazz are going to win less games this season, even though every season the Jazz get more experienced and play better while the roster improves. None of our starters are 30, and we added Brevin Knight (who never turns the ball over) to be a part of our 2nd unit. None of that matters because of Ron Artest now plays in Houston, and uh, Chris Paul has dreamy eyes! Therefore, the Jazz will not win, at least, as many games as last season. We have made few headline breaking moves this season. Also, apparently, none of our young players will get better, if Deron Williams can go from being a 2nd year player to a guy who averages a double double in the NBA Playoffs then that obviously indicates that the Jazz draft players who do not project to improve -- hence, Ronnie Brewer will not improve from what he has become after 2 seasons in the NBA. Same deal with Paul Millsap (who could start for a lot of teams), C.J. Miles, Morris Almond, Kosta Koufos and Kyrylo Fesenko.

Woe is us . . . back down to 51 wins this season. Right ESPN? Either that, or fire your "Experts"

Round One: Fight!!!'s "expert" picks for the 1st round of the 2006-2007 NBA playoffs -- Utah won the series in 7 games.
Round 2: Fight!!!'s "expert" picks for the 2nd round of the 2006-2007 NBA playoffs -- Utah won the series in 5 games.

A special shout-out to the fan who created those images and posted them on the Internet! Thanks!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Flashback Friday: Remembering Duckworth


This last week we lost another large part of my youth as a basketball fan to the passage of time.

On Monday Kevin Duckworth passed due to complications of congestive heart failure. How old was he? Rather, how young was he? He died at the age of 44 -- which we all can agree, is just too soon to go.

Many bloggers have already discussed the event, their reactions to it, along with their memories of Duck.

Now I throw my hat in the ring as well.

  Kevin Duckworth Tribute [3:54] The best picture is the one with the deer. Such a gentle man, sad to see him taken from us so soon.

As a die hard Utah Jazz fan there are several franchises out there they I find it very hard to root for / feel sorry for when bad things happen to them. The first one would have to be the Los Angeles Lakers -- as they have (so far) book ended my career as a Jazz fan with 2nd round defeats (first a 7 Game series back in 1987-1988 and most recently in 2007-2008). The second team would have to be the Chicago Bulls -- as they defeated Utah in the finals twice -- partly due to some dubious calls (Game 6 of the Finals in '98 for example). The last one would be the Portland Trailblazers (though the Denver Nuggets and Charlotte New Orleans Hornets are getting up there). [Additionally the San Antonio Spurs have earned their own personal layer of hell in my heart, and don't fit into this equation.]

I still vividly remember the Jazz getting eaten up by Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Buck Williams and crew back in the 1990-1991 season, and how the Jazz lost in the West Finals to that Portland team (a team that featured Kevin Duckworth) again the next season in 1991-1992. Then Portland took the Jazz out a few seasons later in 1998-1999 -- and ended Jeff Hornacek's career in the 2nd round.

That said, losing Kevin Duckworth cannot make anyone, save for the greatest Portland hater happy.

I watched him play for many seasons and he just looked, moved and acted differently than other members of the Jailblazers Franchise. He was a starter on some very good teams and while he never averaged a double double in his career (that was over a decade long), he was an All-Star twice. He did average over 20 and 10 in the playoffs one season (1987-1988) though. As the Blazers continued to get better, and gather better talent, he appeared to be the weak link in their starting lineup. (Terry Porter, Clyde Drexler, Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams and Duck) Eventually he became a pariah and was not always loved by the fans (which conflicts with the revised story that they apparently always loved him, which came out after he died). I seemed like a really nice, Type B personality guy who for whatever reason, ended up playing basketball as well as he could -- but that was hardly good enough for some people. In that regard he reminds me of how fans, coaches and players treated Greg Ostertag. He was doing his best, but giving your all wasn't good enough sometimes.

Duckworth throws it down!

One great moment in time that I look back at happened on some TV game back in the early 90's. The Blazers were well on their way to winning the game. Their coach (Rick Adleman) was taking out the starters in slow waves and the home crowd gave each a healthy applause. The TV crew working the game (including Bill Walton and Steve Snapper Jones) concluded that he was leaving Duckworth for last because he had been playing spectacularly well -- and deserved the positive ego boost of hearing the crowd cheering him for his good work.

