Thursday, October 27, 2011

CHASE RANK: The NBA's Top 100 Players

I had problems with ESPN's #nbarank . Everyone had problems with ESPN's #nbarank . Here are my Top 100. But first my guidelines:
-Homerism - MATTERS (I tried though)
- Above all I ranked based on what players I think would get you the most wins simply by his presence on a team. If I were picking my top 12 guys based on one single game to determine my life, I may not pick them in this order. Purely based on an 82 game season. Here we go: (I added comments when needed)

100. Andrei Kirilenko
99. Ben Gordon
98. Tayshaun Prince
97. Andrea Barginani
96. Chris Kaman
95. Tony Allen
94. Gordon Hayward
93. Elton Brand
92. Emeka Okafor
91. Mehmet Okur
90. DeAndre Jordan
89. Andre Miller
88. Chauncey Billups In the battle of washed-up, semi-fat PG's I took Billups over Miller
87. Thaddeus Young
86. Carl Landry
85. Darren Collison
84. Jrue Holliday
83. JJ Barea
82. David Lee Perhaps the most wildly overrated player in ESPN's ranking
81. Shawn Marion
80. Caron Butler
79. Brandon Jennings
78. Danillo Gallinari
77. Grant Hill If you would have told me 7 years ago that Grant Hill was still IN THE LEAGUE ...
76. Raymond Felton
75. Demarcus Cousins
74. Jamal Crawford
73. Derrick Favors
72. Wesley Matthews
71. DeMar Derozan
70. Nicolas Batum
69. Kyle Lowry Congrats Kyle
68. Taj Gibson
67. Aaron Afflalo
66. Mike Conley
65. Brook Lopez
64. Brandon Roy Should legally change his name to Poor Brandon Roy
63. JaVale McGee
62. Jameer Nelson
61. Kendrick Perkins
60. Roy Hibbert
59. Devin Harris
58. Ty Lawson
57. George Hill
56. Wilson Chandler
55. Jason Kidd
54. Carlos Boozer
53. Luol Deng
52. James Harden
51. Andre Igoudala
50. Luis Scola
49. Paul Millsap
48. Danny Granger
47. David West
46. Tyreke Evans
45. Kevin Martin
44. Joakim Noah Another wildly overrated player by ESPN
43. Al Jefferson
42. Monte Ellis
41. Gerald Wallace
40. Josh Smith
39. Ray Allen
38. Tyson Chandler
37. Serge Ibaka
36. Jason Terry
35. Tim Duncan Watching him last season, even this might be too high
34. Stephen Curry
33. Marc Gasol
32. John Wall
31. Nene
30. Andrew Bogut
29. Al Horford
28. Kevin Love
27. Zach Randolph
26. Kevin Garnett
25. Eric Gordon By the end of the next season (whenever that is) I wager this will be much much higher. I saw Eric Gordon DESTROY Deron Williams in a game at the ESA. I worry about his injuries.24. Lamar Odom
23. Rudy Gay
22. Joe Johnson
21. Chris Bosh
20. Carmelo Anthony
19. Rajon Rondo
18. Russell Westbrook
17. Amare Stoudemire
16. Tony Parker
15. LaMarcus Aldridge
14. Paul Pierce
13. Steve Nash
12. Blake Griffin
11. Manu Ginobili He is a surefire Hall Of Famer right? They never mention that on broadcasts but think about what he has done in his career. He should be a first ballot HOFer.
10. Pau Gasol
9. Kobe Bryant
8. Chris Paul
7. Deron Williams
6. Kevin Durant
5. Derrick Rose
4. Dirk Nowitzki
3. Dwayne Wade
2. Dwight Howard.
1. LeBron James

In the words of Principle Skinner: "Prove me wrong kids! Prove ... Me ... Wrong!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Worried Note Book Review (Vol. 1 Issue 1.)

Inspired by the recently much discussed Tribune profile of the LHM Company, I decided to return to the (now reborn) blog to write a post that I have been meaning to write since May. One of my New Year's resolutions ( drinking more water is an annual resolution which I always fail: see disastorous Disneyland Trip May 2011) was to read more sports related books. I don't read fiction. The last fictious book I read was indeed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Despite sticking to non-fiction, before this year I had read very few (or perhaps no) sports books of any kind. Thus in January I decided to change this. Here are the sports related books I have read this year so far. (I plan to soon read Jane Leavy's new to paperback profile of Mickey Mantle)

I began ny sports non-fiction odyssey with one of the quintessential books of the genre, Buzz Bissinger's book chroniciling a single season of Texas High School Football powerhouse Odessa High. The book was written in 1988 and for that reason it is some what dated. Once you get past the dusty cultural refrences the book becomes a unbelievably intimate portraite of a town that seems stuck in the past.

Through the early stages of the book, Bissinger explores the town's ugly history and ties it in with it's still ugly present. Odessa is a town that seems plucked up from the Jim Crow south and placed back down in Reagan's America. Segregation is still the name of the game in Odessa. The whites live in one side of town, the blacks in another and there is literally train tracks that seperate them. Race is one of the main themes of the book, and racism runs rampant through Odessa. Black athletes for their beloved Panthers are praised before the start of the season, but if they begin to show signs of not meeting the often unfair expectations, they become venom in the mouths of the white town people. The character (I use the term loosely) who tragically represents this aspect of the interaction between the team and the town in the star HB James "Boobie" Miles. Reading a follow up on Miles after completing this book was disturbing.

Second, only to the black star athletes, in terms of pressure and at times hositility is the coach of Odessa Gary Gaines. I'm not sure that most professional coaches experience the day-to-day pressure that Coach Gaines deals with throughout the season. After critical losses, his home and car are viciously vandalized.

