Friday, 30 September 2011

TEAM NOTES: CHARLOTTE BOBCATS & MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES


Our new feature 'Team Notes' takes two related teams head to head in a scouting report analysis, this week it's the ever-improving Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies.

From Ashy To Classy.

By Tim David Harvey

The former expansion Charlotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies are finally showing growth. The two long time cellar dwellers of the NBA may not be on their way to the high rises but they are making their way out the basement and one day could go from 'competent' to 'contender'. Let’s take a deeper look at what's changed to these Southwest and Southeast teams.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS SUMMARY

GENERAL COMMENTS: Ever since the Hornets left their nest in North Carolina, Charlotte was seen as a city that still had the fans and facilities for another franchise. The Bobcats however failed to plant their claws in their first few seasons in the NBA. A different story is unfolding now however as the ‘cats are right now are a potential playoff team, not a pretending one. Now with the greatest player of all time taking ownership of this team, these young guys are starting to walk after years of crawling

TEAM STRENGTHS: Michael Jordan has taken control of this team and his notorious never-give-up attitude is translating to his players, even former Wizard's whipping boy Kwame Brown. Jordan has made all the tough choices and decisions that has helped his team in the clutch. Just like his time as a player. M.J. is coming up big and making something out of nothing when everything else looks lost. Take letting go of legendary coach Larry Brown and replacing him with another Charlotte legend in the form of former Hornets coach Paul Silas. The team's personnel have also sharpened their claws. Ever since they added the 'Whoo' of Stephen Jackson this team has been something to scream and holler about. From the French flair of Boris Diaw to the veteran strength of Corey Maggette. Tyrus Thomas can dunk on anybody and Eduardo NĂ¡jera is willing to muscle up with everybody. Still the post-Gerald Wallace future lies with the ceiling-bursting potential of young great Kemba Walker.

TEAM WEAKNESSES: M.J.'s boys right now seem to be taking a page out of T.I.s book, by doing all their work at home. Although they are looking a lot better in their house, they are looking as ugly as Viggo Mortensen on the road. it's time to beat this like Keourac and become consistent across the board. A 34-48 record last season at .415 was almost good for 50% but the bottom line remains that they lost 14 more games then they won. This is why they didn't make the playoffs. At last years trade deadline, the 'cats blazed some of their roster to Portland and other teams to clear cap space, now they need to get rid of some old habits too.

WHAT THEY MUST DO TO WIN: This team’s top priority is winning outside of the Time Warner. The talented rotation of that also features Joel Przybilla, D.J. White, Augustin and Matt Carroll need to remain strong throughout long, trying road trips. These tests on the road will help this young team mesh. Unity isn't just a word that Dave Chappelle’s Rick James imprinted on Charlie Murphy's forehead. It’s what will take these ‘cats to the next level.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES SUMMARY

GENERAL COMMENTS: People had their doubts when the contract was signed and before the ink could dry the A.I. experiment didn't work out in Memphis back in 2009. This isn't a cause for concern now though as the Grizzlies have other answers. There is no questioning this team can play, from All-Star talent like Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay to young players with promise such as Mike Conley and Xavier Henry. Another positive sign is that the next star sensations, OJ Mayo and Marc ‘The Other’ Gaol haven’t suffered a slump since beyond their sophomore seasons. These guys are young veterans now, stocked with experience and potential that's being tapped more than celebrity phones. The Grizz showed more promise as they made history last season. Following a strong eight position in the playoff picture they stopped the most winningest team in the L to become only the fourth number 8 seed in NBA history to defeat a number 1 seed, and only the second time in a best-of-seven series. The legendary San Antonio Spurs and the NBA didn't know what hit them.

TEAM STRENGTHS: Unlike Charlotte this Memphis team has more wins then they have losses. You have to love a team like this. Last year when everyone was writing them off or talking LeBron, Memphis made a decision to channel their inner Elvis and show a little less conversation and more action. Now nobody want to step on these blue suede sneakers. Player wise nobody is hating either. Rudy Gay may have not been able to shoulder some injury burden last season but he's still an all-time All-Star. Mike Conley is getting even better at the starting point and they even have an exciting fast break dunker in Sam Young (youtube and Google this guy, especially his double pump against Boston) to go along with former Celtic Tony Allen's sweet jams. The Internet is spreading the phenomenon of this young team, they've got a free league pass. The Grizz even welcomed back former player and veteran great Shane Battier for a great locker-room and off-the-ball, defensive presence. Zach Randolph’s 20.1 and 12.2rpg is leading the way and after his one year bite into the rotten Knick apple, didn't taste good he’s rounding out quite nicely in Memphis (no pun intended).

TEAM WEAKNESSES: The Grizzlies share more in common with Charlotte then being better off without Allen Iverson. When it comes to playing away from home the Grizzlies still slip up like Tiger Woods. Still there was a time back in '09 when Memphis never seemed able to win more than four games at a time. Now these FedEx Forum favorites are making deliveries across America right to their opponents doors.

WHAT THEY MUST DO TO WIN: Memphis need to realise that as good it as winning in front of their city it’s important to also shake the foundations of other team’s houses. They need to keep a momentum going when winning games and stop the bleeding when it comes to going across the country. All praise is due for Memphis right now, especially with their shocking, San Antonio stunner. Realise this series was no fluke, as this team gave Durant, Westbrook and all of Oklahoma their due before valiantly bowing out. This team are not looking to bequeath anymore and they must realise there is still room for improvement, otherwise compliments won’t be the only thing this team is fishing for come playoff time next season. An eight seed is great but it's also the closest thing to elimination. Look for the Grizz to growl even louder and claw their way up the stands of contention. The only way is up, now this team are treated seriously they've got to watch for the snakes in the grass. They should only be looking up to the ladders.

It’s plain to see that Memphis and Charlotte have developed into better teams despite some growing pains. After years of trying to find the right fit they both seem to be moving forward as a team and their win records are much better for it. Both teams have a cohesive core that has cultivated a strong team identity. They are successful because they are not just about one guy but instead they are a sum of all their parts. To make noise next season though both teams’ players will have to come together even more, play better in unfamiliar territory and improve their records on the road. Then after the lockout both teams will lock it down. That's secure and for sure.

EAST COAST ROAD TRIPPIN'


Some diary entries looking back when BASKETBALL 24/48/82 was in the U.S. earlier this year, travelling from New York to Miami and checking out some perennial teams in some prime match-ups.

DAY 1: Live From New York City

NEW YORK KNICKS 123-107 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

You know when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' 'Empire State Of Mind' epically plays to thousands of happy MSG customers as two of the leagues best players take the floor your in for a treat and things are only getting better in a city that's waited a long time for it's basketball to get on the same page as everything else in New York. If you've been a regular at Madison Square Garden you know what to expect; good food, bad prices, timeless venue, dated facilities and either floor seats where you could trip out over seeing Spike Lee, or more seats up where you can expect the third escalator to really be an expensive set of stairs. It's all however, just part of the class, character, beauty and pageantry of a Knick game.

One thing now that you thankfully don't have to expect is losses. Still the Knicks almost blew three potential whiteouts before finally blowing the Cleveland Cavaliers candles out like Gerald Green dunking in February. You see the Knicks may match up to the Heat, Bulls, Magic and even the reigning East kings North in Boston, but they have had great difficulty in beating smaller teams. Still New York got the better of Cleveland like they had signed LeBron this season, spotting them and clinching a playoff seed in the process. N.Y.'s big three of Anthony, Billups and Stoudemire's stats where all in the 20 point range as 'Melo's automatic jumpers and Mr. Billups big shots gave the Knicks the Nuggets they needed to strike gold against the Cavaliers. Sure rising rookie Landry couldn't field a dunk but Bill Walker ran down, stuffing the Cavs and that embarrassment.

Cleveland may be a bad team but they still had a good fight in them. J.J. Hickson was dunking and exploiting the Knicks bad D so much, his similar, sensational put-downs looked like a video game. Baron Davis also showed he was still number one with 11 points in around 15 seconds, you could even hear the Knicks play-by-play guy sigh before he drolly announced Davis name once again. The way B-Diddy was playing in that catalyst of a mini-Cavalier comeback he could have made his jersey number in points if his hot-streak wasn't cooled off by halftime. New York's play may have been a bit sloppy at times but hey that's Knick basketball and like a die-hard told his friend post-game "Hey they won! What more do you want?" N.Y.'s performance was good enough for the best crowd in the association, featuring hardcore, hard-to-please MSG fans and celebs like Whoopi, 50, Mayweather and that dude they lost in the first 'Hangover' movie. Even Knick, alumni legend Larry Johnson was on hand to a standing 'L'. In the end though the Knicks got the W and a wide berth on Cleveland...a playoff berth.


DAY 2: Chicago Hope

CHICAGO BULLS 97-81 BOSTON CELTICS

There's a changing wind on the East Coast right now. last night Chicago bull-dozed the sleeping Boston Celtics in the perfect prelude to the playoffs that told us one thing; this time the Bulls could run down Boston in seven games. If this epic battle will take place remains to be likely seen, but even if it doesn't last night was a Michael Jackson, a thrilling classic. March Madness turned into April absurdity as this tense, hard-fought game had the elements of a classic, college clash. For a change it wasn't just Glen Davis who was taking baby shots. All of the talented 1 through 12's that both deep teams fielded flirted between inconsistency and potentially big plays from Paul Pierce to Kyle Korver.

