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Me, the SDSU Poly-Sci Bum Disagreeing with the Berkeley Engineer

[Editor's note: "Aaronstampler," whose real name is presumably Aaron Stampler, wrote a great diary with some interesting and well thought out opinions. I am moving it to the main page because I can and now I don't have to write something. Thanks Aaron! There's also a new poll in the right sidebar.]

Just want to challenge Matthew about a couple things, without providing any mathematical data to back me up whatsoever. Too lazy.

Topic 1: Kevin Garnett. Not a fan.

And I don't mean I'm not a fan of him because I don't root for the T-Puppies. I root for plenty of non-Spurs players. But something about Garnett has always rubbed me the wrong way. Whatever "it" is, he doesn't have it.

I don't agree with Simmons on much, and he's pretty much dead to me ever since he slammed Manu (what's the matter Bill, only your precious Basketball Jesus can be a good white guy?), but he's had Garnett nailed from the very beginning.

Namely, the guy is a second-banana. A 7-1 Scottie Pippen, only with less of a Basketball IQ. As long as he's the best player on his team, they have a better chance of winning the draft lottery (providing McHale doesn't lose his next 5 1st round draft picks trying to illegally obtain Kenny Thomas or something) than they do of winning a championship.

The only way KG wins is if Stern finds a way to get him to play with Kobe or BronBron. Or if he really wants to defy the "salary cap" (giggle), he can engineer a way to get Garnett on Miami with Shaq and D-Wade, because really, that team doesn't have enough old guys trolling for a cheap ring.

But my dislike for Garnett has more to do than him being deathly afraid of taking the big shot. Really, I knew he wasn't WINNER material when he got into a public feud with Wally Z. Allow me to elaborate.

Wally Zczerbiak, while being a slightly above-average player, is a constant embarrassment to any white person who follows the NBA. It's not the bad defense, the lack of low-post game, or his atrocious rebounding that pisses me off. I'm used to all that.

What's annoying about him is his neverending barrage of dorkiness. The fake hustle that doesn't accompish anything. The weak intense-looking body language. And by far the most egregious, the way he goes out of his way to acknowledge his teammates after he scores.

Now, I appreciate good sportsmanship more than most people. I'm a Spurs fan for a reason, and I have never set foot inside the state of Texas. I despise TO and Artest and Danny Fortson and guys like that. But the lengths Wally goes to after scoring... by golly. He extends his arm fully and points to the guy who passed it, for a full five seconds. Sometimes he actually runs up to the guy and pats him on the rear. Not during timeouts or stoppages of play mind you, but during live play.
And then he has to yell, just so everybody in the building can hear, "NICE PASS KEVIN!!!!" Like he's some contest winner or something instead of a paid professional.

When watching him, it's hard to believe he's actually a real life human being. He's much more believable as a character Ben Stiller would be playing in a bad (redundant much?) Ben Stiller movie.

He wants to make sure every person in the gym will leave with the impression that "Wally Zczerbiak sure is a great teammate and a heck of nice guy. He couldn't possibly have been the problem in Minnesota."

Well, I for one am not fooled and never was. Some teams get lay-ups scored on them after made baskets because their guys do exaggerated dances and poses. Minny gave up lay-ups because their guy was too busy being a swell guy to his teammates to get back on defense and pay attention. And that shit probably drove Garnett batty. If I'm sure of anything in life, I'm sure of this: The current version of Wally Zczerbiak wouldn't last 15 minutes on the Spurs, and his teammates wouldn't like him a whole lot. Even Sean Marks, who's contractually obligated to like everyone would think Wally was a great big doofus.

All that being said, I find it very unseemly for Garnett to engage in a media-driven pissing match with Wally Z. Talk about slumming. What "The Big Ticket" (presumably as in he'd have to pay a big ticket price to watch the Finals in person)doesn't get is that superstars only feud with teammates if they're fellow superstars. Ruth and Gehrig. Shaq and Kobe. Bonds and Kent. Engaging in a bitchfest with a goofball like Wally should be beneath the dignity of someone with the pedigree and talent of KG. Can you imagine Jordan starting shit with Horace Grant in the press? Me neither.

To me, this is the quintessential difference between KG and Duncan. Duncan gets along with his teammates 2-14 because he acts like one of the guys. Garnett carries himself like a superstar, but then engages in petty quarrels that only scrub players should engage in. Weak. If Duncan were ever forced to play with Wally, he'd probably pull him aside in the locker room and tell him what he thinks of his act in blunt terms, but no media guy, no matter how plugged in he might be to the Spurs, no matter how many inside sources he might have, would ever be able to figure out that Tim dislikes Wally.

Statistically, KG and Duncan might be similar, but count me among those firmly intrenched in the camp that if Duncan spent his whole career in Minnesota and KG spent his whole career in San Antone, the Spurs would still be ringless and Minny would've done better for themselves than one measely conference finals appearance.

The guy I compare Garnett to isn't Duncan but your nemesis Webber. Their numbers are pretty close actually, closer than you'd care to admit. KG is the better defender and offensive rebounder, by a little, but aside from that, the two are very similar. And people figured out that Webber wasn't going be the best player on a Championship team a few years ago.

Besides, KG took the advice of a punk like Sprewell and forbid his owner from hiring PJ as Coach last summer. He didn't seem to care that Spree mailed in the '04-05 season when considering his sage advice. So they hired another Garnett lackey for their coach. God forbid somebody demands that they play defense on that club.

Speaking of defense...

Topic 2: Bruce Bowen is vastly overrated.

