There's Damage to Report

Check out Kyle Lowry's line from tonight: 31 minutes, 17 points, 2/5 FG, 13/14 FT, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 turnovers, 5 fouls.

Sadly, I was away from my television set the entire day and couldn't watch the game. Can someone provide an eyewitness account? I need to know more. I have a general idea of what it looked like given his style and my love for it, but that's no substitute.

At any rate, I submit that this is the Kyle Lowry statline.


New Number Order: Week 2

We have a blog? Who in the what now?

Yeah, sorry about that. Things remain hectic in Plisskenville; it should be telling that we've made more posts on other sites than on this one recently. We are still alive, though, and the doctors tell us we have a good chance of surviving so long as we maintain the will to live.

That should be easier because of one of our newest Blogburgh extracurriculars: involvement in the utterly fantastic NCAA Basketball Blogpoll. Much thanks to everyone involved with that one for allowing us to be involved.

In our minds, one of the responsibilities of getting to vote is having to explain your picks and, as such, we will be writing weekly responses to our poll. Starting now, that is, because we couldn't last week (oops). If you want to check out the final poll for this week, please go here. Previous ranking (our ranking, not the official one) is in parentheses. Let the games begin:

1 (1). Memphis. Like I said way back in July, the Tigers are my favorite team (not my rooting interest, though) in the country. Watching them last Friday against UConn was quite frankly a revelation. Outside of the first ten minutes, they didn't even seem to play that well, but they were able to win convincingly anyway. To make a comparison to the NBA, they remind me a lot of the Warriors in that they're capable of being extremely physical without banging -- everyone is so athletic that high-impact contact occurs just because they play hard. Individually, Derrick Rose is as advertised and Chris Douglas-Roberts might be the most underrated player in the country. I'm not sure this team is the best team in the country -- they do play very sloppily at times -- but I like them too much to put them lower.

2 (2). Kansas. I must confess that I haven't seen them play yet and thus have no idea if they're actually better than UCLA, but they're too stacked to go anywhere else right now. The talent on that roster is just obscene; it's a damn shame that I have no faith in Bill Self to get them to where they should go by the end of the year.

3 (5). UCLA. I don't know why we ever had them 5th. Even without Darren Collison, the ball pressure is just filthy. Howland has to be the best coach in the country. As for Kevin Love, he's clearly a superior college player, but I'm very anxious to see what he can do against an NBA big man. I haven't seen much explosiveness around the rim from Love, and his regular pump fakes will be harder to pull off against superior defenders.

4 (3). Georgetown. There's still no one in the country who can guard Roy Hibbert, and those guards remain underrated. For now, that's enough to keep them this high.

5 (4). UNC. Like Kansas, I'm not convinced they have enough to win the whole thing. Instead of the coach being the problem, though, it remains their lack of a clear go-to guy in crunch time. Wayne Ellington's going to have to step things up if they want to justify the hype.

6 (6). Tennessee. I know they (or maybe just Chris Lofton) haven't been at their best so far this season, but I'm a sucker for any running team that presses. I just love the makeup of this roster.

7 (9). Washington State. Haven't seen them yet this year, so the ranking is mostly an assumption in praise of their performance last year.

8 (8). Indiana. One of the pollsters doesn't even have them ranked, and one of his reasons for said snub was that he doesn't like teams that rely heavily on freshmen. Uh, Eric Gordon is no ordinary freshman.

9 (7). Lousville. The loss of David Padgett has to hurt, but Pitino has enough horses inside to keep them solid in his absence.

10 (11). Oregon. This ranking will change after their loss to St. Mary's (w/out Bryce Taylor, though). I still think they're going to have a lot of trouble in crunch time this year with the absence of Brooks. And the defense will definitely be worse, as they showed in Moraga.

11 (12). Kansas State. Here's where the rankings become really, really hard to figure out. This one is basically a vote for Michael Beasley. We're convinced that he's the 11th best team in the country. I'm also a fan of anything related to Bill Walker and his insatiable hunger for victory.

12 (13). Duke. Shock of all shocks: I fully expect to like watching Duke this year. May they never make a basket on a true post-up.

13 (14). Texas A&M. This is probably too high for them. Big fan of DeAndre Jordan, though.

14 (NR). Michigan State. Seems like they've worked out the kinks after that horrific exhibition loss. Lost in the praise for UCLA's victory without Collison is that Drew Neitzel was sick in that game and didn't perform to his capabilities.

15 (15). Pittsburgh. Haven't seen them, but they've never proven themselves to be a bad team. For the last few years, it's been safe to assume that they'll end up in the Top 3 of the Big East. That earns them #15.

16 (17). Gonzaga. Heytvelt's out, yeah. But they still have Jeremy Pargo, and there are few players in the country that are as exciting as him off the dribble.

17 (24). Texas. I really don't like this team at all, but they had to go somewhere. I think Augustin is wildly overrated and will continue to think so until he joins the Sonics and starts passing to Durant like a sane person.

18 (19). Syracuse. This will change after the loss to Ohio State. Love Johnny Flynn, though. (Can you tell that a lot of these picks were based on players we like?)

19 (18). Marquette. Complete lack of an inside presence will hurt them. Plus, if there guards are as good as everyone says, then I would have liked to have seen them beat smallball Duke on Wednesday.

20 (10). Stanford. The #10 ranking was probably on account of homerism. But I refuse to believe that the Siena loss was as bad as everyone says. First, playing against a likely conference champion on the other side of the country at an early start time. Second, no practice that Friday because the airline lost the equipment. Third, Anthony Goods had as bad a game as I've ever seen. Fourth, Lawrence Hill was hurt. Fifth, no Brook Lopez, of course. Definitely not a good performance by any means, and Goods should theoretically play well if he's worthy of his reputation, but there were so many other factors in play that I refuse to believe it was a travesty. I also called it a few months ago, so you can't say no one saw it coming.

21 (25). Virginia. We are both in love with Sean Singletary. Seriously.

22 (NR). Davidson. This ranking is based on their excellent performance against UNC last week, but today's loss to Western Michigan will have us questioning it. Curry's injury doesn't seem to be holding him back at all, so they remain a viable choice for "Best Mid-Major."

23 (16). Southern Illinois. I have no idea why we put them 16th. Reputation, I suppose.

24 (NR). UConn. They played Memphis extremely well last Friday. AJ Price is a new man and the wings are astoundingly good athletes. Hasheem Thabeet, on the other hand, needs about fifteen more years of seasoning before I'd consider using a lottery pick on him.

