Friday, February 26, 2010

Scary Free Throws, Frisky Bucks, and Another Lottery Dud: It's the HSL Friday 3-Man Weave

1. While Ben Wallace continues to rank dead last all-time in free throw shooting accuracy, there is another brick-throwing NBA center that is making a real push for the single season record for charity stripe proficiency. Andris Biedrins, the athletic Latvian for the Warriors, has been nothing short of horrrrrendous at the line this year. Try and swallow this stat box with your morning coffee. On the season, Biedrins is a stomach-churning 4 for 25 from the land of free. FOUR FOR TWENTY-FIVE!! This comes out to a robust 16 friggin' percent. Yiiiiiiikes. The single season record is held by the Celtics' Garfield Smith in '72, and he still managed to knock home 19%. Practically automatic compared to our boy Andris, who if you haven't seen it, basically goes with some kind of fractured soccer style throw-in when trying to cash in his attempts. Don Nelson tried bringing in Rick Barry (career 90%) to teach his underhand method to Biedrins, but the big fella was not cooperative. Not "cool" enough, apparently. But if this sick display continues for a couple more months, Biedrins might find out what "cool" really is next year...when he's suiting up alongside Billy Owens and Mr. Cooper for the Brotherhood II chapter in the downtown Oakland B'nai B'rith League for retired Jewish foot doctors and former NBA washouts. If I were you, I'd start hittin' some free throws, Andris...immediately.

2. The Milwaukee Bucks emerged from the All-Star break as a sub-.500 squad searching for some kind of identity. They sputtered badly in their first game back, suffering a 28-point home thrashing at the hands of the Rockets. Things weren't looking good for Scott Skiles and company. Fortunately for the Bucks, their next game was at the Palace against the Pistons, a team that plays with passion approximately two to three times a month. They got the much-needed road W and haven't lost since. After last night's escape job in Indy, the Milwaukee winning streak has now reached five and they are over .500 (29-28) for the first time in three months. It's not a glamorous group by any means, but they're getting the job done. Andrew Bogut has been a monster of late, and for the first time in his career, is actually starting to provide some justification for being #1 overall selection in 2005. John Salmons has been superb since coming over from Chicago at the trade deadline, and rumor has it that he might finally be considering making the "L" in his last name silent. The old dog Jerry Stackhouse has been a splash of sunshine off the bench, mixing in his usual batch of post-ups with an improved stroke from downtown. And lucky Luke Ridnour just might be the best backup point guard in the league. Even though Brandon Jennings hit the rookie wall about 35 games ago and Carlos Delfino takes the word "streaky" to a whole new stratosphere, this is still a fun little squad and I look forward to watching them come playoff time. And no, I cannot figure out how this unique batch of journeymen and young guys are fighting for the 6th spot in the East, while the Pistons continue to lose double-digit leads to the LA Clippers of the world. When's that draft lottery, again??

3. Not everyday in the Association that you see the second overall pick demoted to the D-League, but that's exactly what happened yesterday as the Memphis Grizzlies sent Hasheem Thabeet packing to the "Dakota" Wizards. Not North Dakota. Not South Dakota. Just Dakota...a real hotbed for hoops. Nice pick, Grizz. On draft night, maybe you shoulda looked past the fact that your boy was eight feet tall and instead concentrated on the fact that he never made a shot outside of eight feet in his entire career at UCONN. You can get away with that kinda thing in college. Hang out near the rim, get a lot of dunks, shoot over guys half a foot shorter. But in the NBA, you usually need to possess some semblance of actual basketball skill in order to succeed. Sadly, Thabeet is sorely lacking in that department, and has fallen on such hard times that he has now been replaced in the Memphis lineup by an actual Iranian, Hamed Haddadi, the only such player in league history. I think it's safe to say that if the organization chooses to play a guy that may or may not be friends with Osama Bin Laden over you, then your days in the league are most likely coming to an end very soon. Enjoy "Dakota," Hasheem, and give my best to Mount Rushmore. You never day you might find yourself on a monument just like it dedicated to the tallest lottery busts in history, along with Robert Swift, Vitaly Potapenko (taken right before Kobe Bryant), Sharone Wright, and the wildly overhyped Ricky Roe.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pistons 2010: Where Even the Wins Feel like Losses

The clock ticked under four minutes to play. The Pistons were leading the perennial Western powerhouse Spurs by 11 points. Tim Duncan wiggled free for a layup and the lead was cut to nine.

At that moment, Gregg Popovich had a revelation.

"Hey, this team we're playing has the worst free throw shooter in NBA history on their team. And he is on the court right now. GO FOUL HIM!!!"

And so they did. Again, and again, and again, and again.

In the span of just one minute and twenty seconds, Ben Wallace was ordered to the line a staggering ten times.

His shots were flying every which way. Some clanged off the side of the rim, some boomeranged off the backboard, and a few even managed to find their way through the hoop (four to be exact).

And throughout the whole ordeal, John Kuester did nothing. Sat on the bench, folded his arms, and watched.

Finally, with 2:05 on the clock and fearing the Spurs would get one more hack in before the rules would prohibit them from doing so (under 2 minutes), Kuester summoned Wallace to the bench.

The big fella angrily made his way to the sideline, took a seat, and fired his headband halfway to Livonia. This was clearly a very unhappy man. But who were his frustrations directed towards??

Sifting through Wallace's post game comments, that's pretty tough to judge.

A reporter asked Ben what he thought of the Hack-a-Ben strategy.
---"It's garbage."

Another reporter asked how he felt about Kuester showing confidence in him by leaving him in the game and not pulling him when the shenanigans started.
---"That's garbage, too."

Good luck figuring that one out.

But I will never understand why the frustration in this type of situation is always directed at the team enacting the strategy. Why is Ben not looking inward and putting the responsibility on his own shoulders, where it belongs?

