Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Wash My Hands of These Crazypeople | Hornets Hype

I Wash My Hands of These Crazypeople | Hornets Hype

Another fine NBA team destroying itself.

Video: Chris Webber does not want to be compared to Darko - Ball Don't Lie - NBA� - Yahoo! Sports

Video: Chris Webber does not want to be compared to Darko - Ball Don't Lie - NBA� - Yahoo! Sports

This is great. C-Webb hit it on the head. Make no doubt: C-Webb is not a foxhole guy, but he has been on a winning team, and Darko has not (in fact, Kahn misses the fact that Darko's role on a winning Detroit team is the role best suited to him). Great bead on the summer league.

Warriors Sold!

A day in which Bay-area and all NBA fans should rejoice: the Warriors are on the path to becoming relevant again. It is no secret that a good owner is a requirement for success in the NBA. While some fans may be disappointed that Larry Ellison, the Oracle CEO, didn't win even though he was long favored, I think they are lucky that two partners agreed to pay the greatest price ever for this franchise.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NBA free agency: Reckless offseason spending driving league toward lockout in 2010-11 - ESPN

NBA free agency: Reckless offseason spending driving league toward lockout in 2010-11 - ESPN

This just emphasizes a law of the modern NBA: Teams in small markets absolutely can not overpay for role players. Anything more than $3-4 million for role starters is too much. Like I mentioned in my last post, if you get the superstars, you can fill up your team easily. At $5 million, that is MLE-type of money, and spending all that on one player means he is good enough to put you over some sort of hump. I don't see any of these guys being that guy.

I May Have Underestimated Miami

There are a lot of lower tier free agents that are flocking to the Heat. When the Olympic Three signed, I assumed that they would only have cap space to add bit players at minimum salaries, guys that would be nothing more than warm bodies and slightly negative adjusted +/-'s.

But now, we have confirmed reports that Udonis Haslem, Mike Miller, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas will join the team. What that gives them is rebounding, post defense, shooting, passing, and most importantly, 12 fouls to use on Dwight/Gasol. I didn't really expect this. Those three are solid role players on a championship team.  Throw in the Heat's second-round picks, Dexter Pittman, Jarvis Varnado, and Da'Sean Butler, and you have even more size and fouls. Don't get me wrong. Pittman disappears, it is unclear whether Jarvis and his shot-blocking can get off the bench, and Da'Sean Butler is the steal of the draft (like some have called him) only if he gets healthy and can learn to play behind James.

But still, this is better than what I expected. It looks like players, seeing the lead of the Olympic Three, really want to be part of a special team. Championship worthy? Perhaps. But it's up to you to make the call.

Al Jefferson to Utah

Boozer out, Jefferson in. I think this is a done deal, so I will comment on it, first from a basketball perspective, then a general one.

Jefferson is younger, a bit taller, and longer than Boozer. He gets slightly fewer boards, but more offensive ones. While he isn't much of a one-on-one defender, he does block significantly more shots. Also, some of his defensive inabilities may be because of the defensive system (or lack of a system) that the Timerwolves ran. Okur is not going to help clean his mistakes, but with two shot-blockers on next years roster (Al and AK), the Jazz can be tougher inside. His defensive rating is significantly worse than Boozer's (108 to 102), but I think Sloan can help him get back to his Boston days when he was a 103. The Wolves really had no defensive personnel, so that could be part of it (defensive rating is a measure of how many points a player gives up per 100 minutes, the lower the better).

On offense, Al scores more, but has a worse shooting percentage (Carlos has the 56th best effective field-goal of all time). Again, I think this will increase as a result of Utah's best-shot offense and better passing from the point position. Free throws are a problem, but they are for many bigs. I think the starkest immediate difference is that Carlos is a superior passer, but you can see that in his first year in Sloan's system, he increased his assist average 50% and his assist % by 6 percent. Al has slowly become a better passer, and he is comparable to pre-Utah Boozer.

