When Good Becomes Great

Besides this Clippers-Spurs Series, and this classic playoff finish, this first round has been a dud. With so many things happening since my last post, one week has felt like three.

Scott Brooks got fired and replaced by Billy Donovan. This seems like incredibly poor timing to hire a rookie coach who has never even worked in the NBA level to take this playoff team to a championship in his first couple of years. I think Billy Donovan will do fine in the NBA, but I don’t see how he is the answer to what has been plaguing Team OKC. Maybe I’m wrong, I just feel that organization isn’t on the level with their players, or the fans.

The best Jayhawk to come out of the 90’s has lived up to his nickname, trolling the Raptors fans, and handling up on the court as well. A dude like Pierce in the locker room is exactly what the Wizards needed.

Big ups to maybe the best Jayhawk to come through Lawrence, for winning Rookie of the Year, Mr. Andrew Wiggins

Just a good week altogether for Kansas fans as it has also been reported that Chieck Diallo, the #7th ranked player in this year’s recruiting class. Bill Self also picked up the #21th ranked player in Carlton Bragg. I’m sure expectations will be high in the Land of Rock Chalk, but what else is new?

Good Ass Series of the Week

Game 7 Spurs-Clippers This is going to be intense. #HEROBALL

Memphis-Golden State

Tough break for Mike Conley and the Grizzlebies. They were really starting to gel. I think Warriors smoke em in 5 games.


This series will remind you of the first love you ever experienced. Sometimes there were really beautiful moments, and sometimes things were just as ugly. But the most memorable part was how intense it all was. This will be a draining series, no matter who comes out ahead. Bulls in six. Side Note: Wouldn’t it be crazy if Cleveland somehow plays better without kevin Love pouting on the sidelines, and the Cavs went all the way to the Finals? That wouldn’t look good at all during contract negotiations would it?

Hawks-Wizards will remind you of that rebound person after breaking up with that first love.
There may be some things that are unappealing going into this series, but it’ll still be pretty damn fun if you don’t take it too seriously. I feel like this one takes a full 2 weeks to settle. Hawks in 7.

Houston-Los Angeles games would take 4 hours complete. Just pray that Spurs win. If you think watching West Coast games are bad now, just imagine if the longest free throw contest in history
begins next week. As the great Jalen Rose says, “NOT GONNA BE ABLE TO DO IT!!!!”



Good Teaching Moment [originally posted on 12/2/13 on sportsblog.com]

The Lawrence Journal World typified the overreaction from Jayhawk nation when it ran the headline: “Paradise Lost” for Friday’s loss to the Villanova Wildcats.

You could tell that early on the boys looked sluggish and the combination of Villanova’s aggression, the dim setting for an “arena” (the ceiling was too low and the room itself reeked of a Las Vegas ballroom lounge), and Kansas’ body language gave me a bad feeling minutes into the game.

I think even Bill Self knew the score. The smirk he displayed during his sideline interviews was priceless. I’m not saying he knew that the boys were being boys on their all expenses paid trip to the Bahamas, but he had to suspect something right?

I’m not alleging that the team was getting ripped all weekend, and thus too dehydrated to compete effectively, but it does make you wonder.

The only guys who were able to bring it consistently energy wise were Joel Embiid and Frank Mason Jr.

Not to take anything away from the Wildcats. They played out of their mind and are a very good team. I would be shocked if they didn’t make the NCAA tournament in March. But they barely won and KU didn’t play even close to what they are capable of playing. I’m not worried in the least bit. I’d rather they lose now in such a manner than go undefeated and lose during the tournament. I hope this weekend teaches the team that they have to bring it every game because every team will be bringing their ‘A’ game to face KU.

From the look of things, they have a lot to work on, even Self himself says “that they got very little accomplished” during this trip to the Bahamas.

Seems like Self still hasn’t quite found his lineup just yet. 3 point shooting has been pretty hit or miss. When Selden, Wiggins, Thaarpe, Black and Ellis are on the court together, there is a bit of cluster going on inside the perimeter. Thaarpe, Selden, and Wiggins still don’t make enough outside buckets to keep defenders honest. Brandon Greene, and Connor Frankamp haven’t been good enough defenders to stay on the court for long stretches of time.