Competition in any sport essentially comes down to this.

1. Search for your opponent's weakness.
2. Once identified, exploit that weakness as early and often as possible in order to emerge victorious.

It's as simple as that.

Gregg Popovich saw a glaring weakness on the other side of the court, and decided, understandably, to take advantage of it. And remember, it is not as if we are just talking about any old struggling charity tosser here.

Ben Wallace is literally the worst free throw shooter in NBA history.

Of the fourteen-hundred and six ballplayers that qualify (min. 500 career attempts), Ben Wallace ranks dead last in terms of free throw accuracy. And it's not even close.

1404. Eric Montross (.478)
1405. Chris Dudley (.458)
1406. Ben Wallace (.419)

(Sidenote: #33 on that list is Jason Maxiell at 56%. #47 is Kwame Brown at just under 58%. That's right...the Pistons currently suit up 3 of the worst 47 free-throwers in the history of the NBA. Don't let anyone tell you this isn't the most depressing season in franchise history.)

Richard Hamilton talked after the game how the Hack-a-Ben routine "was not basketball," and pondered possible rule changes in the future.

Gimme a break.

How is this any different than a football team continually attacking a weak cornerback by throwing in his direction on every play?

Or a team in the Little League World Series drag bunting down the first base line in every at-bat because the hefty 11-year-old hurler for the Venezuelan squad is easily pushing three bills ,and seems to have some kind of salsa dripping from the brim of his hat??

That's the way sports work. Do whatever it takes to win the game. This is multiplied by a million when you are talking about games at the professional level, when too many digits in the loss column typically end up costing you your paycheck.

And by the way, this thing could have ended in the blink of an eye...if Ben were able to MAKE A FREE THROW.

But what was John Kuester thinking throughout all of this?? He had the key to the castle the whole time, and chose to keep it hidden in his back pocket.

After the very first hack, he should have screamed for Charlie Villanueva and physically escorted him onto the court to replace Ben.

Now, I know that Villanueva has been living comfortably in Kuester's doghouse the last couple weeks, and that you'd be losing a lot on D by making the switch, but this was absolutely a move that had to be made. You put Charlie in for Ben, and now the Spurs have to D up for 15-20 seconds each time down. With a nine point lead and just a few minutes to play, every second becomes precious. That's what made their fouling strategy so valuable.

It's not just that they were forcing Ben to the line, where the Pistons would likely score 0 or 1 point. It's the fact that no time was elapsing in between their offensive possessions.

It's like one of those old bonus rounds on Super Mario Bros. where you could just go collect a million coins, but you had no risk of losing a life in the process. You're basically playing with house money.

Same thing here. For that 80 seconds, the Spurs had a chance to score as many points as they could knowing the number on the other side of the scoreboard would remain virtually the same. And most importantly, really no time was coming off the clock in the process.

For that minute and twenty seconds where they were hacking Ben, Tim Duncan and Co. went on offense a whopping six times. Remember, an NBA shot clock is 24 ticks. So typically, in 80 seconds of game time, each team will get two possessions, maybe three if the pace is really quick. They got SIX.

(Showing an immense amount of personal restraint, I did not fire a single projectile in the direction of the TV during these proceedings.)

Just to make sure the final outcome of the game does not get lost in the shuffle completely, I will point out that the Pistons did battle hard in overtime to come away with the mildly impressive home W over a Tony Parker-less Spurs squad. But to me, the story was that minute and twenty seconds where Wallace and Kuester both embarrassed themselves, each in their own unique way.

To me, Kuester is starting to look more and more like Michael Curry every day. Towards the end of Curry's reign, I realized that even though he had no chance to win with the roster he inherited, his clock management and in-game strategy were simply not good enough to be running a team at the highest level. He lacked certain essentials like how to handle timeouts at the end of games and which players to insert at critical moments. And maybe most importantly, he failed to assert himself as someone the players had to respect. He would rather be their buddy than their boss. Ultimately, it led to his dismissal after just one season at the helm.

I'm beginning to have these same feelings about "Kue." He was presented with a decision on Sunday night.

He could remove Ben after that first foul. This was certainly the right choice and the one that would have served the team best in securing the win with ease in regulation. But, this option might have also resulted in Diva Wallace turning against him and pouting his way through the rest of the season, like he has done to other coaches (Carlisle, Saunders) before.

Sadly, Kuester went the other way. He chose to play it safe. Or, as some like to say, "show confidence in his player." It's one thing for football coaches to punt late in a game to put the onus on their stout defense to finish things off. That confidence comes with reason. This particular form of confidence is, as Ben would like to say, "garbage." There was no mystery with this result. Ben was going to miss free throws. Many of them. But Kuester went the Mike Curry route, and turned catatonic.

As for Ben, it's the same old story, and one that I've rehashed several times on this site. Free throw shooting was his bugaboo entering the league, and he has not improved even the slightest in this department during his 14 years of service. I don't discount the fact that he has devoted huge chunks of time in the weight room throughout his career. It is admirable, and his work ethic in that regard is one to be replicated. But that does not take away from the giant elephant in the room; Ben has not done anything to improve his one major weakness, free throw shooting.

He has always loved to cry to the media and demand more touches on offense, but he never accompanies the words with the actions. Going to the gym in the summer and shooting 1,000 free throws might not be as glamorous or exhilarating as lifting 500+ pounds of metal with music blaring all around you. But the great ones fight through the boredom and do whatever it takes to change. But Ben just returns to training camp each year with that same ridiculous, fading away, high-arcing stroke that's about as graceful as a Tim Tebow spiral. And there is no excuse for it.

Go figure that on a night the Pistons win, I still find myself highly frustrated, writing this short novel at 1:47 AM more than 24 hours after the game ended.

