Tag Archives: basketball

LeBron changing the narrative again?

Well I still don’t want to get into the habit of anointing or damning players after every game, but obviously it’s impossible not to be impressed with what LeBron James did in the first three games against the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals and such chatter continues. So why not?…   

Despite missing potential game-winning shots at the end of both of the first two, LeBron James has lifted his undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers squad and put up ridiculous numbers as they have taken a 2-1 series lead against the Golden State Warriors.

The assists are the best proof of what he is doing and a differentiator from Michael Jordan in that Jordan didn’t have those because he had Scottie Pippen who could bring the ball up at times and also the Bulls actually ran an offense so multiple people would actually touch the ball to generate shots.

I still at this moment am sticking to both my desire to avoid proclaiming a new or old winner in the MJ-LBJ debate now and my belief LeBron couldn’t pass MJ this year regardless.

But I’ll admit if LeBron posts two more games (the minimum his team will need from him to win the series) and they win the series (even if he has a clunker or two and they end up going seven) I’ll have to reconsider.  Continue reading LeBron changing the narrative again?

Basketball talk: Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James

So, who ya got: Michael Jordan or LeBron James? LeBron James Ohio State locker

Seems premature to have this discussion when James is so far from finishing his career — or even the 2015 postseason — but it’s already out there and we’ve got another day to kill before the 2015 NBA Finals so why not?

Well, first of all we need to define the debate.  Continue reading Basketball talk: Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James

This Week in the Big Ten wants better basketball

Welcome to the first week of the year college basketball gets dramatic enough a large portion of the population can stomach watching a whole game in one sitting!

OK, maybe that was a little over-the-top, but I am somewhat amused at the growing sentiment that college basketball has a big problem as far as entertainment value. Where have y’all been? Do you not watch the NBA at all, because it’s practically a different sport when guys can, you know, make shots on a consistent basis.

A representation of Ohio State's game plan last week
The state of basketball play in college

It’s been going this way for a long time, and the one-and-down thing ain’t the biggest problem. It’s just the extreme example of the larger issue that not enough guys stick around long enough for teams to learn how to play together or become recognizable and marketable. Going to two-and-done would only be a slight improvement for this overall. I’d trace the decline back to when guys like Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury started making skipping more than one year of college more the norm.

I don’t blame guys for going pro when they can. They’ve got to do what’s best for them — or at least what they think is best, which sometimes turns out to be not the case. But the fact teams are harder to get to know makes following the sport more difficult. That’s generally a bad business prospect, but the decline of the product’s watchability has larger implications.

And based on a lot of what I’ve been reading lately, I’m not sure there’s much reason to expect it to get better.

Exhibit A would be a piece from Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated that presents two critical issues as “myths” then goes on to provide more evidence for their veracity than anything else.  Continue reading This Week in the Big Ten wants better basketball

Protecting Jordan legacy motivating LeBron criticism? Yes, but….

Much of this suggestion (see below) LeBron James faces undue criticism because of the legacy of Michael Jordan is accurate, but it oversimplifies the situation as well. Why? Because sometimes the criticism is warranted.

If Jordan fans (of which I am one) are too quick to jump on James for every little thing he does (I try to avoid this,  as I gave him the benefit of the doubt on the cramping issue in Game 1), it is at least in part due to a tendency of those on the other side to crown James prematurely.

When LeBron came into the league, I looked forward to a chance to see someone new, someone truly from my generation who I saw play in high school, challenge the legacy of Jordan, who retired from the Bulls when I was 16. As much as I cherish the memories of watching him play during my formative years as a sports fan, there is also an appeal to having such a stud in my generation and watching him from nearly the very beginning.

Even when James’ last season with the Cavaliers was over, he was still was on track as far as I was concerned given his age, and I thought The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s cover shot noting no rings on his finger was a cheap one. Of course, “The Decision” changed the course, and I thought that took LeBron out of the running to really equal Jordan’s greatness because it involved trying to build a super team rather than going through the rigors of building one from scratch.

However, that has not proven to be the case as a result of James’ continued improvement, the decline of Dwyane Wade and how natural former high-scorer Chris Bosh looks as a role player. There is no doubt it is James’ team as much as the Bulls were Jordan’s, and I would say he has won the past two titles with a worse supporting cast than Jordan had for his first three-peat.

But the game has changed, and there are still plenty of variables that must be determined before James’ legacy is complete. If the Heat win this series, he will take another huge step forward in the race to unseat Jordan as the greatest player of all time, but he will also be only halfway there. I’m also going to suggest James’ claim to the top spot won’t be null and void forever even if the Spurs win this series, but it won’t help him when all is said and done to have at least two more Finals series defeats than Jordan because Jordan’s indomitableness was a big part of his legacy. He won the championship in each of his last six full seasons with the Bulls, and he won the scoring title in the last nine years he played in Chicago. Everyone talks about going out on your own terms, and no one ever did it better than Jordan.

Ultimately, James is going to be regarded as one of the all-time greats, and it is a shame we spend as much time debating his legacy as we do admiring what he does. His career is not going to neatly match Jordan’s, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compare now — for better or for worse.