In this concrete-tough game it was Rose (30 points) who grew, bloomed and blossomed, thrusting a thorn in the Celtic side and pride. Derrick showed just why Kevin Durant, everyone in the United Centre (which from the 'Bullpen' to the 'Bull Market' and the fans (even the Celtic ones) and all-round entertainment throughout the arena is among the leagues best) and almost everyone with the right mind in the Association considers him M-V-P. D-Rose dished, dunked and screamed his way to victory like it was an Adidas advert as this Point Guard and his Bulls are all in for the top spot of East, taking charge and about to take the clinch. The Rondo versus Rose matchup (which more then rivals that of Deron Williams and Chris Paul) again was the highlight but Rajon and his Boston big-three just couldn't get it going like the untouchable Bulls who took more shots then Kevin Costner channelling Elliott Ness down the stairs of Union Station.

Still, through all this however the greatest moment of the night came when legend Scottie Pippen was honoured at halftime with a bronze bust from the makers of the legendary Jordan statue. It was a shame that 'His Airness' nor the about to be enshrined Rodman et al where there but this was all about Scottie who-with his family-humbly and proudly accepted his just deserves. As the underrated, unselfish, unique superstar thanked presented and legend John Paxson and the thousands of elated fans there where few dry eyes. Still after Chicago got back to the game and the final buzzer sounded 24 minutes later it turned out the real bust was Boston.

DAY 3: Miami Inked

MIAMI HEAT 100-77 BOSTON CELTICS

The Miami Heat hadn't beaten the Boston Celtics this season and in this prelude to a potential playoff-prime matchup it looked like they wouldn't again due to a cold start to the first quarter. Still thanks to three quarters, some dimes and bucks from LeBron James, some super Mario Chalmers three point money balls and a beefed up, pound for pound game from the new slim-line, 'Big Z' Ilgauskas Boston and their recent poor, post-all-star form gave in to Miami's heat. With all sorts of players in both the big-three teams also inconsistent this clash had a classic college element to it just like Boston's previous loss to the Bulls this week on our East Coast road trip.

This was a great game for everyone involved in this sell-out. From Heat legend Alonzo Mourning (who was honoured at half-time for his community work, where some of the concession hungry fans should have stayed and payed their respects to a true legend instead) to top rapper Drake, this was the best they ever had all season. Tempers also heated up in Miami as the visiting Boston side had the same technical problems like they did in the dramatic contest with other conference contender Chicago. As Wade, James and Pierce for Boston all picked up 'T's', it was clear that they where all down for their sides to the letter. Still, as the amateur dramatics squared up one too many times-when things got testy-it was clear these guys needed to grow a set...of fundamentals that is.

So LeBron led the way, adding 27 to the burn, while Wade and Bosh where also warm with 14 and 13 a piece. While for the C's, Pierce had 24, Garnett a Minnesota jersey of 21 and Allen a lucky 13, showing that right into the playoffs both teams big trios are as primed as they are passionate. A concern for Boston however is the form of Rondo (7 points) who had some difficulties at the lay-up line like he did against Chicago. Regardless Miami burnt Boston anyway giving the then reigning Eastern Conference champions some notice for the postseason, which is-however-a completely different ball-game. Dirk knew that. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Monday, 26 September 2011

LONDON CALLING LAKERS


LOS ANGELES LAKERS 92-111 MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (09/04/10)

BY TIM DAVID HARVEY

Lets look back a calender year at the Lakers visit to England's capital London. This is one for the diary. These Great Britain's may have only got to see Kobe for six, scoreless minutes but fans from all over the world navigated through foggy London's rain, tube strikes and rail replacement stresses to catch a glimpse of one of Hollywood and basketball's brightest stars. Fans who payed hundreds and thousands to see him may have only received a sprinkle but what they did see instead is an underdog team beat the top dog while the doberman was in his kennel.

If this was back in the 50's than the Lakers would of been OK because Minneapolis came out on top. These two sides may share associations with the 'Land of 10,000 Lakes' but on Monday October 4th 2010 they were separated by a river of 19 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA Europe Live exhibition game in London 111-92. Still even in a loss the Lakers won a lot more fans, so their time overseas is worth a recap. So let's take a look. Here's how it went down.

PREGAME

Metta World Peace-then Ron Artest-is dancing like a star on the baseline during warm ups, no one can eliminate him now. The once party hard Basketball player has shed this image in order to achieve more excellence on the court with Los Angeles. In the 02 arena in London the Lakers look all business in one of the new money making staples in the NBA, the Europe Live tour. A tour that not only helps promote basketball globally but also helps the fans see the stars that are normally too far out of reach. It doesn't get much larger than life or global than Kobe Bryant and as he walks on court with an air of coolness that only comes with people like Michael Jordan or Frank Sinatra the fans go crazy. Even a glimpse almost seems worth the price of admission, but oh does everyone want more.

The Jumbo-tron is showing 'Top Ten' plays of the week from last years season. The fans go wild when Corey Brewers dunk over Derek Fisher plays. Remember the one where Fish hits the deck so hard it looks like he's been Jazzy Jeffed? Well Fisher remains unmoved by this video as he quietly hits jumper after jumper. A top play for Kobe comes up next and this seems to get him in the mood and rhythm as he works the fade away for the crowd while in his warm up sweats. Sasha Vujacic plays keepy up with the basketball, I guess the soccer fever that gripped some of the players with Chelsea FC is kicking in even more. Kobe and Kevin Love of Minnesota address the crowd before the game Kobe stating that he hopes this won't be the Lakers last trip to London. I guess taking in another Chelsea game wouldn't hurt. Than the Laker girls come in to raise the interest in basketball even more and fill in some Truman Show-esque, 'what's going on behind that screen' break in entertainment time while the teams get ready and guys like Brian Shaw go from the sweat's to the suits like Nelly.

1st Quarter

The show starts with some Magic in little time. Seconds in Kobe steals the ball and assists Lamar Odom with a dunk for the deuce that is fresh out the box like a new pair of Nikes. Luke Walton (suited up just like daddy in the late 70's) is proud. The game starts with none of the usual rust. Beasley catches and shoots on a difficult angle, Fisher picks a sweet spot and reels it in and Pau Gasol shows his strength inside, (the strength that bettered him against the Celtics) and one. Kobe attempts a few shots before being taken out midway through the first. Kobe however is as cool as Andre 3000, ice cold from the field. Odom however is hot scoring 6 in the first 6. As timeout hits and one Laker legend leaves the floor another one by surprise takes to it. Big Game James Worthy is introduced to the British fans and then is led off by the Laker girls. What a player! Shannon Brown comes in for the game and the former dunk contestant slams home a play of the game contender. Corey Brewer tries to out wow Shannon but a Pau Gasol block shows this up as a ludicrous move, 'Move B****, get out of the way' plays on the PA. At one the lakes are still at 27 apiece.

2nd Quarter

As Phil Jackson and his new beard look more like their ordering KFC than running plays a team of 'Crazy Dunkers' entertain the crowd before the 2nd, with their high flying, trampoline act. Shannon Brown cant take his eyes off it, he wants in. He does the opposite of the Staples Centre floor in the 02 lighting up in the 2nd. New Laker Steve Blake also looks strong for the Lakers hitting from all angles, whether acute or obtuse. Kobe, however is playing throwback Ronny Turiaf, congratulating and cracking jokes on the pine, logging no time.

Corey Brewer drives home a breakaway dunk to drill home the fact that Minny are within 1 (41-42) with 5 minutes to go in the half. Derek Fisher is sitting next to Kobe glad he wasn't underneath that one. Odom drives to the basket but is fouled by Kevin Love's blocking. There's no love for Kev however as he hits the deck, hard. There's little love as well for Arsenal Football club, who's players are in attendance. I guess the London faithful are with Kobe on this one. The Lakers rookies are showing up. Devin Ebanks is impressing more than he did on the layup line going in for a strong and 1. From the nosebleeds this number 3, athletic, swingman almost makes it look like Trevor Ariza never left. With hard work, hustle and an impressive bank shot from Ebanks in the second period the Lakers seem to be cashing in on this talent.

Darko Millic is playing hard making 'I'm Still Here' plays even if some of his shots are about as good a look as Joaquin Phoenix's beard. Lamar Odom put on an exhibition en route to 17 Points, 6 Rebounds and 3 Steals proving that he wasn't treating this game like an exhibition. Now nobody should call this man lazy. Another written off player Michael Beasley proved key with 24 points off the bench. Late in the 2nd quarter Michael hit a shot reminiscent of Michael. There are chants for Kobe from deep mobs in the crowd as the game reaches a quiet storm. As the seconds tick down and the backboard illuminates red Trey Johnson scores the rock off the roll but doesn't beat the buzzer. No dice. Halftime!

3rd Quarter

As most fans head for hot dogs and merchandise an illusionist and his assistant perform for those still in attendance. Their old school magic is still classic like Earvin with that wonderment and amazement. As the 3rd act starts Sasha is in for Kobe and Artest is hustling for everybody. There's no lull in the third as Lamar Odom shakes and bakes and then crosses Beasley. LO leaves B on the floor stepping over him carefully but like Iverson over Tyronne Lue. Odom than kicks it out for Fisher who is as clear as the Hudson but hesitates and is rejected by that 'bust' Darko Milcic. Next play down the floor though Fisher takes the bait again but this time sinks the line. Back down on the other side of the floor and down low Darko posts up impressively before going up for air. I guess the boom is over. Still Wesley Johnson throws in an alley oop and the fans begin to see that they’ve neglected the fact that Minnesota is leading 65-58.

WHERE'S KOBE? Right now he's missing and in demand like Bill Clinton on the new NBA Jam commercials showing on the Jumbotron. The Lakers second option Gasol is also not looking as perfect as he was in practice but the Lakes are still in the show. Minny point Luke Ridnour works the new school pick and roll with Beasley, hitting him behind the back for the assist on the open 3. Then off a steal he wipes the ball off the glass to Johnson for the dunk. Even Artest has to give it up, you can’t stop that. Then Barnes comes in for Ron one enigmatic, controversial, former thorn in Kobe's side, defensive player deserves another. The score is 78-65, Timberwolves. This is no mini run in the third quarter, it's a Minny run. The action is still punctuated by chants for Kobe but his knee is Ruben Patterson.