It was a grand gesture that would have made Duckworth happy -- and even though I hated the Blazers, the thought of him -- the underdog -- getting his day in the sun, made me happy.

Unfortunately there would be no happy ending, as after all the starters (save Duckworth) were on the bench and the celebrations started Adleman called a time-out, and Duckworth was substituted out in this manner -- he never got a chance to hear his name called over the arena PA system, he never got his applause, he never got the love that he deserved. And that really sucks.

The only other great Duckworth memory that I have was back when my brother and I would play video games together. We happened to be playing NBA Live '95 on the computer. He was using the keyboard, and I was playing with the mouse (which you can imagine was very hard to do). We were the Washington Bullets and playing against a much better team. It was a close game and many people had fouled out. I controlled Kevin Duckworth with the mouse, and as time was ticking down was able to push the computer's ball handler out of bounds (without a foul being called), thus giving us a final chance to win the game. (Which we did with a Rex Chapman buzzer beating three)

Anyway, Duckworth had career averages of 11.8 ppg (46.8 fg%, 73.6 ft%) and 5.8 rpg. His best seasons were between 1987-1988 and 1990-1991 where he scored at least 16 ppg every year and played around 30 mpg. He was an important cog in several NBA Final's teams, and did a great deal for the community after his death. I am sad to see him go. Why couldn't God have taken Bonzi Wells instead?

R.I.P. Kevin Duckworth.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

10 Things other Point Guards do better than Deron Williams, and why.

Deron Williams hungers for respect Utah, as Kenny Smith tells me every game I play as the Jazz in NBA 2k8, took a lot of heat for picking Deron Williams back when Chris Paul was on the board still -- waaay back in the 2005 NBA Draft. It looked like a poor choice after their rookie seasons ended.

However, Deron seems to doing just fine for himself. That said, let's look at the other point guards in the league, and try to figure out why they do things better than Deron -- is it a talent issue, or something else entirely?

[All statistics are from the 2007-2008 regular season, unless noted otherwise.] Each category displays what a leader in that category achieves, and how Deron fares in comparison.

Furthermore an examination of how the other top Point guards fared in direct comparison to one another in the playoffs follows. You may just be surprised to see who came out on top over-all.

Probably if you are among the same people who were surprised at Deron Williams' record result during the NBA All-Star Skills Competition . . . presented by Playstation.
Photographed by: Getty Images/NBAE  

1. Points --

Baron shoots the ball enough times to score more than any other point guard

Baron Davis: 21.8 ppg (.426, 7.9-17.9 FGM-FGA)

Deron Williams: 18.8 ppg (.505, 6.9-13.6 FGM-FGA) (#3 pg)

Baron scored the most out of any point guard in the NBA last season -- though he was far from the most efficient scorer. He shoots the ball 18 times to score 22 points. That's basically Nellie ball at it's best (worst?). Deron Williams doesn't shoot as much, but shoots much smarter shots, he's one of the few Point Guards to have a fg% greater than 50%. Deron can score just as much as Baron, as the box scores of their 2nd round match-up in 2006-2007 clearly show. In this playoffs Deron upped his scoring per game to 21.0 ppg . . . while Baron Davis was unable to get his team there. A guy like Davis would have trouble in Sloan system. Deron can score with the best of them in any system.

Photographed by: Rocky Widner, NBAE/Getty Images  

2. Field-Goal shooting --

Jose rarely takes an ill-advised shot

Jose Manuel Calderon: 51.9%

Deron Williams: 50.7% (#2 pg, #1 pg who has taken 1000+ shots in the 2007-2008 season)

Jose came off the bench last season to be a highly effective point guard, and ended up splitting time with T.J. Ford. This season Jose will be the starter as T.J. was shipped off to Indiana. You don't shoot the ball at a 52% clip if you take bad shots. Nothing in Jose's game is really forced as he is very unselfish and easily a Top 10 point guard in the league. It doesn't hurt when you don't shoot a lot of shots -- but perhaps this will change as he gets more playing time this season. Deron is no slouch when it comes to playing a control game and taking good shots. He did have to change his role during the playoffs from a primary distributor to a primary scoring weapon . . . and that affected his FG%. He's still pretty awesome for scoring so efficiently while taking over 1100+ shots.


