Added on 15 June 2011
Post-Finals video. Eric’s first go.
My two favorite descriptions of John Wall:
He’s like a more athletic, less selfish, Derrick Rose. Like LeBron if he hadn’t been made in space and was crossed with Chris Paul.
via Bethlehem Shoals, “Death to America,” 4/12/09
JOHN WALL IS A SHOTGUN-TOTING GYPSY WITH ROCKET SHOES THAT WILL SELL YOUR OWN SOUL TO YOU BEFORE PICKING IT FROM YOUR POCKET!
via Zach Harper, “Ethan, I know John Wall and Kyrie Irving is no John Wall,” 06/30/11
John Wall is going to make opposing point guards cry next season, whenever that is.
I’m not sure there’s a player I’m more excited about watching, Bismack Biyombo included. Wall’s rookie season may have felt underwhelming, due in part to Blake Griffin’s aerial highway of of destruction and in part to his frustrating battle with injuries. But everything that made us think he had all-world potential when he was in high school and at Kentucky was on display in the pros. He knows he needs to develop with regards to shooting, defense, and taking care of the ball, and I think this could happen very quickly. By the end of next season, I’m pretty sure there won’t be anything he can’t do, save for throwing a baseball. I guess what I’m saying is the difference between rookie and sophomore John Wall may very well be akin to that of sophomore and third-year Derrick Rose. Be afraid.
On Tuesday night, the 2011 All-Canada Classic took place at the Air Canada Centre. The ACC at the ACC! John and I were there to see the top Canadian high school players and we had a conversation about it.
James Herbert: So, ummm, NEGUS! MVP! MVP!
John Bennett: Yes, NEGUUUUUUUUSSS!!!! I was excited to see him play and he completely exceeded my expectations.
JH: You mean your expectations were lower than a 23-point first half? His name is Negus Webster-Chan, you should have seen this coming.
JB: If my expectations were based on just a player’s name, then I think we both know who should have had a 100 point game.
JH: Kenny Fred Cherry?
JB: HELL YES!
JH: Back to Negus, though. Dude was hitting pull-up threes and yapping afterward. SO MUCH YAPPING. You heard him talking to Sonny Weems, right?
JB: Yeah from what I saw/heard it all seemed to start with Sonny. He was talking before that but once the trash talk with Sonny started, he went off. Every time he hit one of those pull-ups he was pointing at Sonny and just egging him on.
JH: My favorite part of the Sonny thing is that Negus asked Sonny to follow him on Twitter after the game. [It worked!]
JB: HA! That’s amazing. I’m guessing that he and Xavier aren’t friends on Twitter.
JH: Xavier Rathan-Mayes? What makes you say that?
JB: Well as soon as he came on, Negus started to talk. I had a front row seat for their trash talk. The exchange went something like this (edited for the safety of children) — Negus: “I’m going to light you up.” Xavier: “Not while I’m guarding you.”
JH: Since when do you care about the safety of children?
JB: Since your guy Myck Kabongo lit up Kevin Pangos last year. I’ve been concerned for Kevin’s ankles ever since.
JH: Yeah, Pangos didn’t have a huge game last year or this year… and he’s one of the best players in the country. What’s up with him – is he just not an all-star game guy?
JB: It’s tough. He’s the top rated Canadian player in this class that still plays IN CANADA. I can’t really fault him for staying, but I think it’s had a serious impact on his development. Playing for Dr. Denison, he is one of the biggest guys on the floor. So he comes into these games and all of a sudden has to try and pick up other guard full-court rather and he’s just not used to it.
JH: You saw a pretty special Pangos performance a couple of months back, yeah?
JB: Yeah, I took the subway up to the St. Mike’s Invitational to see Vaughan play Denison and he was unbelievable. Scored 48 in the loss against the eventual winners of AAAA OFSSA and the #1 rated 2014 draft prospect in Andrew Wiggins… Offensively, I have no problems with his game – floaters, pullups, contested threes, and layups with contact. It was amazing to see him still get off threes with Wiggins’ long arms in his face. Defensively though, Denison plays a 2-3 zone, and it makes sense for them. THEY ARE NOT A BASKETBALL SCHOOL. But because of this, Pangos needs to play defensive center! Right in the middle of the paint. He didn’t get to defend a guard that whole game.
JH: That’s crazy. But in this game, he didn’t do a hell of a lot offensively. Threw a couple oops to Anthony Bennett, though… and you know what? I kind of expected more from Bennett.
JB: Yeah you’re right. Effective in the open floor but really faded into the background with all the athleticism from everyone else in the game. Anthony was just, ugh, a little weird to watch for me considering he’s supposed to be the best Canadian prospect next year.
JH: You can see why, though. He’s crazy-athletic and he has perimeter skills. I think I just wanted him to go inside more. He did a ridiculous left-handed windmill at the end of the game and it looked SO EASY. Made me wish I saw more aggression from him earlier on. Excited to see him play again.
