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Archive → July, 2011

Rodney White charged with managing “elaborate” marijuana-growing scheme

Steve Lyttle of The Charlotte Observer:

Rodney White, who led UNC Charlotte’s basketball team to the 2001 NCAA tournament and was a first-round NBA draft pick, was arrested Tuesday in Iredell County and charged with managing what investigators called "an elaborate" marijuana-growing operation in Alexander and Iredell counties.

"During the search, an elaborate underground bunker was located, where detectives found a hidden marijuana grow room," Redmond said.

Based on that discovery, agents got a search warrant for a residence on Montibello Drive in Mooresville. Redmond said detectives found more than four pounds of marijuana; an assortment of firearms; grow lights; planting materials; and other items used to grow marijuana. Investigators said they also found items that linked the residence to the Alexander County operation.

White and Jackson were charged with felony manufacture of marijuana; felony possession of marijuana; maintaining a dwelling for marijuana; and possession of drug paraphernalia. White also was charged with conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, Redmond said.

White also faced gun charges when he played for the Nuggets. Since the Pistons drafted White No. 9 overall, his life has pretty much gone in the wrong direction.

Who is the best small forward of all-time?

My contribution to today’s ESPN 5-on-5 is probably going to be less controversial than Dan’s take on the shooting guard position yesterday, here it is nonetheless. Today’s questions dealt with small forwards. I struggled with who to pick for the best SF of all time. Larry Bird? Scottie Pippen? Elgin Baylor? LeBron James? All guys I gave some consideration to before settling on …

Patrick Hayes, Piston Powered: It might already be LeBron James, but I’d like him to finish his body of work before making that pronouncement. So I’ll go with Julius Erving, not only for his statistical accomplishments, but for his cultural impact, pioneering the artistry and athleticism the small forward position is known for today.

Anyway, plenty of room for debate on these questions, but play nice down there (you know who you are). Here are the five questions:

  • 1. Who’s the best small forward in the NBA today?
  • 2. Who’s the most underrated small forward in the NBA?
  • 3. Who’s the most overrated small forward in the NBA?
  • 4. Who’s the most promising small forward in the NBA?
  • 5.  Who’s the best small forward of all time?

Detroit Pistons’ roster ranked NBA’s worst

Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com posed this question:

If you were a new NBA owner in an undisclosed location granted the ability to poach an entire roster from a current team — taking with you all of the players and their contracts, but not the coaching and management staffs — who would you take?

He also answered it by ranking the rosters for all 30 teams, and the Pistons were first on his list:

30. Detroit Pistons

Assets: Greg Monroe, Austin Daye, Brandon Knight

Anchors: Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva

Questions: Talent, heart, (professionalism), futures of Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady

Analysis: Detroit’s roster sports the toxic combination of multiple, long-term, big-dollar contracts to average or below average players plus a dearth of bankable young talent. Monroe and Knight are the two brightest spots on the roster but they’re both still a long way from making rival GMs salivate jealously. Inheriting this bunch would require a lengthy, multi-year rebuilding plan.  

Right, I forgot to mention Golliver listed the teams in reverse order of preference, but you probably already knew that. Overall, I think Golliver’s points in that excerpt are fair – even if I’d add Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko to the assets list, and even if I have no idea how Jason Maxiell escaped the anchors list.

But compared to other teams, I think Golliver ranked the Pistons too harshly. I’d definitely take the Pistons over the Bobcats, whom Golliver ranked 25th. I also think Detroit is in the mix with the Raptors (26th by Golliver), Suns (23rd) and Warriors (11th!).

Essentially, I’d argue the Pistons’ roster deserves a ranking between 29th and 26th. Makes you feel a whole lot better about this team, right?

No? Alright, well, here’s the real good news: the Pistons come with more than just their sorry roster. They come with a quality head coach in Lawrence Frank and, more importantly, a general manager with a proven track record of building a winner in Joe Dumars. Neither guarantees success, but they make me a heck of a lot more confident than teams with slightly better rosters who haven’t shown they can build a winner, like the Nets, Hornets and Kings.