This is too bad because their outside shooting could stretch defenses out a bit and open up the lanes for Wiggins to drive and Ellis to get some space to work inside. Joel Embiid looks like he’ll soon be starting for the team (unless Self wants a legitimate scorer like Embiid to lead the second unit) by mid season. He has worked himself higher up the draft every game. As of the other night, I saw one draft board that had Wiggins going number 1 (debatable), Embiid as high as a number 3 pick, Selden at number 9, and Ellis as a fifteen pick.
Embiid is already my favorite player on this squad and by year’s end could make the pantheon of Jayhawks to ever come through Allen Fieldhouse. I’m digging it. He just needs to learn how to stay on the floor without fouling (Olajuwon had the same problem early in his career–so maybe the comparisons are apt).

Other noteworthy thoughts from last week:

I got a chance to watch some other teams this week.

The Duke-Zona game was interesting. I’m still not sold on Duke as a team. Besides Quinn Cook, Rodney Hood, and Jabari Parker, no one on that Duke team knocks me out. They will be a sweet sixteen team and maybe an elite eight, but the upper echelon teams will work them.

I like Arizona’s squad. Aaron Gordon didn’t particularly wow me as a scorer, but he surprised me with his passing. He’s a really good passer. I was impressed with a few of his dishes throughout the game. Someone (probably Bill Simmons) touted him as another Blake Griffin, but his game reminded me more of a finesse player (think Channing Frye with muscle). He may be the best passing big man I’ve seen on their team since Luke Walton. I could see them beating KU on the right day. Their pg TJ McConnell reminds me of Ohio State’s Aaron Craft and they play great defense. If they face KU in the tournament in March, look out!

Another team that scares me is Oklahoma State. Marcus Smart already has Kevin Durant’s ringing endorsement. I finally got a chance to see him this season the other night against Memphis. It was obvious that they had game planned especially for Smart and it was much more difficult for Smart to get to the rack. Every 3 pointer Smart jacked up was forced and contested and Oklahoma State ended up losing. Smart went 4 for 13 with 12 points and 5 turnovers. He did have a couple of sick assists and still threatened to take over down the stretch.

With Markel Brown, Le Bryant Nash, and Phil Forte, the Cowpokes have a chance to compete for the Big 12 title. I’m not sure if they have enough inside to challenge an opposing team’s big man on a consistent basis. Of course come tournament time, its all about the guard play, and this team may be just as good as the OSU team that went deep into the playoffs with Ivan McFarlin, Joey Graham, and John Lucas running the point. I can’t wait for that January 18th matchup. I’m going to have to find a 2nd job so I can afford tickets.

In the NBA, my award for Jayhawk of the week goes to Xavier Henry who has been down right balling for the Los Angeles Lakers. I’m pretty impressed because he came to Lawrence with so much hype and was even a lottery pick when he left school. I had kind of written him off as a bust. Just goes to show that some players take a little longer than others to develop (another reason why I preach to the Jayhawk faithful to be patient about Wiggins and temper the unrealistic expectations). I’m glad his talent is finally shining through. I’m sure he’s exchanging text messages with Matt Kemp and Blake Griffin about how the women in L.A. are even crazier than ones in Oklahoma City–but man isn’t the weather fantastic.

A quick shout out to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide for blowing their three-peat chances in memorable fashion. Personal fouls, personnel screw ups, poor special teams, and some head scratching coaching decisions helped Alabama to a big fat L. It was amazing to watch A Nick Saban coached team uncharacteristically unravel. When the refs put time on the clock, and the field goal unit trotted onto the field, I could not believe my eyes.

It didn’t make sense to put a freshman kicker out there to attempt a 59 yard kick when he’d only kicked 3 field goals his whole career. The starting kicker Cade Foster had already missed 3 field goals that day. I figured they were going to call the Hail Mary play. That was like watching the end of a video game. I still can’t believe it. I was watching it live as it happened and my housemates thought someone had broken their foot, I was screaming so loudly. It was unreal. I saw the Music City Miracle as it unfolded, and this was much more spectacular than this. In my opinion this beats Kordell Stewart’s Hail Mary against Michigan, and Stanford-Cal’s kickoff return. Incredible. I bet the odds on Saban splitting for Texas now have increased by 33 percent.

