Apparently I am still in preseason form as a fan, because I only saw regulation of this one before my DVR cut out. C-, must do better for me. Anyway, based on what I saw- this was like a replay of the Miami game except that the Bobcats are far more inept than the Heat, the Knicks seemed to get their shit together relatively quicker, and the officials had one of those Donaghy-had-a-point nights where almost every call went for the Knicks in regulation, especially once the Charlotte lead got big. Overall it was some of the dirt-worst basketball you’ll see at NBA level. What can you do? The problems are the same, but the spirit seems to be improving, so that’s some progress anyway. Still, through two games, the offense is kind of busted: the team shot 38% and change from the field last night and 25% from three, and the reasons looked to be the same- a lot of guys taking mediocre shots early in the shot clock plus few focused plays happening in the half-court offense. The S/R with Duhon and David Lee is still very effective and those guys played a combined 106 minutes last night, but I don’t recall them running it seriously more than a handful of times in regulation. Why? Fucked if I know.
Oddly, it almost seems as though at the same time as the team has found a defensive identity based on holding shape and position with constant switching against all screens, they’ve lost it on the offensive end. There’s still some kinks in the former (like: why is Darko Milicic trying to guard guys on the perimeter?), but it’s progress; if they can find a way to combine last year’s more organized and intelligent offense with this year’s defense- and get better and sharper at both- there’s the makings of a passable team here.
My DVR has now officially eaten both the original run AND the replay of the Nets’ season opener, so I’m SOL on that one. I’m going to refrain from saying anything in-depth since I missed it and it was the season opener, but, seriously now, Courtney Lee: 38 minutes, 2-11 from the field, 0-4 3, only one free throw AT THE TWO, 5 points, 3 boards, 2 dimes, 2 blocks (!?), 1 TO, 2 fouls, -4 on the evening. Against the Timberwolves. On a night where Yi freakin’ Jianlian took fewer shots and still scored over triple the points. That is the line of someone who did very little, pretty badly. I don’t want to overreact, but check the archives if you don’t believe me: I’ve never bought this guy and I still don’t. The Nets are rebuilding and I’m all in favor of giving him a million minutes to prove me wrong, but if you’re counting on this guy to be the long term backcourt mate to Devin Harris you may be disappointed.
Incidentally, that game like the Knicks’ season opener is a great advertisement of the power of 4-factor analysis to get a quick handle on a game- the Nets were largely comparable on free throws and total rebounds, lost on the o-boards, shot slightly better but got murdered on TOs 22-10. There’s your problem. There’s always more to say about a game than 4 factors alone, but it’s usually a good way to get a grasp on the generalities of what happened.
A large chunk of this is on UFC for scheduling waaaaaaay too many shows, but still- this is an incredible rash of injuries of late. Each one exacerbates the problem as well, as the bargaining power of anyone still healthy and willing to fight skyrockets and UFC ends up faced with the prospect of either caving and giving various concessions, or else holding out and being stuck with who-the-fuck-is-you in a serious slot. You think Dan Henderson’s laughing about now? Checking his messages every hour or so? Yeah, I think so.
I will say though, the recent announcement/leaking of Rumble Johnson vs. Kos Joshcheck is a hell of an idea, and I applaud them for that call- it’s a fun fight, a competitive one, either guy can win, it could make a star in Johnson if he wins, and if he doesn’t it makes Koscheck the obvious next challenge for GSP. When either guy winning is a positive and the fight itself is intriguing, that’s good matchmaking.
It’s game 1 so I’m certainly not going to get bent out of shape about this one, but man, that was rough to watch. It’s not really a secret what the issue was: Knicks were better on the boards, the O-boards, at the free throw line and in turnovers (three of the classic 4 factors right there) but they got out-shot 56.6% to 37.9% and hit only 25.6% of their three pointers- and quite a a few of those came from Gallinari late, long past when this one had a chance to be competitive. As a general rule this is going to happen to teams like the Knicks from time to time: playing 3 point mad bomber is a high-variability strategy, and some times that means you build a house and get pasted even by a likely-to-be-meh Miami team. Those results can be minimized however, and the Knicks are going to have to tighten up as the season goes on and change things a little to deal with games like this. The team was and is more effective in the halfcourt working out of a set play at the start- usually the Duhon/Lee pick and roll- which allows them to open up the defense a bit and force some movement, where their shooters spreading the floor becomes more of a weapon. Without that you get what we had in the second and third quarters of this one: a team of guys who all have the green light to shoot from anywhere, who are being given mediocre shots by the opposition and are willing to take them instead of working for the best available shot.