25 (22). Arizona. Dropped after the Virginia loss, but we're also not sure they're that good to begin with. Budinger is super-talented but didn't assert himself nearly enough last year, Jordan Hill gets a lot of publicity but hasn't done much to earn it, Bayless isn't a natural point, and Radenovic was a matchup nightmare for lots of teams. I can't say I'm crying about any of this stuff.


Darn That Dream

If you haven't seen it yet, my first post at FreeDarko went up Wednesday morning. I link only because it has some bearing on this post.

Tonight's game between the Jazz and Rockets validated everything I said on FD, and I'm both happy (because I was right) and sad (because it makes Utah less interesting). Let's run through this game really quickly.

The Jazz came out of the gates playing as well as they did on Tuesday night, and, oddly enough, they were also playing the same style. Everything moved quickly on offense; Deron shredded the defense via drive, pass, and shot; AK slid in between defenders; Boozer continued to show that he can lock up the paint at any tempo; and Ronnie Brewer finished and slashed like he knows how. The only player who really doesn't fit into this offensive style is Okur, but I suspect that's at least partly because Sloan doesn't really know what to do with him at this speed. The good news there is that Sloan's a smart guy, so any strong consideration of the issue would yield something productive. My guess is that they could very easily put Memo in a Young Dirk-type roving shooter role, but who knows what would come out of Sloan's seasoned brain.

It's also worth noting that the Jazz can play defense at this speed. Time and Jeff Van Gundy seem to have given running a no-defense stigma, but watching old games makes it clear that a potent offense and steadfast defense aren't mutually exclusive. A coach like Sloan can instill those values into a team without sacrificing points.

The good stuff happened for a little more than half of the first quarter. With around five minutes left in the first quarter, Sloan subbed Matt Harpring (death!) and Jason Hart for AK and Deron. The offense instantly slowed down, the plays developed more slowly, Boozer settled into taking jumpers (this isn't entirely fair -- he had a phenomenal statistical game) and the Rockets crept back and ultimately won the game with moderate ease. Now, some of the credit for that comeback has to go to Houston: they tightened up their defense, and Utah couldn't find an answer for McGrady. But Utah also played right into Houston's hands by stepping off the gas.

Deron Williams obviously has to sit at some point, but Jason Hart is not so terrible that he's incapable of dribbling up the court at high speeds. Harpring (death!) is a different story, but he can still shoot and score. My point is this: yes, the Jazz won't run as well when their best players are out. But this shit works for them, and they'd be foolish not to explore it as a legitimate option. In the FD post, I looked at this issue mostly from a long-term perspective, but the short term still matters here. Utah can stay where they are, utilize half of Kirilenko's skills, and hope for another favorable playoff draw. They can also work around their best players' strengths, dominate for long stretches of games, and become a legitimate force. It might take a little extra work and some critical thinking for their coaching staff, but it's the right move for this roster.

Other news:

- Our Warriors and Lakers previews are now up at We Rite Goode. Wishful thinking is here and realistic expectations are here. The entire preview has been fantastic, so I recommend that you check them all out. Thanks again to WRG for bringing us into the fold.

- The season preview is taking shape. Should be ready by early next week, which I think fits within the suitable preview-posting window.


Synthesizer Guide Book on Fire

Anyone who reads this blog has probably figured out that we ripped off our post format from FreeDarko. That decision was mostly grounded in homage; we think it's one of the best sites on the internet. But the homage carries value beyond the respect we have for the blog. Quite simply, their format denotes a particular way of writing about basketball, and, in most of our posts, we've tried to use that intellectual, freewheeling approach.

So I announce with great pleasure that, beginning Wednesday or Thursday, we will start writing somewhat regularly for FreeDarko. This is a huge honor, obviously, and we could not be more excited. Given the respect we have for the site, we can only hope we don't screw anything up too horribly. Much thanks to everyone at FD, of course.

Some of you might be wondering what this announcement means for Plissken. Let me be frank: this blog is still very much a functioning website, but this new gig will obviously funnel some of our resources away from here. Things shouldn't change too drastically, though, and the good news is that I highly doubt many readers of our site don't check out FD on a regular basis. (If you don't, then shame on you.) Plus, at the risk of giving too much away, Big Plissken Announcement #2 will address this concern.

If you're visiting our site for the first time, welcome. As I said up top, we write somewhat heady posts about anything related to basketball. We also have an unnatural obsession with Marco Belinelli, and for some reason I write more posts about mascots than any sane man should. I hope you like the site and come back often.

Other brief, less exciting news:

- The fine folks at We Rite Goode invited us to be a part of their NBA preview, which solicited input from a great number of excellent writers hailing from all areas of Blogburgh. Our individual previews of the Warriors (me) and Lakers (Carter) are not yet up, but they have posted this fine introductory piece that details everyone's record predictions. They will be updating this entire week -- highly recommended. I'm sure we'll link our bits here when they go up, because we are whores.

- Speaking of NBA previews, we're going to write one within the week. I know that makes us significantly late to the preview-writing game, but I don't think it will be too much of a problem. We're trying to do something different, so groove on the idea of what that might be while you wait.


Doing the Knowledge

First off, apologies for the shitty posting record over the last few weeks. Transitional time, blah blah blah, yada yada yada, excuse excuse excuse. We’ll do our best to be better. At any rate, the two big announcements I talked about should go into effect within the next week.

This news story is fairly old by now, but you may have heard that Brook Lopez, Stanford forward and one half of the Lopez Twins, was declared academically ineligible and then received an indefinite suspension for allegedly missing classes and a practice. Having some inside knowledge of the situation, I know that this particular incident doesn’t need much analysis: Brook simply didn’t try hard enough to do what he needed to do to stay eligible. There’s no lack of institutional control – it’s all about effort.

Frankly, the most interesting part of his ineligibility is that it happened at Stanford. At the risk of sounding like an arrogant alumnus, admissions standards are so high for athletes that all players are supposed to be self-motivated and ready to navigate a school that doesn’t coddle its players as much as other schools tend to. (Wow, that definitely made me sound arrogant.) Brook stopped efforting, and his work suffered for it.

One way of looking at his laziness is to say that Brook Lopez is headed to the NBA at the end of the year and therefore didn’t need to try – if he wanted to get drafted – and that would be exactly right. But it’s also easy to use that piece of information to argue that NCAA players should be paid, and that’s where things get more complicated.

The argument goes something like this: Brook’s situation shows that NCAA players are primarily using college for sports and couldn’t care less about school. At the same time, the schools exploit these players for money, so why not let these young men get paid for their exploits.

Well, for starters, they do get paid, and it’s in the form of a scholarship. Granted, some players don’t use that academics, but I think it’s a mistake to say that the majority use college for nothing more than sports, girls, and drugs. The fact of the matter is that not that many athletes end up playing professionally. Even if they don’t get much out of their education, college still provides them with the connections that could very well guarantee jobs and respect for years.