All in all the book paints Odessa in a horrible light, as a town that is literally dying. The anger in the town due to the socio-economic issues is palpable and the team definitely recieves the brunt of that hostility. One top of the social issues I became engaged in the team through every win and loss and was anxious to see how far the team goes. Highly recommend.

As the college basketball season was heading towards March Madness at the same time that Gordon Hayward was finally emerging for the Jazz, I next read Underdawgs: How Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs Marched Their Way to the Brink of College Basketball's National Championship. The book was written by David Woods a local Indiana based sports journalist. My first of two complaints about the book was why Underdawgs when they are the Butler Bulldogs? To seem modern? Or perhaps is he racist and he chose the dawg because of the black players on the team? Seemed like a weird choice.

The other complaint would be that the book doesn't feel like a single work, but rather a bunch of newspaper columns thrown together. This probably be because that is what Woods does for a living, but the book does flow as nicely as something like Friday Night Lights.

My favorite thing about the book is definitely the history of Butler and particularly their storied basketball program that I knew little about. I had no idea how much the history of the sport was ingrained in the history of the program. Due to my own personal collections to the Hoosier state, this proved to be a fascinating aspect of the book for me.

The other great aspect to the book would be the individual profiles of the key players. The chapter on Gordon Hayward and his fanily was of particular interest for me for obvious reasons, but the profiles of other players like Shelvin Mack were equally as interesting. When Butler a month after I read the book made another miraculous run to the Championship game, it made it even easier for me to root for this team.

We all know how the season chronicled in the book played out, but one of the most interesting chapters in the book explored the events immediately following the end of the Championship game. It describes a scene in the Hayward car ride home with Gordon's two parents. His Mom feels very strongly that he should return to Butler. His Dad feels strongly about heading to the NBA. Knowing how the Hayward-less season played out it only makes one wonder what would have happened if Gordan had not come to the Utah Jazz.

Jazz fans should be able to appreciate this book, or people interested in basketball history, but the clunky writing style makes it a difficult read.

Clemente by David Maraniss is what I turned to next as catchers and pitchers began to report. For such a legendary baseball figure I have to admit that I knew very little about Clemente. I came away blown away. This is one of the best biographys I have ever read. Period. Maraniss is a great writer and Clemente proves to be an amazing subject.

Clemente's rags to riches story, the racism he experienced in the early part of his career, and his many eccentricities were all expertly analyzed. One of the great scenes described in the book is about Clemente and his wife on a trip to Europe and the racism they experienced in a upper-end furniture store. The shocking racism was not the interesting part, but rather the way Clemente handled the situation. He is the definition of a strong man. This is a must read.

Very cool for me was the fact that one of the players that plays prominently in the book is Cy Young winner Deacon Law. He was the Pirates ace through the early 60's including their shocking World Series win over my beloved Yankees in 1960. Soon after completing the book, Deacon was a guest of honor at a Salt Lake Bees game. I was able to get a baseball signed by him. He signed it "Vern Law Cy Young Winner 1960". As he handed it back to me he said "They only gave out one of those when I won it." Awesome.

I followed up the Clemente biography with another baseball book by now Grantland writer Jonah Keri. The book chronicles the recent rise of the Tampa Bay Rays. More specifically how the management team headed by non-sports figures used Wall Street tactics to turn the worst team in baseball into possibly the best run team in all of sports.

These men: Stuart Sternberg and Andrew Friedman are now personal heroes. Their profiles in the book were by far the most interesting sections for me. If I ever became exceedingly rich in Wall Street, I would try and by these guys. If I didn't want to own a baseball team before ...

The other great aspects to the book chronichled how the previous (incompetent) owner was able to get the Rays to Tampa. It was especially interesting due to the next book I read.

Like the Butler book earlier, Keri writes like a newspaper journalist which makes the book at times hard to read as a single flowing piece, but rather a bunch of columns thrown together. Still would recommend to anyone who is interested in advanced statistics and such.

(Bring it back to the intro) Reading Keri's book made me very interested in reading Larry H. Miller's autobiography because I knew a little bit about how he came to run the Jazz and the ownership of the Rays lead to natural parallels. I also wanted to read the book because he grew up with my Grandmother and I wanted to learn a little bit about his troubled childhood which I knew a little bit about and about the Capital Hill neighborhood in general. I got that in spades.

The problem with the book is the style. Miller is not a writer by trade so the book is mostly stream of consciencousness talking. This doesn't prove to be a major problem however, because most of what he says is exceedingly interesting.

His childhood was indeed rough. Rougher than I had imagined. It becomes clear that he is an outlier just in the way he was able to overcome his own parents. It also sends a great message about the need everyone has for a support system. Miller's was his wife Gail and her family. Truly touching stuff.

The book also gave me anxiety multiple times. First when Miller risks everything to start his own dealership. The first time he risked his worth, it was very little. His family was living off of scraps. The second time he risked everything (to buy the Jazz) there were millions at stake. His walking the reader through the events surrounding his purchase of the Jazz are thrilling.

The chapters about his relationship to Stockton and Malone are worthwhile for Jazz fans. I was surprised about how vulnerable Miller makes himself in the book. He is open about the fact that his drive in business forced him to basically give up his relationship with his family which he admits caused major damage to his children.

Despite what you may think about Larry H. Miller, I recommend reading this book purely for the story of a truly fascinating life. I came away with more respect, but also a more human picture of Miller. Recommend to all, but highly recommend to Jazz fans.