Off-season Mayhem…

Here we are in the week after the NBA draft where teams are reshaping their franchises. First Round picks are introduced, contracts are getting renewed, retired players are looking to unretire themselves, players who aren’t retired but should be retiring are weighing the options of retiring, and then, of course, the free agency market.

Every year during this time, contracts are terminated. Players run around looking for options of where someone should pay them to play basketball (yes, i am jealous). Players of all size and skill level fly themselves from one rumor to another regarding where they are going to “take their talents” next.

Players like Terrel Harris could go through all summer without anyone even knowing he played basketball. Dude is fresh off an NBA championship where he played 3 minutes and got 3 points during the entire NBA Finals. Joke all you want there are not many people who can say that they accomplished that.

And then there are players like Omer Asik. Asik is an underrated defensive center who was an important part of Tom Thibodeau’s menacing defense. On the offense, he’s pretty much as valuable as a rock (but when you have Derrick Rose, who cares?). Omer Asik was offered a $25.1 million, 3 year offer sheet from the Houston Rockets this past week. The Chicago Bulls love the Turk so much, that they are going to match that offer. It would seem ridiculous for an offensively challenged center to be offered $8 million a year, but then you remember DeAndre Jordan’s contract and you just move on. Centers will always be overpaid because they are such a rare physical specimen. NBA players will always be overpaid because General Managers are idiots. That’s why we have a lockout every decade.

After players like Asik, there will be the “Ray Allen”s. You see it every year. An aging veteran that still has a couple of tricks up his sleeve looking for another chance at a ring. This year, it seems like it’ll be Ray Allen, who is most likely to join the Heat. Last year, it was Vince Carter (or whatever he is) signing with the Mavs. 2 years ago, there was Juwan Howard (Heat) and the O’Neals (Celtics). Howard would get his ring eventually, Shaq wouldn’t get his in Boston but he wouldn’t care because he has enough already, and as for Jermaine…well, not everyone can win. Not all of these “goddamit, get me a ring before I retire” moves work out (just ask Karl Malone), while some of them do (just ask Gary Payton). But in end, it’s all fun for us fans to see players in a uniform we never thought they’d be in, playing a role we’re not use to see them play, playing at skill level that makes you ponder how so much better they were in their prime.

And finally, you have your “LeBron”s. Superstar players fed up with the way their organization has been building up their surrounding casts. Superstars who were drafted into a smaller city finally out of their rookie contract looking for some more greener pastures. Some superstars re-sign with their old teams, but the trend these days are changing. Team up with your superfriends! That was the message that was sent out loud and clear in the summer of 2010 when 3 of the top 5 picks took their talents to Miami and created a super team which has scarily only started to scratch the surface of it’s potential during the past NBA Finals. The trend picked up in New York only a couple of months later Carmelo demanded a trade to the Knicks to team up with the recently signed Amare Stoudamire. The experiment seems like a failure right now, but with the addition of Tyson Chandler and the emergence of role players like Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields, and others, have the Knicks faithful optimistic about their future. The trend has been to team up and the lastest example are the Brooklyn Nets, who have had a hectic off-season, starting with resigning Gerald Wallace to a ridiculously-overpaid-but-normal-by-NBA-Standards contract. Then they traded their bench for Joe Johnson and his black hole of a contract. And just recently, twitter has announced that Deron Williams has finnaly agreed to re-sign with the Nets after teasing the city of Dallas so much. Mark Cuban must be feeling like that guy who went to a club and was fooling around with the hottest girl there, only to have her rich, skinny, unattractive, Russian ex-boyfriend take her back at the very last second. These three pieces alone, teamed up with Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks, and Gerald Green (if he resigns) form a team that can very well compete for the Eastern Conference Championship. If you add in the Dwight-Howard-to-Brooklyn possibilities (which I will not, because there is too much to be considered whether it is having to trade Brooks, Lopez, Humphries, and the Brooklyn Bridge, which would leave them with practically no bench, or having to consider which players they would get in return), this team could very well be the second (or third, if you count the Knicks) of the forming of a super team via free agency.

All this off-season chaos (the no-names, the overpaid, the veterans, the superstars) could be causing strokes for General Managers and all people involved. But for me, as a fan, it is all so very entertaining. And for me that is enough.  I love this business Game.