It's been a long 55 games, but I think I can stick it out for the final 27.

Just please don't put Ben on that line anymore.

I can't take much more of that...

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Socks Brothers Present: The Semi-Intelligent, Somewhat Coherent, but Always Entertaining Sunday Evening Chat

HSL: Nice game this morning, little bro. Feels pretty good being 5-0, don't it?!?!

Low Socks: It was a nice game. Undefeated at the All-Star break is quite an accomplishment.

HSL: Sure is. And not to brag, man, but hasn't my 3-point stroke been especially lethal this season? What's going through your mind when I'm spotting up from deep?

Low Socks: Yes, you probably lead the league in three pointers made. But you might also have the edge in the attempts column as well. So, as you're spotting up for three, all I can think about is Antoine Walker and his "prowess" from behind the arc. I must add that in this image, I am your teammate, Paul Pierce...

HSL: Yeah, I can see that; only, if Paul Pierce were a 6'2" left handed Jew who was known to chug Kiwi-Strawberry flavored Propel while trying to work for position on the low block. Seriously, is that stuff just running through your veins at this point?

Low Socks: You could say that. In fact, I was scratched after a reach-in foul during the first half and started to bleed a little. The referee called for an official timeout to make sure my DNA was not grape flavored. It wasn't...and the game continued.

HSL: Ya, I thought I saw somethin' like that. In all honesty, John Beilein could use both of us on the floor this year. When you and me go to the gym and do rounds of 25 threes from all around the arc, we rarely make anything less than 17 or 18. On Saturday, in that HORRIFIC loss to the fighting Paterno's, the four guards (Douglass, Novak, Morris, Lucas-Perry) combined to shoot TWO for EIGHTEEN from downtown. Do you think we should check to see if Beilein wants to have us come in for an impromptu try-out prior to the Big Ten tourney??

Low Socks: We can dream. I've got a few years of eligibility left and I'd be more than happy to camp out around the long line for Big Blue. You can single out this loss against the worst team in the conference as a poor display of shooting, but it has been the theme the entire season. Lack of confidence, bad looks at the can recruited "shooters" lose sight of the rim??? This is the same team that made the tourney last year and beat Clemson in the first round, right?

HSL: I thought so. I guess maybe they just overachieved a bit last year in a mediocre conference, and everybody got a little too excited. At least Manny Harris continues to improve, though...phhhhhhh. I notice you've been watchin' a fair amount of Olympics. What up with that woman curler from Canada being pregnant? Can it really be considered a sport when you are able to compete at the highest level in the world even as you enter your third trimester?!?

Low Socks: Hmm, I was totally unaware that there is a pregnant competitor in the Olympics. Although, quite honestly, it doesn't surprise me that such an athlete can compete harboring a developing fetus. After our nine o'clock b-ball game this morning, I decided to relax a bit and catch up on the day's top news stories: so I flipped on the Mixed Doubles PBA event for a brief hour-fifteen. Mind you, Wes Malott is the most dominant bowler in the field; but the guy honestly looked to be carrying his first child. God bless.

HSL: Malott did look a little heavy today, didn't he? I mean, I know they call him "Big Nasty," but how about mixing in the occasional piece of fruit between all those triple cheese Baconators from Wendy's?? It seemed to affect his performance too, didn't it? Even when he struck out in that tenth to save a little face, a couple of those were real cheapies that he only got with help from the messenger. I don't think he looks like the same guy as last year, when he seemed to always be the #1 guy in the step-ladder tourney format. Wait, am I supposed to be saying this stuff out loud?

Low Socks: Wow, High Socks. When you invited me into this, you told me to keep it G-rated. That last comment was not for kids...or adults, for that matter. I believe we are all dumber after having heard that...I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul. No, but SERIOUSLY, it does strike me as odd that Malott, after having captured the Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year Award last year with his dominant performance in the Scorpion Championship, has somewhat faded out of the picture with only two TV finals this season.

HSL: Got to agree with ya, Bro. I hate to say it, but maybe Malott just got TOO big. Even in a sport like bowling, where your scores generally increase with each slice of snack bar 'Za that you destroy, there's got to be some kind of concern for your physical appearance where you finally stop and say to yourself, "Hey, I might be on national TV a dozen times this year in front of millions of fans...maybe I ought to hold off on this 17th plate of Van de Kamp's Fish Sticks." But on that note, Chief, I say we call it a night. A real f$^&ked up night...

Throw in your own two cents on the various bowling/Olympic events of the weekend, or shoot me an E-mail at

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Elusive Curly Fries

Who are the Pistons kidding with this Arby's "Triple Double" promotion?

Really, is this some kind of sick joke??

If you haven't watched much Piston ball this year, here's the deal. "Every time a Piston player records a triple double, you are entitled to a free small curly fry at your local Arby's."

Wait a second, did they just say "every time???" "Every time" makes it seem like this is a semi-regular occurrence; not one that has about 0.00003 chance of ever coming to fruition.

And let's just say for the sake of argument that this does happen once this year. You're telling me all we get is a free small curly fry?!?!? That's like telling your 4-year-old that if he sleeps in his own bed for 75 straight nights, you will take him to rent one new book from the library. Whoaaa...what an incentive!! Thanks Dad...ya lush!

You make the qualifications near-impossible, and on top of that, fail to include the words "roast" or "beef" anywhere in the prize package.

Honestly, who on the Stones is even capable of going off for a trip-dubb this year? Here are the only possibilities I see...

Charlie Villanueva: 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 14 defensive possessions where his man backs him down from outside the arc to directly under the rim in just 3 dribbles.

Rip Hamilton: 26 points, 10 assists, and 11 occasions where he leaves his feet in traffic with nowhere to go, resulting in another maddening turnover and easy run-out the other way.