The Lakers second and third units begin to lack cohesion. Sasha's clear for three but isnt open for business. The Lakers need a spark, so they plug in Shannon Brown, who re-enters the game to a half Kobe ovation. As the Kobe cheers get louder Kobe flashes that Michael Jordan smile and for just a second it looks like he's going to shed his warm ups. The Lakers sure need him as this new look Minnesota team are leaving the Lake show lost in the woods like Kanye West sampling Bon Iver. Minnesota are playing like a monster team-no one man wolf pack, no Alan-while the Lakers are looking a little hungover. Los Angeles sober up however with a Barnes burner from the corner and a follow up to close the gap to 87-74.

4th Quarter

The iPhone’s and Blackberry’s are on pause as Kobe remains on ice. Surely he's not about to return now, coming into the game cold, risking another injury. The show must go on however and Brown and Barnes work some 80's Forum magic. It all seems a little too late however. Most Lakers are polishing pine and when Barnes slaps the ball in frustration it can be heard in the upper decks, the Lakers aren’t playing their full hand. There are more Kobe chants, and those smiles again, complete with raised eyebrows, he loves it, the fans don’t, both parties want to dance. The game begins to get real scrappy beyond the meat. The Lakers take too many steps, elementary stuff as the master gets schooled by the pupil. Than Matt Barnes gets messy around the hoop and really wishes his layup was a pass as Brown clears the table for him. It's just one of those bad days at the office. At 9:02 it's Minnesota 92, Los Angeles 78.

The Lakers try to run. Blake to Brown for the bucket but Blake is a little too fast and a little too offensive as the referee charges the foul. With 5:58 the Lakers 58th pick in this year’s draft adds some 'character' to the Lakers D, blocking twice to try and keep Hollywood acting in this picture. All the times that Derrick Caracter has practiced with defensive maestro Theo Ratliff have seem to have paid off for the young buck. The Laker girls come in for some real entertainment while NBA legend Bruce Bowen is sitting courtside complete with a cold and an even colder bowtie. Even the Lakers would want their old rival to shed his bowtie and suit up right now. The Lakers cant blame Bruce Bowen on Kobe being locked down this time however. Back on court Gasol throws down a dunk that the good Doctor J ordered in an attempt to breathe life into himself and his team. Still however the Lakers are getting caught in a Webster of 24 silky smooth points from Martell.

As the 5 minute to go mark arrives Minnesota hit Taco country, reaching 100 points while the Lakers are yet to make 90. Now Ridnour is making baskets look like a piece of cake en route to this lottery team blowing out the defending champion. As fans begin to walk out to beat the traffic and the tube strikes the game draws to a close. The players drop the ball and embrace before the final seconds run down. So the brethren of thousands in its purple and gold in the 02 may have left the game disappointed but that one Minnesota fan in attendance will be undoubtedly happy. The Timberwolves made a great star to both their Europe tour and their underrated season (they tested the Lakers again) but as the Lakers travel East to Barcelona they hoped to get things right, although they lost again in what would end up being a losing season. A lockout year later and Pau is heading back to Barcelona to hone his game. It's funny how things work out sometimes. Expect this Spanish bull and the Lakers to be back though after this European vacation some stars are taking to show the Dallas Mavericks and the rest of the NBA that the honeymoon is over. Then when the Lakers are back at full strength, they'll be no joke and it'll really be no fun and games, forget the lockout. TIM DAVID HARVEY

Friday, 23 September 2011

PEARL JAM


The iconic ten.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

"That's for Mookie". Eddie Vedder, frontman of Pearl Jam on the title of their classic, debut album; 'Ten'.

Legendary grunge-rock outfit Pearl Jam recently celebrated 20 years of music with a movie, book and live show. From early photo's of band members rocking jersey's put out by Michael, to posters of a young Charles Barkley dunking on their walls in the early days photos it's clear these hoop heads where influenced by the peach and the basket. The cult, iconic act even have a legendary debut album by the name of 'Ten', a tribute to the jersey number of former ball player Mookie Blaylock, which was the bands name before legal action and the days the Point Guard became a fan of the band.

Mookie is a cult icon beyond the hardwood beyond one of Seattle and America's best band. The former New Jersey, Atlanta and Golden State guard. Google the name and you'll also look up the Tom Robbin's novel 'Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas' where the central character of the tale Larry Diamond goes by Mookie Blaylock's name during hotel stays...hey, we've all done it. Even in an episode of the cartoon 'Homestar Runner' an Umpire tells an Announcer that Mookie Blaylock gave him the ball. This guard sure does get along with all these pop culture references. Now what made this all-star guard so popular?

Sure the name's great, but so was the game. This dominant player played opponents close like butter plays toast, or Biggie played hunny's. This darling defender was B.I.G. Too, notorious for being a stopper. Even Michael Jordan could get it. Daron Oshay "Mookie" Blaylock was the real deal in his no luck 13 years in the league. His hard work defined his time and tenure at the helm of three teams. The Texan, 12th pick of the '89 draft out of Oklahoma College helped define nighties basketball in terms of popularity and prosperity. He was your all-star, steady veteran and consistent performer that showed that as well as him the league that Magic and Bird made popular was here to stay in the forefront of cult culture.

This push-and-pass point guard, kept pushing and moving on up like Curtis Mayfield as the assists and minutes totals missed the snakes and hit the ladders. This was no board game, Mookie was dedicated to the hardwood and his teammates and his time and unselfish play can attest to. He robbed the league of nothing but the steals records as he regularly hit those charts in the nighties like a different M.J. hit the music ones. This former Atlanta Hawk was that type of bird on defensive and his eagle eye and quick hands helped him get his talons on 200 or more steals in five seasons which helped garner him two, deserved NBA All-Defensive first-team selections. he also led the league in steals like legends Alvin Robertson, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson and Chris Paul two years in a row. Now tell me who owns the ball?

Don't front on this guys offensive skills either. This guy had a great set that he could even take it to Mike as well as take it from him. He was more than a competent outside shooter, especially in the clutch and this big-time player dished and brought as much to the table as he took, being among the leagues most affordable dime men. The record books and the memory banks recognise this fast break starter brought the show during his time. He started his own team and stopped the other. he won and lost games, it all went through him. This true Point Guard took charge of his teams and lead them with a matrimony of offence and defence, for better or worse.

From ruling the NCAA with Stacey King to having the best brought out of him by legend, Lenny Wilkens and then being traded for like-minded, big-time player in reserve Jason Terry, Mook has had an impact on fellow players the game and so much more. He's in top all-time categories from the 100's to the 20's for his steals, minutes and three's and he still holds the record in the ATL for steals (1,321) and three pointers taken (3,023) and made (1,050). Told you this 6 foot, 180 pound guy was big.

From 'NBA Jam' to 'NBA Live' this guy was a real selection, in the game like EA but more than a video game player. He really took it to opponents necks, wrapping around them like a pearl necklace, this thief had a way with the ball. With a game so silky smooth to the touch of the rock. Like another pearl, Earl Monroe, Blaylock was a top guard. Sure unlike the N.Y. legend he was no 'Black Jesus' but he was still a disciple of the game and he played by the book with every chapter and verse of his praised career. Even when he finished his NBA time off the bench in Oakland, like a true warrior he still had plenty in reserve with no substitute. That was Mookie. One and only. Ten out of ten.

Once this guy entered the league and our consciousness with his even flow his dedication was deep with every release, trip to the garden and jam finishing, break starting play that took it to the other teams porch. The legend of this number ten is still kept alive today like a Pearl Jam song and album and even if some people don't know the name Mookie Blaylock, the legacy lives on.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

WALT FRAZIER Feature-FRAZIER GAME


A real icon.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

The infamous steel carriages of the New York subway are chugging towards their downtown destination. Some laced with graffiti, others shine in all their silver sheen. Inside one of the cars two young New York Knickerbocker fanatics dressed head to toe in that old Knick gear-that will one day make Mitchell and Ness rich-look bemused towards a man on the other side of the L-train dressed too good for the orange and yellow plastic carriage. He almost stands out on this train like Eddie Murphy in 'Coming To America', he almost looks like a pimp. The confused pair of fans laugh nervously with intrigue as this man shifts his crossed leg over to the other. Decked in slacks, the finest Italian footwear and a coat that leaves people asking; 'what is that mink'? The man raises the brim of his 'Bonnie and Clyde' hat to reveal-between some classic mutton chops-the biggest grin. He knows something the fans don't know, sparks fly and illuminate this man as the train pulls into Penn Station.

The coolest dressed man in lower Manhattan leads everyone out the subway as the two fans follow him like his name was the pied piper. This dude has swagger and not to mention the coolest walk these guys have ever seen. The fans follow this man to their same destination; Madison Square Garden, it's gameday. As the two fans try to keep up they are stopped by security who points them to where they need to go. As the wooden gates of the elevator are pulled around this man he tips his hat and gives them a wink with his smile still intact. The two fans do that 'if she looks back it means something' stare as the man disappears to the heavens almost in smoke. They make their own slog upstairs as they head to their upper tier seats that would have given them nosebleeds if it wasn't for the journey to the top of the Garden doing so instead.

