Flashpoint: A few Observations from rewatching the Arizona vs Kansas Sweet Sixteen Game

Even back in 1997 this was a historic matchup between two elite college coaches. Lute Olson was already known as a good coach from his Iowa days, but he created his own ecosystem down in Tucson when he made Arizona perennial contenders. Meanwhile, Roy Williams was entering his ninth season as a head coach, and had taken Kansas to two Final Fours already, and kept the program afloat as a Midwestern juggernaut. Going into this Sweet Sixteen game, the Jayhawks had only lost 1 game out of 35–giving them a deceiving 34-1 record. The Big 12 wasn’t cracking as a basketball conference yet, with a Chauncey Billups led Colorado finishing second in the standings with 4 losses, and a six loss Tom Penders coached UT squad that was in its final run as an exciting upstart team ( Penders would be gone after the following season). Neither coach had won a National title yet (although Roy was an assistant on the ’82 UNC title team), so this had all the makings of a classic with a bit of tension woven into the Sweet Sixteen storyline.

Arizona would go on to win the game 82-79 and at the time, I remember the media pushing this as another Roy WIlliams’ collapse to fit the narrative that his Kansas teams underachieved during the post season. There may be some truth to that, of course history is much kinder to Roy after he won multiple titles over in Chapel Hill. But in the 90’s, it felt like the media enjoyed those post game press conferences of Coach Roy Williams crying into the microphone, lamenting his players’ lost seasons. But after watching this game the other night, it is obvious that not only did Roy not get outcoached by Lute Olson, but maybe perhaps this 34-2 Jayhawk team may have overachieved. Hear me out for a second.

  1. That Kansas team was not that deep to begin with and had battled injuries the entire year with their star players. Both Jacque Vaughn and Scot Pollard had missed games throughout the season, and going into the tournament guard Jerod Haase was playing basically one handed. When Scot Pollard got into foul trouble early in the 2nd Half (Probably the only real in game mistake Coach Williams made–leaving Pollard in too long after he picked up third foul–4 fouls with 17:50 remaining), it was obvious the Jayhawks were in for an uphill battle.
  2. This was the perfect storm for Arizona, a team with a lot of depth in both their back and front lines. Jason Terry, Miles Simon and Mike Bibby had a field day, creating penetration at will, and no one to guard them. Other than Vaughn (who had his own problems guarding Bibby), there was no one to help out on the perimeter defense. Once Vaughn picked up his 4th foul at 9 minutes, the Arizona guards went on attack mode getting bucket after bucket in the paint. Kansas couldn’t get stops during winning time and Bibby, Terry, and Simon took advantage of no Pollard in the paint and foul stricken Paul Pierce and Jacque Vaughn. No one that Coach Williams brought off the bench could guard anyone in the Wildcats’ backcourt.
  3. Kansas got outrebounded by Lute Olson’s rotating front line of A.J. Bramlett, Donnell Harris, Michael Dickerson, Eugene Edgerson, Bennett Davison. The Zona guards also got their fair share of rebounds, crashing the glass and somehow catching loose balls and caroms, providing second chance possessions that almost always led to points. The quickness of the Arizona players allowed them to jump the passing lanes (Jason Terry broke the team’s season steal records with 85 thefts) and create turnovers. Kansas had 12 turnovers in the first half alone, some unforced, but Arizona’s pressure defense created a lot of problems for Kansas’ thin backcourt.
  4. Kansas’ best players had their worst games of the season. Pollard was rendered ineffective with foul trouble and only attempted a handful of shots at most. Raef LaFrentz only got four first half shots and finished below his season average for scoring. Jacque Vaughn played well, but not as well as the team needed him to play. There were many posessions where Vaughn needed to penetrate and create scoring opportunities, but instead gave the ball up early to a perimeter shooter (even during the final possession). Paul Pierce balled out, keeping the team in the game with timely shots, blocks, and steals. He even created two turnovers during the final stretch of the game when Kansas was down by 10 and clawed their way back to within 1 point.
  5. Bringing me to my next point: Kansas could’ve laid dwn after going down by 10 with 2 minutes to go, but they kept fighting and gave themselves a chance to go into overtime with the final possession. Role players like Billy Thomas and Ryan Roberson hit timely 3 pointers to trim down that big Arizona lead, and had it not been for a blown (wide open) layup by B.J. Williams, and a missed alley-oop by LaFrentz, history might look at this Jayhawks post season run differently.