However, that explanation doesn’t kill the argument that these athletes aren’t using college for the education. Some do, certainly, but no more than a handful of scholarship players could be said to play college athletics for something other than the athletics; on the face of it, they want to play. But if they’re using college for sports, why do we choose to think of athletic programs as schools instead of glorified versions of the IMG Academy? Granted, the schools make a ton of money off of these players, but I’m not sure the players don’t earn back their per capita contribution to that income when they move on.

Whether college athletes use their schools for athletic development or simply for future connections, it would be a gross mistake to say they’re not getting something out of school roughly commensurate to what they give to that school. Paying players may seem like a simple solution to the issue of academically-lazy athletes, but that’s only the case if we insist on pretending that they’re all at school for the education. Many of Brook Lopez’s teammates want to learn, yes, yet there’s also Brook Lopez. And the system already accounts for him in full.


That's How We Do Here

This week saw two unbelievably amazing Warriors-related videos come our way, and it's quite simply my duty to bring them to you.

First, we have this video of Baron, Stephen Jackson, and Al Harrington dancing to Soulja Boy Tellem. Shoals gave as good a take on the dancing as possible over at FD, saying that "The dance has become a tic, a comforting gesture, a stance." In the comments of that post, rebar makes an excellent point on the non-Soulja part of the video, explaining that Baron has become a combination of seriousness and goofiness that has before now been associated primarily with Agent Zero. Honestly, I don't have much to add to this one -- I just think it needs to be seen by everyone and hope I've touched someone's life.

Henry Abbott put this video up on TrueHoop the other day, but I think the link died, so I'm doing my part here. I really can't discuss this one rationally, so I'll do my best in bullet form:
  • Andris talks about horseshoes like it's a great American pastime. I think I've played it once or twice.
  • Why are they playing horseshoes in the first place? They couldn't just have a roundtable or video game battle?
  • Andris appears to be hosting the game. Apparently they don't put the rookies in the classy part of the resort.
  • The music and video quality makes me think they filmed this one in 1986.
  • Andris: "Marco's on fire." Get used to that one.
  • The Andris narration is fantastic. Sign him up for an audiobook.
  • Kosta Perovic appears to be the best at this game, which makes me think he has no chance of being a serviceable NBA player.
  • Andris: "See, me and Kosta, that's how we do here." I could not have said it better myself.
These videos both make one thing clear: I am very lucky to root for this team.


Light to No Coma

We've been pretty poor about posting lately, and for that I apologize. Sadly, this is not a real post, but I did think it important to let people know that we're alive and thinking about basketball. Blame literary theory, if you want a reason for my relative absence. (Carter will have to come up with his own excuse.)

Anyway, Plissken is far from dead; if anything, these next few days/weeks will be a period of great growth for us. We'll be making the two biggest announcements in the short history of our site soon. Believe me when I say that these bits of news are both very important and that we could not be more excited about the prospects that both entail. Unfortunately, I can't go into detail now, but you'll know soon enough.

Have no fear -- we'll be back with real posts shortly. My first one will probably be about the unfortunate Brook Lopez situation, if you want something to look forward to.


Bloggin' to the Oldies: Rebirth of Slick

Now that real basketball has up started again (sort of), you might think that resorting to a Bloggin' to the Oldies is unnecessary, but talk of Kobe modifying his role has me reminiscing back to a pivotal moment in Kobe lore: Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers (box score).

Kobe had missed Game 3 and most of Game 2 with a sprained ankle, which was clearly still bothering him on June 14th. For most of regulation, he over-relied on his jump shot, fouled instead of moving his feet on D, and committed some pretty dumb turnovers. He still managed to find ways to help his team, because even at age 21 and feeling gimpy, he was still Kobe Bryant. But as far as the Kobe narrative is concerned, the first 51 minutes are only really relevant for the contrast they provide with the final 2.

Up 3 with a couple minutes left to go in the extra period, Shaq (and his 36 points and 21 boards) fouls out. Kobe gives a cocky grin and drills one over Reggie. Then pulls one of the more swagtastic moves ever, with the "I got this. Keep your cool" gesture that has become synonymous with rising to the occasion. Then proceeds to calmly drill another long 2 over Mark Jackson (shown above) before getting the game-winning tip with 6 seconds to go, putting the Pacers down 3-1.

Revisiting that sequence (which, thanks to the YouTube gods, you can do here), what strikes me most is how stoked Kobe appears that Shaq has fouled out. Phil, Shaq himself, and, most especially, John Salley? All pretty stunned and troubled by the development. Kobe? From the moment the ball's in his hand, clearly relishing the opportunity. I feel like the way this passage of NBA history has generally been interpreted is along similar lines as the "Magic, Starting Center" game: a young player put in a difficult situation, rising to the challenge, and coming up big when it counted most. Comparing the two though, while they were both plenty cocky, Magic at least was a willing participant in the savior-by-circumstance plotline; for Kareem's sake at least, he portrayed himself as thrust into a tough situation and forced to make the best of it. Perhaps I'm projecting too much here, but Kobe's big moment doesn't appear tinged with any of the, "This is a rough spot, but we're going to suck it up and overcome it" attitude that I think fans at the time and since have assumed had to have been underlying the situation.

To be clear, I by no means intend this as a knock on Kobe, nor am I trying to make any bold claims about the Shaq-Kobe dynamic that eventually led to the downfall. I'm strictly interested in this from the perspective of what it says about Kobe and his approach to the game. Even tracing back to his initial championship, it was clear that he was a cold-blooded killer who was dying to take over the game when it counts, without interference. Even losing in Tuesday's preseason game proved to be too much for him to stay confined to the facilitator role when he started jacking up shots in a desperate attempt to one-up Kelenna Azubuike in the 3rd quarter. Bottom line: Kobe might be able to sublimate his instincts for long stretches, but when it comes down to it he will always want to do the jugular-stomping himself, regardless of the circumstance.

While Kobe's maturation may have been the main motivation for revisiting this game, I was also interested if I could glean any insight about Austin Croshere and Derek Fisher's signings to our respective teams. Let me be the first to say: that Austin Croshere can play. How no one gave him a massive deal based exclusively on this playoff series is beyond me. I've already expressed how happy I am about the Fisher signing, but I guess it's worth noting that at age 25 he was a liability guarding Jackson and had to be replaced by the 36-year-old Brian Shaw. Now 33, he'll still be an upgrade from Smush for charges drawn alone, but Lakers fans (myself included) need to exercise caution in nostalgically embellishing his defensive prowess.