So you get a younger, longer Boozer, with the ability to go up against bigger players (he has played the 5 before). He is signed through three years, with his salary going up to $15 million. The best part is, because the Jazz got a trade exception from the Boozer deal (they can trade for players without sending back equal salary), they only give up picks (which Minnesota prefers). And any time you can add a starting big for a few non-lottery future draft picks, it's a good deal.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Quick Takes from Sacramento v. Detroit Summer League Game

1. Demarcus Cousins. Dude can ball. Soft touch between 10-15 feet, great hands, good passing, and can run the floor. He looks good. Needs to be tougher defensively (doesn't foul, which is good). Monroe is scoring on some cuts and drives, but Cousins has outperformed his competition.

2. Hassan Whiteside. Dude can ball. Looks way better than Hasheem Thabeet, great shot-blocking instincts, good hands on rebounds. And Dalenmbert will help him get better. The Kings are gonna have a good frontcourt with Dalembert, Cousins, Thompson, Whiteside.

3. Omri Cassipi. Dude can ball. Working on things other than the 3.

4. Ryan Thompson. Jason's brother can ball. Dude is scoring at will.

5. Greg Monroe. Dude can ball. Great on offense, has been blocked a few times, but is finding other ways to the basket. Need to see better defense.

6. Austin Daye. Dude looks uncomfortable. I think he's trying to play too far from the basket.

More later.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Miami It Is

Well, the news is old. LeBron to Miami, Beasley gone, just one player on the roster, and a backup PG at that. Where do we go from here?

Well, let's take a look at where we've come from. Cleveland was an impossible situation. Not just the team makeup, but the whole way Dan Gilbert has bungled his way the last 6 or 7 years. The only thing the team did right was drafting LeBron with the first pick. They thought that throwing a couple bit players around James would win them a championship. They are paying now, after never finding a Pippen to play alongside their star. I mean, some of these teams, New York, Chicago, Miami, have completely dissolved their teams over the last two years to get LeBron, and all Cleveland could do was (in 2009) sit on their lapels and (in 2010) get Antawn Jamison? I love Jamison's versatility, but he is not a playoff player. He is maybe the 3rd best guy on a championship squad, at best.

Then, there's Dan Gilbert. What a way to use that 20/20 hindsight. People have been saying for years that the Cleveland management needs to demand more accountability from James. Dan HIMSELF said it, when he talked about having these feelings inside of him for years. So why didn't he say a word? Because he is a coward. Cowards only fight when the fight is somewhere else. Cowards fail to make the bold moves to get All-Stars to play alongside their guy (Mo Williams? Are you kidding me?). Would you want to go back to a team run by a bunch of cowards? I mean, I understand deriding the dude for leaving his home and for the way that he did it, I really do. And really, it's the fans that kill me. They deserved better than this. But to blame it all on LeBron is not right: leaving Cleveland was the right choice.

So Cleveland is out. I mentioned in this blog that Chicago would have been a better alternative, and I stand by that. You have closers on that Bulls team. Sure, none to rival Wade, but I trust Rose/Boozer in the last seconds with the ball. Bosh and Wade didn't want to go there because of money, and money only. All that "can't play with this guy" crap is a smokescreen. LeBron didn't want to play there because of who know's what, maybe MJ's ghost, maybe because Miami can offer more money. I don't know. I think his brand would be better there, and he can win better there.

So we're left with Miami. They say the Heat want to add a Mike Miller with the money they get from the Beasley trade. I think that's an OK move: you can have Dwayne play point, Miller at 2, LeBron at 3, Bosh at 4. Thing is, they have Mario Chalmers, who is at least serviceable. I think for me, looking at a championship formula, you have to get a defensive big first. Maybe Brad Miller. But no team has ever won a championship in the modern era without a defensive big. So that's what I would do. And after that, you are still lots of players away from a solid rotation.

As far as contention goes, I think Miami can contend. They won't have the best regular season record because the regular season is too long and grueling. But this is the thing: with those three, they can match up with any team for one game. And the playoffs is much more of a game-to-game mentality. They don't have to have the best record, but just win 16 games in the playoffs, and even with the trio logging heavy minutes, I think they can do it. I think this is a potential championships squad. I'd still have L.A. over them, and Chicago will be tough, Orlando may be tough, but they are right there. We'll have to wait and see how it plays out.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I've heard this over and over, and it simply ain't true...