Jayhawks go to Boulder and Gainesville this week. Let’s see how they bounce back.

A Hard 86 [Originally posted on sportsblog.com 12/25/13]

The knock on my door at 9 AM surprised me because I went to bed with the notion that a visit to the Allen Fieldhouse would not be in order for Saturday’s game against Georgetown. I had imbibed a bit too much the night before at a happy hour that ran way longer than an hour. I fell asleep that night okay with just watching the game on the big screen.

Although the front of the jerseys said Georgetown, with Otto Porter gone, I was unable to identify any of the names on the back of the jerseys. They weren’t even ranked. But I knew that a John Thompson III coached team would compete, and I didn’t fight it when my buddy expressed his desire to still attempt to make it into the fieldhouse. As it turned out, we got really lucky and ran into a fair scalper who offered us the best deal I’ve ever gotten scalping Jayhawks tickets (floor seats for 90 bucks).

I’m hoping that I’ll be as fortunate come January 18th against the Oklahoma State Cowboys.I’m definitely looking for the same guy next time.

One of the cool things about KU games is that fans have such access to the players. There isn’t a bad seat inside the venue and before games fans line up alongside a taped area near the locker room corridor. Fans hang out there and then cheer the guys on as they run onto the court. It’s a pretty cool thing to see, unfortunately my brain wasn’t working properly (it rarely does before 1:30 pm but I was especially scrambled from the activities the night before) and instead of capturing them jogging out of the locker room I got footage of this .

At first glance Georgetown come off as very intimidating. They only have 3 players on the whole roster who are listed under 6’5. Seeing this I immediately knew that it was going to be a physical game. We were about to see the Jayhawks be tested by these tough looking east coast boys.

The Hoyas have the make up of an NIT bound team bound for sure, but they made Kansas earn every single bucket they got. There were not many transition points for the Jayhawks and the Hoyas used nearly every single foul they had. 3 players fouled out for the game and 2 other guys had 4 fouls. The Hoyas even snuck in a cheap shot on Perry Ellis and knocked him out of the game.

Eventually things got chippy enough to where Wiggins got into some smack talking with one of their players and immediately hit a 3 on the ensuing possession (something tells me Wiggins isn’t the kind of player you want to piss off). We all knew that the Jayhawks were talented, but this game would tell us if they were tough. That was a question I hadn’t thought to ask before this Georgetown game.

Kansas was up the whole first half but it always felt closer than an 8 point game. Besides Markel Starks (19 points) and D’Vauntes Smith Rivera (12), no one in the Hoyas lineup was a legitimate scoring threat (most of their first half points seemed to come on free throws). Toughness was the only thing that Georgetown had going for it. They stepped onto the court as if the Lawrence faithful were just another hostile Big East crowd, unfazed and ready to see if the Jayhawks could be punked.

I think this was the kind of game that Tarik Black thrives in. He was not phased at all by the amount of contact going on. The refs let a lot of pushing and physical stuff go on and Tarik seemed in his element, putting up some good numbers and making some noteworthy plays–including a sick block that led to a fast break and alley-oop on the other end of the court (5 for 5 17 points 6 rebs and 2 blks).

The Jayhawks put up 86 points on the Georgetown boys but there were not any easy baskets. As badly as Georgetown got beat, there was no reason for them to hang their heads. They played hard. KU just had a much better team.

Other notes from Saturday’s game:

Bill Self has some serious swagger. I was impressed with the way he and Coach Thompson eschewed the businesslike handshake in favor of the more familiar and less formal “brutha” embrace. I bet Bill goes to bed at night smirking before he falls asleep, then wakes up with that same smirk, thinking, “I’m Bill Self and I coach the Kansas Jayhawks.” It must be a pretty baller reality for old Bill.

