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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Emergence of Z-Bo

by Connor Witt

This year’s NBA playoffs have been anything but predictable. Brandon Roy’s 18-point fourth quarter in Game 4 against Dallas was one of the best clutch performances of all-time. We saw the Lakers’ quest for a three-peat end in embarrassing fashion at the hands of the Mavericks. A healthy Chris Paul reestablished himself as one of the elite point guards in the game as he carried the Hornets. The Grizzlies came from nowhere to knock off the top-ranked Spurs and push the Thunder to the brink of elimination. But even more astounding than the surprising success of his Grizzlies: Zach Randolph dominating on a team that was actually contending!

Growing up while Z-Bo upheld the “Jail Blazers” nickname played for Portland, I developed an impression of him based more on his sucker punch of Ruben Patterson and his arrest for smoking pot while driving than anything he accomplished on the court. I wouldn’t say Randolph was the ringleader of the Jail Blazers, but there was no doubt that he was a contributing member. (In my eyes the actual order of the Jail Blazer hierarchy goes as follows: 1. Rasheed Wallace, 2. Ruben Patterson, 3. Bonzi Wells, 4. Zach Randolph, 5. Damon Stoudamire, 6. Qyntel Woods, but that’s a story for another day.)

Even though Randolph has been able to put up impressive numbers throughout his career, I have always put him the category of Big Stat Players That Won’t Help His Team Win Anything (or BSPTWHHTWA for short? I’ll get to work a better acronym.) The limited exposure that the Memphis Grizzlies got on the West coast during the regular season made his performance in the playoffs all the more shocking. I knew that Z-Bo could get his share of buckets by throwing his weight around, but his arsenal of flailing elbows, jab steps, pump fakes and spins was incredibly effective (some would say unstoppable.) More impressive than his offensive production was the fact that he shouldered the load for the Grizzlies and – dare I say it – appeared to be a leader for his team. Who was this large, rotund, sweaty power forward playing such inspired basketball, and what had he done with the Zach Randolph of old?

I can imagine how the conversation on Randolph might go if I were discussing it with a 2006 version of myself.

CW 2011:  So... Zach Randolph is tearing it up in the playoffs and it kind of looks like he actually cares whether his team wins the game.

CW 2006: Hahahahahahahaha. Good one.

CW 2011: No, seriously.

CW 2006: Randolph? Yeah right! That's less likely than LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh signing to the same team!

CW 2011: (Sigh)

Regardless of who comes out victorious in this year’s NBA finals, history has been made in these playoffs. Years from now fans will not remember the 2011 Playoffs for Zach Randolph, rather for Roy’s four point play versus Dallas, Dirk’s 48-point performance, or Phil Jackson’s last game as a coach. But there is no doubt in my mind that the emergence of Zach Randolph as a reliable franchise player was the most astonishing development. Never did I think I would see that day. The NBA truly is where amazing happens.

 Court adjourned.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Jam of the Week

On the eve of the 2011 NBA Finals I have to give the Jam of the week to the now iconic Wade to 'Bron circus oop. The duo start their campaign to begin their promised dynasty tomorrow on ABC. This highlight has been shown roughly about 6 trillion times on the Heat infatuated ESPN, but without further ado:


Old School Pic of the Week 5/30

Happy Memorial Day, U.S.A! For the holiday, the least I could do was display my American pride through a photo of five members of the 1992 Dream Team. This photo would have been worthy of a coveted spot as the Court of Appeals Old School Pic of the Week based on Patrick Ewing's flat top alone, but the added patriotism made it a no-brainer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Draft Camp Champs

by Connor Witt

Marshon Brooks SG, Providence - Coming into the combine, GMs already knew that Brooks could score the ball. His 24.6 points per game were tops in a loaded Big East conference that sent eleven teams to the tourney. The questions surrounding Brooks centered on his ability to play shooting guard at the next level because of his height and athleticism. Brooks, like the vast majority of players projected to be drafted, skipped out on the athleticism drills but made an impression when he measured at 6'5.25" in shoes with a 7'1" wingspan. Those specs should allow him to be considered a legitimate NBA 2-guard and give him some leeway for his perceived lack of explosiveness.

