There are a number of things on my mind today.
First, I would like to offer my best to Alonzo Mourning. The 17-year vet finally called it quits, a full five years after he was diagnosed with a life-threatening kidney disease and thought never to play again. He was a 7-time All-Star, a 2-time Defensive Player of the Year (while defensive giants like Mutumbo, Jordan, Hakeem, and Gary Payton were playing, no less), a perrenial 20-10 threat and a 2006 Champion.
You know, 2006, three years after he was supposed to take his seat next to Charles and Ernie as a talking head.
He will best be remembered for his intensity on the court, his flawless fundamentals (and physique…I mean, DAMN that’s a big boy) and his numerous charitable contributions throughout the years. He will be remembered for the thunderous dunks and the feathery fade-away, for killing the Celtics and challenging all who entered the paint.
Aw, who am I kidding? He’ll be remembered for dragging Jeff Van Gundy around on his leg. (Three-minute mark.)
But ‘Zo was a class act. The future Hall-of-Famer was Garnett minus the psycho-killer, Shaq minus the attitude, the blue-collar Hakeem. Georgetown-bred, he instantly made his teams a contender, doing battle with the Gods of the NBA…and often coming out on top. The only thing his teammates had against him was how hard he made them work.
Okay, not sure if that’s true. But would you doubt it?
It always saddens me to see the exalted basketball star - a player we all screamed for, and gazed in wonder at - go quietly into that good night. With the likes of Dr. J, Bob McAdoo, and Alex English, no one would suspect the fear they instilled in their opponents. Look at them today, you will see a graying (albeit HUGE) gentle fellow, never knowing that they once had their absolute way on the basketball court.
I wish that not on Alonzo.
So, ‘Zo, go find a nice golf course somewhere, and tool up some country-clubbers. A 6’10” behemoth sporting a Big Bertha? Perhaps you have some intimidation left.
Next, I would like to offer some praise for this Orlando Magic team.
Now, I have never played chess all that well. My college roommate, Doug, loved to get a few drinks in him on Saturday afternoons and challenge people to a game now and then. For some reason, he saw the angles of that board better than I, and could sniff out weaknesses in his opponent’s tactical game plan before they even knew it themselves. Now, he was no Grand Master, and we still made our share of inappropriate jokes, but the advantage he had on that chessboard was so obvious…playing him was a view of a completely different mind at work.
That is Stan Van Gundy and the Orlando Magic franchise. They are playing a completely different game than anyone else.
Of course, the chess pieces are different, and one is a Slam Dunk Champion. But what SVG has done is create a perfect basketball team, and a brand of basketball that is absolutely beautiful to watch.
Dwight Howard is a physical beast, we all know this. He could dunk with the ball in his mouth. But he is simply the lynchpin for their offense. The Magic have surrounded him, a decent offensive post player with a moderate amount of moves down-low, with four absolutely spot-on shooters outside.
See, they realize Howard’s strength is on the boards, and most of his points come on follow-up dunks off of quirky rebounds. So, they hedge their bets. Odds are that a couple of their long-range threats are hitting, meaning their aim is to get the full 3 points every possession, rather than the 2 most teams strive for. So, D-How draws the attention down low, and a double-team is most likely necessary to stop him. Two passes, and you have either Hedo Turkaglu, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, Keith Bogans, Courtney Lee, or J.J. Redick shooting the ball every time. And they’re shooting a combined .409 from the 3-point line this year.
.409 from 3 means that on the average possession, if these players shot every time from behind the arch (barring put-backs and offensive boards) they yield an average of 1.23 points per possession. Compare that to a team shooting 50% from the field (a great percentage) but hitting all two-point buckets: 1 point per possession.
Same amount of possessions, the Magic have a clear advantage.
Now, add to the equation the roughly 60% of times that they miss. Three-pointers notoriously have high, long rebounds…not at all the traditional bounce for the waiting big men below. And Dwight Howard can jump through the building.
So, if all goes according to plan - and during a long season, advantages equal wins eventually - the Magic just have a greater margin for error. Right?
And all this from an English major!
One last note: the most exciting series this playoffs will not be the Lakers/Celtics, Lakers/Cavs, or (other West/East) Finals match-up. It will be the Eastern Conference Semi’s. The Orlando Magic will either face the Cavs or the Celtics, and there’s a good chance the Magic advance. Much to the chagrin of David Stern.
Hear it now, think about it later, remember it always. TSC doesn’t steer you wrong.
Finally, I would like to mention the fact that the Floptastic, the Hack-a-matic, the insufferable Bruce Bowen is one spot away from making the All-Star team roster over the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldrige, and Pau Gasol…while averaging career-lows in nearly all categories.
Now, I try to keep this column upbeat, but clearly there is something stanky in Internetland. Unless they recently got a cable modem on whatever planet Bowen is from, there’s no conscionable way he should be considered an All-Star, even in his best year.
And this is very-much-so not his best year.
Which is why I propose a new system to picking All-Stars. I think it is very important the fan voice be counted, even “we the people” go skitzo now and again. I believe that the journalists - Marc Stein and the lot - need a greater say in the process, since it’s their job to follow the NBA, and the adoring public only checks in from time to time on TNT.
Does the average fellow know that Russell Westbrook is lighting it up in the OKC? Unless they shelled out for League Pass, there’s little chance anyone saw that game.
So, let’s do this: fans vote as they normally do, including the Bowenians of Planet Flop. After their votes are tallied, the NBA beat-writers cast their votes. The numbers are broken down into percentages, so both the fans and the Steins get equal say (ie Amare gets 60% of the fan vote, and 54% of the journalist vote) and the numbers are combined. (Amare here would get 57%) Highest percentages make the team. Fair?
Now I just need to find where my planet is, and get them some high-speed.
Update: Check out this awesome comic over on Page 2 of ESPN.com