Rating the NBA’s shooting guards

I wrote about the NBA’s shooting guards for ESPN’s 5-on-5, and I answered Richard Hamilton to one of the questions. I bet you can’t guess which one. Give up?

3. Who’s the most overrated shooting guard in the NBA?

Dan Feldman, Piston Powered: Richard Hamilton. Hamilton’s production began slipping a few years ago, but his reputation hasn’t yet. He’s a malcontent off the court and only plays well on it when he’s completely focused. That doesn’t happen enough anymore. Bulls and Celtics fans, calm down. Hamilton isn’t the answer to your prayers.

The line “but his reputation hasn’t yet” should include the caveat, “outside of Detroit.”

Here are the other four questions:

  • Who’s the best shooting guard in the NBA today?
  • Who’s the most underrated shooting guard in the NBA?
  • Who’s the most promising shooting guard in the NBA?
  • Who’s the best shooting guard of all time?

Former Piston Carlos Arroyo can’t forget about the 2005 NBA Finals either

The 2005 NBA Finals will forever be a tragic moment in recent Pistons history as Robert Horry’s heroics and a blown game seven lead will forever provide ‘what if?’ moments for all Pistons fans. But apparently, they’re still providing those same moments for players as well. Check out what Carlos Arroyo told Dime Magazine when discussing fellow Puerto Rican J.J. Barea getting a title with Dallas:

Dime: With J.J. winning a title, are you at all a little frustrated…you were a part of the Pistons team that lost Game 7…

CA: …Yeah, Game 7 in San Antonio man (chuckles).

(Hat tip: Project Spurs)

Watching the Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas’ triple-double, beat the Bucks in Game 4 of the 1989 Eastern Conference semifinals

My running thoughts as I watched Game 4 of the 1989 Eastern Conference semifinals on NBATV today:

