Thursday, October 26, 2006


So… the NBA Season is almost upon us! Hooray! And who better than Pirate-Man to join us with such palpable excitement in the air!

How do I love the NBA?
Let me count the ways …

Oh.. since we’re all in such a good mood, let’s just pretend you wrote “How much do I love the NBA” and used good grammar.

1. Parity. The dynasty era is probably -- hopefully -- over, replaced by a league of very good teams with exquisitely unique profiles.

Umm. The league did have very good teams during the “dynasty era.” See the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, New Jersey Nets, Charlotte/NO Hornets and Indiana Pacers none of whom won an NBA title. Then again, I guess none of them had “exquisitely unique profiles.”

As of right now, no fewer than 10 of them -- yes, one-third of the field -- have a legitimate shot at making it to June if things break right.

Right… except that I just named 10 teams above all had a legitimate chance of making it to June as well.

2. Style. For the first time since the end of the Showtime Lakers, the league is trending sharply toward offense, with five shooters on the floor being a requisite.

It’s really mystifying as to where NBA Article Writers came up with this offense trend notion. Honestly, which team other than the Suns has five shooters on the floor? Or even four shooters… or three?

That means control-freak coaches can't strangle the life out of the game. It also means 10-point leads in the fourth quarter don't feel like 25-point leads.

Yes, that’s due to the fact that 10≠25. In fact, get this, 25>10 (!!!).

3. The gang of '03. It isn't often that the same rookie class produces two transcendent players, as was the case in 1979 (Larry/Magic) and 1984 (M.J./Hakeem). But LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have given the game a seismic jolt -- and a rivalry that will be played out over a decade.

Unrelated side note: Did you know that the New Jersey Nets drafted a guy named Clifford Robinson in 1979? Fast-forward 27 years to today where another Clifford Robinson plays for, that’s right, the New Jersey Nets.

Back to the story:

1981: Isiah Thomas/Rolando Blackman
1982: James Worthy/Dominique Wilkins
1985: Patrick Ewing/Joe Dumars
1987: David Robinson/Reggie Miller
1992: Shaquille O’Neal/Alonzo Mourning
1993: Chris Webber/Sam Cassell
1994: Jason Kidd/Grant Hill
1995: Kevin Garnett/Rasheed Wallace/Jerry Stackhouse

1996 deserves its own special indentation. How could you possibly have missed this year???

Allen Iverson
Kobe Bryant
Ray Allen
Steve Nash
Peja Stojakovic
Jermaine O’Neal
Zydrunas Ilgauskus

Yes, that's Kobe #@@%’n Bryant AND Allen $#@$%’n Iverson!!

1997: Timothy Duncan/Tracy McGrady
1998: Vince Carter/Dirk Nowitzki/Paul Pierce
1999: Elton Brand/Steve Francis/Baron Davis/Andrei Kirilenko
2002: Yao Ming/Amare Stoudemire

One word: PWND.

4. Amare's back. By now it is clear that microfracture surgery requires a two-year recovery, give or take a few months, so Amare Stoudemire cannot yet be the awesome specimen who was last seen dominating the 2005 playoffs. But he's going to be pretty close to it by the spring.

Yes.. so… you’re thankful that Amare isn’t going to be as good as he used to be. Cool…

5. Nellieball. Don Nelson has returned, somehow weary of his daily diet of mai tais and poker parties, and he's ready to have some fun for once.

Haha, good one. It’s shocking how you became a professional NBA Article Writer instead of a comedian.

Golden State will play fast and loose and very small -- as many of Nellie's teams have -- and he has a superb talent pool to work with this time.

“Nellie” this year has: (injured?) Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Troy Murphy.
“Nellie” of yesteryear had: Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going with the second one no matter how many “superb talent pool” points the first one has.

6. The All-Star Game. It will be in Vegas. Perfect: For the first time ever, the most garish sports event in America (it's starting to make the Super Bowl look like Tuesday bingo at St. Lucy's) will be held in the tackiest place in America.