There is a lot of opinion out there that Derrick Rose can't play with LeBron. Most people that say this generally believe these are two players that need the ball in their hands to initiate plays, and that there won't be enough possessions for the both of them. And it is completely unfounded and untrue. Here is the analysis.

LeBron James, finisher. He is great a cutting and moving off of other people's offense. One of the best Cavs' plays from last year was a play where LeBron hung out past the three-point line on the right wing. Mo Williams took the ball and got a ball screen from a big on the left wing and drove hard to the hole, drawing the interior of the defense. Simultaneously, LeBron cut to the rim and got a screen at the elbow. Bam! Ally-oop. Also, LeBron scores a lot of easy buckets in early or late transition, where it doesn't matter who initiates the offense.

Derrick Rose, finisher. On the Cavs, after a LeBron drive, he had no one to dish to that would then take it to the hole over the collapsed defense. When he passed out, it was usually for a long jumper. Enter Derrick Rose. After LeBron is stopped by the rotation just outside the key, he passes it to Rose at about 18 feet. Rose then proceeds to slam the ball home because the defense can't leave LeBron/Noah alone.

LeBron James, creator. LeBron has one of the best passing eyes in the league. Rose will get his shots.

Derrick Rose, shooter. Rose has developed a deadly mid-range game. If the defense completely turtles in, Rose takes the 18-foot jumper and bangs it home.

These are some major reasons that LeBron/Rose can work. But why talk when we can look at a real example: Pierce/Rondo in Boston works just fine, and they have even more hungry mouths to feed. Pierce has no problem letting Rondo take the reigns from time to time, knowing he will get his shots. And LeBron is way better than Pierce, especially in the way he sees the court and makes passes. Rondo may be a step above Rose in his all-around game, but I don't think there's much argument that Rose has a higher ceiling and already owns the better jumper (Rondo from 18 feet? Not so much).

So there it is. The announcement is coming quickly, you make the call.

Caution! NBA Free-Agency Misinformation is Lurking

There are multiple reports out there citing sources "with knowledge of the situation" that point to LeBron going to Miami. And they very well may be true. But the sources seem to hinge on calls the James camp has made to various and players about who would want to take a minimum salary to play with the potential Big Three in Miami, and to various teams about trading Beasley for complementary players. My response: of course they would do this. No way LeBron jumps ship without knowing what he's getting into, and among Cleveland, Chicago, and New York, Miami is the most mysterious. I chalk this up to due diligence and not anything of substance. Be cautious when believing these reports.

D-Day 2010

Tune in to ESPN tonight to hear what's going down. For those that are sick of this process and see the show as purely a display of LeBron's avarice, know this: people will watch, and that's why they are having it.

Looks like my Chicago/Boozer angle was right. I think with LeBron, Chicago easily defeats any Eastern Conference team.  Think about it: they will own Miami's bench, and Miami has no one to stop LeBron. They will own the Celtics because of legit, young playoff bigs and a PG to match up with Rondo (Mo Williams was no matchup). They will own the Magic because they can single-cover Dwight, and there is no Orlando can stay in front of Boozer/LeBron/Rose. And against L.A., they won't give up the glass as easily as the 2010 Celtics did, and will eviscerate L.A.'s point men. It works. Credit the Bulls for drafting real well the last few years (really, if you look at the team's history of draft picks, they are not bad dating back to Jordan who was a no-brainer. In some cases, guys didn't pan out because they weren't developed correctly (Tyrus Thomas) or suffered freak injuries (Jay Williams)).

Now for a new angle: the New York Knickerbockers with LeBron


PG: Toney Douglas/FA/Trade Player
SG: Danilo Gallinari
SF: LeBron James
PF: A'mare Stoudemire
C:  Eddy Curry/FA/Trade Player


Wilson Chandler, Sergio Rodriguez, Bill Walker.