Also, I've come to the conclusion that this Pacers team is one of the more underhated teams of all time. I feel like they deserve so much more hatred than they seem to have attracted. Maybe they've been spared eternal scorn because a lot of their heroics came at the expense of the Knicks, but Reggie single-handedly should have made this team one of the most rooted-against teams of the era. What I don't understand, I've heard refs reference "pulling a Reggie," so they were clearly aware of his bullshit, yet he still was rewarded for creating contact in a way that I've never seen prior or since. Mark Jackson, while extremely solid in pretty much every way, would waste half the shot clock every other possession backing people down. Not exciting to watch. Then there's my, perhaps irrational, despise for Rik Smits, who I choose to blame for the devolution of the big man. For some reason I feel like I'd be more forgiving of his brand of oafishness had he been Eastern European rather than Western, but would need someone like Padraig to explain why I might make that distinction. (side note to Pacers fans: having rooted for this team does not prove that you aren't racist)

In other news, I've decided to informally dub the summer of '07 as the Summer of Sam Perkins. First he popped up in a nostalgic Forum Blue & Gold post, then at the always hilarious Blowtorch, before hitting the big time at True Hoop. To top it all off, I think he's showed up in more of NBAtv's "Greatest Games" this summer than any player save Jordan or Pippen. We've watched him with the Lakers, Sonics, and now Pacers, across a 10-year span, pretty much nailing clutch shots regardless of hair style, uniform, or body fat.

At some point later this week look out for my thoughts on what Glen Rice's role on this Laker team might inform us about this year's Celtics.


Fear of a Black Planet

Today's news that the Indiana Pacers consciously skew their marketing away from "hip-hop culture" to appease and market to their fanbase (via TrueHoop) brings up some very interesting points about race, Middle America, and white men's relationships to superathletic basketball-playing black men. While I don't want to paint all Indianans as young American kids just doing the best racist things they can, I do think there's a strong racial component to this story, and it deserves full attention.

Powered by AOL Video

(I desperately wanted to use this version of the video, but Universal won't let me embed from YouTube.)

Unfortunately, you're not going to find that analysis here. If this story tells us anything, it's that the "they just wanted white guys" half-jokes that followed last winter's Warriors trade are probably more than just unhinged speculation. If that's the case, then we can assume that it can happen again. Now, I'm not fan of racism in any form -- seriously, some of my best friends are black -- but I am always for trades that bring underappreciated players to more hospitable environments. With that in mind, here's a look at some potential racism-motivated trades that could come up over the course of this season.

Indiana Pacers
Who says lightning never strikes the same place twice?
Trade Proposal: Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley to the Lakers for Chris Mihm and Coby Karl.
Analysis: O'Neal and Tinsley are relics from the Palace Brawl era, a time when rap music blared through the Conseco Fieldhouse locker room and the Pacers actually won playoff games. ... Mihm is injury-prone, but at least he doesn't miss games due to suspension. ... Coby Karl isn't just white -- put him in a suit and he actually looks like your garden-variety Pacers season-ticket holder. If that doesn't scream "face of the franchise," I don't know what does. Get him in those Jim O'Brien ads, stat.

Boston Celtics
Sure, Boston's made great strides in terms of racial relations, but that could all come crashing down the minute the Three-Leaf Clover (I am proclaiming this to be the nickname) starts redefining the term "Black Irish."
Trade Proposal #1: Kevin Garnett to the Warriors for Austin Croshere.
Analysis: Everyone loves Garnett now, but what'll happen the first time he shows off his trademark intensity and yells at Brian Scalabrine? ... Croshere went to Providence and only shoots jumpers, so he should be just what the doctor of eugenics ordered.
Trade Proposal #2: Ray Allen to the SuperSonics for Wally Szczerbiak.
Analysis: Yeah, this trade already happened, but Ainge will likely call backsies on Sam Presti the minute the Celtics fanbase remembers that Ray was the lead character -- who slept with white women, no less -- in a Spike Lee movie.
Trade Proposal #3: Paul Pierce to the Clippers for Paul Davis and Dan Dickau.
Analysis: The Truth is a Boston mainstay, but there's always the chance that he'll get stabbed again. Definitely can't have that element wandering around Newbury Street on weekends. ... Dan Dickau has a cheerleader for a wife, and you can't get more impressive than that. ... Paul Davis is tall and white, in case you were unfamiliar with him.

New Orleans Hornets
New Orleans has a host of racial issues (brilliantly shown in FOX's new supersmash formulaic cop drama K-Ville!!!), although it's unclear to this outsider if those issues arise from the city's internal issues or national problems related to Hurricane Katrina. Don't worry, though, because this trade will work it all out.
Trade Proposal: Chris Paul to the Wizards for Darius Songaila.
Analysis: Here's how I see this one playing out: The Hornets start the year in a funk; ticket sales are low, the team loses, general discontent and questions about whether or not the team can survive in New Orleans abound, and Chris Paul remarks that "David Stern doesn't care about black people." Big Ernie Grunfeld calls up Jeff Bower, demands Chris Paul in exchange for five truckloads of cash and a solid Euro who won't complain. Bower says sure, sends CP3 on a plane to DC an hour later. Songaila arrives a week late.

Memphis Grizzlies
Memphis has a history of great blues and solid rap, but it's still in Tennessee, so it's only a matter of time before a bunch of guys named Jim Bob Cooter storm the Grizz front office.
Trade Proposal: Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick to the Heat for Chris Quinn and Michael Doleac.
Nothing's more stereotypically "hip hop" on the basketball court than a 6-8 uberathletic swingman, so why not trade both? ... Quinn and Doleac went to the two whitest colleges around (Notre Dame and Utah, respectively) other than Bob Jones University and BYU, so you know there's nothing to hate there.

Sacramento Kings
Sacto isn't the most backwards place on the planet, but it also has lots of cows, and lord knows there's a positive correlation between "amount of cows" and "amount of racists."
Trade Proposal: Ron Artest to the Knicks for David Lee.
Analysis: We all know Isiah doesn't care about this white person, and he's always up for bringing on another questionable personality who can play forward or point guard (maybe Ron-Ron can even play point forward!). ... The Kings get Max Weber's personal wet dream, a guy who'll work hard and deserves more playing time than what he gets in New York. (Note: This one is not a joke.)