Enes Kanter PF/C, Kentucky - At the Chicago combine Kanter proved that he has the size to play center in the league, measuring out at 6'11.25" in shoes. Weighing in at 259 pounds was expected for Kanter, but the remarkable 5.9 percent body fat that he registered was a welcome surprise for teams selecting at the top of the draft. To put that figure in perspective, it was leaner than Josh Selby (7.9%), Shelvin Mack (7.1%) Tristan Thompson (6.2%), and equal to Kemba Walker. Kanter was already projected as a top 5 pick, but his figures and impressive performance in drills could have caused him to jump up to number 2 had Derrick Williams not measured out equally well.

Derrick Williams SF/PF, Arizona - The aforementioned Williams has been insistent that he projects as an NBA small forward since he declared for the draft. Though it is unknown how his future team will put to use his unique blend of skills and athleticism, his measurements suggest he could easily play the power forward should he need to. His 6'8.75" height is ideal and his 9'0"standing reach is a full three inches better than Blake Griffin managed in 2009. Regardless of which spot on the court he plays, his combine results display that he will be fully capable physically.

Nikola Vucevic PF/C, USC - Vucevic suffered from the Pac-10's mediocrity this season, as he failed to gain national recognition despite his statistics. But no player at the draft combine in Chicago did more to help his stock this week than Vucevic. His 6'11.75" in shoes was the tallest of any prospect projected to be drafted and his 9'4.5" standing reach also ranked atop the field. The impressive measurements coupled with Vucevic's advanced skillset for a player of that size make him an intriguing option for teams picking later in the first round.

Court adjourned.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 5/23

Allen Iverson has had his fair share of memorable moments over the years. But this installment of the Old School Pic of the Week brings you a lesser known image of an 18-year-old Allen Iverson showing off his dunking skills in front of mom. After a rocky season in Turkey this past year, there are major question marks as to whether AI will ever suit up again. As always though, only he holds The Answer.

Jam of the Week

How's iiittt? With a HUGE game 4 on the line tonight, the Thunder of Oklahoma City hope that PG Russell Westbrook can find his mojo and turn the momentum in the Thunder's direction. Maybe a few tomahawks like this would help (the Rockets' bench reaction is priceless):


Court Adjourned.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rock Out with Your Mock Out

In heavy anticipation of the upcoming NBA draft, here is my insight on where I think these college studs are going to land in the lottery.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers----- Derrick Williams, SF University of Arizona

The Cavs will look to go for an NBA ready player who has "star" potential instead of taking a solid point guard in Kyrie Irving. Instead of taking Irving and picking up a European question mark with their 4th pick, I think they snag Williams and hope to land Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight at 4. Two solid pieces for a rebuilding franchise.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves----- Enes Kanter, PF/C University of Kentucky

The best big man in the draft will help bolster the front court of the Wolves alongside Kevin Love. Hoping that Ricky Rubio pans out, I think Minnesota goes with the big guy out of Turkey. Also, GM David Kahn may look to deal this pick in hopes of adding some solid veterans to their young squad.

3. Utah Jazz----- Kyrie Irving, PG Duke University

After dealing all-star point guard Deron Williams, the Jazz will look to find a solid point guard to start rebuilding their franchise. The Jazz like Devin Harris, but don't see him fitting in to the equation for future success. Irving is a high quality guy who will be a good player but not a huge star, he's not as athletic as people think. The Jazz also could look to deal this pick for a much needed pure Center.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers----- Kemba Walker, PG University of Connecticut

As I said earlier, the Cavs are going to try to snag a couple of proven winners with their two top five picks. I like the explosive combo of Walker and Williams, has a good ring to it, for the Cavaliers. Walker willed his team to victory in both the conference and national championships. Size and defense are the main concerns for Walker, but Cleveland needs a winner, Kemba is their guy.

5. Toronto Raptors----- Jan Vesely, SF KK Paritzan Belgrade (Serbia)

In the classic Euro-Raptors fashion, the franchise in the Great White North snag Vesely a long freak of an athlete to play 3. They'll have to move Bargnani to forward or center but I think Vesely is a good fit for Toronto. If he can prove that he is a decent shooter, I can see this guy being a good player in the NBA.

6. Washington Wizards----- Kawhi Leonard, SF San Diego State University

The Wizards take an athlete at this pick. The Wizards are trying to reinvent themselves and I think the idea of Leonard alongside John Wall is appealing. Kawhi is a do-it-all type of guy and will bring defense and rebounding to the table, something the Wizards really need. They don't need a center because they already have JaVale McGee, nor do they need a point guard, so I see them taking Kawhi.