Kansas really just ran into the perfect storm with a deep and well coached (Olson coached the perfect game and arguably a perfect tournament run) young Arizona team. On paper, it may look like an upset, but Arizona beat 3 #1 seeds to win that tournament–led by a Freshman point guard in Mike Bibby. Providence proved to have been seeded too low with the legendary God Shammgod and a veteran front line of future professional NBA players. Carolina had Vinsanity and Antawn Jamison and Ed Cota. Kentucky was coming off a championship season and had only lost a couple players from their title team. This is one of the best NCAA tournaments of all time and it could’ve gone either way. Even if Kansas had beaten Zona, the road to a title was not a cakewalk by any means.

Bonus Point:

This game featured a lot of future professional players. With Bibby, Pierce, and Terry (future teammates for a spell in Boston and Brooklyn) making respective their marks in the NBA. Vaughn, Pollard and LaFrentz would take journeymen roles and Michael DIckerson made a little noise in his brief NBA career. Simon, Bramlett, Robertson, and Thomas would have a cup of coffe and catch some balls in the league for a spell as well. This Sweet Sixteen game stands the test of time and is one of the Good Ass Games of Good Ass Games for many reasons. It is worth investing the 1 hour and 20 minutes it will take to watch it. But don’t take my word for it; click on the link and find out for yourself.

BM

In Focus: KU vs Duke 1988 Final Four

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[The following is an excerpt of a chapter from my upcoming book, Tao of the Passing Big Man, and other essays. Due out if ,and when we survive this global pandemic.]

 

The 1988 Final Four is remembered for many things, people have written ad nauseum about “Danny and the Miracles” besting OU and Duke to hoist up Kansas’ first national championship since 1952. I wanted to pinpoint and highlight a historical game from the national semifinal between Duke and Kansas, but not because of the score–or anything that happened in the game for that matter–, but because of all the players involved in this nationally televised piece of theater.

Not only was this a rematch of the 1986 National Semifinal (both teams had also played each other earlier in the a regular season game in Lawrence, Kansas), but this game was a confluence of different basketball minds who would impact the game in a variety of ways. 

 

This was the first of five straight final fours for Coach K [Duke would go to 7 Final Fours in a 9 year span from 1985 to 1994. ] and the second time in 3 years the teams would face off in the National Semifinal. Larry Brown ( a Dean Smith protege) was facing off against Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a graduate of the Bobby Knight School for the Gifted Bullies. 

The side stories turned out to be more interesting than the game itself. It was a pretty intense game (because of the stakes) but anything but pretty. It wasn’t a terribly entertaining game, one of many turnovers, and lots of stoppage in actual play. Kansas controlled the game for the most part, and Duke would have trouble getting loose against the Kansas defense. In fact, it would be a forgettable game if not for the names of the schools involved. If this had taken place during the regular season there would be very little reason to recall this event. The final score was a tepid 66-59.

Duke’s record was 28-7 for the season and at 26-11, Kansas would barely make the tournament. Neither team won their conference, yet here they both were in the Final Four; facing off for the chance to play against the Sooners.

The Game was played in Kemper Arena; in Kansas City, Missouri, which is only 45 minutes from the town of Lawrence the location of University of Kansas campus. So this was basically a home game for the Jayhawks. Anyway, enough background let’s get to it. 

