Early Summer Update
Well, it’s the offseason, and as such, there’s less to update on. However, give me a month at any point of the year, and I can come up with a few basketball-related things that bear noting. In no particular order, here’s a few random off-season thoughts:
1) Though the man played his last game over 20 years before I was born, I was saddened to hear of the passing of George Mikan a few weeks back. While I’ve never actually seen Mikan play, I was a bit of a basketball historian when I was a kid, and was perhaps the only 13-year-old on my block who thought that George Mikan was awesome. And let’s not forget that one of the greatest drills of all time is named after him. Who hasn’t done the Mikan drill? It’s the only reason that I’m anywhere close to being able to sort of, kind of use my right hand in a near-adequate manner when I’m on the court. By friend Beau even created a dance patterned after the drill, which he breaks out every time we’re anywhere near a dance floor and he want to impress the other people around. Sufficed to say, even though I’m not 13 anymore, I still think Mikan is awesome.
2) Marquette is really amping up the promotion for heading to the Big East next season. It’s early June, and already I have received a two phone calls and email urging me to upgrade from my 5-game package of seats to season tickets. I know I won’t do it, since the odds of me making it to enough of Marquette’s games to justify the expenditure are pretty low, but the sales guy does have me excited for the move to the Big East. I was already excited about getting to see teams like UConn and Syracuse come to town, but I had completely forgotten that West Virginia is in the Big East. Thus, if things work out, and he pulls his name out of the draft list, I might just get to see Kevin Pittsnogle in person next year. Now that’s something to get excited about.
3) The embarrassing moment of the year for me had to be a couple weeks back when I was at a local civic festival and ran into the local high school basketball coach. Instead of greeting me with “hello,” or “how’s it going,” when he saw me he grinned and said “Hey, nice web site.” Thankfully, I have always liked the coach, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never said anything all that critical of him (my mind was definitely racing during our conversation, though). It did remind me, though, that things around here would be a lot different had I ever known there was a mechanism for people other than the 20 friends that I originally directed to the site to find my brain droppings. For one thing, my real name would be unlikely to be at the top of this page.
4) If you haven’t read it already, you need to read the playoff journal of Phoenix Suns 12th man, Paul Shirley. Seriously, get off of this page right now, and read this guy’s journal. It is maybe the most entertaining basketball writing that you will read all year—simply hilarious. Similarly hilarious is his earlier journal about a Suns’ road trip. Who knew that an NBA bench player could be such a talented writer? Whether or not this guy keeps playing, NBA.com, or some other media outlet needs to capitalize on his abilities as a scribe. I would happily pay some sort of subscription fee to access a full-season journal on NBA.com, and given how cheap I am, that’s saying something. But why are you still reading what I have to say? Didn’t I tell you to head to the Paul Shirley journal?
5) As Dwyane Wade’s recent play in the faux-basketball league that is the NBA showed, he is likely to be considered as one of the NBA’s top superstars for some time. The NBA should market the hell out of him, because in addition to being a stellar athlete, by all accounts he seems to be a really, really good guy. I had the good fortune of seeing him play a bit in college, but today I’d like to recount the first time Wade entered my consciousness. Why? Because there’s nothing going on, and I have time to kill.
The first time I heard about Dwyane Wade was incredibly, at a high school game at Milwaukee Vincent. Wade was sitting out the year for Marquette as an academic non-qualifier. I was sitting in front of some sort of low-level AAU-type guy who noted to a friend that Marquette had a freshman who couldn’t play yet, but was lighting up everybody in practice. He went on to note that Marquette had better enjoy him when he did become eligible, since he’d be in the NBA before his eligibility was up. I kind of chuckled at the time, since that’s pretty high praise to be throwing around for an ineligible freshman who had flown under the recruiting radar. As the year went on, though, I heard more people talking like this guy. As we know now, this guy knew what he was talking about.