3. Three point shooting --

Steve Nash is money from downtown

Steve Nash: 47.0 3PT%, 2.2 3PTM/Game

Deron Williams: 39.5 3PT%, 1.0 3PTM/Game (#12 pg, #3 in PGs who score 15+ ppg)

How good is Steve Nash from deep? Just a point of reference here . . . Nash shoots better from three than Baron Davis (the top PG in terms of PPG) does over-all. Deron Williams has been a pretty good three point shooter in his career (usually around 40%), but Nash shot nearly 50% last season. That is truly spectacular. Nash takes a lot of quick shots during transition and the early stages of an aborted half court attack. This is partly due to the Phoenix Suns' offensive attack, and partly due to Nash (he knows his talents, and he used to play this way back in Dallas as well). Deron Williams is strong from deep, and is quite clutch from three as well. He's a smart player, but his true potential for bombing is slightly curtailed by Jerry Sloan's penchant for avoiding shooting the three almost as much as Vampires avoid having wooden stakes in their hearts. When you limit the field to only point guards who score 15+ ppg, Deron goes from being the 12th best to the 3rd best at three point shooting. This is a huge jump that removes a lot of specialists. Deron's complete game includes the three. As a top level PG you have to score at least that much, and keep defenses honest with a three point shot.

Photographed by: Roy Dabner/AP Photo  

4. Free Throw Attempts / Game --

I get to the line for a variety of reasons . . . skill, experience, veteran savvy . . . and being a champion surely doesn't hurt

Chauncey Billups: 5.6 FTA / Game

Deron Williams: 5.0 FTA / Game (#3 pg)

Getting to the free throw line is an art form for some. It is a true product of veteran savvy and skill. It doesn't hurt if you are a star player who has a ring and a finals MVP trophy to show off time to time. (Those who don't usually resort to flopping, or their sense of entitlement) Deron Williams doesn't have the credentials of a Billups, the flopping of a San Antonio, or the world on a platter that Chris Paul does -- but what he does have is an ability to drive to the basket, be a physical point guard, absorb contact and go to the line 0.6 times less than the top man in the league at his position. While I never expect Deron to get those 'Chris Paul calls', I do expect that as he gains more playoff experience and exposure that his FTA/game will only go up as well.

Photographed by: Roy Dabner/AP Photo  

5. Assists --

White people love to pass, according to the internet.

Steve Nash: 11.1

Deron Williams: 10.5 (#3 pg)

Steve Nash may not be the apg king of the NBA any longer, but he's still one of the best. For the second straight season Deron Williams finishes right below Nash when it comes to dropping dimes. Nash plays only 34 mpg, but the style of play of his club is one where they push the pace of the game and there are more assists to be had. I know Nash is a great point guard, but how many assists per game would he get in a ball control, slow tempo offense? (Not unlike what the Jazz used to run when John Stockton was getting older) Deron Williams leads a very efficient Utah attack as well, but Nash has better offensive weapons to pass to. (Amare, Shaq, Raja Bell and Barbosa are better scorers than Boozer, Memo, Andrei and Ronnie Brewer) That said, 0.6 less apg isn't that big of a deal in the big picture. In the 2008 Playoffs Nash and Deron's rankings were flipped, with Deron being #2, & Nash #3. Nash will always remain a much flashier passer though.


6. Assist to Turn Over Ratio --

Taking care of the ball is kinda what I do

Jose Manuel Calderon: 5.38 Ast/TO

Deron Williams: 3.09 Ast/TO (#13 pg, #6 in PGs who play 30+ mpg)

I'm sorry, but Jose's Ast:To ratio is just insanely high. He just takes care of the ball very well. Deron isn't even in the Top 10 of this for the regular season . . . but when you eliminate all the point guards who play less than 30+ mpg then he's 6th best in the league. That's not that bad, the magic number for point guards has always been that 3:1 ratio, and Deron satisfies that requirement. Jose rarely makes a mistake on offense as he's the NBA leader among point guards in FG% and Ast:TO ratio. So he gets major props from me. It's that much more impressive when you factor in that Jose has to sometimes pass the ball to guys like Kris Humphries. On the same wavelength, Deron's turn overs would be severely reduced if Jerry Sloan cut Matt Harpring's playing time.