Still, there are positives: Gallinari is obviously this year’s big development project, and tonight was a solid step in that direction as he got more minutes than anyone but the starters and produced effectively (albeit in mostly garbage time). Two major things stick out about his play: he did a nice job of showing his basketball smarts in flashes, using a shot fake to draw contact and a foul on the perimeter from Michael Beasley as the shot clock ran down. He also had the anti-Jason Kapono line for a shooter, taking 14 shots overall and 13 of them from three point range. He’s got the relatively rare attribute for a young player right now of knowing where his best abilities lie and confining himself to employing them, instead of trying to do things he’s simply not really equipped to do yet. On a night when the Knicks got absolutely flambe’d, that’s a decent consolation take-away.
– How nice of Q Rich to lose 25 pounds and give a care immediately after leaving New York. That was great to see, and says a lot about his professionalism.
– Whisper it, but Darko looked ok. I’m not crazy enough to think he’ll eventually be what he was supposed to be, but his defense and boards were welcome additions, and it’s just possible that Mike Dan Tony’s coaching may get a bit more offense out of him, enough to make him, say, a league average center? Yeah, I know, but the season opener is all about dreams….
– Jared Jefferies appears to be the permanent idea as the more or less lead perimeter defender when he’s out there, presumably on the idea that his wingspan and footwork will let him disrupt some passes and switch effectively on S/R plays. I recall this being a solid change of pace defensive call last year- we’ll see how much it gets used this year and how it works.
– On the Heat’s first two offensive plays of the year they went right to Jermine O’Neal posting up on David Lee. How Lee’s defense evolves, or doesn’t, over the course of the year will be an ongoing sub-plot to the season.
Not much more to say about this one. It was full of sloppy junk like TO’s from guys stepping on the baseline and intercepted inbounds passes, and hopefully that will be worked out by the second or third week of the season, and we’ll have a better sense of what exactly we’re watching with this year’s Knicks.
Yeah, there’s games tonight and all, but you know the starting gun has really gone off once the Clippers’ star rookie is hurt. Regular as clockwork!
On the one hand, he can probably help them: Kareem is one of the smartest and frankly wisest retired athletes out there, and as a player he was famed not just for his athletic excellence but also for his technical skill. As a coach, he’s been well-respected. On paper you couldn’t pick a better guy to help wring some value out of the Grizzle’s selfish, disorganized, inexperienced mess of a frontcourt. On the other hand…it’s KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR working with THE MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES. In a league where Michael Jordan GM’s a team which thankfully did not exist during his player career I suppose anything is possible, but honestly my sense of propriety just rebels against this. The Grizzlies are like the NBA’s answer to one of those forgotten, black-hole, forsaken-by-God NHL teams from places whose last snowfall came under a Whig president. There’s just no excuse for them.
So Brock’s out of UFC 106, leaving Forrest vs. Moai as the main event. Not much analysis to this one; it sucks, but it means that one way or another the early months of next year will be heavily loaded with Brock vs. Carwin (Jan. 2 is the reported new date), Silva vs. Vitor, the return of GSP eventually, the return of Rampage probably, Shogun vs. Machida II, etc. We’ll know more about what it means if the rumors of them trying to find a new fight to add to 106 turn out to be true- personally if I were them I’d leave it alone as the main plus Finch vs. Alves is still a good card to my mind, but hey- we shall see.
Side note: Cecil Peoples defends his Rua-Machida I card.
On the one hand, good for him for being willing to defend his card, if these quotes are legitimate.
On the other hand, if these do turn out to be accurate, it’s such an ignorant, ridiculous, arrogant and thoroughly incompetent performance by him that he should be finally banned from judging the sport in all commissioned states as a result. He’s been notorious for years as the worst judge in the sport; for him to have so little understanding of what was happening in front of him is an indictment of the people who allow him to have a continuing voice in the sport (again: if the quotes are genuine). When you cut through the bullshit, you find two clear things here: that he’s all but stating that leg kicks are an illegitimate technique which can’t win a fight and therefore don’t really count as scoring blows (good luck finding that in the rules), and that Machida was somehow showing “octagon control” in that fight. The first claim is too ridiculous to need responding to.
For the second- look, I thought Andre Dirrell beat Carl Froch; I’m more than willing to respect the game of a mover who avoids strikes with footwork and forces the other guy to chase him (in my view) ineffectively. But Rua did more visible damage, more functional damage and out-landed Machida in every single round of that fight. Machida’s footwork was not making Rua miss, it wasn’t making him fight at a distance where he couldn’t be effective, it wasn’t setting up counter-shots which led to near finishes, it wasn’t allowing Machida to gas Shogun out or break him down- what precisely did it achieve? You move for a PURPOSE- the fact that you move, the other guy follows you, then you get your ass kicked at the new location is not octagon control in any meaningful sense. Rua solved Machida- he rendered Machida’s typical gameplan wholly ineffective by striking not at the head but at the lead leg and the body. That Machida continued to employ that gameplan despite being beaten isn’t evidence that it was working, it’s evidence that he needs to find a plan B if he wants to win the rematch.