Not as strong as what Chicago can trot out, but they have favorable matchups in three spots. The biggest concern remaining is an athletic center, but there isn't one right now. Brad Miller is available, but...yeah. I see this team mucking around, trading Curry's expiring contract at the deadline, and then making a run for it. Or they could wait next season out and get a guy like Nene after dumping Curry. The good news is that James will make things infinitely easier for guys like Sergio, Toney, and Danilo, and the offense should run well. I'm not sold that Danilo is a star, but I think he can be a Ginobili-type on a championships squad. And I'm not sold that Bosh is hands-down better than A'mare. I know A'mare has had Nash. But Bosh hasn't done anything. He's not a winner. He didn't win at GT, and he hasn't won in Toronto. A'mare is misguided, has had great pieces around him, but also hasn't shrunk in the playoffs. And with the truly complementary pieces here, N.Y. may be a better basketball spot than Miami for LeBron. You make the call.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Another LeBron Angle

I'm hearing Chicago is out. But look at this:


PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Mike Miller
SF: LeBron James
PF: David Lee
C:   Joakim Noah


PG: Derrick Rose
SG: Mike Miller
SF: LeBron James
PF: Carlos Boozer
C:  Joakim Noah


Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, James Johnson

Right now, the Bulls are sitting north of $22 million for next year.Add $20 million for LeBron, $10 million for Lee, $2-3 million for Miller to play on a winner, and then the MLE to spend on another shooter off the bench and a backup point man. This team has a shooter, great rebounding, a couple of superior defenders, and many pick-and-roll options. David Lee could be better defending with Noah back to protect the rim. Heck, maybe Thib turns Lee into a defensive beast (he did a good job with Baby). With Boozer, he struggles a little defending big 4's, but again, with Noah behind him in Thib's system, I see this being a really tough team, defensively. Perhaps much better than the last two regular season champs. Just an option: you make the call.

NBA FA Update: Wade and Bosh in Miami

I refused to comment on this before something was consummated because I was sick of the sheer force of speculation rampant in the sports reporting world. But now that the two have made a decision, here I am with some instant analysis

So, why Miami? First, I think some of these free agents realize that this may be their last max contract under the current CBA, making the dollar amount more important than ever. Miami has the most cap space and was the only place they could go without a sign and trade. Miami has no state income tax.

The other thing has to do with that thing basketball players occasionally do, you know, win championships. On this front, I trust Dwayne more than any of the other big 2010 free agents because he not only has done it, but is one of the only ones that seems all that interested in winning. Sure LeBron talks about winning, but the 2010 Miami Heat played Boston about as tough as Cleveland did, all while in salary-dump mode. It was 2008 Dwayne Wade that took a seat on the U.S. bench and led that bench into crucial situations. I love LeBron, but when it comes to winning, I listen to Wade.

From a basketball perspective, Chicago and New Jersey offered defensive centers, and New York offered shooters. I think New York took themselves out of it with the A'mare signing because I think Bosh has a higher ceiling than A'mare and didn't show it because he was playing with bit players. I think the issue with Chicago is, even though they have a lot of existing talent, do they mesh? Noah is a valuable asset on any team. But Rose and Wade are very similar players, and Rose, Wade, and LeBron all need the ball in their hands to be effective. Of those three, Wade is the best shooter, but I still think you would dare him to shoot 20-footers (unlike a Kobe, who you don't dare to do anything unless it's game 7 of the Finals). New Jersey has the same problem: Devin Harris is a scoring point guard, and there is no evidence that you can win the Finals with one of those. I think Brook Lopez is an upgrade over Noah (OK, I know so), but does that make it worth 2 years of basketball purgatory in Newark?

Meanwhile, Miami is talking sign and trade with Beasley (now completely expendable and an utter waste of a draft pick) and Chalmers (ditto, though it wasn't so clear at the time). They are looking at Andre Miller, who is good, but I would be more comfortable with a younger point, if they can get him. Actually, for some reason, I really like Luke Ridnour's potential with Wade/Bosh, or if they get him, Wade/Bosh/LeBron. After that, you need a defensive big (Haywood?), and then some shooters off the bench, and from a basketball perspective, you are not that far behind Chicago/New Jersey, even those teams have established stars.