7. Rebounds --

I shouldn't have to be doing this shit no more, i'm almost 40

Jason Kidd: 7.5 rpg

Deron Williams: 3.0 rpg (#12 pg)

Jason Kidd, at 6'5, is a great rebounding point guard. He has a nose for the ball, he seems to always be in the right place, and more than anything else that we can attribute to Jason himself, he's played with some of the worst rebounding bigmen ever in his career. Who is the best he's played with, Kenyon Martin? Has he ever been in the Top 10 this millennium? Deron Williams, on the other hand, has had to take whatever he can get when it comes to boards has he has Boozer (11+ rpg), Okur (9+ rpg), Kirilenko (8+ rpg), Harpring (8 rpg), Millsap (6 rpg) on his team to do all of that for him. [N.B. these are career highs showing rebound potentials] I'm certain that if asked to, Deron could board more -- especially if he was on a different team. Look at Chris Paul -- his power forward (David West) gets 8 rpg. Boozer gets over 10 rpg. Paul has to make up some of the difference.

Photographed by: Rick Havner/AP Photo  

8. Steals --

Must . . . steal . . . ball . . .

Chris Paul: 2.71 spg

Deron Williams: 1.10 spg (#14 pg)

Flat out, Chris Paul is an amazing steals guy. He is very quick and is an absolute terror in the passing lanes. You don't luck into getting nearly 3 spg -- it's a talent that you have. Some guys have it, others do not. Still, others could be okay steals guys, but don't have the green light on defense to roam around getting them. I don't think that John Stockton was the best man-to-man defender ever, but he has the league record for Steals. Why? Because for a large part of his career, Stockton basically played free safety for the Jazz on defense while the paint was anchored by Mark Eaton and Greg Ostertag. That allowed him the liberty to go for steals and play aggressively like that. If he was burned, Big Mark would send the shot back. Chris Paul benefits from having Tyson Chandler around. That doesn't mean that Paul only gets steals because he has a big man watching the paint -- it means that Paul can cheat a bit more than guys on other teams could have. For a point of reference, Deron Williams scored higher during the pre-draft combine on some agility drills than Paul did -- but he has Mehmet Okur watching the paint -- so he can't go for steals, he has to stay on the ball handler at all times. If Deron had a better defensive bigman protecting the basket I'm sure he could cheat for more steals -- but surely nothing like 2.7+ spg.


9. Blocks --

Yeah, that's right fellas . . . three times last night

Marko Jaric: 0.43 bpg

Deron Williams: 0.28 bpg (#5 pg)

Okay, Marko is 6'7 and Deron is 6'3 . . . I'm okay that Deron isn't the best shot blocking point guard in the NBA -- Top 5 isn't bad at all. My question is: does Marko get extra points for being the most hated cock-blocker on the Internet? Seriously? Adriana Lima? WTF?

Photographed by: Danny Moloshok / Reuters  

10. Double Doubles --

CP3 is the double double king . . . so far . . .

Chris Paul: 56

Deron Williams: 52 (#2 pg)

CP just edges out Deron for this one . . . and it's really no surprise. Chris Paul had an amazing 2007-2008 season, and nothing can take that away from him. Deron, on the other hand, had a ton of 8 or 9 assist games (13 actually), that resulted in Jerry Sloan sitting him without him getting the requires stats to be self-satisfied. (Similar to how he'd continually sit John Stockton when Stock would have 20+ assists, but not let him try for the single game record -- it was about the win, and not about the stats for good ol' Jer.) CP, no doubt, had a ton of those games as well, so for all things considered, these two point guards are quite similar in their double-double abilities -- with Chris Paul getting the job done a whopping 4 more times than Deron in a season. In the playoffs Chris had 8 double doubles and 1 game of 9 assists while Deron had 7 double doubles and three games of 9 assists -- basically the same.


Ordinal Ranks?