Ringleader of the Tormentors

The Warriors announced their captains today, and, as you've probably heard by now, Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes, and Baron Davis were the choices. As expected, there has been outcry against the Jackson choice, with Epic Carnival, Adonal Obsessed, Three Idiots on Sports, and Mavs Moneyball registering complaints. While my opinion is obviously biased because I'm a big Warriors fan, I think Jackson is a perfectly suitable, if unconvential, selection. Although the man certainly has some issues, Jackson's a phenomenal teammate, a proven player in the clutch, and a symbol of what this Warriors team is all about. He might not be the most upright citizen, but that doesn't mean he's not the best person to lead a team into a tough game in the playoffs.

First off, picking captains is not a public relations move. It's not a contest to see who gives the best press conferences or gets in the least trouble. Captains exist to lead their teammates in everything basketball-related, and that's pretty much it. Yes, to a certain extent, every announcement is PR-related, but at some point basketball function has to outweigh those concerns. I think that's exactly the case here.

Jackson's teammates have always identified him as a phenomenal guy in the locker room and on the court. He's proven beyond the shadow of a doubt (well, too much) that he'll back a teammate up if that person gets into trouble, earning the respect of anyone that wears his same uniform. It's extremely telling that a team as Right Way as the Spurs valued (and continues to value) his contribution to their championship team as much as they did. No less an unimpeachable source than Tim Duncan has claimed that Jackson is the "ultimate teammate", so it's not like this is something specific to the Warriors and Ron Artest. Simply put, Stephen Jackson is somebody that everyone feels perfectly comfortable going to war with.

Last postseason (and many postseasons before that), he also made it clear that he won't back down against a presumably superior opponent. Without Stephen Jackson around to get in the Mavs' faces and convince the younger players that the Warriors could win, there's simply no way that Golden State wins that series, although Baron would have kept it close just by the pure will of his balls. If a guy's an emotional leader and backs up his teammates, why shouldn't he be a captain?

There's also the issue of team identity, a point that Shoals argued in this pro-Jackson Fanhouse piece. The mark of insanity and on-the-edgeness are things that defined this team last year, so it makes sense that the organization would want to buy into those qualities going forward. Granted, those usually aren't traits that hold up particularly well over time, but there's also never really been a situation where those kinds of players defined the team instead of hanging around the margins as effective sideshow attractions.

My one major concern is that this new role could actually rein him in too much. Any attempt to change Jackson's mindset, particularly one focused on setting a Right Way example, will make him something that he's unequivocally not. Jackson -- and, by extension, the rest of the team -- thrives off of insanity. Losing that edge could throw off the Warriors' entire operation.

When you get right down to it, though, I'm not even sure this decision merits the attention it's getting. The NBA is not high school, where players don't have experience leading and thus look to older players for tons of guidance. Most of these guys have been captains or leaders at some level; they really only need someone to show them the ropes and set a general tone. Jackson does all those things and more. Captains certainly matter in the NBA, but they're not essential to the success of a team.


If I Can Change, And You Can Change, Everybody Can Change

By now (you know, a day and a half later), the news of Andrei Kirilenko's English interview with KSL 5 of Salt Lake City is too old to print. However, instead of analyzing the greatness of quotes like "I want to burn on the floor," I'd like to take this post to commend AK for his tremendous analysis of the situation, to explain how I think this interview guards him against all relevant criticism of his trade demand, and to wildly predict that his comments represent a potentially huge step in how athletes approach their trade demands. His most important quotes have been reproduced elsewhere, but I've pasted them here for your pleasure and convenience:

"I don't know. I'm stuck in this situation. ... I just want him to help me again and help the team."

"I don't want to be an anchor for the team. ... Right now, I feel like an anchor, game-wise and money-wise. I want Jazz to be as happy as possible."

"[Jerry Sloan's] one of the best coaches in the world... It seems like I'm on a different page with the coach."

"Sometimes we don't know how to help each other."

"He is who he is. I don't want to change him. He's made himself as a coach like this. I want to wish him the best and success as a coach."

"I never said I want to be first option on the team. ... I think Deron, I think Carlos [Boozer], I think Memo [Okur], even Matt [Harpring], I think they, even more than me, are valuable offensively. I'm ready for that. But I'm not ready to be ignored at all."

To a certain extent, his reasoning here resembles that of a boyfriend or girlfriend who, after saying some nasty things at the beginning of a fight/breakup, reverses course and tries the "it's not you, it's me" approach with the hope of smoothing things over in the relationship's last moments. I don't doubt that AK harbors some of these feelings, but he seems too sincere for that to be his primary intent.

What impresses me most about these comments is that Kirilenko has looked at this situation from all sides; in a way, he wrote the definitive take on his own trade demand, rendering all other accounts superfluous. He understands that he has limited skills, but he knows that he's pretty damn good at what he does and can help another team (i.e. one that would use him with more attention to his skills) immensely. Consequently, he still has at least trade value, and the Jazz could probably get some nice pieces in return. It's extremely rare for a professional athlete -- or, more accurately, a really good professional athlete -- to take stock of his talents and limitations so honestly. That self-awareness necessarily blunts the claims that he's being arrogant and selfish. Essentially, he's now the anti-Drago.

AK's explanation of his relationship with Sloan is just as interesting in that it shows just how willing he is to make concessions to someone with whom he has an awful working relationship. By admitting that Sloan is a legendary coach -- and this is the really important part -- who still commands a great deal of respect and did a great job with last year's team, Kirilenko presents this disagreement as an issue of poor fit and respectful philosophical debate, not of macho posturing and O'Reilly Factor-style argument. Both sides retain their good points, leading to a friendly split and at least moderately happy ending for both sides.

While I think AK's tactics here are incredibly useful, he's still open to certain kinds of criticism. For instance, he still demanded a trade, so anyone who decries a player for lack of loyalty would have to apply that critique in this case. In this way, Shoals's recent point about the double standard in reaction to trade demands still holds. However, if you like to look at both sides of the issue and see how that player came to that decision -- if you can't tell, that's what I prefer -- then I don't think there's much of importance that can be thrown back in Kirilenko's face here.

But I don't want to stop with just AK's situation, because I think this interview has implications for future trade demands. If more players would take this path with the media, I think we'd see far fewer knee-jerk reactions of the "he's just being disloyal" sort. Not only would that lead to better situations for the players and teams involved, but media discussion would necessarily focus on the nuances of each case in addition to the generalities. It's probably unrealistic to expect extremely talented people to criticize themselves in an open forum on a regular basis, but some progress seems possible.

Before I go, a bit of important news: true Plissken OG commenter Ben Q. Rock (the archives say he commented twice on our first-ever substantive post) has taken his excellent Orlando Magic blog Third Quarter Collapse over to the collective at SB Nation. Anyone with even a passing interest in the NBA (so, you know, everyone reading this right now) should check it out. Congrats to Ben on the new, well-deserved gig.


