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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Slingers stay closer to home


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As was reported yesterday, the Slingers will no longer take part in 2008/09 NBL season. A representive of the Slingers made it clear in this comment that all player contracts will be honoured and in fact the Singaporean government has not withdrawn its support of the franchise.


Rather, the move for Singapore comes as a result of the increased travel costs associated with the NBL competition since the departure of the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets. Presumably, this refers to the fact that the amended schedule would require more flights to cities which are not as economically feasible as flying to Sydney or Brisbane (two major hubs in Australia).

The Slingers have released this press release stating that the team will be playing in an Asian Professional League, which they presumably are in talks to construct, along with teams from Korea, Philippines, Japan and China.

“We had every intention to play our third season in the NBL and had recruited a team to be very competitive and more relevant to Singapore, with three players of Asian heritage on the roster”, said Slingers Managing Director Bob Turner.

“In spite of the team’s financial readiness to participate, the recent withdrawal of two keyteams from the NBL has had a negative impact on our business model and led to anunanticipated increase in travel costs. When the NBL could not accede to our request to help defray the exorbitant and rising travel costs, the board of the Slingers took the painful but necessary decision to leave the NBL and pursue the possibility of playing in a professional league in Asia instead”.




Monday, 28 July 2008

NBL news : Singapore Slingers next on the chopping block?


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Recognition goes to JR, On Fire for first alerting a stern warning to this news.

It appears that the Singapore Slingers may be the next casualty of this NBL off-season. After having lost the Sydney Kings and Brisbane Bullets already, due to financial difficulties, the Slingers may also be unlikely to start the 2008-09 NBL season.


According to rumours circulating on OzHoopsBoards, "it seems that the Singapore Slingers will not compete this season. The NBL is down to ten teams. With the league review rumoured to force the Slingers out in 09/10, the Singapore government may have pulled the pin early."

The Slingers were heavily funded by the Singapore government and as such appeared to be one of the stronger financially backed teams in the league. Unfortunately, with that backing walking out the door, the Slingers immediately become an unviable entity.

There is much talk of the NBL moving to Australian soccer's A-League format, with a reduction in teams to concentrate on one team in each major geographical centre. There is a suggestion that this would not have involved a team from South East Asia under the current review being undertaken.

I should note in all this, that this is only a rumour at this stage with no confirmation from either the league, nor the team. I can only hope that it is not indeed true and that something happens to change this.

Singapore were going to be an interesting team to watch this season. They have heavily recruited in the off-season and brought in a cosmopolitan mix of players to better draw the fans in. Imports Darius Rice and Eric Sandrin looked to be exciting additions who have both dabbed into the NBA. Jason Castro from the Phillipines brought a totally different element of fan base to the team and would have played well alongside new acquisition Darren Ng from Adelaide. Ben Knight, captain of the Slingers, must be the most disappointed. He has been with the team since their inception into the league and will struggle to fit his player points into another team's cap before the season starts.

Most of the Australian-born players will likely have real difficulties in getting an NBL job this season without some points cap concessions.


UPDATE
: from John Rillie, "What I'm hearing though is all player contracts will be honoured and the club is trying to play 15 exhibition games in Singapore in the upcoming months. I'm not sure what playing exhibition games will do for a franchise without a league but I do not know the Singapore market at all.This concept is interesting but knowing Bob Turner he must have something in the pipeline. Maybe the Slingers will join an Asian league? Would the Chinese CBA look at a team from Singapore?"

I wonder if they could try to get a run in the American CBA. Didn't a Chinese team do that a year or two back?






Sunday, 27 July 2008

Old-School NBL action


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Some great old-school NBL action, featuring the Tassie Devils vs Melbourne Tigers back in 1987. Check out Steve Carfino in his short shorts.





Friday, 25 July 2008

2008 Olympic Basketball Preview : Australian Boomers


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The teams are set and it is time to start theorising and posturising over the fortunes of the Olympics Mens Basketball squads for 2008. Two very strong pools have formed with neither group containing any 100 percent certainties. Today we will look at the Australian Boomers, the Aussie battlers from Downunder and how they plan to make their way out of competitive Pool A, which includes defending champions Argentina, Eastern-European powerhouses Lithuania and Russia, Croatia and Iran.

As the country's highest profile player Andrew Bogut said recently, "Representing a small country like Australia, 20 million people, it's always great fun to go and try to knock off the big dogs in the Olympic Games."

However, will that underdog, never-say-die spirit be enough for Australia to counter-act some of their obvious weaknesses against more favoured opponents such as Spain, Argentina and USA? Let's have a look at how the squad shapes up in the tournament.

STRENGTHS

-- Big men: the Aussies have a solid stable of bigs with flexible skill-sets.

-- Coaching: Brian Goorjian brings a defensive style which works well in International ball.

WEAKNESSES

-- Experience: the veteran stars that carried the Boomers of the 90s, including Andrew Gaze, Shane Heal, Mark Bradtke and Luc Longley are long gone from international duties and two of the veterans of the team, Sam MacKinnon and Jason Smith, are injured.

-- Outside shooting: the team is lacking in real gunners from the perimeter, despite Goorjian's coaching style relying on this for much of the team's offence.

There has been a strong emphasis in the media's pre-Olympic analysis on the strength of the Aussie frontline -- and rightly so. It clearly holds the most internationally credentialled component of the team, to the point that 2008 Toronto Raptors draftee, Nathan Jawai, was pushed out of the team. The big man department includes starting centre Andrew Bogut, Boomers captain Matt Nielsen, CSKA Moscow champion David Andersen and NBL MVP Chris Anstey. However, despite this range of styles and strength of experience, Bogut rightly points out that the key for the team will fall to the guards:

"But Bogut yesterday warned total reliance on the awesome foursome would prove the Boomers' undoing at the Beijing Games.