Regular Season: PPG FG% 3pts FTA APG A:TO RPG SPG BPG Double Doubles Average
Actual 3 3 12 3 3 13 12 14 5 2 6.9
Adjusted 3 1 3 3 3 6 12 14 5 2 5.2

So if you adjust the rankings to include only those point guards who score 15+ ppg, have taken over 1000+ shots in the season and play at least 30+ mpg . . . Deron Williams is clearly a Top 5 Point Guard in the NBA. Keep in mind that his statistics went up during the playoffs, and that's when he really shines. (21.6 ppg, 50.0 3PT%, 10.0 apg, etc.)

2008 Playoffs: PPG FG% 3pts FTA APG A:TO RPG SPG BPG Double Doubles Average
Actual 3 4 1 3 2 9 6 10 2 2 4.2

Over-all, he's one of the top Point guards in the league, and his average of 4.2 is nothing to laugh at; especially when compared to the other Top Guards in the league.

2008 Playoffs: PPG FG% 3pts FTA APG A:TO RPG SPG BPG Double Doubles Average
C. Billups 6 10 11 2 8 5 10 9 16 6 8.3
C. Paul 1 2 23 1 1 1 2 1 11 1 4.4
D. Fisher 12 9 6 9 15 11 15 2 15 8 10.2
D. Williams 3 4 1 3 2 9 6 10 2 2 4.2
J. Calderon 10 6 3 23 4 2 6 21 21 6 10.2
J. Kidd 15 16 4 17 5 6 1 4 1 8 7.7
J. Nelson 4 1 2 7 10 13 4 18 7 8 7.4
R. Rondo 13 9 20 13 6 7 3 3 4 4 8.2
S. Nash 4 5 13 14 3 8 11 14 7 4 8.3
T. Parker 2 3 16 4 7 14 5 7 17 3 7.8

* Some point guards did not qualify for some categories (like Chris Paul for threes), so their total rank was used for point guards (not just the qualifying rank, as they failed to qualify).

Yeah, let's take a look at this, now shall we? Billups, who has attained Sainthood for his playoff performances here in Detroit gets an average ordinal rank of 8.3, which is good enough for a tie for 7th best over-all. Jameer Nelson, on the other hand, had a very strong playoffs statistically (#3 over all), but he's far from the 3rd best point guard who played in the playoffs last season. Chris Paul is clearly one of the top point guards, especially with this metric where his individual ordinal rankings for each of the 10 categories is rarely out of the top 2. That said, his failings do put him below Deron Williams over all by the smallest of margins (4.2 vs. 4.4).

This is fitting, I believe, because it shows something important. Deron is hardly going to be the absolute best at one thing, but he'll be among the best in many things -- perhaps making him the best over-all. When you have a point guard who averages 21 and 10 in the playoffs while shooting 50% from deep you have a pretty good point guard. He may not get as much publicity as someone who appears to be head and shoulders over everyone else (i.e. Chris Paul) -- but in the over-all scheme (hence, the ordinal rankings), Deron Williams seems to be just as good (if not a little bit better). I like to call him The Dominator, but perhaps a more fitting name would be the Gestalt Point Guard, or Voltron, or something like that . . . he's strong in just so many ways that he can beat you -- eventually -- by finding your weakness and exploiting it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The NBA's next target: India. Why India? Why not?



KG at the Taj Mahal in Agra India
Anything is possible? Photo courtesy of Adidas . . . and yes, that's Kevin Garnett in Agra, India
I first heard about this story from a Tom Ziller blog @ the Fanhouse. It's taken me some time to really get my feelings about this subject, obviously so as this story is over a month old now. Really, how conflicted should I be -- my favorite sport to watch on TV is basketball, and I used to live in India and complain about the lack of NBA coverage there. (You can imagine me getting to the hospital late some mornings because I was waiting on ESPN's Java based monster to update the score of some meaningless Jazz/Sonics regular season game back in 2002 -- gotta love that +10:30 time difference)

David Stern has recently been talking up international basketball because of the Olympics. The NBA/China link is quite established, and plans for establishing a basketball league in that nation currently exist.

"[Though] Stern said the [NBA] does not see China as an entry point to Asia. India could be next on the NBA's radar. Stern said NBA officials have met in Beijing with Indian authorities, and the league stages its first Basketball Without Borders events in India this summer. "We think that [India] is a very promising market." (Andrew Bagnato, AP sports writer via. CBC Sports)

Getting involved in China seems like a slam dunk with their large population, potential economic force and active NBA players (Yao and Yi).