Ps. While writing this post, my most favorite finding was how the trade rumors about Brook Lopez to Orlando had to include that he is friends with Ryan Anderson and he loves Disney World. Enough with all the “going to this team because Harrison Barnes player X is friends with Kyrie Irving player Y”.

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Memoirs of a Meme…

I have never had any good things to say about Yao Ming. To me, he has always been a seven-foot-six guy whose never grabbed enough rebounds for his size. He averaged above 10 rebounds per game only two times his entire career (three if you count his 9.9 effort in ’08-’09) even though he had a clear three inches above everyone else. And this without never playing alongside a great rebounding forward. The second leading rebounders of the Yao Ming Era ranged from Tracy McGrady to Kelvin Cato to Louis Scola. It always bothered me that a guy who had to just stand on his toes to dunk could never grab more rebounds than he did.

Yao was never a intimidating presence in the paint. He’d often settle for jumpshots of a baby hook. You’d rarely see him power his opponent down in the post and going up for the two handed slam in his grill. He was always tagged as the “nice guy”.

“There’ll be nights I tell him, ‘Yao, you’ve got to get a tech tonight.’ Do some yelling, do something to get a technical foul so these gusy will start giving you a call. But that’s who he is—such a nice guy. One of these days, I’m going to have to get it out of him.” – Tracy McGrady

He would seem zombie-like at times. You wouldn’t see him screaming at the top of his lungs. That was just the way it is. And it bothered the hell out of me.

And then there’s the amount of blocks. He never averaged more than two blocks a game. He lacked the mobility to be a great post defender. If you search “yao ming blocks” in youtube, you get a real Yao Ming block here and there, but half of the search list is populated by Yao Ming getting blocked. By Nate Robinson. All 5-9 of him.

Everything about him bothered me. He’s 7-6 for Christ’s sake!  But then again maybe I’m just jealous.

Maybe it’s because he’s 7-6 and that’s why I’ve never had many good things to say about him. 7 footers a like freaks of nature. And they always seem to be clumsy. Manute Bol. Shaq. Gheorge Muresan. Yao Ming. They just were all so easy to make fun of.

But the funny thing is that, nowadays, people know Yao Ming not for his basketball career, but because of this:

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Yao Ming became an internet inside joke (or what you would call a meme, which are pronounced meem not meme as I originally thought it was pronounced) in the summer of 2010. Unfortunate enough, that would also be before Yao’s final season in the NBA. You can now see Yao’s 2009 press-conference all over the internet in rage comics where he represents a misogynist (termed the “Dumb Bitch” version) or expresses a “flippant attitude towards an unworthy remark made by someone else” (termed the “Fuck That” version).

It is sad in a way. Despite never having anything good to say about him, it is a sad way for him to be remembered.

Yao Ming might never have been an aggressive, powerful, screaming giant but he was indeed a peaceful, nimble, elegant one. If you watch his game and if you look past his tendency to seem soft or “too nice”, you will see that he has an efficient set of post moves. He possessed the athleticism most 7 footers lacked, and that made him special in a way. He might have not blocked as much shots as one would expect from someone that tall, but he indeed alter many shots. Opponents were sure to have second thoughts before driving into the lane when Yao Ming was ready to swat their shots away.

Most importantly Yao Ming was an ambassador. Sure, Wang Zhizhi was the first chinese player to play in the NBA, but he didn’t even come close to having the same amount of impact on chinese basketball as Yao Ming. Yao Ming put China on the basketball map. Kids in china played basketball because of Yao Ming (even though most wanted to be Kobe more than Yao, because let’s face it, not everyone is 7 foot 6) . Yao Ming bridged the gap between the NBA and China and his path over to the NBA wasn’t exactly smooth. He was tagged as the nation’s basketball gem since birth.

If you ask me about Yao Ming, I won’t have many good things to say about his game. I never really liked his game and I don’t think that will change. But I certainly don’t want him to be remembered as an inside joke for the people of the internet. I just want him to be remembered as a basketball player who paved the trail for the growth of Asian basketball.

(What Up, Jeremy Lin?)

Oh, and this is just too funny to leave out. No matter how many times you’ve seen it.

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