JB: Agreed, he’s freakishly athletic. Especially when you look at how ‘thick’ he is. The guy is just massive. I understand that he would make a huge impact on the inside, but that’s also the knock on this guy. People think he can only be an undersized power forward if he makes the NBA, and with all the 3 point attempts, he clearly wants to prove everyone wrong.
JH: He was handling the ball in transition, too. As was the 6’10” Mr. Stefan Jankovic.
JB: Oh man, don’t get me started on this guy. First time seeing him play and I’m fully sold. Right off the opening tip, he’s guarded by the complete monster that is 7’5 Sim Bhullar. Instead of trying to show everyone a little toughness, he made Bhullar play to his strengths. He stayed on the outside and drilled a three to start the game. Great game from him, probably didn’t want to let his Huntington Prep teammate Negus have all the fun.
JH: If I remember nothing else from this game, I’ll remember Jankovic hitting a three-pointer from near halfcourt at the end of the first half. Off the glass. While getting fouled.
JH: Anyway, you sat on the baseline taking pictures. Did you almost break anyone’s ankle? If so, I’ll have to kill you.
JB: There was a moment where I really did think I had ruined Kevin Thomas. He sort of got tangled up in the air and his momentum carried him towards my spot on the floor, where he tiptoed around my feet. That happened a few times but the Thomas moment, I thought, “Holy crap, what if he messed up an ankle or knee or whatever and he’s done because he stepped on me?” I’d never thought I would be scared about someone else’s health when I’m the one being stepped on, but it happened.
JH: Best picture you took?
JB: Well, that’s sort of up in the air. Of the 400 plus pics there were a few I was really happy with.
JH: PICK ONE!
JB: It’s probably this shot of Thomas up at the rim. I know he missed the dunk but it looks damn good.
WAIT! no maybe the one where Xavier had just said, “You won’t score on me” to Negus before he inbounded the ball.
JH: Ugh, fine. You get to have two favorites.
JB: Six! The four pics from the girls’ game when there was a loose ball and a ton of them ended up on the floor fighting for it. Great stuff James, great stuff.
JH: We should take this opportunity to congratulate the MVP of the girls’ game, Lindsay Shotbolt. Wait, it’s just now sinking in that the MVP’s of these games were Negus Webster-Chan and Lindsay Shotbolt. Canada has the best-named basketball players.
JB: Clearly! That girls’ game was great, most of the guys showed some support by watching a lot of it before they had to prep for their game. The ball movement was solid, and the defensive effort was off the charts. No easy baskets at all in half court sets.
JH: Physical game, too. Back to the dudes – who else stood out to you? I really liked Martin Dixon-Green, mostly because I enjoy the three-monocle when deployed directly in somebody’s face and I enjoy reverse 360 dunks.
JB:Yeah, he was exciting to watch. I REALLY liked Naz Long. Same sort of winning mentality as his Findlay Prep teammate Myck Kabongo. After the McDonald’s All-American game, Kabongo was visibly upset. As this game was closing in, Long took a HUGE charge and the West bench was chirping him for it because their teammate could have gotten hurt. But Naz just turned to them and said, “HEY, I want to WIN!”
JH: Scale of 1-10, how seriously did DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems take their roles as slam dunk contest judges?
JH: Sounds about right.
JB: Although I did like Jamar Ergas. Still don’t know why he was in the contest, though… since he wasn’t part of the game.
JH: When you can involve a ninth grade dunking phenom, you do it. FINAL QUESTION: What do you want to see at next year’s All-Canada Classic?
JB: More fans! People need to get out and support basketball in Canada!
JH: Good answer. It was a fun time, hope this event gets bigger and bigger. Like, Sim Bhullar big.
For the record: I’m a little obsessed with Bismack Biyombo and it’s not just because his name is Bismack Biyombo. I know his workout at Eurocamp was ugly, but I’m hoping he’s Ben Wallace and Ben Wallace would have looked terrible there, too. Can’t honestly say I have much of a clue about how his skills will translate, especially in his first year, but I’m rooting for him and, if you haven’t already, you really have to read these two stories.
If you want to take a break from draft reading, though, I strongly suggest checking out Danny Chau’s mega-post on the playoffs at Hardwood Paroxysm. There’s just so much awesome in there, but I’ll warn that it’ll make you really miss watching Chris Paul.
Some exciting news in my world: I’ve been fortunate enough to become a part of the HoopSpeak Live team, as the Producer. And as a fan of Beckley, Ethan, and Zach’s writing, and a guy who misses The Weekly Fix, this is pretty freaking huge. It’s a really fun show and the guests we’ve been getting have been fantastic. The next show is today at 3:15 EST, with Dan Shanoff and Rob Mahoney.