  • Laimbeer throws a nice outlet pass halfway down the court to Isiah, who bobbled the ball. The periphery skills Laimbeer had are still underrated.
  • Both teams take the first decent shot they can find. Even Rick Mahorn shoots as soon as he catches the ball.
  • Sidney Moncrief blasts past Joe Dumars off the dribble. That;s an incredible first step against Dumars, an all-time great defender.
  • The Pistons’ help defense early is pretty bad. Laimbeer and Mahorn don’t recognize when the Bucks penetrate quick enough to do anything about it.
  • That poor defense continues after a timeout, so Chucky Daly brings in Dennis Rodman.
  • Rodman’s jersey is untucked when he entered the game. What a rebel. (#foreshadowing)
  • Vinnie Johnson drives  baseline and attempts an up-and-under move, and he gets bailed out by a foul call. He’s definitely fouled but I say he was bailed out, because by the time he got hit, he had contorted himself the wrong way and would have been shooting away from the basket.
  • The Pistons have turned it over a lot. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve guessed this was a mid-80s version of the team – before they were ready to win a title.
  • Detroit has seven turnovers to Milwaukee’s none, and it seems worse than that.
  • I’m pretty sure the Bucks lead by 19. I really take having a scoreboard on the screen at all times for granted.
  • Dennis Rodman performs a fantastic flop. He launches himself backward five feet in the air before sliding another few feet.
  • Illegal defense! This is truly old school.
  • Rick Mahorn airballs a four-foot shot. Use the backboard, Rick.
  • Isiah gets Jay Humphries backpedaling. Then Humphries, off balance, bumps Thomas. No call. Thomas dribbles the ball angrily while glaring at the ref. Maybe this gets him going?
  • Later in the possession, Isiah passes to Laimbeer for a set-shot 3-pointer.
  • Another Laimbeer 3-pointer! Best 3-point-shooting big man of his era.
  • Mark Aguirre shoots a lot. A lot. And to think, he was an improvement to the offense’s flow over the ball-stopping Adrian Dantley.
  • Isiah hits a 3. The Pistons’ outside shooting is getting them back in the game. Not sure they would’ve won this game if it were played before the NBA adopted the 3-point shot.
  • Isiah’s junk shots are awesome. Drive, stop on a dime, up and under, off-balance floater. Good.
  • The Pistons warned to stand still during a Bucks free throw. Is that really a rule?
  • Isiah leaps high and snags a rebound in traffic.
  • The announcers explain a perk of playing in the Bradley Center. The shot clock is right above the game clock, making it easy for players to see both. “It should be that way everywhere.” I concur.
  • The Bucks have the ball with two seconds between the shot clock and game clock, and they try to hold for the final meaningful shot of the half. But Detroit forces a miss, which Isiah rebounds with one second left before immediately calling timeout. About two years too late.
  • The Pistons have Dennis Rodman in for this one-second offensive possession. Why?
  • Oh, it was a 20-second timeout, so no subs allowed.
  • Fred Roberts, who averaged 5.9 points per game during the regular season, scores 17 points in the first half.
  • Jay Humphries has 11 first-half assists.
  • OK, I didn’t want to say anything the first time, because I wasn’t sure, but I just saw it again. Does Isiah Thomas have a rat tail?
  • Isiah throws a bullet inside to Laimbeer, who made the layup. That pass was incredibly fast, an absolute laser.
  • Mahorn and Laimbeer warmed up by crashing into the TBS play-by-play announcer during each layup. With a lot of guys, that probably would’ve been playful. With those two, there’s a decent chance it was malicious.
  • Mike Abdenour basically looks the same. His hair is just a little darker. OK, a lot darker.
  • Laimbeer doesn’t jump on his shots as much as he steps into them. I guess you can do that when none of your opponents are used to a tall player shooting jumpers.
  • Rick Mahorn really uses his wide base well to box out. That’s a nice way of saying he has a big butt.
  • The Pistons finally tie it, outscoring Milwaukee, 17-7, in the second half.
  • Del Harris draws a technical for wanting a foul when Mark Aguirre made a clean swipe on the ball during a Humphries shot. All the contact that’s allowed during this game, and that play bothers Harris?
  • Bill Laimbeer called for a foul. Of course, he makes a show of complaining. Of course, the crowd taunts him. Of course, he holds his hand to his ear and points at the scoreboard.
  • Roberts is playing like he’s Kevin McHale. He’s finding spaces all over the court, and none of Detroit’s defenders are disrupting his rhythm.
  • Vinnie Johnson sets a screen by getting his arms tangled with a Buck, then swinging him away. Mark Aguirre gets called for an extremely quick three-second violation. Chuck Daly laughs.
  • The Pistons’ defense tightens in the third quarter. Now, Detroit looks like a team capable of winning at title.
  • Joe Dumars’ jumper is so smooth. It’s no wonder he played so long. That stroke doesn’t betray you.
  • Dumars called for a junk foul when his man fell over his own feet, and Dumars jumps up and down and turns sharply to bark at the official. Because Dumars was such a nice guy, people forget how intense he was.
  • James Edwards makes a 15-foot jumper. His form left a bit to be desired, but I didn’t realize that shot was in his repertoire.
  • Dennis Rodman can jump more times in five seconds than anyone else in NBA history.
  • The Bucks are in the bonus, and they’re relentlessly attacking Detroit inside. I think a lot of fans yell at their televisions when teams in the bonus hoist jumpers. It’s an easy issue to notice and criticize. Nobody would be upset with this Milwaukee team.
  • The 6-foot-11 Jack Sikma also used the step-into-it 3-point shot.
  • The Pistons have led most of the second half, but the Bucks won’t go away. And it’s all due to the players on the floor. A shot of their bench after a Milwaukee basket showed one player clapping furiously, but two others staring into space.
  • “Terry Cummings rooting his team on.”