Andrew Wiggins only had 12 points the other day. 10 of them came in the 2nd half. He only had 1 rebound for the whole game, but he did have 3 steals and 4 assists. Not a great line but its still a treat to get to watch him play in person. People say he’s too calm, but I’d rather have that than a hot head like J.R. Smith. I don’t buy the whole “we need to see more fire” theory so many people have. That steadiness is going to be important come tournament time. Do what you do Andrew.

I’m officially starting the “Feed Embiid” campaign. This guy is not only my favorite player on this year’s team. He’s one of my favorite big men of all time. By the time he leaves he’ll be mentioned in the same breath as Nick Collison and Julian Wright when it’s all said and done. He had 12 first half points and would have had more had it not been for Tarik Black going so hard in the paint in the 2nd half.

Speaking of big men, I wonder how differently things would be for Tim Duncan had he come up in this era? He was the last of the big men to stay all 4 years. Shane Battier did, but he was nowhere the prospect that TD was, despite winning Player of the Year. Would Duncan stay all four years in this era? Who knows? But seeing Embiid play makes me wonder how good he would be if he did stay in school an extra 3 years. Of course why not get the on the job training for millions of dollars if you are as good as he is. He will go into the league and immediately start. If you were a techie nerd and some firm offered to develop your software skills and pay you for it, you wouldn’t say ‘nah I’m good, being poor and having fun in college, going to classes and studying.” It does make you wonder though.

During a crucial stretch in the 2nd half we were told by an usher that we needed to sit down because we were obstructing people’s view. I wanted to say “tell them they need to be standing up” . I thought I was at a Jayhawks game, not at a dog show. I’ve been to NBA games where the fans didn’t sit for entire halves of play, and this usher is telling me to sit down? What is UP WITH THAT? I never thought I would encounter this at Allen Fieldhouse.

We spotted some former Jayhawks at the game Saturday, sitting behind the team bench. Travis Releford was there, sitting beside Aaron Miles and Wayne Simien. I randomly saw Tim Hardaway (yes that one) sitting in front of me and my buddy. What was he doing in Lawrence? Is he a scout now or something? I had seen him earlier and thought I was just being racist (Not all bald black guys look alike Mick.), but sure enough we realized it was him.
Not sure what to make of this photo here.

Collison and Hinrich are two of my favorite players, but the other side of me wonders if there is another message behind this “team photo”. I’m sure it’s harmless but it’s definitely one of those things that make you go hmmmmmmmmm.
That loss to Colorado doesn’t look so bad now. Colorado put up a fight against Oklahoma State and only lost by a couple of buckets (5 points). They are currently ranked number 20 in the country.

UCLA vs. Duke was interesting the first half. Kyle Anderson looks like he will be fun to watch in the NBA as a 6’8 point guard. He almost had a triple double in the first half, but neither he nor the rest of the tea played particularly well during the 2nd half. Zach Lavine looked good too and Bryce Alford looks like Steve Novak 2.0 (for better or worse). Their defense is terrible though. I could see them winning it all in the NIT or getting knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It does make me want to watch them play Arizona on January 9th.

Happy holidays to all you readers and non-readers out there. It’s time for me to sit down and watch KD go HAM against the Knicks in MSG (As of me posting this he’s 6 for his first 7 shots. If this Clippers-Warriors matchup tonight is half as entertaining as I think it will be, then we are in for a treat.


A Gauntlet of Aztecs Approaching [Originally posted on sportsblog.com 1/7//14]

Bill Self described the upcoming five games against Oklahoma, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Baylor as “having to face five San Diego States”.

I knew the Hawks were in some trouble after they gave up 83 points to Toledo, a team without any NBA prospects on it. In fact the Jayhawks hadn’t played a complete game since their November win against Towson.

I hadn’t watched a single Aztec game this year, but I know what Steve Fisher is capable of as a coach, and he certainly had them ready to play. He and the Aztecs went into Lawrence with a great game plan and executed it near flawlessly.

They limited KU’s fast break points, out-rebounded the Jayhawks 51-39, and killed them in the paint–only attempting eight 3 pointers the entire game. The Aztecs did a great job of doubling the KU bigs on the catch and the Jayhawks’ front line only mustered 18 points; 12 of them coming from the always impressive Joel Embiid (the already lion quick Center tweeted this weekend that he’d be taking ballet classes this upcoming semester to help him with his footwork–I know this worked for former Longhorn and future NBA guard Royal Ivey).