                           Duke Blue Devils

  • The Duke Blue Devils were of course, coached by the legendary whiny Mike Krzyzewski.
  • Future Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was an assistant coach on the bench, as well as future NBA scout Bob Bender.
  • Coach K’s starting point guard was former Mercer Island standout, and future Utah Jazz head coach, Quin Snyder (before his stint in the NBA, Snyder would strangely enough become the head coach of Mizzou, Kansas’ biggest rival, for 6 years; perennially losing to first Roy Williams, and later Bill Self). Snyder would have stops in Los Angeles (for both franchises), Philadelphia, and Atlanta as an assistant coach before getting the head gig in Utah.
  • Power forward Danny Ferry would not only go on to to play 13 seasons in the NBA, playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs. Ferry would go on to gain notoriety as a GM for the Cavs and later the Atlanta Hawks (before famously get canned for speaking too freely about African free agents during team conference calls).
  • Center Alaa Abdelnaby spent four seasons in the NBA, bouncing around the league; playing for five teams in that short span of time.
  • Future Nets and 76ers GM (and Bill Simmons punchline) Billy King started at small forward for the Dukies. King would manage to last 18 years in the NBA as an executive before getting replaced during the Brooklyn Nets house cleaning period.

 

                                  Kansas Jayhawks

 

  • Head coach Larry Brown would win this game and the next one, then proceed to take a 25 year break from coaching college; taking jobs on the NBA level for teams like the Sixers, Pacers, Knicks, Pistons, Clippers, and Bobcats (now the Hornets again). Brown would spend a little time in Dallas at SMU before leaving his position for suspicious reasons.
  • Assistant coach Ed Manning (who played for coach Brown with the ABA Carolina Cougars) was also Danny Manning’s father. Many thought Danny Manning was going to go to University of North Carolina, but when Larry Brown hired Ed Manning to coach with him at Kansas, Ed moved the entire family to Lawrence, Kansas where Danny won the state championship at Lawrence High School, then four years later won the national championship less than a mile away at the local university. Danny’s father would go on to be an assistant for Larry Brown when Brown left Kansas for San Antonio, and later, to be an NBA scout.
  • Ed’s son, Danny, would not only manage to play 16 injury riddled seasons in the NBA, but then would go on to coach at University of Tulsa and later Wake Forest. Of course, Jayhawks fans will remember Manning as a bench coach during Bill Self’s title run 20 years from Manning’s own title run in 1988.
  • Future San Antonio Spurs executive RC Buford was an assistant coach on the Kansas bench, as well as Alvin Gentry, who would later be a head coach in the NBA for the Suns (Gentry was an assistant for Mike D’Antoni during the :07 seconds or less era), Pistons, Heat, Clippers, and Pelicans. Gentry would get his first NBA ring as an assistant for Steve Kerr on the Golden State Warriors.
  • Starting forward, Milt Newton would go on to play overseas, before becoming an NBA exec, eventually landing as GM for the Timberwolves for a time spell.
  • Guard Mark Turgeon would go on to have a successful head coaching career; most notably at Wichita State, Texas A & M, and currently Maryland.
  • Guard Kevin Pritchard would be successful as an NBA executive and not a player, working as a GM for first the Portland Trailblazers (he was doomed the minute he selected Greg Oden) and currently the Indiana Pacers.

Aside note: Forward Scooter Barry happens to be the son of Rick Barry; who played with Larry Brown in the ABA for the Oakland Oaks.

 

The conclusion to be drawn from all this useless bit of trivia is that obviously your kids are better equipped to succeed in life if they choose to go to Kansas over Duke. Larry Brown would win an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Alvin Gentry would get a ring as an assistant with the Golden State Warriors in 2015. RC Buford would help the Spurs to develop enough talent around Tim Duncan, as the Spurs would win 5 titles in 15 years. On the Duke side, besides Coach K, no one involved in that game really won anything ( Danny Ferry did get a ring in 2003, playing sparingly on the Spurs). So mothers, don’t let your kids grow up to be Dukies.

 

BM

2016-2017 Season Preview: Top 26 Storylines Part One

[This preview also appears as a post on fullsass.com. What does Fullsass mean? Well check it out for yourself.] 

All Illustrations by Louis Eastman

We are only a few days away from the beginning of training camp, time to dust off the cobwebs and fire it back up. Although the biggest story of the off-season was the Kevin Durant free agency, there are plenty of other story lines to follow this year. I’ve listed (from A-Z ) the ones that I find the most compelling for the 2016-2017 season.