Ben Wallace: 19 rebounds, 12 blocked shots, and 13 missed free throws (6 of which don't even hit rim), making all Pistons fans wonder, "Has this guy spent even the slightest bit of time over the last 10 years trying to improve this horrid aspect of his game?" Long story short; no, he hasn't.

(Sidenote: I hate to harp on it, but Ben has been in the league for 14 years and has never averaged even 50% at the line in any of those seasons. Just to put that mind-blowing statistic in perspective, Shaquille O'Neal has averaged better than 50% in 12 of his 18 seasons. There's just no excuse for never improving even the slightest in this area, Ben. None at all.)

The Detroit Tigers teamed up with Arby's this past summer in a similar fashion, only their promotion was quite realistic. The Tigers needed to jack three dingers in a home game and every fan with a copy of the box score was entitled to some free roast beef. This was a fair deal, and the Tigers obliged with the trio of round-trippers on more than a few occasions.

You'd think the Pistons could have come up with something in that vein.

Like, if they score over 110 points, every fan gets a free chicken finger basket.

Or, every time the Pistons win three straight games, you can go pick up a free vanilla shake.

They could even think outside the box and give each fan their very own Arby's franchise every time Kwame Brown catches the ball cleanly in the post and then follows it up with a legal pivot move that does not result in all-out disaster or major world catastrophe. (Trust me, the Arby's people would have nothing to worry about with this one.)

You made a one-sided deal, fellas, and it makes ya look cheap. Next time, come at us with something we can excited about. Otherwise, just keep it to yourself.

Shame on you, Pistons/Arby's. A 19 and 33 record is hard enough without depriving us of the one simple pleasure we can always count on in this mile-a-minute, upside-down world: curly fries.

Something tells me this is going to be a very long second half of the season.

And sadly, we won't be needing any ketchup along the way.

The High Socks Legend can be reached (sans curly fries), at

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Kwik Hitters on a Munday

  • Saw The Blind Side over the weekend. One thing I couldn't figure out though was if the actor playing Michael Oher was actually made of wood. I'd appreciate some clarification on this.
  • Anybody ever take a really good bite out of a cupcake without getting the frosting all over your damn nose?? Yeah, I didn't think so.
  • What's the deal with that that option when you’re on the phone with some kind of voice message system, and it says, “To end this call, press 6.” Wouldn't I just hang up??!!
  • What’s with these guys that use napkins to clean their hands?? What, you got no sleeves or your shirt? Aren’t you wearing pants? Cmon, be a man!

  • It seems like certain names are only found in certain age groups. Like, have you ever met a kid named Mort before? How about a Grampa Justin? These things just don’t happen. I think once in a while, a 75-year old man named Mort just drops out of the sky. He can’t remember anything about his childhood. Maybe it’s because he only existed as an old guy. Same thing with the Justins and Andys of the world. They're all over the place when they are 5-18 years old, and then one day, vamooosh, they're gone.. Where do they go? I think they just switch places with all the Abes and Morts and we move on like nothing happened.
  • It is a proven fact that you are 75 percent more likely to order a particular kind of bagel if it has the "HOT" label attached to the bottom of its crate.
  • Don't ya hate that guy that argues an opposing viewpoint even if he doesn't believe half of what he is actually saying just for the sake of "playing the devil's advocate"?? Instead of doing that, how about you just do us all a big favor and shut the $#^@ up??
  • Am I the only person in the world that finds Kenny Smith absolutely unbearable on TNT? He was plastered all over the screen during All-Star Weekend, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. He's not funny, he's a subpar analyst, and for the most part, he always seems to be screaming. The only thing I'll give him is that he might be better than Brent Barry, a man so lifeless on the air that I often find myself worrying whether or not he has an actual operating pulse. I've seen more personality from a 2-by-4.
  • If you watched more than 12-14 minutes of the Olympic Luge competition over the weekend, then you're probably closely related to one of the competitors. Otherwise, there really isn't any excuse, and you are probably a complete lush. End of story.
  • You know Spring Training is right around the corner when you start reading things like, "Eddie Bonine is a candidate for the 5th spot in the Tigers rotation." I'm convinced that guy could actually lose his right arm in a winter hunting accident, and he would still be considered a candidate for that spot. It's a true Detroit rite of spring, and it wouldn't feel right without it.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Frostbitten in the Mitten...Will The D Ever Be Sunny Again??

While the sports scene in Detroit has been anything but stellar over the last couple of years, if you look hard enough, you can still find a teeny-tiny light at the end of the tunnel. For instance...

  • As George Blaha would say, "Don't look now, but the Pistons are only six games back in the loss column for the 8th and final playoff spot!!"

    Is it a long shot? Sure.

    And if they somehow did manage to sneak in, is there any way in hell that they would keep even one of those games with Cleveland under 35 points? Probably not.

    But when you're 15 games under .500 and the only team you ever beat is the 4-48 New Jersey Nets , you look for a little silver lining somewhere. I'm going with the "loss column" angle. Feel free to jump on board...

  • Justin Verlander just signed a major extension that will keep his prized right arm in Detroit for the next five years. And while many are writing the Tigers off in the upcoming season, Verlander himself said this could be an excellent club if guys like "Bondo, Nate, and Dontrelle" get back to their old form. Way to play the "glass is half full" card, JV!

    We'll just casually look past the fact that the aforementioned trio of hurlers are either extremely banged up (Bondo), completely washed up (Nate), or irreparably screwed up (Dontrelle). Can't wait for Spring Training!

  • Michigan State may have lost their third straight game on Tuesday night, but at least brick-tossin' Derrick Nix knocked down 1 of his 2 free throws. That puts him at 8 for 41 on the year, which is just a hair under 20 percent! A couple more splits at the line, and he could be knocking on the door of 30 percent. Look out, Rick Barry!!