As the two fans hustle and push for their seats between those fans who have taken their kids and those who have taken their share of concessions they settle down and take turns on the binoculars watching the action on court. One fan focuses on a figure on court that looks familiar. "I'd recognise that walk anywhere" he says to himself. "Isn't that?" The PA announcer interrupts him and takes the words right out of his mouth. "Into the game for the New York Knickerbockers, number 10 Walt Frazier". The fan can't believe it, in embarrassment he looks up to the rafters of the Mecca, the same rafters that will one day be the home to the same number 10 jersey...but not yet. Right now it's the seventies and it's Walt Frazier's time. The Rolls Royce will take him to the next game, Clyde's not playing anymore. He's a class act above the rest. The king of the court and the king of cool. Playground players may have duked it out to determine by word of mouth who was the best, but they needed to stop talking. Walt wore the crown and it went pretty nice with his suit.

Long before Amar'e Stoudemire gave the heart of this city hope again and before the last bead of Patrick Ewing sweat was moped up off this MSG floor. Way, way before the Carmelo Anthony trade brought the promise of the return of the glory days to N.Y. Basketball, Walt Frazier was the man that gave this town those same glory days. Making headlines with his New York times, taking the back page to the front page. Standing out like than the bright lights of Times Square on New Years, a shining icon in this big city. Bringing magic to New York like a Sinatra song on Christmas day, bringing the magic to the hardwood before Earvin did. Playing like he could own the blacktop's of the Rucker. A true New York legend. Rising like the steam out the grids on a December morning, smelling better then the nuts and dogs they serve on the street corners. Food for thought; this man brought the five boroughs of New York to the core of the Big Apple in the Garden. Adam's and Eve's all came for a bite, date night became fan night. Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, Manhattan and the rest of the world all came to watch 'Clyde the Glyde' swoop up steals and fly.

Willis Reed and that legendary thigh may have been a hero, but Walt Frazier is New York basketball's saviour (and had 36 points and 19 assists in the same finals winning game that crowned the injured Reed). Earl 'The Pearl' Monroe may have been smooth as hell and the dubbed 'Black Jesus' but the sharply dressed and game honed Walt was more than a style icon, he had substance, he was a basketball God. Basket after basket, legacy after legend, influencing the culture-change of the game before the Jordan's, the Kobe's and the Iverson's. Frazie' had the answers, changing and guarding the throne. He earned more than style points, he was more than just a player. Clyde was cold as ice, but hot as hell. Jerry West and Elgin Baylor's temperament would have found it hard to match his temperature. Walt was cool as a cucumber, helping putting games in Chick Hearn's fridge, bringing showtime to the New York times side. With a Chrysler tall ceiling and an empire state of mind. New York, New York belonged to the man with two names. His game never rested, never to be slept on. 'Down goes Frazier'...never that. Basketball's heavyweight rolled with all the punches.

Fresh out of the ATL, Georgia brown Walt helped give David T. Howard High School it's name (not literally however, let's give respect where respect's due) and took things higher in college, giving a basketball education in Southern Illinois, before being selected as the famous five in the '67 draft ready to make his Manhattan moments sports memories. Two rings (the only for this legendary but unlucky Knick franchise), seven all-stars and defensive accolades, a retired jersey and a 'NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team' honour to go with his cool, savvy play later and Walt Frazier re-wrote history. He also wrote the book on cool...literally. Check the reference. His style was signature, his stardom was autographed and his legend engraved down the Hall of Naismith's inscriptions. Sure he wasn't the logo but this icon's legacy still lasts today. From Puma releasing anniversary editions of this legendary cat's kicks, to die-hard Knick fan Spike Lee naming one of his Denzel Washington characters in 'Inside Man'; Frazier (mixed with Mets legend Keith's first). He spelt the name right too, Frazier with a 'Z'. A little inside, real recognises real. Are you familiar? The most famous 'Frasier' in America is not played by Kelsey Grammer. Are you listening? You can hear more from Clyde these days as he provides colour commentary to this generations 'bockers with perfect rhyme, in perfect time. Being a spokesman for this game with the same poetry that made him the player he was and the one-of-a-kind man he still is today. His legend still stands like his assist record. Making him a fan favourite from past, to present and future. This is Walt Frazier. This is New York basketball.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

WORLD B. FREE


Artest-less development.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

Sometime back in the Sixties legendary sports anchor Howard Cosell was interviewing his close personal friend and the greatest figure in sporting history; Muhammed Ali about his refusal to declare for the draft to go fight in the Vietnam war. An interview that was depicted by Jon Voight and Will Smith in Michael Mann's movie 'Ali'. There was a mutual respect between these two men and it was highlighted at a time Ali's legend was under controversial scrutiny. During the interview Cosell made the mistake of calling Ali by his former name Clay saying, "Cassius, in my opinion". "My name ain't Cassius Clay. That is a slave name, and I am a free man. I am Muhammad Ali," the greatest declared. "You know, I apologize. I apologize to you on the air. Your name is Muhammad Ali. You have a right to be called whatever you want. I apologize to you.". You have a right to be called whatever you want.

Ron Artest...wait I apologise, I apologise to you in this article. Metta World Peace you have a right to be called whatever you want. You have the right to do whatever you want and be whatever and whoever you want to be. I mean besides Lloyd Bernard Free changed his name to World B. Free due to his aerial amazing antics in the NBA and NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson legally changed his his to his 85 jersey number in Spanish to Ochocinc. Hey even music legend Prince changed his name to everything from The Artist, TAFKAP and a symbol.

Metta it's not only the courts that recognise your name, we do too and no traffic tickets are going to restrict that. Not that you need our validation but we respect and accept your decision, your Buddhist beliefs and the personal reasons behind them. Sure in some ways you'll always be Ron Artest to us, but your Metta World Peace now.

"Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world," you told us. Your name meaning loving and kindness toward all, what you have continued to show. Just like how your love and kindness has helped you become an amazing advocate for mental health, being a face and an aid for those in need. Turning your past problems in solutions for not just yourself but other. Taking advantage of your celebrity in a way that benefits others raising awareness like you raise spirits.

Raising spirits like you to everyday from your tweets to the character of your interview soundbites. Raising spirits and enthusiasm from the locker room to your invitational events for the public. Your boundless energy that keeps you and us going. Like your rap records that keep us moving, your stand up that keeps us amused or your Dancing with the Stars that keep us entertained. All your energy that allows you to indulge in so many off- court activities but never effects your productivity on court.

The type of productivity that made you a Defensive Player of the Year in Indiana. The type of productivity that made you a star from Sacramento to Houston. The type of productivity that has helped your Los Angeles Laker team achieve two championships, behind your dominating D, hustle and warrior like attitude. The type of enthusiasm and play that has made you turn ill-advised shots-that others would be too scared to take-into game-winners. The type of play that translates into a game that demands respect. The type of respect that takes you from one of Kobe Bryant's biggest rivals to one of his best friend. In the past he knew you only a Artest, now like us all he calls you by your first name, your new government name; Metta.

Metta you really have changed and come a long way, from Hennesy half times to full purity. From brawling in Detroit to motoring on and fighting to make amends. You've dared to be different and your brave and bold behaviour is a gamble that has played off. Metta World Peace is more than just a statement, it's an inspiring declaration of love, unity and most of all peace. It's more than what some see as egotistical, it's something that inspires confidence in everybody. Some people may see it as strange but like you said if they hate on you they can't say 'F%$# World Peace'. You see now they can't touch you or the positive notion. Metta World Peace is more than just a statement...it's you. It's offical.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

TAKING IT TO THE DVD RACK


NBA history live in your living room.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

OK, so if basketball movies aren't your cup of tea and you still need to cure those lockout blues how's this for a brand of cognac? Over the years the NBA has released it's fair share of DVDs so which ones should make your rack? What follows is a definitive DVD menu of those 'where amazing happens' moments so legendary that they had to be recorded and kept in the library of basketball history.

ULTIMATE JORDAN: Time to call in sick to work for a week as 6 discs and 15 hours of the greatest basketball player and sportsman that ever lived will take you through it. From classic games from the 'flu game' to the 'last shot' (sorry Utah fans you'll be left lost like James Franco in '127 Hours') to documentaries like 'Come Fly With Me' and hours of real special features. Time for all your other plans to be cancelled.

KOBE DOIN' WORK: Spike Lee has directed some classic films from 'Mo Better Blues' to 'Inside Man' and 'Do The Right Thing' to basketball drama 'He Got Game'. Still when the die-hard New York Knick fan Spike went coast to coast and put over 30 camera's and a narrators microphone on Kobe that's when his movie moments really became legendary. As Kobe takes us through his Hollywood game from confusing his opponents-by talking plays with his teammates like Gasol in other languages-to the reason he constantly rubs his hands on his jersey, this is informative as it is cinematic in all the black and white, jazzy Lee trademark cinematography.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS 2008-2009/2009-2010 NBA CHAMPIONS: From Ariza to Artest, Derek Fisher clutch bucket to lutch basket and Kobe's celebratory leap to round up court celebrate the Lakers latest double up with these back-to-back DVD's.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS-THE COMPLETE HISTORY: Or why not take the greatest six disc trip down Laker memory lane from Shaq all the way back to Mikan? This DVD is big like Wilt, Magic like Johnson and cool as the ice of Jerry West. It's an epic marathon of history that may leave you needing Kareem goggles after watching.

MAGIC JOHNSON-ALWAYS SHOWTIME: Fun and entertaining just like the man himself. Earvin 'Magic' Johnson's story will amaze you like his passes (the opening highlight montage is incredible) and even leave you shedding a tear or 32. This is a one of a kind story of a one in a million personality narrated with class by Danny Glover. Time to really be told about the Lakers most lethal weapon.

LARRY BIRD-A BASKETBALL LEGEND: Or how about some of Larry's legend? His story and his amazing behind the back passes are just as good as Magic. The tricks of this Boston blue collar's trade is shown in all it's Celtic Pride. You'll love it even if your a Laker fan (my hand is up).