David Stern is all smiles.

There are no major Indian basketball players knocking on the door to the NBA like Yao Ming (and others before him) did a few seasons ago. This appears to be a major obstacle for the provincialistic keepers of basketball, if not for the nation of India itself. When people talk about basketball on the international level, no one really even talks about FIBA Asia -- let alone a country that is getting beat down by Quatar and Kazakhstan by a combined 80 points. I guess the point that most detractors have is that a nation that does not display great skills at something may not be a big fan of it. Essentially, if India doesn't produce great basketball players, how will basketball ever be popular there? If I wanted to be smarmy, for a rebuttal I'd suggest that the United States of America seems to be in love with democracy, even if we currently don't really have one. (we live in a republic, deal with it) But let's not go there . . .

India's national basketball team . . . the Young Cagers, apparently. Trideep Rai (12) is their best player, a 6'3 small forward who is true to his name, can hit threes from deep For all of India's historical records in the sport (last place in the 1980 Olympics; btw, Andrei Kirilenko's father-in-law / Masha's dad was on the USSR team in 1980 -- Andrei Lopatov); and apparent disinterest (if you're not playing Cricket, you better get your ass a book and study) -- the Indian subcontinent has one big thing going for it: Potential.

Like the risk/reward system of drafting an unproven high school kid, and how it used to challenge GM's (back when you could draft high school kids on the premise that they could become like a Kobe, KG, or LeBron), the NBA is basically drafting India based on potential. The first, and only really bankable potential that India has right now is the economic potential.

"[India] is the twelfth largest economy in the world, with a GDP of around $1 trillion (2008). It recorded a GDP growth rate of 9.1% for the fiscal year 2007-2008 which makes it the second fastest big emerging economy, after China, in the world." (Wikipedia, 2008)

India has one of the higher natural increase growth rates in the world, and already consists of one sixth of the entire population of the world: China's population is 1.3 billion, India's is 1.1 billion (CIA, 2008). India is on the rise, and there is a lot of money to be made there. Many Multi-national corporations (of which the NBA definitely can be classified as) have been going to India in the last few years -- you see McDonald's and Subway franchises there, Target retail superstores have come to India, and many more such companies have landed, or are planning on doing so in the near future. Adidas opened up stores there and sent Kevin Garnett to India in 2006-2007 to drum up hype.

KG in Delhi: the landing, the announcement, and the spectacle of the Big Ticket as he does everything from signs autographs to watching some Desi pick up ball in a gym. Click to see Agra (Taj Mahal), and Bangalore. Essentially, Adidas made some money.

"Expanding to the world's second most populous market hardly seems loony. After all, no American sports league has exported its brand better than the NBA, which sells more than $750 million in merchandise overseas annually. Its games are broadcast in 215 countries. And India offers a growing, tech-savvy economy with a billion potential consumers -- 60% of whom are below age 30 -- who could sop up NBA merchandise and follow their favorite players on" (Sean Gregory for Time Magazine, 2006)

According to the CIA World Factbook entry on India, there are over 233.62 million cell phones in use there (5th in the world), and over 60 million Internet users (5th in the world). There are 562 TV broadcasting stations as well. That is a lot of potential exposure that the NBA could be getting -- and that exposure almost always results in someone making money. (Which TV exec wouldn't want to make an exclusive TV deal for a potential 1 billion viewers?) Money is reason enough, especially in a nation that proves to be so important in the future (not just as a big market, but as the largest democracy by population in the world, and as a possible pro-Western society that is neither Islamic, nor Socialist -- unlike the other big nations in FIBA Asia). India also has other reasons to be lucrative for David Stern and the rest of the head office boys at the NBA.

As far as control of the globe is concerned, the NBA and FIBA are in a fight against FIFA, and the rest of those soccer/futbol playing nations. Some nations are able to be both basketball and soccer hotbeds (like Brazil, Argentina and so forth) -- but the NBA and FIBA really need to establish themselves in those nations that are still clearly undecided in the FIBA/FIFA war. India is one of those nations. Like the United States (with the love of football and baseball being huge) and Canada (with hockey), India is a place where basketball will have a hard time being number one. (Thanks to Cricket)

India has just recently started a cricket league (actually two, in some crazy, mixed up NBA/ABA issue that deals with cricket, instead of basketball, and a lot more legal action) -- and the popularity of that sport is only getting bigger. A few months ago I was eavesdropping on a conversation two Indian immigrants were having in line at the DMV here in Detroit. They were checking their Indian Premier League cricket scores on their cell phones and talking about it.