The All-Star Game is “starting to make the Super Bowl look like Tuesday bingo at St. Lucy's.” Cool. Keep this in mind, readers. Pirate-Man loves the NBA All-Star game to the point where he taunts the Super Bowl just to make his point clear. Nothing wrong about that… but just keep this in mind.

7. Grant's Mountain. This could turn out to be one of those alternate universe deals, but Grant Hill actually has become the most physically fit player on Orlando's roster.

This is the same thing as saying “Damon Stoudemire has turned out to be the most drug-free player on the Portland Trailblazers.” Or “David Eckstein was the grittiest player on the Anaheim Angels.”

If he stays that way, and the kids undergo another growth spurt, it could be Magic.

Yeah, great play on words. Like “Magic” and the Orlando “Magic.” That’s beautiful.

8. Globalization. No matter what country you're from -- OK, if you're from Iceland, go play chess -- you have somebody to root for. And, everyone agrees, the European emphasis on skills has enhanced the game.

“European emphasis on skills.” Haha. It’s all about the Andrea Baloney guy. Damn Americans.

9. Short stuff. For those of us who were victims of genetic oversight, behold: For significant stretches each night, this will be a game of short people because every team recognizes the need to be able to go with a speed lineup.

The average NBA player height is 6’7”, up from 6’6” the last two years. Owned. Also, a “speed lineup” is the random assortment of bench players coaches throw onto the court for the last two seconds of every quarter to let the starters sit early.

And every one is a tribute to the greatest invention of the 21st century: the no-touch rule on the perimeter.

We are all “tributes” to the no-touch rule? ... What? Anyone else have any idea what this means?

10. Shaq. He is the greatest big man of this or any other era, and if you don't believe it, please refer back to Reason No. 1. It took his decline to make this a balanced, anything-goes league again. He'll be 35 in March -- enjoy him while you can.

Reason number one… Ah. Yes. “1. Parity. The dynasty era is probably -- hopefully -- over, replaced by a league of very good teams with exquisitely unique profiles.”

So, I take it that you think Shaq didn’t have an exquisitely unique profile. Mr. O’Neal begs to differ. 300+ pounds of 99.99999 body fat is quite an “exquisitely unique profile.”

Sometimes love does mean having to say you're sorry.

So you’re going to tell us why you dislike the NBA in an article that’s supposed to tell us how you love the NBA. Fantastic.

1. Drop the noise. There's nothing wrong with music, but on behalf of middle-aged people from Seattle to Miami, can we drop the damn decibel level a few notches, please?

Middle-aged people… I love that. Who do you think you're kidding. You're probably like 90. Or 900.

(Lone exception: Springsteen.) And there's nothing wrong with enthusiastic P.A. announcers, but can they stop talking to us like we're 9 years old?

Maybe if you stopped writing like a 9 year old, they might.

Speaking of which …

2. Change the TV culture. The boorish mix of TV "talent" appeals to none other than executive producers, who want us to share their love for this gnarled mass of incoherent slobber.

What… the… hell. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Maybe it's like a twist on that old Frank Zappa line: Most basketball journalism is people who can't report interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't think.

See above.

We're inundated with fawning noisemakers with monomaniacal obsessions to hear their own voices, yet none of these networks can find a regular studio spot for sharp guys such as David Aldridge?

I thought David Aldridge worked for ESPN? No?


That was probably the most confusing paragraph I’ve ever read in my life. From what I understood… you’re complaint about that National Basketball Association is that we should “change the TV culture.” Ooookay… then.

3. Shift the balance. The Board of Governors should tweak the schedule to emphasize rivalries -- just for one season, to see how it works out. One reason: Division alignments don't mean anything anymore, and nobody really circles the calendar for Toronto-Charlotte or Portland-Dallas.

Basically, if we implemented your plan, instead of Toronto-Charlotte we would get stuff like Charlotte-Orlando. Or Philadelphia-Atlanta. Not pretty.