I like Bruce a lot. He's made the most of his limited talent and turned himself into an NBA champion. He seems to be a pretty good guy off the court as well. But if Bruce thinks he can be Mr. Defensive Stopper in the Olympics, (assuming he makes the team)he's in for a rude awakening.

Yes, Bruce tries hard. Harder than anyone in the league probably on defense. But it doesn't mean he's particularly good at it. What he's good at is playing his role within the defensive scheme. His only responsibilities are a) not allowing open jumpshots and b) funneling guys baseline.

Consider me underwhelmed.

I don't count this as true great defense. If Bruce was the defender people claimed he was, he could shut people down all by his lonesome. Getting to cheat by overplaying the jumpshot because there is no punishment for a guy going by him is not that special. I could look like a decent defender too if I got up real close on a guy and steered him in one direction.

People ooh and aah when Bruce goads Kobe or Dirk into a 30% shooting night, but they fail to realize that if he was playing one-on-one against them, he would never be able to stop them. I mean EVER. All Bruce does is contest the jumpshot and pray to God that the tall guys behind him can bother the star du jour who just blew by like Bruce was a pylon. It's really no coincedence that Bruce really looked like an all-world defender for the first half of the year because he had Tim and The Solid Slovenian behind him and that lately he's looked very average because Tim's been gimpy and Nazr's been like a 7 foot version of NVE.

To me, the best player to compare Bruce to is linebacker Jeremiah Trotter of the Eagles. He goes to the Pro-Bowl damn near every year because he's a great run stopper and he makes a lot of tackles. But this is because he sells out on the run every play. In the passing game, and especially on play-action passes, he is useless. He cannot cover any TEs or RBs. He's only valuable when opposing offenses play to his strengths. And Bruce is only valuable when Tim's foot is feeling okay and Nazr isn't being a complete fucktard.

As much as I despise him, Artest is a better defender than Bruce. Pistons-era Dennis Rodman was a lot better. Tayshaun is probably better too, just because of his length.

And Tayshaun was Manu's bitch last June.

That's no indictment on Prince, by the way. The way the game is designed, a talented offensive player will always have the advantage over the defensive player. The offensive player acts, the defensive player reacts. It's the same way in the NFL. The absolute best cornerbacks in the world are praised if they can cover wide receivers for three or four seconds. After that, all bets are off. Then any ensuing completions officially become "the pass rush's fault." The offensive player knows where he's going. The defender can only guess.

The Admiral explained this in some interview in '95. He was asked which player in the league is the toughest to score on, with the implication being that he'd say somebody like Olajuwon or Mutombo. Robinson, a man not known to brag, said that one-on-one, it's really not hard to score on anybody. The offensive player has every advantage. It's only difficult when multiple people make it their mission in life to stop you.

I would place Manu somewhere on the list of 25-50 guys in the NBA who are completely unguardable singlehandedly. You were asking the other day how can a team stop Manu, (assuming injuring him isn't an option) and my contention is if The Sickness is feeling healthy and on his game, he cannot be stopped.

Think about it. Manu gets the ball at the top of the key. He has Tim or Nazr set the screen for him so he can get the half-step he needs (the difference between The Sickness and LeBron, Wade, Kobe, Pierce, etc is that they don't need the screener to get that half-step advantage, they can do it on their own). Anyway, once Manu gets the half step on anyone, and I mean anyone that has ever graced God's green Earth, it's over. Your defense has officially given up a high quality shot. After that, it's just a matter of picking your poison.

You don't step up, he's getting a lay up or dunk.

You step up, with your main post guy, he hands it off to Tim for a dunk or lay up. You step up with one wing guy, he kicks it for a corner three.
You step up with the other wing guy, he kicks it for a corner three the other way.

You trap him after the screen and he'll just pass it to the screener for an easy-as-you-please stroll thru an unguarded lane.

THERE ARE NO OTHER OPTIONS.

Manu is too smart and too unselfish to fuck this up, and it's quite likely, after running this play a million times in his life, that he doesn't even think anymore and just executes it on autopilot. The only defense for Manu at the top of the key is to either hope the 3 point shooters are having an off night or that when Tim is the screener, that the Tyrannasaurus Rex that's masquerading as our starting center doesn't bumble away yet another perfect pass or that he gives the defense time to recover by engaging in a series of useless and unnecessary pumpfakes.

This is why if Bruce fancies himself as a "Manu-stopper" in the Olympics, he is only setting himself up for disappointment, should a healthy Manu decide to compete again.

It is patently absurd to think he could shut down Gino for a few reasons. First off, it's unlikely Team USA will play the same defensive scheme the Spurs play. Secondly, if they did, they probably wouldn't play it with as much enthusiasm as the Spurs do. Third, the lane is wider in international basketball, so the big men have more ground to cover in order to recover after Manu beats Bruce off the dribble. Fourth, Manu and his Argentinian teammates have played together forever, and know each other like a book. There is no defense you can throw at them that they haven't been trained to exploit. All five men know how to play without the ball too well. And lastly, even if Bruce does make the team, I doubt it'll be as a starter, so he'll only get scrub minutes and be asked to guard Manu for short stretches, not enough to truly influence the outcome of a game, even if he could.

But he can't.

Next diary will tackle 1) Pop's infatuation with Nazr and NVE over Rasho and Beno and 2) My opinions on a potential rematch with the Pistons, something that has been droned on so much by fans of both teams that it's almost cosmically guaranteed to not come about. Nonetheless, I'll give my take on it, prematurely, because I'm just a premature kinda guy. Insert joke here.

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