7. Sacramento Kings----- Brandon Knight, PG University of Kentucky

This is the steal of the draft. The Kings have finally realized that Tyreke Evans is not a point guard. They'll move 'Reke to SG and draft Knight out of Kentucky. Knight is a guy with no character issues, which will help to counteract last year's pick DeMarcus Cousins. Knight, Evans, and Cousins are not a shabby trio to start rebuilding a franchise on.

8. Detroit Pistons----- Jonas Valanciunas, C Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)

The biggest question mark of this draft lands a job with the Pistons. This guy has been somewhat of an enigma for scouts. He is a big 19 year old kid with good skills that need heavy polishing. The biggest concern with Jonas is "how high is his ceiling?" I think the Pistons figure that they have nothing to lose in a relatively weak draft, and gamble on Valanciunas.

9. Charlotte Bobcats----- Donatas Motiejunas, PF/C Benetton Treviso (Italy)

The Bobcats take a shooter at #9 with Motiejunas. Motiejunas is of the Valanciunas ilk in that people are unsure of his ceiling. I think they know that he's going to be a project but are willing to invest in a potential scorer. Michael Jordan is known to take risks and I think gambles (poor choice of words?) and takes Motiejunas.

10. Milwaukee Bucks---- Alec Burks, SG University of Colorado-Boulder

The best slasher in this draft goes to the Bucks who are in desperate need of a scorer. Michael Redd has left a gap at SG for this franchise and I think Burks fills that need. Burks and Brandon Jennings make for an interesting back court, but I think could compliment each other well.

11. Golden State Warriors----- Bismack Biyombo, C Democratic Republic of Congo

The Warriors want someone who is going to play defense and rebound. Those are pretty much the only two aspects to Biyombo's raw game. The guy has an unprecedented wingspan and could help David Lee with defensive rebounding. Now that "Nelly-Ball" is gone in the bay, defense is the number one priority. Plus, if they select Biyombo, they will win the award for best names in consecutive drafts with Ekpe Udoh and Bismack Biyombo.

12. Utah Jazz----- Klay Thompson, Washington State University

The Jazz need a 2 guard now that the "Raja Bell Project" has proven ineffective. Theoretically, Bell in his prime is a good fit for the Jazz, but has lost his jump shot and can't defend like he used to. Klay Thompson can straight stroke the pumpkin, and could provide scoring for Utah. He can spread the floor, opening up the lane for Jefferson and Millsap to go to work. I think he fits in well for this squad.

13. Phoenix Suns----- Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young University

Taking Jimmer at 13? Fredette about it. The Suns are hoping Jimmer will thrive under the tutelage of Steve Nash and develop a solid passing game to compliment his sweet jumper. Jimmer is a dog on defense, but defense is something that players can really develop in the NBA. Jimmer is more athletic than people think and has been proving that at the NBA Draft Combine. He is a low rick at 13 with what is available, and I think Suns fans will have to "learn how to Jimmer."

14. Houston Rockets----- Marcus Morris, Kansas University

With the last lottery pick, the Rockets bolster their front court with the better Morris twin. Morris is a decent pick at 14 and the Rockets could use some rebounding, Morris can help Scola on the defensive end as well.

Court Adjourned.

Friday, May 20, 2011

NBA Look-a-like

Originally, I didn't have any plan to include NBA look-a-likes in Court of Appeals but while watching the playoffs I couldn't help but notice that Tom Thibodeau bears a striking resemblance to Space Jam's Mr. Swackhammer. Because I haven't heard anyone else publicly compare the Bulls' coach to the maniacal owner of the intergalactic theme park Moron Mountain, I felt that I needed to take the matter into my own hands. But contrary to Swackhammer - whose team fell to Michael Jordan - Thibodeau has a Bulls' star/league MVP playing for his own team.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Basketball Jesus Pt. 2?

by Connor Witt

Dirk Nowitzki’s 48 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals wasn’t just good. That would be selling it short. His performance was miraculous, prodigious, even superhuman. But is it possible that Nowitzki’s divine Game 1 was more than simply a great effort on his part? I’m no prophet, but I say yes.