Solution: Cut back on the number of games between nondivision opponents within the same conference (from four games to three), then take the six leftover games and turn them into intradivisional matchups. It would save on travel, make home-and-home sets more common and elevate enmity.

Also, it would replace good matchups like Dallas-Phoenix with games like Portland-Seattle or Charlotte-Philadelphia. I can only speak for myself, but honestly, I think if I had to watch Victor Crap Khrap Khyrap, er, Victor K. face off against Robert Swift on back to back nights, I would strangle myself. No matter how much enmity they exhibit.

On second thought …

4. Cut the schedule entirely. Not a lot, just seven or eight games. Get the playoffs started by early April, finished by early June. These long seasons are beginning to cut into WNBA viewing time.

W.N.B.A… wow. I can only pray that this is a joke. Somehow, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t.

5. All-Star Game. Take it overseas for a week -- Paris, Rome, it doesn't matter. The American media no longer cares about it -- the print guys can't stand it, actually -- and this would play into the league's compulsive need for world attention.

Yes I’m sure the Roman/French press would love to cover an event that includes either one player of their nation (T. Parker if it was in Paris) or zero. This would be analogous to Sweden holding its annual women’s 70 and over Croquet Championship in Los Angeles. Or something.

As for logistics, there's only one snag: The Friday night events would need to start at 3 a.m. to satisfy TNT's sponsors.

Dang. You’re smart and you’re funny.

6. All-Star Game, etc. Have I mentioned it's a yawner? Try this, just once: No money for the losers, and take a page from baseball by rewarding home-court advantage in The Finals to the winners. Then maybe you'll see a real game.

I seriously doubt the day will ever come when NBA Article Writers World Wide realize that the All-Star Game is played for this thing called “fun.” Like when players and fans “have a good time.”

In fact, the All-Star Game is pretty awesome in its current state. One could say it’s so good that it’s “starting to make the Super Bowl look like Tuesday bingo at St. Lucy's.” I wonder who could have said that quote. Sounds awfully familiar.

7. The draft. Another one-year experiment:

This just in: The NBA is not your personal laboratory to perform whatever experiments your warped mind can concoct. In fact, you’re just an NBA Article Writer who must chronicle what happens in the NBA, and not dictate what should happen.

Change the draft lottery to give all 30 teams an equal chance to win it. That's right: one pingpong ball apiece, national TV drawing. Why keep rewarding mediocrity? And why not remove the trend of teams tanking in March and April because they're in the hunt for the top pick?

Why not shut up?

8. Rule tweak. Breakaway fouls should result in two free throws, the ball and a full shot clock.

So… you think a breakaway foul (which is normally just a touch or soft grab) should receive a greater punishment than a Type III Flagrant Foul. Absolutely brilliant.

Anything that is a disincentive to fouling is a plus; anything that creates more open-court stuff also is a plus.

Ladies and germs, The Pinnacle Of NBA Journalism Has Been Achieved. “Open court stuff” FTW.

Dave D'Alessandro covers the NBA for The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J.

And It Is Dave D’Alessandro, Also Known As Pirate Man, Who Has Enabled Us To Reach This Shining Zenith Of NBA Article Writing.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mo' Deveney!

Being a law-abiding and moral citizen, I would never condone peeking at the vast array of gambling Web sites and established sports books out there for anything other than recreational purposes.


I, for one, favor handshake wagers, not kneecap wagers.

Good to know.

From time to time, though, my browser wanders to a real-money website or two, just as my body sometimes wanders (involuntarily) to the sports book at Bellagio.

Okay, we kind of get the picture. You are law abiding, and don’t like to gamble.

My browser made the journey this morning, for example.

Are you thinking about starting this article, or “blog,” any time soon?

The reason was legit.

I’m sure it was.

See, I know what I think of the upcoming NBA season.

Awesome! Finally! All those preceding sentences were worth it! Now we finally know that Sean Deveney “knows what he thinks of the upcoming NBA season”!

Thanks to blogs and emails, I know what you folks think about the season, too.

