LeBron Plays The Garden

There was a lot of hype surrounding last night’s game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York NBA/Knicks. It was LeBron’s first game in the Garden since dropping “fiddy” on the Knicks last year and all of the talk lately has centered around his impending free agency and the possibilty he could come to New York in 2010. To say that the city gave him the red carpet treatment is an understatement; in fact it could almost be considered tampering.

First Nike had him unveil his new “Big Apple” Lebron 6 signature shoe. Nike also gave fans hot dogs, red “Witness” t-shirts and red Nike basketballs. There were signs, posters and fake LeBron James Knick jerseys all over the Garden. Jay-Z & Beyonce was there, Plaxico Burress too. Spike Lee was in his usual seat, rocking a pair of the kicks that LeBron was wearing on the court. During the pre-game intros, LeBron was cheered by the Garden crowd as if he were already one of their own. Everytime he touched the ball or scored, the fans cheered him. He had a dunk and the crowd went nuts. They certainly made him feel more than welcome last night.

The game unfortunately wasn’t as entertaining as Cleveland came in and blew the Knicks out early and “King James” sat out the 4th quarter. But the people of New York certainly made it no secret who they would like to see suit up for them in about 2 years. We shall see…

Advertisements

Eddie Jordan & PJ Carlesimo – CANNED!

eddie-jordanThe Washington Wizards fired head coach Eddie Jordan after the team started the season 1-10. They seem to be following the Oklahoma City Thunder who fired PJ Carlesimo after the team started 1-12. I’ve never understood why when teams get off to bad starts, the coach is always the ones who are the first to go. Coaches don’t play the games, players do.

The firing of PJ Carlesimo, I understood. Let’s face it, he’s a TERRIBLE coach. He hasn’t won with any squad that he’s had. Not that he would’ve won with the Thunder because that team is awful, but he didn’t win when he actually had talent to work with. He has a career record of 204-296, that has loser written all over it and why any team would hire him to coach is beyond me.

Eddie Jordan on the other hand SHOULD NOT have been fired. Gilbert Arenas, his best player hasn’t played in what seems like 2 years! He still managed to take that squad to the playoffs last year even without his best player. Gilbert Arenas is the one who decided to have another surgery on his knee right before the season started, so the fact that Washington is 1-10 isn’t necessarily his fault. He’s been with that team for 5 years, he certainly deserved better in my opinioin.

carlesimo

Stephon Marbury – Refuses To Play, And I Don’t Blame Him

Knicks Bucks Basketball

So Friday when the Knicks traded away Jamal Crawford, Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins the move left them short handed for their game in Milwaukee against the Bucks. League rules state that a team must have 8 active players in order to prevent a forfeit. Coach Mike D’Antoni asked Marbury to dress, and he did. He also told him that there would be 30 to 35 minutes of playing time available to him if he wanted to play. Marbury chose to sit on the bench in his uniform.

When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe it. Coach D’Antoni has said all along that Stephon Marbury would not be a part of the Knicks plans and that they were going in a different direction. Now that three of their players had been traded away — two of them being starters and first and second in scoring on the team — it was one thing to ask him to dress to avoid a forfeit, but then to tell him that there were minutes available if he wanted them…well, that just goes to a whole new level of wrong! I don’t blame Steph for not playing because I wouldn’t have played either. In the media coach D’Antoni made it seem like he refused to play but Steph had a different account, one that when the coach offered him the minutes he reminded him of what the coach had been saying from the beginning of the season. I will say that Stephon Marbury has changed and teams in the league should take notice. The “old” Stephon Marbury would’ve cussed Mike D’Antoni out behind something like that, but instead he took the high road and he certainly should be commended for it. He certainly responded better than I would have given the circumstances.

As far as I’m concerned, Mike D’Antoni was DEAD WRONG for even approaching him with an offer to play. He publicly made himself look like an idiot and a jerk! When he had a full squad he stuck to his guns and refused to play Stephon. Now, due to trades you’re short handed and you want him to play and then when you have a full team again you’re just going to bury him back on the end of the bench? No way! I used to have a lot of respect for him as a coach and a person, but not anymore. He doesn’t deserve any for what he did. Good for you Steph! This is a classic case of “you’ll need me before I need you.”