cummings

  • Isiah Thomas hands off point-guard duties to Dumars often down the stretch. I don’t have a box score, but it sure seems like Dumars spent more time on the bench than Thomas. Maybe this is Isiah’s way of resting during the game.
  • Isiah flies across the court to grab a rebound that gets out of the paint. That gives Detroit the ball with a two-point and the shot clock off. After what feels like forever, the Bucks finally realize they must foul and send Isiah to the line. He splits.
  • The announcers debate whether the Pistons should foul up three with eight seconds left. Twenty-two years later, nobody has come closer to answering that question.
  • The Pistons foul Pierce with two seconds left. Pierce makes the first and will intentionally miss the second. He misses, but the Pistons poke the ball away, ending the game.
  • I’, very impressed with the Bucks. They really peaked in the wrong era. The Pistons may have won another title or two had they not had to battle those great Lakers and Celtics teams, but at least Detroit won a pair of championships. Milwaukee could never break through to that level.
  • This game shows how much heart the Bucks had. Terry Cummings, Rickey Green, Larry Krystowiak, Paul Mokeski and Paul Pressey couldn’t play due to injury. But Milwaukee gave the Pistons all they could handle.
  • Add the Bucks’ healthy players – Ricky Pierce, Jack Sikma, Sidney Moncrief and, on this day, Fred Roberts – that’s a heck of a squad. Just not good enough to win a title over the league’s juggernauts.
  • More on teams of that quality later when I review Game 6 of the next series, when the Pistons beat the Bulls.

Watch the Bad Boys beat the Bucks and Bulls during the 1989 playoffs

Speaking of Isiah Thomas, NBATV will replay a pair of old Pistons games today, beginning at 2 p.m. (hat tip: Zach Harper of TrueHoop).

The first is Game 4 of the 1989 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bucks:

Pistons G Isiah Thomas had a triple-double to lead the Pistons into the Conference Finals

That’s followed by Game 6 of the 1989 Eastern Conference finals:

Despite Bulls G Michael Jordan’s 32 points, the Pistons, lead by Isiah Thomas, defeated the Bulls once again in the Playoffs.

If you can’t watch at 2 p.m. today, don’t fret. NBATV will continue to show both games in four-hour blocks through noon tomorrow.

And if you can’t watch any of those showings, you can read about the games (and even if you watch, you can still read about them). I plan to write Matt Moore-esque recaps of each game. Hopefully, I can start watching at 2 p.m., but slight chance I’ll have to wait until a later showing.

So, watch along, and then we can discuss the games in the comments.

Isiah Thomas vs. Chris Paul

Matt Moore of CBSSports.com has a new series comparing current players to past stars, and he started it with Isiah Thomas and Chris Paul:

In terms of style, Paul is much more beautific with his approach. His passes are delicate floaters, while Thomas’ were primarily either lasers or high arcing bombs. Paul’s 3-pointer is a dagger, while Thomas was more of a hoist. Thomas preferred the mid-range jumper while Paul’s short-elbow floater is stunning in its lethality, when he turns to it. But there are vital comparisons. Both Paul and Thomas possess the intense desire tow in at all costs that helped Thomas win the title. Of all the new breed of superstars, particularly those in the clique of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris (Bosh), Carmelo Anthony, etc., Paul’s drive to win is perhaps fiercest. It was Thomas’ intensity, or arrogance, depending on which side of the aisle you’re on, that led to his feuds with various stars of his era. He and Paul share that, a willingness to tussle with nearly anyone. It is a relentless gear that never allows them to back down from anyone, while always then turning a smile to the camera. But Thomas’ battles were almost personal, more vicious. While Thomas has, despite his numerous, nearly incalculable public relations disasters, been well-spirited toward his former rivals in retirement, at the time, it was Thomas against the world.

Paul’s approach has been different. He’s much more calculating in his approach. He’s willing to befriend anyone that will help him, and makes nearly no enemies. Paul is beloved by everyone. He’s a darling of the league. A brilliant player who serves as a tremendous (member) of his community, an All-Star who pals around with the two-time MVP. He’s everything to everyone, where Thomas was popular but also controversial.

