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Full Court Press

I'm going to switch this up with more draft links and general NBA news this week due to a lack of Blazers news. Here's the Blazers stuff first, of course.

Runyon from Trail Post takes a Blazers-centric look at the NBA Finals.  He makes a great point: both teams were responsible for vicious pain (emotional or physical) in the Rose Garden this year.

John Canzano says it's time to trade.

They called Bob Whitsitt "Trader Bob." And when he came close, but missed, on a championship window, Whitsitt was vilified for not being connected to the community, and for failing to spend enough nights in Portland.

Pritchard's legacy remains undefined.

Pritchard's already walked across the Willamette in the minds of Blazers fans. He pulled Roy and Aldridge out of the same draft. He recruited Fernandez. He signed free agents Blake and Joel Przybilla. And draft pick Jerryd Bayless feels like a big-time player. But ultimately, Portland's GM is going to be judged on his ability to get the franchise a championship.

For those interested, I asked Mr. Canzano his thoughts regarding whether Bayless can take Blake's spot in training camp (say what you will about JC but he's the only Oregonian employee writing about the team this month). He says Bayless is half a year to a year away from being ready.  

Sean Meagher has a list of draft links.

Greg Oden writes about his first, of what we all hope will be many, offseason workouts.

I also had my first workout yesterday my body is super sore i squatted for the first time in like two years. My legs was sore after four of them. At the end of the work out i couldnt even feel my legs but i know it will get better next week and i will keep on working hard and harder than the next day preparing for next season.

In light of Slam Magazine's news that Rasheed Wallace is looking for big money or he will retireBomani Jones is suggesting Sheed take a different route: coaching. He's fired up a facebook group and everything.

The time is now. Sheed's got next!    

Ian Thomsen quotes Nate McMillan on flopping and offers his latest draft buzz.

Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan thinks that's a bad idea for the NBA. "Guys do that in college [practices], but with pros?" he said. "There were coaches years ago that used to practice it -- I heard Pat Riley may have done that back in the early days. But the risk of an injury is too much. We chart the guys who take the charges, and we talk about getting position. But if you practice it and someone falls down on someone's knee, you can injure yourself or someone else."    

The likely candidates to draft UConn's Thabeet up high are No. 2 Memphis, No. 3 Oklahoma City and No. 6 Minnesota -- otherwise he may slide past Toronto at No. 9 and out of the top 10.

This would not necessarily be a bad thing for him. Like every player in this draft, it's crucial that Thabeet land with a team that can accommodate him. Don't you think Brook Lopez is happy he slid last June to No. 10 with New Jersey, where he filled a huge need by averaging 13.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks?

Dwight Jaynes with a look at LeBron.

But I do think James has a ways to go. Obviously, he's capable of making great plays. Of doing great things. Of doing so many things that help you win games. Obviously, he's a supreme talent.

But I'm not quite sure he's totally harnessed his abilities yet. I don't think he really understands all of what he can - and cannot - do. When your limitations are so much farther out there than everyone else's, it's difficult to know exactly where they are. And I do believe, no matter how good you are, you need to recognize what you can't do.

A couple of interesting notes from Jonathan Givony at Draft Express, who is hitting grand slam after grand slam in his coverage.

Most teams we've spoken to in Chicago are indicating that they believe Oklahoma City is indeed leaning towards picking Harden. They also believe the Thunder are not enamored with Rubio at all, as they are committed to developing Russell Westbrook at his natural position-point guard.     

One player who really doesn't seem to have very much positive buzz these days is Ty Lawson. "Injury prone" one assistant GM calls him. "A backup point guard...he's 100% behind Jonny Flynn" another NBA representative says. "He's a product of North Carolina's system" a third told us. Lawson seems to be outside of the lottery at the moment, but still has a good chance to be picked by two teams looking for point guards in the late teens, Philadelphia (#17) and Atlanta (#19). He'll have to keep Eric Maynor at bay, though.     

Givony also breaks down the Combine measurements, which I guess is a little creepy when you think about it but whatever.

DeJuan Blair's height of 6'5.25 without shoes may cause some teams to raise an eyebrow, but they will likely look at his other measurables as well. For comparison's sake, Blair is a quarter of an inch taller than Jason Maxiell without shoes, and an inch shorter than Paul Millsap. In terms of wingspan (7-2) and standing reach (8-10 ½), Blair is slightly longer than Millsap and comparable with Maxiell. He's nowhere near Elton Brand's mammoth proportions, though-Brand has a 7-5 1/2 wingspan and a 9-2 standing reach. 