Amin Elhassan fullsizerender-4

ESPN’s most merciless twitter troll is a must follow this season.

Amin is great not only for his tendency to roast any unlucky soul stupid enough to tweet some dumb shit, but also for his great insight into how things operate behind the NBA scenes. Having worked in both the Knicks and Suns front office before his stop at ESPN, Elhassan is a wealth of insider knowledge.

What I love most about him is that he does not hold back in any of his funny–but often wickedly straight forward analysis. His creation of the #Pitino game is one the more underappreciated social media phenomenons you’ll experience during playoff elimination games. #Pitino game is just as a part of the playoff pageantry as TNT’s Gone Fishing segments, but more interactive and way more clever. 

Buddy Hield

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Back in 2015 he simply slid into place. Buddy Buddy Buddy All up in my face.

Is Buddy Hield the Real Deal Holyfield? Inquiring minds want to know. It is a little too early to anoint him as the sidekick to Anthony Davis, but if Hield shoots as well as his reputation suggests, then this could be a good working relationship for the two. Hield wasn’t exactly a defensive stopper in college, but that hasn’t kept James Harden from receiving tons of (mostly deserved) accolades. He could be a nice small ball option for Pelican’s coach, Alvin Gentry, who is looking at a very thin back court-especially with Jrue Holiday absent from the team for personal reasons. 

Celtics Are Legit Contenders

Had the C’s managed to get Horford and Durant this off-season, you could have  penciled them in for the NBA Finals (and I doubt anyone one would have argued with you). As it stands, they only have two reliable scorers, Isiah Thomas and Horford (who has never averaged a 20 and 10 at any point in his career). Isiah Thomas is great at getting his own shot, but he isn’t much of a distributor.

Avery Bradley is an all NBA defender, but anything he gives you on offense is considered icing on the cake (Bruce Bowen 2.0?), and their outside shooting is too reliant upon Kelly Olynk shooting a high percentage. I think they are still two really good players away, or one superstar and a role player (probably a backup pg) away from being in the conversation to knock off the Lebrons for the Eastern Conference crown.

Draymond Green

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Steph Curry may be the league MVP, but I think the team MVP for the Golden State Warriors is Draymond Green. Klay Thompson, Curry, and Green are all irreplaceable, but the intangibles that Dray provide for that team are immeasurable. The league’s decision to suspend him changed the course of that series, as the Warriors were dead in the water after game 5. Regardless, had Dray kept his head, the hometown of Jive Ass Don King would still be without a title today. 

Had we laid money on “Finals player most likely to send pictures of their ding-dong to all their Snapchat followers”, most people would have place their bets on J.R. Smith. I think the public opinion of Draymond Green will be cemented for the rest of his career, according to how he performs both on and off the court this season. The Warriors need his fire, but he has to learn to harness it if they are going to get back to the Finals.

Everybody Eats This Season 

The NBA has never been a better league to play in. Owners are making money hand over fist. The league just signed a lucrative television deal that allows even scrubs *ahem* players like Matthew Dellavedova to cash in a meal ticket. Allen Crabbe made 70 million to stay in Portland.

The Grizzlies’ Mike Conley leveraged his way into a 153 million dollar contract and for a couple of months, was the highest paid player in league history. This year’s 90 million dollar salary cap is only going to get larger (reportedly $118 million next season), so dudes are about to get paid. Now that everybody is eating, let’s start taking bets on who will eat themselves out of the league.

Finals Rematch (Again)

We can just stop this right now huh? No need to even play the season out. Forget preseason. Let’s put it on simulation mode like NBA Live 95? Barring any major injuries, I don’t see how anyone out west beats Golden State, or anyone out east beating Lebron.