No Scissors In Bed

If you listen to most pundits, the big news from lakers' media day Monday was that Kobe's ready to play, but the real story of the Lakers' media day for me was unquestionably the physical changes Bynum's gone through since we last saw him in May. Namely, that his 'stache seems two shades thicker and his voice has dropped at least an octave. Yer growns up and yer growns up and yer growns up. The fact that he also looks freakishly thicker in a Howardesque way is exciting, too. His focus on conditioning this summer (via FB&G) is evident and, muscle strain aside, looks very promising. However, the key from my point of view has to be the facial hair. To get a better view you'll probably have to watch the Bucher video linked up top, if you can tolerate the sensationalist voiceover long enough to get to it.

Apparently I wasn't the only one keenly aware of the some of the Lakers' follicular changes, because Elie Seckbach was on the scene to report:

A few things that are particularly relevant from the clip:

Lamar Odom is under the impression that his barber thinks he's going to have an All-Star season. I'm of the opinion that his barber thinks he might secretly be a 12-year-old girl. I think there might be a kitten on the other side.

Also, Kwame shaved (rumor has it head-to-toe; whatever it takes in a contract year). All kidding aside, though, he does imply in the video that he lost the braids because he's apparently "a new player," which has me cautiously excited. Maybe it's naive of me to think that someone with the worst hands of any NBA player I've ever seen can have a breakout year in his 7th season in the league, but it's worth keeping an eye on, at the very least.

Finally, the most important non-Bynum related news from my standpoint: Sasha Vujacic, apparently not to be outdone by Robbie Cowgill, has really brought the whole Johnny look to a new level of perfection. Everyone guard your pipe this year.


As the Sun Greets the Dawn

Over the past few days, several prominent media types have wondered out loud about how anyone could not want to play with Steve Nash, the consensus (at least in the mainstream) greatest point guard in the league and ultimate distributor of the world. These writers’ takes have come somewhere between outrage and bewilderment. In almost all cases, people just can’t understand why Marion would ever want to leave Steve Nash.

Thankfully, many citizens of Blogburgh have responded with a more respectable view of this situation. In his take on the trade request, David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout wrote a paragraph so good that I will simply reproduce it here:

The Marion story flies in the face of two pieces of "conventional wisdom" that the mainstream media touts: 1) Everyone in the NBA would love to play with Steve Nash and would accept less money to do so; 2) Nobody in the NBA wants to play with Kobe Bryant. Therefore, rather than simply reporting the facts, it will not be too long before many media outlets spin this story to fit in with "conventional wisdom." It will be interesting to watch this unfold and see if the spin becomes an attack on Marion for being "selfish," an attack on Marion for not being that valuable of a player or if somehow someone figures out a way to blame this all on Bryant. Rest assured that the face value facts--Marion wants to be traded from Phoenix to the Lakers--will not be simply reported as such for very long.

I couldn’t put it any better. Instead of dismissing Marion’s issue with the Suns as unreasonable hogwash, let’s try to answer the heretofore rhetorical question and figure out how anyone could not want to play with Steve Nash. (I should also give props to everyone in the FD comments. The idea for this post started there.) Before starting this exercise, I’d like to make it clear that I imagine Steve Nash is fun to play with. Teammates have spoken well of him for years; Marion is certainly an exception and not the rule.

However, that doesn’t mean that Nash’s game doesn’t have some traits that would irk a player of Marion’s caliber. For all his skills as a distributor, Nash gets many of his assists after creating angles with his dribble. When he uses that tactic, he uses up the majority of the possession with the ball in his hands, meaning that the finisher really only has to catch the ball and lay it in. Logically, that shouldn’t be a problem for the finisher, but Nash’s controlling of the ball necessarily focuses most of the attention on him. The other players, who still receive a fair share of attention, become known more as finishers than they would be otherwise.

The media attention that Nash receives compounds this problem. It’s not uncommon for a point guard to get attention, but Nash’s reputation as Ultimate Team Player A-#1 doesn’t perfectly match his penchant for controlling possessions, although they do certainly match closely. Any praise given to Nash for being a fantastic teammate must sting a player that knows he’s capable of being more than a clean-up man, which is a role that Marion and the other Suns often play.

In the end, I think it’s exactly that knowledge that makes this situation tough for Marion. If he hadn’t been successful without Nash, I’m sure he’d be less willing to part, but the fact that Marion was an all-star before Nash arrived means that he knows he can get more attention on another team. His willingness to leave Phoenix might seem odd, but it’s not insane by any stretch.


Crawling Can Be Beautiful

The rumor mill is in full effect. According to Sporting News (via Ballhype, which really means via AZ Sports Hub and some other dudes, doesn't it?), an anonymous source claims there's a 50-50 chance of seeing an Odom-for-Marion blockbuster. Couple that with his fairly-legitimate-sounding trade demand and I think it's fair game to start getting mildly excited.

I know what you're thinking. We all remember what happened last time I got excited when a player the Lakers coveted made a "trade demand." [Tangent: have we ever had a summer filled with so many false threats and half-assed demands?] And god knows how long I've been advocating the AK-for-Odom hotness, which Kirilenko's vocal displeasure seems to have advanced none at all. So what makes this idle speculation any different than the past examples? Nothing, really, but I feel compelled to weigh in nonetheless, mostly because we don't got much else to talk about just yet.

First off, we've already shown that numbers don't lie and Odom isn't as good as I might want to believe he is. Seriously, though, in the PER-battle, Marion wins handily, hitting a career-high of 23.6 with Amare not around and cracking 20 in four other years. Odom peaked at 18.9 his sophomore year and has been under 18 in all three of his years on this end of Staples. (Hypocrite, you say? Agreed) Couple that with the fact that Marion's probably the best (or at least the most versatile) defensive player in the game, and it's hard not to see Marion as an upgrade. The real clincher for me, however, is that Marion hasn't dipped below 79 games a season since his rookie year. Odom, on the other hand, has missed an average of almost 20 games per season. That health upgrade alone could be worth an extra four or five wins over the course of a season. Honestly, the fact that Odom's behind on his recovery from shoulder surgery (via FB&G) and other GMs are even still looking at him is amazing to me.

There are a few downsides worth considering. Losing Odom's passing is probably the biggest problem I see. Not having Odom around would put a lot of pressure on Fisher, Farmar, and Luke to distribute. It's also worth considering that familiarity with the triangle is often cited as one of the most important factors for excelling in it. Odom in his fourth year in the system probably has a considerable edge over Marion in his first. The extra $3 million owed to Marion is also not insignificant, but a contract like Cook's would have to be included to balance the books, making the impact on the team's cap negligible (as far as I understand). At this point, there aren't a whole lot of non-lateral type of moves left out there, and this might be the best chance for the Lakers to make an upgrade. However, the deal would still have its drawbacks. Losing Cook would probably make the guys that made this video extremely happy, but the truth is the lost depth at PF could hurt down the road.