No way. You know what you think AND you know what we think? You’ve got to be kidding me.

But when it comes to money-where-your-mouth-is reality, you can't beat Vegas. Or, in this case, cyber-Vegas. These people stake their livelihoods on getting the odds just right. Seems worth it to see what they think.

Wait… so you mean you were lying to us in your introduction?!? Say it ain’t so!

Not surprisingly, there are four clear favorites to win the championship. There are four other teams ranked at 12-1 odds or shorter. After that, you're looking at a bunch of 20-1 longshots.

Your “browser” seems to have done a pretty thorough job.

But, couldn't this be the year of the longshot? Obviously, the favorites gained that status for a reason. A closer look, though, reveals holes a-plenty.

1. Miami. (Listed in the 4-1 range)
The Heat caught a bit of postseason magic, thanks to Dwyane Wade. Remember, Miami looked terrible in the opening games of the Finals before Wade simply took over. For a few weeks last spring, he played like Michael Jordan --maybe not with the same talent, but certainly with the same determination and will to win.

Yeah, of course! The reason Dwyane Wade made so many of those 20 footers wasn’t because he’s talented; it’s because of his determination and will to win. In fact, one could say he knows how to win! He’s a winner! That’s why he won!

But Jordan did that year after year. We don't know yet if Wade can do it, and, with the pummeling he took over the course of last season, it'll be tough for him to stay healthy through another championship run.

Oh, so Jordan was a “winner” too? You should write a book about this stuff. Seriously. Call it “Deveneyball.” Or something. “Deveneyball: David Eckstein is my hero Learn How To Win!”

He has a supporting cast of veterans who might be less motivated now that they've gotten their Miami rings, so Wade figures to have a stiffer challenge this year.

Miami Heat Locker Room, Halftime, Game 7, 2008 NBA Finals:

Dwyane Wade: Come on guys! We’re losing 72-40! Let’s do something!

Shaq: Sit down D-Wade! I’m tired.

Mourning: Yeah! We just won last year! Give it a rest!

Wade: Come on coach! Do something!

Riley: They’re right, sit down Dwyane! We just won last year!

2. Dallas. (Also listed around 4-1)
The Mavericks sure look like a championship team. They have talent, depth and good coaching. They have a superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, in his prime. They made some alterations, adding veteran reserve point guard Anthony Johnson, plus bit-part vets Devean George and Austin Croshere.

I think I just choked. You’re… saying… adding… Austin… Croshere… was a good thing? Wow.

But, last year, coach Avery Johnson continuously referred to his desire for his team to play, "playground basketball." That translates into something like this: "We're not tough enough." That's been the Mavs' weak spot throughout the Nowitzki era, and I don't know that Johnson can coach them into toughness.

Yeah, “being tough” is just like “knowing how to win.” I mean, you either know how to do it or you don’t.

3. San Antonio. (Listed pretty consistently at 9-2)
Most of us in the media focused on the Spurs' age as a primary reason for their loss to the Mavericks last postseason. And most of us were wrong. It wasn't age that was the problem for the Spurs; it was versatility.

And age. The only reason their lack of versatility was revealed was because their main guys were old/unhealthy.

They lacked players who combined size and quickness, guys who can keep pace with non-traditional big men like Nowitzki or Brad Miller.

This is synonymous for “they were old.”

The Spurs did well to address the issue economically by acquiring lower-tier players like Francisco Elson, Jackie Butler, Eric Williams and Matt Bonner, dumping lead-footed Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed in the process.

Who were old.

Problem is, the Spurs will have to make changes to their defensive scheme, which is designed to funnel the ball toward Tim Duncan and (go back in time with me here) David Robinson.

… David Robinson. Who’s no longer on the team. They’re running plays for David Robinson. Brilliant.

Nesterovic and Mohammed were not Robinson, but they were, at least, 7-foot shot-blockers.

Yes, and also, get this, they were on the team!!

Elson and Butler are not shot-blocking threats.

Yes, but they too are on the team! What a novel concept!