I’m looking forward to the rubber match between these two teams. Kevin Durant is going to be the deadliest 4th option you’ve ever seen in the NBA Finals. The running thread all season will be “If Lebron beats the GSW super team will he be the greatest?” or “Will this championship validate KD’s career even though he joined a super team?” I personally don’t blame Durant or the Warriors for signing him. I bet it sucks losing to Lebron, but I bet it sucks even more losing to him after getting spotted a 3-1 series lead. This is the best reoccurring story line since Lakers vs.Celtics last decade. Stay tuned.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Playing The Point 

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I’m not saying the Bucks will be in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m not saying that I think they will get back in the playoffs. I’m not even saying they will be fun to watch, but there will be at least 20 nights this season where Giannis does something to make Sportscenter top 10 highlights. 

Harrison Barnes: The 94 Million Dollar Man

I personally think Barnes will do well in Dallas. The city has a way of being a decent stop for exorbitantly rich black athletes (if they perform decently ). Of course, you have to wonder what is considered reasonable expectations for a contract like the one Barnes signed. For what it is worth Mavs fans, he will be a better investment than Roy Tarpley, Cherokee Parks, Erick Dampier and Shawn Bradley all put together. He can’t be any worse………right?

Iggy’s back  

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No I am not talking about the Nick Young’s ex fiancee’s booty (although it makes for an interesting google search #therabbithole). If Andre Iguodala is unhealthy, forget about the Warriors getting a chip for Kevin Durant. Iggy is one of their best defenders, and he was the guy who guarded both Durant and Lebron down the stretch of last year’s playoffs. By the time games 6 and 7 of the Finals came around, he was gassed (who is to say that a healthy Iggy doesn’t try and dunk the ball on that infamous Lebron chase down block?). 

Now that Durant is a teammate, there is no one in the west (outside of Kawhi Leonard) to push him defensively. Theoretically, he should be fresh for his Finals dance with Lebron. Then again, 30-year-old backs are more fickle than 23-year-old girlfriends. You never know how things will flare up from night to night. 

 

The 3 J’s (reboot)

My dude Joakim Noah is back in his hometown playing for the Knicks. No matter how he does on the floor, homie is going to be slaying it off the court. It is good to see Jeff Hornacek get another head coaching shot. He got a raw deal in Phoenix. Robert Sarver pulled the old bait and switch with Hornacek. The Suns front office didn’t bring back key players, but kept expecting the same results . It was unfair to everyone involved; Hornacek, the players, the fans, and League Pass subscribers who were unexpectedly treated to a near playoff run in 2014.

As for Phil, no one could figure out why the hell he hired Derek Fisher; but he corrected that mistake by firing D-Fish midway through the season. This is his third and most pivotal season as Knicks GM, because if they suck again this year, it will be tough to lure free agents to sign with the club next season. 

Are they going to make the playoffs? Maybe, if 40 wins is enough to get in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Courtney Lee was a good pickup, and Derrick Rose may be able to add some punch if he can find the basketball court, and stay out of the criminal court. Rose thinks they have a super team in New York, but kind of like the word consent,there may be some confusion as to what the definition of a super team is.

40 wins for this roster would be the equivalent of making the Finals. I’d play with them on NBA2K, because you don’t really need subs on a video game, but in real life, their bench is thin. Pencil them in for 30 wins.

Klay “ I’m Not Sacrificing Shit” Thompson

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I’ll fight anyone who says he isn’t the best 2 guard in the league. He may not be able to attack the rim like Demar Derozan (apparently the 46th best player in the NBA), but the man is the best defensive 2 guard; and his shot is wet. He is Ron Harper with a knock down J. Klay Thompson only benefits from the arrival of Kevin Durant.

TO BE CONTINUED:

 

BM

 

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

1 of 82

This week has seen a great deal of basketball–some good and some bad. The way I feel about the NCAA tournament is the same way Steve Nash feels about the World Cup. It isn’t the best brand of play, but it is the most exciting.

That being said, I’d rather take good over exciting any day. I’ve had more “exciting” girlfriends than good ones. Hell, you can have an exciting ride in a beat up Chevette, that doesn’t mean it is a good one.

On Saturday, the “Good Ass Game of the Week” happened to overlap with the Jayhawks second round game against UCONN. I watched the first half, but after that, I kept up just enough to see the Wayne Selden alley oop.