"Marketers got a glimpse of the potential of professional sports' in India earlier this year with the debut of the Indian Premier League, a flashy cricket [regular season and playoffs] that brought the sport's biggest international stars together with big advertisers, big crowds -- and big money." (Sam Dolnick, AP via The Nashua Telegraph, 2008)

FIBA/The NBA wants part of this pie, before an internal soccer league gets set up and popular in India. Part of the directed goals so far seem to actually revolve around making it easier for Indian cell phone users to check NBA scores from their devices -- which is so ironic when put in context with my DMV story:

"The NBA is talking to Time Warner about producing hoops-related programming on [Time Warner's children's channel on Indian airwaves] and to ESPN Star Sports . . .  about increasing the league's presence on the network's Indian sports channels. The NBA is also in discussions with Nokia about supplying league content on Indian mobile phones." (Sean Gregory for Time Magazine, 2006)

Still, India has more to offer the NBA head offices besides money and market shares. India is a very stratified nation. As far as stratified societies go, India is among the best in the world at it. While most people consider India to be one of the poorest nations in the world, 4 of the Top 10 wealthiest billionaires are Indian. That said, India has an emerging and important middle class. (Who do you think is watching all of that TV and using all those cell phones?) This middle class is seeking an identity.

The richest of the rich, highest class (nouveau caste, really) of modern Indian appear to be a much different phenotype than the rest of India. They are the ones who you see on Indian TV or in Indian movies that are nearly the personification of modern day idols and Gods on earth -- in India. The tallest, fairest, most un-Indian (yet distinctly Indian) Indian people around.

Ash Bips and John Rani India's Superman Sushmita Sen's little project
Aishwarya Rai was Miss World back in 1994, and owns it now Bipasha Basu (a Bengali Beyonce) and boyfriend Rani Mukherjee is a product of very selective breeding . . . as is Hrithik Roshan Diya Mirza is another  example of India's upper class "diversity"

Any of these Indians looks like someone who works in IT, a 7/11 or in your local ER? Nope. But out of a population of over a billion, you are bound to get enough people who look and live like they do. The richest people in India have the most advantages . . . and love to appear beyond that of the common rabble. Hence, they are clearly the market the NBA is after. After all, the NBA is already "seeking endorsements from Bollywood stars," (Sam Dolnick, AP via The Nashua Telegraph, 2008) of which the six above clearly are. Additionally, Indian films have been using subtle propaganda to establish basketball as something new, hip and elite: Parampara (1993) was the first time I saw basketball in Bollywood -- where the guys playing basketball used a soccer ball; Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) uses basketball (with an actual ball, this time) as a story driven device; and Koi ... Mil Gaya (2003) has a "a nerdy hero [who gets] Jordaneqsue abilities." (Sean Gregory for Time Magazine, 2006)

Will one of these kids be the next Manu?

"Basketball is most popular among cosmopolitan Indians, for whom the game carries a whiff of Western sophistication. America's ultimate gritty playground game has, in India, largely become a game for the children of the elite.

"My students, they go to U.S., Europe, and there they have so much of a basketball culture," said Deepak Shukla, who coaches a basketball team at an exclusive New Delhi school. "They have Shaquille O'Neal shoes they get from [America] . . . my students are from (wealthy) families . . . [eventually] only the poor people will play cricket." "(Sam Dolnick, AP via The Nashua Telegraph, 2008)

While the poorer people can divert themselves with playing cricket, the Middle class wants to elevate themselves as well -- why not with the highest flying game on the planet? David Stern is cautiously optimistic:

"With [India's] middle class and some focus on the world's games, basketball is starting to get a little interest and a little traction . . . so we have to be respectful and realize it's going to be small steps up." (David Stern, as reported by Sean Gregory for Time Magazine, 2006)

Naturally, if David Stern is interested -- it's in the obvious best interest for the league. As such, this past summer before the 2008-2009 season they did have their first Basketball Without Borders trip -- among those who participated were Rony Turiaf, Kyle Korver, Linton Johnson, Pat Garrity and former players Dominique Wilkins and Sam Perkins.