  • The Red Wings are on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned, but they sit just two points out of the last spot in the West. This is due to the NHL's new rule where the losing team is still awarded at least one point in the standings if the officials determine that they put forth an honest effort in trying to get the W. Maybe that's why 27 of the 30 teams in the league are still realistically fighting for a postseason berth.

    Parity and excitement are good things, but isn't this a little ridiculous? If you're gonna have shootouts to decide a winner in every single game, you can't continue to award points for losing games, especially the ones lost in the actual overtime period. Okay, I'm off the soapbox.

    Plus, if I go on about the NHL any longer, I fear that my keyboard could get angry and stop working, just like the night that I wrote a 10,000 word love letter to yellow Skittles and my whole computer burst into flames upon completion.

  • The All-Star Game will be played this weekend, and for the first time since 2002, no Detroit Piston will be involved. However, you can still get your Stones fix on Friday night by watching Jonas Jerebko in the Rookie-Sophomore affair, or as it has come to be known in recent years, the "If you are watching this garbage for more than 15 or 20 minutes, then chances are your life isn't quite where you hoped it would be" game. Enjoy!

    (Sidenote: Did you know the Sophomores have won 7 straight games in this series?? And that those wins included victories by 20, 24, 27 (twice), and 41 points?!? In a game where defense is frowned upon and virtually every bucket is an alley-oop, it's pretty strange that the contests have been so lopsided.)

  • Last year, the Michigan hoops squad invaded The Barn in Minnesota and took down the Golden Gophers for a season-saving road victory. The Wolverines, coming off losses in five of their last six games, make that same trip tonight with faint hopes of possibly turning this campaign around as well.

    But unlike last year, when Beilein's boys walked around with a little bit of a swagger, this year's version lacks any confidence whatsoever and displays on-court chemistry similar to that of a thrice-divorced couple trying to figure out where to go out to eat on a busy Saturday night. Oh, wait, there was supposed to be some kind of silver lining here.


    Okay, got it: one month from now, the season will be over and the utterly useless tandem of Stu Douglass and Zack Novak will have officially used up half of their total college basketball eligibility. U of M hoops...catch the fever!

  • The Pistons might be among the worst teams in the NBA, but hey, at least we don't have to watch lazy Rasheed Wallace jack up ridiculous 25-footers anymore. I was chattin' with my buddy Beantown Al tonight, a die-hard Celtics fan, and these were his three observations after half a season watching our boy Sheed on a nightly basis.

    1. Ugh.
    2. Nightmare.
    3. I was looking forward to his defense more than his offense...and even that has been $#*%.

    Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the big fella.

    I still think the Pistons should have completely cut ties with Rasheed immediately following his unforgivable defensive mistake at the end of Game 5 against San Antonio. Or at least told him to stay home for the rest of the Finals.

    In Game 7 of that series, with the Pistons on the verge of back-to-back championships, the 6-foot-11 Rasheed played 28 minutes and grabbed one rebound.

    For the entire seven-game series
    , he made one free throw.

    You're telling me those are the numbers of a guy playing his absolute hardest and leaving it all on the court? Give me a break. Sheed's counterpart in the series, Tim Duncan, converted 36 times at the line over the same stretch while averaging over 14 boards a game.

    I'm not suggesting that Rasheed has ever been blessed with the same talent or skill level as Duncan, but those previous numbers (rebounds, free throws) are basically effort numbers. How bad do you want it? How much does this title mean to you?

    To play 28 minutes at power forward in Game 7 of the Finals and come down with one freaking rebound is simply inexcusable, and points a bright light at the lack of focus and passion that has come to define Sheed's game since the day he entered the league 15 years ago. Duncan had a difficult time shooting the ball that whole night, but he found a way to will his team to the title. He got himself to the line, scrapped for offensive boards, and came up with clutch assists in the final quarter.

    It's what a champion does. It's what a guy like Rasheed Wallace never did.

    He's all yours now, Al. Good luck keeping your sanity, brother...

  • Todd McShay's most recent mock draft on has the Rams selecting Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy with the first overall pick, meaning the Lions could get the chance to snap up Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska, where with any luck, he will one day become an injury-riddled love child of Luther Elliss and Kerwin Waldroup. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it's the best I could do in terms of positivity for a squad that is 2-30 over the last two years and has not had a .500 season since 2000.

    I get a kick out of the fact that in that 2000 season, when the Lions somehow grinded out a 9-7 campaign with Bobby Ross and Gary Moeller patrolling the sidelines, they scored 307 total points on offense...while allowing exactly 307 points on defense. Even Steven. The one year out of the last 12 that the Lions won more games than they lost, and they were still unable to actually outscore their opponents for the season. Makes ya wonder...

    If only Stoney Case hadn't fumbled that ball against Chicago...

    Then they woulda made the playoffs...

    They might not have fired Moeller...

    And they never would have hired Mill...

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Hello, My Name is High Socks Legend...and I am a Hoop Head

  • Listen up, NBA-TV. It's one thing to have Cheryl Miller bouncing around the sidelines for TNT asking pointless questions at halftime and after the game. That's minimally invasive. But the decision to put her in your studio, where she is expected to offer coherent and insightful analysis, is simply way, way, wayyyy, over the line. I mean, have you heard her lately?? Her game is so limited that she makes Kenny Smith seem like Billy Shakespeare. Here is a general idea of what a Cheryl Miller highlight narration sounds like. In this scene, Matt Winer will be doing the highlights, and let's say it's a couple of Ok. City Thunder clips.

    WINER: Third quarter, Thunder up 12, and here comes Kevin Durant down the lane for a nasty one-handed flush in traffic.

    Cue Cheryl

    CHERYL: (All capitals, since I have yet to hear her do any highlight without shrieking) UH-OHH! IT'S THE "DURANTULA!!"