"You definitely have to have above-average guards that are going to have their work cut out for them," Bogut said at the Gold Coast Boomers camp.

"We need to play one through 12. It's not going to be Andrew Bogut or David Andersen averaging 20 and 12 for us to get a medal.

"I think the most important thing is having guys coming off the bench and contributing, having everyone being on the same page, having guys playing for their country and not thinking about their best job in Europe, or trying to get a contract in the NBA or impress the scouts. It's not about that, it's about being collective as a group of 12 and getting a medal for your country.

"Pressuring full court and doing those things which a lot of European teams don't do, that's going to help us – rebound, play defence and score those buckets down low.

"We're going to have to junk the game up."

BOOMERS LINE-UP

BIGS

Andrew Bogut

The big man came onto the scene at the 2004 Athens games and proved himself immediately to be the starting centre the Boomers had been looking for since the retirement of Luc Longley. His international-sized frame, coupled with his agility and passing ability, make the Boomers legitimate down low and will not leave them wanting against any Olympic opponent in middle. He has proven himself in the NBA to be a solid double-double performer and the Milwaukee Bucks have rewarded him as such with a recent five-year contract worth up to $72.5m. The Boomers will hope for him to grab close to ten rebounds a game, offer a large amount of interior scoring and intimidate opposing offences.

Matt Nielsen

After proving all he could in the Australian NBL, the lanky combo-forward headed to Europe to ply his wares for substantially more money. Standing 6'10", Nielsen is a solid rebounder and shot blocker with an array of offensive moves in the post and facing up. He has the speed to blow by many bigger defenders and occasionally will switch to the small forward spot where his size will dominate. He currently plays for BC Lietuvos Rytas, who have been quite successful with Nielsen playing a starring role. He provides some of his thoughts from last season here.

David Andersen

The forward/centre provides a slightly different look to Nielsen at the four spot, as he is just as good a jump shooter, but slightly stronger whilst lacking some of the captain's speed. A shade short of 7'0", Andersen has seen a great deal of success firstly with Kinder Bologna and then with CSKA Moscow, where he helped the team to two Euroleague titles. He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 2002, but has scorned their most recent offers to enter the NBA for the greater money and playing time that Europe offers, recently signing with Barcelona. His experience and size will be greatly relied upon in the clutch games for the Boomers down the stretch.

Chris Anstey

The former Bull and Maverick returned to the NBL after successful stints in Russia and Spain, to claim the 2006 and 2008 NBL MVP awards. His 7'0" lanky frame is most at home at the three point line it often seems, giving the Boomers a very different look to Bogut inside.

Shawn Redhage

The 6'8" American-born naturalised Australian will get some minutes at both forward spots to provide additional scoring punch in Brian Goorjian's occasionally anemic offence. Redhage is a solid all-rounder who will fill whatever gaps arise for the team, as he does on a consistent basis for his club, the Perth Wildcats.



SWINGMEN

Mark Worthington

Worthington (6'7" F), as one of coach Goorjian's favourites, may end up a top performer for the Boomers by the time the Olympics is over. He excels at scoring inside and out and uses his intense personality to lock down opponents on the other end of the floor. After a solid career at Metropolitan State University, Denver he has become one of the top performers in the NBL and challenged for the 2008 MVP trophy.


David Barlow

Another Metro State alumnus who fits well into Goorjian's system, Barlow may well start at shooting guard after recent displays of extremely effective three point shooting. He often fails to make the best decisions off the dribble, but is athletic and will provide the Boomers with a swingman capable of matching opposing scorers at the 2/3.

Brad Newley

Drafted by the Houston Rockets in 2007, he was told to further refine his game in Europe and has spent a successful season in Greece, where he will continue next season (albeit for a different team to previously -- Panellinios). Newley (23 years old) is a solid scorer at the shooting guard position and will provide Australia with one of its best perimeter scorers for years to come. He should get an opportunity to play plenty of minutes in this tournament.


Glen Saville

One of the team's few veterans, Saville has seen Olympic duty previously with the Boomers at the 2004 Athens games. A completely unbiased and emotive wikipedia entry for Saville sums him up best: "Glen Saville is one of the NBL's most versatile players and at times he is called upon to man any position on the court using a combination of size, strength and speed to handle whatever match-up the opposition throws his way."


Joe Ingles

Ingles may find himself mired towards the end of Goorjian's bench in these games, but will definitely feature much more prominently in the Boomers' future. His unique combination of length, shooting and ball-handling make him a difficult matchup at the 1/2/3.


POINT GUARDS

CJ Bruton

One of the Boomers' leaders and veterans, CJ will be a key to the team's success. A solid floor general with an ability to get very hot from the outside, he has had a wealth of experience around Australia as well as in the States. A recent injury scare in camp shook up the Boomers' hopes, however it appears that Bruton's ankle will be ready to go for the Olympics, notwithstanding the disruption to his preparation. Bruton should get the lion's share of minutes at the point and his experience in tight situations will be relied upon.


Pat Mills

Aboriginal star Mills has been the recent sensation of the Australian team. His slight 6'0" frame belies his ability to come up big on the court, as he did for St Mary's University, leading them to a 2007 upset of Oregon with 37 points. He is the youngest ever to play for the Boomers, at age 19. His blinding quickness brings a change of pace off the bench and will likely see him get his chance to make his mark in Beijing.

The Boomers have their sights set on earning a medal at these Games. It has been rare in recent history that Australia has managed to gather all of their top players to compete in international tournaments, so much is expected in these games. The stock of bigs will be relied upon for much of the scoring and to dominate the middle against smaller teams, whilst the real emphasis will fall to the perimeter players to step up and hit their shots for the Aussies to do as well as hoped. Don't rule them out of the medals equation.