Thus, the Spurs are going to have to seriously alter the defensive scheme that has been such an integral part of their success.

Yes, a good start would be to quit running plays for David Robinson. Who isn’t on the team.

5. Detroit. (Listed around 7-1)
In the long run, the Pistons did the right thing in not bringing Ben Wallace back, but it certainly makes things tenuous in the short run. This will have to be a more offensive-minded team, something the Pistons tried last year with great regular-season success and miserable postseason failure.

In the 2005-2006 regular season, the Detroit Pistons averaged 96.8 PPG… good for 19th in the league. That’s right 18 different teams scored more points each game. In the 05-06 playoffs, the Detroit Pistons ranked third in scoring among playoff teams.

As much as players respect Wallace, they still back coach Flip Saunders and they still have the talent for a title run. They just look less imposing.

I find it absolutely hilarious that the Detroit News just recently published an article entitled “[Rasheed] Wallace hates zone” which includes such supportive statements as “It’s terrible.” Yeah! At least they still back Coach!

6. Chicago. (All over the place, from 7-1 to 25-1)
Wallace and P.J. Brown figure to be the short-term answer for the young Bulls. They'll defend, they'll rebound, they'll lead in the locker room.

P.J. Brown and Ben Wallace combined ’05-’06 ppg: 16.2. Oh… right. They lead in the locker room! Nearly forgot to take that into consideration.

The Bulls are a legitimate contender, but the offense is a big question. Their scoring tends to come from their guards -- Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich -- who are streaky.

Gordon and Hinrich averaged 32.8 out of the Bulls’ combined 97.8 PPG average. So yeah… the scoring doesn’t really “tend” to come from them. Unless you ignore the other 65 points. Which you… did.

Small forwards Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni don't post up as much as they should.

Maybe Scott Skiles should try “deploying” them more often. Heh.

That means their post scoring is going to have to come from Wallace, who is simply not very good with the ball, and Brown, who has a career scoring average of just 9.4 points per game.

Wallace is “simply not very good with the ball”? No way!!! @#@!%#@!$#@!!!!

7. Cleveland. (In the 10-1 to 12-1 range)
Until Larry Hughes finds a comfortable role, this is still a one-man team.

Yeah! I hear Lebron’s even gonna sell the popcorn in home games from now on!

It helps that the man in question is LeBron James, of course, but the Cavs have questions in every other area. Their point guards are Eric Snow, Damon Jones, David Wesley and Daniel Gibson.

Please name another team that has this much veteran depth (ignore Gibson) at the PG position. Oh that’s right, you can’t. And good job saying “every other area” and then mentioning one area. Sheer brilliance.


Yes, your articles do have the tendency to elicit that response.

They're still not quite sure what they have in Drew Gooden, who averaged a career-low 10.7 points last year.

He also posted an 18.9 EFF for ’04-’05 and a ridiculous 18.1 RbRate for last year. So, uh, yeah they are pretty sure what they have in Drew Gooden.

They're hoping for good things from rookie Shannon Brown, but they did little else to ease depth and perimeter shooting worries.

Yeah, maybe they should’ve gotten Ben Wallace! I hear he’s been busting out the long ball all summer!

8. New Jersey. (Between 12-1 and 15-1)

Bringing in rookie Marcus Williams could pay off right away, but the Nets' primary problem is the frontcourt, which features too much of soon-to-be-40 forward Puff Robinson.

Who will not start.

They brought in 22-year-old rookie Mile Ilic,

Who will not start.

but he's not likely to help right away. It looks like the Nets will have Nenad Krstic,

Who will start and posted a decent 12.2 RbRate in 05-06.


Who will not start, dammit.

and Jason Collins,


which is a pretty serious problem.

Who will not sta… er, sorry.

Those are the top contenders, but there isn't one I'd put my mortgage on.

Maybe you can get your browser to put its mortgage on it.

Or even your mortgage. These teams are good, but you don't get a sense of greatness here, which leaves this thing open for longshots.

