For those who haven't followed this blog, I am one of the last 13 or 14 NBA fans who don't live in a city where a franchise is located left in the US. I can't help it. As a kid my Mom got me a NBA basketball lamp (that I still own) signed by then commissioner Larry O'Brien. At the time, the Phoenix Suns were all coked up, the Cavs were living through the Ted Stephien years, and columnists openly wondered if the NBA would survive. But in those days, the only NBA games you saw if you lived in a place like Charleston, West Virginia almost always involved in the Philadelphia 76ers... and fortunately that team was fantastic. Dr. J, Cunningham, Toney, Moses.... I loved watching that team on Sunday afternoons. They played basketball like it was a ballet. It was beautiful to watch.
Couple that with that lamp Mom bought, and I was hooked for life.
Over the years I've never stopped enjoying watching the NBA. There were the Magic and Bird rivalry years, Doug Moe's Denver Nugget team that averaged about 140 points a game but gave up about 141 points a game, a love affair with the Cavs that began in 1981 when I saw World B. Free live at the Richfield Coliseum, the rise of those same Cavs during the Price/Nance/Daughtery/Harper years (which were shattered when Wayne Embry traded Ohio native and Miami alum Ron Harper for Danny Ferry, which was like trading a quarter for three pennies and two jelly beans), Stockton to Malone, Sir Charles, talented teams in Portland that kept not winning championships, Jordan, and now a bunch of kids (LeBron, Carmello, DWade, Bosh, Howard, Deron Williams, and Josh Smith just to name a few) that are moving the game into the 21st century.
Even with the quality of play being down the last six or seven years, I still can't understand why anybody would rather watch over-coached-over-managed-pass-four-hundred-times-before-you-score-zone-and-press-to-death. college basketball. It's like choosing a cut rate hot dog instead of a pretty decent steak.
But I digress....
Tonight, we did our draft, and here's the team I ended up with:
Matt Carroll (14th round): Yeah, the twelve of us drafted fourteen players, each, which explains why Matt Carroll got drafted at all. Here's hoping he can sink a few threes... but I suspect I'll drop him when non-drafted free agent starts getting hot.
Mark Blount (13th round): I hated this pick. Mark Blount (pronounced "Blunt") had a great year last year after getting traded from the Celtics to the T-Wolves. But up until then, he found more ways to underachieve than should have been possible. Besides, this year he doesn't have KG opening up the floor. Another guy most likely destined for the waiver wire.
Matt Barnes (12th round): Not a bad pick-up given its the 12th round. The guy really emerged last year, particularly during the playoffs. Not a big stats guy, but he has his moments. Too bad you don't get points for the number of tattoos a player is sporting cause then he'd be fantasy gold. Chances of his still being on my team by December are 50/50.
Michael Finley (11th round): Has seen his best days. He's an old guy on an old team. But he'll still score off the bench. I mean, for pete's sake, I got him the 11th round, so that's not too bad.
Shaquille O'Neal (10th round): Oh how the mighty have fallen. When I first started wasting my time like this five years ago, Shaq was the first player taken in the draft. Now, too many years and too much weight have robbed him of his knees. Poor foul shooting keeps him out of games at crunch time. His point guards are a limping Jason Williams and Smush Parker. The result? I got him in the 10th round, and the rest of the league made fun of me. Life is cruel.
Larry Hughes (9th round): Well, it's like this... when Hughes was with the Wizards he could score like it was nobody's business. He also was good for a lot of steals and the occasional assist. But you always knew he'd miss 25-30 games with something broken. Now, with the Cavs, he's expected to be a point guard (even though he doesn't handle the ball or pass all that well), and he seems to get more brittle with age. But, you never know... if he stays healthy, with Eric Snow hurt he'll handle the ball plenty. Here's hoping he re-discovers his outside shot and his ability to slash to the basket.
Chris Wilcox (8th round): You've never heard of him but he puts up monster numbers for Seattle. That's the stuff you learn when your league goes 168 players deep every year. Now, with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis out of town, he has the chance to go wild statistically... or flop miserably. I'm pulling for going wild.
Richard Jefferson (7th round): If you are a decent scorer and Jason Kidd is your point guard, as long as you stay healthy you'll put up big numbers. But the key is staying healthy. Jefferson is hurt so often I think he and Hughes are actually long lost brothers. A risky pick in the 7th.
Corey Maggette (6th round): His coach can't stand him, every year he's the subject of endless trade rumors, and he (too) seems to be cut from the Jefferson/Hughes injury cloth. But this year Elton Brand is out with a ruptured achilles and if the Clips want to score they'll have to run which is perfect for Maggette's game. Here's hoping he's a stat monster even though his team is mostly likely going to be pretty rotten.
Mike Bibby (5th round): He's getting old fast, but he can still play. That and there aren't a lot of decent point guards in the league right now, so you got to take what you can get. Personally I'd love to see him get traded to the Cavs this year. He could put them over the top.
Mehmet Okur (4th round): Did I take him too high? Yes. But I need at least three centers, and there are fewer decent centers than there are point guards right now, so I had to snatch him up. Besides, he shoots the lights out of the basket most nights, so he helps you in terms of 3 pointers, shooting percentage, and overall scoring.
Deron Williams (3rd round): I drafted him last year and everyone laughed. By the end of the year, no one was laughing. He's one of the top three point guards in the league, plays hard every night, and gets you all kinds of stats. Besides, he and Mehmet both play for the Jazz, which is my favorite Western Conference team (since the days of Mark Eaton) and the team our uncle, Dennis Riggs, follows on his 60" HDTV. You want to stay on the good side of Uncle Dennis. He's a true mountain man. He once got lost while hunting in a rugged, remote, snow-covered part of Idaho.... ended up killing two bears with his bare hands while whipping up a 3500 square foot log home as his temporary shelter in a little less than 20 minutes. Chuck Norris couldn't carry his flannel shirt.
Dwight Howard (2nd round): Once again, did I take him too high? Yes. But centers are few and far between, and despite the fact that this guy is a turnover machine (his hands must be the size of Holly Hobbies'), he's a monster on the boards, in blocks, and scores like there's no tomorrow. In our league, that translates into "W's".
Kobe Bryant (1st round): Yeah, I know what you're thinking... what is a pastor doing drafting a guy who can't seem to keep his nose clean and has been a perpetual malcontent in the first round? Well, the guy is, bar none, still the best player in the league right now, and nobody (and I mean nobody) else on that Laker team can carry it. So Kobe will score early and often... unless he pulls a Vince Carter and quits on his team to force a trade. Hopefully he has too much pride to pull a stunt like that.
And so, that's your 2007-08 Ohio Mixers (named after the beloved CBA team that played here in Lima a couple of years back in the 80's). Here's hoping we see few injuries, a rejuvenated Shaq, and a decent pick-up (not a trade, as the guys in our league would sooner go to a sadistic dentist than make a trade) in order to end my multi-year championship drought.... and end my little brother's multi-year dynasty.