Thursday, 24 July 2008

Donaghy's buddies have their moment of truth


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Today David Stern cringes again, as the newspapers will revisit his least favourite topic of the last 12 months: the Tim Donaghy saga. Indeed, perhaps he will even be happy that the sports columnists will be filling their quota with "Childress takes Greek deal" headlines, if it distracts from the fact that today Donaghy's high school friends and gambling co-conspirators will be sentenced in court.

"Thomas Martino, 42, of Marcus Hook, and James Battista, 42, of Phoenixville, are expected to be in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, N.Y., for their roles in the betting scheme allegedly concocted by Donaghy."

"Martino entered a plea to a wire-fraud charge for his role in the betting scandal. It is expected he will receive no more than 18 months in jail under his plea deal. He could have gotten as much as 20 years in jail.

"Baba" Battista, described as a professional gambler, entered a similar deal. Battista at one point waffled on his deal, mulling going to trial, a move that would have negated Martino's deal with prosecutors as well. Battista eventually changed his mind after prosecutors offered a deal that allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge of conspiring to make illegal bets, according to his lawyer, Jack McMahon. Battista is likely to get 10 to 16 months in prison."

July 29 is the next big day on Mr Stern's calendar, as Tim Donaghy gets his sentencing. You'd have to think that there will be some very strictly refereed jailyard games coming up, given the body of evidence against Donaghy -- at least that which has been reported in the press.

"He is expected to receive a prison term in the neighborhood of two to three years when sentenced by Judge Carol Amon."






Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Today's warnings : 23 July, 2008


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Circum-navigating the world wide web quicker than you can say Sarunas Marciulionis, it's today's warnings:

FROM THE BLOGS

  • Truehoop: analysing the potential homophobia in a new Nike advertising campaign.
  • Ball Don't Lie: Skeets never stops bringing the bargains at ya! How about some champagne that may have possibly, by chance, speculatively come from the Chicago Bulls 1997 Championship locker room?
  • Basketbawful: continuing to bring you some of the worst of the NBA, in a good way...
  • Brewhoop: a final wrap up on the Bucks' Summer League activities.
  • And One: LeBron's injured his ankle, but it's not serious, or it could be, but it's probably not. Sehr gut.
  • Cuzoogle: some great photoshop work on some new NBA movie titles not coming to the an NBA retailer near you.
  • John Rillie: addressing probably the hottest topic in Australian NBL basketball right now, regarding the new franchise the Sydney Spirit (or whatever they're to be called after the Bendigo Spirit have had their crack at the name). It's a hard job trying to convince the public that a new franchise has been born when they are essentially in the same location as their forefathers (the Razorbacks) and have mostly the same squad (bar one big name signing). The new OKC team is in a similar situation, albeit they have actually moved to another city. From what I'm hearing on the Ozhoops Boards amongst some of the keener fans, it will be very hard to draw fans across from the old Sydney Kings fold, as it will be difficult to ascertain which Razorbacks fans classify this as a new franchise and which are clinging to the former team's history. Time will tell...
  • SportsVideoGames: KG on the cover of NBA 2K9.

FROM THE MAINSTREAM

  • OKC: a suggestion on the mascot for the new team.
  • China: Yao Ming isn't scared of anyone. "I am very sure we can beat Angola. We lost to them in Hangzhou, but we were not in our best shape last week," he said. "Their players are not very competitive, and I don't think they are able to pose us any real threat at the Games.
    "We are not afraid of Germany either. Yi Jianlian has improved tremendously after playing one season in the NBA and he can limit Nowitzki. And I can take care of Chris Kaman."
  • Golden State: Marcus Williams is a Warrior. They're not necessarily looking as good as last year, but certainly younger and with some solid foundations. Out with Baron, Pietrus and Barnes and in with Turiaf, Williams and Maggette. They won't be a playoff team, but we knew that already.
  • Matt Geiger: people are being nasty to poor little Matt and not buying his house for the $21m price they promised. Maybe Latrell Sprewell can give him some tips on feeding his kids in the meantime.






Greg Oden is crazy wacky hilarious!


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I don't know how, but somehow I missed this video of Greg Oden when it came out. This is the perfect example of how much of a comic genius this guy is. Forget the Big Aristotle/Cactus/Diesel/Fu, in years to come, everyone will be talking about the quotability of All-Interview First Teamer, Greg Oden.




Monday, 21 July 2008

Today's warnings : 21 July, 2008


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Summer League action has provided a glimpse at some of the incoming rookies for 2008, Olympic teams are set and the last crumbs of free agency are still being devoured by the few with enough room in their bellies (salary caps) to fit them. Here's a round-up of your warnings for today:
  • John Rillie has a great summary of the happenings in the world of Australian and Olympic basketball this week.
  • Angola, the one-time punching bags of Charles Barkley (circa 1992), beat Serbia in an Olympic warmup match.
  • Red's Army comes up with the worthwhile question: Did the '92 Dream Team ruin the NBA? Believe me, it's more than just a juicy headline and perhaps telling of the current and future state of international basketball.
  • Once Were Sonics, now are Thunder...
  • The Akron Police are going to be getting around on some King James bicycles!
  • Bostjan Nachbar to play in Russia. "Already this summer, Tiago Splitter of Brazil, a first-round pick of the Spurs in 2007, and Goran Dragic of Slovenia, a second-round pick of the Spurs in 2008 whose rights were traded to the Suns, have opted for more lucrative deals in Europe than they'd be eligible for as rookies in the NBA.
    And four international players with NBA experience --
    Carlos Delfino, Jorge Garbajosa, Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Juan Carlos Navarro -- have accepted offers from European teams that easily trumped the money NBA teams were willing to offer.
    "The NBA had better be careful," Nachbar said. "European teams are offering a lot of money. It's much more, considering there are no taxes, than what I could make signing for the mid-level exception."
  • Josh Childress is seriously considering his European options (in Greece), unless someone throws a good contract his way quickly. Of course all of this talk of players going overseas must be of some concern, or at least thought-provoking, for my namesake Mr Stern. However, overall I think that this is nothing but good for world basketball. Sure, the NBA would like to retain as many top players as possible, but until the marquee players start heading overseas (say Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker or Pau Gasol for example), this is not a major problem for the NBA,
  • Lakers fans will miss the intensity of Ronny Turiaf, but there simply isn't room in the rotation for him behind Odom, Gasol, Bynum, Radmanovic and Mihm -- at that price anyway.
  • Get your feed of Raptors links from Cuzoogle.
  • Final Summer League thoughts from the land of the Blazers. "Yes, Bayless tweaked his hand during that breathtaking, game-saving 36-point outburst against the Suns. But three team sources, including Bayless, insist he did not undergo any tests on his hand."