You don't get a sense of "greatness" eh? What exactly does that engender? Amazing "team chemistry"? Great "clubhouse vibes"? Or... could it be? A team full of "winners"?

Hmm. Clippers at 30-1? Jazz at 75-1? Hornets at 80-1?

I sure hope this is the year of the longshot.

Yes, fantastic job on completely neglecting to say why that is. Sports writing at its best!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Some "Deep NBA Thought." Woot.

After a brief hiatus, our very own Sean Deveney re-emerges into the world of bad NBA article writing!

A quick request by my trusty editor, Stan McNeal, has sent me deep into NBA thought.

Aha! So we have a certain trusty editor to thank! Why, thank you!

Stan asked me to nominate some candidates for the NBA's top breakout player for the upcoming season, which, I found, is tricky business. Defining a breakout player can be as difficult as defining an MVP.

Gosh, I totally agree. I mean look at the baseball season that just ended! One can really never truly decide between Travis Hafner’s unbelievable OPS and Derek Jeter’s SKFBTWPIHC. For those of you ignorant readers, that would be his record setting “Saving Kittens From Burning Trees While Positively Influencing His Clubhouse” numbers.

Guys like Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh already have had breakout seasons, but they have not had that now-the-world-knows-me type of exposure yet. In that sense, you could say Elton Brand broke out last season, in which he went from being a good player on bad teams to a great player on a good team — and in the process, became more of a household name for sports fans.

Hey Sean? Generally you have a “break out” season by… breaking out. As in, having ridiculously better numbers than you had in the rest of your career. Elton Brand?

Career until ’05-’06: 19.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg

’05-’06: 24.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg

Just saying…

That could happen to both Bosh and Howard this year.

Yeah! All they have to do is… play the same and they’ll have had breakout seasons! Awesome how that works.

But for the sake of our little conversation here, let's assume that, in order to have a breakout season, you have to be early in your NBA career, and you have to be well out of the realm of the common sports fan's knowledge.

Joe Mauer just had a “breakout” season and he’s still out of the “realm of the common sports fan’s knowledge.”

With those conditions, I came up with five guys I'd look for to have a breakout year. As always, I'm interested in hearing your additions, subtractions and mindless ridicule.


1. Charlie Bell, Bucks. Milwaukee traded fragile T.J. Ford,

Yeah, go ahead and jump on the “TJ Ford is fragile” bandwagon. Seriously, he’s had one freak injury, and now sports writers all over make it seem like he’s the second coming of Grant Hill.

in part, because they liked what they saw out of Bell at the end of last season.

No, it’s purely because they bought into the overhype of Mr. “I scored 50 points in a meaningless game for the Toronto Rapters so I’ve now officially broken out!”

Bell had a hard time fitting into the NBA because he was a 6-3 shooting guard in college. Getting significant playing time in March last season, Bell averaged 12.1 points and 4.1 assists while handling point guard duties when Ford was injured.

Ford, ’05-’06: 12.2 ppg, 6.6 apg

Near the end of that month, he led the team to back-to-back wins in which he had 24 assists and the Bucks averaged 128.5 points.

Yes, great job using a sample size of two games.

He is a great defender and can shoot — this could wind up being an upgrade over Ford.

I am willing to bet anyone 50 bucks that TJ Ford has a better season than Charlie Bell.

2. Monta Ellis, Warriors. We still might be a year away from Ellis' breakout season, but the guy is going to be good.

So he’s a “year away from his breakout season” so you’re putting him on your 2006-2006 breakout list? Fantastic! I always love to see good, logical reasoning, and honestly, have you ever failed me in that regard?

Drafted out of high school in the second round last year, the only question about Ellis is whether he will put in the work it will take to be an everyday NBA player.

Somehow, I think that no matter how much “work he puts in,” he’ll never get past Baron Davis on the depth chart. Just a thought. But keep working Monta!

A year or two in college probably would have helped him in that area. Still, he showed last year that he does belong in the NBA.

