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All-Star Tweakin’ February 15, 2010

Posted by dczarum in Uncategorized.
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This was supposed to be a feel good story about the sudden abundance of star-power in the NBA. Considering the monster seasons of Josh Smith and Carlos Boozer weren’t enough to translate into all-star selections, I would have argued, the days of appearances by the likes of Shareef Adbur-Rahim and Glenn Robinson (I actually liked the Big Dog, but still) are likely over. The NBA talent pool, it seems, is overflowing to the point where every team has at least two or three superstars. Or so the story would have gone. Instead, I feel I need to call an audible and address the elephant in the room: for all its hype, All-Star Weekend was downright awful. Now we can finally confirm that, when mama said “there’d be days like this”, she was referencing the 2010 NBA all-star experience. Go figure.

The weekend got off to a rocky start thanks to, of all things, a snowstorm in the host city, Dallas. Ideally, we can look to the weather and subsequent travel delays as a catalyst for the general lethargy on display, yet in actuality, the whole charade is just played out. All-Star Saturday Night has long been the NBA equivalent of a punt-pass-and-kick competition (read: boring), but at least the slam dunk contest always makes up for it. Well, almost always. The warning signs for the demise of the dunk contest were apparent as far back as 2002. That years’ contest featured a roulette-type wheel that contestants spun to determine their dunk, leading to Gerald Wallace attempting Dr. J’s Statue of Liberty dunk (with the Doctor as one of the judges, no less) and unsurprisingly failing. It was a lose-lose situation. Though they smartly got rid of the wheel, and with the exception of 2003’s epic showdown between Jason Richardson and Desmond Mason, the dunk contest has been on a downward spiral ever since. Luckily, I have a simple solution: more money. We know that one thing NBA players respond to is cash. The formula is simple: NBA players + an opportunity to get paid = incentive to try. I guarantee it works. While we’re at it, consider these proposed tweaks to all-star weekend:

  • Expand H-O-R-S-E: In the ‘70s the NBA experimented with a bracket-style Horse tournament that saw a series of one-on-one matchups featuring stars like Pete Maravich and George Gervin. Why not bring that back and make a day of it? Actually, if we’re going to go there…
  • 1-on-1 Tourney: Same idea as Horse: let’s say a 16 player bracket pitting the likes of Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose against one another. At the very least we can turn the celebrity game into a 1-on-1 tournament. What could be more riveting than a first round matchup of PGA star Anthony Kim vs. Dr. Oz? (Those two actually competed in this years’ celebrity game. I couldn’t make that up.)
  • Bring back the Legends game: Featuring retired players, the Legends game was a staple for years and provided classic moments like Tommy Heinsohn giving an oxygen tank the Doug Benson treatment during time-outs.
  • All-Star Pickup Game: The All-Star game is already considered a glorified pick-up game, so why not embrace it? The fans choose two captains who subsequently pick their teams from the remaining all-stars. Mainly, I just want to see how Chris Kaman will react to being picked last.
  • NBA JAM: The premier basketball video game of my youth is being re-released sometime this year. In honour, the NBA should adopt an NBA Jam tournament where each team sends two representatives to this 2-on-2 league-wide tournament. To make it interesting, we’ll add an under-25 stipulation. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are the perennial favourites.

So, in summary, NBA All-Star Weekend can return to relevancy by dusting off some classics, re-thinking the familiar, and keeping it relatively simple. Also, I just want more brackets in my life. All-star weekend will always have mass-appeal, but its’ current unrealized potential is agonizing. American poets/blues band Canned Heat once sang, “a change is surely gonna come”. I hope they were right.

The Hedo Situation February 7, 2010

Posted by dczarum in Uncategorized.
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His nickname is the “Turkish Jordan”. It’s a moniker that suggests that he’s, like Michael to the Americans, exponentially better than any of his fellow countrymen. And while Hedo Turkoglu is very likely the best basketball player in all of Turkey, amongst NBA players he is frustratingly average.

Like a kid who’s natural ability allows them to bullshit their way through guitar lessons or algebra class, Turkoglu, to this point, has seemingly floated his way through 10 seasons that saw both individual (Most Improved Player, 2008) and team success (playoff appearances in seven seasons). Through it all, though, his work ethic has repeatedly come into question.  Oddly, when someone exercises such seemingly little effort, as Turkoglu does, while still yielding results, there’s a tendency to just assume they possess some sort of supreme natural talent. The potential to harness this provides an especially attractive “what if” for GM’s league-wide, which made Hedo a valuable commodity during the 2009 free-agent market.

Still, Turkoglu’s carefree demeanour left a lot to be desired and served as a major red flag to any potential suitor, to say nothing of his pregame pizza intake. Unsurprisingly, since signing with the Raptors, a popular pizza chain has immortalized his pizza habit in a memorable advertising campaign. It has proved to be Hedo Turkoglu’s most significant contribution in a Raptors uniform.

Though the team has been winning of late, Hedo’s averages of 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 4 assists remain uninspiring. Beyond a perceived lack of effort and undefined role within the team, Turks’ greatest obstacle to success is his ego, fuelled by the $53 million owed to him over the next five years. Hedo Turkoglu’s inflated self-perception is, dare I say, Situation-esque. Armed with a contract usually bestowed upon borderline franchise players, Turk honestly believes that he deserves to be the offensive focal point of his team. Don’t take my word for it: when asked in a post game interview to what he would attribute his strong play (26 points, 11 boards, 50% shooting) in a recent win over the Knicks, Turkoglu responded with one word, “Ball”. I may not speak Turkish Neanderthal, but I think the message was clear.

In the last few days, the Hedo situation appears to have worsened, thanks to a recent injury to his right orbital bone. Despite his employers (read: Bryan Colangelo) and doctor’s insistence, Hedo is refusing to wear a standard protective mask, stating bluntly “I appreciate all the concern, but I’m a grown man… and I decide not to wear. Just try to focus on my game, not on my face.” Fair enough.

While normally I would applaud any scenario that combines the comedy of arrogant pro basketball ethics with broken English, the Raptors have too much invested in Hedo for me to just laugh it off. Hedo Turkoglu can be a coveted piece in the Raptors puzzle, barring he accepts his place on the totem pole under players like Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, and maybe even Jarrett Jack. Ulimately, the immediate future of Canada’s lone NBA team lies in the hands of the “Turkish Jordan”, and I couldn’t be more terrified.