Thursday, 17 July 2008

Oklahoma City : where the team has no name


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In Oklahoma City, the wait continues. What will be the name of the team plucked from the grips of the Seattle Sonics fans by Clay Bennett?

From the Canadian Press:

The sports apparel shop where Colby Ousley works was one of the first places to get new NBA T-shirts featuring Oklahoma City on the front.

There's still a big question on the minds of Ousley and others who are eager for the NBA to make its official arrival in the city, though.

"I'm anxious to know what they're finally going to be. The colours, nobody knows anything about that," said Ousley, a 19-year-old who's studying athletic training at the University of Central Oklahoma.

The NBA expects that parts of Oklahoma City's new identity might be announced next month, but the final deadline will be late September - shortly before the start of pre-season games.

The actual names under consideration aren't being revealed, but Bennett has said there are several names being cleared through the league and that the team took in recommendations through letters, naming competitions at schools and a contest run by the local newspaper.

"We've got lots and lots of names, so we feel like we have absorbed much of the flavour of what the citizens have considered and have certainly put that into the equation," Bennett said.

When it comes to Oklahoma City's yet-to-be-named
NBA franchise, a for-sure, can't-miss nickname is difficult to come by. Marketing experts say the easy choices are already taken, long ago gobbled up by the hundreds of professional franchises.

But options remain.

"Now you kind of get down to a name that fits who you are and where you are,” said Vince Orza, dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.

Good names, Orza said, are terms that are positive, short, easy to spell and easy to pronounce. The best ones also reflect strength and characterize the team's region.

"You kind of want a fun term also,” Orza said. "Four letter names are always the best if you can get them. If you think about it, Ford, Oreo, Coke, the reason those names are so successful is they're easy to say, easy to remember and easy to spell.

"Simple means bigger, and the bigger you can get it on a uniform and cap the easier it is to see the image and the impression of the name.”

Everyone is obsessed
with naming the new team:

Nickname fever is sweeping the state, and no one is immune. With the impending arrival of Oklahoma's first major-league sports franchise — one that's leaving its name, colors and history behind — folks from Guymon to Gotebo are talking about what the team should be called.

Who among us hasn't thought about it, talked about it, debated about it?

This has become fodder for the casual observer every bit as much as the hard-core fan. The debate is just as likely to rage in a Sunday school class as at the local watering hole.

Heck, the obsession extends to The Oklahoman. Our fair newspaper conducted a 64-name bracket competition within hours of the relocation vote, and even though we've told all of you that we have no sway in the naming, you still keep calling and writing with your suggestions.

Meanwhile, OKC's (newly) own Kevin Durant will highlight the USA Select roster as one of 10 young players to give Team USA a run for their money in the lead up to the Olympics.

Durant's co-draftee of 2007, Greg Oden is excited about coming back after missing his first NBA season through injury and thinks that the Blazers might have some new fans:

Having Seattle lose its NBA franchise to Oklahoma City, Oden expects to see "a lot more people in Seattle coming down to Portland."





Wednesday, 16 July 2008

LeBron keeps a sidekick : Daniel Gibson re-signs


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The Cavs have re-signed Daniel 'Boobie' Gibson to an undisclosed multi-year deal.

NBA.com : "Daniel has been an important part of our Cavs family the last two seasons. He has worked to grow as a player and we love his passion for winning and the game itself. He's been great off the court as well, and is exactly the kind of person we're proud to have with us," said Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry. "In re-signing Daniel, it helps the Cavs both build continuity and create a young core that will be in Cleveland for many years to come."

Gibson is a vital cog in the Cavaliers' engine as they try to establish a winning team to keep star LeBron James happy and in Cleveland.




NBA : Today's warnings : 16 July, 2008


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Tuesday, 15 July 2008

NBA Live 365 : the news is out!


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EA Sports finally made their NBA Live announcement (which you were sternly warned about yesterday) with regard to the new artificial intelligence feature. It's aptly called "NBA 365" as it means you are provided with an updated NBA experience for every day of the year.


Part of this development means that every NBA Live player has a "Dynamic DNA" -- which as the name suggests, brings a constantly changing number of characteristics for that player. If this is as advertised on the carton, we've got a very exciting move in the future of sports gaming right here.

Here's a roundup of the news on the E3 announcement:
  • A couple of nice updates from our friends at Sports Video Games, here and then again here.
  • Report at the NBA Live Series Center from someone who has tested out the new NBA Live 09 and attended the initial event for the media. He points out that, as you would expect, there may well be a charge in the future for the update service -- but not for the 2009 iteration.
  • The official list of new features, direct from EA's site.
  • Another great hands-on report, this one from Pasta Padre.
  • Oh and by the way, no, Brandon Roy is not on the cover of NBA Live 09 -- not to my knowledge anyway. That cover and other fantasies can be found at the IGN Boards.