If you’re also in Toronto, I highly recommend checking out the All-Canada Classic this coming Tuesday. I went last year and I’ll forever remember it as the first time I saw Myck Kabongo play in person. Good times. I’ll have more on it in this space after the game. You can still get tickets here.
And while I’m at it, I should probably give an update on what else will be here in the coming months… except I’m not exactly sure. We’ve been having fun doing the Short Shorts videos and want to do more goofy stuff like that. There will certainly be more podcasts as well, both of the OTN and Pod Shammpod variety. Beyond that? I gotta get writing, even if I’m all over the place most of the time.
Marc and I are back, finally, talking about the NBA. We recorded this on Friday, a day removed from the Heat advancing to the Finals. We discuss the two Conference Finals series that ended, Mike Brown going to the Lakers, what to expect from Dallas/Miami, and more.
There is not as much J.J. Barea talk as you might expect.
“Imagine you’re in a dream where you’re violently trying to open a door. The door is locked, but you just won’t give up. You don’t know how you got there, but you know you’re supposed to open that door.”
That’s how Rod Benson described trying to make it into the NBA. Benson is the NBA Development League’s all-time leading rebounder, yet his only NBA minutes came during preseason with the Indiana Pacers in 2009. He’s known for more than just his basketball ability – his Too Much Rod Benson blog gave him an online following as he kept trying to open that door.
“Exhausted, you take a break and turn around,” Benson continued. “You realize that you’ve been at an amusement park the whole time. You realize that a locked door is much worse than an amusement park, in the end.”
In his amusement park, the 26-year-old has built an entire brand, Boom Tho!, from scratch. His clothing line for Summer 2011 launched earlier this month and he designed it all while starring for Dongbu Promy in the Korean Basketball League. Now he’s back home, enjoying the off-season in the California sun.
“Most of the hard work was done during the season,” Benson said. “Since it ended, I locked myself in a hole for a few days to get the website done, the rest of it is just kinda smooth sailing. I sit by the pool, take pictures, and return emails. It’s the good life.”
That life hardly sounds like trouble, yet the off-court projects that have allowed Benson to express himself, connect with people, and make money may have stood in the way of his leap to the NBA. The vast majority of professional athletes go out at night, but unlike Benson, most don’t write or make music videos about it.
“I don’t think anyone really knows for sure,” Scott Schroeder, D-League blogger for Ridiculous Upside and formerly NBA Fanhouse, said of why Benson never made the jump. “It wasn’t anything based on his on-court performance, especially after he’d added weight and became more consistent — earlier thought to be his main flaws — so perception, I guess. Being an enterprising guy, Rod’s forays into social media and the blogosphere were typically considered red flags by NBA scouts despite those same things not creating any distractions with his D-League teams.”
“People… cough, the NBA, cough, tend to think that I’m some super crazy party animal,” Benson said. “They think that I don’t care about basketball, can’t take anything seriously, and will drown in a pool of alcohol. Truth is, I’m pretty calm, and spend most of my day working on ways to make money. I party about the same amount as other people, I’m just creative and maximize the time. I’m more Dennis Green than Dennis Rodman.”
Benson said that he has never regretted anything he’s written. “I have learned how to write with more finesse, though,” he said. “I can be equally as clever without pissing so many people off.” After the Miami Heat caught flak for the tears in their locker room this season, he wrote thoughtfully on the subject of crying in sports. He discussed race with the same touch of personal experience after Jalen Rose and Grant Hill’s public back-and-forth. Whether serious or silly, Benson will write about almost any subject.
“I’ve never really written about girlfriends,” Benson said. “I think that actually made my ex a little angry, but I just always thought that was more private. The rest of it? Pssshh, I’ve written about walking in on a woman in the bathroom on the train, and about how to sneak into the Hard Rock in Vegas and party with Sugar Shane Mosely.”
The advantage of playing in the D-League rather than overseas is being closer to the NBA and team scouts. After four years without a call-up, Benson decided it was time to head to Korea. “My mindset was to make money!” Benson laughed. “I had been just getting by in the D-League for far too long. It was time to get paid and do something new.”
It’s hard to argue with his decision, given that there’s not much more he could have accomplished as a D-Leaguer. “Rod had an incredible D-League career,” Schroeder said. “Being based in Bismarck, I had the opportunity to watch his progression with the Dakota Wizards for the first two seasons of his professional career. Rod began in the D-League as a lanky, role-playing rookie out of Cal who contributed to Dakota’s D-League championship run in 2006-07 off the bench. From there, Rod added weight, expanded his offensive repertoire and continued to produce — even in an extended role.” In his second year, he had a 28-point, 28-rebound game against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He finished his D-League career by averaging 24 points and 16.3 rebounds while shooting 63.4% in a playoff series against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
In his first season in Korea, Benson averaged 16.5 points and 9.2 rebounds and was the lone American to start in the KBL All-Star game. He competed in the dunk contest wearing his “Mr. Boom Tho” mascot head. He’s called the season the most ridiculous of his career, and shared stories of crazed fans giving him postgame doughnuts and giving him “Kevin Durant attention.” But even with this and his online popularity, he still doesn’t consider himself famous.