Would this move make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. Do I think that's a fair standard by which to judge all transactions? Definitely not. The bottom line for me is that trading Odom for Marion shows a willingness mix things up. As currently configured, the Lakers would be hard-pressed to make much noise come playoff time. Shoring up one of their major weaknesses (defense) and appeasing Kobe by acquiring a close friend of his (who's already saying things like the Lakes have "a great organization, great ownership") make this possible trade worth the risk.


Let's Plan a Robbery

Last week, ESPN.com's Andy Katz wrote an article on the nonconference schedules of many top NCAA teams and how they could influence the proceedings on Selection Sunday. The Memphis Tigers occupied his top spot (in terms of both schedule quality and his pre-preseason Top 25), and for good reason. In a word, their schedule is just about perfect. Katz gave them a well-deserved A and detailed many of the reasons for that grade, but I'd like to go into more depth to show exactly why this slate of games fits their team so well.

The amount of big-name teams on the schedule is striking. The Tigers open the year with the 2K College Hoops Classic, a regional/NYC tournament that features Kentucky, UConn, and Oklahoma as the other preliminary hosts and logical opponents at Madison Square Garden. While those names all carry some weight, none of those teams is a potential worldbeater, meaning that Coach Cal will have time to bring Derrick Rose along against quality competition without fear of having in over his head right off the bat.

The game against USC in MSG a few weeks later is an absolute master stroke. While it won't be as big a challenge as it might have looked when Calipari scheduled the game (i.e. before the Trojans lost Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt to the NBA), a win over a solid Pac-10 team will carry a lot of weight this year. Perhaps most importantly, though, the Rose/Mayo matchup will undoubtedly bring a lot of attention to both programs, ensuring that Memphis's recruiting pipeline of freak athletes will not dry up any time soon.

As Katz mentions in his article, Memphis has some unbelievable home games on the schedule, including Arizona, Tennessee, Georgetown, and Gonzaga. I have no idea how the Tigers managed to work that slate out, but it ensures that they'll have at least two high-profile wins -- honestly, I'd be shocked if they don't get three or four from that group -- at hand when it comes time to assign #1 seeds.

Now, in looking at Memphis's schedule, it's important to realize that they must play a large number of quality nonconference opponents because of the general putridity of Conference USA. What looks like an incredibly tough schedule now will likely look as difficult as that of every major conference leader by the end of the season. Yet that's exactly what makes the location of the home and neutral games so important to the Tigers' chances of getting a #1 seed; it's as if Calipari knew exactly how many big wins they needed and acted accordingly.

If there's one hole in the nonconference schedule, it's that there's only one true road game, a likely win at Cincinnati in mid-December. However, even that criticism seems unimportant given Memphis's situation in C-USA. Essentially, preconference road games are only important insofar as they prepare a team for their toughest conference games away from home. Memphis, though, will be such an overwhelming favorite in every C-USA game that home and road designations won't even make much of a difference. Memphis's nonconference schedule is in place to win them a high seed and to prepare them for the grind of the tournament. The neutral games in New York do exactly that. The road game is just there for posterity.

Random site news: Things might be a bit spotty over the next week; I just started grad school today and don't want to screw anything up in the first week. However, I'm in the middle of writing a giant post (in terms of both length and importance to this blog) on the systems of college programs, so expect that some time soon.


Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk

Filling in for Henry Abbott at TrueHoop, Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog wrote a blogging primer this Friday titled “NBA Blogging 101.” Essentially, Jeff laid out his list of suggestions for creating a quality basketball blog, although his comments could really apply to any blog of any sport or topic. For the most part, he hits the blogative nails on their heads, including a few that the Plissken braintrust hadn’t used: make an email address readily available (hey, when did that show up on the sidebar?!), write every day (uh, not so much this last week), and create some guidelines (our only rule is that there are no rules). The man has been around long enough and writes a good enough site to make him an expert on this topic; I imagine someone fairly ignorant of sports blogs could read his post and start a decent sports blog within days, or even hours. Additionally, his point about being an innovator and looking to new media for analysis is golden advice for someone more creative and tech-savvy than ourselves (see our layout). However, in the midst of all these great suggestions, I take issue with one of Jeff’s key insights: the idea that an upstart blogger must find a niche in order to be successful.

Given our focus (or lack thereof) at this site, it should not come as a surprise that I have a problem with the idea of the necessary niche. For any readers who don’t come here regularly, let me break down what we write: nuts-and-bolts commentaries on games and transactions, philosophical explorations of fandom, investigations of style, and the occasional half-serious goof. And that goes for both the NBA and NCAA. Are we overextending ourselves? I’d say it’s pretty likely. Is this approach any worse than writing a niche blog? I’m not so sure.

Jeff’s argument rests on a few basic points: 1) Broader topics like “the NBA” and “Boston sports” are already covered by bigwigs like Henry Abbott and Bill Simmons, respectively, so there’s no way you’ll stand out given that they dominate the market; 2) A niche—a classification that includes topics as broad as a specific team—addresses an uncovered topic and will therefore draw a readership. 3) You’ll become the expert on that topic, thus ensuring that people will turn to you when a story intersects with your focus. (I assume that Jeff is working under the assumption that the writers of his hypothetical niche sites are talented, so I will treat them as such in my analysis below.)

The first point is true; TrueHoop is the top NBA blog around and no one will be topping it any time soon. In fact, we’re probably at a point in Blogburgh’s history at which there are a fixed number (or close to it) of truly large sports sites. I still think a TrueHoop-type site written by a terrific writer/aggregator (for instance, a Kelly Dwyer clone without the name recognition—let’s call him Delly Kwyer) would be worthwhile, but it would definitely be tough to get it started. If a writer of that quality would have trouble developing a readership, then any young whippersnapper faces a stiff challenge if he wants his blog to become a must-read. I don’t think anyone would argue against that, so, as I stated a few paragraphs ago, the issue becomes whether or not the niche gets you more attention than the big-tent.

In his post, Jeff mentions a sports commercial site, a point guard site, and an NBDL site as potential niche blog ideas. Although I’m a bit skeptical about how much content you could create for a commercials site, a well-written one would certainly be worth a read every week or so. (Honestly, who wouldn’t read fifteen entertaining posts on the Jeremy Piven commercials?)

He deserves to be mentioned among the greatest philosophers of all-time.