Of course, it all hinges on whether LeBron joins them. From a money perspective, it's either Cleveland or Miami. Cleveland offers almost no basketball hope. From a basketball perspective, I think the best teams now are, ironically, New York, and Miami. New York has shooters and A'mare can score. Whether they can play defense is another story. But that option is there. I don't know. I hope he goes to Miami and realizes that his brand will grow by championships won more than the city he plays in. I don't know, so I'll wait for him to make a call, which should be sometime tomorrow. Or, as always, you can make the call, too.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Steve Blake to the Lakers

On paper, this looks good. Especially when you look at per-minute stats. In almost all categories, Blake far out-paces incumbent Derek Fisher, even though he played last year as a backup PG on two teams. Effective FG%, assist %, average assists, 3-point shooting, defensive rating, all point to Blake as the superior player. Oh, and he's 6 years younger. And he's only going to cost you $4 million a year. He's enough of a vet that I think Phil will trust him with the offense and I think he will help their ball movement more than Fisher. Not that Fisher was bad, obviously, he proved last season he has some major playoff chops, but Fisher expends so much energy on defense and is getting to the point where, on the offensive end, the ball is really put into play by Kobe. So like I said, on paper, it works.

I just don't have a good gut feeling about this. I'll give you one stat. Win shares. Fish's last year's were the worst since he was in Utah. Last year, he was at a 3.9. But guess what Blake had. For the Clippers, he was at 0.9. These are numbers from (plug!). You can look them up. Fine, you say, the Clippers flat out didn't win. Well look at Portland: and that with what he had in L.A., and he comes out at 3.3. And you look at his history, and that's pretty much his ceiling (outside of one good season, his previous season in Portland). I don't know what it is about this guy, his stats tell a good tale and I'm sure he's a great guy, but the dude just isn't a winner. It's like asking someone the difference between Patrick Ewing and Robert Horry. I know that is an absurd comparison, but Horry has eight rings.

And that in with Fisher's playoff chops, and I don't know if L.A. didn't find someone who's not even as good as Fish, much less a replacement. I don't know. And even though he's 6 years younger than Fish, he is still 30. What you see is what you get. And do know they could have had Luke Ridnour for cheaper? I understand that at this point, Luke is regarded as a backup PG, but his win-share was 6.2 last year, and 3.4 the year before on an absolutely MORIBUND team, I mean, they lost Redd that year, they fired their coach, it was a mess. And he had a higher win-share than Blake.

I don't know. To me, Blake is a backup PG, and L.A. is overpaying for him when they could have had Ridnour. Of course, what they really need is someone to step in and be the PG of the future, and Luke is 29. What about a 26 year-old who had a win-share of 6.5 last season? That would be Raymond Felton, someone else who's regarded as a marginal starter. But he is only 26.  And who knows if Brown developed him right. Or a 28 year-old who had a bad year last year for a dysfunctional, but otherwise is around a 5 win-share? That would be Chris Duhon. Or a 24 year-old with a 4.3 win-share last season? That would be Kyle Lowry. I mean, I hate to look at just one number and tell the tale of a guy. But I have a hard time understanding how L.A. came to the conclusion that Steve Blake was their guy.

Chicago, Where It's All Going Down

Dwayne Wade was reportedly not high on the Bulls brass, deriding them for spurning old legends like Scottie Pippen from front office openings. But all of a sudden, Chicago is in their second meeting with the superstar, and there is talk of a Rose-Wade-Lebron-Bosh-Noah starting five. I mean, look at that again. That is 4 All-Stars and one heckuva defensive center. What gives?

I think there is an elephant in the room that no one is speaking about. And that elephant left Chicago professionally about 12 years ago. Yup, that's right. Michael.

The Bulls are Michael's team. He is the past, present, and sometimes, it seems like he is the future of the team. Every achievement will be measured against what Michael accomplished. Every championship will be compared to the ones Michael won. Every clutch shot, every post-season performance, every memory will conjure memories of what Mike did. That's why we all assumed Chicago might not get LeBron. Why go there and deal with MJ's ghost for the rest of your career.

But with this new power-play, I'm beginning to see something different. If Wade, Bosh, AND James all go to Chicago, they will wrest the team, the franchise, the city from MJ's hands and recreate the dynasty in their image. Make no doubt, with that nucleus and some bench shooting, defensive veterans, and a few more big bodies, you will win the next 5 championships, straight. But it's the manner that you did it. No one will have to compete with Michael alone, because all will be competing together. Each night is a night someone different can shine. Each post season can have it's own story. How well will Michael's ghost hold up then? Will people begin to forget the monotony of Jordan taking over every playoff game and start remembering a different scintillating experience from a different superstar each night? Could the Greatest Of All Time be replaced so easily by the Greatest Lineup Of All Time?