“Ehh, I wouldn’t call it fame,” Benson said. “In Korea it’s kind of like hysteria for anyone on TV, but since I don’t speak Korean, it doesn’t feel like celebrity. In the States, it’s more like I have too many friends and we all meet online to discuss our happenings. I’m an engaging person, so I don’t really feel the change.”
For an engaging guy with no shortage of friends, being away from home has proven challenging. “I appreciate my relationships with people so much more,” Benson said. “I go without seeing all the important people in my life for so long, that it basically breaks down our lines of communication. I made it a point to stay in contact with the people that matter in a more consistent way.” He said the best part of being back home for the summer is, “Seeing all the hype all my friends have. It’s like my arrival was the dawn of a new party, which they all invited themselves to. It’s been pretty epic thus far.”
Don’t mistake Benson’s satisfaction with a life split between different continents and different pursuits for the end of his desire to try new things. “I’m all about improving our clothing line, and eventually taking over some new form of media,” Benson said. “TV, movies, radio, something.” He has considered writing a book, too.
Benson’s goals are simple, basketball-wise. “I just want to enjoy it and make some more cash while I still can,” he said. “There aren’t many other goals an athlete should have in my opinion. Winning is fun. Improving is fun. The game is fun. Enjoy all of it. If not, then stop. The rest of your life is too long to be unprepared for it.”
We tried something a little different this week. Sir Julian Guy-McCarvill III constructed a challenge whereby each of us podcasters picked one of three dudes at each position/role to build a team. It was weird, but fun. Enjoy!
After the jump, view our teams and vote for mine!
As the regular season winds down, we take a look back at who’s been surprisingly good/bad, where we went wrong with our preseason predictions, and… yeah… we talk about the MVP thing. To be a bit different, we forced ourselves to argue for candidates we wouldn’t actually vote for.
The cast of characters: James Herbert, Julian Guy-McCarvilll, and John Bennett. Eric Wagman was there in spirit.
Marc and I are back with more Shammpoddery. He’s just returned from a basketball-less business trip to L.A., so I catch him up on what he’s missed in the NBA.
Topics include, but are not limited to: The Miami Heat, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Memphis Grizzlies’ facial hair, the Miami Heat, HDNet, hamburgers, the Atlanta Hawks, the Miami Heat, Tony Allen’s sanity, the Miami Heat, and the Miami Heat.
Krolik on LeBron being disappointing in the regular season
Ziller on the Heat not forcing turnovers
Dean Oliver on dribbling
Gallo’s awesome defense
Andre Iguodala’s awesome defense
Notes: Spencer Hawes is boring, I think Marc owes the city of Atlanta an apology, we probably swore too much, and it runs just over an hour.
We’re still not on iTunes. This is entirely our fault. This situation will be rectified.
Evan Turner killed it on Sunday night. The numbers: 20 points (on 9-15 shooting), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 memorable moment after a frantic sequence, and 1 undeniably endearing postgame soundbite.
It was a great watch. Sure, he made some mistakes – a few botched defensive possessions, a couple of turnovers, and one airball I’d like to forget – but this game was exactly what Sixers fans were waiting for. He made aggressive moves and quick decisions, just like he did when dominating at Ohio State. It was what we could easily call a breakout performance, but we won’t.
Turner followed this up by scoring 10 points on 3-8 shooting last night. He started strong, hitting a corner three, a midrange jumper off a hard dribble to his right, and a second midrange J after a spin that made Clark Kellogg exclaim, “My goodness!” But after taking a flagrant foul from Dahntay Jones, he basically disappeared. He played meaningful minutes in a good win, but those minutes felt nothing like those he played on Sunday. And that’s okay.
This Pacers game reminds us that Evan is still a rookie, one who was correctly described as “shamefully gun shy” in December. And while it would be convenient to see modest showings like this eliminated rather than limited, it’s rewarding to catch a few flashes of brilliance before brilliance becomes the norm.
We should celebrate inspiring games and promising stretches. We should cherish all the firsts in bright young careers. But if we believe our guy’s got stardom in him, we should treat each impressive night as evidence, not proof, that he’s going to let it out.
Can’t believe I had to miss this podcast. Julian, Wagman, and John held it down, though. They went through each of the big deadilne deals, starting with the one that has Deron Williams all smiley in the picture above.
The runtime is 29:08.
Spoilers: Wagman absolutely rips into Robert Sarver… and if you thought he was done with the Kings last week, you were wrong. Somehow.
P.S. I would have argued against the franchise tag idea if I was there. Dammit.