The other two examples are tougher to consider. A point guard site would certainly be interesting, but I’m not sure it would feature any content that couldn’t be found on a larger analytical basketball site. I suppose the writer would focus his energies on watching point guards and thus have more to say, but it seems unlikely that a point guard fan would not like the other parts of a basketball game. I’m all for in-depth analyses of Chris Paul and Baron Davis, but those exist on other sites. Does the point guard niche fill a need? A larger niche site like a team-specific blog works because a built-in fan base exists prior to its creation. Once you get into smaller niches, those preexisting readerships dwindle in size.

The same issue comes up in the case of the NBDL site. I don’t deny that such a blog could be very interesting, but would it generate many readers? I’m sure there are six hardcore NBDL fans in Bakersfield who would go there every day, but high-traffic days would only really occur when players get called up to their NBA teams. Given that most smaller blogs (like this one, at the moment) get large numbers of hits only on days when they get linked on the big sites, I don’t see how the niche blog leads to a wildly different traffic situation than does the broader blog. Perhaps the niche would lead to a larger initial hit count. If anything, I imagine the niche would eventually cap traffic whereas the big tent would lead to incremental growth over a long period of time.

Jeff’s advice is still useful, though; I just think it needs some tweaking. If you read a good number of blogs, then you’ve probably seen that the vast majority of the best ones—including the ones that don't live in the high-rent districts of Blogburgh—have clear identities or specialties: The Painted Area provides extremely detailed, no-nonsense analysis; Basketbawful takes a humorous look at a wide range of basketball topics; and the Blowtorch’s Goathair is the male version of Miss Gossip. These sites/bloggers have their clear strengths, but they cover a number of topics and don’t suffer for it. The important thing is that, with all the blogs on the market now, they set themselves apart.

While those bloggers create clear identities out of their content, I don’t think that’s the only way to do it. There’s no reason that bloggers can’t perform the same function as the mainstream press in terms of the services they provide their readers. After a big game or transaction, I never read just one writer or site’s take on the issue; I almost always look at a handful of them. As long as the writer develops a clear writing style and shows a knack for creating unique and legitimate opinions, a blogger can easily enter into that rotation of regularly-read columnists. In fact, I turn to these kinds of bloggers just as often as I turn to mainstream writers, if not more often. Niches can work, but they’re not necessary if a writer’s opinions and approach demand attention.

Now, watch us announce a new direction for Plissken next week when we write a post on the JJ Redick Better Basketball ads.


Things Are More Moderner Than Before

The Charlotte Bobcats have finally reached an agreement with the Montana rancher who owned the rights to bobcats.com, thus ending Charlotte's municipal nightmare over whether or not their basketball team would get to use a site name even simpler than bobcatsbasketball.com (via Charlotte Observer). The Bobcats are not a franchise to parcel out dynamite scoops one at a time, though, so they also announced Tuesday that they'll be trotting out new uniforms, using a new secondary logo, and redesigning the court for next season. In the words of team president Fred Whitfield, these changed "are about us improving as franchise -- on and off the floor." I commend the Bobcats for these changes, but there's one more they should make if they want to make the jump from expansion team to legit franchise: dump Rufus Lynx, their mascot.

At the beginning of August, I wrote a series of posts on the East and West mascots and their fits for their franchises. They were almost entirely lighthearted and two of my favorite posts to write, if only because I got to see some insane mascots I didn't know much about. For instance, you haven't really lived until you've seen the insane dog that Indiana calls Bowser, or Philly's Hip Hop the Rabbit, or Orlando's Stuff the Magic Dragon. Rufus, on the other hand, is shocking on an entirely different, much less innocent level.

Put quite simply, Rufus Lynx is a racist mascot. From his stereotypical slave name to this picture of him in pimp garb, Rufus is as close to a minstrel show performer as you're going to find in an NBA arena. Given that the league consists of mostly black players playing in front of mostly white audiences, I'm shocked that such a clear racial issue hasn't been talked about before. When you factor in that Robert Johnson, the founder of BET, owns the Bobcats, the entire situation just boggles the mind.

In that first mascot post, I summarized most of my thoughts on Rufus, but I neglected to link to his bio, which has so many ridiculous statements that I won't be able to do them justice in a normal paragraph. Trust me, you want these in numbered format:

1) "Those of you who have witnessed this furry but lovable character out in the community can positively testify to his character..." The phrase "furry but lovable" suggests that his fur usually precludes him from being lovable. In a sense, Rufus is "one of the good ones." Additionally, it seems like those that have seen him need to reassure their friends that he's safe. Odd.
2) "This hip team player will even use his natural characteristics..." The first in a series of descriptions that make it seem like Rufus is incapable of learning skills. Everything is a natural advantage.
3) "Rufus likes to ambush his prey with short bursts of speed and agility" This probably wouldn't seem like a big deal if not for the other issues, but it becomes a problem given everything else we hear about Rufus. Again, it's all about athleticism. Also, I realize that the Bobcats want their mascot to seem fearsome, but I doubt that the Jazz make Bear out to be a predator.
4) "It’s well-known that bobcats can leap 10 feet without any problems, but Rufus Lynx reaches even higher heights." Out of all the tremendous athletes of his species, Rufus jumps the highest. Why emphasize his species?
5) "There is an unbelievable soft side to Rufus Lynx" This could either mean that Rufus has a huge soft side or that it's hard to believe that someone like Rufus could have a soft side. Take your pick -- the latter is obviously worse.
6) "At first glance, Rufus appears in his orange color fur, dark sunglasses and high-top sneakers. Underneath his exterior is the heart of a lion, the strength of 10 men and the greatest enthusiasm in the NBA." Carries a good message about looking deep inside of people, but why even focus on his appearance as being the first thing we should look at? Why is his fur so terrifying in the first place?
7) "HEIGHT We can’t measure him; he won’t stand still" I don't even know what to say about this one.
8) There are countless other comments on Rufus's natural abilities, but listing them would be a chore. Honestly, they might as well have said that he has extra fast-twitch muscles.

Now, to be fair, they do explain the name. The genus/species name for a bobcat is "lynx rufus," which means that they didn't just pick "Rufus" out of a hat. In fact, that's mostly why I don't think the Bobcats brass made a conscious decision to make Rufus as awful as he is. Yet that doesn't make all of this business okay. I might be reading a lot into Rufus Lynx, but I think there's something there.

In the midst of all this change in Charlotte, this is an easily correctable issue. Plenty of teams -- particularly those in the Southeast Division -- have insane, nonsensical mascots that work a hell of a lot better than Rufus. Charlotte could have a new mascot after ten minutes of brainstorming, and they'd fix a lot of potential problems. I promise it'll be easy. At the very least, they'll do better than this guy.