One thing which I don't think enough has been made of, is the NBA Rewind feature. According to EA this is:

"NBA Rewind* - Think you can do it better? Rewrite history and replay last night's game with the updated statistical data that recreates identical conditions including injuries, hot/cold streaks, tendencies and player DNA."

I think Pasta Padre said it pretty well in his report:

"This is actually the aspect that I feel may have the most widespread appeal, though the others in attendance seemed to dismiss it going as far as to ask why time was spent on it (apparently very little as it just uses data that was already available). You’ll be able to replay any game from last season or the current one. Games are expected to be available for replay the very next day. Not only will this have every game available but you’ll be playing them with AI specific to that game alone. And if certain players were injured at the time of the game, or trades were made since then, it won’t matter. The players who were on the roster at the time of that game will be available. This mode will present something unique for every game you “rewind”."

That's pretty exciting stuff, to be able to replay any game in the past two seasons with true to life conditions! Now you can make the NBA Finals finish the way they were meant to, Laker fans...




Monday, 14 July 2008

NBA Live 2009 : UPDATE


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As previously reported here, NBA Live will have a constantly-updating AI (that's artificial intelligence, not The Answer) feature in the 2009 edition.

Further confirmation of this rumour comes from HoopsWorld, who elaborated on this feature with the exciting news that it will draw upon the Synergy Sports database:

"The new game is truly revolutionary as it incorporates daily updates from the Synergy Sports database, making the game more of a true to life simulator, with ultra-accurate rosters and starting lineups, and more accurate game play. Synergy powers some of the best basketball analysis tools, which are used by 20 NBA teams to review and break down players. The Synergy system will make NBA Live 09 so accurate in its depiction of players and tendencies, its impressive to think that the game will evolve throughout the season taking into account real-life streaks, injuries, roster moves and lineup changes. The system literally pulls data daily, based on the results from the last game. As a player gets better during the season, his game-play character will mirror it."

This is very exciting, as from what I've heard of this Synergy tool (mostly from Henry Abott's ravings on Truehoop) it breaks down every single play in an NBA game and assigns keywords/phrases to that play. This database gives a coach (and now NBA Live) the ability to draw up how many times say Kobe Bryant went to the basket with his left hand and missed the shot, or how many times Dwight Howard blocked Emeka Okafor's shot in a game. If this data is used correctly, it would truly bring realism to NBA Live's AI -- one of the biggest areas of complaint gamers have had historically. More to come after the official announcement (3pm Los Angeles time, today).

NBA Live 2009 : Groundbreaking feature


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There has been talk for sometime that a groundbreaking new feature was to be announced for NBA Live 2009 by EA Sports at today's E3 Media & Business Summit.

Games reviewers who were given a sneak-peak were asked not to leak information on the new development until the official announcement was made at E3 by EA. However, as with anything, there is always one...

Word has started to filter out that this is indeed a very exciting development for the franchise, which may finally bring it back above 2K Sports' NBA franchise -- regaining lost ground in a market that EA used to dominate.

As yet I have only seen one report on this, from the San Jose Mercury News:

"Companies such as EA aren't just reacting to Nintendo's innovations but touting their own, even in the most traditional of games.

EA plans to announce today that the latest version of its "NBA Live" game will include a constantly updated artificial intelligence.

Whenever users log on to the game, the title will connect to the Internet to download data from the latest NBA games, including such details as whether a player like Kobe Bryant is taking more shots from the left or the right side of the floor and his relative success from each spot. The game will use such information to affect how the virtual Kobe Bryant plays in "NBA Live" and how he is guarded."

Even the most cynical critic of EA's recent performance (such as this writer) would have to say that this is a pretty tasty revelation. As always, I take this with a pinch of salt, as EA has disappointed so many times in the last few years. However, if this development pans out as it says it will, this is a massive development in gaming. This is almost the link between Fantasy Sports and console gaming. To think that you can watch a game and then be inspired to jump onto your PS3 or X360 and play the game, with what you watched having an effect on the game, is amazing.

I remember back in 1994 being inspired by the play of undrafted Clippers rookie, Harold Ellis, as he torched the Celtics in a national television appearance. It was only his fourth game ever in the league and he racked up 29 points and 5 steals. I wanted to jump onto my Sega Megadrive and use him on NBA Showdown (the great-uncle of the NBA Live series and son of Bulls vs Blazers. Of course, in those days there was no way for an unheralded guy like him to be in the game, as he was only picked up mid-season. Even if he was in the game, he would have had low ratings in all categories. Perhaps with this development from EA, that sort of scenario will change a little bit and an updated roster with real-time attributes will be available. Harold Ellis -- yeeha.

There will be full developments on this when it gets officially announced. So check back for more details. NBA 2K9, who will be promoting their game at E3 as well, better have something up their collective sleeve.

UPDATE
: more details have come to hand.


Friday, 11 July 2008

NBA Suspensions: Miller and Curry


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The NBA has suspended Sacramento Kings centre Brad Miller without pay for five games as a result of violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program. As per terms of the program, details of the drug violation were not disclosed in the release, but given what we know, we can determine that this suspension was either for Miller's third positive marijuana test or his first use of steroids.

Meanwhile, Bulls rookie JamesOn Curry has been suspended for one game. "Curry, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder, pleaded guilty to resisting or obstructing an officer and public urination while in Boise, Idaho." Curry was on the Bulls squad last season but failed to appear in an NBA game and spent most of his time in the D-League.

Rumour: Tracy McGrady to the Pistons


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There are reports coming out of Toronto that T-Mac may be headed in a blockbuster to the Detroit Pistons. To make this type of deal work, with McGrady's $20.3m salary next season, the Pistons would likely have to give up two starters.