Notables from Sunday’s game:

1) The Jayhawks are not a very good passing team. They can get out in transition, but when it comes to creating shots for other players, they come up short. This is in part to having guards who can’t create consistently. Doug Gottlieb touched on this during Sunday’s telecast and one of the few things he got right (Naismith Blvd,Massachusetts Ave, and Wiggins’ summer activities were three things he got wrong), was that the lack of a play maker at point guard is hurting the team’s offensive development. Gottlieb then went on to say that this has held up the progress of stars Wiggins, and Embiid (let’s throw Perry Ellis in there too who hasn’t played well since his neck injury against Georgetown).

Which begs the question of does Bill Self develop point guards? It could be argued that the last consistent play maker at point guard was Aaron Miles– a Roy Williams recruit. Sherron Collins was a good guard, but I feel like he was more a shoot first guard than passer. I’m sure one could argue Josh Selby or Tyshawn Taylor, but I’d just laugh at them.

The offensive woes they have had to begin games has been irritating to watch. Sunday they came out 3/19 on field goals, and 6/29 in the first half, and only shot 4 for 16 from 3 point range for the whole game. It may seem crazy to say this because of how talented this team is, but because they are such a young team, this would arguably be Bill Self’s best coaching job if he somehow manages to will this team to another Big 12 title.

Naadir Tharpe has not played as well as I hoped he would, and at the beginning of the season I wrote that the team would only go as far as he could take them. Depending on shoot first freshman Frank Mason to lead the team is expecting too much this early in his career. The Jayhawks need better guard play if they expect to win another Big 12 title.

2) I was happy to see a team (capable of beating the Jayhawks) come into Lawrence and compete. The Aztecs brought it on Sunday. Their interior passing and rebounding was beautiful to watch. I can’t recall seeing so many put back dunks in a college game. It was good to see at least one team brought some intensity (although the last five minutes of the first half was an eyesore).

3) Wiggins is so smooth;as graceful as a gazelle. He made me squeal a couple of times when he found a lane, lifted off, and took it to the cup When he develops that outside shot he will be unstoppable–people forget that Lebron and Kobe didn’t always have good outside shots early in their careers–people used to dare Lebron to shoot the jumper.

4) I’m not digging the Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor front line combo. It seems like they basically the same skill sets. Neither have impressed me with their handles, or how well they move without the ball. Even though they got killed on the boards, I like how the small ball lineup of Embiid, Wiggins, Selden, Mason, and Tharpe opened up the floor. The lack of 3 point shooting is something that I didn’t see coming. I figured Andrew White III, Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp would play bigger roles on the perimeter. All three players struggle to see consistent playing time.

5) San Diego State is going to cause some teams headaches come tournament time. They have a big, physical front line and they play good defense. But they’ll get beat once they encounter foul trouble and a team with a better bench. Of the 61 points they scored Sunday, only 6 came from the bench players.

It’s going to be a nasty stretch coming up for Kansas. It will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments that Self and the coaching staff make when conference play starts on Wednesday. I’m also excited to see if Kansas plays with the intensity and resolve they reserve for the last five minutes of every game. Self himself admitted that this team is not as good as he thought they would be at this point. He even shared some of the blame for being part of why they weren’t that good. It seems silly to say this early into season, but the next 5 games will reveal what kind of team the Jayhawks have. Maybe its time for a players only meeting. This might sound crazy, but anything less than a 4-1 start will have Jayhawks fans ready to hit the panic button.

This week will be a great stretch of games in both the NCAA and NBA:

For college we have KU vs. OU, KU vs. K-State, Michigan State vs. Ohio State tonight, Baylor vs. the Iowa State Hoibergs, Memphis and Louisville, and UCLA vs. Arizona.