ALLEN IVERSON-THE ANSWER: An incredibly interesting look at the most enigmatic, entertaining figure the league has seen. From the tattoo's to the Larry Brown feuds there's things you know and then there's things you don't, like just how good this man was at football in college. In the dawn of the new millennium all eyes where on this man and basketballs answer to Tupac Shakur makes this a must watch DVD.

SUPER SLAMS OF THE NBA/SUPER SLAMS 2: The ultimate highlight montage. Every great dunk you could think of from the nighties past with player profiles and even some greatest misses for comic relief. These greatest hits collections get even better when dunking pioneer Julius Erving presents the second DVD.this right prescription is just what the good Dr. J ordered.

KEVIN GARNETT-KG: We already know Kevin Garnett's story is amazing and inspirational, but this very personal DVD (narrated by Da Kid himself) takes us even deeper. From the Minnesota lows to the Boston highs you'll remind yourself of how much this man deserves to be where he is and the early morning, beach workout scenes show just how true a warrior is. The most honest and emotional part of this film comes when K.G. talks about the loss of his dear friend and teammate Malik Sealy, a true talent taken too soon. Truly moving.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL-LIKE NO OTHER: The only thing that's bigger or more entertaining then this DVD is the daddy himself. Filmed during the day Shaq's talents where in South Beach, O'Neal talks life and basketball. With highlights to remind you of just how good he was and appearances in the community to show you just how genuine there is. There's truly no one like him, the NBA's biggest icon.

AND 1 MIXTAPE 6: Time to take it to the streets. This is actually a VHS lying about the house but still makes for a great tape highlighting the skills of this talent class in a league of their own. This particular mixtape features a profile of the Black Widow who's web of style can't be bitten.

STREETBALL-THE AND 1 MIXTAPE TOUR: Or if that isn't street enough for you then how about this And 1 Tour round the U.S. taking all sorts of states and classy cities. From the love of the fans you can really see how legendary these stars are and the bonus disc features a full length And 1 game featuring NBA star and blacktop legend Rafer 'Skip To My Lou' Alston and some Hot Sauce to go. A player who gives us the best highlight by crossing over a floppy-haired, smart suit, glasses wearing business man on the street. He breaks his ankles and creases his chinos.

LIGHTS OUT: If you like your highlights with added shine then this NBA reel is the amazing choice you need to happen. This set goes in depth and behind scenes with interviews and spotlights on everybody from A.I. to Mike or some extended trips with Air Canada. There's a lot of Hollywood moments too from Robert Horry clutching at victory and Kobe Bryant's Babe Ruth attitude as he swings for 81. There's also magic from...well Magic. This truly is showtime. Lights out! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Friday, 16 September 2011

COURT ON CAMERA


Where Hollywood happens.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

Cinematic worthy moments happen in this sport all the time. Still, Basketball movies aren't as half-bad as the people who have watched Shaq in 'Kazaam' or Dennis Rodman in 'Double Team' make out. Here's a look at some of the best or at least most entertaining that will give you some basketball action during this lockout. Expect more titles to be added soon.

HOOOSIERS: 'Hoosiers' is THE classic basketball movie and coaching manual. Set in the sort of hoop on farm house Indiana suburbs that birthed the French Licks of Larry Bird (surprisingly though no cameo for a man who is seemingly in every basketball movie), this is how you play ball. 1 through five all as one. No one player greater than another. It takes teamwork to make the...well you know the rest. Hackman and Hopper honour Hickory like the Indiana Pacers with red jerseys and gold short, shorts. Gene leading as the coaches coach and the late, great Dennis earning an Academy award nomination nod for his classic character battling on the sidelines with alcohol abuse. Forget just basketball films, this is one of movies all-time greats. Don't just watch the paint dry...watch this and run the picket fence.

BLUE CHIPS: The chips are down for Nick Nolte in this tale of basketball blues, an amazing actor who would make the perfect coach even if just for the hilariously scary way he rips into his players and storms out the locker room...three times. 30 For 30, ESPN, New York Knick, 'When The Garden Was Eden' documentary director Michael Rappaport dry erases this before its time look at the NCAA violating, under the table, gym bag dealing sports world with the nineties texture of its time. Blue Orlando Magic chips Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal also star and actually act among other NBA greats who make an appearance. Shaq's entrance from the running kids to the middle of a gym in nowhere has an epic Ali feel and presence to it. His devastating dunks even sounding like bags of punches. Its a reminder of what was and still is. Its hardest hit being a pay for play issue that still bankrupts the beauty of basketball and the testament of youth to this day.

ABOVE THE RIM: Tupac Shakur continued to show he was a great actor as well as rapper in this movie that also stars the late, great Bernie Mac. Marlon Wayans (except more of them) brings the comedy but this picture has something serious to say too with standout performances from Leon Robinson, Duane Martin and a stellar soundtrack featuring 2Pac's 'Pain'.

THE BASKETBALL DIARIES: In one of Leonardo DiCaprio's youngest and greatest performances he gives us a brutally honest take on the effects of drug abuse in sports and the youth. Sure basketball is a back-story here but it's not the real issue that needs to be addressed. With great support from Mark Wahlberg and Juliette Lewis this movie slam dunks all over Hollywood shine and censorship.

O: Basketball again serves as the backdrop in this brilliant modern take on Shakespeare's 'Othello' that rivals DiCaprio's 'Romeo + Julliett' in the creativity and integrity courts. Mekhi Phiffer is incredible as 'O', a high-school basketball star and success to be but it's pretty boy, turned good actor Josh Hartnett that pulls all the Converse shoe strings. The bard would be proud.

G.O.A.T.-THE LEGEND OF EARL MANIGULT: Don Cheadle helps tell the story everyone needs to hear about a legend on the street who never made it to the NBA. This frank, moving and insightful story begins with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar telling Chick Hearn that his most difficult opponent was 'the Goat' and then we see the legend on the streets fiending for drugs. With clinical performances from 'ER's' Eriq La Salle and Michael Beach this is a medical issue that can't be ignored. There's some double dunk, quarter off the backboard legend here too. The most entertaining, shiver down the spine moment comes at the Rucker when Wilt Chamberlain (played well here by star Kevin Garnett) dunks on the Goat and stares down at him, boasting; "welcome to the big leagues schoolboy". The Goat responds by fading away from the stilt and back-pedaling down court proclaiming; "Welcome to Harlem...mother#@$%*#"!

COACH CARTER: Samuel L. Jackson teaches a band of brothers how to really play this game and be men, in this educating, game of life, modern-day classic. The sublime performances match the scoring soundtrack throughout and Jackson's never been better in this action. Part 'Remember The Titans' but setting it's own path and legacy this true, legendary story of Carter is loved and influential and inspiring to coaches and teachers alike.

FINDING FORRESTER: Before Rob Brown was being taught the game by 'Coach Carter' he was writing history with Sean Connery. This inspiring, coming of age, wise worded tale is New York's answer to 'Good Will Hunting'. Expect some Madison Square Garden moments too. This belongs in the mecca of underrated, all-round movies. Connery gives us a classic and even Busta Rhymes helps wrap things up right.

HE GOT GAME: This is the legendary one that made Ray Allen an icon as Jesus Shuttlesworth. Ray proved he could do more then hold his own on court as he starred in this classic Spike Lee and Denzel Washington show. This love for the game, rags and riches tale truly plays for it's freedom. Rosario Dawson also stars as does player turned actor Rick Fox and a couple of prostitutes.

GLORY ROAD: Alicia Keys helped score a sensational soundtrack to a real, genuine re-telling of the true story of how a college basketball team overcame racism and all forms of competition for the truest victory. This is stunning, chilling, moving and inspiring and almost puts 'Coach Carter' in his place. Your with it until the end and you'll feel exhausted, elated and a member of this team in this formidable film that brings everyone together.

LIKE MIKE: OK, the idea of Lil Bow Wow playing like the greatest when he finds a pair of Jordan's airs is ridiculous. Still when you combine Morris Chestnut, that cute kid from Jerry Maguire and a roll call of classic cameos from NBA stars are you not entertained? From blocking gladiator Alonzo Mourning to being begged for autographs from Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash this is downright stupid...but funny.

SPACE JAM: Still if you prefer your Mike's real then follow Jordan down the 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' hole as he plays with Bugs Bunny and all your favourite Warner Brothers. Disney missed out on this one. Sure its a mickey mouse film that Bill Murray called his worst but he, Larry Bird and a bunch of cartoon characters brought the laughs as Mike brought the charm and money to the table as he showed why he was the worlds biggest star. The kids loved it too and at least Charles Barkley promised he'd never date Madonna again.

WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP: Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes take shots at each other and racial barriers in this groundbreaking and entertaining comedy. Set in the legendary courts of Los Angeles, the action of these Venice Beach boys look as good as Rosie Perez.

FORGET PARIS: Billy Crystal gives us a funny take on the NBA as a referee who goes to Paris and finds love. This is standard romantic comedy stuff and Crystal gold but what sets it apart are the on court scenes with all the stars of the NBA from the nineties. From Reggie Miller to Muggsy Bouges these are the best, classic cameo's from basketball players on film.

CELTIC PRIDE: Back in the nighties again, Daniel Stern and Dan Aykroyd, two die-hard Boston fans kidnap Utah Jazz star Damon Wayans (remember this is just the movies) so that the Larry Bird-less (he makes a classy cameo) Celtics have a fighting chance in the finals. This film isn't just funny, it reminds you of why you love this game. A young Judd Apatow showed he could write a great and funny basketball movie, showing what was to come next.