Very cool behind-the-scenes note from 48 Minutes of Hell's Timothy Varner from the pre-draft combine.

Don't get me wrong. There is plenty of talk about drill times, vertical leaps, and all that. Danny Green, for example, measured longer than expected. Luke Harangody, who outbenched everyone here, is being called Matt Bonner with muscle. DeJuan Blair is short. Terrance Williams can really jump. DeMar DeRozan looks fluid. You hear these things. (Green, by the way, worked out for San Antonio and Harangody interviewed with them last night.)

But you also hear plenty of stuff about how players carry themselves, how they account for past mistakes, whether or not they can maintain a conversation without texting. Teams take notes. A well-connected source who had read my recent post about Vladimir Dasic pulled me aside to say that many teams wouldn't touch him because he was "not all there." Otherwise, I was told, he'd project much higher. Too much risk.

Graydon Gordian also from 48 Minutes of Hell had a hilarious take on DeJuan Blair.

Blair went on to compare himself to former undersized forwards such as Charles Barkley and Larry Johnson, the latter being a particularly apt comparison. Blair is nothing if not a banger. In fact, weighing in at 276, he is the heaviest player at the Combine. And from the looks of it, all 276 of those pounds are pure muscle. As my mother always says, "You couldn't shoot a twelve gauge through him."

Ziller has a nice look at Tyreke Evans, who has come a long way from a shy conversation in the bowels of the Rose Garden after the 2008 Nike Hoop Summit

If Evans can play the point in the NBA -- his record at the helm of Memphis would indicate an affirmative answer there -- he will be the longest, biggest point guard in the league. Bigger than Billups, Williams. Longer than Rondo. (I think. Rondo didn't submit to measurements.) If he has or can develop the skills, he'll be able to post up any single point guard in the league. If he has the heart to devote himself to team defense, he should be one of the guards most physically ready to challenge every jumper. If he can jump and sprint, he could be deadly in transition. At both ends.

Again, he needs to develop the right skills, the right coach, the right team fit, the right attitude. But that's one helluva canvas to bring to the parlour.

(Yes, I admit it, I am only linking that Hoop Summit conversation because I wrote that Evans was "the best player in his class." I would be shocked if anyone from his class went before him in this draft)

On Saturday I pointed you to John Hollinger's take on the Nuggets.  Here's Kelly Dwyer's, which is a little more cup-half-full.

And if the Nuggets get a string of teams they match up well with this time next year, or someone gets hurt, or a stud becomes available for that trade exception (that I don't think they'll use and wouldn't blame them for not using), then we could see the team's first NBA championship.

Sometimes being "right there" is just right. Especially when it's not your money to spend.

Bethlehem Shoals goes on a long, fun trip regarding Shaq's shadow over this NBA Finals matchup.

Despite O'Neal's attempt to undermine Howard, or Howard's obvious inferiority as a pure center-perhaps one of the reasons this slippage is possible-Dwight, with his boyish good looks and effortless acrobatics, is that lovable big men Shaq never could be. Yes, we can debate for days when he is in fact a big man, or just a bigger Amare. But the Superman has stuck there without any sense that we're being forced into embracing his might (like how Superman really could have destroyed the world whenever he wanted). On the other hand, Kobe, while he remains the epitomal post-Jordan off-guard, we all know that this trappings of his game have become so methodical, his aura so admirably bleak, that it's transformed the dream-like "as an explosive shooting guard, I will get rings" of Jordan into a optimization of the position so that it embraces as much of the big man rigor as is possible. LeBron is unstoppable, quasi-religious. Kobe is so professional that he's always adjusting, a character who is about as Terminator-like as guards can possibly get. Like when they made the evil robot a hot lady for T3.    

Mark Cuban's very interesting take on internet criticism.

It soon became clear to them that vast majority of what is written on the web goes unread and even that which is read, is quickly forgotten. That even when something is heavily commented on, it is usually just an onslaught by the "amateur outties".

Fragmentation applies to 100pct of media. We have gotten to the point where it is so easy to publish to the web, that most of it is ignored. When it is not ignored and it garners attention, the attention is usually from those people, the amateur outties, whose only goal is to create volume on the web in hopes of being noticed.