The theory just makes too much sense. After surging out to a 2-0 lead in the 2006 Finals, Dwyane Wade and the refs propelled the Heat to victory. The 18.25 free throws Wade averaged over the last four games essentially crucified Dirk and the Mavs. Now, five years later, Dirk has risen back to prominence and looks poised to ascend to the pantheon of NBA Champions.

The only logical explanation: Dirk Nowitzki is Basketball Jesus. (This is the part when you scoff and ask “Is he serious?!?!”) Okay, I’m not completely serious with that claim. Any self-respecting basketball nerd knows it is sacrilege to dub someone other than Larry Bird with that nickname. But seriously, I think I’m onto something with this concept.

Dirk looking Jesus-esque
while representing Germany

Extended Theory:

The Basketball Gods are sitting around watching game film pretty recently wherever it is that they hang out. (I envision it being some sort of mountaintop à la the Greek Gods, except with a big flat screen.) One of them pulls out some tapes from ’06 and decides to toss in the finals footage. They are astounded by what they see, a Mavericks contender many years in the making getting thrashed by D. Wade and a newly acquired (and still functional) Shaq. I assume that after a bit of deliberation The Basketball Gods deem that Dirk got screwed out of a championship. So, they think, what is the best way for Dirk to get his salvation?

The Basketball Gods, in a stroke of pure genius, determine that they should reward Nowitzki while denying Kobe a sixth title and embarrassing the whole Lakers organization just for kicks. And to make up for the barrage of free throws that boosted Wade and the Heat to a championship, The Basketball Gods reward Dirk with 24 free throws en route to 48 points against OKC. If Dirk keeps up this dominant play, this theory may have to be declared scientific fact. But then we have another dilemma on our hands, finding an adequately holy title to hand Dirk since Basketball Jesus is taken.

My vote is for The Sacrifical Lamb.

Court adjourned.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NBA Stars' NFL Counterparts

With two potential professional sports lockouts looming over the head of sports fans everywhere, I thought I'd throw around some comparisons of NBA and NFL stars in pessimistic expectancy of the sports action we may be missing out on next year.

1. Kobe Bryant, SG LA Lakers ---- Tom Brady, QB NE Patriots

These are both high-profile, future Hall of Famers that we have watched age before our very eyes. Both are the face of their respective leagues and have led each of their teams to dynastic status. Natural leaders, Kobe Bryant and Tom Brady are the driving force behind their teams' success. Both are now in the home stretch of their incredible careers and are striving for one last ring before they hang up the sneakers.

2. Zach Randolph, PF Memphis Grizzlies----Peyton Hillis, RB Cleveland Browns

Both players could hold the title of "prettiest-ugly game" in their leagues. Their rumbling-bumbling yet effective style is uncanny. Both had coming out years and are looking to be coveted by many teams in years to come. Each possess raw power and aren't only afraid to do the dirty work, but revel in it.

3. Derrick Rose, PG Chicago Bulls ---- Chris Johnson, RB Tennessee Titans

These guys exemplify the expression, "you can't stop them, you can only hope to contain them." These guys are going to get their numbers day in and day out, with an explosive and unique style which bring excitement and personality to the NBA and NFL. They are both the future and the new generation of their sports. I would love to see these guys go head to head in a 40 yard dash. In the words of my main man Gus Johnson, "they got gettin' away from the cops speed!"

4. Ron Artest, SF LA Lakers---- Chad Ochocinco, WR Cincinnati Bengals

Both wild cards that are always seemingly paying the league for habitual bad behavior. Some would argue they are the perfect amount of crazy. Some say good entertainment, some would say detrimental to their leagues. Either way, it is undeniable that each are incredible athletes that have a drive to win. Though Artest has harvested more success, I think the comparison fits.

5. Dirk Nowitzki, PF Dallas Mavericks---- Donovan McNabb, QB Washington Redskins

Each of these aging stars has had a chance to earn a championship ring, but have both fallen short. Consequently, both guys have been criticized for having the pieces around them to win but never being able to push them over the hump. Dirk is getting one of his last chances at getting a ring this year as next year he will be a 13 year veteran. Donovan McNabb will be entering his 14th year as an NFL quarterback and if he lands into the circumstances of a quality squad, could get his shot as well.

6. Carlos Boozer, PF Chicago Bulls---- Braylon Edwards, WR New York Jets

These dynamic players have come from non-contending and middle-of-the-road squads to legitimate title contenders. Both have the pressure to be x-factors in order to propel their respective teams to the top. Both are powerful athletes that have a silky smooth aspect to their games. Both have put themselves in optimal situations to make some noise in the NBA and NFL.