SEMI-PRO: Woody Harrelson (you can also see him playing pickup with Justin Timberlake currently in 'Friends With Benefits') re-laces his sneakers and joins Andre 3000's 'Coffee Black' on Will Ferrell's comedic court as the comic genius drops another classic. Portraying the fictional Flint Tropics this is a very real and amusing look at the most entertaining league in basketball history; the ABA. Bears at halftime and other Evil Knievel stunts, this sort of stuff actually happened. You must see this one for a bit of comedy and history. Let's get tropical.

JUST WRIGHT: When top rapper Common was younger he used to mop up the sweat of Michael Jordan and others in the Chicago Bulls in the United Centre, but in this movie for the New Jersey Nets he shows he can do what most rappers want to do and ball. There's cameo's from Dwight, Dwyane and the Rucker, while Robin Thicke's other half Paula Patton gives the word 'beauty' it's significance. Still it's the love and basketball between Common and rap legend/movie star Queen Latifah that hits the shot. Game over. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

READ TO ACHIEVE: BOOK CLUB


A reference to the definitive reading list.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

With Jerry West's highly anticipated, long-awaited autobiography ('West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life') just a month away our new 'Read To Achieve' feature takes you through the library of some classic basketball reads. Take what you please, just make sure you return in October for the review.

FREEDARKO PRESENTS THE UNDISPUTED GUIDE TO PRO BASKETBALL HISTORY: A different but delightful look at the history of roundball, written with passion and compassion and illustrated with style and substance. Pure poetry and art comes out of every page. This book is full of tidbits and great tales that you may have not heard. Such as the time after a Latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber Nike advert mocked C-Webb's dunk on Charles Barkley, Sir Chuck dropped 57 in a game on both players and backpedaled past their bench and yelled; "put that in a commercial". Need any more advertising for this book?

HOOPS: A big, beautiful photo album that takes you through the history of the National Basketball Association with perfect portraits of everyone from Wilt Chamberlain to Kevin Garnett. This book says a thousand words.

NBA COACHES PLAYBOOK: For coaching candidates and promising purists alike this textbook is the perfect study and revision of all basketball plays from Tex Winter's infamous triangle to Kareem's notorious sky hook. Why? Because they and every other legend of the NBA dry-erase writes these chapters you should constantly go back to for inspiration like Bible verses.

50 AMAZING YEARS IN THE CITY OF ANGELS: Young writers looking for inspiration need this book like those who bleed purple and gold. From the style of legendary Pulitzer prize winner and basketball story-teller Jim Murray to all the definitive articles and portraits of Laker success. This truly is the words of the Los Angeles Times.

SHAQ TALKS BACK: Shaq's autobiography-written during his L.A. days is funny, frank, insightful and inspirational. The man who can make you laugh and see his point too really has something to say and if that isn't enough his Hollywood nights have some telling tales of everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Robert Downey Jnr.

WHEN THE GAME WAS OURS: Who better to speak on the rivalry, friendship, force and revolution that was Magic and Bird in the eighties then the men themselves? This dual autobiography really keeps Larry and Johnson together with stories better than what Grandmama could tell you. A slam dunk hit as the two come-together converse like their sneaker deal.

SHOOTING STARS: LeBron James takes it back to the glory days of High School with the 'Friday Night Lights' of Buzz Bussinger and some old Irish. Revealing, real, nostalgic and nice this locker room talk of the high school days just shows this dynasty maker that to know where your going you have to know where you came from.

DRIVE-THE STORY OF MY LIFE: Bird's first autobiography takes the reader from the French Lick to the battles with Magic. The tricks of the Celtics legends trade is told in the pages of a perfect and precise pronouncement. This book plays out like Larry Legend's career, big, bold-at times boastful-but always beautiful. This blue-collar book is anything but hard work.

DRIVEN FROM WITHIN: Michael Jordan and Nike team up for a photo book/quote by quote autobiography that has an air of awe-inspiring influence. It looks great but don't think the style of this success story makes the substance give way. Inspirational and motivational quotes have only been greater in Muhammed Ali's 'The Soul Of A Butterfly' or the letters that make up Martin Luther King's autobiography.

MY LIFE: We picked this book up on from a side street seller in New York for two dollars but in reality it's worth it's weight in millions shipped. Earvin Johnson shows he's got the Magic for writing too with the tales of the tricks of his trade. A book as entertaining, enigmatic, magnificent, moving, inspiring, insightful, influential, and as real as the man himself.

THE ART OF A BEAUTIFUL GAME: Chris Ballard's book of this brilliant game of basketball is a beautiful ballad of sports writing. Every chapter is like a separate sonnet of praise to all the in's and out's and idiosyncrasies of different facets of the workings of legendary players minds and games. From Kobe Bryant's killer instinct to Steve Kerr's shot it's all here and it's never been told or explained better.

THE LAST SEASON-A TEAM IN SEARCH OF A SOUL: Coach Phil Jackson's classic and controversial book about basically the season of Shaq and Kobe's break-up drew rave-reviews and ravenous readers. It's revealing and honest, thorough and forthright as everything is taken to task with a gentleman's class. Sure as Phil and Kobe got back together in the name of two Larry O'Brien's some now render this book insignificant, but this story serves as more than a footnote to the careers of both Bryant and Jackson, plus many more too.

CHARACTER DRIVEN-LIFE, LESSONS & BASKETBALL: Derek Fisher's story extends further then the range of one if the Lakers and the leagues most legendary clutch playing, role-players. His life and times feature more hardship and positive looks towards inspiration than a Jay-Z song sampling 'Annie'. OK, boys and girls this man may have spent his career in the shadow of today's best Kobe, but even the greatest wouldn't have had half the hits without his perfect producer in his corner. Derek Fisher's tale is one that needs to be told. Are you sitting comfortably?

KAREEM: They say he's too closed off, but Cap really opens here. They say he's boring, but Kareem will make you laugh. They say he's dull, but this big-book has colour. They even dared to say he doesn't have a lot of love, but this book has as much heart as it does soul. Arguably the greatest basketball player turned writer gets shows so much personality in his most personal piece of published prose.

THE WINNER FROM WITHIN: From the cover to the preface this book looks like a self-help guide and in a lot of ways it is. Still, Pat Riley's autobiography is as slick, serious and sincere as the legendary coach and man himself. This book will inspire and influence you like no other but it will also tell you all about this one in a million, genuine guy. To hear the story of his whole life within and beyond basketball is to help take you further with yours and learn a little something extra about the game too.

WILT, 1962: One of the most important stories in basketball history told with truth by Gary M. Pomerantz. Different peoples takes and stories help document a moment taking us back to that infamous night in '62 when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single, legendary basketball game and iconic moment in sports history. This game may have never been televised or taped but this biography brings this subject alive for the record. This is fact not fiction. There you have it. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Monday, 12 September 2011

KEEP IT 100


The good, the bad & the beautiful game.

BY TIM DAVID HARVEY

They say there is no such thing as bad press. Yeah right, check the NBA headlines right now and then tell that to Javaris Crittenton. He faces a murder charge and his talented NBA career is most likely a wrap. Rewind a couple of calendar years and he and former Washington Wizard teammate Gilbert Arenas got into it with guns in the locker room over a game of cards. Now we all know how bad that got. What are young men in the league getting into these days?

What of Antoine Walker as well? His recent problems with the law involved gambling debts like Gilbert and DUI charges that we've heard about all too many times before. The conversation no longer is on reminiscing about the way he used to hit threes but about whether he can shimmy out of some potential jail time.

This seems to be the problem these days in the league. Log on to any basketball news wire and the per usual will be found. Kobe will have scored 30, Boston will have won, LeBron will have made things happen down the stretch and some coach will be on the firing line. More than often however there will be some negative news about some current or ex-player and their troubles with the law. Assaults, DUI's, drugs, and so on. The list goes on.

Now in this life we all have to take the good with the bad and the news is the medium that always presents us with both sides of this coin. With that being said however isn't everyone tired of seeing the same old news like this on a regular basis? It is important to know what's going on. It helps us to be aware and we can all take something away from each story we read and learn from it. Then again years past the news of Gilbert and Javaris' situation was on a constant loop it takes the focus off of basketball. When did it stop being about the game? The primary reason we are invested in this sport. Any casual observer or overseas fan struggling to keep up with limited amounts of basketball coverage won't have much of a clue about how any of the recent games have played out, and this isn't because of the lockout. It's because of all the other bull****.

Legal matters surrounding the league do demand attention but the press should still focus more coverage on celebrating the guys that just get down to business and avoid bad press. The attention should be shifted more to guys who are as ‘all ball’ as a Kobe Bryant foul at the Staples Centre. Speaking of Kobe, look at him for example. He has had his legal problems in the past and on top of that received bad press for his public feuds with various players. Today however tells a different story. He makes the news for the right reasons and his play and his relationships with his teammates are better for it. Take a look at what all that positivity brought him, a championship.

The rest of his Lakers squad echo this idea. Star players like Odom, Gasol and Bynum fill out the stat sheets and not the rap sheets. They seem to avoid bad press, especially taking into account these guys ball in the entertainment frenzied city of Los Angeles and one of them is even married to a Kardashian as well. Bar an ill-advised Spanish team photo you couldn't find a speck of dirt on these Angelinos. It’s because they just get down to what matters, the game itself. They leave all the other stuff behind.

Everyone thought that was about to change when the Lake show added Ron Artest, the All-Star with the biggest blot on the NBA's permanent record. Take a look at Ron-Ron today though however and he's focused like his Los Angeles co-stars. The strange antics are still there however, such as a couple of years ago appearing on the Jimmy Kimmel show decked in only his draws or injuring himself on Christmas Day by falling down the stairs (Easy on that egg nog now). Or of course most recently 'Dancing With The Stars' and standing up for comedy. Apart from that however everything is kosher. If Arenas is offered the chance to redeem himself in this league he would do good to look at Artest for an example (Try saying that a couple of years back). Ron is in the good books right now and looking at a potential first ring. To do this he didn't have to compromise himself either, he just had to keep out of trouble.