    WINER: (After a long pause) Moving on, under a minute to go in the game, Thunder with the basketball, and it's Jeff Green with a nifty spin move for the easy deuce.


    WINER: (Longer pause...searching for a response...clearly shaken) Let's just go to a commercial.

    Throw in the high-pitched shrill that she picked up from her brother Reggie, and it is just about impossible to watch the late-night NBA wrap-up without wanting to rip the TV out of the wall and fire it against the wall. Hey, but at least she's attractive. Ya know, if you're into that whole Larry Fitzgerald-Troy Hudson kinda thing...
  • If a player has attempted more than 200 three-pointers thus far in the season, one can probably assume that said player is a pretty decent shooter from out there. Otherwise, why would the guy be hoisting so many? After a little research, we see that 30 players have attempted more than 200 bombs on the year. 28 of the 30 are hitting at least 30% of these shots, leaving us with two offending players. Take a realllly wild guess who they could be. Seriously...stop right now and try to think of the two guys. You should be able to come up with them. Alright, time's up.

    One is obviously our good friend Baron Davis (202 3s taken, 28%), a player that has never developed a consistent stroke from deep, and amazingly enough, has never realized this part of his game should have been completely eliminated years ago. If you wanna be real sick, take a look back at Baron's 2003-04 season in New Orleans. He appeared in just 67 games, but still mustered up enough strength for a league-leading 582 hammer throws from three-point land. That comes out to a stomach-churning 8.7 trey attempts per game; clearly not the most efficient offensive option when those shots were finding the nets just 32% of the time.

    The other guilty party is none other than Rasheed Wallace (214 3s taken, 29%). Announcers and fans still love to classify Sheed as some kind of "dual threat" power forward that is as deadly on the block as he is from 23 feet. Newsflash: the guy hasn't operated out of the block in a good 10 years, and hasn't hit a late-game 3 in, well, ever. What you were thinking, Danny Ainge? You knew last summer that your creaky squad probably only had one more good run in it, and you decide to murder their chances by adding quite possibly the most overrated and least intelligent player in the league over the last five years?? You'd have been better off signing Jayson Williams. And he's an actual murderer.

  • With Shannon Brown playing an integral role in the Lakers' quest for a second consecutive championship, it makes you wonder: how come Maurice Ager couldn't have had a similar NBA career? When they were hoopin' in East Lansing, both had very similar games. Tremendous athleticism, great in the open court, and a better than average shot from deep. If anything, Ager might have been a tad more polished offensively. But somehow, Ager never seemed to get a true shot to showcase his skills, and before you knew it, he was chewed up and spit out the NBA roster book. He is now playing overseas while Shannon continues to improve under the tutelage of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. You gotta think that Mo lies awake some nights in Spain watching the Lakers on the tube, seeing Shannon throw down another vicious jam, just thinking to himself, "That should be me wearin' the purple and gold." One of those funny basketball mysteries that might never be fully explained.
  • Inappropriate NBA trivia question of the day: What's longer, Kevin Durant's right arm or Greg Oden's, ummm, "middle" arm???
  • The Pistons' starting backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton managed to play 56 combined minutes Friday night against Indiana without recording a single assist. As Steve Lavin would say, way to "Share the sugar," fellas!
  • HSL Nerdy, but Cool Stat of the Week

    Shawn Marion (in his three seasons with Steve Nash) averaged 97 3s a year.

    Shawn Marion (in 47 games this season, no Nash) has hit one three-pointer.
  • Michael Beasley definitely has some flavor in terms of his offensive arsenal, but my man needs to develop a little bit of a mean streak to become a real weapon alongside D-Wade for the Heat. In a recent game, I saw Brad Miller body him up a few times, grab some offensive boards, and the look on Beasley's face was one that said, "Jeez Brad, do you have to play that hard? You almost messed up one of my cornrows!!"
  • After his breakout 13 point, 6 rebound performance Saturday night against New Jersey, Jason Maxiell told reporters after the game that he is "trying to take his game to the next level." Eaaaaasy there, Big Fella. Look Max, I've always been a fan of yours and admire the hard work you generally put in, but whaddya say we call this performance what it really was (a minor miracle) and move on to the next game? This is your fifth year with the Stones, sir, and I'm not sure I have seen your game change one iota. You attack the offensive glass with hunger, smash home some of the hardest dunks in all the land, and continue to shoot middle-school percentages (career 57%) from the line. That's who you are, and it's who you will always be. So spare us this "Next Level" hype, J. I've seen that act before, and believe me, the reality never lives up to the original prediction.

    If you don't believe me, go talk to former Pistons forward (and longtime high-socker), Mikki Moore. Going into each off-season, Mikki would talk about how he was really going to dedicate himself and work his tail off to become a legitimate threat from downtown. He had this bizarre vision in his head where he would become some kind of giant 7-foot small forward that could be a threat from anywhere on the floor, while also blocking shots and doing the necessary big person stuff inside. Needless to say, Mikki has now logged over 10,000 minutes in the NBA and buried exactly two shots from beyond the arc, while changing teams somewhere in the neighborhood of 37 times in the last five years.

    But by all means, Mr. Maxiell, go ahead and make that leap to the "next level." We believe in you. We really do. Phhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You Pay a Price...For Every Slice

(The following is another 'High Socks-Low Socks' production. Read the first installment here.)

(It's a Sunday. There's football on the tube. Munchies on the table. Just a few guys kickin' back for some good laughs and warm grub.)

LUKE: Hey man, glad you could all drop by and watch the game. You know, with everybody being so busy and all, it's hard to find a time we can all hang out.

RUSS: Totally agree. Thanks for having us. Hey, guys like us...we smell pizza, we come a runnin'. (Lets out an awkward chuckle while rubbing belly as if starving). I don't know about you, but I'm really pulling for a hometown victory today. That loss Wednesday night might have sealed our playoff chances for good.