Rarely will I say an  NBA game where neither team scores 100 is a “good ass game”, but considering the stakes of Saturday night’s affair, I can say without any irony that it lived up to the hype.

spurs-warriorsa-7-yenilgisini-tattirdi-d57c4f2d

The Spurs didn’t necesarily need to win this weekend, but it certainly eased a lot of Spurs’ fans anxiety concerning the prospect of facing the Dubs in the postseason. A Spurs loss would have ended their 43 game home winning streak, and possibly created a little bit of doubt for the rest of the league as to whether Golden State was capable of being beaten 4 out of 7 games.

The San Antonio win was akin to when Rocky finally struck blood on the Russian Ivan Drago, and he realized that the Russian was not indeed a machine (I went on Youtube to link that scene and quickly saw that it is one of the worst boxing scenes in the history of cinema).

All that being said, this is just 1 game out of 82. There are still two more games for them to play against each other. Yes the Spurs were able to bottle up the high octane offense of Golden State, holding them to only 90 possessions on Saturday (thirteen below their season average), but Golden State was also without two of their best defenders in Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguaodala.

The Warriors also were coming off of a back to back against the Dallas Mavericks, which could possibly account for what seemed to be tired legs for Klay Thompson and Steph Curry.  There is just as little to take from this close victory at home in San Antonio as there was for the 30 point loss in Oakland back in January. They don’t hand out the NBA trophy until June for a reason.

 

This week’s Good Ass Games:

 

Monday

 

San Antonio-Charlotte

The #mesohornets will give the Spurs a good run, and then the Spurs will bend the game towards their will. I love these kinds of games.

Milwaukee-Detroit

I think this one falls under the Good Ass Game of the Weak category–something to tap that vein to.

 

“Tap that Vein” Tuesday

 

Houston-Oklahoma City 

Ugh.

 

Wednesday

 

Los Angeles Clippers- Golden State 

Never disappoints.

 

Dallas-Portland

Definitely one of the best NBA games last week. Dirk put in 40 and even Deron Williams put in some work in this overtime affair.

 

Thursday

 

Utah-Oklahoma City

Portland-Los Angeles Clippers

Sweet 16: Texas A &M-Oklahoma, Kansas-Maryland, Duke-Oregon

The results of course necessitate that you watch the next round games on Saturday

 

Friday

 

Toronto-Houston

Dallas-Golden State

Did Dallas have a hand in the Warriors defeat on Saturday? I’d like to think so. It was a good ass game.

 

Saturday

 

San Antonio-Oklahoma City (Good Ass Game of the Week)

This one is on NBATV (WTF?????), so unless you live in the Spurs or Thunder tv market, you will be watching it a bar, on a legal(?) streaming site, or spending time with your people. Then again, you can just watch some NCAA.

 

Sunday

 

Houston-Indiana or you can watch the Midwest and East regional finals.

 

Big Ups of the Week go to the UT Longhorns Men Basketball team for their successful season. The results were not much different this year than last, but you can chart the growth of the team from the beginning of the season to their final game on Friday.

Say what you will about former AD Steve Patterson, but his decision to hire Shaka Smart will go down as the best move he made at UT. Shaka Smart is not only a brilliant head coach, he’s a great teacher and mentor. If you ever have some time on your hands, check out LHN All Access with coach Shaka.

You can tell he really cares about his players becoming better people, and not just winning games for the university. Something I could never understand was how parents could send their children to go play for coaches like Bob Huggins and Bobby Knight. People still to this day confuse yelling with teaching.

You don’t see Shaka showing his players up or demeaning them. When he points out mistakes to be corrected, he uses the mistakes as teaching lessons. If there were ever any doubt about how his players feel about him, just watch the press conference after the loss to Northern Iowa. You can tell his players love playing him.

I said that UT will be in the Final Four within 5 years of hiring Shaka Smart, and I am not budging from that prediction. He is the real deal. Hopefully, he doesn’t leave for UNC before he can prove me right.

Enjoy this week’s slate of NBA games and the Sweet Sixteen.

 

Peace,

BM

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