The Knicks Wheeling And Dealing

knickslogo2

The New York Knicks have been very busy today. First they agreed in principle to trade Jamal Crawford to the Golden State Warriors for Al Harrington straight up. This move will certainly help the Warriors as they’re in desperate need of a scoring guard while awaiting the return of Monta “Moped” Ellis. Jamal Crawford was the second leading scorer on the Knicks averaging 19.6ppg. Although at the time I didn’t understand why they would trade Jamal for another PF in Harrington when they already had Z-Bo (Zach Randolph), the picture became much clearer later. In their second (yes second) deal of they day, the Knicks shipped Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Los Angeles Clippers for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley. All these moves show that the Donnie Walsh is serious about getting under the cap. All three of their acquisitions have contracts that will expire in time for the Knicks to make a run at the coveted FA class of 2010. I like the move on the part of the Warriors because Jamal Crawford will be a perfect fit in Don Nelson’s fast break, all offense, no defense system. And when “Moped” comes back him and Jamal should pose matchup problems for teams in the West. The Clippers pick up a 20 & 10 guy in Z-Bo — obviously trying to replace the void left by Elton Brand — but that team is still going to suck no matter what they do.

The Knicks are currently sitting at 6-5 and have traded their two best players away. Chances are that isn’t going to help their record any. Donnie Walsh is obviously willing to sacrifice W’s in order to dismantle the debacle that Isiah Thomas put together during his time in the Big Apple. He’s also gambling in hoping that one of the big time FA’s like LeBron or D Wade will want to come and play in New York in a couple of years. Time will tell, but I like the moves that were made today. The Knicks needed to be dismantled and today was the beginning of several moves I think they will make this season.

Al Ford – Mississippi Delta’s Finest

alphonso_fordWhen I moved from Chicago to Jackson, MS in the mid 90’s I came in with the attitude that Chicago in particular and the state of Illinois in general produced the best basketball players by far of any place else. But after spending almost 10 years of my life down there I came to realize that what I believed early on couldn’t have been any further from the truth. Most people don’t know this but per capita, the state of MS produces more NBA players than any other place in the country (Illinois is 3rd, so I was almost correct in my theory). That’s insane to even think about, but it’s true. A lot of my readers have read my post on Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf when I went on record as saying that he was the best player ever from the state of MS. Well now I want to introduce you to Alphonso Gene Ford who at 6’1″ and 190lbs was arguably the best scorer ever from the state and somebody that I’m almost willing to bet you’ve never heard of before.

Al Ford was from Greenwood, MS which is in the northern section of the state commonly referred to as “The Delta”. Mississippi in and of itself is about 90% rural and in these areas poverty is essentially a way of life; the delta is no exception. For most deltans, the only chance of ever making it out is through sports. Al Ford starred at Amanda Elzy HS in Greenwood and after graduating in 1989 he attended Mississippi Valley State University which was coached by the legendary Lafayette Stribling. “Strib” ran an offense that was very free flowing and revolved heavily around shooting the three. Al was the perfect fit for that system. His first year playing Division I basketball in coach Stribling’s system, he averaged 29.9ppg and led the country in scoring. His sophomore season he averaged 32.7ppg which was second behind Bo Kimble at Loyola Marymount. His last 2 years at Valley he averaged 27.5 and 26ppg respectively finishing his collegiate career with a per game scoring average of 29ppg. He was the first player in NCAA Division I history to average 25ppg in 4 seasons and his 3,165 career points rank him 4th all time on the NCAA scoring list with “Pistol” Pete Maravich being #1. It didn’t matter that he played at a small black college either. Putting up numbers like that, people take notice. In 1993 the league took notice and the Philadelphia 76ers made him the 5th pick in the second round of the NBA draft. That draft included Chris Webber, Shawn Bradley, Penny Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, JR Rider, Calbert Cheaney, Bobby Hurley, Vin Baker, Lindsey Hunter, Allan Houston, James “Hollywood” Robinson, Sam Cassell and Nick Van Exel. He played only 5 games with the Sixers and then in 6 games with the Seattle Supersonics before going to the CBA and then eventually to Europe in 1995, which is where the legend of Al Ford begins.