Sure, McGrady has a lot of question marks around his resiliance and his ability to win. However, the way the Pistons are going, they're going to become irrelevant before the Celtics do. There is no title on the horizon for this Detroit team without shaking things up.

Rip Hamilton ($10.8m) + Antonio McDyess ($6.8m) for Tracy McGrady. I'd do it in a heartbeat. It works on ESPN's Trade Machine.

That would leave the Pistons with a a lineup of Chauncey Billups, McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Jason Maxiell. That is a potential winner in my books.

Does this trade work for Houston? One of their biggest failings in the Tracy-Yao era has been injuries disrupting their strong runs to the playoffs. Bringing in a reliable mid-range scorer in Hamilton and another big man to help Yao Ming and Luis Scola up front can only bolster their chances of going the extra mile.



Wednesday, 9 July 2008

More clarity on the free agent front


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The silly season of NBA free agency is upon us. However finally it appears that we are getting a bit more clarity on who is going where -- some of which are big surprises.

THE BIG GUNS

Elton Brand : perhaps the biggest attainable prize of this free agent period, he initially opted for free agency with the Clippers, citing a need to see the team improve in order to return. So the Clips went and put out a big offer to his buddy, Baron Davis. This looked like the move the Clippers were meant to make in order to improve the team and make it relevant in Los Angeles again -- the type of move that Brand (and his agent David Falk) had been asking for. Wrong.

First the Golden State Warriors made the tit-for-tat move of offering a big contract to Brand of their own. You take our player, we take yours. But then, the team with the most cap space to play with, steps onto the scene. The Philadelphia 76ers have attempted to lure the first significant free agent to Philly in recent memory, with a 5-year $82m deal, which according to reports he will accept. "Show me the money..."

Baron Davis : as mentioned above, the big story that kicked off the free agency period was the B-Diddy to LA story. It sounded perfect, Baron and Elton could bring some razzle-dazzle to Clipperville and they could talk about producing movies together. But then Brand went and ruined it all. I was sure as recent as yesterday that this speculation was wrong and that they would indeed play together in LA, but it seems like B-Diddy has entered the sinking ship that is the Clippers, all alone (well, along with these guys). According to reports, Brand going to Philly will not affect Baron's decision to sign with the Clippers.

Corey Maggette : the latest chain-reaction in the game of 'Who Has Got Cap Space Left?' is Maggette agreeing to a 5-year $50m deal with the Golden State Warriors. After flirting with mid-level exceptions from the Celtics and other contenders, it seems Maggette also decided that the money was more important than winning. Well, at least he has his priorities straight I guess. I don't think he would have fitted in with a team like the Celtics anyway -- he needs the ball to be effective. Running and gunning in the Bay Area should suit him much better.

Gilbert Arenas : many people viewed this guy as the most selfish of all of the above, but he did perhaps the most amicable and sensible thing in leaving money on the table (about $16m in fact) to re-sign with his Washington Wizards for $111m over 6 years, after key piece Antawn Jamison also returned. Apparently both parties are sorting out key details of the contract, however he has agreed in principle. The Warriors also reportedly threw money at him in an attempt to get him to return to where he started his career, but that failed.

THE OTHERS

James Jones : the Miami Heat are the most likely candidate to secure the Portland free agent swingman's services, after offering him a deal that will bring him back to where he went to College. Jones fitted perfectly into the Portland offense and locker room in his one year stay, however with the continued emergence of Brandon Roy, Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw and the arrival of Rudy Fernandez and Nicholas Batum, there was no room for the steady shooter. He should fit well with the Heat.

Carlos Delfino : the Detroit Pistons are looking at bringing him back, after looking at Jones as well.

James Posey : one of the most hottly discussed free agents after the Finals and his team's victorious raisinig of the championship trophy, Posey is still looking around. Considered by many teams as a bargain-valued defensive stopper and three-point shooter in the mould of Bruce Bowen, many including the Celtics, seem to be offering him less than he would like to secure (both in dollars and years). The Cleveland Cavs, Nawlins Hornets and the Celtics are among many trying to sign the two-time champion. Paul Pierce has tried sweet talking him into returning. Wherever he goes, he will be a valuable piece -- it will be interesting.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Jarrett Jack...burnt?


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I only have one question for the guys who made this video -- why did you have a Jarrett Jack jersey in the first place??


NBA : Today's warnings : 8 July 2008


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  • Joshua Khan at Inventor Spot has come up with this list of the 10 Worst Logos in Sports. I have to say, I don't agree with his dismissal of the Portland Blazers logo -- it's neat and simple, the way a logo should be -- and who could put down that classic 80's Denver Nuggets emblem? But that Tampa Bay Buccaneers character (right) does scare me with his suaveness...

  • Well, Elton Brand is selling up and there are rumours flying all over the place that he's fleeing for the Bay Area. But I'm not buying it (the rumours that is, not the $5m house). The dude was trying to sell his house two years ago -- perhaps he didn't like the market back then, but now thinks he has a better chance to get rid of it and move to that dream home he's been eyeing up. Or maybe he did this before B-Diddy agreed to come to LA and he's just continuing to go through the motions of it all now. Either way, you would have to think that Baron and Elton have talked this whole "we're going here or there" scenario, right?

  • Poor Michael Beasley. Not only did the guy cop flak for getting injured in his first training run with the Heat, but now there are videos flying around the interweb of him getting blocked by both Cedric Simmons and Tyrus Thomas in his first Summer League game. I think he'll be just fine though -- he did put up 28 and 9 in a solid Miami win over Derrick Rose's Bulls.
  • Contrary to earlier reports, Richard Jefferson is all fine and dandy about getting traded to the Bucks.
  • Funny how the tide turns sometimes for guys like Anthony Carter. When his career started out, he was struggling to get a gig. Now he's saying he might just "wait and see" before signing with the Nuggets, who are keen to retain him.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Aaron Bruce on Seattle SuperSonics Summer League Roster


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Former Baylor four-year point guard, Aaron Bruce has been announced as part of the Seattle SuperSonics' final ever Summer League roster, before they are whisked off to Oklahoma City.