Is this exciting? Well to some people it isn't. Some people just love controversy and the media feeds in to this. In some respects controversy keeps things going and interesting but in the grand scheme of things it's unnecessary. Yes it can serve as a conversation piece to relieve boredom at the office or on the playground the following day but so can a half-court heave or the latest output from Brandon Jennings. These are true basketball highlights. Sport should be in the back pages of a newspaper, not the front.

Some of these legal matters are problems that many people have (Alcoholism, gambling etc). These aren't matters to be glossed over; these are problems that need solution. Gambling is an addiction, Jordan loved it and top-flight players like Arenas earn so much that it must feel like they can gamble with an unlimited reserve. NBA players are celebrities and some celebrities love living the high life with clubbing, alcohol and money all on tap. When this life gets too much however and the private becomes public the situation then becomes much worse. In analysing the situations arisen from the various legal or personal troubles that occur it seems that the scandal rather than the solution is what is sought after the most. This is because scandal sells, especially with celebrities. People seem to care less about the decent numbers Michael Beasley is putting up this season and more about what was going on in his head a few Summers back. Is that right?

There are far more players in this league putting in work then playing around too much yet the focus is rarely on these guys. What a great team the Portland Trail Blazers are these days but what a shame it is that they made the headlines more when they were dubbed the 'Jail Blazers'. Surely hearing about players smoking weed isn't half as exciting as hearing about Brandon Roy smoking opponents?

What happened to appreciating old-fashioned, decent, blue collar hard work? Sure there are a lot of things happening off court right now but what about the real action on court? The reason the fans follow these players, the real reason they were ever worthy of this attention in the first place. When fans grew up watching basketball they were only concerned with Michael Jordan's loyalty to the game not his extra marital affairs.

Sure the cream always rises to the top and true talent will always be recognised and celebrated, but yet it still feels like more coverage is given to the negative downfalls of a player than their positive achievements. In this league superstars are players who leave it all on the floor and it should be left at that. This isn't reality T.V. and Perez Hilton doesn't blog for the NBA. The next time the life and times of Gilbert Arenas et al is brought up around the office why not change the subject to real basketball news? Like the countless number of role players who put in 100% each night to little recognition outside their teams fan base. Gilbert's a top tier player who deserves recognition even in turbulent times but there are a lot of other players outside the spotlight who deserve coverage too.

There are many examples of this but the best has to be Tim Duncan. What great talent, more than 20 and 10 over a dozen years. The best power forward ever, period. Sure he is respected deeply as one of the elite but often times when other superstars are considered in discussion he's lower down on the pecking order. OK so his trademark bank-shot doesn't make posters and he isn't at the top of the first returns of All-Star votes but why? Just because he’s more about reliability then excitement? His status, his play and the results can not be denied, even with his better years in the rear-view. He is the prototype of an NBA big man; he is the model of consistency. Instead of making the headlines for his off court antics he climbs the record books for his prolific endeavours on the court. So what if that isn't gangster, it's real. People are often too quick to bring a player with troubles down rather then put the ones that deserve recognition on a pedestal.

So therefore although just like Javaris we shouldn’t treat his current situation lightly sometimes all the talk and news in the league is too heavily focused on the wrong thing. Javaris has turned himself in and until a verdict is passed not much else will really happen. This is for the court of law, so let's focus our basketball talk back on our court. So whilst waiting on this isn’t it time that people focused on other things in the league? Why not focus on the finer things in basketball? That’s what this game we all love really is about.

Friday, 9 September 2011

RODMAN ARTEST


One and the same.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

Call them crazy but Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman share more than a few eccentricities and playing time for the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. The two enigmatic and entertaining ball players, personalities and all-round stars, have a lot more extra curricula activities and facets of themselves that meet the average or critical eye. There's just something about these two. They seem to have done just about everything and anything they want. Where do we start?

You think Ron Artest is cuckoo for appearing on a Jimmy Kimmel interview in just the bare essentials of his boxer shorts? Well Dennis Rodman showed up to his own wedding as the bride, veil, gown and everything. Speaking of which the woman he married was Carmen Electra in a bizarre marriage that lasted as long as Ron Artest's latest dose of reality might. Ron is literally 'Dancing With The Stars' for a season (damn this lockout) with Lamar Odom's beau's brother and Cher's daughter/son Chaz Bono. Still don't rule Ron and his left feet out, stranger things have happened, my moneys on him and his excellent defensive footwork to win.

Stranger things have indeed happened. Queensbridge native Artest has released rap records, OK so he's no Nas, but he can sure rap better than Kobe, while Dennis D.J.'s everywhere from Madrid to Tokyo, sound strange? Well, how about this? Ron's successfully done stand up, sure he was no Dave Chappelle or Jamie Foxx, but he was no Doug Williams either. Rodman's also made us laugh out loud with the best story about his old flame Madonna. He's also successfully taken to the Hollywood stage with Van Damme in the blockbuster 'Double Team', amongst other films, we can't wait to see Artest in a film either. Dennis has also penned several entertaining and curiously titled autobiographies, even promoting one by sitting in a coffin. These boys sure kill us laughing, we can't wait to see and read what Ronny has to say.

Ron infamously brawled with fans in the 'Malice Of The Palace', which he has since made humble amends for, but Rodman has thrown it down with Hulk Hogan and believe it or not NBA strongman Karl Malone in a WWF wrestling ring. 'W.T.F' indeed! Ron has one different but generous things like hold open invitational Venice Beach football games via Twitter, while police helicopters once had to stop one of Rod's beach block parties. Ron Artest recently changed his name to Metta World Peace, Rodman's groundbreaking, creative and at times gender, defying dress has made it hard to figure out who he is, but he dubbed himself the 'devil' to Jordan's 'God' and Pippen's 'Jesus'. It's all in the name of fun however, like when Dennis would change and spray his hair a different colour and pattern each game. Something Ron's experimented with once or twice and even convinced D.J. Mbenga to do.

Call them what you want but this proves nothing but the passion and creative expression of heart of the pair. The type of unique, individual and specialist qualities that helped them become legendary all-round and classic, irreplaceable niche players in the league. The two have given (and in Ron's case still give) many top franchises their sensational, serious services. The two have even agreed to play overseas with British franchises in their time. These comic clowns sure know how to have fun, but they're no joke. They take their game and business seriously. This is why they are two of the greatest NBA players of all-time, Hall of Fame approved and waiting. From Ron's multiple 'Defensive Player of the Year' awards to Dennis' countless rebound accolades the pair have grabbed and stole the limelight from those looking to star big on the offensive side in more ways than one. Don't front on the offence of these two either, they could and can score big too. There numbers game goes beyond the constant jersey changing Artest (he once sported '37' in honour of the number of times Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' went platinum) and Rodman's bizarre requests (he once was refused the chance to wear '69' or '007' by the shaken and stirred Dallas Mavs who felt screwed around).

Still statistically speaking these legends have gone beyond the box-score, with their hustle, hard work, passion, persistence, skill, will, drive and dedication. Ron Artest has owned every opponents best player like Dennis Rodman owned every loose ball. These defensive dynamo's have become benchmark pioneers for the 'other' side of the court. These two men also provided immeasurable, incredible help to the two greatest basketball players of all time; Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. From opponent to teammate Ron has gone from Kobe's worst agitator to his greatest motivator, while in the eyes of critics Rodman's had Jordan's back, through the days he was wrongly hated, to the days he was rightfully, finally celebrated. Some may not understand the tributes and talents of this pair but that's what makes these enigmatic players and personalities that much more individual and unique.

Now how's this, in the list of outgoing behaviour? Ron Artest has acted as an advocate for mental health even selflessly auctioning off a players most valuable possession in his championship ring to raise money for the cause he's down for. He's not the only one who turned his biggest honour around to others. This year when an emotional and genuine Dennis Rodman was inducted into the Hall Of Fame he gave the most humbling, honest and heartfelt speech ever heard as he admitted he thought he needed to be a better father and man. Dennis sacrificed his moment for a poignant and profound declaration to his loved ones. What both these dedications by these two men show is heart and a hell of a lot of it. An under appreciated quality of both individuals that show just the players and men they truly are.

All in all the personalities and complexities of Dennis Rodman and Ron Artest are more than what meets the stereotypical eye. Sure this pair of eccentric characters may not be squeaky clean and cut, but from the screeches they make on the court to what they do above the rest off it they really are something special. Replace crazy with the word charismatic and you my just begin to figure out what makes these two individuals be the players and men they are. Two men with so much passion, talent and dedication with more heart than the critics give them. Forget about the hate, you have to love guys like this. Similar but all in all their own men.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE


Agent Smith.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Joe Smith is not your average Joe. Joe Smith is not your average Mr. Smith. Joe Smith is not your average NBA journeyman either. He's been one of the association's most unique, dedicated and hardest working talents over the last two decades, helping more teams then you can count and remember and taking his regular name to households all around and across America.

The multi-talented, double team, triple threat has built a career off versatility. Whether it's perfectly portraying basketball legend Connie Hawkins in the movie 'Rebound', or acting as and channelling other versatile big man greats like Bob McAdoo on the court. Or whether it be releasing a real rap album with his lyrical skills under his Twitter alias Joe Beast, or whether it be his basketball skill-set 'Stutter' stepping like singer Joe, while leaning back like Fat Joe, to 'Pump It Up' like Joe Budden, Joe Smith does this. Truly not your average Joe.