There are about 400-500 players in the NBA. How does proving that he is among one of these hundreds show that he’ll have a break out year again? Or will all 400 players have a break out year?

He is one of the five quickest guys in the league,

Hmm. Here’s 10 guys faster than him: Steve Nash, Jason Terry, Chris Paul, TJ Ford, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Rip Hamilton, Rafer Alston, Allen Iverson, Jahidi White. Oh wait, forget that last one.

and even if he never develops a completely reliable outside shot, he is going to score.

That sure makes a lot of sense.

With Baron Davis and Jason Richardson in the backcourt, it might be hard for Ellis to get court time, but I suspect that if anyone can find time for him, it's new coach Don Nelson.

“Finding time” does not equal “being an everyday player.” I mean, Vitaly Potapenko “found time.”

3. Luol Deng, Bulls. The only thing that has kept Deng from being a breakout player is his health.

He played 78 games in 2005-2006.. So you’re telling me that if he had just played in those four games he missed, he would’ve been a breakout player?

He is capable of scoring 17-20 points per game, though the Bulls' slow-down pace probably will keep him away from 20-point games.

Yeah, too bad he missed those four games. I mean, he could have really gone off. Like, 80 point games or something. Talk about fragile.

He has long arms and is a solid defender, but it seems that coach Scott Skiles has not quite figured out how to deploy Deng yet.

“Deploy Deng”? What is this, the Vietnam War?

That, in part, is because Deng has not quite harnessed his skills — he can post up, he can put it on the floor, he can pull up for jumpers, but he is not sure when he should be doing what.

Inside Luol Dong’s Head (the first installment of the 7 part series!):

Luol Deng’s Right Brain: We should really put the ball on the floor, Luol.

Luol Deng’s Left Brain: Nah. Let’s post up.

Luol Deng’s Right Brain: Hold up, hold up. Coach hasn’t even deployed us yet. Let’s stop getting ahead of ourselves here.

Hopefully, this is the year Deng, who is only 21, puts it together.

“It” being the two sides of his brain of course.

4. Anderson Varejao, Cavaliers. This might sound weird, but a scout I know said the player he compares Varejao to is Ben Wallace. In part, that's because Varejao is lacking offensive polish.

So were Luc Longley, Bryant Reeves, and Isaac Austin.

But it's also because Varejao plays with heart, intensity and defensive abandon, much like Wallace.

Wallace’s HIDA (Heart, Intensity, Defensive Abandon)* ‘05-’06: 97 (!!!)

Varejoa’s HIDA ’05-’06: 43

Dude, that’s not even close.

I don't know if Varejao can dominate a game from the defensive end and on the glass the way Wallace can, but as he started getting increased minutes late last season, he began to show that he can be a rebounding machine, an ideal complement to LeBron James.

Why the hell is a “rebounding machine” the ideal complement? Come to think of it, you could have put anything here and it would have sounded good. Thieving rascal, you.

The re-signing of Drew Gooden probably does not help Varejao's chances at minutes, but I think the Cavaliers will find a way to play him 25 minutes per game.

Honestly, Varejao is the first guy you mention that both actually qualifies as a player who hasn’t yet had a “breakout” year, and possibly could have one this year. It sure would have made a lot more sense, though, for you to mention his 17.6 RbRate instead of the re-signing of Drew Gooden. Then again, you’re Sean Deveney, who am I kidding.

5. Ray Felton, Bobcats. Felton did not enjoy the early part of his rookie year — but the late part certainly opened some eyes. Yes, he needs to be more consistent with his jumper. But he did shoot 35.8 percent from the 3-point line. And few noticed that he averaged 16.6 points and 7.4 assists over the last three months of last year. The Bobcats will improve with Emeka Okafor and Sean May healthy. If Adam Morrison can be the scorer the Bobcats hope he is, Felton should average 15 points and 8 assists this year.

Ray Felton assessment is dead on… but why, why, why did you have to bring up Adam Morrison?

*Yes, that’s a made up stat, how’d you guess.