He started in the Spanish league and was instant offense as soon as he stepped off the plane averaging 24.9ppg his first year. The following year he went over to the Greek league and took a team that wasn’t that good all the way to the playoffs and a spot in the league championship final four. He then went to Turkey and came back to Greece where he became a Euroleague star. That year he averaged 24.9ppg and helped his team, Peristeri to the playoffs. In 2001he played for  Olympiakos where he averaged 24.8 points, 4.8 boards, and 3.2 dimes in only 20 games! From there he moved on to Italy and put up numbers in that league too. in 2001 and 2002 he was the Euroleagues top scorer.

In spite of the ridiculous amount of points that he scored everywhere he played, what most people didn’t know was that in 1997 he was diagnosed with leukemia. I don’t know what it is about these cats from Mississippi with incurable diseases but like Mahmoud, Al didn’t let that stop him and he continued to give people the bid’ness! In 2004 the disease apparently had taken it’s toll and he was forced to retire; two weeks after he announced his retirement, Al Ford was dead at the age of 32. In his honor, the Euroleague renamed it’s annual top scorer award the Alphonso Ford Trophy.

Could Al Ford have played D1 basketball at a major college or university? Absolutely. Could he have made it in the NBA? More than likely. But the way I look at it is this. He played in the SWAC which is Division I-AA and what I like to consider a “minor league” of Division I-A which is where the big boys play. He made it to the NBA and given the chance probably could’ve had a decent career. But he became a star in the Euroleague — just like he was in the SWAC — which is basically a minor league to the NBA. In my opinion coming from the SWAC and going to the Euroleague was an easy transition for him because they were essentially one in the same. Either way, Alphonso Ford is one of the greats to ever play this game. It’s just a shame that outside of the Mississippi and Europe, no one had ever heard of him. That’s why I’m giving him props and showing him love by writing this story. He should be an inspiration to every basketball player out there because his story just goes to show that no matter where you are or where you come from, if you can play somebody will find you and give you a shot.

Tony Parker Out For A Month

tony_parkerFriday must’ve been “ankle injury night” in the NBA because quite a few players went down with that injury. Most notable being Tony Parker who was diagnosed with with a grade 2 sprain that’s going to keep him out a minimum of 4 weeks. The Spurs have been hit with a rash of injuries lately, including Manu Ginobili who was already out due to surgery on his ankle after aggravating an injury he sustained during last years playoffs in a game against Team USA in the Olympics this summer. It’s still early in the season and despite what some “talking heads” say, starting off strong in the beginning of the season isn’t really that important. In the NBA, the only thing that matters is when you peak and how you finish. Slow starts aren’t necessarily a kiss of death…especially not for a team like the Spurs who are 4 time NBA champions. And as far as Tony Parker, he has Eva Longoria to take care of him while he’s out so he’ll be fine. As long as he doesn’t spend any of his down time trying to rap…we all know what a disaster that was!!

No Bull – Kirk Hinrich Out 12 Weeks

Even though the Bulls won against Phoenix, they still lost. In his first start of the season — he’d been hinrichcoming off the bench behind Thabo Sefalosha — Kirk Hinrich injured his thumb trying to make a defensive play on Amare Stoudamire. He has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb and he’s expected to undergo surgery tomorrow. He’s going to be out for 3 months which amounts to about 40 games.

This sucks on a lot of levels. First, since Chris Duhon bolted to the Big Apple we don’t have a backup PG now.  Secondly, I have to think that with the emergence of Derrick Rose and with how well he’s been playing Kirk Hinrich was probably trade bait. So much for that. The only good thing that comes out of this is that Ben Gordon gets to start and show what we all know that he can do which is score. Ask the Cavs. In two games against them last week — both Chicago losses — he scored 31pts and 29pts respectively. In his last 3 games he’s put up 31, 23 and 29 and he came off the bench in two of those games. He just can’t guard anybody!!

So the Bulls are sitting at 3-4 right now with the second highest paid player on the team out for 3 months. Granted, he hasn’t contributed much this season as he’s only averaging about 8.3ppg, but his injury still puts their backcourt in a bind because Larry Hughes is also out recovering from a slightly separated shoulder that happened in the third game of the season. I was hoping for the playoffs this year. I guess I’ll just have to settle for Derrick Rose being ROY instead.