In the matrix of his NBA career, Joe's been everywhere like Agent Smith, ready to step in and be whatever he's needed to be, do whatever is needed to be done. He's done this for 12 out of 30 of the association's franchises, almost half the league. He shares the record for playing for the most teams in his career with speedy guard Chucky Brown, physical forward Tony Massenburg and top star Jim Jackson and soon he could hold it. Just like his co-record holders, he's been able to do this because of his hard-work, job dedication and versatile talents. He's been more than trade bait, this journeyman is always destined to help anyone. Accepted everywhere like credit cards, to the debit of his opponent, he's always guaranteed to work and you can cash in on that. He's been the leagues prototype of the best 21st century big man, athletic, strong, fundamental, with long arms and an even longer, stretch-Armstrong range too. With a slender but strong frame, Smith can run and dunk like a guard, but also go inside and bang with his fellow forwards and centres. Joe really is a beast.

Coming out of Norfolk, Virginia this 6 foot 10, 225 pound, 'Naismith College Player of the Year', Maryland marvel was the perfect specimen for a basketball player. It was almost like he was created for a video game. It's little wonder, he was taken 1st in the 1995 draft by the Golden State Warriors, Joe Smith's name was ready for the big, bright lights. He was a star, made. Smith's all rookie year saw him took before stars Kevin Garnett, Antonio McDyess, Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse in the draft and although he came second to mighty mouse Damon Stoudemire (another guy he was taken before) in the 'Rookie Of The Year' voting he still showed and proved that he could stand next to all these legends.

Smith was looking strong as a Warrior in Golden State, but then after a brief pit-stop in Philadelphia came the Minnesota Timberwolves years. Following the last lockout Smith was a top prize in the 1998 free-agent market and Minny stole him with a bargain sign. Then with fellow third year man and legendary forward prototype Kevin Garnett, Smith would form a frontcourt tandem for the ages that would cure K.G. and Minnesota's problems and bad luck. That was until the genie went back into the lamp as salary scandal hit.

After Minnesota where severely punished and the NBA voided the last year of Smith's contract the unselfish star was on the move once again. Michigan became Joe's home for a year to start the new millennium. Smith played well as a backup for a Detroit Piston's team that was getting deeper and deeper and stronger and stronger. Journeyman Joe got his Marvin Gaye on calling home wherever he laid his hat. Then Smith had to give up Motown for his chance for career redemption in his return to Minnesota. Like Marvin it was time to get it on.

After two great seasons this travelling man's journey really began, as the buck started from Milwaukee to more stake in Philly, by way of a nugget of time in Denver. The Bucks, Sixers and Nuggets sure needed him, as did the wind and wine of the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. Joe was always a big contributor and difference maker to a team, able to put up significant minutes and statistics. His valuable veteran presence solidified a team, his size bolstered the frontcourt and his name gave significance to the bench and the box-score when it was called. Trades then sent him to Oklahoma and then New Orleans (but the trade was rescinded), but either or-the Thunder or the Hornets-Smith brought his worth and value with every transaction and transition.

In his season in the A with the Atlanta Hawks, Smith was a much needed elder-statesman on a young, raw but hungry bunch of Hawks in the ATL. In that year Smith made history as well becoming the 92nd player in NBA history to reach 1000 games played. He achieved this under century, grand record in a game against the New Jersey Nets who he was then traded to. Only in Joe Smith's career would something like that happen. Then only three months later Smith's bags may as well have remained unpacked as he then headed to sunnier California climates as he headed to the Los Angeles Lakers for Sasha Vujacic in a big, complicated trade that also involved the Houston Rockets. Proving to be a vital cog for the then reigning champion Lakers, Smith replaced the machines big contributions off the bench. He is a key member of this L.A. Team, again giving them depth and veteran leadership, making his points and rebounds in his minutes. He is the passionate, energy guy, motivating his team from the bench that the Lakers missed since charismatic characters like Ronny Turiaf and Mark Madsen left. The number one pick with the number one jersey, giving all he has, first and foremost, front and centre.

Smith has made it a great career with averages of 10.9 points and 6.4 rebounds (including 18.7 and 8.5 in a sensational sophomore season in Golden State) and his campaign to be one of the best veterans, role-players and hard workers this league has seen continues. It's only going to get more legendary. The Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA as a whole owe him a debt of gratitude. He's been through it all and done it all and he 'aint done. He's giving it all to his teams with that family type love. Yes sir!

TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF


A cold wind blows.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

Just over a year ago it was a done deal. Chris Bosh signed a contract in Miami with two new, 'super' friends that ensure he'd only look like a Raptor from then on. As CB4 took his underrated game to a bigger market Miami went to the finals, while Toronto hit the lottery looking for their next big ticket. It got an awful lot hotter down in South Beach and a hell of a lot colder up in Canada.

Bosh may have been where the franchise started but he’s not the be all and end all. Toronto has some other issues that they need to take care of before this franchise becomes a dinosaur team in this league. Before they become more worthy of the new CBL, then the NBA. This lone Canadian franchise needs to show it's not another Memphis Grizzlies, they can't end up like Vancouver.

At the peak of this team’s power over the last decade they were almost unstoppable. They actually had a solid, decent squad of players running from 1-15 and had a legitimate shot at being a contender for the first time since 'Air Canada', Carter made his departure. They need to get back to this level of play.

This was back in 2006 where the Raps came out of nowhere to be the Phoenix Suns of the East. A lot had changed about the franchise, ownership, money, court design, color schemes, etc. The franchise was refreshed and invigorated. Gone where the previous childish logos, the team wasn’t playing kids games any more. Colangelo’s input had given this team the push they needed. Even the red and white uniforms spoke volumes for their patriotic stance towards their country. The Raptors weren’t about to take the Memphis Grizzlies route, they where here to stay in Canada. Hip-hop music was being played between timeouts; an attractive presenter was keeping fans interested. The whole setup in the Air Canada Centre breathed new life into this team. The fans came out in capacities and gave the team those all important energy boosts.

As for the players, Bosh was becoming more and more comfortable with himself, resulting in him becoming more and more of a force and one of the premier players in this league. He let his hair grow out and he let his game spill over on to the court. He even came back from injury to clinch a game winning three from the then Iverson and C-Webb strong-led 76ers. Basketball was getting more entertaining and exciting up north back then. It was time for the network anchors to grab their warm clothes and take a trip across the border to see real ball. Basketball without borders, yeah the Raps showed that, from TSN to ESPN.

The rest of the team stood out as well. T.J. Ford made sure that fans soon forgot about favourite Charlie V and Fred Jones was throwing mid- second quarter dunks down hard, making it almost impossible for fans to go get some snacks. If concession profits fell then Freddy would have to be fingered for that one. As fans got up and stayed in their seats more than those waiting for free taco's. The team had a real international flavor as well. This brought extra options to the team and extra dimensions to the game. Anthony Parker shot the lights out most nights, he was one of the most slept on role players in the league as he was capable of lighting up to 20 quicker than most bench players in the league, he was pure and more than Candace Parker's brother.

A player who was dirty on the other hand was Jorge Garbajosa. Garbo however was dirty in a good way, take Chris Oakley, Rick Fox and ‘The Junkyard Dog’ and mix them all together then you’ve got ‘The Garbage Man’. A loyal worker who handled all the rough plays, hustled hard and had a pretty stroke to counter his gruff look. It’s amazing Garbo is no longer in the NBA as he’s the type of role player that champions are made of, but then again this is the league where amazing happens after all. Even if the 'amazing' is truly mind-blogging.

All though he showed some Rookie teething problems, Andrea Bargnani was showing real promise especially in certain runs in the game. Jose Calderon was drawing most of the non-Bosh attention however (and thankfully for the T-Dot he still is). He was so quick, talented and prolific that he was taking Ford’s drive for the starting position of point guard away and he's still running with T.J. out of town. He showed a rare mix of speed and scoring prowess for a small guy that Tony Parker had shown before him and that Rajon Rondo is showing since. When Jose was taking off court on a stretcher during a home game against Golden State fans looked like the Raptors season was in jeopardy. That game was only in earl December, that’s how little time it took for Jose to make a certain impact. That's what's lead to all these plus years.

So this T-Dot team where putting their exclamation point on a league that had disregarded them as the ‘last remaining Canadian franchise’ or ‘that team Vince Carter’ used to play for (you can still hear the boo’s and hisses right?). The Raptors where playoff bound and the future looked bright but since then over the last half decade they have looked less and less like this team. This franchise is far from becoming extinct but their glory years are looking more and more like memories for youtube then current highlight reels. The time for buffering is over, this team needs to be seen clearly for what they can be.

Toronto is one of those underrated cities and their basketball team was looking like that too. With that being said however Toronto is still one of those big market, tourist cities. All the foreigners coming for a visit back in ’06 (whether holiday or visa related) would have been pleasantly surprised to see a Raptors game. Nowadays they’ll just stick to Leaf games because Ice Hockey is Canada’s bread and butter. That doesn't mean the Raptors are playing with knives made for the margarine however. Slasher DeMar DeRozan makes this point cut, while Andrea Bargnani has sharpened his basketball tools and skill set. These two leading men also have great support from juggernaut Jarrett Jack, the brilliant Barbosa, the tough Reggie Evans, the tween of Sonny Weems and the dunking dynamo Amir Johnson. This type of support won't leave the future weather of this Ontario side overcast.

Fans and viewers alike however must tune back in. There can be a reception again however. Some of the Raptors core may have rotted but this basketball team can still eat if they just show their still hungry for success and so long as they don’t make a meal out of the good things they have. This type of fire and determination which was displayed in 2006 is still here even if Bosh is gone like Vince. Not to get Carter or hate Chris, but this team has moved on before and can move on again. Bryan Colangelo is a business man, and a smart one too, now its time for the general manager to show that he’s all about rebuilding the foundations that he laid with this team back in what was arguably the franchises best all-round year. Then other big players like Bosh may want to play and it may just feel like 2006 again.