I agree with the notion James is probably the subject of too much criticism in the present, but I also think often nowadays we are too guilty of overanalyzing not only every action in every game but also the reaction to that analyzation. The pushback is sometimes greater than the initial wave of opinions these days, and too often I think we forget that what we say today can change tomorrow as long as there are still games to be played. Much of it is just noise to pass the time, you know? Especially before they pass out the trophy and the rings every year.

Bottom line? It’s OK to criticize LeBron because he’s not Jordan yet as long as we’re willing to concede he could still be.

Much of Lebron’s Criticism | FOX Sports on MSN.

Ohio State women’s basketball picks up pair of transfers

New head coach Kevin McGuff inherited an Ohio State women’s basketball roster with only 13 players for this season, and it shrank to 11 available after one decided to transfer and another suffered a likely season-ending injury.

He signed five players in November for the 2014 class, and this week added two more who were part of the 2013 class when top 50 recruits Kianna Holland and Shayla Cooper decided to transfer to Ohio State from Duke and Georgetown, respectively.

Ohio State picks up pair of transfers | FOX Sports on MSN.

Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament: Ohio State-Michigan Postgame Analysis

Kind of a weird game for Ohio State to open the Big Ten tournament, but then that should probably not come as a surprise given the opponent.

Michigan’s women’s basketball team, kind of like the men’s team, plays a bit of an odd style and it showed in a  57-48 Buckeye victory. The Wolverines under head coach Kevin Borseth want to grind out long possessions and play a European style that sets up a lot of outside shots for the post players. This has given the Buckeyes a lot of problems the past couple of years, as evidenced by the three-game winning streak Michigan brought into the game.

Again they seemed to have the Buckeyes discombobulated defensively from time to time, but there was a consensus in the post-game interview room that they did not do enough to take advantage.

Michigan shot 34.5 percent from the field but missed a lot of open shots inside and out. They took 25 threes and made only seven.

That offset a good defensive effort that tried to replicate what had worked for them in a 73-62 win in Ann Arbor in January. They concentrated on trapping star Ohio State guards Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill while playing off of Amber Stokes, the third guard, and taking their chances with power forward Kalpana Beach and center Ashley Adams.

The strategy worked pretty well, especially in the first half as Beach took as many shots (seven) as Prahalis and made only two. Stokes went 1 for 4 from the floor while Adams was 2 for 4 but committed three turnovers as she never seemed quite sure where the defenders were going to be while surveying the offense.

That Prahalis and Hill, one of the most dangerous guard combinations in the country, tried to share the wealth in the first half was not all Michigan’s doing. Ohio State head coach Jim Foster also wanted to see them get a variety of teammates involved, and he said after the game he was happy they were able to do it. However, I’m not sure that confluence of strategies from the separate huddles didn’t make things more difficult than they had to be for the Buckeyes to advance.

Michigan controlled the tempo of the game for maybe 35 minutes, but they paid dearly for the part they let it slip. Ohio State scored the first 11 points of the second half to take a 16-point lead. Michigan managed to get stabilized – and started hitting shots for a change – but never could get closer than five. The damage was done, and it came via more open-court play than the Buckeyes were able to force in the first half. Hill and Prahalis had the game in their hands at that point, and it was easy to see why that is a good thing for Ohio State.

Taking advantage of four early misses by the Wolverines, the Buckeyes struck back quickly with a pair of Hill fastbreak layups, a put-back by Beach and a Hill three that came out of the halfcourt offense. They also got a jumper from Beach, who seemed to have more room to operate once the game turned into more of a scramble.

Even after the tempo returned to a pace more Michigan’s liking, the Buckeyes seemed more comfortable on offense. They slowed things down themselves while protecting the lead, feeling comfortable letting the clock run down before attacking, and it worked well enough to hang on.

They also got the defense going late as the athletic Beach blocked a shot and Stokes and Hill both came up with steals in the final minutes.

Hill finished with 19 points, all but three of which came in the second half. Prahalis had 11 points and five turnovers but turned the ball over seven times. She was 4 for 15 from the field while Hill went 7 for 12. The star duo fell about 10 points shy of what it usually averages total, but Beach picked them up with 12 points while Raven Ferguson had a sneaky five off the bench.

The post players have been something of a work in progress all season, and Beach had her ups and downs while Adams seemed to struggle the farther she was pulled away from the basket. The sophomore center looked lost on more than one occasion on both ends of the floor, but classmate Darryce Moore provided some quality minutes off the bench in relief of her. Adams is a gifted passer with a good touch from 15 feet and in, but she has drifted in and out of games and this was not one of her better ones. The Buckeyes will need more from her in the future if they want to win many more postseason games.

Beach was an efficient 3 for 4 from the field in the second half, but can the freshman sustain that kind of consistency for a full game let alone multiple games? That remains to be seen. She’s brought a lot to the lineup, but she’s still going through some growing pains.

In the first half, I felt like Prahalis and Hill were trying too hard to get their teammates involved. They are the two best players and their teammates didn’t have much luck in taking advantage of the opportunities they had.

In the long run, they will need help to take the Buckeyes deep into the NCAA tournament, but there is something to be said for dancing with those who brought you. It will be interesting to see how they maintain that balance the rest of this most critical month.