Here’s where I stand:

  • Thomas’ total body of work easily trumps Paul’s so far.
  • Paul has already played at a higher peak than Thomas ever did, although his lead is slim.
  • If I had to bet today, when Paul retires, his career will outshine Thomas’. In fact, I think Paul’s career will fall short of only Magic Johnson among point guards.

Celtics and Timberwolves interested in former Pistons coach Larry Brown

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown has an interest in joining Doc Rivers’ Boston Celtics staff as an assistant coach, assuming Lawrence Frank accepts the Detroit Pistons’ head coaching job, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Frank and the Pistons are discussing terms of a deal over the weekend, league sources said, but there is still no agreement in place. However, the Pistons and Frank are both anxious to forge a partnership.

Despite Brown’s credentials and good relationship with Rivers, the Celtics coach is inclined to promote a well-regarded young assistant on his staff – Mike Longabardi – sources said. Nevertheless, Rivers hasn’t ruled out the idea of further discussing a spot for Brown on his bench next season.

Brown, 70, tried to become a candidate for NCAA jobs at UNLV, Oklahoma, Missouri and Penn State in the spring, but those schools never gave him serious consideration.

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis StarTribune:

After interviewing Rick Adelman and Don Nelson over the weekend, the Timberwolves intend to interview Larry Brown and possibly one or two others in this first phase to replace fired coach Kurt Rambis.

When the Wolves will interview Brown, who has coached teams to both NBA and NCAA titles, is uncertain because of a recent death in his family, according to a league source with knowledge of the team’s search.

Considering how desperate Brown appears to stay in coaching, I wonder whether he and the Pistons discussed their vacancy. Obviously, it didn’t go anywhere, but I’m curious whether either side called the other.

Brown is one the best and most fascinating coaches of all-time in any sport, and although I’d like to see him coaching somewhere next year, I’m sort of glad it won’t be in Detroit. On the other hand, I would’ve been sort of glad if it were in Detroit.

Yes, my feeling on Brown are complex.

Getting to know Lawrence Frank

For those of you with Lawrence Frank’s background, Vincent Goodwill and Eric Lacy of The Detroit News wrote a fairly lengthy article on Frank’s road to the Pistons:

From there, Frank went to Indiana University, serving as Bobby Knight’s student manager from 1989-92.

Abunassar (Farmington Hills, Detroit Catholic Central) came to Bloomington a year later, and often chided Frank about his one-track mind.

"His focus was so strong," Abunassar said. "We used to tell him, ‘Go out to dinner, catch a new movie.’"

Abunassar said Frank probably didn’t know where a movie theater was near campus, and it probably hasn’t changed since.

Frank then spent three seasons as a Grizzlies assistant under Brian Hill.

He compiled scouting reports and pored over hours of game film for the Grizzlies, hardly the glamorous life.

With the Grizzlies, it wasn’t uncommon for Frank to be in the gym during the wee hours of the night, fetching balls for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, then the franchise’s best player.

"Shareef told me at the draft, two in the morning, three in the morning, Lawrence was there for him," Abunassar said. "When you’re around someone who wants so much for you, they respect it."

Abunassar is Joe Abunassar, the Las Vegas-based trainer who trains, among others, Austin Daye. Daye recently spoke with Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated about Abunassar:

On his offseason plans, which include working out with trainer Joe Abunassar at Impact Academy in Las Vegas and renting a house in the desert with friends Rudy Gay (Memphis small forward) and Kyle Lowry (Houston point guard):

"[Abunassar] is one of the best in the business. I love working out with him because he has been with me since I left [Gonzaga] my sophomore year [in 2009] and I plan on working out with him for the rest of my career. He has just been great to me.

"Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry, we’re all good friends. Of all the guys who come there, I think us three are really close with [Abunassar] and it’s really like a father-son relationship. We’re really good friends, so it’s really fun, especially when we compete against each other in games or when we’re on the same team."

That explains why Daye endorsed Frank so heartily. After reading Goodwill’s and Lacy’s article, you might follow suit.