I think it could. I think that's what's at stake right now. Forget Cleveland and Miami. If these players are seriously considering taking an extra $30 million over the chance to play for the team of all teams, they are more myopic than I realized. They are all filthy rich. Let them win. Let them write their dynasties in stone. Michael can have his statue. We'll have ours, all of ours.

Stoudemire to New York. A sweet deal?

I think this is a decent transaction, but I think that at this point, both sides are kind of settling for each other. The writing has been on the wall for the Knickerbockers for some time. When Chicago dumped Hinrich, Prokhorov and J-Z went to LeBron’s house, and Dwayne Wade started to work his Team USA buddy, it became clear that LeBron is not going to New York. And so the Knicks had to sign someone to justify whatever they did last season.

As for A’mare, I think he realizes that he is not the PF everyone wants, but I think this move so early in the process is curious. I mean, if LeBron and Bosh go to Chicago, he still has the option of teaming with Wade in Miami, an infinitely more attractive option than what New York’s roster can offer. Which then begs the question: have all three of the big three been spoken for? Because we are seeing quite a bit of action before any of those three say anything, which is contrary to reports that everything hinges on LeBron. Think about it. Paul Pierce returns (mostly a given, but still, happened early). Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson, all re-signed. I thought free-agency would start with LeBron, but it kind of looks like he is already packed and started without everyone else.

Well, speculation aside, there are basketball reasons for this move. From A’mare’s standpoint, it is clear that this is a money grab. He not only signed for a max contract now, but ensures that he will get the most touches on a high-octane offense. In five years, his stats will be completely overinflated by D’Antoni’s system, and he’ll be in line for another major payday. It’s clear from his actions that money trumps winning, and he has made the best decision for himself there.

And what about the Knicks? With Stoudemire, they’re looking at a payroll around $37.5 million for next year. They need a young starting point guard (maybe Shaun Livingston, he could be had for cheap), and need a defensive center. I think it’s abundantly clear that Stoudemire can’t hang with the likes of Pau Gasol, so who knows what kind of trouble he will be in playing Dwight Howard more. The problem is, they can only improve via free agency now, and that’s a big problem.

Everyone knows that over the last few years, Isaiah Thomas frivolously sent a huge cache of draft picks running. Only now are we seeing how costly that was. In today’s league, contenders must have two things: young players and cap space. Look at Chicago. Look at OKC. Heck, look at the Clippers. In an era where superstars play together for titles, you absolutely cannot spend draft picks and cap space on unproven free agents. J.A. Adande wrote on that free agency has trumped the importance of the draft, and while I agree, I would add that free agency has actually made the draft more important. You whiff on a draft and you’re Portland (not bad, but not good). You strike gold in the same draft, and you’re OKC.

That said, New York does have some pieces. I think Wilson Chandler and Danilo Galinari can play together based on their box scores from last season’s games in which both started. Danilo is going to have to be more aggressive and demand more touches when Chandler is in the game, but I think that’s a good combo. With them and Stoudemire, You can go big and have Danilo play shooting, or go small and have him at SF. Sergio and Toney are good bench scoring but not trustworthy as primary ball-handlers. But you still have needs. And it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to get a second big free agent. And you probably won’t have good picks the next few years because your team will be just good enough to not tank.

So you have some good guys. Wilson and Danilo rate offensively just behind the likes of Paul Pierce. You still have a great coach. This is probably a playoff team, and in 3-4 years, who knows what can happen. But I see this as more a need-based, satisfactory, convenient marriage.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wimbledon, Reflections on Semi Finals (Men) and Finals (Women)

First off, the men: Are we seeing Roger getting old? He seemed a step slow getting to those deep baseline shots, and didn't seem to create the angles were are used to seeing from him. I don't think we are seeing an end to his greatness, just his dominance. Traditionally, Roger has been a great tactical player, but not so good strategically. The difference is the approach to the match: some players try to impose a certain style or will on the match that makes it difficult to play them. Brad Gilbert is famous for teaching this style. I think Nadal and Murray are great examples of this. I can't really put a finger on how to describe it, but it deals with their overall approach to each match.