7. Andrei Kirilenko, SF Utah Jazz---- Stevie Johnson, WR Buffalo Bills

No direct comparison here. Had to do it because of this play, and this play.

Hopefully we will be seeing these guys in action next year, or watching professional yachting, cross your fingers.

Court Adjourned.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 5/16

A major question leading up to the Western Conference Finals has been whether the 38-year-old Jason Kidd will be able to stay in front of the young, explosive Russell Westbrook. While the answer remains to be seen, this pic is dedicated to a time when Kidd's game was as flashy as his platinum blonde locks.

Jam of the Week

This week's dunk is in anticipation of tomorrow's Western-Conference Finals match-up between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks. I think that in order for OKC to win the series, role players Daequan Cook and James Harden are going to have to shoulder some of the scoring load and take pressure off of Russel Westbrook and Kevin Durant. I still pick the Mavs to take it in 5, but here is Harden delivering a monster throw-down earlier this season.

"Put it right on his head!"

Court Adjourned.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 5/9

 Our final lasting memory of Phil Jackson on the sidelines may well be the image of the Zen Master looking on after Andrew Bynum sent the diminutive J.J. Barea flying head over heels onto the floor. But we shouldn't soon forget that this man's legacy will be as one of the greatest coaches of all-time. Scottie Pippen put the embarrassing end to Jackson's career in perspective, saying "You can't feel sorry for him. Phil has been coaching 20 years and been to the finals 13 times. It couldn't get no better than that."

Jam of the Week

Happy Monday. This week's Jam is my prediction for this year's NBA Finals. No, not a thrilling Cavaliers-Mavericks match up the league desperately craves, but a 2006 rematch of Miami and Dallas. Except this time add LeBron. Mavericks in 6.

Court adjourned.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Draft Outlook in a Lockout Year

by Connor Witt

The memorable. The outrageous. The surprising. The boneheaded. The NBA Draft has had it all.

In 2011, there’s no promise in that we’ll get to witness a prospect relegated to the green room as long as Rashard Lewis or a draft day suit to rival Jalen Rose’s red pinstriped number. But it is certain to be particularly interesting because of the NBA’s outlook for next year.

“Labor Uncertainty.” It’s every NBA pundit’s favorite phrase when looking ahead to the 2011 offseason. But let’s not beat around the bush, everyone and their sister knows that a lockout is on the horizon. We don’t know if it will swallow a whole season, but it is universally accepted that the 2011-12 season will not be the full 82 games. One effect of the lockout has already become apparent from the field of early entrants. Freshman standouts and lottery prospects Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, and Perry Jones have all spurned the league to return for their sophomore campaigns. For those elite players, the choice to stay in school merely means deferring the millions they stand to make. But as a result of their decisions, a wave of second-tier players have entered an already weak draft. To this second group – unproven talents like Tristan Thompson, Tyler Honeycutt, and Tobias Harris – this year’s draft provides a unique opportunity to receive the coveted guaranteed contract that comes with being a first rounder, even if they have to wait a year to see a paycheck.

Another result: with the threat of a lost season, NBA teams will be even more inclined to spend a pick on a foreign project that can continue to improve overseas. As my fellow draftaholics know, this is a recipe for the awkward mispronunciations that David Stern has made into an art form. Just imagine: Donatas Motiejunas, Jan Vesely, Jonas Valanciunas, Nikola Mirotic, and my personal favorite, Bismack Biyombo all in the first round. Magical. Whether or not this draft class possesses the potential to succeed in the league, there is no doubt it has the potential to produce a record number of Stern fumbles and stumbles.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jam of the Week

This week's jam of the week is dedicated to Memphis' Rudy Gay. Poor Rudy has had to watch his Grizzlies tear up the playoffs from the confines of the bench. This Memphis team has been unbelievably impressive. Begging the question, how good is this Memphis team going to be when Rudy returns?

Court is adjourned.

Old School Pic of the Week 5/2

For decades it has been thought that Wilt's moniker "The Big Dipper" came from having to dip his head under doorways as he passed through. However, this recently recovered photo now makes it clear that the name originated from his fondness for the occasional dip in the remote lagoons of the Caribbean. Mystery solved.

Court Adjourned.