LUKE: I'd like to see them get a win, too. Nothing worse than seeing a good season go to waste down the stretch. How's your family, man? Mark still playin' ball?

RUSS: Everyone is great, thanks for asking. Mark is a bit husky for Little League, but he's still playing. He's actually been going to a hitting coach on weekends...only thing is that the kid's still afraid of the ball. A mental thing, you know. (Reaches for two slices of 'Za at one time...having a hard time fitting both on a single plate. He manages to split and stack them.)

LUKE: Hey Russ, you're a good friend, right? I mean, we share just about everything with each other. Like blood brothers.

RUSS: Of course! Have been since the third grade. You remember the time I told you about my crazy housekeeper? And how she used to massage......well, you remember, right? That's some personal stuff right there.

LUKE: Right, right. I remember that. Now, walk slowly back to the buffet table and place that second slice back where it came from or I'm calling the cops--I mean it--and keep your hands where I can see 'em. (Turns around and runs to bedroom--locks the door behind him.) "Uh, 9-1-1, I'd like to report a double homicide. I'm at home and I just witnessed a guy kill two slices at once---Correct ma'am, the murderer took two slices in the first round without regard for anyone else. For Christ's sake, the guy used to babysit my kids!!!...please hurry."

(Cut to Police Headquarters: Interrogation Room B. The cop lights a cigarette and takes a swig of his piping-hot coffee. His gun sits loaded and ready on the metal tabletop.)

COP: You know why you're here, right?

RUSS: No, sir. I most definitely do not know why I am here. I was just watching the ballgame with my buddy, grabbin' a couple slices of 'Za, and next thing I know, I'm being dragged away in shackles and put in this orange jumpsuit.

You just said a mouthful...literally.

What are you talking about?!?!

Hold on, let's take a step back for a minute. You said that you grabbed a "couple slices of 'Za." You mean that you "Grabbed one piece, put it on your plate, ate it, and then upon completion, went for number two." Right?

Uhh, well, not exactly. See the things is...

NO! (Smacks fist on table, sending vibrations throughout the room.) I don't want to hear stories and I don't want to hear excuses!! Tell me exactly what happened or I'll turn that pretty face of yours into a three-cheese calzone!

Alright, I took TWO SLICES at once. OKAY?!?!? Is that what you wanted to hear?? I was nervous about my pizza quantity, and I panicked, so I snagged a pair! Since when is that such a big f$&king crime?!?!?

COP: Since the creation of a little thing called the goddamned Constitution, that's when!! Our founding fathers wrote that to prevent acts like this. Acts against this country. Acts against humanity.

I've seen people do this kinda thing my whole life. Kids birthdays growing up...class pizza parties...we all did it. Why take only one to start when you know with 100% certainty you're gonna go back for a repeat performance?? It's not about being selfish or being a pizza's just common sense. You understand at all where I'm coming from, Detective?

No kid, I don't. (He takes a long pause; not for effect, but because it just means that much to him.) See, I had a life once, too. I wasn't always "just a cop." I had it all: the wife (Pam), the kid (Tucker), a nice two-story out in Keego Harbor, and just about the friendliest little Chihuahua in the whole world...(now on the verge of uncontrollable sobbing)...we called him Buckles. So anyway, we're having a get-together over at the house one day. No big deal, just a little Faygo Orange, a little thin-crust 'Za, and a few family and friends. We were having such a good time!! (Now losing it completely...) So then my older brother Terry opens up the first box of pizza. And I still remember to this day, he didn't just reach with one hand...he reached with both. He grabbed a slice. And then another. Only, that "other piece" was three slices away. He was (now choking on his own tears) TAKIN' THREE MAN...RIGHT OFF THE BAT!! Just so much much sauce...the plate couldn't even hold all that weight. So Pam notices. She asks Terry to "take it easy...just have one to start...there will be plenty to go around." He just stares at his plate, then at Pam, and then back at his plate. And so help me God, I wish what I was about to say next was a lie, but it's the blue-skies truth. Terry picks up his pizza, all three slices at once, and takes a big ol' bite. Got a little of each slice. Just went and made 'em his own. No way could they be "community slices" again. So my Pammie goes into the kitchen. She's in there about 20-30 seconds, ain't no longer. When she walked back into the living room, everybody started murmuring. I didn't know why...'till I glanced over, and saw my Pam holding our Commemorative Paul Bunyan Hunting Axe. Minute and a half later, those three slices were splayed all over the floor...alongside Terry's lifeless hands. It was the perfect storm of marinara, mozzarella, and mutilation. (Eyes now burning with rage) Terry took his three pieces of 'Za that day. He wound up losing his two hands. That leaves one. One slice that coulda saved his life.

I'm sorry. I didn't know. I promise that I will never, ever do it again.

I know you won't, son. I know you won't. (Reaches under the table)

RUSS: OH MY LORD!! Is pizza cutter

COP: You'll thank me for this one day. (
Revs up engine, strides toward Russ)


If you or anyone you know has ever taken two slices at once, now is the time to get help. Reach me at

Monday, February 1, 2010

You Said WHO Scored HOW MANY?!?!?

Andre Miller scored 52 points in an NBA game on Saturday night. And amazingly, there have yet to be any confirmed reports that Hell has indeed frozen over. Honestly, this has to be one of the most bizarre 50-point outings in the history of the league. Miller entered Saturday night's action scoring 12.6 points per game, with a season high of 28. In his previous three games, he had shot 1 for 8, 2 for 11, and 1 for 6 from the floor. Combine those four measly buckets with the nine turnovers he made during that stretch, and you were looking at maybe the least likely player in the entire Association to randomly pop for half a hundo over the weekend. In honor of Miller's historic night, let's take a look at two other bizarre scoring outbursts from the NBA vault.

