There were a slew of Good Ass Games last week, including a B-Ball watching extravaganza on Friday. Six straight hours of watching basketball on a Friday night, and I couldn’t have been happier. Of course, once those games are over, reality sets in, and I realized that I made no plans for the late night tip. #poorplanning
Since I’ll be going to the Florida-Kansas game on Friday, let’s start with some college hoop. Kansas clearly has a lot of talent, but some of the pieces are not fitting. Bill Self recruits the guys to fit his system, and he always has talented big men, but there is only one basketball. If the ball is distributed evenly each player gets to touch the ball 20 percent of the time. The other 80 percent of basketball involves things other than scoring.
Obviously the Jayhawks are talented, but there is always someone bigger and badder on the block. Kansas ran into the big and bad Wildcats and got stomped. Part of that was talent (Kentucky is clearly the most talented team in the country), but Kansas also didn’t play that smart—which also contributed to such a lopsided score. Kentucky will be impossible to beat if a team is depending on isolation sets and one primary ballhandler. Kansas is not a very good passing team, and Kentucky just waited on the Jayhawks to drive to the rack so they could block their shot.
Michigan State didn’t fare as well defensively against the Jayhawks strategy. They fouled Kansas and put them on the free throw line. Every time the Jayhawks got fouled taking it to the rim, you could see an extra pass leading to an easier bucket. Kansas has to learn how to make that extra pass. Svia Mikhailhiuk gets it, and Frank Mason is looking more comfortable with each game (I really like that backcourt combo–I think they have good on court chemistry).
The problem with recruiting the “one and done” player is the constant turnover messes with cohesion. This is still a young Jayhawks team and the learning curve is almost as steep as last year’s squad. Roles have yet to be established and defined, and all the highly recruited cats come in thinking they are “the man.” Kelly Oubre has yet to look comfortable on the floor, and Cliff Alexander shows flashes of highlight reel potential, but they definitely play like Freshmen.
Cliff Alexander is definitely going to be ill, but I get nervous anytime the Kansas big men (outside of Perry Ellis)put the ball on the floor (do I have an affinity towards big men who can pass? Yeah you could say that). There are no “stretch fours” on the team and you see a lot of clogged lanes on the offensive end—not a good thing if your team doesn’t shoot well from the perimeter.
A basketball team is a community, and in a community different people take on different roles to make that community work. Some people do multiple things well. Some people are really great at one particular thing and mediocre at other things, but communities thrive when everyone is put in a position to succeed at what they are best at. By conference play, the Jayhawk players are going to have to figure out what roles to assume in order to help their team win.
Maybe Cliff Alexander decides that no one is going to outrebound him or get past him on defense, and whatever points he scores along the way is gravy (Kentucky’s Anthony Davis was the fifth leading scorer on that championship team but managed to control the game in every other aspect).
Maybe Wayne Selden decides that no matter how many points he gets on the offensive end (Can he be a “3 and D” guy in the NBA?) that his guy will get locked down on the perimeter. Maybe Frank Mason looks to drive and kick rather than drive and finish, with Svia Mikhailiuk there on the perimeter to keep defenses honest. And maybe Bill Self can get his guys to feed Perry Ellis 15-20 touches a game (he looked really good this weekend in Orlando).
Let’s switch gears and talk about that other team in Kansas–no not the Wildcats silly. I’m talking bout them Shockers. Despite losing Cleanthony Early to graduation last year, Wichita State is just as fun to watch this year. Ron Baker and Fred Van Fleet is the best backcourt combo that no one is talking about.
The way those two guys get their teammates involved is beautiful to watch. Van Fleet had 21 points on 6-11 shooting, 9 assists and ZERO turnovers. As a matter of fact, Ron Baker didn’t have any turnovers either, and he shot 6-14 with 19 points. Of Wichita State’s 25 made field goals, 18 of them were assisted.
People hate on the Shockers for playing in a less renowned conference against “inferior” competition, but if you like smart, beautiful basketball, then catch a Shockers game. They are a real treat to watch and play against Utah on Wednesday. I’ll be watching them play as much as possible this season (and possibly next if both Baker and Van Fleet come back to play with transferring guard Conner Frankamp).
GOOD ASS GAMES OF THE WEEK
OKC vs. New Orleans Would you believe it if I told you that I haven’t watched an OKC game since Russ Westbrook broke his hand. It feels good to put the Thunder on the Good Ass Games list again (for however long it lasts).