6) So Wisconsin fans are asking themselves all sorts of questions about Jerry Smith and Trevon Hughes, as they have only one scholarship left, and two of the best guards in recent Wisconsin memory remain in the mix. My take? Bear in mind that I’ve only seen Hughes play one half of basketball, and I’ve seen Smith play upwards of 20 games, so I probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but I’d rather the Badgers got Smith. Smith seems like the type of guy who physically and mentally could step in and be a solid cog from the first day he steps on campus. I somewhat doubt that he’ll become a superstar, but I have no doubt that he’ll be a consistent contributor who is good enough to see plenty of court time during all four years of college. I see some superstar potential in Hughes, but 9 times out of 10 I’m taking the surest bet, even if it doesn’t have the biggest payoff, and Smith is as sure a bet as I’ve seen in awhile.
Of course, all that said, I have no idea of whether either one will ever wear Badger red. Frankly, Badger fans should be delighted if either one signs on to play for Bo Ryan. My guess (and it’s just a guess) is that both young men should be ready to announce their intentions sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, and that Hughes will be joining the Badgers. As for Smith, I have long been a doubter of Wake Forest, but I think that’s where he ends up. We’ll see in awhile how accurate my gut is, but it should be a fun ride in the meantime.
7) I’d give kudos to Marquette for backing off of their ill-fated “Gold” decision, but that would sort of be like praising someone for wiping up a glass of milk after accidentally spilling it. They had to find a way to back off of one of the worst ideas that I’ve ever seen. Somewhat to their credit, though, they did come up with what seems to be a palatable solution. And I’m also pretty pleased that the two nicknames that I found most likable ended up in the final two. Seriously, who was voting for “The Spirit?”
8) So Bob Huggins isn’t getting his contract renewed at Cincinnati. I can’t say I can blame the Bearcats, though the non-renewal news comes at sort of an awkward time, as Huggins had finally cracked the 0% mark on graduation this year. Huggins has always had an aura of sleaze around him. From his 0% graduation rate, to his DUI arrest last year, to an array of players in trouble with the law, it isn’t rocket science to surmise that Huggins is a somewhat unsavory character.
One of my personal favorite moments that sort of involves Bob Huggins came when I was still in school. While walking to one of the buildings on campus one day, I saw another student walking in the opposite direction wearing an obnoxious-looking black and silver t-shirt. I hypothesized that once I got closer the shirt would be revealed to have come from a strip club, and have some obscene slogan. Instead, the t-shirt revealed a silhouette not of a woman dancing on a pole, but of a basketball player and read “1999 Bob Huggins Basketball Camp.” It was simultaneously the most and least appropriate camp t-shirt that I’ve ever seen.
And if you haven’t already seen this wonderful link which Yoni Cohen provides, enjoy this hilarious op-ed by Nick “Mr. Jessica Simpson” Lachey, which focuses partly on Huggins and how he should not be held responsible for the off-court misbehavior of his players. I could go on about how that’s absurd when such a regular pattern has developed (and as a Wisconsin football fan, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on that point), but I’ll refrain, because no one wins when they match wits with Nick Lachey.
9) So the local team, the Milwaukee Bucks, landed the #1 pick in the NBA draft. Not two days before the draft lottery I was on the phone with my friend Nick when I noted “I think the Bucks are going to win the lottery this year. I mean, the prize this time around is a big white guy, so it would only make sense that they would win in an off year.” After the shocking parade through Milwaukee of white guys 6’9” and over (names that come to mind include: Larry Kystkowiak, Frank Brickowski, Randy Bruer, Paul Mokeski, Fred Roberts, Joel Przybilla, and my all-time favorite, Marty Conlon) during my lifetime, one can’t help but notice that it is fate that the Bucks would get first crack at Bogut.
Of course, I mean no disrespect or ill-will toward Bogut. I think the Bucks’ GM is a fool if he doesn’t take Bogut, because he’s clearly the best player in the draft. Marvin Williams may have great upside, but he still didn’t start on his college team. Admittedly, I watched less Utah games when Rick Majerus left coaching, but early in the 2003-2004 season I found myself scratching my head trying to figure out how Bogut could only be a freshman.
Of course, my loyalty to the Bucks is unlikely to be changed whoever they take. I plan on attending exactly the same number of games as I did this past season. Zero.
So that’s my early-summer update. I’ll be back with random thoughts in the days to come. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to ignoring the NBA finals. Stupid fake basketball.