Darius Miles (47)

There must have been a full moon the night of April 19, 2005. The season was coming to a close, and Portland was in Denver for a ho-hum "let's get this thing over with as quickly as possible" affair. But weird things kept happening.

The diminutive Earl Boykins blew up for 24 points, 12 dimes, and a blocked shot.

The Blazers hung a 42-spot on the Nugs in the 2nd quarter, went to the line a staggering 42 times for the game...and still wound up losing by four.

And last but not least, our man of the hour, Darius Miles, one of the most frustratingly inconsistent lottery picks in league history, a player who was often rumored to be living without an active pulse, and a man that just nine days prior had posted a whopping two points on 1 for 10 shooting in a game against New Orleans...WENT OFF for Forty-Seven Freaking Points.

What in the Sam Hill got into ol' Darius that night, we will never know. We know that he shot the ball 33 times, made 19, and collected exactly zero assists in the process. He even volunteered to play defense for the first time in his career, grabbing four steals to go with his Pryzbilla-esque five blocked shots. Miles, never considered to be the most perceptive player in NBA history, surprised nobody with this comment after the game.

"I didn't know how many points I had at the half (he had 32), and guys were saying I could score 50. I thought, I'm not going to score 30 more points. I thought I had like 20."

People always say they remember exactly where they were when certain world-changing moments occurred: JFK...9/11...Blue Chips. Me, I'll always remember the night D-Miles went for 47. I was talking with my friend Harold online, and both of us came across the Portland-Denver box score at the same moment. I can't be sure of the exact amount of time, but I would estimate that we proceeded to spend the next 90-300 minutes just repeatedly expressing our combined sense of awe and overall confusion at the stat line Darius had just posted. It made no sense then, and it makes even less sense now.

But as often happens in sports, things tend to return to normalcy quite soon after a wild game, and in this case, it was the very next night. The Blazers closed the book on the season with a home win over the Lakers. Darius Miles scored eight lonely points.

Midway through the next year, he watched his right knee turn to lemon jello, and his transformation into literally becoming Jonathan Bender had become complete.

We might be a couple elections away, but somewhere down the line, we will have to vote a 47th US President into office. In my mind, there's only one man truly capable of representing that number and all that it stands for. His name...Darius LaVar Miles.

(Weird Sidenote: One of the reasons Miles was able to play 40 minutes in that game was because the normally mild-mannered Blazers starting small forward (Shareef Abdur-Rahim) was ejected in the 3rd quarter. Which leads us to...)

Shareef Abdur-Rahim (50)

I remember the details of this game so vividly, even eight and a half years later. The Pistons were invading Philips Arena in Atlanta to take on a depressing Lon Kruger-coached Hawks squad. For me, the night took on a life of its own when the starting lineups were flashed across the screen. Jerry Stackhouse: Out, Strained Groin. Starting at shooting guard for the Stones: my main man Jon Barry.

I'd been a huge JB fan his whole career, and could not have been more ecstatic when he finally became a Piston. Well, now my boy was in the starting lineup for the first time and I was praying he would make good on his 15 minutes of fame. He did much more than that. JB was a man possessed the whole night, scoring 25 points on a sparkling 7 of 11 shooting (including 5-6 from downtown and 6-7 from the stripe), all while motoring at his usual 150% for 40 exhausting minutes, and making one solitary turnover. It was a special night for me and the entire Barry family.

But there were two problems.

1. Shareef Abdur-Rahim was playing for the Hawks that night.

2. Rick Carlisle was coaching for the Pistons.

Bad combination

Abdur-Rahim showed early in the night that he was not going to be stopped by one man. The Stones had the soon-to-be Defensive Player of the Year in Ben Wallace, but it didn't matter. Shareef was on a mission. So naturally, you would think, "Well, Carlisle had to start doubling him at some point, right???" WRONG.

If there's anything you could say about Rick Carlisle as a head coach at that time, it was this: the man was stubborn as a mule.

---"Michael Curry is 45 years old and can't guard his own shadow. Don't care, I'm still startin' him."

---"Corliss Williamson is scoring practically every time we give him the ball. Don't care, I'm still taking him out in the big moments of every game."

---"I might get fired if I don't start treating Mr. Davidson with some respect. Don't care, I'm still gonna be an unfriendly mook with an unhealthy affinity for Bruce Hornsby tunes." (Though I can understand that one...Set Me in Motion is possibly my favorite song of all-time.)

So, like I said, if you thought the Pistons would offer Big Ben some help on the block, you were sadly mistaken.

No double or triple-teams from various fronting him in the post to make it harder for him to catch the sending in the all-too-willing Brian Cardinal to "accidentally" obliterate one of Shareef's knees into a million pieces.

They just continued to let him peacefully set up his office on the left block and go to work. I'd say of Reef's 21 field goals that night, a good 18 or 19 were that same little baby hook in the lane from inside of 8 feet. Fifty points is fifty points, but homeboy wasn't exactly reinventing the wheel.

The Pistons led by 16 at halftime. At the end of three, the advantage had been chopped to 10. And when that final buzzer sounded at the end of the night, the lead had evaporated completely. The numbers looked like this.

Hawks 106, Pistons 99.

Abdur-Rahim 50, Jon Barry 25.

Rick Carlisle 1, My Emotional Well-Being 0.

It started off as the best night of my life. It wound up scarring me for the next eight plus years.

Rick Carlisle refused to adapt that night. And his Pistons paid the ultimate price. When Andre Miller torched the Mavericks on Saturday, it was post-up city for the duration without the slightest bit of defensive creativity from the Dallas bench. Who was the coach holding the clipboard for the victimized squad, you ask? Take a wild guess.

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