In short: Cecil Peoples is ridiculous if he actually said this, and so far I have yet to see one legitimate card in favor of Machida which anyone has actually defended. Feel free to let me know if you see one. Moreover, there are elements of Peoples’ claim which represent one the basic fallacies of terrible judging, which I’ll deal with in a post later this week.
I have nothing further to add on the Machida-Rua debacle, other than that was the worst decision I’ve ever seen in my life (having far less experience in boxing and MMA than Brendan does). Steve Cofield’s snarky post at Cagewriter had some merit to it (it’s really not the end of the world, and I did roll my eyes when my co-worker said he’s not watching UFC again for a long time), but erred too far I think on the side of shrugging your shoulders and assuming that the fight was really that close. I was one of the ones who had it 4-1 for Shogun, and I only just barely gave that one round to the Dragon…5-0 Shogun is a much more defensible card than 3-2 Lyoto is in my opinion. While Lyoto intermittently tagged Shogun with some decent shots, I felt that Shogun a) connected more often and b) connected more often on power shots and in general controlled the bout as far as cage generalship goes. While it doesn’t necessarily automatically cost him rounds when Machida spends them backpedalling, he has tended to win in the past because his counter-striking was brutally effective. Saturday night, not so much.
But, anyway, the title of my post is because Jaroslav Halak is getting the start AGAIN in goal tonight against the Islanders. This would have been the perfect game to put Carey back in because a) JM could have cited the congested schedule as an excuse for giving Halak a rest and b) it would have been the perfect opponent to see if our recent improved play could jumpstart the goaltender that has a much higher talent ceiling. Look, JM has done a lot with a very little so far this season, and I’m beginning to kinda sorta maybe perhaps come around on these guys (they really are so much better than last season, and the effort levels are much higher from people not named Kostitsyn). But, I would be lying if I said I understood this insistence on playing Halak this often…not when he can’t make a single save without booming a rebound out back into the slot.
I cannot believe this needs to be said, but I have read several people defending that Iole column on the basis that Rua should have been looking for a stoppage and therefore the real issue was bad advice. This is stupid on several levels, of which here are a few:
1. Rua only “needs” to finish that fight if you agree with the judges’ scoring, and by that same scoring Rua fought more effectively in the later rounds after he was down on the score cards. If fighting effectively can be taken as a synonym for doing damage and striving to potentially finish a fight, than according to those judges Rua acted precisely the way he was advised not to do.
2. There’s two functional elements to the cornermen-are-at-fault thesis: the actual accuracy of the judges, and the degree to which the Rua corner should have been aware of the Judges take. There are thus 4 potential combinations of those factors. If the judges are correct and Rua’s corner should have known, then they are culpable; but in a fight where most polls show 80% of fans believing the judges were wrong, no one on press row had it for Machida, and Dana White believes the judging was bad enough to warrant an immediate rematch, this is an extremely difficult contention to defend. If the judges are incorrect and Rua’s corner should have known they would be, then you’re essentially saying that they should be able to read the minds of judges to know that they’re performing incompetently. Given the presence of Cecil Peoples I’ll give partial credit to this one, but for all three judges to be so wrong (or so out of line with the majority view) isn’t something which can be reasonably anticipated. If the judges were correct and Rua’s corner should not have known, the case is the same. If the judges were incorrect and Rua’s corner should not have known, then the fault again is with the judges.
Put more plainly, it’s not reasonable for the corner to anticipate judging so outside the mainstream view of the fight. One judge, maybe; all three, no. Based on the way almost everyone saw the fight, Rua WAS winning, and thus their advice was completely reasonable based on the evidence they had to hand and the reasonable inferences they could draw therefrom.
3. In additional support of the corner, the risk profile of attempting a finish at all costs vs. that of controlled aggression is not the same on several levels. Going for a finish and getting it would guarantee a win and make Rua a major star stateside; but getting KO’d would be a huge risk to his career, the chances of being so increase dramatically with going all-out for the KO, and the marginal fame value of KOing Machida vs. decisioning him isn’t that high given that in either case Rua would still be defeating an undefeated champion for a major title in a PPV headliner.
Give it up folks, that column is indefensible.