I plan to sneak a peek at the (now) #8 ranked Wichita State Shockers with Ron Baker, Fred Van Fleet, and Nick Wiggins (yeah Andrew’s older brother). I’m certainly going to have to get out to Wichita and see them in person this spring. For now, I’ll have to settle for watching them on my laptop computer. It’s unfortunate that Self isn’t interested in scheduling them down the road, saying it doesn’t benefit the program to face them (perhaps he thinks this new found Shocker success is fleeting?) during the season. I personally think it would be great for the state of Kansas to see them face off every year and keep some of that money in state. It would be a fun deal for everyone, and I like that Wichita State is making some noise. Maybe if the Shockers keep it up, Bill will be more interested in putting them on the schedule. Hopefully I can make that trip out to Wichita and see for myself if they are legit.

The NBA games I plan to catch this week are Portland Orlando, Dallas- San Antonio, and Golden State- Milwaukee (Greek Freak!!!!).

I’m feeling a bit more honed in, after missing four key barn-burners over the holidays. I’m still kicking myself over missing the Warriors-Suns game from a week and a half ago (where Steph Curry almost got a triple double in one half), Portland-Miami (without Lebron) was a nail-biter. I fell asleep during the second half of the Kentucky- Louisville match 2 Saturdays ago and was stuck on a plane when Steph Curry (whose production has certainly gone up since the return of Iguodala) went NBA Jam all over the Heat last Thursday night (How was that game not on TNT?).

For the rest of this year I’m dedicating myself to sitting in front of the computer and watching basketball. No more nights off, no putting off hoops for romance, and no more going out. I’m putting all my energy into studying hoops. Nothing is worse than coming home, opening up the ESPN page and seeing replays of a game you vaguely felt was potentially intriguing and missing something amazing. Basketball never stops but……………..

Colin Kaepernick though ………

My little brother clowned on me when I told him that was my favorite qb in the league right now. I know he didn’t look great against Seattle in their first game, but I like his swagger. He’s only a 3rd year pro, first year starter, and he already seems like the heir apparent to Randall Cunningham. I love the fact that he didn’t wear sleeves during the Green Bay game. That 4th quarter was the kind of intensity that I love to see during the NFL playoffs. For some reason, SF-GB seem to more often than not have classic games. Some clutch play in brutal conditions provide for great theater.

I guess you could include KC-Indy in the great theater discussion, but that was more depressing than watching “The Pianist.” I knew the collapse was coming and still I kept watching and still the events that unfolded manage to surprise me. I’m not even a Chiefs fan and I was horrified.

I’m excited for this weekend’s games. I have watched more football in the last 48 hours then I have all season long.

Carolina-San Francisco might turn out to be the best game. I’m looking forward to seeing those defense square off. I think the Saints will play better this time against Seattle, but I still see them getting beat by 2 touchdowns. Denver-San Diego might be fun, and I’d like to see what kind of magic the Stanford boy produces against the Patriots.

While we are at it, how does anyone bet on that line from last night’s BCS game. Vegas probably made a killing. Florida State as 13 point favorites? Insane. Auburn will rue the fact that they didn’t try to score at the end of the first half, and the missed field goal early on in the game. They had FSU shook and couldn’t close the deal. It’s still hard to take college football seriously–more about politics than actual football–a bunch of rich old men investing in and betting on their alma maters. Although the NFL hypocrisy is pretty sickening. I don’t see how they can say they care about the players with Thursday night games, a push for an 18 game schedule and the legalization of Astroturf (you can tell how serious they are about alleviating concussions by the turf issue alone–they may as well been playing on concrete when the turf froze over in those stadiums).

Oh well, bring on the professionals. It’s going to be a fun week, and a really fun 2014.

Real fast before I go I wanna publicly admit that I did not think Trey Burke would be so good, nor did I think Michael Carter Williams would so spectacular. Also shout out to Kendall Marshall, who I’m very happy to see get another chance with the Los Angeles Lakers. Dude got 15 assists in his first game with them (and only 4th start of the season), and its not like he has that many people to throw the ball to. That Lakers team has been decimated with injuries. Keep fighting Lake Show. I hope they are able to get Westbrook and Kevin Love in the summer of 2015.

Enjoy one of the best months of the year. The doldrums of July will be here before you know it.