The counter to this is a more tactical game. Federer has refined every aspect of his ballstriking, and can react to his opponent better than almost anybody. From point to point, he doesn't really lose his cool, constantly keeps the pressure on, and consistently hits great shots. He doesn't try or press to play a certain way, but just tries to hit the best shot at every possible opportunity.

How does this explain his decline then? I think that as a player ages, it becomes harder and harder to play great tactical tennis. I mean, you look at Agassi: I think he was able to be successful at late stages in his career because he made sure that the matches went his way, knowing that he wasn't fast or powerful enough to hit the crap out of the guys he was playing. He's a guy that would make you hit one extra ball for a winner, and that would get under some guys' skins. I don't think Federer is that type of guy. I think you can kind of have your way with him, hitting some big shots, but unlike in the past when he would take your big shot and turn it into an insane angle, I think more and more guys are able to get balls past him. I know Fed is famous for not using a coach, but at some point, I think he needs to switch to a strategic game, which involves match planning and the use of some outside perspective. You make the call.

Now to the women: I love it each time someone new supplants Serena as the woman to beat in tennis. I mean, she has spent some time away, she's had a few injuries in year's past, but she has absolutely dominated the last decade. I don't buy that Henin is better. We know that Sharapova isn't as good. After Graff, she became the transcendent female tennis player, and regardless of what you think of her personally, she is the best.

Day One of the Real NBA Draft: Rudy and Joe

I'll start with Rudy. I like Rudy. I think he's a gamer, as he showed in the NCAA tourney with UConn. I like the fact that the organization is showing some loyalty and some intestinal fortitude when facing with a receding cap line (unlike whatever they were thinking when they traded Pau). I think 5 years and 80 million (which amounts to an average of 15 million a year) is about right for a player of Rudy's talent. I think the Grizzlies are smart to keep their core, try to develop a winning philosophy by gunning for the playoffs, tanking for a year when Randolph's contract expires and then nabbing a draft pick and another free agent, or just making a run for it right after he expires (maybe at Nene or even Kaman, though both are unlikely to leave their teams), and then making a run at contention just as Rudy is hitting his prime. In that scenario, you have a core at the end of 2011 of Mayo, Gay, Conley (probably will be traded), Gasol, Thabeet, Henry) that is costing you around $35 million a year. And that's what I like most about this contract: you have a team that could potentially contend when he is 28-29, and if you're not in a good position by then, you jettison him and start over. I like it.

Joe Johnson, I do not like. Kelly Dwyer posted a great blog on Y! that explains it all (;_ylt=AvkgyR7cx6iIoL_2lRXqV.C8vLYF?urn=nba,252877">link): Joe Johnson is 29 years old. Next year, you will pay $35.5 million to three players that play two positions. Your payroll next year with Joe's $20 million is sitting north of $67 million, all for a team that was not in serious contention to win a title. I mean, they're paying the tax for a second round playoff team? With really no room for growth? I mean, Horford will get better, but I don't see Bibby/Crawford/Joe really carrying your team. I like Josh Smith, but he is limited. In crunch time, how are these guys gonna score? And they're paying the tax! If this were me, I would try like crazy to trade Joe with Bibby/Marvin (you probably have to package Joe to get rid of those contracts), start Jamaal Crawford, and rebuild with your core of Horford and Smith. I know that is extreme, basically throwing away 2010-2011, but the good thing is your bigs are still young! If you start over, you can conceivably be a team on the rise with good rookie talent in two years when you re-sign Al. Then, you'll have  around $25 million tied up in two fringe All-Stars (both of whom play the post) who are just entering their primes. That is workable. Or if they're really smart and can stomach a year of losses, you trade Jamaal's expiring at the trade deadline, draft a rookie PG, and rebuild around Smith, Horford, Trade Deadline Guy, lottery Draft Pick Guy, and Free Agent signed next summer. I don't know. Atlanta's fan base is fickle and I don't know if they can survive a Nets-like tank year. But to pay the tax for a non-contender? That is unconscionable.