Thats not to say there are no sites that people consume and pay attention to. There obviously are. Thats where the "professional outties" come in. They are branded. They have an identity that usually extends beyond the net. They are able to make a living publishing, even if its not much of one. They are the sites that people consume and may possibly remember.

Yahoo's Dan Wetzel breaks down the developing Derrick Rose mess.  

This isn't to absolve the people involved, but the question shouldn't just be did Derrick Rose cheat on his SAT?

It should be why the heck did he have to take it in the first place?

If Rose sang or danced or wrote computer code, even if he hit forehands or curveballs and not free throws, his acumen at standardized questions concerning probability, diction and critical reading wouldn't matter.

They do in basketball because NBA commissioner David Stern wanted to control long-term labor costs and use college ball to market his young stars. In 2005, his league began requiring American players (but not Europeans) to be at least one year out of high school to be drafted.

If a genius/prodigy/pick-your-favorite-word like Derrick Rose can't pass his SAT, that tells me more about the uselessness of the SAT than it does the "intelligence" of Derrick Rose.

MSNBC's Dan Fleschner with a lengthy interview with Michael Lewis.

Are there more Shane Battiers out there in the NBA? And how does studying the exception to the rules of NBA selfishness help us learn things about the vast majority of players who are not exceptions?

A: Yes, there are more of them out there. The Rockets have generated a list of five, six, seven players who they thought were dramatically undervalued. And there's the converse - players who do well in conventional stats who are overvalued. I think the thrust of the story is that what's going to happen in basketball has happened in baseball. A wand will be waved and a new system will be put in place on how to value players. The Rockets will tell you that everyone in the NBA is at least slightly misvalued.

The Phoenix Mercury (the new obsession of Phoenix Stan from Bright Side of the Sun) have made history by selling corporate sponsorship space on their jerseys to Life Lock. 

Taking a cue from international sports, where displaying corporate names on jerseys is standard, the Mercury on Monday will announce a three-year deal with Tempe, Ariz.-based LifeLock that is worth at least $1 million annually.

"I think the league and all our owners embrace innovation," Donna Orender, the W.N.B.A. president, said. "We're constantly looking at ways to showcase the value we bring to our partners. And when the Mercury and LifeLock connected, it rang bells."

Here's KP2's take on the matter.

The most significant thing about this partnership is that NBA commissioner David Stern is participating in the press conference in New York announcing the deal. In doing so, Stern is surely giving his tacit approval to not only other WNBA teams but NBA teams as well to pursue jersey sponsorships. And while there will surely be a backlash bemoaning the spread of advertising onto player jerseys as a sign of the Apocalypse, don't doubt that this is coming to the NBA at some point.

Alas, this is probably about the worst time in recent history to be looking for increased sponsorship opportunities, not only because of the economic crisis in general but specifically because of the criticism around the advertising done by troubled companies, like Citigroup's naming-rights deal with the New York Mets' Citi Field. Never has advertising seemed more frivolous in the public eye. In time, however, this is sure to blow over. If you put the over-under on when a company will appear on an NBA jersey at five years, I would take the under. And if you put the over-under on when every NBA jersey is sponsored at a decade, I'd be awfully tempted.

Brother Wendell Maxey has an interview with former NBA coach Eric Musselman.

Stu over at NBANoise got to meet Darryl Dawkins.

It's worth noting that along with his standard signature, he also signs the words "Choc Thunder."      

Remember the long lost "Dwight Howard or Emeka Okafor" debate? John Ryan of the Mercury News goes back in the archives to dig out some funny quotes.

Sam Smith, Chicago Tribune, draft review: 1. Orlando, Dwight Howard. "Big mistake. ... Is he Kwame Brown? One thing's for sure, he's no Kevin Garnett."

Dirk's wifey is a hot mess. The latest on this sordid tale from Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. If I really wanted to set off a flame war, I'd make a case for how much differently this thing would be handled by the media if Dirk was Black and Cristal Taylor was Euro/White, but instead I'll just make a hypothetical, passing reference to that line of reasoning. Taylor, in her defense, says...

"People are saying I'm some bad person because I made some mistakes years ago, but they don't know me," she says. "They don't know me like Dirk knows me. I'm a better person now.

"Nobody cares about the black girl that wrote the bad checks. I mean, give me a break. There are people in here who have done things 20 times worse. It's all about Dirk and his money. That's all this is about."

A die-hard Warriors fan has a pretty solid meltdown in email form to the team.

Drop other links in the comments please.

-- Ben (