Ridiculously Technical

Amare’ Stoudemire is having an MVP-caliber year in his first season as a New York Knick, but currently has the dubious distinction of being tied for first place in technical fouls. With his current total of 13 technical fouls, he is dangerously close to the limit of 16, which would result in a 1 game suspension.

Stoudemire is a fan favorite and his bombastic nature is part of what makes him so likable; especially in the never-toned-down Big Apple. But clearly his on-the-court demeanor has not won the affection of the referees.

As I previous argued, the current “no emotion allowed” policy of the NBA puts your average player in an impossible conundrum: play with all the heart and intensity of a winner, but do not react in the slightest when the referees make a bad call.

Worse yet, the limit of 16 technical fouls means fans will be deprived of watching some of the best players in the league (Dwight Howard, another fan favorite and one of the game’s best, is currently tied with Stoudemire)

The NBA needs to either increase the technical foul limit or cut the players more slack. I understand that the NBA is trying to polish its product, but no business succeeds by taking its product off the shelves.

New Technical Foul Rule Doesn’t Work

I understand the point of the NBA’s new crackdown on excessive complaining to the referees by players: every call upsets half the players on the court and creates to opportunity to gripe.

And if you’ve watched the NBA over the last few years you could see that the complaining is getting out of hand.

But the NBA’s attempt to punish any-and-all reactions from a player takes it too far to the point of being ridiculous. You don’t perform surgery with a hacksaw. That’s what this rule does.

Here’s what the NBA should do:

Leave it up the to referees’ discretion.

Discussing a bad call is entirely acceptable. It provides the necessary feedback for the referees to do a better job. You cannot remove this feedback and hope to improve the game.

Unacceptable behavior is obvious and doesn’t need to be explicitly described in a rule. A referee knows the difference between being outright disrespected and when a player is unhappy with a call and wants to make his case.

David Stern needs to fix this error before it becomes an embarrassment.

Gallinari developing quickly

When the Knicks drafted Danilo Gallinari, the Theatre at Madison Square Garden roared with boos.  I was the only one of my friends, and one of the few in the building, that was excited. “Forza Italia! Forza Gallinari!” I shouted. The Garden shouted louder.

When Gallo hurt his back in a summer league game a few weeks later, the jeers grew worse. Not only did the Knicks use their lottery pick on an unproven player (when there were so many well known college players on the draft board), but now at 20 years old he had a bad back. The 2008-09 season that followed gave little hope as Danilo sat out to rest and recover.

Now at 21 years of age, Gallo leads the NBA in three pointers in this 2009-10 season, and he has been a strong contributor in the Knicks’ climb in the Eastern Conference standings.


LeBron Deserved MVP

Lebron James 2009 NBA MVPLet me start by saying that LeBron James had a phenomenal season and that he was more than deserving of this year’s MVP.

You’d be crazy to say that LeBron shouldn’t have won the award (so I won’t say that).

But it strikes me a little funny that while Kobe Bryant has been the best basketball player in the world for roughly the last 10 years, he has only one MVP trophy to show for his accomplishments.

It should come as no surprise that politics is a major factor when it comes to MVP. James is the most marketable player in the world right now and there’s no time like the present to crown him as the NBA’s undisputed leader.

The indiscretion, shall we say, from Bryant’s past seems to be the main reason why he doesn’t have multiple MVP awards.

Kobe vs. Lebron in Los Angeles

The stage was set last night for an epic battle between the game’s preeminent superstars but the race nearly ended in the starting blocks as Kobe Bryant dislocated the ring finger on his shooting hand early in the first quarter (while guarding Lebron James).

After having the finger popped back into place, Kobe returned to the game and, despite the pain, he continued to show why he is the league’s best competitor.

Throughout the game James showed a dazzling array of moves with a strength and quickness that is unmatched in the game today. Lebron continually proved that he can hit shots of the greatest degrees of difficulty as he made many highlight-reel-worthy moves.

But in the match up between the Lakers and Cavs it was clear that Kobe Bryant had not only the better supporting cast but the leadership and toughness to maintain control of the game despite playing through pain.

Kobe looked to get his teammates involved and the numbers show it as he dished out 12 assists to Lebron’s 4. And although held to 20 points, Bryant hit timely shots to keep the Lakers ahead, continually putting the game out of reach for the Cavs.

It’s clear that Lebron James knocks on the door of greatness and, individually, he might be the best player in the NBA, but it was Kobe Bryant, now in his 13th season, who displayed greater leadership and poise.

This is a lesson that James needs to take personally. For much of the game Lebron was content to take on the Lakers all by himself and while he proved to be a difficult opponent it is nevertheless true that basketball is a team sport and it is the better team that usually prevails.

The Setting Suns?

It was hard to watch last night’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns. While it was just one game it was enough to show that Phoenix is a team divided.

The first and most obvious place to look is at the front court where Shaquille O’Neal and Amare Stoudemire are clearly not on the same page. Since the arrival of O’Neal, Stoudemire has had to adjust his game as well as give up few shots per game (Stoudemire is currently averaging about 1.5 fewer fg attempts and about 1.5 fewer ft attempts per game). Shaq has been the beneficiary of this decreased role for Stoudemire and it is a questionable decision made by the coaching staff (Terry Porter) and management (Steve Kerr).

Shaq & Amare

Trading for Shaq in the first place was a gamble. Not only is Shaq clearly on the downside of his career (due to age and accumulating injuries) but the suns gave up the player (Shawn Marion)  that most epitomized their style of the last few years.

It is clear that the rationale was that the run-and-gun style of Mike D’Antoni’s Suns had not produced a championship (or even a Finals appearance) and that if the Suns wanted to advance further in the playoffs they would have to do a better job playing defense in the slower, half court pace of the postseason.

As a former player with championship experience, Steve Kerr knows better than most that defense wins championships. The opportunity to acquire the decade’s most dominant center would seem to be the perfect opportunity to add a half court flavor to the suns game plan.

The trade was made and with that the change in style and team philosophy followed suit. as it may come to no surprise, Mike D’Antoni and the suns promptly parted ways at the end of last season. Without the “:07 seconds or less” coach at the helm, the half court philosophy could more easily be put into in effect for the suns.

But while Kerr’s change may have merit in philosophy, so far it has not worked out in practice. It appears as though Shaq’s presence in the post is limiting the younger stoudemire from taking the next step in his career.  The time is right for the 26 year old  to be the number one option and yet he is decreasing his role to make room for a man who will soon be 37.

Of course the true measure of success or failure will be judged by how this change in philosophy affects the suns in the playoffs. If the Suns advance beyond the conference finals, it will be obvious that the change was the right one.

But the Suns are currently in 7th place in the west with Utah and Dallas hot on their heels. Given the competitive western conference, it’s possible that the Suns will not get a chance to see if the gamble pays off in even one playoff series.

And they could lose Amare Stoudemire in the process.