Toronto vs. Sacramento Damn. Demar Derozan……I hope he gets well soon. A groin tear sounds really painful, and I was just coming around to enjoy watching the Raptors play too. If you happen to catch this particular game, try to imagine playing an updated version of NBA JAM with these two teams. Which 3 players would you go with? I was thinking about this when I was watching the Hornets the other night (another good NBA jam team). You gotta admit, it’d be fun to play.
Memphis at Houston
Before the season began, both of these teams were my “bubble” teams. I’m still not sold on Houston’s role players just yet and I think they’ll come down to earth by March. As for Memphis, I’m not surprised by how well they are playing at all–Gasol has kicked it into another gear this year. What does surprise me is that they are healthy. It is a loooooooonnnnnggg season, so who knows what will happen.
But Memphis has been looking really tough. I also like that former Michigan State sharpshooter Shawn Respert is an assistant coach there, while Brevin Knight is a color commentator for the organization. It is little things like these that make me realize how fucking old I’m getting.
Chicago at Charlotte
I’m not crazy about the Hornets this year, but there is something very comfortable and relaxing about their announcing team of Steve Martin and Dell Curry. Listening to their play-by-play makes me want to eat Bojangles Chicken and drink sweet tea (or maybe I just had the munchies).
Also, how did no one tell me how hot the dance team was for the Hornets? I’ve been to Charlotte so maybe this shouldn’t have been a surprise but damn! i mean peep this photo from Carolinablitz.com,
I just may peek in on Lakers vs. Wizards, if only to see that Washington backcourt knock Kobe and co. back to earth. But again, that may be a case of “doing too much.”
Cleveland vs. New York It is always fun to see what Lebron will do when he steps onto the floor at MSG. Will his performance spawn inspiration for another rap tune?
Portland-Indiana This is the best I’ve seen Chris Kaman and Steve Blake play which leads me to conclude that Portland is a haven for white and light skinned players. Seriously, this demographic just thrives up in the Pacific Northwest. Imagine what Brent Barry’s career would have been like had the Trailblazers drafted him? then again it is too cold to surf up there, so maybe he wouldn’t have dug it.
New Orleans vs. Golden State This is going to be a good one, and I will probably only get to catch the highlights because I’ll be en route to Lawrence, Kansas. This one has “Good ASS Game of the Week” written all over it. in a couple of years, if Portland and Golden State play their cards right, these two teams could be jockeying for the Western Conference top spots for the latter part of the decade.
The Spurs will hit a small snag where they will be middle of the pack but still making the playoffs, and once Dirk retires, the Mavs will suffer a slightly worse identity crisis. There is nothing that anyone can say that can convince me that Westbrook and Durant are going back to OKC. Who will fill that power vacuum in the west?
Cleveland-Toronto Eastern Conference Finals Preview? Any takers? By the way, what’s up with this #mynorth commerical? #TorontoAINTHOOD
Western Conference Finals Preview? Any takers?
Phoenix-Dallas You can tell Phoenix is really missing the spacing that Channing Frye (another light-skinned guy who flourished in Portland–he still has a home there) provided for the team. Everyone has to work just a little harder to get buckets. It’s so crowded that Gerald Green is throwing alley-oops to himself. Cue up the old ’05, ’06 playoff games NBATV. Those were the days!
Clippers-Pelicans Two of the best power forwards. Going at it. ‘Nuff Said.
Golden State-Chicago No way in hell I’m missing this one. There are gonna be some sick dimes dished out in this one. The overused phrase of the night will be “Oooh Filthy!”
Basketball Movie of the Week:
Gunnin for That #1 Spot. Directed by Adam Yauch.
This is from the first Elite 24 game back in 2006. I first watched this movie back in ’08 when all these young cats were still in high school and college. Cole Aldrich, Lance Stephenson, J.J. Hickson, Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler, Jerryd Bayless, Kevin Love, and Michael Beasley were all apart of this event as high school kids. I watched it again this past week, and was struck by how so much had happened in 8 years.
These guys are all NBA veterans now. It is always interesting to go back and watch that kind of stuff with the knowledge of what their futures hold. It’s kind of weird. Anyway, it is worth checking out. There was a bonus disc with my copy of footage of a 2-on-2 pick up game with Beasley and his coach vs. Yauch and someone else. MCA had a little bit of game. I bet he was fun to play ball with. By the way, what is up with Beasley? He must have some serious stuff going on if he hasn’t been picked up by a team. Damn.
Big week of hoops. The first week of December is off to a good start. Enjoy these good ass games.