The 6'3" floor general from Horsham in Australia failed to attract the attention of GMs in the 2008 NBA Draft and hopes to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to an NBA contract.

Bruce should have an opportunity to impress in the next weeks, as the only other pure point announced on the roster is draft standout, Russell Westbrook. Bruce was known as a sharpshooter at Baylor, a talent that the Sonics will be looking for, as they finished last season as the league's third worst three-point shooting team (on percentages) at 33.3% and second last in threes made.

The Sonics, according to this OKC news radio report are expected to "wear Sonics practice gear then switch to practice uniforms that have the NBA OKC logo. We expect the new name of the franchise to be announced either later this week or early next week." They will play their first match today against the Indiana Pacers at 2pm Central, as part of the Orlando Pro Summer League. Other teams involved are the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets and host Orlando Magic.

2007 lottery pick Jeff Green will participate, whilst last season's Rookie of the Year, Kevin Durant will not. With the majority of the team being relative unknowns, Bruce who was named to Baylor's All-Centennial Team as one of its top 17 players of all time, will have plenty of opportunity to display his all-round skills in the backcourt. The recent injury to Earl Watson which potentially puts his start to the season in doubt, would presumably only increase their desire for an additional PG on the roster. Bruce is just one of four players in school history to finish with 1,000 career points and 300 assists, in a tradition that includes NBA greats such as Vinnie the Microwave Johnson and Terry Teagle.

As Bruce said in this recent interview with Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper, he has strong beliefs that he can make it in the NBA. "It seems strange that here I am, that I have a really legitimate chance to make that dream come true. I know once I'm thrown out there I know I can play basketball."

The Sonics Summer League roster, coached by former NBA guard Scott Brooks, is as follows:

SUMMER LEAGUE ROSTER
No Name Pos Ht Wt Birthdate From 2007-08
0 Russell Westbrook G 6-3 190 11/12/88 UCLA UCLA
2 Devin Green F 6-7 210 10/25/82 Hampton D-League/Italy
3 D.J. White F 6-9 250 8/31/86 Indiana Indiana
5 Mykal Riley F 6-6 185 7/14/85 Alabama Alabama
8 Ndudi Ebi F 6-9 200 6/18/84 Westbury Christ. HS Israel
11 Aaron Bruce G 6-3 185 12/19/84 Baylor Baylor
12 Ronald Dupree F 6-7 210 1/26/81 Louisiana State Sonics/Detroit/D-League
22 Jeff Green F 6-10 235 8/28/86 Georgetown Sonics
23 Ronnell Taylor G 6-5 200 7/26/82 UAB Slovenia
30 Justin Williams F/C 6-10 260 5/12/84 Wyoming Sacramento/Houston
42 Brian Randle F 6-8 220 2/8/85 Illinois Illinois
44 Nick Lewis F/C 6-10 235 4/20/83 San Diego D-League
50 DeVon Hardin C 6-11 250 6/3/86 California California

Aaron Bruce : ESPN statistics

Aaron Bruce : Draft Express profile

NBA : Today's warnings : 7 July 2008


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  • It must be somewhat concerning for Trail Blazers management that Darius Miles is reportedly still trialling for a shot at coming back into the league. After he allegedly previously worked out with Phoenix, according to the above link, he has been given a look by the Celtics -- could he end up back with his former Clippers running mate, Corey Maggette? There is a good piece at the Blazers Edge on the cap ramifications for the Blazers should Miles make a comeback. Currently he is classified as having a career-ending injury and as such does not hit the Blazers' cap -- if he comes back and plays enough games, a whole different story.
  • Rose vs Beasley -- it's on. Remember the Oden vs Durant hype?
  • I was interviewed over at the Cleveland.com And One blog about the situation with Aussie hoops and the demise of the Sydney Kings. Thanks C!
  • Apparently there is more than one Josh in Atlanta that is a popular commodity on the free agent market.
  • Why trashy mags shouldn't interview NBA stars -- basically an interview about nothing.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Seattle SuperSonics--Sydney Kings: we understand


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As the saga continued, the fans got more and more edgy. People who had been following this team for as long as they could remember were feeling a tension they had never thought they would feel about a sporting team -- the potential that someone may take that team away from them and that they would never see it again.

Of course, these fans had stomached their fair share of gut-wrenching moments in the past. They had endured countless seasons of disappointments with rosters that promised so much more. They had also experienced their moments in the spotlight with success at the highest level that the league provided.

After pouring so many anxious moments over the years into this team -- their team -- the moment they had dreaded arrived. There were no more lifelines left, no more last-second ditches available to save the beloved sports franchise. That date in mid-2008 had arrived and the Sydney Kings were no longer a basketball team.

As the fans of Seattle tried every avenue possible to cling to their basketball team, the SuperSonics, the fans of a team on the other side of the world felt their pain. The Sydney Kings had been arguably the most successful team in Australia's National Basketball League during the last decade. They were the first team to win three consecutive championships and appeared in the NBL Finals five times in the past ten years.

Ironically enough, these two teams that saw their death knell in the same week once shared a name. The Sydney Supersonics were merged with the West Sydney Westars 20 years ago to form the franchise that has dissolved today. It is hard to think that this same team saw a 2007/08 season where they achieved the most wins ever in an NBL season, with a 27-3 record and a grand final appearance. This proved the sad fact that on-court success does not always match off-court operations.