Basketball Without Borders 2008 Wasn't KG here?
New Delhi: The group poses after being greeted Agra: Kyle Kover said that it was "like 150 degrees [outside]" (, 2008)
No one listens to Pat Garrity talk about sitting on the bench Sam Perkins teaches defense
New Delhi: Pat Garrity talks to campers New Delhi: Sam Perkins asks where he can get that really good Buddha from labels this game as chess, for some reason Dominique Wilkins teaching a dribbling drill
New Delhi: Rony Turiaf plays Karem with kids New Delhi: Dominique Wilkins teaches a drill
Dominique Wilkins and Kyle Korver (who is called one of the greatest to ever play, and smiles accordingly) are interviewed on CNN's Indian station (CNN-IBN). 'Nique likes the discipline the kids show, Kover suggests that you can still be good at basketball when you're short -- look at Iverson.
Linton Johnson has skinner legs than this Indian kid Basketball requires a lot more infrastructure than India currently affords their most rural areas. Additionally, when I last lived in India (2002) even the most exclusive sporting clubs and health spas were not a lock to have a basketball courts.

Basketball without Borders programs increase awareness (and also do other things, these guys talked about everything from Zone defense to Aids prevention), and training of younger players.

I fully expect the NBA to send players back in the following summers. It seems like the perfect sport to grow roots in India's growing middle class, if not also in their upper class as well.
New Delhi: Linton Johnson plays with his haar on.  

So it is realistic to say that in the next 20 years, with proper time and development, India could be pretty okay at basketball -- and maybe have a much stronger international presence on the courts. Furthermore, the NBA in India makes a lot of fiscal sense. Will there be an NBA player who is Indian? Probably one day, as countless kids of Indian origin play basketball all over the world -- be they a street ball player from Australia, or any number of the countless Indian undergrad students in the USA and Canada who play daily. It's not outside the realm of possibility to see someone from India be NBA ready at some stage -- but it make take a genetic freak like a 7'5 player to first do it. And really . . .

Oy! Salah kuttha ref . . . kitna fouls !!!

Don't you want to see this guy in the Turban as an assistant coach for some team? He could even color coordinate his turban to if it was a road or a home game! P.S. I'm not making fun of you Punjabi Sikh guys at all, just *THIS* Punjabi Sikh guy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

YouTube Tuesdays! Area 51

So this week I'm posting a video that's not of NBA players or anything like that at all. It's a mix video of one guy throwing down some really nice jams. Who is this guy? He's probably the single best jumper in the entire South Asian Diaspora . . . his running jump is 51" -- hence his nickname "Area 51". How do I know that he is South Asian (i.e. his ancestors are from India)? Well, look at him. Secondly, understand that he was born and raised in Australia -- which has a significant Indian population (not unlike the other colony Canada). And thirdly, his first name is Chand. Which is short for Chandra, or Chandrakant. Anyway, you may have already seen short dunkers like Nate Robinson or Spud Webb, but put this in the proper perspective that this is a 5'8 Indian dude throwing it down. Now that's impressive.

Throw it down, little man!

It's guys like this who give me hope for my peoples . . . I'm also a 5'8 Indian dude but at my max vertical back in high school and undergrad allowed me to only dunk a soccer ball or a volley ball on a 10' rim, so he gets much props from me. Then again, our community is one which seems to be much more interested in non-athletic pursuits (1 Olympic medal per every 376,622,051.3 people); focusing either on becoming trained professionals, or making it big in the movies (everything from M Night, to Kumar to Bollywood).

There is no surprise that David Stern wants to expand the Asian market. He's seen the projected population and increasing middle class in India, and he wants part of that (like any good business man). Heck, every Indian kid in Canada and America already grows up playing basketball (as opposed to hockey or baseball). Out of a population that is so varied and diverse (and numerous) that you get everything from a baby being born with 8 limbs to serious hotties . . . there has to be a few basketball players out there.