Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Open Apology Letter to Michael Beasley

Dear Assassin-NBA Player Michael Paul Beasley,

     I'm sorry I feared what you could be, Beas. I judged you prematurely. I might be judging you prematurely again. But at least I can see you out there, being motivated and also an assassin (your words, not mine). You're doing things you've never done before, Michael - learning, growing, like a young NBA player/assassin should. You're supposed to be The Man for your mostly-awful team, it seems, and you're doing the best that you can. That best isn't a bad-best, unexpectedly. You're out there attacking, drawing two more fouls per game than you ever have. You're shooting a better 3P% in this young season than I ever expected. No, you don't make the right call every time, but no one does. You're just out there doing the right thing as often as possible. You're trying to say and do the right things and lead your generally pathetic patchwork of a team with as much conviction as you know how (God knows Rambis won't). That one extra turnover per game isn't a thing to worry about. At least, not when you're being asked to do so much. And Beas, you're doing it in ways I didn't believe you could grasp, much less execute. And for that, I commend you. Keep it up and don't let me down.

 Yours Truly,
Note - Ignore that watermark. Clearly I tried very hard to sign my name with a pen directly on my screen, but it's hard to do.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zach Randolph Feasts, Suns Battle But Fall

...No, not in the way you'd suspect, either.

Shaking off a rough performance in a double OT loss against the Suns Friday (a double-double on 3-11 shooting with 8 combined TOs and PFs), Zach wasted no time establishing himself against the likes of (this is not for the weak of heart) Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick. Robin Lopez hung around for 14 minutes to collect 2 rebounds and allow Randolph to go off on the offensive boards (8 on the game, plenty right over the top of a stationary Robin). It was one of the most effortless 20-20 performances of which I've ever been witness.

Then again, it must have seemed a breeze for Z-Bo to put up such a performance after going up against the likes of Sam Dalembert and DeMarcus Cousins, whom he torched for 20-11 on 8 of 15 shooting on the second night of a back to back after playing 42 minutes against Phoenix (whom he struggled against, as previously mentioned). Fade-away jumpers over the out-stretched arms of Hakim Warrick, physical offensive boards over Robin Lopez, hitting 5 of 6 attempts at the line after easily establishing position and going strong to the rim. The Suns held Randolph to only 6 points in the 2nd half, but surrendered the same 10 boards to him that they did in the 1st half.

If anything, the lack of 2nd half offensive dominance by Randolph was due more to choice from the Grizzlies than to the Suns playing him all that much better. Admittedly, late doubles and a better job denying him helped some, but Z-Bo was completely dominate in this game. Besides hitting a jump hook over Hakim Warrick with 2 seconds left on the shot clock as to stop a late Suns run Z-Bo added 3 steals, 2 of which helped to break offensive Suns runs. I applaud him for dominating the Suns, though their haplessness on the inside is clearly their greatest weakness.

Tonight, the Suns showed the factor that could kill their playoffs hopes - Poor interior presence and no hope to draw fouls on an opposing team's best post player (Miss you, Amar'e). The Grizzlies, meanwhile, illustrated why they could be a darkhorse for a low playoff seeding - Zach Randolph and his ability to fill up the bucket while dominating the boards.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fashionably Late

Ersan Ilyasova took his sweet time making his return to the Association this season. I know, the stat sheet says '5 games played,' but last night was his first real game back after a long summer that saw him help Turkey to a 2nd-place finish in the World Championships.

His line against the Celtics: 5-10 from the field, 2-2 from deep, 3-3 from the foul line, plus 7 rebounds, and only 1 turnover, all in 35 minutes.

Even with that fabulous line 5 games into his season, Ersan is only averaging 4 points, and 3 rebounds on 33% shooting in 14.6 minutes per game. The good news is that after last night's game, he has a chance to get the nod for heavier minutes over Drew Gooden, who has also shot poorly and put up only slightly better per minute numbers to start the season.

Although listed as an inch shorter than Gooden, Ersan has greater length, and there is no doubt that his quickness and athleticism at age 23 are far greater than that of the aging journeyman. He was constantly moving on defense, getting into help position and challenging drives and spot-up jumpers. He did a solid job bothering KG one-on-one, as well. He may still have some work to do on the boards, as he occasionally left his man to challenge a shot or failed to box out hard with the ball in the air, but his length allows him to make up for some of his technical shortcomings (having Bogut cleaning up the boards despite having two players hanging on him helps, too).

On the offensive end he not only found the open areas on the court, a strength that Drew Gooden shares, but also made a point to seek out a man to screen. On the ball, off the ball, it did not matter, because Ersan Ilyasova was going to be active and stay involved somehow. He was credited with only a single offensive board, but attempted to sneak in and tip rebounds out on multiple occasions, which the Bucks desperately need when their offense struggles (and it has been struggling, believe me). His efficient offensive game alone could have kept him in the game over Gooden.

The Bucks are the 3rd worst team in the league on offense, according to HoopData's offensive efficiency numbers. They need easy baskets, and Ersan's ability on defense and in transition are exactly the way to get them. I know it's only one game, but go ahead and take the risk on more minutes for Ilyasova. When you're 1-4 on the season you don't have much to lose. Time to make a change.