Whilst the team, led by all-time great coach Brian Goorjian, was working diligently to do the best job possible between the on the hardwood, they hid a financial anguish that they did not deserve to endure. Owner Tim Johnston, whose fuel-additive company Firepower is in a state of disrepair, bought the team under a flurry of big promises. Those promises soon turned into failure to make salary and pension payments to players and tough times for their families.

After serving a series of default notices on the Kings owner, in an attempt to protect the team's players, the NBL was left with no option but to revoke the Sydney Kings' licence.

This news spawned a series of eleventh-hour attempts to bring together ownership syndicates in order to purchase the team and revive it for the upcoming 2008/09 season. Former players from the team's glory days, including former Villanova star Dwayne McClain, came to the fore. The former long-time owner of the Kings, Mike Wrublewski made his attempts to garner support. Even loyal Sydney Kings Fan Club supporters formed their own syndicate to add to the riches available for resurrection of the club. Furthermore there was rumour of the LA Lakers taking interest in purchasing the debt-stricken club.

In the end however, it was all for nought. The two major bids which were evaluated by the NBL were either rejected or fell over due to lack of backing. Anguished fans were left with no option but to vent their frustration on internet message boards and try to imagine a world without their team, the Sydney Kings. The NBL will continue next season. There will be 11 teams, as opposed to 2007/08's 13 teams, as the Brisbane Bullets faced a similar fate to the Kings.

Fans of the Seattle SuperSonics: you will never forget your team. You will never give up supporting them. Sydney Kings fans feel the same way. Your team may be physically gone, but the memories remain. Every time you pull out that Xavier McDaniel jersey, watch highlights of Payton to Kemp on youtube or remember the championship glory days of Sikma, the Sonics will be there with you. Meanwhile, there will be a bunch of your brethren on the other side of the world who will be remembering the Finals 4th-quarter explosion of Ebi Ere, the hangtime of Leon Trimmingham, the throwdowns from James Smith and Kendrick Johnson and the long-range bombs from Shane "the Hammer" Heal.

The Clay Bennetts and Tim Johnstons of this world may take our teams away in one way or another, but whilst there are enough passionate fans, a team will resurface. Public support shows that there is a market for that team to re-exist in its previous market. Hope is not lost -- although it does feel like it at times.

Darius Miles : still exceeding expectations


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Darius Miles' time with the Portland Trail Blazers may be over, but if he has any hope of finding another team with which to continue his NBA career, he just shot himself in the foot a little. Miles was found guilty of some form of violation under the NBA's Anti-Drug program. The offence will mean that if and when he finds an NBA suitor, he will be forced to serve a 10 day suspension.

The NBA does not disclose the exact nature of it's suspensions of players under the Anti-Drug program, however it's safe to say that it was a continued recurrence of Miles' marijuana issues -- which incur a 10 day suspension after the fourth positive test.

If indeed it was the alternative, which is performance-enhancing drugs, perhaps Darius is looking to take the fast route back to an NBA contract?

However, in his situation with a contract worth $27.5m for sitting back and admitting that your career is over, I think I'd be partaking in whatever my favourite pastimes were too. Wouldn't you?

Either way, from the Blazers' perspective, this is all a good thing. The less likelihood of having to put Miles' money onto their cap, the better.

Here's Miles at his coherent best:

A touching farewell to the Seattle Sonics


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One fan's montage of memories of the Seattle Sonics.




Unfortunately for the Sonics fans of Seattle, their team is officially gone now. A court settlement between the new ownership group (fronted by Clay Bennett) and the City of Seattle has named the price of $75m as the quantification of the passion of a loyal following of fans.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

LA Clippers : Last one out turn out the lights!


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If this Clipper boat is sinking, there certainly doesn't look like there will be many passengers left aboard when it does.

Elton Brand today opted out of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him $16.4m. He says that he would like to stay with the Clippers, but of course that all depends on what he gets offered and where. Needless to say, he will be highly sought after, regardless of the injury which he has been recovering from. He might not get the same money, but he might get a long term deal with a contender. The perennial "other team" in LA does not appear to be that -- a contender.

Corey Maggette has already opted out of his $8.4m for next season. That leaves a very light crew to man this Clipper through the Pacific waters.

Horrific knee injury victim, Shaun Livingston, will not be offered a qualifying offer by the team. "We are optimistic about Shaun's ultimate return, but under the circumstances, we think it would be best to continue to monitor his progress while determining how best to move forward on his long-term status," Clippers President Andy Roeser said.

Sam Cassell already pushed his way out of the organisation mid-season and found himself with old buddy Kevin Garnett hoisting a championship trophy.

What does this leave the team with?

PG Brevin Knight (signed through 2008-09 for £2m)
SG Cuttino Mobley (signed through 2009-10 for over £9m a year)
SF Al Thornton (on his rookie contract which should see him around through 2011-12)
PF Tim Thomas (£6m a year for the next 2 seasons)
C Chris Kaman (secured through 2011-12 gradually escalating from £9m to £12m per year)

On the bench, rookies Eric Gordon (SG) and DeAndre Jordan (C) come in. They will form a very thin supporting cast, which currently only includes not-so-super soph forwards Nick Fazekas and Marcus Williams with guaranteed contracts. The team is expected to let go of guards "Disaster" Dan Dickau and Smush Parker. Big man Josh Powell may manage to hang around as well, after showing flashes of promise.

The team will certainly make a run at re-signing both Brand and Maggette, however both will be highly persued. Brand's agent, David Falk, has already hinted at Philly being a possible destination (they have plenty of cap room to make it happen) and Maggette has been linked to the Magic in some rumours.

There is certainly a lot of young talent still lurking around this organisation with two very promising rookies, along with Thornton and the long-term anchoring of Kaman. However, there appear to be a lot more lean years ahead for long-suffering Clippers fans.